In this article, we will be looking at some of the current options in terms of soundproof insulation material. There are many reasons to soundproof an area. The most common reason is the use of loud machinery whose operational noise creates an annoyance for anyone nearby. In the past, this kind of equipment was usually located on the outskirts of their service areas, or in a rural area. In other words, the old approach to this problem was to merely put the equipment in a place where people do not usually live.
Urban sprawl and overpopulation have made this possibility non-viable. People are just more spread out than ever before, making it very hard to find those uninhabited areas where water pumping stations, electric relay stations, etc. can be built without disturbance. The only reasonable answer is soundproofing.
A lot of different materials can deaden sound. I once soundproofed a room with cardboard so that it could serve as a recording studio in a heavily populated area. Although it was ugly and required about six layers of cardboard, the effect was achieved. Thankfully, modern science has come up with much better solutions.
The most common material for major soundproofing applications has historically been concrete for industrial equipment and foam panels for recording studios. However, there is some real quantifiable data that we can use to compare concrete and foam with some of the alternatives.
For many construction purposes, concrete is ideal because of its longevity, its durability, and the fact that it is relatively cheap. However, in the soundproofing department this material is not adequate. Its sound-deadening properties can be upgraded by making the concrete thicker, but it is like putting lipstick on a pig. Concrete is just not a very good for deadening sound. On top of this, concrete is heavy and thus hard to move or remove should that become necessary. Useful for outdoor sound barriers.
For the average person, serious soundproofing is not usually required. No matter how noisy your neighbors may be, they are unlikely to compare with the sustained noise of an industrial operation. The pyramidal wall foam that has become the standard for most recording studios is adequate for home use. Unless your neighbor is running their own factory or testing explosives in their backyard, you don’t need the same level of protection that an industrial operation does.
In response to these inadequacies, some people began to use steel panels, but those proved ineffective as well. One new material that is gaining in popularity is called retrosorb. This proprietary material is being offered as an alternative to expensive and permanent concrete structures. These panels are characterized by an inner aluminum mesh design that is meant to absorb and deaden large amounts of sound. Best of all, these panels are light and portable, making it easy to change locations without building new walls.
And that is just the tip of a very large iceberg. As soundproofing technology advances, you can bet that we will reach a point when people laugh at the mere idea of deadening sound with artificial stone.