What are Fiberglass Acoustic Panels?

When you’re looking to improve the acoustics in any space, whether at home or work, the go-to solution is the acoustic panel. It’s versatile, It looks great, and it does a great job of absorbing sound waves. There are a lot of different types of acoustic panels out there, and the type that’s best for you comes down to a combination of the application, the space, and the budget you’re working with. 

When you begin to look into options for decorative interior panels, you will quickly realize that foam and fiberglass acoustic panels are your main material choices. Knowing which type works best for your application requires you to know what you’re trying to achieve, how well each type absorbs sound, and your budget. 

Foam vs. Fiberglass Acoustic Panels

Since they are your two most abundant material choices when it comes to acoustic panels, it’s good to know what sets foam and fiberglass apart from each other. In the acoustic foam vs fiberglass panel debate, here are the things you need to know.

Fiberglass Acoustic Panels

One of the most popular materials used in high end acoustic panels is fiberglass. This type of acoustic panel has been used regularly for decades. And for good reason, too. The acoustic fiberglass insulation used in their construction is lightweight and incredibly effective at sound absorption.

Fiberglass panels are generally built as a solid frame that gives structure to rigid fiberglass panels in the center. This assembly is then wrapped in some sort of covering. The covering may include things like acoustically transparent fabric or reinforced foil propylene. The type of wrap that’s ideal for you will depend upon the application.

Fabric wrapped fiberglass acoustic panels are great when you want your panels to enhance the look of the room. The fabric coverings are available in all kinds of colors and can even be printed on. That means you can use your acoustic treatments to add any kind of artistic accent you can think of. Less attractive wraps offer different benefits in different applications.

Let’s not forget about how well fiberglass absorbs sound. Compared to foam panels, fiberglass absorbs more sound waves, and absorbs a wider range of frequencies. If you’re looking for top of the line absorption, fiberglass is the material of choice.

Foam Acoustic Panels

If you have little experience with acoustic panels, you probably think of the soft egg crate foam that people tack onto their walls to create DIY sound booths or recording studios when they’re mentioned. These are foam panels. They are a super common type of acoustic panel, and they serve a good purpose. 

While less effective than fiberglass acoustic panels, going with foam panels can save you a good amount of money. This is great news for anyone who’s trying to improve a room’s sound on a budget and doesn’t have particularly high demands. They still provide a decent amount of sound control, but are much cheaper to produce, and therefore, to treat a room with.

They aren’t super attractive and can be very hard to clean, but for the right applications, they can make a room sound warmer and less reverberant. Don’t count them out.

Other Types

There are acoustical panels that are made from other materials, like cellulose and mineral wool, but they are less readily available on the market as interior solutions that look good. They more often tend to fall on the less attractive end of the spectrum. Panels like these are very effective in industrial applications or in areas where appearance isn’t important. But, for spaces where aesthetics matter, they aren’t usually great options.

Making Your Choice: What are You Trying to Accomplish?

Before you begin treating your space, it’s important to know what problems you’re experiencing in order to come up with solutions that really work. What’s the main objective?  Are you trying to improve the sound in the space, or are you trying to prevent sound waves from passing in or out of the space through the walls, doors, and windows?

Soundproofing vs Acoustic Treatments

Many people associate acoustic panels with soundproofing a room. While acoustic treatments are important elements of a well-rounded soundproofing plan, the two terms refer to different things and perform different functions. 

If your main objective is to reduce sound transmission, you are looking for soundproofing materials. While soundproof fiberglass acoustic panels will reduce the volume of the noises in your space, making it easier to keep those sounds contained, acoustic panels won’t deliver the results you’re after on their own. You’ll also need to increase mass and density in your walls and doors to do that. 

If your main objective is to reduce the amount of echo, reverb, or other unwanted sounds in the space, acoustic panels are your first line of defense. Acoustically treating a room with sound absorbing fiberglass allows it to absorb sound waves at reflection points. This prevents them from traveling back across the room and causing audio issues. The better you absorb those sounds, the better your room will sound. The amount of absorption depends upon the quality of your panels.

DIY Acoustical Panels

Many people attempt to build their own DIY panels to save some money, with various levels of success. It is possible to build fairly effective panels using materials that are readily available at local stores, but it’s a big task. Sourcing the right materials and putting together a product that looks great isn’t as simple as it sounds. 

If you’ve got a solid set of tools and want to tackle a couple of panels yourself, make sure you choose the right materials. Proper acoustic batting and acoustically invisible fabric will cost a little more, but they are the only way to get great results out of your project. If the materials aren’t up to par, you’d be better off opting for an affordable set of foam panels.

Can I Use Fiberglass Insulation for DIY Acoustical Treatments?

Sometimes people finish a garage or basement and find themselves with an extra batt of insulation. If you’re wondering whether or not you can make DIY fiberglass acoustic panels with that leftover insulation, you aren’t alone.

While some people do choose to build a frame, stuff it with thermal insulation, and wrap it to create panels, it’s not likely to deliver the kind of results you’re expecting. The type of acoustic fiberglass that’s used in professional panels is different from the kind we use in the walls. DIY fiberglass acoustic panels created from that leftover batt will absorb some sound waves, but they’ll fall short in both appearance and performance.

The Bottom Line

Rigid fiberglass acoustic panels will cost a little more than similar panels made with acoustic foam, but when you need the best absorption possible, they are worth the slight increase in price. They absorb more sound waves, and they do a better job of sound damping.

If your goal is to produce studio quality recordings or create quiet workspaces in a busy office, acoustic fiberglass panels will deliver the results you’re after in an efficient package. They absorb a broader range of frequencies, doing a significantly better job of tackling frequencies on the low end. No matter what type of sounds you are trying to control, they are up to the challenge.

If cost is your main driver, foam panels do absorb a decent amount of sound for the price and can be a great option for light applications. Both foam and fiberglass acoustic panels are lightweight and easy to install yourself, so don’t forget to take installation labor out of the equation when pricing out your project.

Deciding Which Type of Panel is Right for You

Before you begin buying acoustic panels in bulk, be sure you are getting the right type for your application and space. If you aren’t an acoustics expert, it will be helpful to reach out for input from the pros. We can help you determine which materials and panel placement will yield the best results. 

Whether your room requires foam or fiberglass acoustic panels or something else entirely, we can give you the information you need to make an informed decision without wasting time or money.

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