Soundproofing vs Acoustic Treatment: What You Need to Know

While it may not seem like a big deal at first, persistent noise issues can bring about many negative consequences for your business. If you own a restaurant that isn’t properly outfitted with noise control materials, for instance, your diners could hear disruptive sounds from the kitchen or the traffic outside. If you operate a school, noise issues could prevent students from paying attention in class and focusing on tests.

In fact, unwanted sound and noise problems can cause annoying disruptions, stressful work environments, and unpleasant experiences across all industries.

Luckily, soundproofing materials and acoustic treatments can help. But to determine which of these noise transmission solutions is right for your needs, you’ll have to understand the different types of sound treatment options, how they work, and their benefits and applications. So, let’s get started!

What is Soundproofing?

Soundproofing is the process of using specific materials, like acoustic foam and soundproofing panels, to prevent sound from entering or exiting a room. By airborne means, sound can leak from one room to another via gaps in:1

  • Windows
  • Doors
  • Electrical outlets
  • Ceilings
  • Vents

But sound energy can also travel through solid surfaces, like walls, floors, and ceilings.

As you can imagine, these multiple entry and exit points make it tricky to soundproof a room. However, knowing which soundproofing products to use will help you reduce unwanted noise and keep it from being a nuisance.

Typically, there are three ways to soundproof a room and help reduce the transmission of unwanted sound:

  • Blocking air gaps in the room – Materials like acoustic door seals, window inserts, and acoustical sealant can help prevent airborne sounds from entering a room via gaps under doors or on windows.
  • Dampening structural vibrations – Blocking structure-borne sound from moving across rooms in a building requires the use of materials like resilient sound isolation clips (RSICs) or stud isolators. These materials reduce the speed at which sound waves travel between a building’s structures.
  • Increasing structural mass – By making the structure of your rooms denser, you make it harder for sound to travel through these structures.

With the correct applications and in the right circumstances, soundproofing solutions can effectively limit unwanted noise from entering or exiting a room. This is incredibly beneficial in facilities like schools, hospitals, and restaurants where disruptive noises can cause unnecessary stress and an overall unpleasant experience.

Soundproofing and Acoustics for Every Application. Browse our Collection!

What is an Acoustic Treatment?

Acoustic treatment involves adding sound absorption materials to a room to control sound levels and quality. Treating a room using these materials requires an understanding of the factors that influence room acoustics, such as the:

  • Types of surfaces in the room on which sound can be reflected
  • Height from the floor to the ceiling, which can contribute to echoes
  • Materials used to construct the building’s structures, including its walls and ceilings

Acoustic treatment design accounts for the aftermath of sound waves hitting a surface. These treatments absorb sound and prevent it from being reflected (creating echoes and reverberation) or passing through surfaces like doors, windows, ceilings, or floors into surrounding rooms.

Types of acoustic treatment include:

Acoustic panel treatments are ideal for auditorium acoustics, lecture halls, and other facilities where the ability to hear sound clearly is crucial.

Soundproofing vs Acoustic Treatment: A Comparison

In a sense, blocking sound from entering or leaving a room via soundproofing is slightly less complicated than applying acoustic treatments to absorb or diffuse sound as it travels around a room.

This is because acoustic treatment combines acoustical design with the knowledge of properties that control the final sound outcomes in a room. For instance:

  • Soft surfaces and materials will absorb or diffuse sound waves
  • Hard surfaces and materials will scatter reflected sound waves

You can also regulate sound waves using curved or flat surfaces.

Given these variables, acoustic treatment becomes a bit more challenging than straightforward soundproofing. Treating a small room with low ceilings, for example, will look different from treating a larger room with high ceilings because of the differences in structure, shape, and space.

In the end, minimizing echoes and reverberation in these rooms to control sound and improve sound quality will require strategic thinking, as well as the use of certain sound-absorbing materials, like wall panels or window treatments.

How to Choose Between Soundproofing vs Acoustic Treatments

To choose between soundproofing vs acoustic treatments, you must understand the noise problem you’re attempting to solve.

  • If you’re trying to limit noise from seeping into or exiting a room, soundproofing works best. In these cases, look for seals, inserts, sealants, or soundproofing foam materials that can block air gaps or dampen sound vibrations, making it harder for sound to penetrate the air and solid surfaces.
  • If you’re trying to improve a room’s sound quality, acoustic treatment is the optimal solution. To achieve your desired sound quality, look into materials like cellulose, mass-loaded vinyl, and melamine foam which can absorb or diffuse sound within a given space.

Guidance for the Right Soundproofing or Acoustic Treatment

Finding the right soundproofing or acoustic treatment to meet your commercial needs shouldn’t be complicated—and with an experienced provider like Acoustical Surfaces, it isn’t.

We have over 35 years of experience helping individuals across commercial industries reduce unwanted noise and control sound quality with various specialized products and materials.

Our team will work with you to understand your specific noise problem to recommend the best soundproofing, acoustic treatment, and sound absorption solutions—and we can even assist with design and application.

Contact us today to learn more about scheduling a consultation.



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