Are you trying to improve the sound quality in a living room, rec room, home theater, or even an office? Planning to use acoustic panels? Traditionally, this has meant sticking unappealing drab-colored foam or cloth-covered panels on the walls. However, that is changing and you can now create aesthetically pleasing colorful murals and patterns using decorative acoustic panels.
Quality decorative acoustic panels improve speech and sound clarity, control sound strength, and reduce reverberation, flutter, and sound propagation. The panels come in 3D sculpted foam, multi-sided shapes, a wide range of thicknesses, and a plethora of colors or images. Whether the core is foam or stone wool, decorative panels can turn a residential, commercial, or industrial setting into an acoustically and aesthetically pleasing space.
In this article, we explain what decorative acoustic panels are, the best uses for decorative panels, and the different types of decorative panels. We discuss different purchase considerations, where and how to install the panels, plus we review ten of the best decorative acoustic panels available. Our goal is to provide you with a foundation of knowledge so you can get the best decorative acoustic panel for your sound treatment needs.
At a Glance: Our Top Picks for Best Decorative Acoustic Panels 2021
What Are Decorative Acoustic Panels?
Acoustic panels don’t need to look industrial or utilitarian. The panels should complement the décor, lend color and texture, brighten or liven up drab walls, and reflect the personality or aesthetics of the occupants. Decorative acoustic panels do all that, plus they control reverb, flutter, and echo for a cleaner and clearer sound.
Decorative acoustic panels aren’t just drop ceiling tiles; they are also colorful artistic pieces that can be strategically placed on walls to control noise. They can depict any images you chose in any size to treat a wall surface. Decorative panels come in a plethora of colors and textures, different shapes and sizes, and complement your style and attenuate the sound in any residential or business environment.
Artistic panels may form an interlocking pattern of shapes and colors. Create ripples or waves, have horizontal, vertical, or diagonal lines, or be any 2 or 3D geometric shape. Different shapes and thicknesses can be mixed and arranged to suit any artistic flair while improving sound control too. Decorative panels can be used on walls, ceilings, and floors for full sound control coverage.
Panels may be framed or frameless, have an acoustic core of foam or mineral wool, and commonly are wrapped in fire-resistant fabrics. Colors and images usually are of UV-resistant inks or dyes to resist fading and retain their vibrant colors much longer. Whether mounted on walls or suspended from ceilings, they are designed to absorb or diffuse sound waves to control reverb, flutter, and echo.
Best Decorative Acoustic Panels
Improving, enhancing, and controlling sound within a room depends on the purpose of the room and the budget. The sound in a living room may differ from a corporate meeting room, but the aesthetic appeal may be the same. The quality and clarity of sound for communication no longer means trying to generate creative ideas or conversation inside a drab-colored sound-treated box of a room. Decorative acoustic panels not only treat the sound but can heighten the artistic vibe and help generate and stimulate ideas. Here are ten of the best decorative panels to get you started.
1. BUBOS Art Acoustic Panels
BUBOS art acoustic panels are fire-resistant (B1) sound-controlling high-density 14.4lb/ft³ (230kg/m³) polyurethane foam panels. Available in a variety of shapes and sizes, including 12”x12”, 16”x12”, and 24”x24” panels in dozens of colors, prints, and profiles. They can be combined to form artistic patterns on walls and ceilings to control sound in any room.
The fade-resistant polyester fabric-covered bevel-edged panels can combine to form checkerboard or other patterns, while large 72”x48” pictures are available in sets of six cotton-covered 24”x24”x0.4” high-density polyurethane foam panels. The cotton of each square is printed with an image that forms the larger picture. Panels can be mounted to walls or ceilings using double-sided tape, Velcro, Command hangers, screws, or spray adhesive.
Sound penetrates the fabric and is absorbed in the air spaces of the foam providing an NRC of 0.95 in lab tests. The panels reduce reverb and echo, are odorless, and easy to install. Ideal for home theaters, studios, gaming rooms, living rooms, bedrooms, offices, classrooms, reception areas, or other rooms in need of acoustic treatment.
2. Sound Absorption-Diffuse Acoustic Panel «Wave»
Sound Absorption-Diffuse Acoustic Panels «Wave» combine sound-absorbing black foam (M1) with a slotted MDF laminate diffuser to double the sound treatment. The 19.7”x19.7” panels are 2.1” thick, weigh 2.79-pounds, and come in 10 different finishes. Four panels cover an area of 10.78sqft and can attach to walls or ceilings.
The panels can be secured to walls with Command hooks, metal clips, picture wire and hooks, and ceilings using flush mount brackets or clips. The acoustic devices absorb mid-range frequencies and diffuse frequencies between 200 Hz and 5000 Hz to treat reverb and echo. Manufactured in eastern Europe, the panels meet Euroclass E fire ratings.
Sound waves deflect off the panel face or enter into it through the engineered slots and penetrate the absorbent foam. As the waves pass through the foam, sound energy dissipates as it is converted to heat, helping to accelerate sound decay and improve the sound in the room for a 0.68 NRC. The aesthetically pleasing design and finishes make the panels ideal for recording studios, offices, living rooms, meeting rooms, music rooms, and home theaters, plus many other rooms.
3. Acoustimac Sound Absorbing ART Panel
Acoustimac ART panels are 2” thick 4’x2’ sound-absorbing devices wrapped in acoustically transparent sturdy Class A fire-rated fabric. Choose from hundreds of vividly colored prints that use four-color dye pigment for long-lasting crisp color, or have it customized with an image of your own. The panels weigh 10.5-pounds and cover 8sq ft of wall surface. They can be used as independent decorative pieces or to bring a splash of color to wall treatment.
The back of the panels is wood, making it easy to hand using Z-clips, sawtooth picture brackets, picture wire, or Command hooks. The decorative pieces function to absorb mid and high-range frequencies and can be grouped to provide larger coverage, or individually to treat reflection, reverb, and echo. The amount of wall treatment depends upon the purpose of the room, but expect to cover a minimum of 10% of each surface.
The panels are manufactured in the USA using Roxul mineral wool sound absorbent core, or you can select Owens-Corning 703 or the manufacturer’s Eco-Core insulation. The NRC is between 0.8 and 1.2 depending on the core selected. The ART panels are aesthetically pleasing and work well for residential or commercial applications.
4. Tönnen 2-pack Acoustic Panel
Tönnen acoustic panels are 13”x36” and weigh just over 5-pounds. An aluminum frame provides light-weight strength and the 2” thick core is finished with beveled edges. The panels are wrapped in your choice of four colors of course, fire-resistant acoustically transparent fabric. The two-panel pack provides 6.5sqft of coverage and can hang horizontally or vertically to create a pattern, or hang independently to spread coverage out.
The aluminum frame makes it easy to secure to walls using the included Z-brackets, or use picture wire, Command hooks, double-sided tape, or another method, or attach to ceilings. Mix and match colors in a pattern, alternate in a vertical and horizontal array, or hang in a herringbone design. The 2” core provides frequency control from 100Hz through 3000 Hz for low, medium, and high-frequency sound treatment. The number of panels, placement, spacing, and symmetry influence the incident of sound absorption.
Manufactured in America, the modern design adds elegance to home and professional settings. The 2” rigid insulation core provides professional-grade absorption with an NRC rating between 0.95 to 1.05. Dampen reverb, echo, and improve the sound in home or professional studios, music rooms, home theaters, living rooms, offices, and meeting rooms.
5. TroyStudio Acoustic Sound Diffuser Panels
TroyStudio acoustic diffusers will help tune a room, address standing waves, decrease echo and reverb, and improve clarity without wiping the life out of the sound. Each light-weight, multi-dimensional PVC panel is 19.7”x19.7” with the peaks projecting up to 1”. A 12-pack will treat 32.34sqft of wall or ceiling surface. The panels scatter frequencies and work well to reduce flutter echo and improve clarity.
The lightweight panels weigh less than a pound each and can be fastened flush to surfaces in a stacked, strip, or diamond array. Adhere the tiles to walls or ceilings using double-sided tape, a bead of construction glue around the perimeter, or a small nail in the corners. The panels do not absorb or block, they deflect sound waves to keep the sound alive, and are often used in conjunction with absorbent panels to control and improve sound production and listening.
The durable diffusers scatter mid and high-range frequencies for a clean crisp sound and also tighten up bass some. Place the panels in studios, home theaters, meeting areas, or other areas to decrease standing wave, reflection, and echo for improved sound. The diffusers complement most décor and can be painted with PVC-friendly paints too.
6. Hexagon Acoustic Wall Tiles
JARDEON hexagon acoustic tiles are 12”x14” and 2/5” thick beveled edged sound-absorbing tiles. Made of non-toxic, durable 14.4lb/ft³ rigid, felt-like, polyester fiber, the B1 fire-rated tiles align along their 7” sides to form a multitude of patterns. A 6-pack covers 5.3sqft, so multiple packs would be required for larger surfaces.
The 6.4-ounce panels are lightweight and easy to install with double-sided tape or even pins. Either face of the tile can face outward, but the logo sticks to the wall easier. Available in 18 colors, the panels can be mixed in creative designs to complement any décor.
The polyester tiles are 10-times more sound absorbent than foam, and have been SGS tested, achieving an average NRC of 0.8, but 0.9 in the 2000Hz to 5000Hz range. The tiles improve speech clarity, dampen sound, and reduce echo and reverb. Ideal for professional and home studios, theaters, schools, offices, and anywhere acoustic treatment is needed.
7. DEKIRU Acoustic Panels
DEKIRU acoustic panels are 2/5” thick 12”x12” 13.4lb/ft³ polyester fiber ‘foam’ or felt with beveled edges. The fibers absorb and slow the sound waves, reducing echo, reverb, flutter, and standing waves. Non-toxic and B1 fire rated, each tile covers one square foot, so the number of squares depends on the area to be covered.
The DEKIRU panels weigh about 5-ounces and secure to walls or ceilings with double-sided tape, spray adhesive, Command strips, or pins. With ten color choices, the panels can be mixed and arranged in a variety of patterns to artistically enhance any room. The polyester can easily be cut or trimmed with scissors or a utility knife to fit or butt to vents or outlets.
The polyester acoustic panels are more sound absorbent than polyurethane foam and have been tested to an NRC of 0.95. Use the tiles in home or professional settings to reduce reverb, echo, flutter, and standing waves to improve sound clarity. The panels fit any décor and work well in home theaters, gaming room offices, work areas, and music or podcast studios.
8. Circular Acoustic Ceiling Cloud
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No products found. are 0.95” thick densely woven, pressed rigid polyester fiberboard precision-cut in 24” or 48” diameter circles. Manufactured from 50% recycled material, the panels are light-weight and weigh 3lbs and 13.3lbs respectively. The polyester panels come in blue or white and are Class A fire rated.
No products found.Each cloud panel comes with an adjustable 3-point wire mounting kit for securing to flat or sloped ceilings. They can float at the same height, or be suspended at different heights to suit any artistic flair. The clouds absorb initial and reflected sound within their fibers and reduce noise, echo, and reverb above work areas and monitors.
The polyester board won’t sag and provides noise reduction greater than NRC 0.86. The stylish clouds improve sound quality in open areas away from walls and are commonly used above work areas and monitors. The professional-grade devices absorb disturbing noises 360° and reduce echo in most room configurations.
An alternative to circular clouds is rectangular clouds by UPLIFT. Made of the same polyester material they are available in five colors and five different sizes of 1.2” fiberboard and range from 8lbs to 26lbs. Each panel comes with a 4-cable mounting kit too.
9. 3D Acoustic Ceiling Waffle Cloud
UPLIFT 3D ceiling acoustic waffle clouds are manufactured from dense rigid durable polyester fiberboard. Cut and sculpted from blue or gray board, the pieces assemble to form a 47.5”x47.5” cloud that is 5.5” thick. Manufactured from 50% recycled material, the lightweight cloud weighs only 5lbs and comes with a wire hanging kit.
The cloud is easy to assemble and has a 4-point wire hanging kit for securing to flat or sloped ceilings. The grid design is visually attractive and absorbs direct and reflected sound waves in 360°. The waffle cloud improves sound clarity and reduces echo and flutter. It is also Class A fire rated.
The polyester fiberboard won’t sag and can be suspended near the ceiling or lower over work areas to improve sound quality. The material has a test-rated NRC of 0.86 and will treat an area of 16sqft. For optimum treatment, 30% to 60% of the surface should be treated, so more than one cloud may be required.
10. Sonex WWC-2 Whisper Wave Clouds
Sonex WWC-2 whisper wave-shaped clouds are 24”x48” and 2” or 3” thick sheets of rigid melamine-based open-cell 0.7lbs/ft³ foam. The lightweight clouds are UV resistant, Class 1 fire-resistant, and are available in 17 color options. Additionally, the foam can be dyed or painted with melamine-friendly paint.
The whisper wave panels are lightweight, around 1-pound, and the manufacturer recommends using corkscrew hangers and fishing line, which can be ordered separately. Clouds are available in 4-packs which treat a total area of 32 sq ft. The rectangular waves can be suspended to form unique patterns to improve sound control.
Sonex wave panels have an NRC rating of 0.95 and control mid to high-range frequencies. Mounted in open areas the waves absorb noise in 360° range to clean vocal and instrumental sound. The waves are ideal for open venues such as auditoriums, recreation areas and rooms, reception areas, living rooms, and other large areas.
DIY Wall Art
An inexpensive alternative to readymade acoustic panels is DIY art panels. Although unrated for noise reduction, the panels will absorb soundwaves, decrease reverb, echo, and high-frequency ringing to improve the sound. There are many build options but pretreated canvasses from a craft store or other venue can add an artistic flair and even a personal touch.
The canvases can be painted, finished in different colors, children in your life could paint them, or do family handprints in different colors randomly on the fabric. Once the canvases are dry, friction-fit egg-crate polyurethane foam or stone wool rigid panels inside the back of the frame. Arrange and hang the paintings to absorb reflected or direct soundwaves. The same can be done with any canvas painting to improve the quality of sound.
Best Uses for Art Acoustic Sound Panels
Art acoustic sound panels offer a flexible and appealing option for controlling reverberation, echo, flutter, ringing, and standing waves caused by reflected sound. The decorative panels can help improve speech and sound clarity in homes, schools, offices, businesses, and other enterprises. They make it easier to hear, comprehend, and focus for more enjoyment and productivity.
Decorative or artistic panels provide an aesthetically pleasing way to improve sound clarity by damping or deadening disruptive noise. Here are some ways to use art panels to acoustically treat sound in different rooms:
The family room is a multi-purpose room used for gatherings, watching TV, playing games, and sitting back and relaxing. Conversation and sound reverberate off the walls, ceiling, and floor distorting sound making it difficult to hear or concentrate. Sound absorbing or diffusing decorative panels on walls behind seating arrangements and at reflective points can greatly improve clarity, comprehension, enjoyment, and comfort.
Home Recording Studio
Home recording studios may be used for vocal, instrumental, or podcast generation where sound clarity is extremely important. Decorative panels can bring color, design elements, and inspiration to otherwise drab acoustic treatment while helping to deaden and damp distorting sound elements.
Home offices need to motivate and inspire to maintain concentration and productivity. Quieting noise entering from outside the office while controlling the distracting echo and reverb within is a fine balance. A dead room is as disturbing as a full stadium. Using artistic panels at strategic reflection points will improve concentration while adding color and design to the walls. The panels can even improve voice clarity for phone and dictation purposes.
Children’s Playroom / Nursery
Children’s rooms and play areas will also benefit from artistic acoustic panels. Removing the echo, reverb, flutter, and ringing will moderate the sound within and help reduce the noise seeping out into other rooms. The acoustic treatment can also help quiet the room from outside noises making it easier to relax and sleep. Primary colors can liven up a room and help with child development while protecting young ears. Placing the panels at the appropriate height is also important as children are shorter.
A games room, whether console or board, can produce a great deal of noise. The interaction of players and associated noises can make it difficult to focus or hear inside the room and elsewhere in the home. Decorative panels can improve sound clarity inside the room and prevent it from seeping out into other rooms. The panels reduce flutter, clap, echo, reverb, and ringing for a more enjoyable experience. They also add a decorative and personal touch to the room.
A home theater with a state-of-the-art sound system demands to be heard, and acoustic panels help bring the highest quality of sound forward. Panels located at reflection points improve listening by removing reverb, echo, ringing, slap, flutter, and other sound distortion for a clearer, more enjoyable listening experience.
Types of Decorative Sound Absorbing Panels
There are many types and styles of decorative sound panels. Some bring design elements through color, shape, material, texture, and purpose. Many panels offer 3D sound treatment and enhanced NRC ratings, others inspire or offer personalization or aesthetic opportunities.
Wall Panels and Tiles
Wall panels and tiles offer decorative shapes and colors that can be mixed and matched to create sound-absorbing arrays or patterns. Available in a variety of sizes, shapes, and finishes, the panels and tiles absorb sound debris while offering aesthetic design elements. Ideal for large or small rooms in residential, commercial, or industrial settings.
Wall Art Panels
Wall art panels can depict images or other design elements. They commonly include vibrant colors that pop and encourage creativity, conversation and focus while improving sound clarity. Often rectangular, they can be other shapes and in numerous sizes and colors that can be used to create sound attenuating arrays.
Ceiling Wave Clouds
Ceiling wave clouds provide a 3D 360° sound-absorbing treatment to control reverb, echo, and other sound distorting phenomena. Available in different shapes, sizes, colors, and configurations, cloud panels can be mounted at different elevations to treat open reflection spaces away from walls. They improve sound clarity and add an artistic flair to otherwise barren ceiling expanses.
Custom art panels often depict images of people or landscapes selected from one’s personal repertoire or photo collection. The images are printed on canvas or fabric and stretched over acoustic panels to personalize and blend the sound treatment with the décor. Often used in residences, they are also common in office buildings and other gathering areas to control and improve the sound quality in a less industrial-looking format.
Things to Consider Before Buying Modern Acoustic Panels
1-2 paragraphs on each There are many things to consider before buying modern acoustic panels. Although color, shape, and design are important to the visual effect of the panels, there are more important acoustical elements to look for first. What the acoustic device is made of, its NRC rating, construction, size, orientation, location, and installation are factors that determine the effectiveness of the device and should be considered along with or before the aesthetic elements. You want it to not only look good but to control disruptive noise elements.
Absorbent acoustic panels have a sound-absorbing core material, may have a frame, and often have a fabric covering. Stone wool and fiberglass cores offer greater absorption than foam cores and range from 1” to 3” or more in thickness. Frames may provide shape and support to less rigid cores but more rigid insulations and foams commonly are frameless and even bevel-edged. Acoustically transparent fabric allows soundwaves to pass through while providing a decorative element.
The NRC (noise reduction coefficient) identifies the average amount of noise a material absorbs across different frequency ranges. Density and thickness are typical factors that affect the effectiveness of a device. An NRC of 0.8 means the device will absorb 80% of the sound energy entering it and reflect 20% back. The higher the NRC rating, the better the device will be at treating and clarifying sound. It should be noted that the rating is achieved in a testing environment and only applies to the surface area affected, not the untreated surfaces.
The construction of the acoustic device can influence both its effectiveness and how it is attached to wall or ceiling surfaces. Some devices have greater exposure of absorption material than others, and some frame materials reflect or even vibrate causing additional sound distortion. The construction may also affect rigidity, alterations, installation, and safety. Absorbent panels range from 3 to 60 pounds and diffusers from 6oz to 100 pounds or more, all due to the materials used for construction and their dimensions.
The size of the acoustic panels or tiles determines the surface area they treat. Larger panels provide less flexibility than smaller devices but may be less expensive and easier to install. The size and shape of the room can influence the panel size too, as can the purpose. Treating 10% to 30% of the surface area may be easier with smaller panels while treating 60% or more may be easier with larger sizes. Smaller tiles are also easier to mix and match for artistic arrays than larger ones.
Vertical or Horizontal
Vertical or horizontal orientation is often determined by the wall and device size, and purpose. Taller walls may be easier to treat with vertical panels, while horizontal placement may cover more wall surface at the desired height. Furniture, doors, windows, and other obstructions can affect the orientation of acoustic devices, as can pattern choices.
Wall / Ceiling
Selecting acoustic panels or tiles for use on walls or ceilings also needs to be considered. Some devices work well on both walls and ceilings, while others are meant for walls or ceilings, not both. Cloud panels usually work best on ceilings, but wall devices may work on either. Size and weight can also influence ceiling vs wall usage, as can finishes.
Ease of installation and the method can affect acoustic panel selection. The material, size, and construction can affect the installation too. Some panels require heavier support and others almost none. Permanent or temporary installation may influence selection too. Self-adhering, gluing, taping, or sticking devices to walls or ceilings may damage surfaces, while screws, nails, clips, and other hanging arrangements may prove less damaging. Consider installation methods when selecting wall and ceiling acoustic devices.
Where to Place Sound Absorbing Panels
The purpose of the room often determines the location of sound-absorbing panels. In my post Where to Place Acoustic Panels I explain that the best location depends on the reflection points and the height of the listener’s ear. Sound that travels directly from the sound source to the listener or monitor arrives first, but it is followed within nanoseconds by reflected sound waves that deflect off the floor, ceiling, and walls.
The first reflections arrive so quickly that they muddy or compromise the initial sound wave, making it difficult to hear clearly. To locate the primary reflection points, sit or stand where you normally would and have a helper move a mirror along the four walls and ceiling. Place a mark on the surface where you begin to see the sound source reflection from your listening post, and then where the reflection disappears. The area between the marks is the first reflection point and should be acoustically treated.
For larger gathering areas like living, meeting, and party rooms, place the panels along the walls in a symmetrical pattern at the height of the listener. Center panels between 3’ and 4’ off the floor for those seated, 5’ t0 6’ if using bar stools, and 6’ to 7’ for standing. Alternate the pattern on opposing walls to catch more reflected waves to further dampen and deaden reverberation and echo. Acoustic ceiling tiles or clouds in the reflection point will further improve the sound clarity.
How to Install Decorative Soundproof Panels
There are numerous ways to install decorative soundproof or absorbing panels, but much depends on the size, weight, and location. Lightweight panels can be stuck to surfaces using glue, spray adhesive, double-sided tape, Command strips, and even pins or tacks. Heavier panels may require picture wire and hooks, sawtooth brackets, flush-mount clips, or ‘Z’ or French cleats to secure them to walls. Some may even need stands to support them due to their weight.
Fastening or suspending acoustic devices to ceilings again depends on the size, weight, and location. Lightweight panels are easier to install than heavier ones which should be secured through the drywall and into the ceiling joists. Flush mount panels can slide onto receiving clips and those suspended may need hooks and chains, wire, or fishing line depending on their weight. For more information, check out my article about how to hang acoustic panels on walls and ceiling.
The best decorative acoustic panels reduce reverb, echo, ringing, and flutter to improve sound and speech clarity while adding design, color, and an artistic pop to the aesthetics of a room. They compliment the décor and enhance the sound quality and strength by diffusing or absorbing disruptive sound elements. Select panels that are made of materials with high NRC ratings, are easy to install, and enhance the look and feel of the room. Hopefully, you have a better understanding of what a decorative acoustic panel is, and what will work best for your requirements.