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Customized Bass Trapping

We at Blue Smoke have extensive experience with speaker setup and bass trapping. We know that no matter how capable your components may be, your speaker/room interaction will dominate your listening experience. Every enclosed room suffers from problems with standing waves that create that "one note" bass quality that regularly calls undesirable attention to itself.  For a variety of reasons, very few audiophiles choose to adequately address this issue and hence live with significant shortcomings that no component change or digital EQ can adequately address. 

 

There are many production products, and DIY designs available to absorb energy in the mid-bass frequencies and higher.  Many designs can significantly reduce the amplitude and decay of room modes within their effective range.  Low bass absorption is another matter and has typically been the domain of Helmholtz resonators or quarter wave length tubes.  We at Blue Smoke are big fans of properly built, adjustable Helmholtz resonators for those willing to yield the requisite real estate within their sound room, or design their environment with many such traps incorporated into the original plan.  Our primary two-channel listening room is well equipped with Helmholtz traps.  Our largest, tuned to 22Hz, spans roughly 14-feet wide, eight-feet high, and three-feet deep at the center/front of the room!  After much tuning, our mixture of Helmholtz resonators work extremely well.  Interestingly, not all of our Helmholtz traps are being used, as it would over-dampen the room. 

 

Not surprisingly, for most listeners, Helmholtz traps of sufficient volume to adequately address deep bass modes are considered impractical, undesirable, and extremely expensive.  Fortunately, we've found a highly effective alternative in the diminutive but mighty Bag End E-trap (18"H x 13"W x 9.5"D).  This is actually an electronic acoustic absorber, capable of incredible absorption from 20Hz to roughly 70Hz.  By allowing for electronic control of the frequency, "Q" (width of the frequency), and feedback (amount of attenuation) these devices allow for ultra-precise room tuning. 

Once properly tuned, the E-trap will reduce the amplitude, and more importantly, the decay time (ringing) of one or two target frequencies in a specific location (typically corners or mid-wall).

 

Using a number of E-traps, located in corners and perhaps mid-wall, the ringing from the two or three worst-offending target frequencies can be properly attenuated so that the decay times are more evenly matched within a desirable range.  Once this is achieved, the bass clarity and attack you dreamt of can finally be realized. 

 

So why do we discuss the E-trap under Services provided by Blue Smoke?  It's because the devil is in the tuning details.  Despite what you might read on-line, you CANNOT adequately tune these devices with test-tones and a Radio Shack db meter.  While such a primitive method might be acceptable for casual listeners, it would be woefully inadequate for any audiophile.  Nor can you place the microphone in a few specified locations and press an auto-calibrate button.  Calibration requires proper measurement software and hardware.  More importantly it requires experience and patience.  The E-trap is an extremely powerful tool, easily capable of over-damping and distorting or splitting a modal frequency wave, causing bass to sound lifeless, artificially constricted and unnatural.  There is nothing plug and play about the E-trap. 

 

Despite the setup challenges, we have the experience that has allowed us to develop a growing list of very satisfied E-trap customers.  Most of the rooms we've treated have required between two and four traps.  Proper placement of the traps is determined after taking a series of acoustic measurements in the front, mid-point, and rear of the room.  Once the placement locations are determined, numerous measurements at those locations and the listening position are required as increasingly fine tuning progresses.  A combination of ongoing measurements (viewing 3D waterfall rather than amplitude) interspersed with listening tests can continue for quite a while.  Ultimately, final tuning is done by ear with familiar and revealing musical selections.  This process might be as short as 4-5 hours, but could easily require a rather long day, depending on the room, and customer's goals and expectations.  Once completed however, not only is bass cleaner, tighter, and more coherent, but veils are lifted allowing for much improved midrange clarity, detail, and sound staging. 

 

It is a rare listening room that could not be significantly improved with proper trapping in the low to mid-bass region. Properly tuned E-traps typically yield sonic improvements that far exceed that which could be realized by endless component changes.  E-traps will never qualify as sexy, and are unlikely to earn one bragging rights in a discussion of new component acquisition.  They will however allow you to liberate your system from the dominance of ever-present low-frequency room modes so that you can more fully realize the potential of your audiophile system and its ability to faithfully reproduce the music that you enjoy.

 

Please feel free to contact us to discuss your particular room and treatment goals.