RealTraps room treatments Page 2

One problem remained: the room is small. Only 9' wide, it limited the amount of space I could leave between the speakers, which meant I had to listen in the quasi-nearfield, the speakers toed-in in an attempt to ameliorate the first wall reflections. Winer had a solution for that, too: two of RealTraps' RFZ Panels. (RFZ stands for Reflection Free Zone.)

Each RFZ Panel ($249.99) measures 42" H by 32" W by 2.25" D and has a beveled frame, so it almost disappears when mounted on a sidewall—preferably at around that wall's first-reflection point. The RFZ Panel also absorbs bass—a bit less than a MondoTrap, a bit more than a MiniTrap—but its principal mission is broadband absorption to reduce Ethan Winer's chief bugbear: comb filtering, which results when two identical sounds arrives at the listening positions at different times. Winer claims that comb filtering, if not the only problem worth tackling, is room acoustics' Public Enemy No.1.

What mounting an RFZ Panel on each sidewall most noticeably did in my room was to allow me to move my speakers closer to the walls without deleterious audible effects—and that allowed my to move my listening position out of the nearfield and farther back into the room.

Completely Trapped
With four MondoTraps, two MiniTraps, and two RFZ Panels—$2099.92 worth of RealTraps room treatment, or less than the cost of my power conditioner—I had turned a room that was essentially an acoustic write-off into one that, in some ways, became my preferred listening site. My multi-use room, where I audition larger components, lacks the top-to-bottom coherence, and especially the bottom-end linearity, that my RealTraps-treated "small" room now had.

Why does this matter? For one thing, when you hear less of the room, you hear more of the recording. One of my favorite musicians, David Russell, plays a nylon-stringed guitar in a fairly large hall for his Telarc recordings. In my treated room, I heard deeper into that acoustic space—perhaps not quite all the way to the walls, as a certain reviewer has suggested, but deeper. That made recordings such as his lovely Music of Moreno Torroba (CD, Telarc CD-80451) a lot more like being there. Being there is good.

Would I like to take the room treatment further? I'm not sure. I've visited Ethan Winer's main listening room and studio, and my suspicion is that both are overdamped—his living room, which serves as a demonstration venue for every product RealTraps makes, more so than his studio. Maybe it's just me, but in Winer's living room, I wondered if I could detect differences between components, so powerfully was I aware of the acoustic environment. Or perhaps it was the two hours I'd spent on the MTA's New Haven Line getting there that had left me aurally incapacitated.

Even in my listening room, I was (maybe) able to take things a bridge too far. Because of a closet built into the room, a 2'-wide partial wall faces the speakers; I covered this wall with a MiniTrap. And because I had been shipped pairs of MiniTraps, I added the other one to the adjacent door, I lost a slight amount of midrange presence, but gained a larger portion of bass linearity. I remove the MiniTraps from time to time and use them in my larger room—which needs a lot more bass treatment than they provide. After a while, I bring 'em back downstairs, where I'm still trying to decide if the tradeoffs even out.

Honey Trap
What I'm not uncertain about is that the RealTraps provided a real solution to my poorer listening room; now it's my better listening room. And I discovered that the wheat-colored RealTraps perfectly match Benjamin Moore's Linen wall paint, and so virtually disappear against the walls. Add my DIY mood lighting behind the corner MondoTraps and a few choice textiles pinned to the RFZ Panels and MiniTraps, and most visitors (okay, so I bought an air mattress—it is also our guest room) to my treated listening room aren't even aware that it's full of acoustic panels. I've even gotten compliments on my "archival" presentation.

While some of the worst-sounding rooms I've ever listened to music in were overdamped and dead, I've also been in a few where the room acoustic overwhelmed any differences among audio components, even loudspeakers. RealTraps offers a middle path of products that are exquisitely constructed—and, by acoustic-treatment standards, reasonably priced.

RealTraps, LLC
34 Cedar Vale Drive
New Milford, CT 06776
(866) 732-5872

VT Skier's picture

Wes, what are the dimensions of your larger listening room?