What are Acoustic Sound Absorbing Panels?
We have all experienced being in a space that’s so noisy, it’s nearly impossible to hold a conversation. Acoustic sound absorbing panels, (typically referred to as acoustic panels,) are used for sound reduction and reverberation control. They help improve speech clarity, allowing everyone in the space to communicate more effectively. They are a great solution for offices, meeting rooms, recording studios, auditoriums, classrooms, and restaurants – any space where the ability to clearly hear someone who is speaking, makes a big impact on overall comfort and productivity.
Ready-made acoustic panels come in a range of materials including glass fibers, foam, polyester, wood fiber, cotton, and metal. That said, fabric wrapped fiberglass panels are by far the most popular because of their versatility.
Fabric wrapped panels (FWPs) are available in a wide variety of sizes, designs, and ways of attaching to a wall. That versatility can also make the selection process overwhelming because there are truly so many choices. In this post, we’re going to break down everything you need to know about the main components of acoustical panels so you can make choices that work the best for your space
Panel Core for Sound Absorption
The performance of Acoustic products are measured by their ability to absorb sound. For acoustic panels, the strength of sound absorption is driven by the panel core. Fiberglass core has the highest NRC (Noise Reduction Coefficient) of any FWP core on the market today. The higher the NRC, the better overall acoustical performance. One of our most popular products at Acoustical Solutions is a fabric wrapped fiberglass board that has a density of 6-7 pounds per cubic foot (PCF) because it offers the highest quality, best acoustical performance, and best fire rating of any currently offered FWP core.
The fiberglass board comes in 1” and 2” thicknesses and can be as large as4’ x 10’. Standard sizes are 2’x4’, 4’x’4’, 4’x8’, and 4’x10’. It is a standalone core which means it can be fabric wrapped with no framing or spline necessary to create rigidity or crisp ninety-degree corners. Edge profiles can be square, bevel, radius, or miter and resin hardened for high impact areas.
Fiberglass board is also available with a density of 3 PCF and used as a core material in acoustical panels. It is not commonly used as a standalone core though because the corners round off when it’s wrapped with fabric. It’s a flimsier material so panels made with 3 PCF fiberglass core typically have wood or plastic framing to create rigidity. Unfortunately, that framing is only offered with a square edge profile and the wood frame compromises the panel’s fire rating.
Panel Fabric Designs to Enhance Your Space
One of the main reasons acoustic panels are so frequently chosen by designers and owners alike is the ability to wrap them in just about any panel fabric. The color and pattern choices are almost limitless. Good acoustical panel fabrics are breathable and woven in a way that allows sound to pass through into the panel core where sound is absorbed. A common misperception is that the fabric absorbs sound, but it’s the openings in panel fabric that makes for a high acoustically performing fabric wrapped panel. There are thousands of panel fabrics on the market today. Guilford of Maine became an industry leader in acoustical fabrics decades ago, and it’s FR701 line is by far the most popular, durable, and highest performing fire rated panel fabric. Fabric can be purchased by the yard or pre-wrapped to an acoustical panel sized to your needs.
Our advice when it comes to fabrics: don’t be fooled by low-priced panel fabric knock offs. Quality, performance and fire rating are rarely if ever achieved together in low priced panel fabrics
Mounting Options for Every Wall
Another benefit of acoustic panels is that they are easy to install and there are many ways they can be mounted. Impaling clips (also referred to as spike pads) and construction adhesive are the simplest and least expensive mounting option for a 6-7 PCF core fabric wrapped panel. Obviously, this is not a removable option. If a removable mechanical faster is required, Rotofast anchors or Z clips are the way to go. Rotofast anchors for a drywall installation are probably the most popular and user-friendly option of the two.
As mentioned earlier, fabric wrapped panels made with a 3 PCF core require a frame or spline to create rigidity and ninety-degree edges. How the framing is applied dictates the type of mounting. In general, these types of panels are hung like pictures. Caution should be taken when hanging larger heavy panels with picture type mounting hardware. Mounting options for walls are the Impaling clips, Z clips and Rotofast Snap On Anchors. For the Ceiling application you will need to use the Rotofast Snap On Anchors.
Customized for High Impact
Standard acoustic panels provide sound absorption and are used in environments such as sanctuaries, conference rooms, offices, and performance spaces. It’s also important to reduce echo and noise in high-impact spaces like multi-use gymnasiums, recreation spaces, and hallways. For spaces like these where durability is key, products with high impact facing or a mass loaded vinyl composite are great options. High impact fabric wrapped panels feature an 1/8” thick 18-20 PCF facing laminated to the core to prevent dents. Barrier acoustic panels incorporate mass loaded vinyl sandwiched between two layers of fiberglass. A barrier fabric wrapped panel does double duty by both absorbing and blocking sound, so they are often used on walls where reducing sound transmission to adjacent spaces is required
To learn more about how Acoustical Solutions can solve your noise control problems, use our contact form, call one of our Acoustical Sales Consultants at (800) 782-5742, or visit us on the web at acousticalsolutions.com.