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Problem-Solving The Room

New, Notable and Unique Acoustic Treatments

Despite careful design, skilled craftsmanship and thoughtful selection of materials, the acoustic characteristics of nearly any audio production environment will present at least a few irregularities, somewhere within the space. Meanwhile, many content creators set up shop in less-than-stellar spaces just to have a place to work; needless to say, these rooms often need acoustic honing, specifically to bring them closer to frequency-flat, at least in the monitoring environment. 

In my work, I regularly speak with studio owners about their rooms. Most have recently completed an acoustic treatment-oriented project or associated refurbishment. One wise, award-winning engineer recently reminded me that even the finest world-class (read: multimillion-dollar) facilities sometimes have strange and distracting nodes in the control room, obfuscating bass build in its corners, and/or generally unique acoustic quirks that may get in the way of hearing the mix or capturing a performance. He said, “I know—I’ve worked in the best and worst of them. And they all have some issue, big or small.”

The select following products, organized by manufacturer, exist to address one or more of a long list of acoustic/frequency irregularities and/ or isolation issues. Most are one of three treatment types: isolation, diffusion and absorption. Applied thoughtfully, they should ideally provide a relatively flat frequency response with little room-influenced coloration.

The patented TubeTrap, a pressure-zone, corner-loaded bass trap voiced with a treble-range diffuser panel, is a cornerstone of Acoustic Sciences Corporation’s business, founded in 1984 by acoustic engineer/ physicist Arthur Noxon. As the TubeTraps are cylindrical in shape, they are inherently modular, too; I have found them useful as they can be moved easily—especially ideal today when many of us stay on the move, even within one facility. Further, ASC’s website provides a wealth of valu- able content for the DIY engineer/researcher/builder.

Acoustics First is a rich source of acoustic materials, including sound absorbers, barriers, diffusers and bass traps made of materials including polyurethane and Class 1 Melamine foams, Fiberglas, 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. Just under 2×2 feet, the company’s Art Diffusor Model D is a striking “organic quadratic diffuser,” reportedly increasing “overall perceived” acoustic space. Further, its trademarked surface is sculpted to specially control reflections above 4 kHz. It “deflects the sound hemispherically, a result of the bicubic concentric rings and various quadratic well depths,” the company explains.

Since the early 1990s, Acoustical Solutions has manufactured and distributed a wide range of products—panels, fabrics, foams, bass traps, booths and enclosures, ceiling and floor treatments, doors and windows, sound barrier materials, HVAC noise and vibration control systems, and more. Most notable are the company’s DIY AlphaSorb Panel Kits and suspended AcoustiCloud Ceiling Clouds. The latter, available in many shapes, sizes and colors, are built of a unique polymer stretching system to cap each cloud for a tailored look.

Created by John Calder and Mark Stender of Acoustic Geometry of Chaska, Minn., the CornerSorber is reportedly “the only laboratory-proven bass absorber design that allows maximum pressure-zone room-mode reduction due to close-corner placement.” This bass absorber features a unique shape—beveled on two sides and the top—to allow a pair of CornerSorbers to be set up three inches from, and parallel with, each corner wall, either vertically or horizontally. The CornerSorber is part of Acoustic Geometry’s comprehensive Acoustic Bass Management line; together, it produces “consistent bass-energy absorption from 45 Hz to 200 Hz,” according to Acoustic Geometry, corresponding to room-mode dimensions from 5.5 to 25 feet.

One of the most recognizable names in acoustic treatment products is Auralex Acoustics, offering acoustical foam, diffusers, bass traps, construction components, and various other notable products. The company’s Website offers valuable insight about its remote consultancy services. This year, Auralex celebrates 40 years in business and has marked the event with a range of ProPanel Pro Kits, showcased most recently at the 2017 NAB Show. Consisting of beveled-edge 2×4-foot, 2-inch-thick Auralex ProPanel SonoSuede fabric-wrapped Class A absorptive Fiberglas panels, these kits are notably affordable and designed to balance mid- and high-band frequencies. The SonoSuede ProKit-1 and ProKit-2 kits include 2×4-foot, 2-inch mitered-edge ProPanel corner treatments for low-frequency absorption. The SonoSuede systems are available in two fabric choices, red or black, and include all mounting hardware.

As a drummer, I discovered ClearSonic years ago. I invested in their ClearSonic Panel line—the 5.5-foot-tall, five-panel version, to be exact—which works wonders in separating loud instruments (e.g., drums), amplifiers, etc., onstage, in rehearsal or while recording. As such, it reduced mic bleed, too. Best of all, users can see out, and others can see in. I felt I had made a “pro” choice when I saw Max Weinberg, live in Nashville with Springsteen, using the same CSP array. CSPs are made of 1/4-inch-thick acrylic; standard panel heights are 2, 3, 4 and 5.5 feet tall. Extenders are available for extra height. Paired with SORBER baffles—a 1.6-inch-thick fabric-covered Fiberglas wall treatment device—the acoustics inside the CSP space is surprisingly balanced.

Delta H Design Inc. is now shipping its new ZR Micro Twin acoustic panels in version 3.0. DHDI’s ZR Acoustics device is reportedly 50 percent lighter and 30 percent thinner than its predecessors; it is effectively two ZR Micro panels in one. The ZR Micro Twin V3.0 comes wrapped in proprietary acoustic transparent textile and is backed with ballistic nylon Cordura, a notably abrasion-resistant fabric. DHDI recommends its ZR Micro Twin V3.0 for use in pairs directly behind speakers, or within larger, custom-designed monitoring systems, making it a great acoustic tool for addressing control room monitoring abnormalities. Dimensions of the ZR Micro Twin V3.0 are 24x48x7/16 inches.

ESR notably offers the Roundffusor1—“the world’s most efficient acoustical diffuser,” according to the company—which is a combination diffuser/ low-frequency absorber made of hard polystyrene. Reportedly, the Roundfussor1, placed in an array of 9 to 15 pieces, remarkably reduces a room’s overall reverberation time.

Atlanta’s GIK Acoustics has unveiled its latest product, the Gotham N23 Skyline Diffusor, featuring what is reportedly the widest diffusion range on the market. Designed to provide notably even diffusion from 1.25 kHz to 9.5 kHz, with scattering effects down to 650 Hz, the Gotham N23 Skyline, or two-dimensional, diffuser measures 17.5 inches x 17.5 inches x 5.5 inches deep, weighs 20 pounds, is made of medium-density fiberboard and can be used in its natural state or painted to match any décor. It has a 23-root, calculated quadratic sequence, machine cut within 1/120th of an inch, confirms GIK materials. GIK explains that Skyline diffusers offer the benefit of scattering sound across two planes: horizontal (left and right) and vertical (up and down).

One of the more recognizable names in DIY acoustic treatment, Primacoustic’s products are a broad range of bass traps and diffusers, wall and ceiling absorber systems, Fiberglas absorber components, and more. Primacoustic’s comprehensive website offers a wealth of acoustic treatment information, as well as selection and installation tips. Worthy of note, Primacoustic’s Paintables Cloud series features three different shapes of absorptive acoustic panels that can be used as ceiling clouds, baffles or wall panels to reduce excess reverberation. In a recent conversation, Primacoustic’s James Wright noted that much of the appeal of this particular Primacoustic line may reside in how well it can be camouflaged. “Aesthetics and acoustics are often at odds with one another,” he reasons. “Accent colors for fabric-wrapped panels or panels that are paintable can match the room color. [Our] paintable panels can also be printed on using a flatbed ink jet printer, so literally any image can be oriented on the panel. [In some cases], the goal is to have the acoustic treatment be as invisible as possible.”

RealTraps is well known for building superb broadband absorption solutions with its complete line of portable bass trap products. MiniTraps, MondoTraps, Micro- Traps, GoboTraps, and the aesthetically unobtrusive SoffitTraps all offer various and impressive absorptive benefits. Worthy of note, RealTraps has recently touted its Guilford MiniTraps (pictured). They are a self-described “spouse-friendly” series built to the same standards as MiniTraps and MondoTraps, “but are wrapped with genuine Guilford of Maine FR 701 fabric on the front and four edges to blend with any decor.”

RPG Diffusor Systems builds notably attractive diffusion systems, used by a variety of studio de- signers. Most recently, Acoustic GRG Products, Ltd., RPG’s UK-based manufacturing arm, debuted a new collaboration with designer Anna Gravelle, using her lovely tufted and printed wool fabric designs. Called Tufted Waveform (pictured), these are rich in look and effective in application. According to company promotional materials, this tufting product (also called candlewicking) incorporates unique fabric and yarn in architectural gray and blue hues.

Northhampton, Mass.- based dealer Silent Source sells a wide variety of foams, barriers, baffles, bass traps, diffusers and much more; as a matter of fact, they sell most of the brands you see listed in this feature. As such, they can superbly guide you to selecting just the right product for your needs. Silent Source also markets its own signature products, including HushFoam—panels featuring absorbent open-cell polyurethane foam wedges—and WhisperWedge, a 2×4-foot flat foam absorber.

Taytrix has recently unveiled its interesting “building block” style Booth Kit. Functioning just like the “room in room” vocal isolation booths made by a range of manufacturers, Taytrix’s Booth Kit can be assembled in about five minutes and is notably modular. It includes four corners; one arch top in two pieces; two arch inserts with vent ports; one door, two door inserts; and two cross pieces. As such, Taytrix’s Booth Kit can be dismantled and utilized in a variety of ways—for example, its parts can form a vocal enclosure or an instrument go-bo (go-between).