Whenever you need to be able to control sound waves in a room, you will need acoustic foam panels. They are mostly for use in a recording studio environment, but they do have other uses.
For example, placing them behind a TV with a home cinema system creates a much better sound and a more pleasurable listening experience.
Do you really need to control the sound?
Well, yes, actually you do. But you also need to know what sounds need to be at their best. Instruments, Vocals, and Drums all differ in their acoustic needs. Acoustic foam panels not only will absorb sound, but in doing so, they will improve the sound quality as well.
There is a variety to choose from in terms of their design. You will see wedge and pyramid formations. Some with more wedges than others. You will also find perfectly flat tiles and even some that resemble an egg tray. They all have a function.
But what are the best options for your needs? Let’s find out in our in-depth review of the Best Acoustic Foam Panels currently on the market…
Top 5 Best Acoustic Foam Panels in 2023
1 Auralex Acoustics Studiofoam Wedgies Acoustic Absorption Foam – Easiest Acoustic Foam Panels to Install
To those involved in the sound business, Auralex is a well-known name. Founded in 1977 principally to provide an alternative cost-effective option of soundproofing. At the time, it was an expensive business, it still isn’t cheap, but Auralex has done a lot to reduce the costs.
This is a tile that is wedge-shaped with the recommended depth of two inches. Two inches isn’t a hard and fast rule for depth. However, most seem to agree that it is acceptable for the work it needs to do.
They measure twelve inches square, and you get twenty-four tiles in a pack. They are non-reflective. The wedge is a good shape as it has a larger surface area exposed to the sound waves. This is created by the ridges. Therefore, it will absorb more than a flat tile will do.
The size is functional and allows you to piece together an exact design or shape of what you need. You can cut them to size if you need to without damaging them. They are colored plain charcoal, which gives off a nice working ambiance.
They are designed to eliminate sound reflections but will also reduce standing waves. These are different from traveling waves and can cause problems as they have varying oscillation, which can cause an unstable sound.
Reflection, not elimination…
These tiles are not for soundproofing a room; you’re not trying to eliminate sound. These are designed to control sound reflections.
Therefore, they would be at their best when placed in areas where they can control them. They will work well with high and mid frequencies but not with low frequencies. Absorption of the reflected bass sound is a different approach.
Fix to any surface…
Fixing to any surface is easy using a fixative. Although we would recommend that you use a glue that doesn’t have a pungent smell as many seem to have.
These are quality tiles at a very attractive price that will cover a reasonable area, even though they are quite small individually.
- They have a good control of reflected sound.
- Plain but attractive look and easy to fix.
- At twelve inches square, the tiles are not the largest.
2 Pro Studio Acoustics Acoustic Wedge Foam Absorption Soundproofing Tiles – Most Versatile Acoustic Foam Panels
This is a pack of acoustic wedge foam tiles from Pro Studio acoustics. Each panel measures 12 by 12 by 2 inches. Therefore, they can cover an area of 12 square feet at a depth of two inches.
They are certified as a flame-retardant panel and have a slightly different style that might interest some people.
These are designed for use in smaller rooms to reduce standing waves. They also handle what is known as ‘flutter echoes’ or ‘chatter.’ This is when sound travels at speed between surfaces that are parallel.
Great for home recording…
In each pack of twelve panels, you get six blue and six charcoal to add a bit of color to your room. They are suitable for use in the home or smaller recording studios or control rooms. As with all acoustic panels, positioning is important to get the best results.
These panels are not considered to be budget range even though the price point is not high. However, they may not be as absorbent as some other panels that are more expensive.
Get creative with the design…
In the pack of twelve panels, you get six blue and six charcoal-colored tiles. That gives you a bit of freedom to create the decor of your choosing. It won’t suit everyone, of course. But it is an interesting change to the usual color scheme and we quite like it.
A good point about these tiles is the delivery process. With some panels, they will be flattened for vacuum packaging, and some even rolled up. That can seriously compromise the basic structure of the panel. The packing with these ensures they are delivered in good condition, ready for use.
Easy to use…
Fitting is easy and is just a matter of using a decent fixative. The panels can be cut to fit corners or awkward wall shapes. A good contender for the Best Acoustic Foam Panels.
- The two-tone color scheme will appeal to some people.
- Delivered in pristine condition.
- Might not absorb as much sound as some panels.
3 Auralex Acoustics D36-DST Roominator Acoustic Absorption Treatment Room Kit – Best Premium Acoustic Foam Panels
Can you remember the sound in your school gymnasium? That is about as bad as any sound gets if it isn’t treated. Out of the confines of a studio, recording in the gym might be good for a special effect. But usually, it will be a disaster.
That is an extreme example, of course. But can an ordinary room be transformed into something special? Let’s find out…
Make a small room big…
This ‘Roominator’ from Auralex is a complete kit for treating a very small room. If you have a small room that isn’t doing much, you can turn it into a vocal booth. Or possibly a ‘live’ guitar room. This will improve the acoustics to make it a great place to record.
In the package, you get a total of thirty-six panels. There are eighteen DST-114 with a further eighteen DST-112. They each measure twelve inches square and are two inches in depth.
They have included two different design formats. The 112 has just one wedge that has two faces. The 114 has four wedges.
Clear mids and highs…
These will not suffice as bass traps and are really only to be used for a multi-purpose recording room. Four-inch (or more) thick foam rather than two-inch is required for a good bass trap. These panels, though, will deal well with high and mid frequencies.
They are easy to fit, and you can cut them with strong scissors to get an exact fit in an awkward corner. This will not damage the panels. For mounting, the package also contains some adhesive fixings.
- A good way to give a small room or designated area some acoustic control.
- Two alternate acoustic designs.
- Only usable for higher frequencies.
4 Auralex Acoustics Studiofoam Pyramid Acoustic Absorption Foam – Best Value for Your Money Acoustic Foam Panels
Back to Auralex for another acoustic panel. This one a very basic option that some call an acoustic workhorse. This has an unusual aspect that some may find interesting, which we will cover later on.
Excellent echo reduction…
These panels can be used in a wide variety of formats. It is an open-celled design that has a high density. This allows them to soak up the sound waves. They are especially useful for reducing any unwanted flutter echo or ‘slapback.’
‘Slapback’ echo is defined as a single echo. This occurs when a sound bounces off a surface that is not absorbent. Quite often, a high-frequency sound. These panels are particularly adept at handling high and mid-frequency reflections. This allows you to control the ambiance in the room.
So what makes these panels a little different?
They are partly made from a soy-based product. This reduces the amount of material produced from petrochemicals as most components are. This is an early effort to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. No bad thing.
In our book, this makes the Auralex Acoustics Studiofoam Pyramid Acoustic one of the best foam panels currently on the market.
Superb value for the money…
They are easy to install, and you are able to cut them to size with strong scissors if you need to. An excellent panel at a very cost-effective price.
- They have a wide variety of uses and are easy to fit.
- Partially constructed from soy components to reduce petrochemical content.
5 Foamily Burgundy Acoustic Foam Egg Crate Panel Studio Foam Wall Panel – Best Budget Acoustic Foam Panels
This is a common design you will have seen in many places. They are what you might call a budget range panel. Nevertheless, they have a special reason to be considered one of the Best Acoustic Foam Panels.
A familiar look…
This is what is known as the ‘egg-crate‘ design. Not too hard to work out why. In fact, we have known people use egg crates on the walls for acoustic purposes. It is a common design among budget-range options. This is mainly because there is a lot of surface space with all the ridges to absorb the sound.
This design idea is similar to having lots of small wedges. But you can look at performance tables for the various designs. Pyramid and wedge-shaped panels come out about the same, slightly ahead of egg-crate designs.
Cover more space…
Nevertheless, if you have a large area to cover, then this kind of design is going to be a cheaper option. You get two panels in a pack, and each panel measures 48 inches by 24 inches.
But an added benefit with these panels is that they have a little more depth than others at 2.5 inches. That will give you a little more absorption potential.
The foam is of decent quality, and you can cut it to size if you need to. This will not compromise the tile in any way. You can use either double-sided tape or a fixative when attaching it to the wall or other surface. However, a good fixative is probably better.
Why are they one of the best?
They have a good NRC rating. That is a measurement of how much sound each panel can absorb. Having a good rating from a recognized official body is always important. Possibly the extra thickness of the tile had something to do with that.
One issue with these tiles is that they will be delivered rolled up in a plastic wrapping. As a result, they will need a day or two laid flat to regain their shape before you can fit them.
A good value acoustic tile if you are on a budget.
- A good NRC rating means good sound absorption.
- Covers a decent area at an attractive price.
- You will need to leave them for a while after delivery to regain their shape.
Best Acoustic Foam Panels Buying Guide
Most people have very little knowledge about acoustics. However, you need to acquire a bit of knowledge about the issues involved before starting. How many tiles will you need? Where should you put them?
There are a lot of manufacturers and even more options. Shapes, sizes, even materials can differ, but essentially there are two types of panels.
Absorbers are easily defined easily by their name. There are two kinds, porous and resonant. Foam panels will fall into the category of porous panels.
The sound that moves through the panel has its sound energy reduced. With resonant, sound causes the absorber to resonate at certain frequencies.
These are a little more complex since they scatter sound. Any panel with a non-flat surface has diffusion. Added to the situation is that absorption and diffusing will operate differently at varying frequencies.
You should now be starting to understand this is not a ‘shot in the dark’ and hope it works. It won’t work. There is an exact science at work. And as with all science-based theories, there are rules that need to be obeyed to get the best out of it.
What to look for?
Foam tiles, with a depth of at least two inches, will be adequate. Likewise, there is a choice of surfaces. Pyramids and wedges are similar in performance. The ‘egg-crate,’ a little behind in sound absorption performance, as we pointed out earlier.
There are different sizes of tile, so choose a pack that will cover the area you want at the best price. Remember you haven’t got to cover the whole room. In fact, some ‘live’ areas, along with dead areas, produce the most pleasurable and listenable sound.
You may also find some panels that offer some mix and match colors. That is irrelevant to sound performance. But it may brighten up someone’s day.
Check the NRC…
You might also like to consider any results showing from the NRC. That is the Noise Reduction Coefficient. That will have some bearing on the amount of absorption of sound.
However, that is a lab-tested result taken using an average of the same tile twice. Results can vary. Use it as a rough guide only.
One last consideration is to ensure that the tile can be cut without compromising its basic structure. Not all rooms are perfectly square or even have straight lines at the corner. You may need to cut a tile for an exact fit.
Before making your choice and buying your acoustic foam, a little research wouldn’t go amiss.
How Many Acoustic Panels Do You Need?
Or, to put a better way, how long is a piece of string? We will say it again; you do not need to cover every surface with sound absorption panels. It doesn’t work like that.
Furthermore, do not fall into the trap of comparing what you are doing to soundproofing. It isn’t.
Mind your surroundings…
Tiles may be needed in certain areas. Are you preparing a small room for vocals? That will need a certain number. Maybe just a corner for drums. That will also need a certain number and maybe tiles overhead as well. Or possibly it is a corner for a live guitar.
You may find some manufacturers encouraging you to use their ‘calculator’ to know how many tiles you need. That won’t work either.
You need to see the room and what is happening acoustically. It is not just a number of tiles. Where they are placed, for which instrument, and what kind of room are all factors. A calculator cannot tell you that.
How And Where To Place Acoustic Panels?
Once more, a question with a myriad of questions and answers. It would not be feasible to cover every scenario so let’s take just one.
If you are using a home studio, then the chances are that a lot of what you do is via a DAW and a guitar or bass. Drums are a different and more complex issue so let’s look at vocals.
You will need somewhere to put a vocal track on. This could be a separate room or a small booth built into the control room.
Working with vocals…
A booth will usually need about half to three-quarters of wall coverage, plus the ceiling. It will depend on what sort of sound you want. Some go for a ‘drier’ sound. That means more tiles.
But you don’t cover all the surfaces; that would just suck all the life out of the recording. You need some natural life, especially for a vocalist.
A vocal booth could also be used for any recordings where you need a bit of isolation. A ‘live’ guitar or bass with an amp, for example.
Once again, we suggest that you do a bit of homework about where to place them and how many you will need. Bear in mind that too many will be almost as bad as having too few.
They will usually fix to the walls or ceiling quite easily. Some will have suggestions for double-sided tape for fixative. We are not sure about the stability of the tape.
We would think that a firm liquid fixative might be better. But please ensure you get a brand with little or no smell.
So what are some common things that are asked?
Q: What thickness of panel do I need?
A: A minimum of two inches will suffice.
Q: How do I measure the thickness of the panel?
A: The thickness starts at the base and reaches the highest point of the tile. In a pyramid design, this would be the top of the pyramid.
Q: How does NRC work?
A: An average absorption of the sound of two of the same tile over four frequencies is taken. They are at 250, 500, 1000, and 2000 Hz.
Q: Are they flame retardant?
A: They should be and should have certification to prove it.
Q: Do foam sound panels have a hardback for standing up?
A: No, They need to be fixed to a wall, ceiling, or a separate structure.
Q: Can you fix them to the wall with a hot glue gun.
A: No. The heat will melt the foam.
Q: Can I paint the foam panels?
A: You could if you want to ruin them. The paint would probably ruin the foam. But it would certainly act to deflect sound rather than absorbing it.
Q: Will I be able to move them to another location after they are fixed to a wall.
A: It might be difficult to get them off the original wall without damaging them. We would say no, unless you know that a move is likely and attach them in a less permanent way.
Q: Do the foam panels smell?
A: No, they have no smell at all. Just make sure the glue you use doesn’t.
Q: Are the foam panels water-resistant?
A: No, definitely not.
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So, what are the Best Acoustic Foam Panels?
If you are still with us, you will appreciate that getting the sound right for recording is more than it seems. Possibly you knew that already. It is not possible to cover every aspect of this complex subject within such a short review. Although we can outline some strengths and weaknesses and things to look out for.
Furthermore, if you’re going to make some changes to your acoustics, then a bit of homework might be required.
For us, we are going to set up a small vocal booth. That will require a reasonable number of foam panels. And for our purposes, we would pick the…
Plenty of quality tiles from an established manufacturer. And includes just about all we need to get our vocal booth finished.
Until next time, have fun treating your room, and may your music always be merry.