Which Acoustic Foam Shape Is Best?
Sound is a crucial yet unobtrusive thread woven through the tapestry of daily life. It can change the mood of any space you inhabit, influencing how you perceive your surroundings. For some, sound is a central component of their work (think musicians and audio engineers); for others, sound is a requirement for productivity (think quiet offices).
Most people won’t give a second thought to the sound dynamics of a space they’re creating, focusing instead on the look of it. But in order to create a truly top-of-the-line space, you can’t just focus on the visual aesthetics alone. Creating a beautiful audio balance is equally important.
To achieve a dazzling soundscape, you want the highest level of sound quality. For that, you’ll need a good acoustic foam placed throughout the space.
But what’s the best acoustic foam shape? How much do you need, and where should you put it?
Answering these questions will help you reduce discordant sounds in a room, allowing you to improve even the dullest or most cacophonous of spaces.
Understanding Acoustic Foam
Acoustic foam is made of different soft, porous, or spongey materials. The foam comes in different shapes and sizes, each serving a unique purpose in tailoring a soundscape. Typically, you would place these pieces of foam on the walls of the room you want to treat. And it’s possible to place them strategically on the walls or even ceiling and determine the level of dampening you want.
The most popular materials used in an acoustic foam panel include:
- Open-cell polyurethane
- Composite materials, such as glass wool
- Extruded melamine
So, what’s the main purpose of acoustic foam? In short, it’s used to absorb excess sound waves in a room, reducing the overall level of discordant noise. To understand how acoustic foam works, however, you need to know a little bit about the science of sound.
Sound distortions often come from reflection. In short, sound waves exit from the source, bounce from every available surface, and then return to the ear. This means you always hear two types of sound: the original source of the unwanted noise, and its echo.1
The most common sources of echoes in a room come from:
- Large, flat surfaces like floors and walls
- Uncovered windows
- Metal or wood furniture
- Walls with no decoration
- High ceilings
The more reflective and hard surfaces you have in one space, the worse the echo delay becomes. Thus, in a highly reflective space, sound tends to grow distorted and chaotic, creating a sense of unease in those who enter.
You can take measures to combat some of these issues easily, like laying down thick rugs on the floor or putting an acoustic foam panel on the walls. Others, like high ceilings, are simply structural hurdles you’ll have to work around unless you have a renovation project in your future. Furthermore, when deciding between acoustic panels vs foam, it’s essential to consider the specific requirements of your space. These can include aesthetics, sound treatment goals, and the overall acoustic design of the room.
Traditional Soundproofing vs Acoustic Treatment
If you have problems with your soundscape, there’s good news: you don’t need to shell out to renovate the whole building. In fact, it’s easy to launch a few relatively simple fixes.
First, you want to focus on soundproofing vs acoustic treatment2. These are different methods of fixing a soundscape, each with its own unique benefits.
This is the act of isolating a certain space from unwanted sound via eliminating sound transfer in its entirety. Think about businesses that focus on relaxation, like physical therapy clinics or spas. To get rid of the noise pollution from outside, these places often implement soundproofing techniques to bulk up the separation between their space and the world beyond the wall.
Note that professional soundproofing is easiest to implement when in the construction phase of a project because soundproofing materials often need to be inserted into the walls for the most notable results.
There are two primary acoustic treatment options that serve different purposes.
- Acoustic diffusion – This sound treatment spreads sound energy out more evenly around a space. The resulting noise sounds more natural, helping to counterbalance the reduction of absorption.
- Acoustic absorption – This type of sound treatment reduces sound energy transfer by making it harder for the sound wave to travel. Sound waves bounce easily from hard surfaces like glass, metal, and hardwood. It sinks into porous material like foam, reducing any reverberation and flutter echo in a building. Note that too much absorption can lead to a room sounding unnaturally muffled or “dead”.
To get the most ideal soundscape for your needs, you’ll want a mix of sound diffusion and sound absorption tools. This is where Acoustical Surfaces acoustic foam comes in handy. It’ll help you soak up any unwanted sounds so you can sharpen the quality of the sound you’d prefer to focus on.
Who Benefits From Acoustic Treatment?
Some people, such as musicians and recording studio owners, know from the start that acoustic treatment is important. But even if your work or hobbies don’t revolve around singing or music production, sound still plays a crucial role in setting the environment for your business, or even the tone for your content.
Consider opting for acoustic treatment if you are:
- A musician
- A business owner
- A recording studio owner
- A content creator whose content contains audio elements, i.e. podcasters
Having a good soundscape can do more than you might imagine. For business owners, it can create an enjoyable atmosphere that entices customers to stay longer. For content creators, it gives the impression of a more polished product, which can net you a higher click-through rate and a greater instance of recurring listeners.
If you want to improve your business, craft, or hobby in just a few simple steps, look no further than the sound absorption provided by acoustic foam.
Types of Acoustic Foam Shapes and Their Uses
But where should you even start? What’s the best shape for acoustic foam? Diving into the world of sound treatment may feel overwhelming at first, but don’t let the jargon scare you off.
Here’s a quick and easy guide to some of the most popular shapes you’ll find when shopping for acoustic foam.3
As the name implies, this foam takes on the shape of an egg carton. Each panel has soft, round bumps, creating gentle dips that catch the excess sound.
These foam pads have triangle-shaped “bars” running across them. Panels come with bars of varying size, usually ranging from 1 to 4 inches.
These panels are covered in small pyramid shapes. The pyramids can range in size from 1 to 4 inches per panel, though it’s possible to get even larger sizes.
Foam panels made in the grid style have alternating pockets of lines bunched together. Each pocket either raises up out of the material or sinks into it.
Unlike the other types of foam, bass traps are designed to go in the corners of a room rather than on a flat wall or surface. They sit at a 90-degree angle, the interior made of spikes of varying levels.
Foam Thickness and Sound Absorption
The shape of the material doesn’t make the biggest difference—visual aesthetic preferences are the biggest deciding factor in shape selection. The thickness and type of material are more important for sound quality, with the exception of bass traps, which have a special shape.
For most of these panel types, you could form your decision on a few aspects:
- What side of the sound spectrum do you want to block?
- What’s the size of the room you want to treat?
- What sort of ambiance are you looking to build?
Generally speaking, 1-inch foam gives you the best value. It’s good if you’re looking for some sound control, but don’t necessarily need sound to be the main focus, making it a solid choice for business owners.
Twice as thick, 2-inch foam is good for DIY vocal booths, home theaters, studios, rehearsal spaces, and broadcasting areas. It absorbs primarily high and mid-range frequencies, like its 1-inch counterpart.
Then, 3- and 4-inch thick foam panels are best for rooms with problems having low frequencies, having the highest absorption power across the spectrum. Be careful when using 4-inch foams, because they can make small rooms sound too dead.
Special note on bass traps: As the name implies, bass traps exist solely to help reduce the sound of bass rumbling through your room, so most people won’t need them unless they work with loud bass often.
Build Symphony-Worthy Spaces with Acoustical Surfaces
Sound is all around us. When your audio surroundings are quality, you won’t notice a thing. When they’re less than ideal, it’ll show in a heartbeat. If you want to amp up your professional space and deliver high-quality sound performance, consider sound treatment options.
After all, whether audio is essential to your career or you’re a business owner looking to provide the best atmosphere to your employees or clients, sound quality can be the make-or-break element that sets you apart from the rest.
Fortunately, it’s easier than ever to make adjustments to any space you want sound treated. With Acoustical Surfaces, you can shop around to find the best acoustic foam shape for your individual needs. From purchase to installation, we’re here to help your space transform into the exact soundscape you’ve been looking for.
- BYJU’s. Reverberation. https://byjus.com/physics/reverberation/
- SoundGuys. Soundproofing vs acoustic treatment: What’s the difference? https://www.soundguys.com/soundproofing-vs-acoustic-treatment-50463/
- Science World. How do surface shapes and materials’ placement affect sound absorption? https://www.futurescienceleaders.com/blog/2021/05/how-do-surface-shapes-and-materials-placements-affect-sound-absorption/