RealTraps panels can reducestanding-wave problems in any studio and are much more efficient forlow-frequency absorption than foam or tubularsolutions.
Many musicians misguidedly spend thousands of dollars on esotericelectronic equipment to make up for the sonic deficiencies of theirstudio, when the problems may in fact lie in the acoustical propertiesof the room. For the musician or recordist looking to tackle soundproblems at the source, RealTraps manufactures a line of acousticallyengineered bass-trap panels ($479 to $599 each) that provide efficientbass-frequency absorption and tame the most common problem-frequenciesplaguing personal studios.
Setting the Trap
RealTraps are flat panels that have an exposed wooden surface. Theattractive birch veneer on the front of each has a thin coating ofpolyurethane that protects it from dings but preserves the natural,unfinished look. The panels' sides are white pine, and the backs, whichface the wall, are made of compressed fiberboard. The front surface isdesigned to vibrate sympathetically at low frequencies, and rigidfiberglass sealed within the frame dampens the panel's vibrations. Thefront panel reflects midrange frequencies from about 500 Hz upward.
The panels come in a variety of sizes; my review units were 7.5 feettall and 2 feet wide and ranged from 2.5 to 5.5 inches thick. RealTrapsclassifies the panels as Sub-Bass, Low-Bass, and High-Bass. Each sizefeatures a different center frequency — 60 Hz, 90 Hz, or 180 Hz— with a gradual rolloff slope that makes the panels effectiveover a range of frequencies.
The panels have angled fronts, which helps reflect mid- andhigh-frequency waves away from the original sound source (such as yourmonitor speakers). Experimenting with the different panel sizes andadjusting their angles allowed me to change the acoustic properties ofthe room to fit my needs.
Despite their solid construction, I could move and mount the panelseasily by myself. Each panel has beveled mounting bars attached to itsback that allow you to quickly install it on any wall. Simply mount thecorresponding bar on the wall using drywall anchors or woodscrews setinto the wall studs, then slide the panel into place. (RealTraps alsomakes MiniTraps, a smaller and less expensive set of panels that hangon the wall like pictures and provide midrange as well as bassabsorption.)
Riding Herd on the Low End
I have a typical home studio — a 10-by-12-foot room with hardparallel walls that is a veritable breeding ground for standing waves.Before I installed RealTraps, I noticed drastic differences in theloudness of bass frequencies depending on where I was in the room. Forexample, a 100 Hz sine wave could be twice as loud in one spot andseveral times softer in another.
When I installed the RealTraps on the walls in front of and to theside of my Mackie HR824 close-field monitors, I immediately noticed adifference in how bass frequencies behaved in the room. The panelsimproved the room's frequency response by reducing the standing-waveartifacts, and they took up a mere five inches of floor space from theback and side walls. Although the panels work by absorbing bass andreducing direct reflections, the net effect is a truer picture of thebass throughout the room, which has helped me for mixing andtracking.
The Trap Family
Although I've attempted several DIY solutions for bass management,such as 2-by-4-foot framing with foam or fiberglass fill, the resultswere always less than satisfactory. Similarly, store-bought foam panelsand tubes have been only marginally successful in my room.
However, the RealTraps panels were very effective, making my room'slow-end response more consistent and predictable. Thanks to theirefficiency, RealTraps panels require less wall space than foamsolutions. And they looked a whole lot better, too.