Absorbing vs. Blocking Sound - What’s the difference?

Absorbing vs. Blocking Sound - What’s the difference?

When sound travels from one space to another, what’s the best solution? Is absorbing sound sufficient?

There are various materials and products endorsed for noise control or sound treatment. However, different materials impact the sound in different ways, and it's vital to know what they are useful for, so you can select the top materials for your project.

There is always confusion between sound blocking and sound absorption. If you understand the difference between them, you can avoid wasting resources, time, and effort on products that will not achieve what you want.

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People usually ask for the price of soundproofing foam, sound-absorbing foam, soundproofing insulation, or soundproofing panels. They are sure that foam is the way to go because they have seen “egg crate” foam or other matching products as finish wall treatments in recording studios, on TV shows, and in movies – and these types of rooms are especially quiet or properly soundproof.

So, you probably think that panels block sound, right? Well, not exactly. This misconception is prevalent. Foam doesn’t stop a sound; it absorbs or diminishes echo within the room.

Plenty of people thought the same thing, so don’t feel bad. In an endeavor to rid yourself of unwanted noises quickly, you could mix up these terms and purchase the wrong material for your home or business.

While you will often find sound blocking and sound absorbing materials used together to provide a noise pollution barrier they each provide exclusive benefits and resolutions that make them suited for different distinguishing purposes. Soundproofing vs sound absorbing – what is the difference?

Stay with us while we clarify.

Sound Absorption

When you require a material that will diminish the level of echo and sound waves that travel across your space, sound absorption products are the solution. Sound absorption products are not great for an individual who tends to block noise from entering or leaving their home.

Audio absorption products do not stop the sound from traveling, but instead, they improve acoustical properties by absorbing specific frequencies.

Materials like sponges and foams are great sound absorption materials because their build softens the surfaces of your surroundings. In effect, this dampens the creation of airborne sounds.

Sound Blocking

Sound blocking materials are used to reduce the sound level you hear from inside and outside of your room by blocking the frequency waves before they reach your ears. When your problems occur with unwanted sounds getting into your space throughout the day, choosing a sound blocking material is your best option.

Materials designed to block sound are usually heavy and sturdy, unlike their porous and lightweight sound absorption cousins. Heavy massive materials, such as gypsum board and concrete block are applied in the building industry.

Fiberglass, for instance, provides a significant sound barrier. In reality, this form of soundproofing produces an environment in which noise generated inside the studio stays within it while the external sound stays out.

How to recognize the product’s purpose

When you're searching for a soundproofing product, how can you tell whether it is designed for sound blocking or sound absorption? You can never be one hundred percent sure from the way the material is advertised.

Both types of material may be labeled as noise reduction products or sound treatment products, or even as soundproofing products. Here is how can you tell

Take a look at the test data.

  •  If the product properties contain a sound transmission class (STC) number, a transmission loss (TL) curve, or a weighted sound reduction index value, it was tested as a sound blocking material.
  •  If the specifications include a noise reduction coefficient (NRC) or a weighted sound absorption coefficient, the product was tested as a sound absorbing material.
  •  If the product shows no test data, you should probably avoid it since any claims for the product’s effectiveness are unsupported.

Pay attention to the words included in product description. Although not always definitive, they can still give you a clue.

  •  Sound blocking materials may be labeled as noise blockers or noise barriers or as preventing sound transmission.
  •  Noise absorbers include words such as conditioning, absorption, echo reverberation, or reflected sound diffusion.

Look at the material itself.

  • Sound blocking panels are most-likely heavy.
  • Noise absorbers are light, soft, and/or porous.

The Role of Absorption in Soundproofing

If the basic soundproofing principles are familiar to you, you know that absorption is actually one of the four essential soundproofing elements, though being the element with the frailest effect. Does that mean that acoustic treatment products can help with effective soundproofing?

Not really. Here's the difference: When you use absorbent materials for acoustic treatment, they are installed as exposed surfaces inside the room. But when you use them for soundproofing, the place for absorption is within a closed space such as within a wall, where usual fiberglass insulation, loosely packed, can suffice to absorb sound that would otherwise get bounced between the wall panels.

The Role of Soundproofing in Acoustic Treatment

When constructing or improving a sound recording studio or rehearsal studio, you’ll need to use both acoustic treatment and soundproofing techniques. Soundproofing will keep out the external noise and acoustic treatment (noise absorbers and/or diffusers) will maintain the desired clarity of the sound being made.


Choosing the right product for you depends upon the circumstances you seek to improve. Does your room suffer from echoing and undesirable reverberations from within? Then you should opt for sound absorption products. Places such as music studios and gymnasiums would find their acoustical properties considerably enhanced after installing some type of sound absorption.

If you have problems with noise pollution or loud neighbours, sound blocking is the way to go. When your goal is to block noise by stopping it from getting inside, you need a strong enough barrier to form a wall that separates internal and external noise. Sound blocking products offer just the protection you need to obtain noise control throughout the day.

Best Ear Plugs

The following are the best earplugs  (They go from low price to high price.)

50 Pack Acoustic Panels Soundproof Studio Foam for Walls Sound...
  • u【Eco-friendly and Safety】Made of high quality environmentally polyurethane foam, these studio foam are durable and effective, no health risks, safe to use.
  • u【Noise Absorbing】Our sound foam panels can dampen and diffuse mid to low frequency sound waves inside of a room, to minimize interference, increases increasing sound clarity.
  • These soundproofing foam panels come with 24 pack in the package, each tile is 1 square foot of 1 inch thick acoustic wedge, 12 pack covers an area of 12 square feet.
  • u【Easy to Install】These studio sound absorbing panels can be used as acoustic cover for walls, ceilings and doors, just easily attach it with staples, nails, screws, tacks or glue.
  • u【Widely Usage】Our sound dampening foam panels are great for recording studios, vocal booths, control rooms, also ideal for home theaters, professional movie theaters, concert halls and more.
Audimute Sound Absorption Sheet - Sound Dampening Blanket -...
  • Purchase more than 1 for Free Shipping
  • Effective for sound absorption (0.85 NRC Rating), NOT for blocking sound
  • Improves sound quality in a room by reducing sound echoes and reverberation
  • Measures 95" x 54" (8' x 4.5'), contains (3) metal grommets on both 54" sides and includes hanging hardware
  • Made in the USA and composed primarily of eco-friendly recycled materials

Last update on 2021-09-27 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Other Questions

Does furniture reduce noise?

Yes, furniture reduces noise. You simply move your furniture against the noisy walls. Heavy furniture such as chairs, bookshelves help in the resistance of vibrations which hinders the transmissions of sound. The proper arrangement of your furniture in your house effectively reduces loud noise disturbances from different spaces within your apartment or house. 

For better results, you can buy a specific type of furniture known as upholstered furniture with fabrics such as chenille, suede, microfiber, and corduroy. This material is used to make chairs that help in sound absorption, plus the pillows of the sofa chairs are an additional buffer to soundproof.

What material can block sound?

Upholstered furniture is the best furniture to dampen noise. These fabrics on sofas can do magic for sound absorption and it furnishes them in synthetic polymers like suede, microfiber, chenille, or corduroy.

For more soundproofing protection, put layered throw pillows on your chair or sofa. For instance, it is recommendable that you purchase door seals and sweeps or mounting vibration insulation if you want a door or part of the equipment to be soundproof. These are soundproofing fabrics that keep you free of noise.

How can I reduce noise from downstairs neighbors?

Normally, you're going to put your soundproofing furniture as near to the interfering sound intrusion as necessary. The more soundproofing you can place against the wall without balancing the space decor, the safer as the rest of the undesired sound travels across a common wall.

You will want to consider putting down tapestry if you have a couple of rough sounds in a room with wooden floors. Sounds appear to echo about and scatter around the space in rooms with empty walls, floors, and ceilings. This effect can be damped with some decent carpets, for more mellow, and sweet sounds.


If you require more information, please check these references

Use of Hearing Protection and Perceptions of Noise Exposure and Hearing Loss Among Construction Workers , article, "www.tandfonline.com", retrieved on, Mon 26-October-2020

Methods of measuring the attenuation of hearing protection devices , article, "asa.scitation.org", retrieved on, Mon 26-October-2020

Test of the health promotion model as a causal model of construction workers' use of hearing protection , article, "onlinelibrary.wiley.com", retrieved on, Mon 26-October-2020

About This Article 

Date : December 9, 2020

Author : Nick, Website Owner And Writer

Experience : Hi, I am Nick, and I have suffered with ear problems my whole life, mainly tinnitus. I have tried a lot of products to help protect my ears over this period, and several devices to block out the constant ringing

“Are you having problems hearing? If so, those around you already know it. Hearing loss is no laughing matter, so don’t be a punchline.”

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