What is Sound Insulation?

Malcolm Tatum

Sound insulation is the process of soundproofing an enclosed space, such as a room. This type of insulating activity is usually employed when there is a need to keep sound from filtering into or out of the space. Sound insulation techniques are often used in business settings, as well as in multi-family dwellings like duplexes and apartment buildings.

Recording studios often feature soundproof rooms.
Recording studios often feature soundproof rooms.

One example of how sound insulation is used is found in a recording studio. In order to prevent background noise from interfering with the recording process, singers and musicians create their vocal and instrumental tracks in a soundproof recording booth. Because the booth prohibits the introduction of sounds from outside the space, there is nothing present to distort or interfere with the quality of the recording. The audio tracks containing vocal performances and the various music tracks are captured exactly as the performers hear them.

Acoustic insulation can be used to soundproof a floor.
Acoustic insulation can be used to soundproof a floor.

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In living space, sound insulation normally involves the installation of insulation in walls, under floors and above ceilings. This can be especially important in apartment buildings and other structures where people live in close proximity. The inclusion of the insulation between apartments to the side, above, and below helps to ensure all the residents enjoy a measure of peace and quiet, even when others in the building are playing music or having a party.

A roll of mineral wool insulation, which can be used for soundproofing.
A roll of mineral wool insulation, which can be used for soundproofing.

In an office setting, it is not unusual for the individual offices of managers to be insulated for privacy. This makes it less likely for confidential discussions between an employee and a manager to be overheard by others working elsewhere on the floor or near the door of the manager’s office. In like manner, conference rooms are often treated to a sound insulation treatment, ensuring discussions taking place within that space are not overheard by others in the immediate vicinity.

Soundproof rooms may be insulated with foam.
Soundproof rooms may be insulated with foam.

The actual process involves inserting some type of insulating material into the walls, as well as above the ceiling and below the floor. In some cases, this involves the use of rolls of fiberglass insulation or introducing foam insulation into the open spaces. There are also prefabricated panels that can be attached to walls and ceilings when there is no room for using other forms of insulating materials. Along with helping to insulate a space from noise, sound insulation also helps to make it easier to keep the temperature of the room at a comfortable level.

Acoustic foam for soundproofing.
Acoustic foam for soundproofing.
Spray foam insulation may help provide a noise barrier.
Spray foam insulation may help provide a noise barrier.
Certain microphones sound better in an environment with sound insulation.
Certain microphones sound better in an environment with sound insulation.

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Discussion Comments

ZsaZsa56

Where can I buy cheap sound deadening insulation? I would like to set up a little recording studio for myself in a large closet that I have but I need to be able to insulate it. I do not have a lot of money to spend so I am looking for a deal. Anyone have any suggestions?

gravois

@tigers88 - I have been there myself. It sounds like you guys made a pretty common mistake. Many people think that DIY sound insulation will be easy and then suffer through months of expensive work without getting the result that they want.

The thing is that sound insulation is not really about creating thick walls. It is about refracting the sound. If you look at professionally soundproofed rooms they look like the insides of caves because there are big pieces of foam everywhere to deflect the sound. Getting the right pieces in the right places is a tricky, technical job and maybe better left to experts.

tigers88

Sound insulation is harder than you would expect. Truly cancelling out very loud amplified sounds is no small feat.

I used to be in a band with my roommate and we decided to try and soundproof the basement so that we could use it as a practice space. We put up layers of foam, blankets and sheets, old pillows anything that we could salvage to use as sound insulation materials.

We had what looked like the thickest blanket fort in the world but the sound of the guitar and drums was still clear outside the apartment. We ended up having to find another space to practice.

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