DECIBEL blog article Understanding Soundproofing and Sound Absorption

Understanding Soundproofing and Sound Absorption

⏱️ Reading time 9 min 14 sec


You may think you're reading now, right? Wrong! 

Can you hear your surroundings - your colleagues chatting, a car passing by, a phone ringing, distant dogs barking, or perhaps your own singing, typing or talking?

Sound is all around. 

It is an essential part of our daily life, influencing our experiences and well-being. It could be the peaceful serenity of a quiet room or the bustling noise of a busy street. Sound plays constantly a crucial role, but excessive or unwanted noise can be disruptive and even harmful to our health and productivity. To manage sound effectively, it's important to understand the concepts of soundproofing and sound absorption. 

In this article, we'll explore the differences between soundproofing and sound absorption, including their definitions, mechanisms of action, and practical applications. 

By the end of this blog, you will have a clearer understanding of how these concepts contribute to creating optimal acoustic environments in various settings. If not, drop us a line and schedule a consultation with our engineers and acousticians.

This article is available as a video too. Feel free to explore it, if the format suits you better:

Understanding Soundproofing

Definition of Soundproofing

Soundproofing, also known as noise control or sound insulation, refers to the process of preventing sound from entering or leaving a space. The goal of soundproofing is to reduce the transmission of sound waves through barriers, thereby minimising the transfer of noise between different areas.


couple in their home enjoying soundproofing by DECIBEL


How Soundproofing Works

Soundproofing is the process of reducing or eliminating unwanted sound or noise by adding physical barriers or damping materials to block the transmission of sound waves. This can be done in various ways, depending on the type and frequency of the sound waves that need to be blocked.

There are generally two types of sound waves that can be blocked through soundproofing: airborne sound and impact sound. 

  • Airborne sound is sound that travels through the air, such as music or conversation.
  • Impact sound is created by physical impact, such as footsteps or slamming doors. 

The different types of sound waves require different types of soundproofing methods to effectively block them. 

Keep reading. We will examine them both a bit later. 

One common method of soundproofing is to install thick walls or partitions that are designed to absorb or reflect sound waves. These walls are typically made of materials that have high density and mass, such as concrete or brick. The thicker the wall, the more sound it will block, as it will reduce the amplitude of the sound waves and prevent them from passing through the barrier into the adjacent space.

Another method of soundproofing is to use double-glazed windows, which have two panes of glass with a layer of air or gas in between. This design helps to reduce the amount of noise that enters or exits the building, as the air or gas layer acts as a barrier to the sound waves.


wall thickness in homes next to each other


Specialised soundproofing materials, such as acoustic foam or mass-loaded vinyl, can also be used to reduce the transmission of sound waves. Acoustic foam is made of a porous material that absorbs sound waves, while mass-loaded vinyl is a heavy material that reflects or absorbs sound waves and is often used to soundproof floors and walls.

Soundproofing is commonly used in buildings that require a high level of sound control, such as music studios, cinemas, and conference rooms. It can also be used in homes to reduce the amount of external noise that enters the living space, such as traffic noise or noisy neighbours.

In addition to its practical applications, soundproofing also has health benefits, as exposure to loud noise can lead to hearing loss, stress, and other health problems. By reducing the amount of noise in a given space, soundproofing can help to create a more comfortable and healthy environment.


Understanding the Rw (Weighted Sound Reduction Index)

Rating is crucial in the field of acoustics and soundproofing. This rating quantifies the ability of a material or structure to diminish airborne sound transmission across a range of frequencies. Similar to other sound insulation metrics, such as STC (Sound Transmission Class), a higher Rw rating indicates better sound attenuation capabilities. Engineers, architects, and designers rely on Rw ratings to select appropriate materials and construction techniques to achieve desired levels of soundproofing in buildings, ensuring comfortable and peaceful indoor environments.


woman with headphones listening to noise


Importance of Soundproofing in Different Settings

Soundproofing is essential in a variety of settings where noise control is critical. In residential buildings, soundproofing helps to minimise noise transfer between neighbouring units, ensuring privacy and tranquillity for residents. In commercial spaces such as offices or conference rooms, soundproofing can improve concentration and productivity by reducing distractions from external noise. Similarly, soundproofing is vital in entertainment venues such as theatres or concert halls to enhance the clarity and quality of audio, especially when combined with acoustic products.


Examples of Scenarios Where Soundproofing Is Necessary

  • Residential buildings: Soundproofing between apartments or townhouses to reduce noise from neighbours.
  • Offices: Soundproofing meeting rooms or workspaces to minimise distractions and improve productivity.
  • Hotels: Soundproofing guest rooms to ensure a peaceful and restful environment for guests.
  • Recording studios: Soundproofing recording booths or control rooms to achieve high-quality audio recordings without interference from external noise.


colorful acoustic hexagon panels in a kids room by DECIBEL


If you're considering soundproofing your home, office, or studio, it's best to consult a professional. They can assess your needs and recommend the best solution. DECIBEL is one such company. It offers high-quality soundproofing panels which can effectively reduce noise for many uses.

Moreover, we have created our own patented soundproofing products. They fix all the downsides of the listed materials. These products include DECIBOARD and MUTE-SYSTEM. Plus, MUTE is developed for sound-insulating walls, ceilings, or floors.


Understanding Sound Absorption

Definition of Sound Absorption

Sound absorption is the process of reducing the reflection of sound waves within a space, thereby decreasing reverberation and echo. Unlike soundproofing, which focuses on blocking the transmission of sound, sound absorption targets the absorption of sound energy within a room, improving its acoustics.


How Sound Absorption Works

Sound absorption is an important aspect of acoustic design, particularly in spaces where sound quality and speech intelligibility are crucial. Sound absorption materials are designed to reduce the amount of sound that reflects off of hard surfaces, which can cause a variety of issues such as echoes, reverberation, and unwanted noise.

Some popular examples of sound absorption materials include foam, wood, or specialised fabric. These materials are designed to absorb sound waves, reducing the amount of noise that is reflected back into the room and improving overall sound quality.

One common example of a sound absorption product is acoustic panelsThey are typically made from materials such as foam, wood, textile or PET-felt, designed to absorb sound waves through frictional resistance. When sound waves encounter these materials, they are converted into heat energy, which scatters throughout the material. This results in a reduction in the intensity of sound reflections within the space.


GLL panels by DECIBEL porous structure of the textile


Another example of a sound absorption product is curtains or drapes. These are often used in home theatres or recording studios to reduce the amount of sound that reflects off of windows or hard surfaces. Thick, heavy curtains are particularly effective at absorbing sound waves, as they can trap sound energy within their fibres.

In addition to improving speech intelligibility and reducing unwanted noise, sound absorption materials can also improve the overall quality of audio playback. By reducing the amount of sound reflections within a space, the clarity and detail of audio playback are enhanced, resulting in a more immersive and enjoyable listening experience.

Overall, sound absorption is an important aspect of acoustic design that can have a significant impact on the quality of sound within a space. Whether you are designing a home theatre, recording studio, or conference room, choosing the right sound absorption products is essential for achieving optimal sound quality and performance. 

Proper placement also plays a critical role. 


acoustic panel placement in a recording studio for optimal sound


Understanding the Sound Absorption Coefficient

The sound absorption coefficient measures the amount of sound energy absorbed by a material across different frequencies. A material with a high absorption coefficient absorbs more sound energy and is therefore more effective at reducing reverberation. For example, acoustic panels with a higher absorption coefficient are ideal for spaces where speech intelligibility is crucial, such as conference rooms or recording studios.


Importance of Sound Absorption in Different Settings

Sound absorption plays a crucial role in optimising acoustics in various environments, from recording studios and theatres to classrooms and offices. By minimising reverberation and echo, sound absorption enhances speech intelligibility, reduces noise fatigue, and creates a more comfortable listening environment.


GLL acoustic panels by DECIBEL absorbing sound in a room


Examples of Scenarios Where Sound Absorption Is Beneficial

  • Recording studios: Sound absorption in recording booths or control rooms to achieve accurate sound reproduction and minimise unwanted reflections.
  • Theatres: Sound absorption in auditoriums or performance spaces to enhance the clarity of live performances and improve the audience's listening experience.
  • Classrooms: Sound absorption in educational settings to reduce reverberation and background noise, allowing students to better understand and engage with instructional content.
  • Restaurants: Sound absorption in dining areas to create a more comfortable and enjoyable dining experience for patrons by reducing noise levels and echo.


At DECIBEL, we offer acoustic panels of different types that are designed to combat unwanted noise and ensure a clear and crisp sound. The panels are made from high-quality materials ensuring they are both effective and durable. 

You may need to block out noise. Or, you may need to reduce echoes in a room. Our soundproofing and acoustic panels target both problems. 


Differences Between Soundproofing and Sound Absorption

Definition and Purpose

  • Soundproofing aims to block the transmission of sound waves between spaces, while sound absorption targets the absorption of sound energy within a room.

  • Soundproofing is primarily concerned with reducing noise transfer, whereas sound absorption focuses on improving the acoustics of space by reducing reverberation and echo.

Mechanisms of Action

  • Soundproofing relies on physical barriers or damping materials to block the transmission of sound waves.

  • Sound absorption utilizes absorbent materials to convert sound energy into heat, reducing the reflection of sound waves within a space.

Application and Effectiveness

  • Soundproofing is typically applied to walls, floors, and ceilings to prevent noise transmission.

  • Sound absorption is applied mainly to walls or ceilings to improve acoustics and reduce reverberation.

  • Soundproofing is more effective at blocking low-frequency noise, while sound absorption is more effective at reducing mid-to high-frequency noise.

Cost Considerations

  • Soundproofing materials and installation can be more expensive than sound absorption materials, especially for comprehensive noise control solutions.

  • Sound absorption materials are often more affordable and easier to install, making them a cost-effective option for improving acoustics in various settings.

  • Whether you need a soundproofing or an acoustic solution, consider products that offer DIY easy installation. This will save you additional time and money for installers. 


easy DIY installation of MUTE-SYSTEM soundproofing panels by DECIBEL


Real-World Examples

A. Residential Environments

  • Soundproofing: Installing double-glazed windows or adding extra insulation to walls to reduce noise from neighbouring units.
  • Sound Absorption: Hanging acoustic panels or draperies in living rooms or home theatres to improve sound quality and reduce echo.

B. Commercial Spaces

  • Soundproofing: Constructing soundproof partitions or using soundproof doors in office buildings to minimise noise transfer between workspaces.
  • Sound Absorption: Installing acoustic wall panels in conference rooms or open-plan offices to enhance speech clarity and reduce reverberation.

C. Entertainment Venues

  • Soundproofing: Using specialised construction techniques and materials to create isolated performance spaces in theatres or concert halls.
  • Sound Absorption: Installing acoustic panels or diffusers on walls and ceilings to optimise the acoustics of recording studios or live music venues.

D. Industrial Settings

  • Soundproofing: Implementing noise control measures such as enclosures or barriers around noisy machinery to protect workers from excessive noise exposure.
  • Sound Absorption: Using acoustic baffles or curtains to absorb sound energy and reduce reverberation in industrial facilities such as manufacturing plants or warehouses.


Selecting the Right Solution for Your Needs

To find the best sound approach, assess your space's needs first. If you face noise from sources like loud neighbours' TV, speech, footsteps, or dogs barking, then soundproofing panels can help. They block and reduce the two main types of noise - airborne and impact noise.


screenus felt office acoustic separators byr DECIBEL


STEP 1: Define the Type of Noise

The sound that travels through the air and reaches a building is called airborne noise. This type of sound can come from various sources such as people talking, dogs barking, or TV noise. When airborne noise enters a building, it causes the building to vibrate. The vibration then spreads through the building. It is eventually heard on the other side but at a lower volume.

The sounds are produced by physical impact on buildings or solid materials. They are known as impact noise. Examples of impact noise include footfall, doors banging, walking, and furniture moving. When impact occurs, sound waves are generated as both sides of the building element vibrate. Isolating impact noise is hard. The vibrations are stronger and travel further through dense materials. 

Fortunately, we have a solution for you.


STEP 2: Combine Soundproofing with Acoustics

Don't forget to upgrade your soundproofed space with sound absorption products. These include acoustic wood panelstextile panelsPET-felt panels or foam panels. They reduce echoes and improve internal sound. Depending on your specific needs you may consider the use of bass traps or diffusers too.

Consider factors such as budget and levels of sound reduction and absorption when making your decision. DECIBEL offers both soundproofing and acoustic products to meet all your needs.

Soundproofing and sound absorption are two distinct concepts that play complementary roles in managing sound in various environments. While soundproofing focuses on blocking the transmission of sound between spaces, sound absorption targets the absorption of sound energy within a room to improve acoustics and reduce reverberation. 

By combining both soundproofing and acoustic methods, you can create a peaceful and comfortable space to relax, work, or sleep, free from the distractions of unwanted noise.

There is one rule only - use high-quality products. This way, you won't have to compromise on performance, durability, or aesthetics while achieving excellent results.


green pet felt acoustic panels by DECIBEL in a bedroom


Have a look at our soundproofing and acoustic products in our shop. Tested, approved and highly recommended by all of our clients around the world.

Not sure what to choose for your space? Drop us a line here in the chat and get a consultation with our acousticians. 


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