ACOUSTICS AND SOUNDPROOFING ARE NOT THE SAME.
One of the most frequently asked questions we get is how much acoustic foam is required to prevent sound from travelling to our neighbours' house. Well, it is impossible to soundproof a room by just sticking any type of acoustic panel onto the wall.
Acoustic panels are meant for acoustic treatment, which is the control of echoes and reverberation in a room. Whereas soundproofing is about preventing noise from entering or exiting a room. In this article, we will discuss the differences between acoustic treatment and soundproofing.
What is Acoustic Treatment?
Acoustic treatment is the control of reverberations and echoes found in a room. We should not define acoustic treatment as “to reduce echoes and reverberation”, because even though most of the acoustic treatment jobs require the reduction of echoes and reverberation, some cases require redirecting such echoes - produced in an opera house or a choral chamber. Nonetheless, let’s discuss how we can effectively reduce the echoes and bring down the reverberation time in a room suitable for listening or monitoring purposes.
Acoustically treating a room is necessary due to the fact that very few “spaces” have the physical qualities that make for accurate monitoring. There are many things that can be done to the room before and during construction to optimise its acoustic behaviour. These include the shape of space/room, its isolation, and the surface materials. Once a room is already constructed, Acoustic Treatment mostly requires treating the surfaces.
There are two primary elements to consider: absorption and diffusion. Acoustic foam is well suited to control slap and flutter echo, the two most common problems in rooms. In fact, foam can turn even the most reverberant warehouse or gymnasium into a suitable acoustic environment. Diffusion keeps sound waves from grouping, so there are no hot spots or nulls in a room. In conjunction with absorption, diffusion can effectively turn virtually any space into one that is appropriate and useful for the purpose of monitoring sound with a high degree of accuracy.
What is Sound Proofing?
Soundproofing or “sound isolation” is very different from acoustical treatment. It is much harder to soundproof a room than it is to acoustically treat a room.
So as discussed earlier, soundproofing is done to either block noise from entering a room or to block noise from leaving a room. Soundproofing works by using materials that either reduce or absorb sound. While sound cannot be blocked completely, a substantial amount of noise reduction is possible.
Soundproofing falls into two main categories:1. Reducing Sound within a room
Soundproofed rooms, also known as anechoic (echo-free) or semi-anechoic chambers, are designed to reduce unwanted reverberation and echo within a room for the purposes of sound-quality (e.g. home theatres and recording studios) or noise mitigation (e.g. hotels, bars, restaurants, and open-plan offices). Insulation is also included in soundproofing which helps to reduce unwanted external noise.2. Controlling Sound Leakage
Soundproofing materials can be utilised to limit the transference of sound waves between rooms (either adjacent, above or below) and from external sources. Sound can enter through doors, windows, thin walls, the floor or even the roof. When soundproofing a room, it is important to evaluate the room to see which areas need to be soundproofed. Stand in the room, listen and walk around to see where noise is getting in or out.
To build a room that noise cannot enter and have no echoes, you will have to do both soundproofing and acoustical treatment. A room that is acoustically treated but not soundproofed will still be affected by outdoor sounds coming in, and a room that is soundproofed but not acoustically treated will be plagued by echoes since no sound can escape.
It is recommended to soundproof the room first by isolating all the structures and walls in the room. Then with acoustical treatment by installing acoustic panels on the walls and ceiling.