Uncovering the effectiveness of acoustic tiles: Myth or reality?

Written by

13 March 2024


14 min read


Do acoustic tiles work? It's a question you may be asking if you're looking at them as a soundproofing solution for a room. In this guide, we'll answer this question, by looking at exactly what acoustic tiles are designed to do, how they work, and whether they can adequately sound proof an environment.

The process of improving sound quality within a space is known as acoustic treatment.
The process of improving sound quality within a space is known as acoustic treatment.

What are acoustic tiles?

Acoustic tiles, also known as acoustical tiles, are sound-absorbing materials used to improve sound quality in various spaces by reducing echo, reverb, and excessive noise. These tiles are designed to absorb sound waves, preventing them from reflecting off hard surfaces and causing reverberation.

How do acoustic tiles work?

Acoustic tiles work by absorbing sound waves to reduce noise, improve sound quality, and prevent echoes and reverberation within a room. These tiles are made from sound-absorbent materials such as foam, fibreglass, or mineral wool, which have open cellular structures or fibrous compositions that can trap sound waves.

When sound waves strike the surface of an acoustic tile, several things happen:


The sound energy is absorbed by the material, which converts some of the sound energy into a small amount of heat, thereby reducing the volume of noise in the room.


The tiles can also scatter sound waves in different directions, which helps to evenly distribute sound across a space and reduce the concentration of sound energy in any one spot.

Transmission Loss

High-density tiles can prevent sound from passing through walls or ceilings, further reducing noise levels from one room to another.

The effectiveness of acoustic tiles depends on several factors, including the material's thickness, density, and surface texture. Tiles can be installed on walls, ceilings, and even floors to target specific sound issues in a room, such as echo reduction or noise control from outside sources.

For optimal performance, acoustic tiles are often part of a broader sound management strategy that may include strategic placement, varying tile types for different frequency absorptions, and integration with other acoustic elements like sound baffles or diffusers to address the full spectrum of sound control needs.

Featured Product: Torino Acoustic Tiles - Acoustek
Featured Product: Torino Acoustic Tiles - Acoustek

What are acoustic tiles made from?

Acoustic tiles are made from a variety of materials, each chosen for its ability to absorb sound, reduce echo, and improve the acoustic quality of a space. The most common materials include:


Acoustic foam is lightweight and can be easily shaped into various forms, including pyramid and wedge patterns, which increase its surface area and enhance sound absorption. Foam tiles are particularly effective at absorbing mid to high-frequency sound waves.


Fibreglass acoustic tiles are made from fine glass fibres woven together, offering excellent sound absorption properties. They are commonly used in commercial and residential ceiling tiles due to their high NRC (Noise Reduction Coefficient) ratings.

Mineral wool (Rockwool or Stone Wool)

This material is made from molten rock or slag that is spun into fine fibres. Like fibreglass, it has excellent sound absorbing properties and is fire resistant, making it a popular choice for both ceilings and wall panels.


Perforated or grooved wood panels can also serve as acoustic tiles. The wood provides a natural appearance and can effectively absorb sound when designed with specific patterns that disrupt sound waves.

Polyester Fibres

Tiles made from bonded polyester fibres are a more eco-friendly option, often made from recycled materials. These tiles offer good acoustic performance and can be used in various settings.

Fabric-Wrapped Panels

These panels consist of a sound-absorbing core material, such as fibreglass or mineral wool, wrapped in decorative fabric. They offer both design flexibility and effective sound absorption.

Featured Product: Milano Acoustic Tiles - Acoustek
Featured Product: Milano Acoustic Tiles - Acoustek

Benefits of using acoustic tiles

Improved audio quality

By absorbing unwanted sound reflections, acoustic tiles help in reducing reverberation and echo, leading to clearer sound. This is particularly beneficial in environments like recording studios, home theatres, and conference rooms where clarity of sound is key. Acoustic tiles can also help balance the sound within a room by evenly distributing sound waves. This prevents certain areas from having too much or too little sound, which is essential for places like auditoriums and performance halls.

Reduced noise pollution

In offices and residential buildings, acoustic tiles help in containing sound within individual rooms or areas, enhancing privacy and reducing the intelligibility of speech through walls or ceilings. Reducing background noise can also significantly improve concentration and reduce stress, particularly in work environments. By mitigating the distractions of external noises, individuals can focus better, leading to higher productivity and a more comfortable living or working environment.

Design flexibility and customisation

Acoustic tiles come in a variety of materials, shapes, sizes, and colours, offering extensive design options to match or enhance interior decor. This flexibility allows designers and homeowners to create spaces that are both acoustically and visually pleasing. For commercial spaces, acoustic tiles can be customised with specific colours, patterns, or even logos, contributing to a space's branding or thematic design. This aspect of personalisation can add a unique touch to the environment, making it more inviting and reflective of a brand’s identity. 

Featured Product: Milano Acoustic Tiles - Acoustek
Featured Product: Milano Acoustic Tiles - Acoustek

Disadvantages of acoustic tiles

Cost and installation

High-quality acoustic tiles, especially those made from specialised materials or custom designs, can be relatively expensive. The cost factor might be prohibitive for some budgets, particularly in large spaces requiring extensive coverage. Prices for acoustic tiles typically range between $95-$130 per square metre.

Installing acoustic tiles may require professional assistance, especially for more complex setups or when integrating with existing architectural features. This can add to the overall cost and may require temporary closure of the space for renovations.

Regular cleaning and maintenance can be required

Some acoustic tile materials, like fabric-wrapped panels or high-density foam, can collect dust and require regular cleaning. Depending on the installation location and material type, maintenance can be challenging. Also, acoustic tiles, particularly those made from softer materials like foam, can be susceptible to damage from impacts, punctures, or wear over time. This might necessitate periodic replacements or repairs to maintain their appearance and performance.

Design limitations

While there is significant versatility in the design and customization of acoustic tiles, certain materials or styles may not align with every design preference and theme. Finding the right balance between acoustic performance and visual appeal can sometimes be challenging.

In smaller rooms or spaces with low ceilings, the installation of acoustic tiles or panels might reduce the perceived openness of the area. This can impact the overall feel of the space, making it seem smaller or more crowded.

Acoustic performance

Not all acoustic tiles are equally effective across all frequency ranges. Some tiles may efficiently absorb high frequencies but be less effective at managing low-frequency sounds, which can be a concern in environments where bass or rumble noise control is important. Acoustic tiles are primarily designed for sound absorption and improving the internal acoustics of a space. They may not be as effective for soundproofing or completely isolating a room from external noises or preventing sound from escaping, which might require additional soundproofing measures.

Installing acoustic panels or tiles can be done with a DIY approach or through professional installation.
Installing acoustic panels or tiles can be done with a DIY approach or through professional installation.

How to choose the right acoustic tiles for your needs

Step one: Identify the sound issues you are facing and select the right materials to solve the issue

You can start by identifying the specific sound issues you are facing, such as echo, reverberation, or external noise. Here are some methods you can use to detect the specific sound issues you are experiencing:

Identifying Echo

Test Method

Use the clap test. Stand in the centre of the room and clap sharply once. Listen carefully to the sound that follows. If you hear a distinct repeat of the clap that fades quickly, this indicates the presence of echo.

Observation Tip

Pay attention to the immediacy and clarity of sound reflections after making a noise, such as a clap or a shout. In a room with echo, these sounds will have a distinct, singular bounce-back that you can hear clearly. Try moving to different parts of the room to see if the echo persists everywhere or is localised to certain areas.

Identifying Reverberation

Test Method 

The clap test is also useful here but listen for a different characteristic. Instead of a distinct repeat, listen for a rapid series of echoes that blend together, creating a lingering sound that slowly fades. This effect is reverberation.

Observation Tip 

After making a noise like clapping, listen for how the sound behaves. In a room with reverberation, the sound doesn't bounce back as one distinct echo but continues in a series of quickly fading reflections that blur together. This can make the space feel acoustically "full" or "muddy." Notice if this effect makes it difficult to understand someone talking from across the room.

Identifying External Noise

Test Method

Conduct a silence test. At a quiet time, sit in the room and listen for several minutes. Note any sounds from outside the room or building, such as traffic, construction, or voices.

Observation Tip

Conduct your silence test during different times of the day to gauge the consistency and type of external noise. Mark any recurring sounds, like the rumble of traffic or the periodic sound of a neighbour's footsteps from the apartment above. Checking for noise leakage points around windows, doors, and even vents can help identify where soundproofing measures are most needed.

Step two: Select the right materials to solve the problem

Following the identification of specific sound issues such as echo, reverberation, or external noise, the next step is to select the appropriate materials to address these problems effectively. Here's some guidance around which materials solve echo, reverb and excessive noise problems:

Solving Echo

To combat echo, which is characterised by distinct sound reflections, the goal is to increase sound absorption within the room. Materials like thick, soft acoustic foam tiles or heavy, dense curtains are excellent choices for achieving this. These materials absorb sound waves instead of reflecting them, minimising the distinct echoes you hear.

Place acoustic foam tiles on walls where echo is most pronounced, typically opposite hard surfaces that are parallel to each other. Hanging heavy curtains over windows can also significantly reduce echo by absorbing sound that would otherwise bounce off the glass.

Addressing Reverberation

For reverberation, which involves a series of sound reflections creating a prolonged noise, highly absorptive materials are key. Fibrous insulation materials such as mineral wool or fibreglass tiles are effective, as they can absorb sound across a wide range of frequencies. 

Install these materials on walls and ceilings, focusing on covering as much surface area as possible to reduce the "muddiness" of sound. In spaces with high ceilings or large open areas, consider suspended acoustic baffles or clouds which add absorption points and interrupt sound reflections.

Mitigating External Noise

To mitigate external noise effectively in a room, acoustic tiles should be made from materials that have both sound-absorbing and sound-blocking properties. Materials such as acoustic foam or dense fibreglass are commonly used in acoustic tiles for this purpose.

You should also look to address external noise problems by implementing materials that block sound from entering or leaving a space. Mass-loaded vinyl (MLV), dense rubber underlayment's for floors, and acoustically rated windows and doors are specifically designed for soundproofing against external noise.

Apply MLV to walls and ceilings as an additional layer beneath drywall to add mass and block sound. Use dense rubber underlayment's beneath flooring materials to prevent noise from travelling through floors. Replace existing windows and doors with acoustically rated alternatives that have seals designed to block external sounds.

Step three: Install acoustic tiles strategically

For effective sound management, it's important to install acoustic tiles strategically throughout the space. Begin by focusing on areas where sound reflection is most significant, such as hard, flat surfaces including walls and ceilings. Ensure the tiles are evenly distributed to avoid uneven sound absorption, which can lead to areas of the room still experiencing poor sound quality.

It may be beneficial to use a staggered pattern to cover more surface area and provide a more uniform absorption of sound waves. Consider the specific acoustics of the room and the primary sources of sound to guide the placement of these tiles for maximum effectiveness.

Step Four: Optimise coverage and density

Maximising the coverage area of acoustic tiles can significantly improve their effectiveness. However, it's not just about covering as much space as possible; the density and thickness of the tile arrangement also play a crucial role. In some cases, adding a second layer of tiles or choosing tiles of varying thicknesses for different parts of the room can enhance sound absorption and control.

After installation, it may be necessary to adjust the density or coverage based on the acoustic results. Testing the sound quality after initial installation and making adjustments as needed will help you achieve the desired acoustical environment in the space.

Featured Product: Roma Acoustic Tiles - Acoustek
Featured Product: Roma Acoustic Tiles - Acoustek

Do acoustic tiles work?

Yes, acoustic tiles are effective for improving the acoustic quality within a room by reducing echo and reverberation, but they are not primarily designed for blocking external noise. They work well to absorb internal sound reflections, enhancing clarity and reducing noise levels inside the space. However, for soundproofing against external noise, additional measures and materials specifically designed for sound blocking are necessary.

What other acoustic solutions work well with acoustic tiles?

There are various other acoustic solutions to consider that work well with acoustic tiles, including:

Acoustic fabrics

Acoustic fabrics are designed to absorb sound waves, rather than reflecting them. This characteristic makes them an excellent choice for covering walls, panels, or other surfaces in spaces where controlling sound reflection and reverberation is necessary. These fabrics typically have a soft, porous surface that traps sound waves. When sound waves hit these fabrics, the material transforms the sound energy into heat, thereby reducing the amount of sound bouncing back into the room. 

They can work well in conjunction with acoustic tiles as they are effective at covering surfaces that tiles or panels can't, such as curved walls or intricate architectural features.

Acoustic panels

Acoustic panels work by reducing unwanted noise levels and control sound reflections within a space, making them an essential component of acoustic treatment solutions. These panels are typically made from sound-absorbing materials such as foam, fibreglass, or other porous substances that effectively capture and dissipate sound waves. They differ from acoustic tiles primarily in their size, installation flexibility, and often in their material composition, offering broader coverage and targeted sound control solutions compared to the more uniform and modular approach of tiles.

Using acoustic panels together with acoustic tiles can significantly improve a room's sound quality. Tiles can cover large areas to evenly absorb sound, while the panels can be placed in spots were sound problems are more noticeable, like echoey corners or walls directly opposite windows.

How do you completely soundproof a room?

To completely soundproof a room, a comprehensive approach is needed that goes beyond just applying acoustic tiles. Soundproofing aims to block sound from entering or leaving a space, which requires a combination of materials and techniques. Here's a brief outline of steps to achieve complete soundproofing:

Identify and seal leaks

Sound travels through the smallest openings. Use acoustic sealant to fill gaps around doors, windows, and where walls meet floors and ceilings.

Add mass

Sound waves are less likely to penetrate heavier materials. Adding layers to walls and ceilings with dense materials like drywall or mass-loaded vinyl can significantly reduce sound transmission.

Decouple structures

Prevent sound from traveling through physical connections by using resilient channel or sound isolation clips to create a space between the drywall and the studs or joists.

Absorb sound

Here's where acoustic tiles and other absorbent materials come into play. They reduce echoes and reverberation within the room, which can improve the perceived soundproofing quality by managing the sound within the space.

Dampen vibrations

Use damping compounds between layers of drywall to convert sound energy into heat, further reducing sound transmission.

Install soundproof windows and doors

Opt for double- or triple-glazed windows and solid-core doors with good seals to block sound from entering or escaping through these common weak points.

Do acoustic tiles work? Yes, they do

Yes, acoustic tiles are highly effective at improving the acoustic quality within a room by reducing echoes, reverberation, and managing internal noise levels. However, it's very important to recognise that while they contribute significantly to creating a more acoustically pleasant environment, they are not a standalone solution for complete soundproofing.

True soundproofing requires a multifaceted approach that addresses sound transmission, absorption, and reflection at various points of entry and within the room itself. Combining acoustic tiles with other soundproofing methods and materials is the best approach to take.

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