Want to make a room more aesthetically and acoustically pleasing, while also lowering the noise coming through the walls? Then I got you covered! I’ve seen with my own two eyes many soundproof panels.
I’ve also installed quite a few for others and in my own home. It goes without saying that some look better and have better sound-blocking capabilities than others.
So in this article I want to share only the top of the charts, while making sure that their price is justified. I won’t recommend panels that are expensive for no good reason. Brands don’t matter here, these aren’t sneakers after all. What matters most is the NRC (noise reduction coefficient), the quality of materials and how good they look.
First things to realize is that soundproof wall panels and acoustic foam panels are not the same thing. The former are better at reducing noise and blocking sound coming through the wall, while both types of panels reduce echo and reverberation. They are made of different materials, and that makes a noticeable difference. Don’t conflate the two because you’ll end up purchasing the wrong product.
Acoustic foam panels (the big ones you see with lots of grooves and crevices) are typically made of low density foam. This foam makes the surface of the wall softer. It helps reduce echo and improve the room’s acoustics because the sound can’t bounce off the soft surface as easily. But this foam is not dense enough to block sound to a significant degree.
You could put egg crates on the wall and achieve similar results. Though a room covered with egg crates would pose a significant fire hazard and wouldn’t look too nice, so I don’t recommend doing that.
In comparison, soundproof panels reduce echo, but they also block sound a lot better. That’s because they contain tested soundproofing materials such as fiberglass, mass loaded vinyl, mineral wool and dense polyester foam. These materials are used in construction for sound insulation, so you can be sure that this is the real deal. They are far more dense than basic acoustic foam, which makes them heavier. Obviously, it’s more difficult for sound to pass through materials of higher density.
Thickness is also important. All other things being equal, thickness is the most important factor when comparing soundproof panels. Thicker soundproof panels will do a better job at blocking noise because it’s more difficult for sound to pass through a thicker barrier.
For blocking sound, another very important factor is how much of the wall you cover. Sure, you can hang a few panels here and there. But if you cover something like 5% of the wall, don’t expect any noticeable reduction in noise. You should cover at least 60-70% of the troublesome wall to get any real benefit. Ideally, you’d cover the entire wall. Covering only a small portion of the wall is okay if you’re primarily interested in reducing sound reverberation and sound absorption. It can also be okay if you’re placing it directly behind a noisy appliance if the noise is causing trouble on the other side of the wall.
Lastly, keep in mind that optimal sound insulation is achieved by installing materials INSIDE the wall during construction. It’s about creating structural insulation. Materials like mineral wool batts are placed between studs to fill up the empty space in the walls. Mass loaded vinyl is installed directly on the studs. Placing soundproof panels on the wall’s surface can noticeably reduce noise and improve acoustics, but it won’t make your room soundproof. In other words, it won’t block out all sounds from coming in or out.
Most of the panels I’m about to recommend will block 20-30% of basic sounds that occur in a daily home environment. If the neighbors are now able to understand what you’re saying as they listen in through the wall, they probably won’t be able to once you hang the panels on. If they’re complaining about you singing, they will still be able to hear you, but your voice will be muffled so they won’t be able to point fingers at you. So your privacy will be enhanced.
I hope this puts things into perspective. Too many websites and manufacturers claim that you will get magical soundproofing results from wall panels. That’s simply not true, but you’ll still notice a solid improvement. With that in mind, these are the top soundproof wall panels that can also be used for decorative purposes:
1. BUBOS Soundproof Wall Panels
These panels are relatively thin, but they’re made of high density polyester fiber and have a grade of NRC (noise reduction coefficient) of 0.95. In comparison, standard acoustic foam panels have an NRC of 0.65. That’s a noticeable difference. They’re also one of the more affordable options and quite versatile due to being easy to cut to size.
These panels are available in three different colors: white, light grey and dark grey
Other good attributes of these panels are their fire retardant properties and the fact that they’re non-toxic and odorless. Overall, these are a a great option to decorate a wall and keep noise at bay without breaking the bank.
This video shows the installation process for these panels and how they look on the wall.
2. BUBOS Art Soundproof Wall Panels
Another great product from Bubos, these panels come in 12 very beautiful art designs. They cost more than the standard wall panels on #1, due to their decorative features. Everything else is the same, including the NRC score.
3. PHATWOLF Triangle Acoustic Panels
These aesthetic panels are similar to Bubos as they too are made from high density polyester fiber. They provide the same fire retardant benefits and are non-toxic and odorless. The design is interesting and there are 13 different color combinations to choose from.
Although the self-adhesive tape used for hanging the panels on the wall is included in the package, perhaps you should purchase it separately because some customers were not too happy with its performance.
4. Fiberglass Soundproof Panels
Fiberglass is an excellent material for soundproofing because it works well against high and low frequency sounds. It works well for blocking vibrations, which is why it’s used in vehicles as well. This is also why they can be great for blocking noise from appliances such as loud washing machines.
These panels don’t have any fancy decorative features though, they’re pretty basic in appearance. But they have excellent acoustic, anti-vibration and thermal insulation properties so they’re definitely worthy of consideration.
5. Acoustimac Wall Panels
These great looking panels would fit well in a classy home, studio or office environment. More importantly, they have 0.95 NRC rating, which is parallel to the Bubos panels.
They’re thick and large though, and they have a wooden inner frame and backing. Inside the fabric is a dense acoustic insulation material. The installation hardware is included so you can hang them on the wall immediately.
6. ATS Acoustics Panels
These panels are pricy, but they have the best NRC out of the bunch at 1.0. They’re quite effective at reducing noise as well as reverb and echo. The internal frame is made of solid wood which ensures their longevity.
If you’re a US patriot, you’ll appreciate that these panels are handcrafted in the USA. There are 4 different colors available: black, burgundy, ivory and “natural” a light brown/beige color.
When doing research on these panels I took into consideration the NRC score, the decorative appeal and the overall quality which is reflected in features such as fire retardant capabilities, (non)toxicity and the ratings and comments provided by many previous customers. Apart from that, I’ve handled some of the panels that made it on the list myself, namely the Bubos panels that are #1 and the fiberglass panels that are #4 on the list.
There’s no hierarchy with this list though, all of the panels have some good and bad aspects to them, and overall they’re all pretty good. I’ve looked at dozens of other popular panels but they are either too similar to these while being more expensive, or they’re simply not good enough based on the criteria that I just mentioned.
So I hope that this article helps narrow down your search and that you’ll make your wall look nicer and be more sound resistant at the same time.