and RFZ Panel
Price: $299.99 USD each
Dimensions: 57"H x 24"W x 4.25"D
Weight: 28 pounds
Price: $199.99 USD each
Dimensions: 48"H x 24"W x 3.25"D
Weight: 18 pounds
Model: RFZ Panel
Price: $249.99 USD each
Dimensions: 42"H x 32"W x 2"D
Weight: 15 pounds
Model: Stands (for MondoTraps)
Price: $79.99 USD each
Weight: 10 pounds
price: $2739.87 USD for 4 MondoTraps, 4 MiniTraps, 2 RFZ Panels, 3 Stands.
- Real membrane bass traps for broadband absorption
- Effective at low frequencies
- Portable design
- Nonflammable Class A fire rating
- Mounting hardware included
- All products in stock at all times
- Various fabrics available
Over the last few years Ive tried to
make the most important upgrade possible to my audio system: a new listening room. I felt
that every dollar Id spent on my system had been well worth it, but at this point,
what I was seeing and hearing from it were a bit overwhelming. I began to think that my
sound system was just too big for my room, and that I could put up with the situation only
until I found a new space to settle into.
But it seemed as if everyone in my part of the world had
the same itch to move into something bigger and better. Real-estate prices went through
the roof, and the bang-for-the-buck went down. My big audio system was forced to remain in
my multi-use living room. I needed to adjust my attitude.
I broke my situation down into two categories: the visual
mess and the audible disadvantages. The size of the components and their positions in my
room couldnt change unless I downgraded my gear, so there was nothing I was willing
to do to improve how things looked. But when it came to the sound, I did have one viable
option: room treatment. Besides, Id always wanted to acoustically treat my room --
just not this room.
I began talking with friends about this, and quickly
realized that treating the room would only add to the mess of how it looked. I decided
that whatever sound treatments I chose had to be as aesthetically pleasing as possible.
This meant that the quality of finish would be a big determining factor in any choice I
made between buying room-treatment products and building them myself. Online research led
me to RealTraps, whose website
includes not only the measured results of their own products, but a wealth of information
about room acoustics in general -- more than I found on the website of any other maker of
room treatments. Nor did I think I could build sound treatments that would look as good or
perform as well as what I could buy from RealTraps.
I e-mailed Ethan Winer, cofounder (with Doug Ferrara) of
RealTraps, who requested a diagram of my room. I sent him a rough sketch showing my
listening position, speaker locations, and the rooms dimensions. He also asked for
some photos so that he could have a better idea of exactly where his products might fit
into my room. A few hours later, Winer e-mailed me a proposal that he warned might seem a
bit over the top, but would be the best possible starting place. He also said that he
didnt think there was such a thing as treating a room too much.
After giving Winers proposal some thought, the only
change I made was to remove a single MiniTrap that would have covered a window 20
behind my listening seat. What was left came to a total of $2739.87 USD, not including
shipping: four MondoTraps ($299.99 each), four MiniTraps ($199.99 each), two RFZ Panels
($249.99 each), and three stands ($79.99 each). I placed the order.
A few days later, I pulled into my driveway and was greeted
by the sight of nearly a dozen large cartons, which I lugged into the kitchen. The first
box I opened contained a MondoTrap, which is designed to be placed in the corner of a room
and to absorb low frequencies. The MondoTrap is 4 9"H by 2W by
4.25"D, and made of rigid fiberglass wrapped in a thin plastic membrane and
wheat-colored fabric. The plastic prevents the Mondo from absorbing high frequencies. The
Mondo is housed in a sturdy metal frame that keeps the fabric taut, and also provides a
way for the Trap to be attached to a wall or stand. The thickness and density of the
fiberglass determine the degree of sound absorption; RealTraps claims that the MondoTrap
absorbs more low frequencies that any other such product on the market, and they provide
measurement data on their website to back it up.
Ethan Winers design required that I place four
MondoTraps in three of my rooms corners: one each in the front and rear left
corners, and, because of the rooms vaulted ceiling, two in the right front corner.
To stack one MondoTrap atop another, I used two thin pieces of aluminum stock to screw the
Mondos together, then mounted the bottom Mondo to a RealTrap stand. I then used
transparent picture-hanging wire, also provided in the kit, to secure the top of the Trap
to the corner. I placed the other two MondoTraps on stands in their designated corners.
The next box I opened revealed one of the four MiniTraps.
The RealTraps website says that the Mini is their biggest seller, and perhaps their best
performer. Each MiniTrap measures 24" by 48" by just over 3" thick. Made of
the same rigid fiberglass as the Mondo, the Mini has similar qualities of low-frequency
absorption, but is a bit smaller and slightly less thick. My Minis were to be mounted on
the front wall in the corners, and on the rear wall near the ceiling.
Last were the two RFZ Panels (RFZ stands for Reflection
Free Zone), designed to absorb the first reflections of the sound from the main speakers
so that you hear more of the direct sound from the speakers themselves, not a mixture of
that sound and its reflections off the wall. This improves the imaging and makes the sound
more clear. Each RFZ, measuring 42"H by 32"W by 2" thick, was to be hung on
wall like a painting. I had a friend slide a small mirror along the sidewall directly to
the left of my listening position as I sat. When I saw the tweeter of my left front
speaker reflected in the mirror, I got up and marked the mirrors position on the
sidewall, then hung the RFZ there, centered on that mark. I then repeated this procedure
for the right sidewall.
With all RealTraps now in place, I recalibrated my system
using the Automatic Room Optimization (ARO) feature of my JL Audio Fathom f112 subwoofers.
This notch filter actively cuts the worst bass peak created by the subs interaction
with the room. I connected the testing microphone to one of the Fathom f112s, placed the
mike at the listening seat, and pressed the Calibrate button on the sub, which began a
series of test tones that revealed and addressed the peak.
In the years Ive been reviewing audio equipment, this
was the first time I had ever heard a group of products make such an obvious difference in
my systems sound. Usually, during the ARO calibration, almost everything not glued
down or screwed to the floor shakes and rattles. This can be a symptom of poor house
construction, or some nasty room modes, or both. After installing the RealTraps, I was
surprised to find that the many rattles caused by the low-frequency soundwaves flowing
through my room were reduced to one here, one there. In fact, the ARO process, which can
take as long as three minutes, was completed in half that time. Apparently, the MondoTraps
and MiniTraps were absorbing enough low-frequency waves to make the process much simpler
for the ARO software.
ARO completed, I grabbed my trusty RadioShack SPL meter and
ran my speaker system through the calibration tones generated by my Anthem Statement D2
audio/video processor. In the D2s Music setup menu, I set my Rockport Technologies
Mira main loudspeakers to run full range, and my two Fathom f112s to overlap the Miras
from 100Hz down, to help fill in any room modes.
The combination of the Mondos and Minis diminished many of
my rooms frequency-response peaks, leaving a much cleaner, more natural sound. Notes
that had been overemphasized were now far more agile and controlled. And with the bass
bloat out of the way, my systems speed and articulation were now on full display.
The mids and highs, too, were better, though not in such
obvious ways. With the bass bloat gone, finer details at all frequencies were suddenly
revealed. Vocal recordings now had a stability of imaging unlike anything Id ever
experienced in my room. The RFZ Panels absorbed those wicked early reflections and allowed
me to hear my speakers to their full potential. As the RealTraps removed much of the
rooms deleterious effects from the sound reproduced by the speakers, I suddenly had
a new appreciation for the music, and for the quality of the audio system it had taken me
so long to assemble. It was a kind of musical rebirth.
The first track of Neil Youngs Prairie Wind is
"The Painter" [CD, Reprise 49580-2]. Before the RealTraps treatments, it had
been difficult for me to differentiate the low-end instruments in the songs opening
notes -- what I heard was a loud, boomy note that could have been a kick drum or a bass
guitar or both. With the RealTraps, the boom was suddenly gone, leaving the taut sound of
a kick drum, followed by the sound of a brush hitting a snare skin. Also now far more
prominent in this track were the sounds of Youngs pick strumming his guitar strings.
I realized that, without the RealTraps, the sound had been one-dimensional, not a true
reproduction of the actual recording. For an audiophile, using an excellent audio system
to discover previously shrouded details in music recordings, and thus to be pulled deeper
into the music, is one of the ultimate joys -- thats what I experienced with the
RealTraps in my room. It turns out that my system had been doing the trick all along;
Id just needed the RealTraps to brush away the cobwebs.
The RealTraps room treatments also greatly improved my
experience of film sound. For many years, a favorite demo of mine has been the
"23-19" scene from Monsters, Inc. The Pixar sound engineers, who always
deliver the goods, put together an intricate mix: doors open and close, and conveyor belts
run in the background, all accompanied by Randy Newmans fun musical score. One
moment thats particularly fun to watch is when George Sanderson returns from a
"scare." His partner, who had just been mentioning how much he loves old George,
spots a human childs sock on the hairy monsters back. Although the monsters
scare kids for a living, theyre actually deathly afraid of any contact with them.
The sonic mayhem that ensues includes a hovering helicopter, windows slamming open, the
sound of feet running around in panic -- a truly reference home-theater demo moment. To
cap it off, the monsters security detail destroys the childs sock with an
explosive charge. The sound of this explosion is quite deep, and hits hard and quick. With
the RealTraps in place, the sound popped into my room, then left as quickly as it had
arrived, with no overhang. The Traps absorbed the sudden shock wave and helped prevent a
dreaded rattle in the wall -- the one I can never find.
"Long Nights," one of my favorite songs from
Eddie Vedders soundtrack for Into the Wild [CD, RCA 715944], provided a good
illustration of how the entire RealTraps system worked together to stabilize a vocal
image. Vedders voice is quite deep on this track, and in the past has excited my
room, causing his voice to stand out more than it should. Behind Vedder, a bass guitar
doubles the pitches he sings, a detail that my rooms bloating of Vedders voice
had always obscured. Also, the image of the vocal should be stable, just to the left of
center. Without the RealTraps, Vedders voice tended to increase in size and shift a
bit. With the Traps, it was ultrastable and utterly clear, sounding more balanced and more
transparent than ever before.
"What you hear is 50% the speaker and the other 50% is
As I arranged to buy the RealTraps room treatments, I was
excited to hear how much they might improve the sound of my system. I wasnt prepared
for just how much better it would get. I had long believed in acoustically
treating a room, but had always held off because I intended to move to another house. What
a lot of time Ive wasted.
If youve invested hard-earned money in an audio
system you love and youve begun to realize that your room may be masking your
systems full capabilities, I recommend RealTraps products. But first, visit
their website and educate yourself in the science of room treatment. I believe that
RealTraps products can give you more improvement for your buck than almost any other
|Speakers - Rockport
Technologies Mira (mains), Energy Veritas 2.0Ri (surrounds), JL Audio Fathom f112
(subwoofers); Paradigm Studio 100 v.4 (mains), Paradigm Studio CC-690 v.4 (center),
Paradigm Studio ADP-590 v.4 (surrounds), Seismic 12 (subwoofer)
processor - Anthem Statement D2
|Amplifiers - Anthem MCA 50,
Krell KSA-50s, Coda Amplifier 11
- Toshiba HD-XA2 HD DVD player, Sony PlayStation 3 Blu-ray player, Slim Devices/Logitech
Squeezebox music server
|Cables - Nordost, Monster
Cable, DH Labs
conditioner - Shunyata Research Hydra Model-6 with Copperhead power cord
|Display device - Mitsubishi
- Universal Remote Control MX-850