Choosing building materials for better acoustics

Oct 13, 2022

Explore the PURPLE SoundBreak XP family of products to reduce noise


Nothing is more irritating than incessant noise, whether it’s a machine beeping down the hallway in a hospital, the neighbor’s screaming baby in the condo next door or an overheard conversation in the next-door hotel room. After air pollution, noise pollution is the second largest environmental contributor to health problems ranging from high blood pressure and other cardiovascular disorders to sleep disruptions, increased stress and even depression, according to the World Health Organization.

Gold Bond® SoundBreak® XP® gypsum board products, provided by National Gypsum Company, significantly reduce sound transmission between rooms or dwelling units.


Why is sound control important in buildings?

Acoustics are essential to creating livable spaces that are comfortable and provide privacy. To prevent sound from traveling through walls, floors and ceilings, architects specify materials and systems to reduce unwanted sound. Products such as SoundBreak® XP® Gypsum Board, SoundBreak® XP® Fire-Shield® Gypsum Board, SoundBreak® XP® Fire-Shield C™ Gypsum Board, and SoundBreak XP Retrofit® Gypsum Board are used to reduce noise effectively.

Examples of buildings where acoustical designs are imperative:

  • Hotels
  • Townhouses
  • Multifamily buildings
  • Office buildings
  • Hospitals

Medical offices are a prime example of why good acoustics are important. A quiet, private exam room is essential to helping patients feel comfortable and calm, while protecting doctor-patient confidentiality and complying with HIPAA requirements. Healthcare systems retrofitting existing buildings into medical offices can use SoundBreak XP Retrofit to improve the acoustical performance of an existing wall assembly. At just 5/16” thickness, it’s thin enough to be installed over existing drywall without affecting switches and outlets, while preventing invasive demolition and conserving valuable square footage.

What acoustical products does Gold Bond Building Products manufacture?

Gold Bond Building Products, an affiliate company of National Gypsum Company, created the family of PURPLE® SoundBreak XP drywall products to provide acoustical solutions for new and existing construction. The product family includes:

  • 1/2" SoundBreak XP Gypsum Board – For interior, non-fire rated wall and ceiling assemblies, where sound transmission between rooms or dwelling units is a concern.
  • 5/8" SoundBreak XP Fire-Shield Gypsum Board – Consists of two layers of high-density gypsum board laminated together with a sound-damping viscoelastic polymer to effectively reduce sound transmission between rooms, corridors or units within a building.
  • 5/16" SoundBreak XP Retrofit Gypsum Board – Made of 5/16”, high-density gypsum board with a sound-damping, viscoelastic polymer adhered to the back paper to improve the acoustical performance of an existing wall.
  • 3/4" SoundBreak XP Fire-Shield C Gypsum Board – Consists of two layers of high-density gypsum board laminated together with a sound-damping viscoelastic polymer to effectively reduce sound transmission in both fire-rated and un-rated, wood-frame floor-ceiling assemblies.

SoundBreak products have been tested as a component of a wall and ceiling assemblies by an independent, third-party acoustical laboratory using ASTM E90 test procedures to verify the assemblies achieve high-rated Sound Transmission Class (STC) values.

In addition to their acoustical performance, SoundBreak XP products provide resistance to mold, mildew and moisture, and include GridMarX® installation guide marks for quicker installation.

How do SoundBreak XP products reduce sound transmission?

Three concepts govern sound mitigation in acoustical assemblies:

  • Mass: Inhibits soundwaves moving through the assembly to the adjacent space.
  • Damping: Reduces the amount of sound energy to pass through wall, ceiling and floor assemblies.
  • Decoupling: Wall assemblies built with staggered studs, two rows of studs or resilient channels to prevent the direct path of sound energy from traveling through the framing member.

While SoundBreak XP products can be used in decoupled assemblies, in typical wall, ceiling and floor assemblies it provides increased mass and damps sound. Here’s how it works:

  • Viscoelastic layer damps sound energy – SoundBreak XP, SoundBreak XP Fire-Shield and SoundBreak XP Fire-Shield C gypsum boards consist of two layers of drywall held together by a viscoelastic polymer that never hardens. SoundBreak XP Retrofit Gypsum Board has the viscoelastic polymer adhered to the back, so it’s sandwiched between the existing gypsum board when it’s installed. The layer of viscoelastic polymer absorbs and dissipates noise-producing vibrational energy by converting it into negligible heat.
  • Greater mass depletes sound energy – SoundBreak XP boards have greater mass than standard gypsum boards to impede sound energy, thus preventing the transmission of noise to adjacent spaces.

Acoustical retrofit projects save time and money.

If acoustics weren’t considered in the initial design, it is possible to retrofit a building to achieve increased Sound Transmission Class values. For example, hotels or medical facilities with poor sound management can use 5/16” thick SoundBreak XP Retrofit Gypsum Board, which is installed over existing walls, to avoid a time-consuming and costly demolition.

National Gypsum Company developed The SoundBook® to take the guesswork out of designing acoustical assemblies. Download a copy of The SoundBook today.


The color Purple is a registered trademark of Gold Bond Building Products, LLC.

Editor’s Note: We’ve recently updated this post to reflect changes in product names. For clarity, the revised names are as follows:

  • Gold Bond® SoundBreak® XP® Gypsum Board
  • Gold Bond® SoundBreak® XP® Fire-Shield® Gypsum Board
  • Gold Bond® SoundBreak® XP® Fire-Shield C™ Gypsum Board
  • Gold Bond® SoundBreak XP Retrofit® Gypsum Board

Contact 1-800-NATIONAL if you have additional questions.