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Sound Damping vs Dampening vs Deadening: What's the Difference?

If you like to drive around with the volume turned up but enjoy hearing the music and not the sound of your car, or are in the process of restoring an old vehicle but concern about driving fast in a metal box, then you might want to consider soundproofing your car.

When you start doing research, you find out that there are many options/strategies available. The first crucial step is to stop metal panels from rattling, but as you are doing research you start coming across certain terms that seem to be referring to different things. Some people talk about sound deadening while others talk about sound damping or dampening. What is the difference?

What is Damping? Understanding the Science

While most people just want a general understanding of how products work, in this section we will talk some science for those of you that want a more intricate explanation.

How Sound Damping Works

These two springs were dislodged by a similar measure of power. The undamped, dark spring moves pleasingly. The damped, blue spring's motions stop after some time.

Sound passing through metal starts off as air vibrations and then turn into the vibrations in the metal, then the metal reradiates this back into the air to the other side. When the metal vibrates, it returns to its neutral state very fast. To better picture this, just imagine a metal ruler you hold one side at the edge of a table with one hand and then bend the side with the other hand, it will vibrate and then come back to its natural state fast.

Sound damping material acts as a shock absorber and damp these vibrations. As the metal bends, the sound deadener resists and takes out energy from the vibrations. The less the metal vibrates, the less the metal reradiates sounds back in the air and to the other side.

Damping vs Dampening vs Deadening

The car industry utilizes the terms deadening, damping, and dampening interchangeably. Sometimes we'll use "damping" to attempt to make it extra confounding. You'll frequently see these terms joined with a word like sound, noise, vibration, or constrained-layer. Sound Dampening. Sound Deadening. Sound Damping. These are all referring to reducing the amplitude of vibration energy and reduce unwanted noise.

However, while the same process is being described, there is a small nuance between each term. At SoundSkin we like to explain as much as possible so below are the three main terms used, the differences and similarities.


Sound "Deadening' is one aspect of soundproofing. To "deaden" unwanted noise, you place material over metal to reduce vibrations which in turn reduce unwanted car noise. Any time you read the term "deadening", it's referring to the process of stoping metal from rattling and it's usually when someone is explaining how to soundproof a car.


This one seem pretty obvious, but let's look at what damping means. Here is the textbook definition of "damping":

  • a decrease in the amplitude of an oscillation as a result of energy being drained from the system to overcome frictional or other resistive forces.

Oscillation is referring to something that is moving back and forth in a consistent pattern: a pendulum is an example of an oscillation system. Oscillation systems all slow down over time without needing additional energy. We want to make this process faster by adding material to the metal. Sound "damping" works by reducing the size and duration of the oscillation system in your car, vibrations. The reason sound "deadening" and sound "damping" sound very similar is because, when referring to car sound proofing, they are referring to the same thing.


Which brings us to the last one, sound "dampening". Dampening is term that is used to describe the car soundproof process. Some people will get upset when hearing this term being used to describe soundproofing because one of the meanings of "dampening" is to get a material wet or moist, and they believe that it's incorrect to use the word "dampening", but they are only considering one of the meanings, the other meaning is to decrease or to lessen. In soundproofing, this means to reduce or lessen the sound wave's amplitude. This sounds very familiar to sound damping, and that's why the car industry uses them interchangeably.

Best Sound Damping/Dampening/Deadening Material

Classic Black

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Classic Silver

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Sound Rings

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Last Words

If you are barely getting started with soundproofing, it can be hard to decipher what people are talking about when using these terms like sound damping vs dampening. Hopefully now you have a better understanding of the nuances between these terms. If there is something we know for sure is that a more informed buyer makes smarter purchasing decisions. We are here to help, if you have any questions. Reach out via Instagram or Facebook.