Soundproofing vs acoustic treatment

Posted by Goran Egić on

Soundproofing and acoustic treatment are often confused or used interchangeably, but they are distinct concepts that serve different purposes in a studio/listening room. It's essential to understand the differences between the two to effectively address the specific needs of your space.
1. Purpose:
  • Soundproofing: The primary goal of soundproofing is to prevent sound from escaping the studio and to isolate it from external noise. It aims to create a barrier that keeps sound within the space, ensuring that it does not disturb others outside the studio and vice versa. Soundproofing primarily deals with the transmission of sound through walls, ceilings, doors, and windows.

  • Acoustic Treatment: Acoustic treatment, on the other hand, is focused on shaping the sound within the studio space. It aims to control the way sound behaves inside the room, improving the acoustic environment for recording, mixing, and listening. Acoustic treatment addresses issues like reflections, echoes, and standing waves, allowing for accurate monitoring and better audio recordings.

2. Techniques:
  • Soundproofing: Soundproofing involves sealing gaps, adding mass to walls, and employing decoupling techniques to block the transmission of sound. Common soundproofing materials include isolation materials, mass-loaded vinyl, specialized drywall, acoustic caulk, and resilient channels.

  • Acoustic Treatment: Acoustic treatment utilizes materials like foam, fiberglass, rockwool, and diffusers to absorb, scatter, and diffuse sound waves. Absorption panels reduce reflections, diffusion panels scatter sound for a more natural ambience, and bass traps tackle low-frequency issues.

3. External vs. Internal Focus:
  • Soundproofing: The primary concern of soundproofing is the external environment. It aims to protect the studio from external noise, ensuring that neighbors or other rooms are not disturbed by loud music or recordings. Soundproofing also prevents external noise from interfering with recordings and mixing sessions.

  • Acoustic Treatment: Acoustic treatment is all about the internal environment of the studio. It focuses on improving the acoustic properties of the room to create an optimal listening and recording space. By controlling reflections and resonances, acoustic treatment enhances the accuracy and clarity of sound within the studio.

4. Requirements:
  • Soundproofing: The level of soundproofing required depends on the studio's location and its proximity to other living areas. Home studios in apartments or shared living spaces typically require more soundproofing to prevent sound leakage and disturbances.

  • Acoustic Treatment: Acoustic treatment is beneficial for all home studios, regardless of their location. Even in a perfectly soundproofed room, acoustic treatment is necessary to achieve a well-balanced and accurate listening environment.

4. Budget:
  • Soundproofing: The price of soundproofing is generally 5-10x more then the price of acoustic treatment because it usually requires construction work in your space that can get very costly. It of course depends on the isolation requirement - if the aim is to create a room in a room, then the cost of doing floating floors and isolating every wall and ceiling can ask for a pretty hefty budget.

  • Acoustic Treatment: Acoustic treatment can be considered more budget friendly but also depends on the method (diy, professional products or whole project from start to finish). Acoustic treatment can also be done in stages and be effective in any stage by a certain amount, soundproofing can't.



1. Do acoustic panels/acoustic treatment also isolate the sound?

- The short answer is no. Acoustic treatment can't isolate sound in a soundproofing way, but by controlling reflections inside the room and minimizing room modes it automatically reduces the noise inside the room which translates to less noise outside the room. The biggest effects can be heard in mid and high frequencies. Low frequencies will still be heard as before.

2. Can you use the same materials (rockwool) for isolation and acoustic treatment?

- Yes, you can utilize the same materials in both cases, but the method is different. Soundproofing requires careful planning and filling every gap, so even a smallest mistake when not isolating one instance (ex. a doorframe) can lead to less desirable results. Acoustic treatment is more forgiving in that way and easier to accomplish.

3. Should I do soundproofing or acoustic treatment first?

- Soundproofing is a always a bigger project and should be done first. But it is not always necessary to soundproof a room if there is no need for it. So acoustic treatment can be done in any room if soundproofing is not really needed.

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