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Differentiates Soundproofing vs Sound Absorbing




Differentiates Soundproofing vs Sound Absorbing
Differentiates Soundproofing vs Sound Absorbing

Aspiring practitioners of soundproofing must become familiar with the relevant jargon. To aid in this endeavor, this article will discuss the distinctions between soundproofing and sound absorption.

The key distinction between soundproofing and sound absorption lies in that soundproofing is the procedure of impeding sound from entering a room, whereas sound absorption entails the utilization of acoustic materials to absorb sound waves within the area to prevent reverberations.

Being aware of the distinctions between these two terms will help you to avoid any potential errors in your future endeavors and ensure the success of your project.

This article examines the distinction between soundproofing and sound absorption, as well as other relevant concepts.

What differentiates soundproofing from sound absorption?

It is essential to have a thorough knowledge of both of these two terms, which are the most commonly used in the soundproofing industry when making soundproofing decisions for your space to ensure the best possible outcome.

Soundproofing involves the use of various techniques to prevent sound from entering or exiting a room. This practice can effectively reduce a broad spectrum of sound levels.

In a professional context, it is advisable to employ the same soundproofing techniques for both blocking out noise from neighbors and constructing a soundproof theater. Nonetheless, there are a variety of soundproofing alternatives and some are more suitable for specific scenarios.

To reduce sound, it is essential to minimize the propagation of sound waves. This can be accomplished by increasing the mass of a wall or by creating an air gap between two surfaces. Different techniques are available to limit the transmission of vibrations, which in turn stops the sound waves from becoming audible.

Sound absorption is the process of reducing sound waves within a room, which is also referred to as acoustic treatment. It involves diminishing or eliminating reverberations, echo, and sound amplification, ultimately improving the sound quality in a space instead of hindering it.

Acoustic foam is a prime illustration of a product engineered to reduce noise reverberation.

In terms of soundproofing, there are two options available: either egg box-style panels, commonly seen in recording studios, or discrete wall hangings, perfect for open-plan restaurant settings. Both provide effective noise reduction, resulting in improved sound quality.

It may be perplexing for newbies to distinguish between the two due to soundproofing being utilized as a broad term. It could pertain to many different items, such as sound absorption, sound dampening, and more. Even though various items are labeled as soundproof, they may not necessarily be.

Organizing products into categories is often more convenient when shopping on an e-commerce site. However, it is suggested to further research products, as the label that is presented to them may not be entirely accurate.

An illustration of this is the alternate term for acoustic foam – soundproof foam. Those familiar with the soundproofing process will recognize that it is not intended to impede noise. As noted above, its purpose is to manipulate acoustics within a room.

Having a thorough understanding of the key terminology in the industry is essential for making informed decisions. This, however, is just the beginning; there are numerous other terms to be familiarised with to gain a comprehensive knowledge of the sector.

SoundproofingSound Absorption
DefinitionThe process of preventing sound from entering or exiting a room.The process of reducing sound waves within a room, also known as acoustic treatment.
TechniquesIncreasing the mass of a wall or creating an air gap between two surfaces.Using products such as acoustic foam to reduce reverberations, echo, and sound amplification.
PurposeTo reduce a broad spectrum of sound levels.To improve the sound quality within a space.
Example productsEgg box-style panels, wall hangings.Acoustic foam, wall hangings.
MisconceptionsSome products labeled as “soundproof” may not actually be effective at blocking sound.Acoustic foam may be labeled as “soundproof foam,” but its purpose is to manipulate acoustics.
Differentiates Soundproofing from Sound Absorption

What is the difference between sound blocking and sound absorbing?

While there may be similarities between blocking and absorbing, it is important to note that there are some distinctions between the two terms.

Absorbing sound

Sound absorbers have a distinct composition. Where sound blockers are typically rigid and thick, sound absorbers are lightweight and porous. While this may not initially seem beneficial, it has multiple applications.

Absorbing sound
Absorbing sound

Echo and reverberation can be serious issues in spaces, as they often lead to sound waves becoming louder and more distracting. Such amplification of sound due to reverberation is a major concern that must be addressed.

An open-concept restaurant is an ideal setting for patrons, as the high ceilings provide ample reverberation for guests’ voices.

The bouncing of sound waves off hard, flat surfaces is an efficient way to create an echo. An everyday interior wall is an ideal surface for this purpose. To counter this effect, absorbers are designed to disrupt the surface, making it more difficult for sound waves to propagate.

Sound absorbers typically feature an open-celled structure, characterized by an abundance of minute pores. This facilitates the entrapment of sound waves, preventing their escape and thus ensuring absorption.

Sound absorbers come in a variety of shapes, including pyramids and peaks, and valleys. This structure assists in diffusing sound waves, limiting their ability to reflect and reverberate off the walls.

For optimal performance, it’s essential to incorporate both sound-blocking and sound-absorbing materials in your soundproofing project. Acoustic foam is the accepted industry standard for sound absorption, while a range of alternative materials can be employed as sound blockers.

The selection of an appropriate option will be contingent upon budgetary considerations, requirements, and available space.

Blocking sound

To soundproof a room, sound blocking is a necessity. While it is impossible to eliminate sound waves, sound-blocking materials can be used to prevent them from entering space.

Blocking sound
Blocking sound

Using a material with a high mass density is a great way to tackle this problem. Building a brick or concrete wall is an effective solution, though it may not be feasible in a residential setting.

Additional viable alternatives include mass-loaded vinyl and acoustic insulation.

Mass-loaded vinyl is a type of limp mass material, which means it lacks any elasticity (source). This in turn means that sound waves are unable to bounce off the material, consequently having a sound-proofing effect. Its lack of elasticity further reduces any potential for vibration, rendering it an optimal sound-blocking solution.

A further soundproofing measure is the creation of dead air, which refers to a sizable gap between two walls (or windows) that impedes sound from traveling. We completely obstruct the passage of sound waves to accomplish this.

The distance between soundproofed surfaces should be sufficient enough to prevent sound waves from reverberating, thus ensuring sound absorption. Thus, it is essential to ensure that such a space is created through a combination of soundproofing and sound absorption.

We can achieve soundproofing a wall through decoupling as a last resort. This process involves fastening each wall to independent studs to minimize the transmission of vibrations. For further information, please refer to the related article on decoupling.

Despite any potential impact to one side, sound waves would be prevented from transferring to the other due to the lack of a physical connection between the two walls.

Sound BlockingSound Absorbing
DefinitionThe process of preventing sound waves from entering a space.The process of disrupting sound waves and trapping them, preventing them from escaping.
CompositionTypically rigid and thick.Lightweight and porous.
ApplicationsPrevents sound from entering a space.Reduces echo and reverberation in a space.
TechniquesUsing materials with high mass density, creating dead air gaps, decoupling walls.Using materials with open-celled structures and diffusing shapes, such as pyramids and valleys.
Example productsMass-loaded vinyl, acoustic insulation, brick or concrete walls.Acoustic foam.
Difference between Sound Blocking and Sound Absorbing


Before embarking on your soundproofing project, it is prudent to gain an understanding of some additional terms and considerations. Having identified the key terms, familiarize yourself with the following additional elements that may prove beneficial in the successful completion of your endeavor:

  • An object impacting a surface, such as footsteps, doors banging or furniture being moved causes impact noise which can be the hardest to block because these vibrations travel much further.
  • We should assign a numeric rating to soundproof materials to show how good they are at blocking sound. This rating is known as the Sound Transmission Class (STC), and a higher number indicates better sound blocking.
  • Sound waves, such as TV sound, people talking, or a dog barking, travel through the air and cause airborne noise. Airborne sound can still travel through walls but will be much quieter on the other side.
  • When a solid object (for example a wall) comes into contact with a sound wave, it breaks down the sound wave into the impacting wave, the reflected wave, the absorbed wave, and the transmitted wave.
  • We might also rate this product with Impact Insulation Class (IIC), which states how effective it is at absorbing impact noise, which is an important factor for soundproofing.
  • Either prevent the sound wave from transmitting through the surface (decoupling) or increase the amount that’s absorbed into the surface (adding mass) to soundproof a room.
  • The original sound wave impacts, the reflected wave bounces back into the room, the surface absorbs the vibration and loses it, and the vibration transmits and becomes a sound wave on the other side.

Maximize your soundproofing project

Utilizing these terms can provide you with the necessary tools to construct a successful soundproofing strategy. We should utilize multiple techniques to address a variety of acoustic issues for optimal results.

To begin, assess the type and source of unwanted noise. Is the disruption coming from a neighbor’s television or footsteps overhead in the middle of the night?

To effectively soundproof a room to prevent loud music from being heard, it is imperative to first identify the type of noise you are attempting to block. Once the noise has been identified, you can choose the appropriate soundproofing options.

Subsequently, identify which strategies will meet your requirements. For instance, you may be content with the sound levels in your room, yet notice that the sound from your speakers is slightly distorted, and the noise is unclear.

We should direct attention toward sound absorption and acoustic treatment instead of soundproofing.

When shopping for products, look for those that have either an STC or IIC rating; though not all online retailers will necessarily advertise this information, it is worth seeking out.

It is advisable to visit the manufacturer’s website to obtain a product’s rating, as having the rating at hand can help with the selection process.

When planning the size of your project, consider the benefits of soundproofing during construction. While this may not be feasible for everyone, if you can decouple walls during the building process, it is highly recommended.

We can easily incorporate sound absorption at a later stage. Indeed, it is far simpler to attach acoustic foam panels to a wall than to dismantle it entirely.

It is essential to plan thoroughly for a successful project, and being aware of potential obstacles and solutions will ensure the best possible outcome.

After careful consideration, weigh the pros and cons of different products that are available to block sound for your project. There are many cost-efficient solutions on the market, however, these are not as effective as tailored products.

We should pay attention to the small crevices around doors and windows, as sound waves behave similarly to heat transfer and can easily pass through these gaps. Taking the time to address these minor details will yield impressive soundproofing results.


This article has provided a basic understanding of the distinction between soundproofing and sound absorption. We need to note which products to use for each purpose to create effective solutions.

Navigating the world of soundproofing can be overwhelming with its plethora of technical terms. You only need a good understanding of the fundamental concepts of soundproofing to begin a successful project.



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