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If you’ve ever tried to have a phone call in a noisy room, you know how hard it is to hear the person on the other line, or vice-versa. Imagine trying to actually record the conversation? Even more difficult. That’s where sound dampening panels come in. Whether you’re trying to create a better aural experience for a home theater, a quiet podcast studio, or a personal echo-less chamber for meditation and self-reflection, the best sound dampening panels reduce excess noise to let you capture the moment clearly and cleanly.
Before buying a set of sound dampening panels, it’s important to understand how sound reduction works. Sound reduction falls under two main categories; blocking and dampening. Sound blocking is the prevention of sound transfer from one space to another and is rarely achieved by products installed on a wall (these treatments are usually built into the wall). Sound dampening, on the other hand, is the reduction of certain tones, such as echo, reverb or just ambient noise. This can be done with a set of acoustic sound panels or sound absorbing tiles. As the name suggests, these are boards made of sound absorbing materials, to help insulate the space around you and “deaden” any unwanted sounds.
Sound dampening materials are rated on the Noise Reduction Coefficient (NRC) scale of 0 to 1; where 0 represents no sound absorption and 1 represents all sound absorption. This scale is more easily understood as a percentage, rather than a decimal; for example, an NRC of .3 is 30% noise absorption, and so on.
Determining what you’re using these panels for and the size of the space will help dictate which product to use — and the amount of product necessary. Either way, acoustic panels and foam tiles are easy to install, cost effective, and work well to reduce negative tones from rooms with a majority of hard surfaces.
1. ATS Acoustic Panel
We like these ATS Acoustics wall panels, which are easy to buy, easy to install and easy to fit into any decor style or need. Even better: these panels are all made in the USA.
The ATS panels are not just (subjectively) more attractive than other sound dampening solutions, they are functionally superior, with an NRC rating of 1. That means that 100% of sound will be absorbed by these panels. Made from a solid wood frame and jute (a vegetable-based fabric) these panels are built to last (they also blend in better than those “egg crate” foam panels).
Unlike some acoustic panels, which can run into the hundreds of dollars, ATS keeps its prices competitive and accessible. These sound dampening panels work in everything from conference rooms to music rooms to bedrooms, blocking out ambient noise from chatty colleagues and noisy neighbors alike. Some users say the black color absorbs both sound and light, while helping to reduce reflection from large screens and monitors.
PROS: An NRC of 1 is a class-leading benefit.
CONS: The included hardware is probably not the best solution for hanging these panels, especially not for the ceiling. A simple drywall screw from the hardware store is a cheap and easy solution for installation.
2. Foamily Acoustic Foam Tile
Foamily’s acoustic foam panels are great for small to medium-sized rooms and studios. The one-inch squares are easy to install – simply glue or use another adhesive product. The squares allow for more customization than acoustic panels, which take up more space and are a static shape and size. Crafted in America, Foamily’s acoustic foam panels will help to dampen reverb and flutter echoes, making them an especially great addition to a home theater setup.
PROS: Easy to use and customizable.
CONS: These panels lack an NRC rating making it tricky to know exactly how much effect they will have.
3. IZO Acoustic Foam Tiles
IZO’s acoustic foam panels are great for ambient noise reduction. Rated with an NRC of .4, these panels will help to deaden 40% of unwanted reverb and echo.
Each square measures approximately 12 x 12 inches, and these tiles are easy to install both on the wall or on the ceiling. They’re lightweight too, so they won’t damage any equipment or bruise anyone up if they accidentally fall down.
Adding these panels to a home office, home theater or home recording studio will certainly help with audio clarity, and many users say they’re great for YouTubers or gamers recording content as well.
PROS: An NRC of .4 will make a noticeable difference.
CONS: The egg crate-style foam ripples stick out about an inch or so. These are great for sound dampening, but if you’re looking for more of a soundproofing solution, you’ll want to consider other options on this list.