Real Traps' biggest bass trap offers heavy-duty low-frequency absorption for the serious home studio.
I recently moved house, and found upon reassembling my studio setup that the bass levels I was hearing from my Blue Sky Pro Desk system were all over the place. In my previous flat the bass response had caused no real problems, partly because of the design of the particular room, and partly because of the way my wife and I had packed every conceivable space with furniture, CDs, books, and assorted clutter! In the new larger room, however, the levels of bass varied wildly with even small changes in listening position, and there was a severe 80Hz dip in the response at any sensible monitoring location.
Having seen Martin Walker's review of the Real Traps bass traps back in SOS September 2004, I headed over to the Real Traps site and had a look through some of proprietor Ethan Winer's writing about the principles behind his acoustic-treatment products. My interest piqued, I was on the point of arranging a loan of some Mini Traps from UK distributor Sonic Distribution when news came through that Real Traps had just released their new Mondo Trap, a larger version of the Mini Trap with much more effective low-bass absorption, so I decided to try this new model out to see how it would deal with my real-world problem.
The Mondo Trap is a 10cm-thick panel of high-density fibreglass covered in a felt-like fabric and mounted in a smart painted-metal frame. The stiffness of the metal frame allows the panel to be moved around with comparative ease, notwithstanding the substantial 60 x 145cm dimensions. The metal frame also makes it possible to mount the trap in your room using strong picture wire and wall hooks, much as Martin did when reviewing the Real Traps, but there is also an optional metal floor stand available if wall or ceiling mounting is inappropriate. This stand is attached to the trap by hand using knurled bolts, and it allows for vertical orientation at a range of different heights. Traps and stands are available in a variety of colours, including white, black, and 'wheat', the latter being pretty much like magnolia.
After unpacking the Mondo Traps from their individual shipping cartons, it was the work of only a few minutes to attach the optional stands. These made it a piece of cake to shuffle the panels around the room while listening to the effects. As I'd expected from Ethan Winer's discussions and Martin's experiences, placement close to walls and room corners offered the most dramatic bass absorption, so after some more listening tests, I detached the floor stands so that I could place the traps into the corners behind my studio desk.
With the traps in position, the change in the overall system sound was dramatic. Finally I could usefully adjust the positioning and output level of my subwoofer, and the bass response remained much more uniform as I moved around the studio setup. Crucially, though, the ferocious 80Hz dip in the frequency response was dramatically reduced, much to my delight, and I have now come to be able to rely on the overall sound even more than in my previous setup. Real Traps claim that the Mondo Trap has twice the absorption of the Mini Trap below 100Hz, and I can well believe it given these kinds of results from just a pair of traps.
The performance of these traps is certainly impressive, as it should be given that they cost £800 a pair in the UK. Whether they justify their price in your setup will depend on the severity of any acoustic problems, the quality of your monitors, and the kind of work you're doing. If you've already spent more than a grand on monitors, but you have bass problems which are still making it impossible to mix properly, then I'd guess you'll get your money's worth. However, given the UK loan scheme operated by Sonic Distribution, you don't have to guess — try them out in your own room, and you should know within half an hour whether they'll be worth the outlay.
- Serious bass trapping.
- Smart cosmetics.
- Comparatively compact given the level of performance.
- None, as long as the results justify the cost in your particular studio setup.
A very effective low-bass absorber panel which can transform a problematic monitoring environment quickly and easily. However, you'll want to try out a pair in your room in order to decide whether they justify the substantial cost.