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DIY Acoustics

Using Modern Absorption and Diffusion Tools

When it comes to needs, we have a lot to be thankful for: the affordable technology available to us is one. Yet technology has yet to solve most of life and work’s acoustics problems, from the quality of the sound in which we listen, mix and record to what others may hear of our music, including right next door to your home.

For commercial facilities, there’s a minimum amount of build-level acoustics investment that must be made to both abate sound sources from each other and the outside, and to create acoustically complimentary tracking spaces. This includes investments ranging from room-within-room installations to acoustician-consulted and/or built solutions.

In many residential audio production spaces, acoustics have been successfully balanced and aesthetically enhanced with absorptive and diffusive products, which are increasingly popular problem solvers, more readily available in a variety of forms and fashions, often with close guidance and even design consultancy from the manufacturer.  

The goal in employing three treatment tools—isolation, diffusion and absorption—is, of course, to create an acoustically pleasing environment in which to work, one that should provide a relatively flat frequency response with little room-influenced coloration.   

Products often used for isolation include pads, baffles, wedges, and various insulations made of a wide variety of materials. Other isolation products—used to isolate components from each other within the studio—include monitor isolation wedges, instrument/amplifier pads, and many types of “go-betweens,” otherwise known as gobos.

 Diffusion products reflect sound at various angles, which help to break up both standing waves and flutter echo without removing acoustic energy from a given space. Absorption products also combat these negative acoustic problems via reflecting only a portion of the acoustic energy striking it (a value expressed by an absorption coefficient ratio). Both high- and low-frequency absorption products—consisting of many types of wall-mounted foams and a seemingly endless variety of bass traps—e.g., Helmholtz resonators—can offer the right balance. Together, effective diffusion and absorption can make even the most acoustically offensive room usable, but this often involves experimentation and a detailed analysis of a room’s frequency response. 

In my experience, the customer support at an acoustic treatment products manufacturer is markedly different from, say, a microphone, speaker or even a DAW firm. Done correctly, acoustic materials manufacturers sell solutions comprised of a variety of physical products that must be arranged, positioned and applied correctly to work correctly.   

Below is a comprehensive collection of acoustic materials companies, their areas of product expertise, and explanations of their most notable creations.

Established by acoustic engineer/physicist Arthur Noxon in 1984, Acoustic Sciences Corporation is an acoustic research, design, and product development company. Obviously all of ASC’s research has paid off; they are very well known for their patented TubeTrap, a pressure-zone, corner-loaded bass trap voiced with a treble range diffuser panel.

Acoustics First offers a large array of acoustic materials including sound absorbers, barriers, diffusers, and bass traps made of materials including polyurethane and Class 1 Melamine foams, fiberglass, wood, plastic, and metal. Of particular interest is Acoustic First’s Transfusor, a transparent diffuser panel created to fit standard 2×2-foot fluorescent light fixtures.

Along with providing a wealth of acoustic treatment knowledge on its Website, Auralex Acoustics offers a comprehensive collection of acoustical product solutions, including acoustical foam, diffusers, bass traps, construction components, and various other notable products. The company’s Website offers information about its remote consultancy services that are actually quite simple to employ.

ClearSonic offers the SORBER panels such as the S2 baffle, a 1.6-inch thick fabric covered fiberglass wall treatment device. Built for easy portability, SORBER panels are light and easily mountable on a variety of surfaces. When custom configured with ClearSonic panels, SORBERS can be used to create better-balanced isolation spaces, booths, and even rooms.

Self-touted as the maker of “the world’s most efficient acoustical diffuser,” ESR offers the Roundffusor1, is a combination diffuser/low-frequency absorber made of hard polystyrene. According to ESR, using the Roundfussor1 in a standard 9-15 piece group drastically reduces a room’s overall reverberation time, as much as a much larger and more expensive absorptive surface would do.

Golden Acoustics’ Golden Section Broadband diffusers are visually intriguing acoustic panels available in a variety of dimensions for both wall and ceiling applications. Golden Acoustics even make a full Golden Section tuning column in custom lengths up to 24 feet. Flat-mount Golden Section options include the full broadband ceiling panel, center ceiling/triple corner panel, end ceiling/double corner panel, full wall broadband panel, and a wall panel quarter section inlay.

Markertek may be best known as one of America’s largest pro audio retailers, but they also make a full line of soundproofing and acoustic treatment products under the Markerfoam brand. Markerfoam products include ceiling and wall tiles, acoustic pads and baffles, acoustic sealant products, portable isolation booths, and acoustic blankets.

MBI Products Company’s Cloud-Lite Baffle is the industry’s original fully encapsulated absorbent baffle and is available in finishes of PVC, nylon, polyester, vinyl, and weather resistant fabrics. Other MBI offerings include the Lapendary Panel and the Colorsonix absorbent and decorative wall panel, which is available in a wide range of dimensions, thicknesses and colors.

MSR StudioPanel offers pre-engineered acoustic treatment kits that vary upon a given room’s size. StudioPanel Acoustic Treatment Systems include a balanced collection of diffusers, absorbers, bass traps, and various other panels with specific mounting directions, effectively making complex placement issues simpler for the end user. Notable StudioPanel components include the Bazorber slotted low-frequency absorber, CloudPanel fabric-covered ceiling panel, and the SpringTrap, a ported corner bass trap for ultra-low frequencies.

NetWell Noise Control makes an extensive range of noise control and acoustic design products including polyurethane acoustic foam panels, bass traps, ceiling tiles, wall coverings and fabrics, even isolation tools such as duct-work wrapping materials.

Primacoustic’s acoustic solutions include bass traps and diffusers, wall and ceiling absorber systems, fiberglass absorber components, and much more. The company’s comprehensive website offers acoustic treatment insight and notably valuable tips. My most comprehensive studio acoustic treatment installation to date involved a complete Primacoustic Broadway panel-based/bass absorber installation designed in conjunction with a Primacoustic consultant who recommended the best products for the job. It was a great experience with great results.

RealTraps have quickly become a leading provider of broadband absorption solutions with their complete line of their affordable and portable bass trap products. MiniTraps, MondoTraps, MicroTraps, GoboTraps, and the aesthetically unobtrusive SoffitTraps all offer various and impressive absorptive benefits. As an added perk, RealTraps offers detailed acoustic theory and product application information on its interesting website.

RPG Diffusor Systems is a maker of attractive and functional diffusion systems for a wide array of environments. RPG specializes in intricate custom diffusers made of a variety of materials and for mounting in a variety of areas.

Massachusetts-based dealer Silent Source sells a wide variety of foams, barriers, baffles, bass traps, diffusers, and much more, but also markets two of its own signature products. HushFoam panels are very absorbent open-cell polyurethane foam wedges, and WhisperWedge is a 2×4-foot flat foam absorber available in thicknesses from 2 to 4 inches.

Sound Control Room is the source of the Saturn polycyndrical diffuser, an acoustic treatment tool resembling a giant aspirin for use on walls and ceilings. Other custom SCR products include their own 3-Panel absorbent booth and Instant Studio, a full-frequency mobile control panel.

Taytrix offers clients a simple and innovative way to acoustically treat an environment—the StackIt GoBo System, which is ideal for mobile recording rigs and temporary production spaces. Available in three styles and two colors, StackIt GoBos feature multiple layers of insulation covered with fabric on both sides and measure 46×15 inches, or 30×8-inches wide. Both Plexiglas and natural maple panels are available for the StackIt product line. Taytrix also builds studio furniture and provides design/build acoustic services, too.