Auralex Acoustics room treatment
Need to get your hi-fi room up to specs? Here’s a relatively affordable way of getting the job done.
AUDIOPHILES spend much time, money and effort planning and putting together their systems, and fuss continuously over costly accessories that promise just a bit more of that hi-fi experience.
Often overlooked or ignored in this whole tedious process of getting the sound right is the room, which many audio engineers will reiterate is as important as the system itself.
Listening environments differ everywhere, and few components in the hi-fi chain are as susceptible to this as the speakers; they’re notoriously dependent on the room size and characteristics to reach optimum performance levels.
In my opinion, two factors determine how well your speakers perform – their electrical interaction with the amplifier and the physical relation to the room. Getting the second right – or at least, near there – takes some effort and money, but can be very rewarding in the end.
The professional environment – recording studios and concert halls – is more demanding, of course, and loads of money go into design and isolation structures. However, getting your room to behave properly, or at least, consistently, is something you can achieve on a modest budget.
An empty or sparsely-filled room may be your speakers’ greatest enemy, but this also depends on the size of the room and what has gone into its construction.
Fortunately, most Malaysian homes are built of brick and concrete, so we have solid floors and walls, and our ceilings seldom have much space between them and the roof. We need to worry less about spaces between walls or suspended floors. This, naturally, makes the job of tuning a room – without using measuring tools and software – something a dedicated enthusiast can accomplish.
A few pieces of judiciously positioned furniture, and some carpeting and wall rugs go a long way in alleviating distracting echoes and vibrations, although the results will vary – different materials offer varying levels of absorption and reflection.
There are also specialist solutions for room treatment, most not viable options for audiophiles on a budget. However, one American company has for years made its presence felt in professional recording studios, cinema/concert halls and homes – Auralex Acoustics, which has something for almost every situation. The bottom line – they’re priced reasonably.
Low and high-end solutions
I’ve spent the better part of the past 18 months experimenting with a range of Auralex products – my biggest concern initially was bass. Due to unavoidable reasons, until the middle of last year, I had the speakers firing along the width of my room. The ceiling was sloped above the speakers (good) but I could not place them too far out into the room and this represented an issue.
I tried all sorts of positioning tricks without much success. Then, the Venus Bass Trap was procured, cut into four pieces and stuck on the wall behind the speakers. Venus comprises very dense foam, and sticks out quite a bit, so you need to make sure there’s enough room between your rack and the wall.
The Venus Bass Trap worked like a charm, allowing tighter and a more even bass response, thus increasing definition. I also installed a set of MiniFusor diffusors on the rear wall, which nicely spread the sound stage further up the frequencies.
A year, ago, though, I did a repaint job on the room, so had to rip out everything. I used the opportunity to relocated the hi-fi system, this time firing more conventionally along the length of the room. Another set of bass issues arose, and it wasn’t practical to use the Venus this time.
So I went with the more manageable LENRD (Low-End Node Reduction Device). A number of these and Cornerfill Cubes were used to break up troublesome waves at high corners.
I wasn’t working with an empty room but my furniture – mostly wooden – wasn’t enough.
Not all the bass issues disappeared, so I mounted a number of LENRD units – also made of dense foam – behind the speakers. This position brought about tangible low-frequency enhancements. I could now be more adventurous with speaker placement, which extended four feet into the room, double the distance previously.
Once I sorted out the bass, I judiciously placed a number of Sonoflat panels and Studioform Sonomatt to tame certain reverberation points on the side walls and behind me. The Sonomatts placed along the rear walls behind the speakers tended to take some life from the sound; behind me, they worked better to keep the secondary reflections from bouncing back too much.
As things stand now, I’m pretty confident I’ve done what I can to keep the echoes in the room down, and bass performance at almost optimum. Be careful not to overdo it, you don’t want the room to be completely devoid of acoustic life!
In the studio
This brings us to “project studio” products from Auralex. A while ago, I wrote about how the Subdude and Gramma platforms worked well with subwoofers and guitar/bass amps. This time, I procured the MoPADs – isolation products – to place my active studio monitors on, and these cleaned up the bass and improved timbres. I also used some of these under my centre-channel speakers with enhanced results, keeping the unit well isolated from the platform.
Likewise, the Platfeet, which went under my microphone stand – a tripod – to prevent unwanted sounds, like feet tapping, from being picked up by the microphone. Suffice to say, despite my guitarist’s habit of thumping his foot on the floor to keep time, little spilled into the recordings. A couple of tracks laid down before I got the Platfeet were noisier.
Finally, during the recordings, I also procured the Xpander and TriXpander to place around the microphone. These eliminated much external noise that would have otherwise bled into the mix.
These last two products are especially useful for home studios, where the rooms are not soundproof and using condenser microphones can be tricky. I was surprised by how much quieter my vocals tracked, without overdoing the isolation; you want some of this for a natural reverb effect.
The whole experience was very rewarding, and allowed me to learn a few thing about my room’s acoustic nature. Best of all, you can get a whole room treatment package from Auralex for the price of a new pair of speakers or cables that you think you need but which may not bring about improvements as comprehensive.
Me, I got some of these things permanently stuck on the walls; there they will remain until the next paint job!
Affordable acoustical products from Auralex will
get your room in shape.