Acoustical ceiling tiles or panels lay in a suspended ceiling grid and are used to improve or control the acoustics. These drop ceilings are designed to absorb, block and diffuse sound. They are also used for these purposes: Keep outside noise out of the room, keep the noise created in the room from being heard outside of the room, or simply to improve the quality of sound in the room. The last purpose is deemed the most important when the tiles are used in recording/sound studios and home theaters.
The Best Acoustic Tile Brands
24 x 24
24 x 28
12 x 12
12 x 24
24 x 24
24 x 48
24 x 24
3 faux wood
24 x 24
24 x 28
24 x 24
24 x 48
*Available with the Clean profile.
These brands are reviewed below.
Installation and Benefits
Many acoustic or acoustical ceiling tiles can be installed in drop/suspended ceiling grids. Suspended ceilings were originally developed as an inexpensive way to hide the wiring, plumbing, or ductwork, or to allow those features to be easily maintained. But it quickly became clear that acoustic ceiling tiles can be used to add acoustic control to the room.
Additional benefits: An acoustically controlled room is more pleasant and comfortable for the occupants, making it easier to hear conversations, music, the television, or to keep occupants of the household from hearing the sounds being made within or outside the room.
Options overview: Acoustic ceiling tiles are available in a variety of materials including fiberglass, foam, wood, polyester, and fabric wrapped. They are available in various sizes ranging from 12” by 12” to 60” x 60”, thickness, finishes, and colors. These options are discussed in this acoustic ceiling tiles review and cost guide.
Types of Acoustic Ceiling Tiles
These sound control ceiling tiles are available in a range of materials and tiles. Here are material options for acoustic ceiling materials.
Mineral Fiber Tiles
High density mineral fiber is formed into tiles using a high-pressure binder. The tiles are porous and have small holes, called fissures, to enhance their acoustical and sound-absorbing abilities. These tiles are available in smooth finishes or in a range of textures and surface treatments. They are often made using recycled materials, so it’s a green drop ceiling/acoustic ceiling option.
Glass strands are pressed into a tile using a binder. These tiles are most commonly used in commercial interiors but are also a good choice in high humidity installations. That’s because fiberglass won’t absorb moisture, and it isn’t subject to mold. It is a great choice for damp basements!
A wood veneer is applied to a hard backing panel with an acoustical pad adhered to the back of the panel. To increase acoustical effectiveness, the tiles may be perforated, with the perforations absorbing and dampening any potential echo.
Fiberboard is a cellulose product, made of wood pulp, with the addition of glue. Then the mixture is heated and formed into tiles. This is a good choice in dry locations, but consider using something else in a damp location. Why? Cellulose (wood fibers) readily absorb moisture, and mold is a potential threat.
Foam tiles are generally made from melamine foam and are applied to a rigid backer board. These tiles are available in a variety of patterns and textures. They are another good choice for damp rooms and climates.
Measuring Noise Reduction and Control – Acoustic Ceiling Tile Ratings
Acoustic ceiling tiles are rated using a NRC rating. NRC stands for Noise Reduction Coefficient and is a standard rating for how well a material absorbs sound. The NRC rating can be used as a percentage. For example, an NRC rating of .75 means that 75% of the sound energy is absorbed and not reflected back into the room to reduce or eliminate echo. If you’re looking to improve the general acoustics of the room, tiles rated at 0.50 or above will do the job, but if you’re looking to greatly increase sound absorption, use a product with a NCR rating of 0.70 or greater.
Top Manufacturers of Acoustic Ceiling Tiles
What are the best acoustic tiles? Here are the best acoustic tile brands.
Top Acoustic Tile Brands, Options and Costs
Here are the best acoustic ceiling tiles with detailed information.
Armstrong is one of the largest manufacturers of residential acoustic ceiling tiles and offers a wide range of profiles, all made from mineral fiber, with NRC ratings of 0.50 to 0.75 and sizes of 24” x 24” and 24”x 48”. The primary difference in the profiles is the surface texture and the edge treatments. The surface textures range from fissured (small holes) to smooth and the edge treatments include a square lay-in edge and a tegular (beveled) edge. These tiles are only available in white, but can be painted with latex paint.
The Ultima line, features a 0.75 NRC, comes with HumiGuard, moisture protection, and, a 30 year warranty against sag, mold, and mildew. The Cortega line features large fissures, a 0.55 NRC, and a square lay-in edge.
The prices range between $1.00 to $3.75 per sq. ft. Tiles are either 5/8” or ¾” thick and are Class A fire rated.
Armstrong receives excellent customer reviews for ease of use, fitting well into standard drop ceiling grids, an attractive appearance, and being well packaged. You can find Armstrong tiles at most big box home improvement stores and at Amazon.
Sonex offers 5 profiles of melamine foam tiles sized at 12” x 12”, 12” x 24”, 24” x 24”, and 24” x 48” which will easily drop into a standard ceiling grid system. Tile thickness ranges from 1.25” to 2.25” with NRC ratings from .75 to 1.2. Most of the profiles come in white and can be painted.
The Contour line features beveled edges and is available in either 1 3/8” thick with a 0.95 NRC or 2 ¼” thick with a 1.20 NRC. The Clean profile features foam tiles wrapped in vinyl taffeta and available in a wide range of colors.
All of the profiles are easy to clean, Class A fire rated, and mold resistant. Prices range from $6.00 to $11.00 per sq. ft. Sonex received very good customer reviews for being sturdy, effective, and well fitting. Sonex tiles are available on-line at Acousticalsolutions.com and Sonex-online.com.
Ceilume offers two choices in acoustical tiles, Stratford .05 and Stratford .85. Both profiles are made of stain, mold, and moisture resistant, thin rigid polyester with a thermally bonded polyester fiber backing. These tiles feature a beveled pattern that creates the effect of a coffered ceiling. Both lines are available in 24” x 24” tiles with 5 color choices, 3 faux wood choices, a bronze, a copper, and a tin look. Stratford .50 features a 0.50 NRC and costs about $3.25 per sq. ft. Stratford .85 features a 0.85 NRC and costs about $6.95 per sq. ft.
Ceilume receives exceptional customer reviews for their attractive appearance, ease of use, and perfect fit into a standard drop ceiling grid. Customers stated that the faux wood tiles are very realistic looking. Ceilume tiles are available online at Amazon, Ceilume.com, and big box home improvement stores.
USG offers acoustic fiberboard tiles in a variety of profiles. These profiles only differ in that they feature different perforated surface textures. The tiles are all available in 24” x 24” and 24” x 48” sizes, they all deliver a .55 NRC rating, a Class A fire rating, and they are all white but can be painted.
The Luna profile offers humidity and mold protection, the others do not. The costs range from about $.60 to $2.0 per sq. ft. and are readily available at big box stores. These tiles are on the low end for price, but do receive fairly positive customer reviews. It would be a good idea to look at these tiles in person before making a purchase. USG tiles are available on-line at Amazon and at big box home improvement stores.
Soundsulate offers one line of fiberglass acoustic ceiling tiles in 24” x 24” and 24” x 48” sizes and 1” or 2” thicknesses. The 1'' thick tiles provide a 0.7 NRC rating and cost about $2.00 per sq. ft. The 2'' thick tiles provide a 1.0 NRC rating and cost about $4.00 per sq. ft. They are available in black or white and are Class A fire rated.
Customer reviews are very positive for effectiveness and ease of installation. Soundsulate acoustic ceiling tiles are available at Amazon.
Pros of Acoustic Ceiling Tiles
- Improve overall acoustic characteristics of the room
- Block noise from entering or exiting the room
- Provide additional insulation to the room
- Cover an unsightly or exposed under floor
- Easy to replace
Cons of Acoustic Ceiling Tiles
- If you don’t have an existing drop ceiling grid, you will need to install one
- More difficult to paint than a traditional ceiling as tiles need to be removed from the grid for painting
- If not treated with moisture and mold protection, tiles may become moldy or sag
- A drop ceiling will reduce the height of the room
If you have an existing standard drop ceiling grid, installing the acoustic tiles will be a fairly easy DIY project. You will simply remove the old tiles, clean and paint the frame, if desired, trim the new tiles, if necessary, and place them into the grid.
If you do not already have the grid, you will need to install one. This can be done as an experienced DIY project or you may prefer to hire a professional. If you do decide to go with a professional, we recommend you get 3 quotes before hiring someone.
How do I maintain and clean my acoustic ceiling tiles?
Regularly dust the ceiling with a soft brush or vacuum using a brush attachment. You may also wipe the tiles with a slightly damp cloth or sponge.
Will the tiles sag or mildew over time?
If the tiles are to be installed in a room or climate with high humidity, you should purchase tiles that are treated with a humidity, mold, and mildew protection product. Some of the manufacturers that offer moisture protection, provide warranties against mold, mildew, and sagging. You can also purchase non-porous or inorganic tiles such as fiberglass which are moisture resistant.
Can I paint acoustic ceiling tiles?
Absolutely. In most cases, it won’t dramatically affect performance. It is best to remove the tiles from the grid prior to painting, then paint the tiles and the ceiling grid separately. Different tile materials may require different types of paint, so check with the manufacturer.
Will painting the tiles reduce their acoustic qualities?
Yes, painting the tiles will reduce their effectiveness, but only very slightly. Painting isn’t recommended when the tiles are used in a professional sound studio.
Can I replace a stained or damaged tile?
Yes, it’s very easy to replace damaged tiles. Remove the old tile by lifting it up, turning it and dropping it down through the grid. If the tile is fastened or glued, replacement will be more difficult but still possible. We recommend buying a few packs of extra tiles prior to original installation, so you’ll have a supply of replacement tiles on hand.