The most crucial audio equipment in the studio is not necessarily electronic. Acoustic treatment can be every bit as important as the recording or mixing equipment in a production environment, and — as demonstrated by RealTraps’ modular products — it can be just as transportable.
Brian Lucey of Magic Garden Mastering appears to work fast. Brian Lucey, owner of Magic Garden Mastering in Delaware, Ohio, recently added to his complement of RealTraps bass traps when he upgraded from a previous studio space. “Brian has two stacks of MegaTraps in the front corners for a total of eight,” details Ethan Winer, co-owner of RealTraps (along with Doug Ferrara). “He has nine diffusors; he has a door, so he couldn’t put one there. He has 12 2 x 2-foot bass traps; six 2 x 4-foot; and six of what we call the HF style. Those are all 6-inch-thick MondoTraps, part of our modular system.”
Although the acoustic treatment can typically be a part of the fabric of the building and must be left behind if a studio business relocates, the majority of RealTraps products require no screws or glue. In Lucey’s case, the modules are mostly square or rectangular modules with a uniform thickness that allows the panels to be stacked from floor to ceiling.
The optimum acoustic treatment solution is really dependent on the available budget. For those working on a smaller budget, what is a minimal beneficial option?
“Let’s say for a bedroom-sized space, or similar, the bare minimum would be four bass traps, one in each corner, straddling the corner, and two reflection panels, one on each side wall, at the first reflection points,” says Winer. “Sometimes, when people can’t even afford that, we’ll say, ‘Put two bass traps in the front corners and two panels at the side reflection points.’ Bass traps always help, no matter where you put them.”
Planning the treatment requires some consultation time, says Winer. “In having dealt with us before, Brian knew quite a bit about what he wanted. But I personally spent about two hours over the course of about a month figuring out exactly what he was going to get.”
Typically, he continues, “We have people e-mail pictures or a drawing, or they can describe it. Everybody has questions, even when they think they know what they want. So we always prefer to talk to people.”
Winer explains, “Bass traps work best in the corner.” He points out, “There are 12 corners in a rectangular room: not just where two walls meet, but also where a wall meets the floor and the ceiling.”
RealTraps bass traps include a thin membrane behind the front fabric that does two things, Winer offers. “It increases the bass absorption quite a bit compared to plain rigid fiberglass or foam. It also is semireflective at mid and high frequencies. You can put a whole pile of them in the room to really improve the low-frequency response without making the room totally dead, as happens with a whole room of foam or fiberglass.”
RealTraps Diffusor panels also act as bass traps but additionally scatter mid and high frequencies. When positioned on the rear wall (both Near and Far versions are available) they reduce comb filtering for a more focused image. “That solves the longstanding dilemma, ‘Should I do bass traps on my back wall or diffusors?’ Well, you can have both,” says Winer.
As Winer observes, “People say, ‘My room sounds terrible, but I don’t want to treat it because I’m going to move in a year.’ These are great because you can take them with you, just like you would your speakers or any outboard gear.”
Steve Harvey is the West Coast editor for PAR’s sister publicaiton, Pro Sound News.