Home Theater

5 Tips for Acoustic Room Treatments: Real Traps’ Ethan Winer Offers His Advice

Ethan Winer, co-founder of pro audio treatment company Real Traps, offers his advice and tips to help design high performing acoustical spaces in the home.

5 Tips for Acoustic Room Treatments: Real Traps’ Ethan Winer Offers His Advice
Ethan Winer, co-founder of Real Traps, says that by following a few simple rules, integrators and homeowners can get improved home theater performance results.

Robert Archer · March 28, 2018

In an age where automated equalization programs have become dominant, Ethan Winer and his company, Real Traps, have opted to provide old-school audio treatments for customers' homes.

These treatments come in the form of Real Traps’  custom-made bass traps, broadband absorbers, and diffusers, all of which have been used by reputable companies like Berklee School of Music, Pixar, and Atlantic Records.

Winer has been in the business for over a decade, and in that time has developed a number of tips and tricks he shares with audio integrators via YouTube videos and the company’s website.

The following tips are taken from a video posted by Winer in 2006, but they are still relevant today:

1. Know the Common Problems Other Audio Integrators Face

According to Winer, the most common problems integrators face when acoustically treating rooms are:

  • Echoes and excess ambience
  • Too much or too little bass
  • Poor stereo imaging and localization
  • Unclear movie dialog
  • Muddy sound

In fact, on the Real Traps website, the company emphasizes that low frequencies are often the biggest problem, leading to response variations up to 35dB.

Related: Room Acoustics- What Installers Need to Know

It is also important to know what integrators are trying to accomplish when completely acoustically treating a room. “The main goals for excellent sound are having a flat frequency response, controlling reflections at mid- and high-frequencies, and [addressing] ringing at low frequencies,” says Winer. 

2. Place Broadband Bass Traps in as Many Corners as Possible

"The more bass traps you have in a room, the flatter and tighter the low-end will be" says Winer

While the appearance of bass traps in all of the major corners of a room may not be for every customer, providing this level of coverage can help prevent what Winer calls “one note bass,” where “every bass note sounds the same regardless of its real pitch.” It can also help prevent bass null, where there is no bass at the main listening position, and too much bass everywhere else.

3. Know the Optimal Seating and Listening Points

Integrators can prevent sub-optimal sound at key listening points by using mid and high-frequency absorption at first reflection points on walls and ceilings, and using additional absorption on parallel surfaces.

Winer says integrators should locate seating approximately 38 percent away from the front wall to allow for the optimal and flattest bass response. When this isn't practical or possible, putting seating 38 percent away from the rear wall can also work, but the bass peaks and null reflections are often stronger. 

The worst position for seating is directly against the rear wall of a room because low frequency peaks and nulls are strongest in that location.

4. Focus on Bass Frequencies That Range From 60Hz to 300Hz

By focusing bass frequencies between 60Hz to 300Hz, Winer says integrators can cover the fullness and clarity of range most bass instruments provide. In his opinion, it's not worth obsessing over being "flat to below 20Hz," because at least for music, that's less important than being above 60Hz to 80Hz.

5. Keep Speakers Symmetrical

Winer points out that in ideal situations, speaker placement should be symmetrical in relation to listeners’ ears, and to the front and side walls within a room.

He also says it’s a good practice to place a home theater system’s speakers in locations where tweeters are at ear level. If this isn’t possible, Winer recommends placing the front-left and center-right speakers at the same height, and then placing the surround speakers at the same level.

To learn more about additional subjects like reflection points and other acoustical treatment terms, take a look through Winer's series of videos and articles on the Conn.-based company's website




  About the Author

Bob is an audio enthusiast who has written about consumer electronics for various publications within Massachusetts before joining the staff of CE Pro in 2000. Bob is THX Level I certified, and he's also taken classes from the Imaging Science Foundation (ISF) and Home Acoustics Alliance (HAA). Bob also serves as the technology editor for CE Pro's sister publication Commercial Integrator. In addition, he's studied guitar and music theory at Sarrin Music Studios in Wakefield, Mass., and he also studies Kyokushin karate at 5 Dragons in Haverhill, Mass. Have a suggestion or a topic you want to read more about? Email Robert at rarcher@ehpub.com

Follow Robert on social media:
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Robert also participates in these groups:
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View Robert Archer's complete profile.



  Article Topics


Home Theater · Speakers · Blogs · Real Traps · Room Acoustics · Surround Sound · All Topics
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Comments

Posted by highfigh on March 29, 2018

And then, there are the discussions with the money person immediately upon entering what had originally been used (and called) The Ballroom in an old home with 6+ second RT60. The walls are plaster on concrete, the ceiling is wood lath & plaster and the floor is terrazzo. 

He was fine with doing some kind of treatment and as the project went along, she started making noise about any kind of treatments and then I asked her about where the speaker wires should come out of the low cabinet that was housing the equipment, but hadn’t been part of the original plan- she said she didn’t want to see any speakers and that she thought the Dynaudio Excite 14 in Walnut looked horrible. I gave up and just did what they (she) wanted and told myself “It’s THEIR house, you’re just the guy who has to install the system”.

In spite of all of my experience, training and everything I have learned about acoustics, it actually sounded good with the big sofa and area rug with the speakers inside of the cabinet, near the floor.

Posted by Paul Cunningham on March 29, 2018

@highfigh - the eternal struggle. Cheap, effective, aesthetically pleasing: choose two at most. I’ve had a lot of luck with decorative wood panels and ceiling clouds to treat rooms where the decor is very strict. Not ideal but even partially addressing the acoustic problems is way better than dumping the money into more advanced DSPs and other gadgetry.

For the wife (or husband honestly) that doesn’t get it, I’ve gone as far as to have them listen to a TV in the untreated showroom lobby just playing a talk show through the TV speakers, and then have a TV in the treated listening room playing the same show through its speakers just to demonstrate the big difference in intelligibility. It’s much easier to get some treatment in a room after the non-dorks can acknowledge a need for it, as long as you can acknowledge their need for the living room to not look like a recording studio.

Posted by highfigh on March 29, 2018

While Ethan’s points about acoustics are good, he didn’t show #6-

Interior detonators and wives/significant others, who don’t want to see speakers of ANY kind, never mind anything that actually sounds good. Great-sounding speakers are difficult to sell when the high-priced decorator/designer has actually asked if the Walnut veneer on a set of KEF 107 can be painted.

I understand the desire of someone to see that their vision is carried out- I studied architecture and if anyone knows anything about architects, it’s that they tend to be control freaks. However, it seems that interior designers/decorators are more concerned with the project being a testimony to their vision and abilities than their clients being able to live with the end result. When the person writing the checks wants great sound, heads will be butting and if the designer wins, someone will not be happy.

Asking for people to allow speakers that may be larger than a breadbox can be hard enough- asking for permission to install acoustic treatment is like waltzing into the White House and proclaiming “I’m President”.

If a building has a dedicated space for AV, this is possible, but in most residences, it’s a very hard sell. I was discussing the AV with a client and as his wife walked by, she said “You guys are such dorks”.

Posted by highfigh on March 29, 2018

While Ethan’s points about acoustics are good, he didn’t show #6-

Interior detonators and wives/significant others, who don’t want to see speakers of ANY kind, never mind anything that actually sounds good. Great-sounding speakers are difficult to sell when the high-priced decorator/designer has actually asked if the Walnut veneer on a set of KEF 107 can be painted.

I understand the desire of someone to see that their vision is carried out- I studied architecture and if anyone knows anything about architects, it’s that they tend to be control freaks. However, it seems that interior designers/decorators are more concerned with the project being a testimony to their vision and abilities than their clients being able to live with the end result. When the person writing the checks wants great sound, heads will be butting and if the designer wins, someone will not be happy.

Asking for people to allow speakers that may be larger than a breadbox can be hard enough- asking for permission to install acoustic treatment is like waltzing into the White House and proclaiming “I’m President”.

If a building has a dedicated space for AV, this is possible, but in most residences, it’s a very hard sell. I was discussing the AV with a client and as his wife walked by, she said “You guys are such dorks”.

Posted by Paul Cunningham on March 29, 2018

@highfigh - the eternal struggle. Cheap, effective, aesthetically pleasing: choose two at most. I’ve had a lot of luck with decorative wood panels and ceiling clouds to treat rooms where the decor is very strict. Not ideal but even partially addressing the acoustic problems is way better than dumping the money into more advanced DSPs and other gadgetry.

For the wife (or husband honestly) that doesn’t get it, I’ve gone as far as to have them listen to a TV in the untreated showroom lobby just playing a talk show through the TV speakers, and then have a TV in the treated listening room playing the same show through its speakers just to demonstrate the big difference in intelligibility. It’s much easier to get some treatment in a room after the non-dorks can acknowledge a need for it, as long as you can acknowledge their need for the living room to not look like a recording studio.

Posted by highfigh on March 29, 2018

And then, there are the discussions with the money person immediately upon entering what had originally been used (and called) The Ballroom in an old home with 6+ second RT60. The walls are plaster on concrete, the ceiling is wood lath & plaster and the floor is terrazzo. 

He was fine with doing some kind of treatment and as the project went along, she started making noise about any kind of treatments and then I asked her about where the speaker wires should come out of the low cabinet that was housing the equipment, but hadn’t been part of the original plan- she said she didn’t want to see any speakers and that she thought the Dynaudio Excite 14 in Walnut looked horrible. I gave up and just did what they (she) wanted and told myself “It’s THEIR house, you’re just the guy who has to install the system”.

In spite of all of my experience, training and everything I have learned about acoustics, it actually sounded good with the big sofa and area rug with the speakers inside of the cabinet, near the floor.