ACOUSTIC PANELS HAVE always been essential for recording studios, podcasters, and at-home musicians, but they’re useful in other spaces too. In an effort to achieve peaceful quiet — or better sound system performance — non-musicians have started utilizing the best acoustic panels for sound dampening in offices, gaming setups, home theaters, and even noisy apartments.
How Do Acoustic Panels Work?
If you’re unfamiliar, acoustic panels are pieces of foam or fabric that attach to your walls and ceiling to absorb sound, effectively eliminating echo and preventing sound from escaping. With the best acoustic panels, you can enjoy TV or music at full volume, practice drums, or take noisy Zoom calls — all while family or roommates do their thing in the next room. Plus, the echo-reducing effect can also enhance home theater audio performance by stopping sound reflection off walls.
Although their main purpose is to stop sound from escaping a room, the material used for the best acoustic panels can also reduce outside noise from getting in. That means less street noise, quieter neighbors, or respite from a noisy family while you work, meditate, or read.
What Are The Best Acoustic Panels?
They might all look like blocks of foam, but not all acoustic panels are made equal. Here are a few things to consider while shopping for the best acoustic panels.
NRC: Sound dampening materials are rated on the Noise Reduction Coefficient (NRC) scale of 0 to 1, with 0 representing no sound absorption and 1 representing all sound absorption. This scale is more easily understood as a percentage, rather than a decimal; for example, an NRC of 0.3 is 30% noise absorption, and so on.
Size: Be sure to check the size of acoustic panels and measure their intended space. Foam panels can be cut, but you don’t want to end up with too few panels after installation.
Placement: Ideally, acoustic panels cover every wall and the ceiling, but that’s neither realistic nor totally necessary for most people. If you’re trying to find the best acoustic panels for home theaters, a minimal setup might be one panel opposite each speaker (to “catch” the sound) and one next to the subwoofer. For home offices or gaming setups, you might just panel walls that are shared with bedrooms, for example.
The Best Acoustic Panels
1. ATS Acoustic Panel
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 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.
One thing to note: 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. Auralex Acoustics Studiofoam Wedgies
Setting up a recording studio? Pick up these Studiofoam wedgies from Auralex. Featuring an NRC rating of 0.8, the panels are great for absorbing loud music, but they’re also good for quieter endeavors like singing or podcasting. Each square is 12 by 12 inches, and you get 24 of them, so you can cover quite a bit of wall/ceiling space with a single package. They’re also very lightweight, so you can install them with two-sided tape or something similar.
3. Bubos Art Acoustic Panels
BEST FOR HOME THEATERS
If you want sound dampening without your room looking like a music studio, check out these Bubos acoustic panels. They’re made to look like wall art, blending in with your decor without looking like, well, acoustic panels. But, despite their civilian looks, the art panels boast an NRC of 0.9, which should absorb almost all sound.
Measuring 48 inches tall by 12 inches wide, the six-pack here should be enough for most spaces (as long as you don’t need wall-to-wall coverage). Because they’re so good-looking and aren’t meant for total coverage, we think these work best for living rooms and home theater setups.
4. TroyStudio Acoustic Studio Panels
Drummers need serious sound dampening equipment (if they want to stay on good terms with any neighbor or housemate). These TroyStudio acoustic panels are up for the task, working great for drum rooms, as well as music studios, offices, or home theaters.
The package includes six 12-by-12 panels, but they’re quite inexpensive, so we suggest buying a few packages to cover the walls and ceiling. Noise reduction is very solid with an NRC of 0.75, so you should get better sound (without echo) and the ability to jam without upsetting anyone.
5. Dekiru Acoustic Panels
Here’s another stylish sound dampening option. These one-foot hexagonal panels fit together neatly for noise reduction in studios, home theaters, offices, or gaming rooms. We like them for the latter use because they’re extremely thin (.4 inches), so they’ll fit behind a desktop gaming setup. But, even though they’re so thin, they block almost all noise with an NRC rating of 0.92. You can also choose between a few different colors, depending on your room’s decor, and you get 12 panels with each package.
6. Pro Studio Acoustics Panels
Another worthwhile set of acoustic panels is this pack from Pro Studio. They’re easy to install and great for home offices with an NRC rating of 0.65, which is more than enough for phone and computer audio. Made in the USA, the panels come as a pack of 12, and each measures a square foot. They also come in two colors — half the panels are black and half are blue — adding some liveliness to your walls.