We’ve been pioneering, building and improving bass traps since 1984. Our flagship then remains the same today….theTubeTrap
Bass Traps absorb low frequency sound. They are mostly used in small rooms in which a high power audio system is being played, such as recording studio control rooms, mastering rooms and audiophile listening rooms. There are many types of bass traps.
Traditionally acoustic designers or acousticians designed bass traps to be built into the construction of the room. In the mid ’80s the first portable bass trap became available, invented by Art Noxon, an acoustic engineer. The TubeTrap is a cylinder shaped bass trap that is frequently found in the corners of high power audio playback rooms.
It’s the corner of a rectangular room that funnels bass pressure into a high pressure zone. Bass traps are usually placed in the corners of the room. The TubeTrap is a unique type of bass trap because it includes a suspended sheet of material that has been perforated in such a way that it backscatters the treble range of sound, diffusing it into the room.
The curved treble diffusers act to retain room ambience, while enhancing the sense of spaciousness in the listening room. The corner loaded bass traps act to minimize the reverberant buildup of bass energy in the room. Used together, the feeling of being in a small room disappears, replaced by the feeling of being in a large ambient space.
Why are Bass Traps prerequisite to quality audio playback in small rooms?
Bass traps, especially the TubeTrap type of bass trap, are used to control the “room gain” effect in the bass range of high end high power audio listening rooms. Properly sized and positioned bass traps can reduce the temporal distortion and tonal masking of music caused by room gain in the musical bass range.
Room gain is rapidly created when loudspeakers are positioned between parallel surfaces in a room. A substantial portion of sound emitted from the speaker is repeatedly reflected between the parallel surfaces, getting louder with each subsequent pass. This results in a rapid buildup of stored sonic energy which is ordinarily very slow to dissipate compared to the rapid dynamic or sound level changes in music. The result is blurred musical dynamics and the masking of musical fidelity.
Bass range room gain comes from the horizontal and vertical components of the spherical bass wave front emanating from the speaker and their multiple reflections off the floor, ceiling and side walls in the front of the listening room. Each musical event produces some sort of sustain that lasts easily 1/8th second. During that time the sonic wave front travels 140 feet, which is across the room 9 or 10 times and vertically over 15 times. This causes a rapid increase in stored energy and sound level in the front of the room which slowly expands out into the rest of the room, engulfing the listener in pulse of nonsensical sound that sounds just like what the loudspeaker had just been playing. It acts to blur the otherwise rapidly changing sound level and musicality contained in the direct signal.
A loudspeaker is designed to be a linear sound reproducer. The manufacturer tests the speaker in an anechoic chamber for a flat frequency response, something like what we get if we play the speaker outdoors. Additionally, loudspeakers tend to be directional with the mids and highs predominately being emitted in the forward “cardoid” direction and the bass emitted “omni” equal power in all directions. This is why the relatively instantaneous room gain effect is a bass buildup problem in the front of the room.
Musically speaking the bass range of sound is defined by the notes to the left of middle C on the piano, the treble range are the notes to the right of middle C. Bass ranges between 45 Hz and 260 Hz and treble ranges between 260 Hz and 4,000 Hz.
Below the bass range is the sub-bass range, sounds below 50 Hz. Human hearing extends down to about 20 Hz. The Sub-bass range of sound is 1 ½ octave range between 20 Hz and 50 Hz. Below 20 Hz is the infrasonic range of sound where people feel the effect of sound pressure but cannot hear it which tends to create the feeling of anxiety. Subwoofers generate sub-bass and some infrasonic sound.
When a loudspeaker is played outside the waves created expand away from the speaker box and never return. However, when the same sounds are played in a room, the surfaces of the room reflect the sound back into the room. These reflections increase the loudness of the sound in the room which is room gain.
Sound panels reduce the strength of the treble range reflections while bass traps deal with the bass range reflections. Both are used in audiophile listening rooms, recording studio control rooms and mastering studios to reduce the room gain effect and help keep the music being heard more faithful to that on the original recording. They are also used in live rooms, where microphones are set up and recording takes place, to minimize sonic affects, the coloration of sound due to room gain, from being recorded along with the desired sounds of the musical talent.
There are many types of bass traps just as there are many types of sounds. In general a single sonic event begins with an Attack transient, a rapid growth in sound level. This is the single most important sound we hear when identifying the source of the sound. Following the Attack is the Decay, a rapid drop in sound level which leads to a lower level Sustained tone. Finally the sound is Released and the instrument quickly drops to quiet hence the acronym ADSR symbolizes the lifeline of a sonic or musical event.
Some bass traps are fast acting. Fast traps are good at minimizing the room gain effect during the fast changing parts of a sonic event, the attack Transient and Decay and of course, they work well as the slower parts of the sonic event, the Sustain and Release. TubeTraps are fast bass traps
Typically membrane, spring plate and Helmholtz bass traps are slow bass traps. All “mass loaded absorbers” take time to come up to speed and cannot keep up with the fact changing parts of a sonic event. They are generally effective during the slower moving segments of the sonic event, the Sustain and Release. Slow traps are best suited to handling the RT60 aspects of sound and not suited to handle the attack transients.
Fast traps can work within the early, transient stages of the sound envelope. They can control overshoot of the Attack transient and variations in the Decay transient due to room gain mechanisms. Both Slow and Fast traps operate on the Sustain and Release, the difference being that Slow traps tend to be tuned bass traps, frequency or bandwidth selective while fast traps are broadband. .
Only during the Sustain is a tone played long enough in the room to develop a room mode. Slow traps are tuned to the mode frequency and are located at pressure zones of the mode so as to add damping to a particular mode. Fast Traps are broadband; they operate at any frequency within their response curve. They require fluctuating air pressures to operate and they are typically placed in the corners of the room because the bass sound pressures are stronger in the corners than elsewhere.
The primary location for fast bass traps, TubeTraps, are the front two corners of the room, the corners behind the speakers. The low frequency wave front expands in hemispherical shape away from each speaker, 1/3rd of the energy in the vertical direction, 1/3rd in the lateral direction and 1/3rd in the axial or front to back directioon. 2/3rds of the wave front gets trapped by repeated vertical and side to side reflections, creating a nearly instantaneous buildup of reverberation in the front 1/3rd of the room. High speed bass traps placed floor to ceiling in the front corners dampen the speed and strength of the build-up. Additional traps are placed in the plane of the speakers and elsewhere along the side walls in the front of the room. Each floor to ceiling tram absorbs side to side and floor to ceiling reverberation.
This intense room tuning with bass traps up front is not done to improve the frequency response curve of the room. It is done to insure that the high speed dynamics in the music can be heard in the room. Attack transients can easily change sound level by 80 dB in a short period of time such as 20 ms, a dynamic speed of 4000 dB/second. Fast bass traps are needed in the front of high power audio rooms to keep dynamic transients from being muddled and blurred, sound masking by the otherwise uncontrolled rapid growth of bass range reverb in the front of the room and subsequent expansion down the length of the room, and past the listening position.
Once the built-up head end ringing expands to fill the whole room, the energy becomes whole room reverberation. What fast traps in the front of the room accomplish is not only to reveal more of each dynamic transient but as they pull energy out of the unwanted buildup in the front of the room they are simultaneously reducing the loudness of the whole room reverberation, before it became room reverb.
And then finally, it acts on the whole room reverb to reduce the decay time rate of the room reverb. Typically from the natural room’s 1.5 second RT60 down to a more desirable RT-60 of 0.75 seconds. But it is not the reverb time that matters, nor does the flatness of the response curve. What the golden ear most prefers and appreciates is musical clarity. Blur-free dynamics in the transient response of the room is much more important to the audiophile and recording engineer than a flat room or fast decay rate, which is why the ASC MATT test was developed.