16 Best Soundproofing Materials For Effective Noise Control
Is noise from your neighbors keeping you up at night, or do you work from home and find it hard to concentrate because of the sounds outside your home? Do you cherish peace and silence, and you wish that your home was more tranquil, or do you maybe have a noisy hobby or occupation and you don’t want to disturb others?
If you thought to yourself: ”Yes!” at least once while going through these questions, you should know that practical solutions for your problems exist. Instead of feeling annoyed, take a look at the list of ten best soundproofing materials that could help you stop the noise from entering or leaving a room.
What Is a Soundproofing Material?
Before starting digging deeper into the topic, you should know some basics about soundproofing materials. For example, what they are, how they work, and how effective they can be. To understand how soundproofing materials work, we have to understand sounds first.
Think of a sound as a kind of energy; energy that is a result of things vibrating. That energy has to go somewhere; it travels away from its source, and during that trip, it makes objects and the air around us vibrate. Then, the energy reaches our ears; there, it vibrates as well, and we are able to register the sound in our brain.
So, a sound starts at its source, travels through multiple media, reaches our ears, and stimulates our brains. If we want to stop the sound somewhere along its journey, we have to interrupt the chain of events.
Soundproofing is any means of reducing the sound pressure in regard to a specific sound source and its receptor; and without soundproofing materials, soundproofing wouldn’t be possible.
A variety of construction materials are said to have noise reduction characteristics. However, you should pick the right one depending on different transmission modes and noise frequencies. Also, the location which requires soundproofing plays a big role when it comes to the choice of material.
Sound Absorbing Vs. Soundproofing Materials
A common misconception is that sound absorption is the same as soundproofing. Actually, absorption is one of the elements of soundproofing. The main difference between a sound absorbing material and soundproofing material is that the former is mainly used to improve the acoustics of the room, while the latter prevents sound from going in or out.
Sound absorbing materials reduce reverberations and echoing of sounds that are already present in the room; they cannot stop a sound from entering or leaving. So, excellent sound absorbing materials might be useless for soundproofing.
However, if you want complete sound isolation, it is best to combine these two types of materials; they work best together. However, if you don’t mind the reverberations and your only problem is in relation to sounds, stick to soundproofing.
Four Soundproofing Principles
Soundproofing might seem like a somewhat complicated topic. There is a lot of misinformation that confuses us, as well as people who claim to be experts when they aren’t.
The reality is that there are only four soundproofing principles based on the physics of sound transmission.
Combined with the techniques and materials used for soundproofing, these principles are more than enough for successful soundproofing.
All solid materials that are heavy and thick will block sound. People who are annoyed by airborne sounds, such as voices, find this approach the most effective. If you’d like to try out this principle, you can just use furniture to add mass to the walls. You can also attach Mass-Loaded Vinyl under or over your drywall. On the other hand, the mass principle isn’t very useful when it comes to impact noise.
Damping is achieved with the help of damping compounds. These compounds have a special property that allows them to convert sound energy into heat, making the sound stop all of a sudden. The perfect example of a damping material is Green Glue, although silicone caulk has similar properties. What’s more, even some automotive soundproofing materials use this principle.
For it to work, the damping compound has to be applied between two stiff panels, such as drywall or plywood, which are then screwed together. So, when sound reaches the system, it triggers shearing forces between the rigid panels that create friction in the damping layer, consequently converting sound energy into heat.
Damping is the most effective method for dealing with low-frequency noise.
When sound transmits through the structure of a building, it is best to use decoupling. When gaps are introduced in certain parts of the structure, interrupting sound vibrations becomes much easier.
It is best to employ decoupling during the construction. Although it can be done afterward, it would be much more complicated because you would have to remove existing walls, floors, or ceiling.
If you’re looking for a soundproofing material that would be most suited for decoupling your drywall from the structure of the building, you can look into resilient channels. They’re actually very effective at dealing with the low frequencies and even impact noise because sounds end up vibrating uselessly against the channels instead of passing through walls.
Even though it is highly effective, decoupling requires planning and professional installation. Having it done poorly can actually worsen low-frequency noise by creating a “room within a room.”
Finally, there is absorption, which we already mentioned. Although it plays a role in soundproofing, its effect isn’t as nearly as effective as the previous three principles. However, if you wish to see the best results, consider it as well.
You’re likely already familiar with the most absorbent soundproofing materials. I’m talking about acoustic foam, of course. It comes in various shapes, sizes, and colors, but it’s worth remembering that it’s mostly useful for improving the audio quality inside of a room, rather than blocking sound. In addition to acoustic foam, soft pieces of furniture can also be useful for sound absorption.
These four principles work independently, but they complement each other. So, if you have tried one method but you are still not satisfied with the noise reduction, think about introducing another one. The combination of these elements will bring the best results.
Top 16 Examples of Soundproofing Materials and Products
So far, I’ve hinted at several types of products you might use to soundproof your home. Now, let’s take the time to understand what the best soundproofing materials can do and where you can use them.
While we’re at it, I’ll also point you to additional resources where you can learn more about the various products and even recommend some specific brands.
1. Mass-Loaded Vinyl Sound Barrier
Mass-Loaded Vinyl is the ultimate tool for adding mass to your walls, floors, and even ceilings without adding unnecessary bulk. This synthetic material is fairly thin and flexible while retaining its functionality. In addition to the vinyl, which is the main ingredient here, there’s often another high-mass compound. But you can read all about that in the article I dedicated to it.
The main purpose of materials that add mass is to block sound completely — or rather, reflect it. MLV does that pretty handily. In fact, you can even use it to soundproof pipes, air ducts, or construct window plugs. Still, with that kind of efficacy, you have to expect to see a bit of a dent in your wallet, which is the main drawback of using MLV.
In terms of the most popular manufacturers of this product, one brand has stood above the rest for quite some time. The Trademark Soundproofing MLV was pretty tough to beat for a long while in terms of quality. Nowadays, though, there are other comparable products, such as the one Soundsulate makes.
Both of the products I’ve linked to are black. However, if you don’t mind shopping on individual brand sites, you may be able to find the material in various colors as well. But then, if you intend to use MLV under drywall, behind curtains, or under carpets, as I would, it doesn’t have to be pretty.
2. Acoustic Mineral Wool Insulation
The best soundproofing projects start from within. When you’re building your house, you’ll want to include some sort of insulation inside the walls and ceilings. Although the primary purpose of insulation isn’t to soundproof but to prevent air from seeping through the surface, you’d be surprised at how often those two goals align.
After all, if air can get through your walls, doors, or windows, so can sound. Therefore, the places that allow air to move in or out are also the most likely culprits behind extra noise coming in. Because most types of insulation are going to add mass and absorption to your walls, they’re almost always going to soundproof the surface as well as prevent air leakage. Still, batt insulation is your best bet if you want the maximum soundproofing value.
The article I’ve linked to explains all of this in detail. The installation process is fairly simple, especially if you’re just building your home. However, if you already have your drywall up, you’ll need to take it off to get to the wooden studs underneath. Then it’s just a matter of stuffing the insulation into the spaces between the vertical studs.
When it comes to insulation, you’ll want to stick to the best soundproof insulation brands out there. So look for something like Roxul’s Rockwool Acoustic Mineral insulation and Owens Corning 703 Fiberglass Boards.
3. Green Glue Soundproofing Compound
Now let’s talk about the soundproofing material that’s arguably the best option if you’re relying on the sound damping principle we discussed. Green Glue may seem like a bit of a mystery. But really, it’s easier to understand than you’d think.
I’ve already told you about the gist of what the installation process is like. Sound damping materials are the most effective when they’re between two hard surfaces. The two surfaces, usually drywall or plywood, are then attached to each other. So when sound reaches one of the layers of drywall, it causes the panels to vibrate against the damping compound, which then converts the vibrations into heat.
The one advantage of Green Glue over other damping compounds is that you don’t need to use screws to attach the two surfaces. After all, it does function as an adhesive as well. You can use it to add another layer of drywall to your existing one or even attach the acoustic foam to walls. Of course, it’s particularly effective if you use it to fuse two pieces of soundproof drywall.
Green Glue is different than the rest of the products I’ve listed here because it’s essentially the work of a single manufacturer. Still, the company makes it in various sizes, from 5-gallon buckets to 28-ounce tubes (linked above), so you can use the product as an acoustic sealant as well. I’ve written reviews for a lot of their other products in this article:
4. Resilient Sound Channels
As I’ve previously stated, resilient channels are the primary way to decouple your drywall from the internal structure of the building. Basically, they’re just another way to improve the noise-blocking abilities of your walls and ceilings. However, these pieces of sheet metal are by no means a necessary addition to your soundproofing projects.
If you want to install resilient channels, you can do so only if you haven’t yet put the finishing layer of drywall on the walls or ceilings. If you want to add them to an existing room, you’ll need to strip the drywall first and replace it with a new one.
Once you have your soundproof insulation in the wooden grid inside your walls, you would screw the channels into the studs, perpendicular to their direction. If you were working on walls, you would place them horizontally. Then when you install your drywall, your screws would pass through the resilient channels instead of the studs.
Although this may sound like a simple enough operation, you actually have to be really careful not to drill into the studs. After all, if you do, you would essentially be canceling out the decoupling. However, if you are successful, any sound that’s looking to pass through the wall would vibrate uselessly against the sheet metal, never reaching the structure of the building.
Several of these products have been featured in my guide to getting the best wall soundproofing. So if you want the absolute best soundproofing in your home, you can read all about what you need to do.
5. Soundproof Drywall
I’ve already mentioned soundproof drywall when I was talking about Green Glue. So let’s find out how you can make the surface layer of your walls work for you.
Many people don’t even know that drywall could be an effective part of the soundproofing process. Could such a thin layer actually contribute to soundproofing walls or ceilings, anyway? As it turns out, it can! In fact, there are five different types of drywall according to their primary purpose:
- Regular drywall is the cheapest of the bunch, but it’s also the most susceptible to mold and mildew growth.
- Mold-resistant drywall is a much better choice for, say, kitchens and other rooms with a lot of steam.
- Moisture-resistant drywall can even withstand direct contact with water, so it’s a fantastic base for bathroom tiles.
- Fire-resistant drywall won’t prevent a house fire, but it will buy you some time in the unfortunate event of one. That’s why it’s a great choice for stairwells and garages.
- Soundproof drywall, on the other hand, supposedly has a higher sound transmission class than the rest. Of course, its effectiveness would depend on the soundproofing methods you implement before installing it. It’s available in several thicknesses. As you know, when it comes to soundproofing, thicker is always better.
As I explained in my article about soundproof drywall, I’m not a blind believer in it. However, if you double it up and add Green Glue into the mix, it will certainly work better than if you were to use it on its own.
6. Acoustic Caulk/Sealant
When you put up your drywall, after adding all of the soundproofing materials, all that’s left to do is add the finishing touches. That’s where acoustic caulk comes in.
Sealants usually come in 28-ounce tubes with long and sharp tips. These tubes can be loaded into a caulking gun, which can squeeze their contents out. The sharp applicators can limit the amount of sealant and its placement. So why would you need this product?
As the name of the product indicates, sealants are meant to seal off or plug cracks. If air can pass through a crack, so can sound. That’s why it’s important to take care of these fissures as soon as you notice them.
After you screw in new drywall, some of the major cracks you would need to worry about are the ones where two pieces of drywall meet. However, usually, cracks in the walls form in the corners between two walls or along the line where the walls and the ceilings meet.
In addition, acoustic caulk is useful for soundproofing doors and windows. Whether it’s because of poor installation or normal wear and tear, the walls around the doors and windows often develop imperceptible air gaps. Since those two areas are already hard enough to soundproof, acoustic caulk can at least eliminate a part of the problem.
I’ve already mentioned the acoustic caulk from Green Glue. The Sashco Big Stretch Acrylic Latex Sealant is also worth looking into. That caulk actually comes in several colors — although that’s not a feature you need to look for. After all, most caulking products can be painted over.
7. Soundproof Foam Panels
If you’ve been wondering how to approach the soundproofing of your home, you’ve probably heard about acoustic foam. However, I can’t say that this is the best type of product for blocking noise from coming into your space or going out, for that matter.
As I mentioned when I was explaining soundproofing principles, acoustic foam only offers absorption. Therefore, it’s more useful for improving audio quality rather than blocking out sound. That’s why you’re likely to see it in music studios and in the background of gaming YouTubers’ videos.
Even if you don’t know anything about acoustic foam products, you may recognize the most famous shape pattern it comes in: the egg crate or the pyramid one. Still, that’s not the only pattern foam can come in. There are also wave panels, maze ones, and the ones with simple lines.
As far as I can tell, none of these shapes can make a foam product more or less effective. Once again, it’s the thickness that matters, as well as the total surface area you decide to cover.
Then again, you don’t necessarily have to line your walls with acoustic foam to get results. You just have to keep where you usually have the source of noise in mind when you’re setting up the foam. For example, if your speakers are on one wall, you may want to attach the foam panels on the opposite wall.
8. Soundproof Blankets
Now let’s talk about another type of product you might see if you walk into a recording studio: soundproof blankets. But, before we had soundproof blankets, we had moving blankets. Both of these products are essentially the same thing — in fact, musicians used moving blankets to line the walls of their studios before companies started making and marketing blankets for that express purpose of soundproofing.
These products are thicker, denser, heavier, and all-around sturdier than their commonplace counterparts. They’re usually about 80 inches long and 72 inches wide, which obviously wouldn’t cover a whole 7 or 8-foot tall wall. Still, if you wanted to cover the entire surface of the room, you could compensate with other materials. Or, you could just layer blankets.
One major difference between moving blankets and soundproof ones is that the latter sometimes come with grommets along the edges (like those I’ve linked to). However, it should be said that they’re not exactly the most attractive option for wall soundproofing. Still, they’re quite efficient, and there are endless ways to use them. And even if they’re not the most attractive things to see on your walls, you can always cover them with soundproof curtains.
9. Soundproof Curtains
Soundproof curtains are only slightly less effective than soundproof blankets, but they make up for that in style. Like the previous product I’ve talked about, soundproof curtains tend to be thicker, denser, and heavier than regular curtains. In fact, many of them use triple-weave technology — stacking three layers of woven materials on top of each other, with the middle layer being a high-density black yarn.
Because of their thickness and density, some soundproof curtains can also act as blackout shades. In my soundproofing guides, I recommend using them to cover hard surfaces such as wardrobes. The curtains can absorb sound waves before they can bounce off the bulky furniture.
However, I recommend using soundproof curtains all along the walls as well, especially if you want to hide unsightly soundproofing solutions.
One of the best features of this type of soundproofing product is that it can really elevate the space. There are soundproof curtains that look like velvet and ones that look like linen. Some of them have grommets, and others have a tube you can push the curtain rod through.
If I had to point out a flaw of these products, it would be that most of them have differently colored front and back sides. Fortunately, the next item on my list is a response to that very problem.
10. Soundproofing Window Kit
In my guide to soundproofing windows, I explained how you could physically make your single-pane window into a double-pane one. This DIY project involves getting an acrylic or glass panel and attaching it over the window.
You can purchase acoustic-grade glass similar to the one you may find in a sound recording booth. One way to attach the glass onto the window is to have it set into a metal frame, then drill the frame into your window from the inside. You can also attach it magnetically.
If you wanted to try the second method, you could get a soundproofing window kit by MAGNA-SEAL. The kit consists of a self-adhesive magnetic edging tape and a white “L” framing trim. However, it doesn’t include the quarter-inch thick acrylic sheet, screws, or the screwdriver you’ll need to put them in.
The L-channel trim is 4 feet long, and there are 4 pieces in the kit — meaning that it should cover 4 by 4-foot windows. But if the window you’re looking to soundproof is smaller than that, you can simply cut off the excess.
Unlike soundproof curtains, this method allows natural light to pass through the windows. However, it may be more expensive when you take into account the price of the acrylic or glass.
Weatherstripping tape is probably the most important tool for soundproofing doors and windows. It’s made of different materials and comes in many shapes and sizes:
- Hollow rubber weatherstripping tapes compress when the window or door is shut, forming a tight seal
- You can get thick or thin foam tape for bigger or smaller gaps
- I’ve also used felt tape to achieve similar results
All of these products have a peel-off layer in the back that protects the adhesive, which makes them so easy to apply. Make sure to clean around the frame of the door or window you’re trying to soundproof. Use an alcohol-soaked rag to pick up all of that dirt (trust me, there will be a lot of it).
Then just peel and stick the tape, rolling it out along the edges where the window or door meets the frame. Some of these tapes aren’t flexible enough to stick around the very corners, so you can cut them there.
I can’t tell you how much money and nerves I’ve saved over the years thanks to this tool. After all, it doesn’t only prevent noise from coming in — it’s mainly used for weatherstripping. That means that this was really made for the purpose of temperature control. Also, it has kept my heating bill reasonable time and again.
12. Door Seals & Sweeps
Door sweeps and draft stoppers go hand in hand with weatherstripping tape. In fact, these two things are meant to address the worst flaw in the design of most doors — the huge gap at the bottom.
Door sweeps or seals are usually made of rubber, although I’m more partial to the ones with a dense brush. They consist of two parts: the metal end that screws into the bottom of the door and the seal that hangs off the end, closing the gap. When the seal is a rubber one, it can scrape against the floor as you shut the door. However, these types of sweeps do seem to have the best soundproofing properties.
In my opinion, draft stoppers are even more effective than door sweeps, although some of them are only suitable for interior doors. The fabric ones that slide under the door and have a roll on both sides should be kept indoors. However, something like this could keep the inside of an exterior door airtight as well.
Better still, these things are also incredibly easy to make — as you’ll see in the article I’ve linked to.
13. Soundproof Floor Underlayments
Floor underlayment is essentially insulation that goes into your floor. It’s the main way to soundproof your floor from within — and I’ve already mentioned how important starting from the inside is. You can pile on the MLV, memory foam carpet underlays, and the thickest rugs you can find, but it won’t be enough if the underlying structure isn’t sound.
Just like with wall insulation, if you want to put in floor underlayments, you’ll have to take off your existing flooring, put down the underlayment, and put the floor back. You can also make a Green Glue sandwich, which would be an effective defense against the impact of your footsteps. However, I’d say that the best soundproof underlayments would work perfectly on their own.
A good underlayment should cushion the floor from within. It should also fill up the floor so that it doesn’t echo as you walk. Furthermore, adding an underlayment is also a great way to defend against mold growth between the floor and the ceiling below, since most products are also moisture-resistant.
You can read my article on this subject for more information. Or if you’re interested in seeing the products first, I recommend checking out the one from FloorMuffler.
14. Anti-Vibration Floor Mats
Anti-vibration floor mats are perfect if you’re trying to prevent a particular appliance from making noise. These are essentially foam rubber coasters you can slide under your speakers, washing machines, or dishwashers (like this one).
But not all of them are simple squares of material. Some are shaped like small cups that essentially act as slippers for the small metal feet some washing machines have.
If you’re looking to lessen the vibrations your appliances are passing along into the floor, these products are only a small piece of the puzzle. You’d also need to make sure the machine is nowhere near walls or any other pieces of furniture that might carry the impact to the surrounding structures. As I’ve mentioned in the article I linked to, covering the appliance with a soundproof blanket is also a great way to resolve the noise issue.
15. Soundproof Wallpaper and Paint
There’s been some debate as to whether soundproof wallpaper and paint can actually improve the level of noise that reaches a room. Still, I like to know about the things that might work, even if their actual efficacy is questionable. So let’s start with soundproof paint.
In my opinion, soundproof paint may actually be able to improve the amount of noise in a room. However, the results are not particularly promising. I went into more detail about some of the other paint myths regarding soundproofing in the article I’ve linked to. For now, I’ll just say that soundproof paint certainly works better than laying on coats of regular paint.
The reason why this product might actually be effective is that it contains latex. As you can see from this list, rubber is often used for soundproofing all around the home. In fact, this latex could settle into the tiny cracks in your walls in much the same way as silicone caulk. So that may be part of the reason why there is a small difference in sound.
Personally, though, I’d be much more interested in the results you can achieve with soundproof wallpaper. The one I was looking at for my article was a brick-shaped peel and stick paper. It was made of a white closed-cell polyethylene foam, which does have some sound absorbing properties. Essentially, this wallpaper acts as a thin acoustic foam panel. But rather than have a boring foam wall, this would at least add some style points to your home.
16. Furniture and Other Household Items
One of my go-to tips for anyone looking to soundproof their home on the cheap is to take a look at the items they already own. There are actually several ways to look at this piece of advice:
- If you have a problem with a room that’s too echoey, your solution may lie in moving furniture into it. In fact, this may be one of the only times where the myth that houseplants can act as a sound absorber may be slightly true. But it’s really not about plants — you’d have more success using cushions, foam sofas, and lining your walls with tapestries.
- Thin walls are best dealt with by pushing heavy pieces of furniture against them. If you have a bookshelf with a hard back, you can set it an inch or two away from the wall, and fill it with books. The books and the wooden bookshelf will add mass to the wall, and the inch of space between the wall and the bookshelf will also add the decoupling principle into the mix.
- I also recommend learning to improvise with household items, at least until you can get your hands on some of the soundproofing products I’ll talk about later on. You can push towels under the door instead of using a draft stopper, and nail several regular blankets to your walls instead of getting a soundproof blanket. Some of these methods are surprisingly effective!
In my soundproofing guides, I often take the time to suggest a few household alternatives to the products I recommend. After all, we all deserve to live in comfort and quiet in our own homes.
Final Thoughts on Soundproofing Materials
I hope you enjoyed reading through my list of most of the soundproofing materials you’ll ever need. If any one of them has caught your eye, check out some of the other articles I have about them. From the beginning of the list to the end, you can completely soundproof your home. Or you can just stick to the ones that will solve the specific problems you’re trying to resolve.
Ultimately, my goal here was just to get you thinking about whether you’re happy with the current level of noise you have, whether it’s in your home, office, or elsewhere. Why put up with noise when all you have to do to avoid it is use some of the best soundproofing materials and products?