Sound Diffusers vs. Acoustic Panels - What's the Difference?

Sound Diffusers vs. Acoustic Panels - What's the Difference?

Acoustics panels vs. sound diffusers, what’s the difference? Mainly their function. The former are used to absorb sound and decrease the noise in a room while improving the overall sound quality; the latter are made to reflect soundwaves evenly in all directions, so it’s used to distribute sound through larger spaces and again to improve its quality. In this article, we explore both the world of sound diffusers and of acoustic panels and underline the key differences between them. Are you interested? Then continue reading!

Sound Diffusers vs. Acoustic Panels Defined

We will begin by defining acoustic panels vs. sound diffusers. This will already point out some differences between them and lay the cornerstones for the rest of this discussion.

Sound Diffusers

Sound diffusers are panels made from material that reflects the sound equally in all directions. Their purpose is to spread the sound widely across a room and improve its clarity.

Acoustic panels

Acoustic panels are sound-absorbing panels designed to prevent sound waves from reflecting on the surface. They are mainly used to reduce background noise, reverb, and echoes.

Sound Diffusers vs. Acoustic Panels: How They Work

When it comes to the physics behind acoustic panels vs. sound diffusers, the difference is quite paramount.

Acoustic panels absorb the sound waves and use them to fuel vibration, as a result of which they generate heat instead of sound. On the other hand, sound diffusers reflect sounds evenly; therefore, their shape matters.

This leads to one more major difference – the materials used for both acoustic solutions. In the case of sound diffusers, it is most likely wood or polyurethane covered in hard coating. For acoustic panels, a wide range of materials may be used, including wool, numerous fabrics, foams, or rubber.

Sound Diffusers vs. Acoustic Panels: Use Cases

Where to install acoustic panels? And where to install sound diffusers? This is one of the main differences between these two, so let’s look at it now.

Acoustic Panels

  • home office
  • home studio
  • home theater
  • office
  • conference rooms
  • gyms
  • classrooms
  • libraries

Sound Diffusers

  • home studio
  • home theater
  • conference rooms
  • auditoriums
  • professional recording studios

As you can see, despite many of the rooms being different, there are numerous cases in which acoustic panels and sound diffusers may be placed in the same type of rooms. It is so because both improve sound clarity and quality.

You may often find yourself in situations where you actually want to combine sound diffusers and acoustic panels. Take, for instance, home studio acoustics. In such a setting, you want to place diffusion panels on the first reflection points and parallel walls while covering the rest of the space with absorption panels (and bass traps in the corners). The same goes for conference rooms and many other locations – neither sound diffusers vs. acoustic panels are better or worse, they are simply different.

Choosing Acoustic Panels vs. Sound Diffusers

If you’re faced with the choice between either of these options, you need to consider your goals: do you want to make the room less noisy, or perhaps improve sound clarity and make sounds travel further? Yet, this is but the first step on your buyer’s journey.

If you decide that you want a better sound quality, you now have to consider the source of the sound in the room you wish to modify. Is it a stable source, for instance, speakers in a home studio, or is the noise created by people talking? If it’s the latter, can you predict where the people usually stand and what direction they face while talking? If you can determine that, then it means that you’re able to localize the first reflection points or the places where you want to install your sound diffusers. If you cannot, it might be better to choose acoustic panels, as placing a diffuser in the wrong section of the wall might actually make the noise even worse.

Remember that getting too many diffusers or acoustic panels will actually create the opposite effect and might cause reverb or decrease the sound clarity (for example, reducing speech comprehensibility). Therefore, you should check your acoustics after installing every few panels to make sure that the sound quality is fine.

The Takeaway

Let’s sum up our discussion on acoustic panels vs. sound diffusers. The former are used to absorb soundwaves and thus to prevent sounds from spreading; the latter are used to reflect soundwaves, improving the overall sound quality and distributing the sounds evenly across the room. Neither of them is better – they simply serve different purposes and might be used together to create perfect acoustics in places like home studios or conference rooms.

Was this article helpful to you? If yes, we would like to recommend you one more post on our blog: Acoustic Panels vs. Bass Traps: Which Is Right for Your Studio?

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