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.
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.