In office spaces, restaurants, or venues, sound proofing and sound absorption is a must to keep customers and clients comfortable. Sound proofing and sound absorption are not the same thing and shouldn’t be confused. Sound proofing prevents sound from traveling in or out of a space. Sound absorption improves the acoustics in a space and is an element of sound proofing. Sound absorption requires materials that reduce reverberations and echoing such as acoustic ceilings, acoustic foam, noise reducing flooring such as carpet, and more. It is one of four principles of sound proofing. The other three are mass, damping, and decoupling.
Mass means that solid materials that are heavy and thick will reduce noise and block sound. A mass-loaded vinyl is typically installed under or over the drywall to prevent sound traveling in and out of the space. Damping is the method used to deal with low-frequency sounds. Common damping materials are green glue and silicone caulk, applied between two solid panels such as drywall or plywood. This allows sound-waves to be converted into heat, which makes the sound stop all of a sudden. Decoupling is the third principle, and is one of the most effective methods of soundproofing. Decoupling uses a method of separating two sides of a structure so that sound does not travel through a wall. When all four principles are used together, sound proofing is at its strongest.
If sound proofing is not your goal but improving acoustics is, simply using sound absorbing materials can help. Furniture, walls, carpeting, and acoustic panel ceilings all help with sound absorption. An empty room echoes because it has nothing to absorb the sound.