Comparing 15 Popular Soundproofing Materials

comparing 15 best soundproofing materials

Comparing 15 Popular Soundproofing Materials

Your home is supposed to be a peaceful refuge from the bustle of everyday life, but when outside noises creep in through the windows, walls, or ceilings, your private oasis can start to feel more like your own personal pressure cooker.

Thankfully, there are many different methods and materials you can employ to reduce the incursion of outside noise and noise transfer between rooms, from simple materials like drywall, sound insulation, and soundproof window inserts, to specially designed soundproofing materials such as:

  • Mass-loaded vinyl
  • Resilient channels
  • Acoustic tiles
  • Damping compound
  • Acoustical sealant or caulk
  • Soundproof window curtains or soundproof blankets
  • Custom-fitted soundproof windows

With so many options available, it can be hard to determine which soundproofing material is right for your unique circumstances. Keep reading to learn more about 15 of the most common soundproofing materials, their effectiveness, the advantages and disadvantages of each, and when to use what method.

Soundproofing 101: “Sound absorbing” vs. “soundproofing”

Did you know that “soundproofing” and “sound absorbing” don’t mean the same thing? Before we jump into our comparison of the most popular soundproofing materials, it helps to understand these fundamental aspects of sound and noise reduction.

Sound absorbing materials are typically soft, fluffy products, that are mainly used to improve the acoustics within a room by reducing reverberations and echoes. While they can have a significant impact on the quality of sound within a room, they will not stop a sound from entering or leaving the room.

Common sound absorbing materials include:

  • Acoustic tiles or soundproof foam panels
  • Soundproof blankets
  • Soundproof window curtains
  • Soundproof wallpaper

Soundproofing materials, on the other hand, are designed to stop sound from entering or escaping a room at all. They achieve this by adhering to four principles:

  1. Mass: Adding mass in the form of solid materials that are heavy and/or thick is one of the most effective ways to block sound, and thereby reduce noise transfer, particularly for airborne sounds like voices, loud music, or traffic noises and sirens. Examples: Additional layers of drywall, mass-loaded vinyl.
  2. Damping: Damping is achieved using special compounds that convert energy into heat. In order to be effective, the damping compound must be applied between two stiff panels, such as drywall or plywood, which are then screwed together. Damping is particularly effective for reducing low-frequency noise. Examples: Green Glue, some silicone caulking.
  3. Decoupling: Decoupling introduces gaps into the internal structure of a building, which makes it much easier to interrupt sound vibrations by forcing them to vibrate harmlessly against the decoupling materials, rather than transferring through the wall, floor, or ceiling. Because decoupling requires the removal of existing walls, floors, and ceilings, this method is best used during initial construction, though it can be implemented afterwards as part of a major renovation. Decoupling is ideal for blocking sounds that transfer through the structure of a building, such as impact noises. Examples: Resilient channels.NOTE: Poorly executed decoupling may actually worsen low-frequency noise by effectively creating a “room within a room”.
  4. Absorption: Absorption is primarily used to improve sound quality within a room. It may play a role in soundproofing a space, but absorption is not nearly as effective as adding mass, damping, or decoupling. Examples include: Acoustic tiles, soft furniture.

Combining these principles is the most effective way to reduce or eliminate noise transfer.

15 common soundproofing materials

The right material, or combination of materials, will depend on the location you want to soundproof, as well as the different noise frequencies and transmission modes you are dealing with.

There are many materials at your disposal to help reduce or eliminate unwanted noise, from easy DIY options to total renovations. Here are some of the most popular soundproofing materials:

Soundproofing walls, floors, and ceilings
  1. Mass-loaded vinyl (MLV)
  2. Resilient sound channels
  3. Damping compound
  4. Acoustic tiles or soundproof foam panels
  5. Floor underlayment
  6. Anti-vibration floor mats
  7. Drywall
  8. Sound insulation
  9. Soundproof blankets
  10. Soundproof wallpaper

Soundproofing windows and doors
  1. Custom-fitted soundproof windows
  2. Sound-dampening plastic window film
  3. Soundproof window curtains
  4. Acoustical sealant or acoustical caulk
  5. Weatherstripping

The cost, effectiveness, and ease of installing each of these soundproofing materials varies greatly, so let’s jump in.

Materials for soundproofing walls, floors, and ceilings

Mass-loaded vinyl is a very thin, very dense, flexible sound-blocking membrane. It was initially introduced as an alternative to lead soundproofing and is now considered one of the most effective sound-blocking materials. It’s the most efficient way to add mass to walls, floors, and ceilings without adding bulk, and it can also be used to soundproof pipes, air ducts, and even construct window plugs.

Image (right) via Home Depot.


  • Extremely effective for blocking sound
  • Excellent source of mass without unnecessary bulk—ideal for small rooms
  • Flexibility makes it ideal for closing small gaps around hard-to-reach places
  • Can be installed above or below existing drywall


  • Expensive—typically between $1-$2.50 per square foot
  • Can be very heavy—this is great for soundproofing, but can make installation difficult

Mass-loaded vinyl is ideal for:

  • Blocking particularly loud or bothersome noises
  • Filling small and hard-to-reach gaps
  • Wrapping ducts, pipes, and metal columns—or wherever a flexible sound barrier is needed


Resilient sound channels are thin, flexible pieces of sheet metal that decouple drywall from the internal structure of a building, such as studs, to reduce noise transfer from sources like impact noise. They work by making gaps in the path sound waves take by creating an additional pocket of air noise must pass through.

There are three types of resilient channel: single leg, double leg, and hat channels. Single and double leg channels feature pre-drilled holes that are used to screw them into studs. Hat channels, on the other hand, are held in place using sound clips. Sound clips add another checkpoint a sound must travel through before it reaches the hat channel, which may further increase their soundproofing ability.

Image (right) via Clark Dietrich.


  • Can be very effective for reducing sound transfer between rooms
  • Can be installed outside existing drywall to create a “room within a room” or dropped ceiling


  • Can be costly—up to $800 for a pack
  • May be difficult to install—often, drywall needs to be totally stripped

Resilient channels are ideal for:

  • Reducing impact noise
  • Large rooms
  • Major renovations or new construction

Damping compound is a viscoelastic compound that contains something called a “polymeric formula” that converts sound waves into heat. Damping compound does not act as a sound blocker, sound absorber, or sound diffuser—instead, it acts as a sound damping system when applied between two layers of any firm soundproofing material, such as drywall, mass-loaded vinyl, plywood, cement board, or other common building materials.

Damping compound is a highly effective, economical noise-reducer, but to be as effective as possible, it must cover every square inch between the layers of firm material, which must then be screwed together. This process merges the two layers into a single, thicker layer with greater mass, and therefore greater soundproofing abilities.

Image (above right) via Acoustiguard.


  • Relatively inexpensive compared to other soundproofing methods
  • Resistant to mold growth


  • Requires at least two layers of drywall or building material
  • Difficult to install after initial construction—walls and floors will need to be stripped

Damping compound is ideal for:

  • Reducing low-frequency noise from music, home theaters, or construction machinery
  • Moist or humid spaces
  • Major renovations or new construction

Typically made from polyurethane-based materials such as polyether, polyester, or extruded melamine, soundproof foam panels create open cells across their surface area, as well as inside the panel. These open cells capture sound waves as they penetrate the foam, acting to absorb the sound. You can also get fiberglass acoustic tiles, which are more effective for blocking sound (particularly low-frequency sounds) but are much more expensive.

Soundproof foam panels are available in a number of pattern shapes, including the classic egg carton shape, pyramids, waves, a maze, or simple lines. The shape of the foam pattern has no impact on its soundproofing ability—it is the thickness of the panel that determines how much sound is absorbed. For mid- or high-range frequencies, a thickness of one or two inches should work. For low-range frequencies, look for a thicker panel. Otherwise, you can choose the pattern that you think looks best.

Because they are sound absorbers, acoustic tiles are typically better for deadening sound within a room, but they will also help prevent noise transfer. You also can get special ceiling tiles that are ideal for blocking noise emanating from a basement.


  • Effective for deadening sound within a room
  • Easy to install
  • One of the cheapest soundproofing materials available—typically between $15 and $40 for a pack of four 12” x 12” tiles (or higher for decorative patterns)


  • Less effective for reducing noise transfer between rooms

Acoustic tiles or soundproof foam panels are ideal for:

  • Dampening sound reverberations and echoes within a room

Floor underlayment is the primary method for soundproofing a floor. High-quality underlayment will cushion the floor from within, and will fill empty spaces so sounds don’t echo into the rooms below.

Floor underlayment can be made from a variety of base materials:

  • Foam: Foam underlayment is the method most commonly used. It also offers some heat insulation benefits, but is less water-resistant than rubber.
  • Cork: Cork underlayment is eco-friendly and antimicrobial, but is not water-resistant. It is the best choice for soundproofing vinyl floors.
  • Rubber: Rubber underlayment is ideal for waterproofing, as well as heatproofing. It can be used under wood, carpet, or tile, but should not be used under vinyl.
  • Felt: Felt underlayment is an excellent sound absorber and can be used under any flooring material.

Floor underlayment typically costs between $0.70 and $2 per square foot. Foam and felt are typically the most affordable materials. Cork and rubber may be more expensive.


  • Most underlayment products are moisture-resistant, so they also protect against mold growth
  • Adds durability to your floor


  • Difficult to install—needs to be installed during construction or renovation

Floor underlayment is ideal for:

  • Reducing noise transfer through the ceiling
  • Bathrooms, kitchens, and other moist spaces
  • Increasing the lifespan of your flooring

Anti-vibration floor mats are placed under speakers, loud appliances like washing machines, or other noise-producing items to lessen any vibrations (and the sounds they cause) that they may pass along into the floor.

Anti-vibration floor mats are commonly made using rubber, which provides excellent shock-absorption—the thicker the floor mat, the more it will reduce sound transfer. They range in size from small rubber coasters to larger pads.


  • Inexpensive—anti-vibration floor mats range from as low as $15 to over $100 for larger mats
  • Easy to use—simply slide into place
  • Prevents damage to your floor from “walking” appliances or excessive vibrations


  • Not very effective for reducing noise transfer between rooms

Anti-vibration floor mats are ideal for:

  • Reducing vibrations from speakers or noisy appliances like washing machines or dishwashers
  • Laundry machines, exercise rooms, utility rooms

Drywall is an inexpensive way to add extra mass and help soundproof a room. Adding another layer of standard drywall will help reduce noise transfer, but for the greatest reduction in noise, you can also install specialty soundproof drywall, or damped drywall that incorporates a sound damping layer.

Even with these special soundproofing components, drywall is most effective when used in conjunction with other soundproofing methods, such as acoustical sealant or resilient channels.


  • Typically inexpensive compared to other soundproofing methods
  • Relatively easy to install


  • Most effective when used in conjunction with other soundproofing methods

Drywall is ideal for:

  • Adding mass to walls, floors, and ceilings
  • Reducing minor noise transfer between rooms

Most homes and apartment buildings have cavity walls, with two solid layers of building material (typically drywall) and an empty space in between. This empty space is commonly filled with insulation, often consisting of loosely packed fibers that can help absorb and dampen sounds.

There are three common types of insulation:

  1. Batt insulation: Available in rectangular panels or rolls, usually between one and several inches thick. Typically made of cotton, fiberglass, or mineral wool. Batt insulation offers the most sound insulation, but like drywall, is most effective when used in combination with other soundproofing methods. Standard fiberglass insulation is not as effective at soundproofing as batt or mineral wool insulation, but it is cheaper.
  2. Blown insulation: Often found in attics, blown insulation is literally blown in chunks into the space it is filling. Blown insulation is made of fiberglass or cellulose, and is not very effective for soundproofing.
  3. Foam insulation: Liquid polyurethane is sprayed into a cavity, where it then expands to fill the entire space. Foam is effective for thermal insulation, but is not effective for soundproofing.

Batt insulation is typically the best sound insulation, working similarly to concealed acoustic foam by trapping air (which carries sound) inside.

SOUNDPROOFING TIP: Look for insulation with a higher density per cubic foot for the most soundproofing impact—around 8 lbs per cubic foot is ideal.


  • Typically inexpensive compared to other soundproofing methods
  • Increases thermal insulation
  • Easy to install during construction or major renovation projects


  • Most effective when used in conjunction with other soundproofing methods
  • Can be difficult to install retroactively

Sound insulation is ideal for:

  • Adding additional thermal insulation
  • Reducing minor noise transfer between rooms
  • Installation during construction or renovation

Soundproof blankets are thicker, denser, and sturdier than other blankets. They are typically made of polyester, cotton, or both, and have grommets along the edge for easy hanging. Their soft and porous structure enables these special blankets to catch sound waves, which stops them from bouncing off hard surfaces and helps to eliminate echoes and reverberation within a room. The thicker, heavier, or denser the blanket, the more sound it will absorb.

Soundproof blankets are ideally used for dampening sound within a room, and are often found inside recording studios. At home, they can also be wrapped around large, noisy appliances like washing machines to help reduce noise.

Soundproof blankets are available in a standard size of 80” x 72”, but smaller ones are available as well.


  • Inexpensive relative to other soundproofing methods
  • Easy to install and uninstall—ideal for renters
  • More effective than soundproof curtains
  • Can be wrapped around appliances to soundproof loud appliances like washing machines


  • Don’t reduce noise transfer, so are not the most effective soundproofing material
  • Appearance can be unappealing

Soundproofing blankets are ideal for:

  • Dampening sound within a room, such as a studio, home office, or laundry room
  • Reducing noise from loud appliances

Soundproof wallpaper is not technically wallpaper—it’s actually a closed-cell polyethylene foam with vibration dampening and insulating properties. It’s typically ideal for absorbing sound within a room, and is not effective for blocking outdoor noises or noise transfer.


  • More attractive than other sound-absorbing materials
  • Easy to install, just like regular wallpaper
  • Easy to clean


  • Ineffective for blocking outdoor noises or noise transfer—ideal for dampening sound within a room
  • Can’t be used in moist or humid rooms like kitchens or bathrooms

Soundproof wallpaper is ideal for:

  • Spaces where style matters more than reducing noise transfer
  • Slightly dampening sounds within a room

Materials for soundproofing windows and doors

Soundproof exterior windows are a second set of windows that work in conjunction with your existing windows to create a buffer zone that seals out outside noise, as well as drafts and dirt.

While standard primary or exterior windows help reduce sound, adding another layer of glass (the second window) that sound must travel through (similar to resilient channels), is ideal. The best soundproof windows are custom-fitted to prevent noise incursion through tiny cracks in the window frame.


Unlike companies that use an average measurement to keep costs low, every Cityproof Citiwindow® is custom-fitted and manufactured to create a tight seal that eliminates gaps and ensures maximum noise reduction. In addition to creating a perfectly sealed sound buffer zone, a special interior layer of glass laminated with a special polylvinyl butryal (PVB) interlayer helps seal out 95% of exterior noise, and also makes Citiwindows® shatterproof and 99% UV resistant.

Learn more about why you should choose Cityproof for your noise-reducing windows.


  • Very effective—high-quality, custom-fitted soundproof windows can reduce outside noises by up to 95%
  • Also eliminates drafts and dirt, which can help lower energy bills
  • Provides 99% UV protection
  • Installed over existing windows—no structural changes required


  • Can be more expensive than other soundproofing methods
  • Does not reduce noise transferred through doors, walls, floors, or ceilings

Custom-fitted soundproof windows are ideal for:

  • Apartments, private homes, and landmark buildings—no structural changes are required
  • Significantly reducing exterior noise
  • Thermal insulation and UV protection

Sound-dampening plastic window film is a thin plastic vinyl or environmental PVC that can be applied over windows to reduce outside noises, similar to thermal insulation window films.


  • Easy to apply
  • Also offers thermal control benefits, and may help reduce energy bills
  • Available in multiple patterns and finishes, including transparent, frosted, and stained glass patterns
  • Relatively inexpensive, usually costing about $25 and up to $70 for larger windows


  • Not very effective—best used in conjunction with other soundproofing methods

Sound-dampening plastic window film is ideal for:

  • Rental units
  • Adding thermal control

Soundproof window curtains look just like regular curtains, but they are thicker, denser, and heavier. There are many styles available so it’s easy to find one that matches your decor. Polyester, velvet, and satin are all common fabrics.

Some soundproof curtains use triple-weave technology, with three layers of woven material and a layer of high-density black yarn in the middle. Industrial soundproof curtains may even include a layer of mass-loaded vinyl. For the best soundproofing effects, look for curtains that have insulated, thermaweave, or thermalayer layers—the extra layers help absorb more noise.


  • Easy to install—all you need is a regular curtain rod
  • Can be used to cover other unsightly soundproofing materials
  • Double as thermal insulation and blackout shades
  • Relatively inexpensive compared to other soundproofing materials


  • Ineffective for blocking outdoor noises—ideal for dampening sound within a room
  • Can block light in spaces where you want more light, such as a living room or home office

Soundproofing curtains are ideal for:

  • Reducing minor window noises
  • Adding thermal insulation or blackout shades

If air can pass through gaps around drywall, windows, doors, or air ducts, so can sound. Acoustical sealant is used to close gaps that permit noise transfer, and can help boost the effectiveness of other soundproofing materials.

Acoustical caulk is typically latex-based. It differs from regular caulk in that it is non-hardening and designed to stay flexible. There will be no shrinkage or cracks, and it is more durable.


  • Easy to apply
  • Inexpensive relative to other soundproofing methods
  • Reduces dirt and draft incursion


  • Best used in combination with other soundproofing materials—acoustical sealant is not very effective on its own
  • May attract dirt, though painting over acoustical sealant can reduce stuck-on dirt
  • Cannot be used underwater

Acoustical sealant is ideal for:

  • Sealing gaps between drywall panels, around electrical boxes or outlets, or around doors and windows to prevent sound leakage

Weatherstripping tape is one of the most important tools for soundproofing windows and doors—two of the most common sources of unwanted noise.

There are three main varieties of weatherstripping tape:

  • Hollow rubber weatherstripping tape that compresses to form a tight seal when doors or windows are shut
  • Thin or thick foam tape
  • Felt tape


  • Easy to apply—most weatherstripping tapes are peel-and-stick, just make sure to clean the door or window before applying weatherstripping tape
  • Offers thermal control and may help reduce energy bills


  • Not very effective—best used in conjunction with other soundproofing methods
  • Cannot be used for soundproofing walls, floors, or ceilings

Weatherstripping is ideal for:

  • Soundproofing windows and doors


If you’re searching for ways to silence unwanted noise and add some much-needed quiet to your home, there are several different soundproofing methods and materials you can employ. The right soundproofing material, or combination of materials, ultimately depends on your unique circumstances:

  • What sources of noise are you dealing with?
  • How loud are they?
  • What space in your home are you soundproofing?

Exterior noises like construction or street sounds typically enter your home through windows and doors. Blocking or sealing gaps in these areas using simple solutions like soundproof window curtains or weatherstripping can help reduce noise, but custom-fitted soundproof windows or other special soundproofing materials are the most effective option.