Types of acoustic panels: Differences & Recommendations


Acoustic panels are essential for controlling noise and enhancing the acoustics of an indoor space. Understanding the different types of acoustic panels available allows you to make an informed decision based on the specific challenges of your space and your acoustic goals.

This article gives an overview of the different types of acoustic panels as well as provide recommendations based on their characteristics and applications.

The different type of acoustic panels discussed includes:

  • Bass Traps
  • Ceiling Clouds
  • Diffuser Panels
  • Acoustic Wall Tiles
  • Horizontal Acoustic Panels
  • Acoustic Foam
  • Art Acoustic Panels
  • Fabric-Wrapped Panels
  • Perforated Acoustic Wood Panels

For excessive reverberation and echo problems, absorption panels like acoustic wall tiles or fabric-wrapped panels are recommended.

For a balance between absorption and diffusion, diffuser panels or a combination of absorption and diffusion panels, such as horizontal acoustic panels, can be suitable.

For spaces where visual aesthetics are important, art acoustic panels or fabric-wrapped panels provide a great solution.

What are the different types of acoustic panels?

Different types of acoustic panels are:

1. Bass traps, or bass absorbers

Bass traps, or bass absorbers are most generally for home recording or music rooms with large speakers.

These types of panels provide resistance to soundwaves in the form of insulation material.

They are placed in the corners of rooms, where low-frequency pressure builds up, and on flat walls.

2. Ceiling clouds

Ceiling clouds are made up of acoustic panel material and are designed to absorb and provide greater listening and speaking for a space (The Sydney Opera House, for example, utilises ceiling cloud technology to clarify performances).

They can completely cover the ceiling or be strategically placed in areas to gain the most control.

3. Diffuser panels

Diffuser panels are usually used for recording studios and are quite sculptural.

They are square or rectangular and made of soft materials with multiple air pockets that prevent reverberation.

They give the listening environment an atmosphere of spaciousness without deadening or ‘stopping’ the sound unnaturally.

4. Acoustic Wall Tiles

These can be placed on walls or ceilings to control noise pollution in rooms.

They are generally more affordable and more decorative than regular sound tiles.

5. Horizontal Acoustic Panels

Also known as skyline diffusers, horizontal panels absorb background noise more directly than vertical panels. They help control soundwaves spreading.

6. Foam

Acoustic foam is another accoutrement for home studios and is an absorbent material that is ideal to prepare a room for professional recording.

7. Art acoustic panels

Art acoustic panels are panels that come with your choice of unique artwork printed onto them. They can add a visual dimension to internal space.

They can also come in many colours, thicknesses, and designs and allow a large variety of treatment solutions, such as absorbers, diffusers, and bass traps.

Some panels come with a magnetic fastening, making them readily removable and relocatable.

8. Fabric-wrapped panels

Fabric wrapped panels are cloth wrapped, come in many colours and can be customised to suit your internal style.

Panels can also be customised, adding to the overall brand environment or interior style.

9. Perforated Acoustic Wood Panels

Perforated wood panels have small and large holes punched into the panelling to allow sound to pass through, to be absorbed or scattered.

The holes are also a design choice for many types of spaces.

What type of acoustic panel do we recommend?

The best acoustic panel or combination of acoustic panels will depend on your space, and your acoustic needs. Each type of panel serves a unique purpose and can be effective in addressing specific acoustic challenges.

Here are some recommendations for each type of acoustic panel:

Bass traps
For rooms with excessive bass buildup or low-frequency issues, Bass Traps are the ideal choice. Place them in room corners to help absorb the low-frequency energy, resulting in improved bass response and overall acoustics.

Ceiling Clouds
Highly recommended when dealing with sound reflections from above. They work well in spaces with high ceilings, such as conference halls or open-plan offices. By absorbing sound and reducing echoes, ceiling clouds enhance speech intelligibility and creating more productive and calming environments.

Diffuser Panels
Suitable for rooms where a balance between absorption and diffusion is desired. They scatter sound waves in various directions, breaking up direct reflections and creating a more spacious and natural acoustic environment. Diffusers work well in music performance spaces, recording studios, and listening rooms.

Acoustic Wall Tiles
Effective in reducing reverberation and echo problems by absorbing sound reflections. They can be used almost anywhere to improve sound clarity and intelligibility.

Horizontal Acoustic Panels
Recommended for treating flutter echoes and enhancing the listening experience. Placing them on walls helps to scatter sound reflections horizontally, creating a more balanced sound environment.

Acoustic Foam panels
Versatile and lightweight, acoustic foam panels are suitable for smaller spaces or home studios. They provide effective sound absorption, particularly for high-frequency sounds, and can help control reflections and improve the overall acoustic quality of the room.

Art Acoustic Panels
Offer both functional sound control and aesthetic appeal. Custom artwork or designs on these panels allow you to enhance the acoustic treatment of a space while incorporating a visually pleasing element. They are recommended for restaurants, offices, or residential areas where both sound control and visual aesthetics are important.

Fabric-Wrapped Panels
Provide sound reduction and visual appeal. With a wide range of fabric and colour options available, fabric covered acoustic panels are customised to blend seamlessly with the existing decor while effectively addressing sound-related issues. They are commonly used in classrooms, offices, theatres and restaurants.

Perforated Acoustic Wood Panels
Combine sound absorption and diffusion properties. They are frequently employed in larger spaces like auditoriums and concert halls to enhance sound quality while maintaining an aesthetically pleasing appearance.

Key takeaways

When choosing the right acoustic panel, consider the specific acoustic challenges in your space and the desired sound outcome. In some cases, a combination of panels might be the most effective solution. In doubt, consult with a professional acoustician or sound engineer to help you make a decision tailored to your needs. Remember, a properly acoustically optimised space creates a more enjoyable, productive and immersive environment for everyone using it.

Also consider the installation process or if you need to learn how to cut your acoustic panel before making a decision as some panels are easier to install than others.

If decoration is important, remember you can paint acoustic panels, however some types of panels loose acoustic properties so it’s better to choose panels that already match the colours required.