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.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - FRONT PAGE - By SUJESH PAVITHRAN

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.

Priced right

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!

Sonic trou­ble-busters:

Af­ford­able acous­ti­cal prod­ucts from Au­ralex will

get your room in shape.

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