What Type of Fabric is Used for Acoustic Panels?
Sound control may be more important today than it’s ever been. That’s because we’re subjected to more noise than we’ve ever been subjected to before. We’ve got homes full of connected devices, noisy HVAC systems, and neighbors doing yard work at odd hours. In order to reduce your exposure, you’ll want to acoustically treat your home and office. Whether you’re soundproofing a bathroom or a boardroom, you’ll need sound absorption in any acoustical treatment. You may have noticed the acoustic fabric panels popping up all around you lately. They are becoming more and more popular in restaurants, workplaces, and even in homes. There’s a very good reason why. Acoustic panels allow us to converse more clearly, and hear without straining. They also contribute to an overall sense of calm in the room. Let’s look at how acoustic fabric panels work, what they’re made of, and why they’re important. We’ll also look at how the fabric they’re made of plays an integral role in their effectiveness.
The Difference Between Soundproofing and Acoustically Treating
Soundproofing and acoustically treating spaces are two concepts that commonly get conflated. Since acoustical materials are used as part of soundproofing plans, many people assume they are soundproofing materials. They are not.
Soundproofing a space is the process of preventing sound waves from passing from inside to outside and vice versa. We soundproof spaces by adding mass and density to the outer walls, doors and windows. We may also use sound mat underlayments as a floor treatment. These measures prevent sounds from entering or exiting.
We usually add acoustical treatments to the equation as well. This reduces the volume inside the room, making soundproofing easier. It also improves the quality of the sound inside.
Acoustically treating the interior of a room creates a mix of different reflection angles and hard and soft surfaces. We create different reflection angles with diffusers, and we create soft surfaces with acoustic fabric panels and acoustic curtains.
The mix of angles allow reflected sound waves to scatter around the room, reducing dead spots, echo, and reverb. The mix of hard and soft surfaces allows some waves to be reflected and others to be absorbed. This also reduces reverb and echo. The whole plan works together to create a lively sounding room without excess noise. Occupants can enjoy each others’ company without straining to hear or yelling over excess ambient sound.
While soundproofing is important when dealing with loud sounds or audio recording, acoustical treatments have a wider range of uses. You may find them in shared workspaces, doggy daycares, educational institutions, and even in theaters. Anywhere we want to bring sound down or increase its quality, we use fabric-wrapped wall panels.
Why Acoustic Fabric Panels are so Important
The spaces that employ acoustic fabric panels appreciate some fantastic benefits as a result. These panels will keep ambient noise down, allowing you to concentrate and relax. That reduction in stressors can lower your blood pressure and make you more productive. It can also protect your hearing. A solid acoustical treatment plan delivers benefits in both physical and mental health. But before you start throwing up homemade panels all over the place, let’s look at how they work. This will give you the best chance at success.
How Acoustic Fabric Panels Work
When we use acoustic fabric panels to decorate spaces, we do so for very specific purposes. They absorb and trap sound waves, and vastly improve the acoustics in any space. They accomplish this through the materials they are constructed of.
Acoustic fabric panels are, at their core, some type of dense, porous material. Whether it’s foam, mineral wool, or some other material, it allows waves in but not out. It’s an important part of reducing echo and reverberation and of keeping overall room volume down. This absorbent core is fitted into a wood or plastic frame and wrapped in fabric.
The fabric we use on acoustic fabric panels is just as important. It has features that not all fabrics have. If you’re wondering what fabric for acoustic panels has going for it that others don’t, here it is. The fabric we use in acoustic fabric panels is acoustically transparent.
What is Acoustically Transparent Fabric?
Most of us are familiar with the concept of transparency. We associate it with light passing through something unobstructed. Acoustical transparency is the same, except it means that sound waves pass through unobstructed. The most important aspect of acoustically transparent fabric is that it allows sound to pass through it unobstructed.
When sound waves encounter a surface, there are generally three possible outcomes.
The first is that the sound wave can bounce off of it. That’s the most common scenario. Hard, dense objects reflect sound waves back toward the source. That’s why we hear echoes in areas with hard walls and empty middles.
The second outcome is that the sound waves could be absorbed by the material. That’s what we want out of our acoustic fabric panels, but not what we want from the fabric itself. We want the inner core to absorb the waves that impact them, reducing echo and reverb. In order to reach the inner core, sound waves must be able to pass through the outer fabric.
The last outcome is that the sound wave passes through the object unobstructed. When they pass through, the object is considered acoustically transparent. By choosing the right sound panel fabric, the panels we employ can work at full efficiency.
How to Identify Acoustically Transparent Fabric
If you want to build a couple of basic panels yourself, you’ll need some acoustically transparent fabric for the wrap. Not all fabric will work. Identifying the types that do will give you the best chances at a decent result.
Acoustically transparent fabric is generally very thin.
The first thing you’ll want to do is find some thin fabrics you like. What fabric for acoustic panels all have in common is just that. They are thin. Not all thin fabrics are acoustically transparent, however. If you see high thread counts, it’s a dead giveaway that it’s not incredibly transparent to sound waves. A simple trick to gauge transparency is to shine a light through it.
As a basic rule, the more light passes through, the more potential sound can pass through. If the fabric lets very little light through, it will probably block a lot of sound as well. If it is thick and dense, you may actually be able to use it as a standalone sound absorber.
Also, make sure the print doesn’t eliminate the fabric’s porous nature. Some prints can completely negate the fabric’s acoustic transparency.
How are Sound Absorbing Acoustical Curtains Different
You can go the other way by choosing very thick, dense fabrics. Acoustical curtains are a versatile solution to all kinds of noise issues. Any thick, dense fabric will work to absorb some sound. But, if you want to get the most out of the fabric you use, choose true sound absorbing acoustical curtains.
These dense curtains can be placed nearly anywhere, they block out light entirely, and they look great. We can use acoustical curtains for everything from insulating bathroom walls for sound to separating work spaces. Many people even use them as effective interior and exterior sound blankets to quiet noisy machinery.
Other Uses for Acoustic Fabric
Acoustic fabric’s use case doesn’t stop at fabric wrapped panels. It’s a great way to cover all your sound absorbing materials to make them look great and perform even better.
We use diffusers to scatter sound waves throughout spaces. When sound waves interact with hard, flat walls, they reflect directly back toward the source. This results in echo and built up sound waves. Those built up sound waves create reverberation, which makes communication and hearing more difficult. Diffusers create multiple different surfaces to vary the reflections of the sound waves that impact it. Covering it with acoustically transparent fabric creates smooth surfaces where you want them.
Covering Bass Traps
Bass traps are another essential part of reducing noise in interior spaces. Since bass waves build up in corners, we use bass traps there to absorb excess pressure. The problem is, they can look plain. Covering them with acoustically transparent fabric gives them a look we love.
Creating Acoustic Fabric Wall Coverings
We can even use acoustically transparent fabric as a whole room solution. Draping acoustically transparent fabric across the entire wall provides numerous benefits. We can easily hide any kind of sound absorbing material we want behind it. This allows us to absorb all the waves that hit a particular wall, improving the sound in the room. We can also create very cool visuals, depending upon the print on the fabric we choose. Make sure the print doesn’t block sound passage, though. Dyes are better than thicker prints here.
Pro Products are More Effective
Building your own acoustic fabric panels will take some of the edge off the sounds in your home or office. Any sound absorption is better than none. Make sure you use a quality backer and acoustically transparent fabric, however. Your results will only be as good as the materials you use.
If you want a more effective solution, installing acoustic fabric panels from trusted sound pros is the ticket. Not only do we have the acoustic treatments you need, but we can help you place them for max benefit. Whether you’re soundproofing pipes or creating a soundproof bathroom, we’ve got the resources you need to do it right.