Written by: The Foam Factory, Inc.
If you are getting into recording any kind of sound, be it for a podcast or your band, you probably know of the “egg crate” shaped foam panels that people put on the walls to improve the quality of their recordings. However, what you might not know is that there is a big difference between sound deadening foam and sound proofing materials.
Acoustic Foam and How it’s Used
Those “egg crate” shaped things, which are called acoustic foam panels, are used only to help reduce echo and reverberation from sound bouncing off of the wall. They don’t really prevent the sound from travelling through them though. In fact, if you were to box yourself in with acoustic foam and have someone stand outside, you could speak to each other as though you were in the same room. Since only the reflected sound is affected, this property of the foam is called “absorption”, or deadening of the sound. It’s a crucial aspect of recording, so true audiophiles will often spend significant sums of money outfitting a room to be sure it captures the best sound.
The absorption is typically achieved by mounting lightweight foam panels on the flat surfaces of the room, and the effectiveness is affected by how much of the flat surface of the room is covered, the layout of the foam, the pattern on the panels, and the quality of the foam used. Every pattern will affect the sound in a slightly different way, but even a pattern that isn’t the best for your situation will be better exponentially better than using no acoustic foam at all.
Sound Proofing Foam
On the other hand, sound proofing foam is a much heavier and denser material. It works by creating a barrier such that sound cannot travel through it effectively. This will both keep sound from entering the room as well as prevent it from exiting. This foam can actually make your recording sound worse if you do not also use sound absorption techniques.
For that reason, the ideal recording setup will use both sound absorbing and sound proofing material. The sound proofing will keep unwanted noise from entering or leaving the room, and acoustic foam will work to prevent the sound inside the room from bouncing off the heavier foam and creating reverberation and echoes.