Soundproofing and Acoustic Treatment – what’s the difference?

Soundproofing is the control of sound passing through the boundaries of a given room, in that acoustic energy is not able to either enter or leave the room, therefore preventing the occupier from being disturbed or from disturbing others.
Solutions constitute employment of soundproof walls, soundproof partitions, soundproof floors, soundproof ceilings, soundproof windows and soundproof doors.

Acoustic Treatment is employed to correct issues caused by the reflection and/or propagation of sound within the surfaces of a stipulated room.
This treatment deals primarily with reverberant rooms, speech intelligibility, excessive (disturbing) volume, problems with conference calls, un-even sound distribution, room resonances and room equalisation.
Solutions include employment of acoustic panels, acoustic panelling or other acoustic surfaces.

Soundproofing and acoustic treatment technically have nothing much to do with each other, though they are often employed together, each being addressed separately.

Learn More about Acoustic Treatment:

Reflective surfaces within a given room cause sound impacting these surfaces to be reflected and bounce around within. This gives rise to issues which can be the cause of problems:
Inside a given internally reflective enclosure, the human ear receives:
a) Sound directly from the source in a straight line.

b) An undefined number of “copies” of that sound which have bounced off the reflective walls, ceiling and floor before reaching the ear.

Because reflected sound travels a longer distance before reaching the human ear, it arrives at a later point in time. The resultant out-of-sync overlap of direct and late arriving reflected sound causes the human ear to percieve what is known as reverberation (“church” or “bathroom” effect).

Primary issues:
In a standard room environment, uncontrolled reverberation causes lack of focus. This translates into increasing inability to understand everything that is being said clearly in case of speech, and makes music sound muddy. The addition of direct and reflected sound also causes a general increase in volume within the room.
The larger the size of the room or enclosure, the more distance the reflected sound has to travel before it reaches the ear, and the later it arrives – therefore the larger is the reverberation effect, and the more problematic is the issue.

Secondary Issues:
Other (less common) existing issues may involve the control of low frequency room resonances and even distribution of sound.

Acoustic Panels:

1 – Absorbers:
Panels which absorb most of the sound incident on them, eliminating reflections. They are available as stand-alone feature panels or full surface wall / ceiling panelling.
The required surface coverage is calculated, and should reach international recommended specifications for a particular room (discipline of use) in order for the desired solution to be attained. Coverage is therefore dictated by the shape and size of the room, including the surface area material constituency of the room prior to treatment.
Different panels have different levels of absorbtion, and employing one specific panel instead of another may constitute a change in required surface area coverage.

Examples featuring employment of absorbers

2 – Diffusers:
Panels which scatter and diffuse sound in all directions. They improve projection where required, create ambience, eliminate direct reflections and dead spots, and work to improve the uniformity of sound at all points within a given enclosure.

Diffusers (example)

3 – Bass Traps:
Bass Traps are required to treat room modes and effectively control the stability of low frequencies, where standard absorbers do not work. They are most commonly used in the form of treatment of corners, but are also available as wall-mounting units. Bass traps are mostly used in music environments, including all types of studios, rehearsal rooms, music rooms, AV media presentation rooms, theatres, concert halls and commercial and home cinemas.

Bass Traps (example)

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Most importantly, there is no standard solution which fits all. Required levels of soundproofing are calculated according to recorded noise levels and, most importantly, the frequencies constituting the noise levels in the particular case. The correct structure configurations are then assembled accordingly.
Soundproofing installations are essentially different from standard installations and are both technical and critical. Guarantee of final performance requires trained personnel.

Types of noise:
Airborne noise is what we hear as a result of sound travelling through air. Airborne noise bounces off surfaces and travels through available open channels, cracks and fissures.
Impact noise is the result of sound travelling through a solid structure as a mechanical vibration. This vibration travels appreciable distances, causing surfaces along the way to vibrate. Vibrating surfaces are nothing but inefficient loudspeakers.
Both airborne and impact noise need to be addressed.

1 – Walls, Partitions, Floors and ceilings
Soundproof structures need to be assembled in a way that inhibits the transmission of vibrations through them, not even through any kind of fixations. Normally the employed sub-frames are de-coupled from the existing original surface and the outer soundproof structure surfaces are de-coupled from the sub-frame. De-coupling involves the use of shock-absorbers and / or springs, which are available with different specifications according to requirement. In addition, correct levels of damping need to be employed in order to control vibrations picked up by the outer soundproof structure face, making them die down quickly.
In the case of partitions, both sides are de-coupled from one another.

2 – Soundproof Windows (and framed glass doors)
The cause of acoustic failure in windows and framed glass doors is more commonly the frame rather than the glass. Soundproof apertures require certified frames which are essentially quite different from standard run-of-the-mill frames, the sealing concepts and mechanisms used in soundproof versions being more advanced in order to comply with required standards.
Poor acoustically performing windows and framed glass doors cannot be patched up and need to be either completely replaced, or a second unit can be installed behind the first if the wall aperture is deep enough.
Installation methods for soundproof windows and framed glass doors are different from those of standard windows, and require the employment of trained personnel.

3 – Soundproof Doors (solid)
Soundproof doors are essentially quite different in build as compared to standard doors, although the former look just like standard doors when installed. The door frames, internal materials, gaskets and hinges all feature a particular design or particular features which collectively enable a soundproof door to perform its required function. In addition, the space between the door leaf and the floor needs to be acoustically sealed when the door is closed.
Poor acoustically performing doors cannot be patched up and need to be completely replaced.
Installation methods for solid soundproof doors are different from those of standard doors, and require the employment of trained personnel.

Learn more about our Fireproofing treatments.

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Get in touch with us for all your soundproofing and acoustic treatment requirements. Our engineers will be happy to offer you solutions in relation to your particular issues.