When looking for a way to deaden the sound in a particular area, most people want an affordable deal. Yes, everyone wants to have the best sounding setup possible, but they also don’t want to spend a ton of money when it feels like there are better alternatives.
That’s why it’s important to take a look at cheap acoustic foam versus expensive acoustic foam. In some cases, there is very little difference at all, and it can help people save money by going with a cheaper solution.
In other cases, a person might feel a lot more comfortable investing a bit more money in a name brand.
Before diving into the different options for acoustic foam, we look at why it is so important in the first place.
By understanding it a bit better, people can make smart decisions right from the beginning on what they need for a particular setup.
What Are The Advantages Of Acoustic Foam?
Acoustic foam (Amazon) of any variety is an important part of the puzzle. This foam, usually made of polyurethane and extruded melamine, is an open-celled material. (Source)
At the bare minimum, even the cheapest and least effective acoustic foam will help a bit in these categories. The amount of difference determines just how effective the foam is.
A major advantage to using any type of acoustic foam is volume control. Anyone who installs it will find that it makes an instant impact on volume, especially of the high-frequency variety.
Anything mid or high-frequency is greatly reduced, and low-frequency echos can be reduced even more with thicker foam options attached to the walls, ceiling, or floor.
There are strategic ways to put up acoustic foam to hear just the right type of sound. Put up too much, and sound can come off a bit dull and lifeless.
Put up too little, and it doesn’t make the type of impact people are looking for.
A related part of controlling volume is to have additional privacy inside of an area treated with acoustic foam.
Neighbors won’t as easily be able to hear sound coming from outside, and the outside sounds can’t come in as easily either.
This can be very frustrating in certain areas, and apartment complexes, in particular, benefit greatly from acoustic foam.
Again, the amount of acoustic foam and where it is placed will help provide the perfect setup. Some might only have a few troublesome areas that need to be addressed.
Others will need to do some troubleshooting and figure it all out before moving forward.
Having a ton of privacy inside of a home is very refreshing. Not only that, but it helps out significantly with any type of resale value once the home is ready to go on market.
It’s pretty amazing to see what a little bit of foam can do to help control sound in that regard.
Think of this example, adding acoustic panels in a long apartment building hallway will greatly reduce the echo and make the noise in the hallway sound less intrusive inside the actual units.
The beauty of acoustic foam is that it can improve sound quality so that listeners only hear what they really want to.
It can be frustrating to get the volume just right, but the quality of sound is still subpar. Playing around with acoustic foam can really get things going in the right direction.
This is one area where the quality of acoustic foam can play a role. If the acoustic foam is just a pretty basic material overall, it might not provide the same type of sound quality.
Look for foam that is very universally made. There should be no uneven areas that are causing trouble.
Also, the foam needs to be durable enough so that the lightest touch does not compromise the entire setup.
Killing Echoes and Reverberation
Any echoes or reverberation inside a room can ruin all of the good work done by a sound setup. Acoustic foam can step in right away and kill any of those echoes or reverberation so they are never a problem again.
When putting just a few pieces of acoustic foam up, the process can be a little tricky getting the echoes to go away.
They need to be strategically placed so that all reflection points are covered. After messing around a bit and doing some measurements, hanging the acoustic foam should do the trick.
Cheap vs Expensive Acoustic Foam: How to Shop
A simple search online is going to show acoustic foam in many different price ranges. At first glance, the two options might not look all that different, even though the price shows otherwise.
What should be done when this is the case? Before moving forward, use our shopping guide to be a little bit smart overall.
Acoustic foam usually comes in certain dimensions, so pay close attention to them before buying. That means not only the size of panels, but the thickness as well.
One way for companies to offer cheaper options is to make their acoustic foam much thinner than the competition. It might look the same when attached, but there is not nearly as much material to provide help.
The acoustic foam’s length and height also make a difference, mainly because you have to buy more material if it is small.
It’s not that uncommon for people to feel like they found a great deal, only to find out that what they purchased is not going to be nearly enough for the full room, let alone the entire home.
All of a sudden, a great deal turns into an average or even below average deal.
Online resources make shopping for anything so much easier these days with online reviews. Simply put, it is getting harder and harder for people to offer subpar products without seeing their ratings tank in the end.
The cream will always rise to the top, and it matters just as much to read reviews as it does the ultimate prize.
The quantity of reviews also shows just how long they have been in business.
Companies that have been producing acoustic foam solutions for a long time are probably going to be a little bit better in the end. Otherwise, they’d likely be out of business.
Brand Name Isn’t Everything
There are name brands in any industry, but it’s important not to be completely fooled by a familiar name and just go with the flow.
It might seem like a good idea at first, but it ultimately could be a step in the wrong direction while spending more money than what is necessary.
Alternatives to Acoustic Foam
If it seems like cheap and expensive acoustic foam is not doing the trick, there are some alternatives for people to consider.
This will help with soundproofing a particular area but ultimately depends on the set up in the amount of money spent on materials.
The first two options are just as cheap or even cheaper than foam, while the last suggestion is a superior solution for harder jobs.
They might not be as aesthetically pleasing as acoustic foam, but moving blankets (Amazon) are a very cheap alternative worth exploring.
They only cost a few dollars each, and they are big enough to go just about anywhere. Moving blankets can either be permanently put up, or placed in a particular area temporarily to provide a solution for sound.
Not everyone likes the look of moving blankets, and acoustic foam is almost always going to be looking better. That’s really the only negative moving blankets, as they otherwise do a very good job at what they are asked for.
Mass Loaded Vinyl
Mass-loaded vinyl (Amazon) is a fairly expensive solution, directly compared to acoustic foam. However, it is perhaps the best of the best when it comes to providing quality sound control in any area.
It reduces the transmission of sound as it goes through the walls, ceilings, floors, and just about anywhere else.
The material is very flexible, easy to put anywhere, and can be cut into smaller pieces to get a tight fit.
The reason why people usually don’t invest in mass-loaded vinyl everywhere is that it just becomes too expensive.
Maybe in the toughest areas make sense, but everywhere else is usually treatable with a more affordable solution.
Any Cons to Acoustic Foam?
As great as acoustic foam is for any type of area, there are a couple of cons to keep in mind. One is just something that people have to deal with, while the other is more of a nuisance than anything.
Being able to find solutions in other ways so that these problems aren’t an issue is part of the setup process.
Acoustic foam of just about any quality is treated so that they can fight against fires and slow down the spread as much as possible.
With all that being said, since the foam is made of polyurethane, it is still going to release some black smoke.
That means that there are only so many fireproof qualities it could have, and if it gets too out of hand, it will burn up entirely.
There really isn’t an alternative out there that offers better fireproofing. The best way to go about it is to put up other fireproofing material on certain surfaces to help out.
Counting on acoustic foam alone is generally not a good idea. (Source)
Set-Up is Trickier Than Some Realize
It’s been touched on a bit that acoustic foam needs to be set up properly to work as it should. It just takes a little bit of time and patience, especially if a person is doing it by themselves.
While it’s ambitious to go out there and take care of acoustic foam without help, it might not always turn out as one would like.
One alternative is to go with a professional who can do this type of thing every single day. They know exactly where reflection points are in a room, and they will make the job as simplistic as possible.
For people who like the do-it-yourself approach, it just takes a little bit of patience to get everything right.
Ultimately, this isn’t a huge con, but it takes a little bit more time than people might realize. It’s not as simple as hanging a picture on the wall and going from there.
Is Acoustic Foam Worth Investing In?
Ultimately, the best solution is to try out some cheap acoustic foam as a potential option at first.
Look for something that is highly rated online, and that will usually be the best solution initially. This way, before spending a ton more money, a cheaper solution might be worthwhile.
The rise of shopping online has made acoustic foam much more attainable than ever before.
There are brands without much reputation putting out some quality options that are a fraction of the cost of the more expensive name brands.
Just make sure to do the proper amount of research, and chances are, something of value will pop up. Acoustic foam is a sound investment at any price, but the best value can be a true difference-maker.