Even the very best audio equipment in the world is going to sound like trash if you put it in a room with bad acoustics. That’s why it’s important that your listening room receives the right sort of acoustic treatment (to learn more about acoustic treatment in general, check out my informational article on the subject first.
While it’s entirely possible to make a room acoustically suitable for listening without using any sort of special equipment, sometimes it’s just more practical and straightforward to throw some money at the problem and get specialized panels to absorb or diffuse unruly sound. So, here I have collected a few products that you can order online which should help make your listening experience go from good to transcendental.
Ironically, for equipment meant to improve sound, I think that how acoustic paneling looks is just as important. One of the main reasons I personally avoid using this method of acoustic treatment is that it can completely ruin the look of your room. I don’t want to spend time in a place that looks like a pro studio, no matter how good the sound is. Your listening room is meant to be a refuge and a place to relax.
That being said, you can integrate these different paneling solutions in such a way that they make your room look nicer. A lot of modern panels can actually be mistaken for purely decorative objects, so I’m especially critical of this aspect of paneling.
I’ve listed my top picks first, but the rest of the reviews are not in any particular order.
Top Foam Pick:
JBER Acoustic Sound Foam Panels
Using foam panels to acoustically treat a room can become expensive very quickly. You often need more of them than you think! One of the key things that makes the JBER panels so attractive is the value proposition. You get 24 panels for a relatively small price, yet according to people who’ve bought and used them, they’re decently effective.
These pads will help reduce room tone and “dry up” your recordings if you’re making content. For people who want to have a good listening experience, you can fine-tune the sound in the room by placing strategic patches of these or go completely crazy and cover every hard surface with them to pursue that anechoic ideal.
There are three color options, with the most boring being charcoal. The other two options offer half blue and charcoal or half red and charcoal. So you can arrange them in a nice checkerboard pattern.
One thing to keep in mind is that these panels are compressed at the factory to save space. It takes a day or two for them to expand to their full size, so don’t judge their performance right out of the box!
Best Sound Improvement:
Auralex Acoustics MoPAD Monitor Acoustic Isolation Pads
Although these pads are not meant to treat the acoustics of your listening room, they are meant to acoustically treat your speakers themselves. Go check out my reviews of monitor speakers to find some awesome examples.
By placing your monitors on these you can prevent resonance between the room and the speaker cabinets. It may seem weird, but just putting your monitors on these pads will make them sound more clear.
Do they work? Feedback from buyers say they do. People report an immediate difference and the best part is that it doesn’t matter if your speakers are cheap or expensive, they can benefit from these isolation pads.
If you are going to get any of the things I look at on this page, get a set of these.
Mybecca 12-pack Acoustic Panel
Here we have another 12-pack of 12”x12” foam just like the Foamily kit above. Unlike those panels, these do not use the pyramid design, but instead use the wedge-shaped method.
You’ll also notice that this paneling is half the thickness of the Foamily, which on the surface does not bode well.
Still, this is the best-selling acoustic wall paneling you can buy online today and surely there must be a reason for it.
These are rated to provide 70-80% echo deadening, which sounds perfect for what we would want to achieve in a listening room, since in a personal listening room we don’t want to kill all of the reverb or the music will sound dead too.
This has been specifically designed not just for professional contexts but explicitly for home theater and gaming rooms. That makes it perfect on paper, but does it perform in real life?
Unfortunately, it turns out that at one inch in thickness these panels are just too thin. They don’t seem to be worth the money. Once again, your results may vary depending on how sever the echo in your room is, but in general I suspect these are going to be inadequate, so skip them.
Auralex Acoustics T’Fusor Sound Diffuser
These diffuser panels from Auralex are no joke. At nearly five hundred dollars for a pack of four you need to be serious about cutting down on that echo or have a desire for perfection that has no regard for the health of your wallet.
The actual diffuser has an interesting and modern shape. I really think they could be blended beautifully into a modern home theater or listening room. I also like that they are paintable, so you can either paint them to highlight them or camouflage them instead. You can’t really paint foam.
You can put them up with pins, staples, Velcro, or any other permanent or temporary fastening. There is no need to remodel anything if you don’t want to.
These panels are made from thermoplastic, so they should be quite sturdy while also being light.
Unlike absorption foam, a diffuser like this helps to quell reverb by taking the main sound and breaking it into lots of smaller reflections that are too weak to bounce much more.
So, you get what you pay for. These things work pretty darn well based on what people have had to say. They’ve even been used in some unconventional settings to help ease the noise from things like running motors and pumps, so you know they can put up with some harsh volume levels.
If you can stomach the price, these diffusers are well worth the money.
Arrowzoom New Wooden Acoustic Diffuser Isolation Panel
I find the idea behind these wooden diffusers to be very interesting indeed. For your money you only get a single panel (and you’ll need a few), but thanks to the beautiful naked wood finish this can basically go into any room.
There’s also no reason not to stain them a different color. In the promo photography there’s a picture of an entire ceiling covered in interlocking panels. I think it just looks gorgeous despite its costing a fortune to do it.
Most people are not going to use this wall-to-wall however. Instead, the idea is to take four or five of these and alternate them with foam panels.
So the question is, does this work? There’s no reason it shouldn’t, but this doesn’t have those intricate patterns that other modern diffusers have. It’s basically just a nice little piece of wooden shelving with sound traps in its shape. The sound goes in and then breaks up inside.
When I wrote this I couldn’t find anything from people who’d actually bought this to determine how effective the diffusion is, but I can’t think of a reason this design won’t do a good job.
On the upside, the maker promises a 100% money-back guarantee, so I guess we can take a chance on them.
Foamily Acoustic Wedge Studio Soundproofing Foam
Sometimes a simple finishing touch can make all of the difference to the look of your room. These corner wedges are not strictly needed for most acoustic treatments of listening rooms, but if you want to get that last bit of sound reflecting into the corners, this is the way to do it.
This is a 4-pack, which means it is as cheap as chips, but you can also buy them in sets of eight and twelve.
They are very small and quite a few people can’t hear a difference, but if you have a few corners in the room where you know sound is piling up and reflecting, this can be a cheap and easy way to deal with the problem.
TroyStudio Acoustic Sound Diffuser Panel
I don’t know who Troy is, but he sure has nice taste. I really like the look of these diffuser panels. So many products in this category have wacky, extreme designs, which makes it hard to configure the room in such a way that it all still looks good. You might end up having to hide the panels behind thin curtains, for example.
Not so with the Troys. At least not in my opinion. These panels are elegant and, if you look at the pictures of them installed seamlessly on walls, the pattern really makes for a classy listening and recording environment.
As TroyStudio points out themselves, these diffuser panels are designed to remove aberrations from sound and give you clean, uniform audio. They won’t do anything to dampen or absorb sound. Depending on your needs, you may have to use them in combination with foam panels to get the perfect final results. These look so good, apparently some people literally just buy them as classy wall decorations!
Arrowzoom New Quadratic Wooden Block Crate Acoustic Diffuser
I like panels with a wood finish and I think wood is a wonderfully natural audio absorber too. The patterning of these angled wood pyramids is just so pretty. It also opens up all sorts of painting options to make them fit in perfectly with your listening environment.
I almost don’t care how effective these are, but at a mind-numbing, wallet-murdering $500 PER PANEL I’m less enthusiastic.
Vinyl Vintage Audio System Reviews
If you’re completely new to the world of vinyl and vintage audio, I’d recommend to start with the reviews on Turntables, Phone Preamps, Record Cleaners and Speakers. Once you’ve got this covered, make sure to check the menu for more of my reviews.