RealTraps - Acoustics Articles

The straight dope on acoustics


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RealTraps partner Ethan Winer is well known throughout the audio industry for the dozens of technical articles he has written over the years. The following articles are those that relate to acoustics and acoustic treatment which we believe will be of interest to all recording engineers and audiophiles. Most of these articles were previously published in audio magazines, but several are the result of original research and testing done at the RealTraps laboratory.

If you'd rather not spend a lot of time reading up on acoustics, we have many Videos you can just sit back and watch. And if even that is too much effort, we're glad to tell you exactly what you need and where to put it as part of the purchase of our products.

RealTraps Exclusive
Acoustics Basics explains the basics of acoustic treatment and bass traps. After you read this article you'll know exactly what's needed to treat almost any room!
RealTraps Exclusive
If you've ever wanted to know how to find the best place for your speakers and listening position, you'll find a great solution in the article How to Set Up a Room. There's also a greatly expanded version on our Videos page.
RealTraps Exclusive
Creating a Reflection-Free Zone tells how to avoid early reflections that can damage clarity and imaging in listening rooms.
AudioXpress Magazine
Introduction to Room Measuring explains the what and why of acoustic room measuring. After you read this, the earlier article below offers additional information and insight.
RealTraps Exclusive
RealTraps co-owner Ethan Winer and Nyal Mellor of Acoustic Frontiers teamed up to produce the article Room Measuring to explain how to measure a room and interpret the results. The article shows software for both Windows and Mac computers as examples.
RealTraps Exclusive
Some people believe that equalizers or digital signal processing (DSP) can reduce the need for bass traps. While it's true that EQ can reduce the volume of peaks, it can't improve nulls or reduce ringing which are just as damaging. To prove this we measured the Audyssey MultEQ "room correction" hardware system. Note that newer software products make similar claims, but they're subject to the same limitations.
Pro Sound Web When room correction comes up in audio forums we often link the Audyssey results above to disprove the claims. But people sometimes counter that room correction is much better now, so clearly it was time to test again. Here is our assessment of the Dirac and Acourate systems for Pro Sound Web.
This third (and final!) Article on room "correction" again tests Dirac, and introduces the spectrogram graph type needed to assess decay times independent of volume level.
RealTraps Exclusive
When placing a limited number of bass traps, it's not obvious how to know where each trap will do the most good. This Filtered Noise article provides a file containing bassy pink noise, and explains how to use it.
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Many people know that "porous" absorbers benefit from being spaced off a wall. The larger the gap the better, within reason. So when an acoustics expert on Facebook insisted that gaps larger than one inch offer no further benefit, the article Testing Air Gaps was our response to disprove that claim.
Everything You Wanted to Know About SPL Meters from AudioXpress tells exactly what the title promises!
RealTraps Exclusive
In his first article for RealTraps, Jim Lindenschmidt answers the common question Do I really need a vocal booth? Jim also explains the pros and cons of one-room studios.
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Most people understand the importance of having bass traps and absorption at reflection points, but the rear wall behind the listener is another important source of damaging reflections. The article Rear Wall Treatment Strategies explains this in detail, and offers several options at different price points.
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Conventional wisdom says that true reverberation can't exist in small rooms, yet many famous recording studios use small rooms for their live reverb chambers. In his article Can small rooms have reverb? RealTraps co-owner Ethan Winer explains the science.
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Most rooms have three pairs of parallel surfaces, so it can be difficult to identify which is the cause of prominent flutter echo. To solve this, our Flutter to Distance chart shows the relation between musical pitches and physical distance.
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Even very small rooms can sound excellent given enough bass traps and other treatment. The Manhattan Home Theater shows a treatment strategy that will transform even a tiny Manhattan bedroom into a listening room that sounds simply amazing.
Home Toys
In his third article, Characteristics of a Good-Sounding Room, Jim Lindenschmidt explains there's no such thing as a perfect-sounding room. Further, no matter how good a room might sound on its own, every room can be improved with intelligently-applied acoustic treatment.
Audio Times
In his article, Acoustic Design for the Project Studio, Jim Lindenschmidt expounds further on the importance of room acoustics and treatment for project studios.
RealTraps Exclusive
The conventional wisdom is that wood surfaces impart a "warm" sound to a room, compared to cement, linoleum, or drywall. But is this really true? Find out for yourself in our article Does Wood Really Sound Warm?
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People often ask which affordable microphones I recommend for measuring their room. To answer this question I tested ten popular microphones ranging from an inexpensive DIY model to a Josephson with Microtech Gefell capsule costing $1,800. The results are in this Microphone Comparison article.
Sound on Sound
Sound on Sound is an excellent British audio magazine, and this Sounding Off column explains why having proper acoustic treatment is far more important than what gear you own.
EQ Magazine
EQ magazine asked me to write this Room Acoustics article for their theme issue The Vibe Studio. It explains the most common acoustic problems, and lists the top ten things you can do to improve the sound in your room.

Improve Your Monitoring is also from EQ magazine, popular with recording engineers, but it's equally relevant for audiophiles and home theater enthusiasts.

I wrote Recording Spaces for EQ magazine to explain the acoustic issues unique to recording and mixing in small rooms. In particular, this article describes the problem with comb filtering that occurs near room boundaries.

My EQ magazine article How to Tune Your Room explains the basic steps needed to achieve acoustic nirvana.

Top studio designer Wes Lachot created the plans for a complete project studio you can build in a basement or garage, and I wrote the article Maximum Studio, Minimum Stress from those plans.

RealTraps Exclusive
In Measuring Absorption you'll learn how acoustic absorbers are measured, and why published test values can be unreliable and are often inflated.
RealTraps Exclusive
How Does That Sound Look? was written by guest author Dan FitzGerald as a beginner's guide to understanding room measurements.
RealTraps Exclusive
The Audibility of Narrow-Band EQ dispels the common myth that narrow EQ boosts and cuts - and by extension narrow acoustic peaks and nulls - are not audible.
Sound & Vibration
Alternative Test Methods for Acoustic Treatment Products explains the problems with conventional absorber testing in more technical terms than Measuring Absorption above. This newer article is from Sound & Vibration, a magazine written by and for professional acousticians.
RealTraps Exclusive
It's also possible to perform legitimate tests in a home situation if you have an empty bedroom or similar size enclosed space. The Density Tests article shows how the density of absorbing materials affects their absorption.
RealTraps Exclusive
Many audiophiles and home theater owners treat the entire front portion of their room with absorption. But is that much absorption really necessary? Learn the facts in our exclusive feature Front Wall Absorption.
ETHAN WINER INTERVIEWS ON PSN: Click HERE to visit the PSN site, then click the Pod icons to download the MP3 files. Part 1 is Show #59 from February 20, 2007 (55 MB) and Part 2 is Show #60 from February 26, 2007 (44 MB).
RealTraps Exclusive
Would you like to know the best place to put a subwoofer in your home theater or listening room? The only way to know for sure is to measure, as explained in the above article.
Home Toys
HomeToys is an online technology news magazine, and they invited us to write THIS article explaining the importance of acoustic treatment. More recently, RealTraps co-owner Ethan Winer was interviewed HERE. Click the logo at left to visit their web site main page.
Rives Audio
Rives Audio asked us to write this Bass Traps article for their series on the importance of acoustics and acoustic treatment. Rives Audio is a good friend of ours, and they design first-rate listening rooms and home theaters. Click the logo at left to visit their web site.
Electronic Musician
In A New Approach to Small Room Acoustics from Electronic Musician magazine I explain why the conventional wisdom for room measurement and treatment no longer applies for the ever-smaller rooms people are using to record and mix music.
TapeOp magazine
The article Bass Waves in the Control Room from Tape Op magazine was written by noted studio designer Wes Lachot. It's included here because it explains an extremely important acoustic principle that eludes a lot of people, including many degreed acousticians!
RealTraps Exclusive
Do Room Modes Even Matter? Yes, but probably not as much as many acousticians would have you believe.
Pro Sound News
I wrote Audio's Dirty Little Secret for Pro Sound News to explain a surprisingly common problem that many audio engineers do not even know exists!
RealTraps Exclusive
Acoustics Facts & Fiction explains the basics of acoustic treatment and bass traps in plain English with no math or technical jargon. There's also a link to a terrific software signal generator you can download for free to play sine waves, pink noise, and other test signals through your system.

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