Let’s face it: there’s no such thing as an ideal room. When you’re designing a space to suit your needs and then fill it with the right gear, you’re always going to find something you’ll want to improve about it. Your biggest issues may be standing waves, acoustic problems caused by reflections – or the fact that your neighbor down the hall is an enthusiast of death metal who has turned their speakers up loud enough to make air molecules vibrate! Whatever your challenge, we’ve got helpful advice on how to fix these dilemmas and get back on track with recording and mixing.
Acoustic treatment is a simple but often-overlooked way to regain some control over your space. There are some tried and true methods for taming some of the biggest acoustical issues that plague many studio spaces. Thankfully, some are very easy to implement into your space, too. If you’re ready to learn how to create acoustic treatment on a budget, read on…
Foam is the friend of every acoustician (a person who studies acoustics) because it’s an open cell material that will absorb sound waves with ease. This means it’s great at treating low frequencies, which can be difficult to remove using other acoustic treatment methods like panels or bass traps . Being able to accurately record and mix bass frequencies can make or break your mix – it’s often the glue that holds the track together, giving more weight to each instrument in the frequency spectrum.
You can cut, shape, paint and texture foam into any size or shape you need to get the low end under control. For example, you can create easy-to-install corner bass traps by cutting cubes of foam and sealing them in some type of acoustic panel. You can also use flat sheets of foam like Auralex MoPADs (available in 8″ and 2′ sizes).
Are foam bass traps any good?
Foam bass traps are the least expensive and most easily-worked acoustic treatment method. They’re also one of the more effective at absorbing low frequencies, which is great for those of us who don’t want to screw around with delicate panels or drape blankets flat on walls. If you choose to use foam as your main low frequency absorber, you will likely need to combine it with another treatment method like Auralex MoPADs (also available in 8″ and 2′ sizes) or bass traps .
How good!? Well, good enough to be used as the sole property of almost any professional recording studio. You can find foam bass traps everywhere: on virtually every recording space. If you want to take the guesswork out of choosing the best method for your space, check out our article on speaker placement.
Bass trap Basics
So how do you know what type of foam bass traps to use? Well, there are a few things that influence your decision. Some factors include: room size, coverage areas, acoustic goals and budget. If your room is large enough for side-wall bass traps, you can eliminate the need for additional treatments if they’re within 10′ of walls. However, if you have the space and want to do something more complex – like absorb down low – we suggest working with a professional acoustician.
Bass traps are available in both generic and brand-specific varieties. Generic foam bass traps like Auralex Studiofoam (available in 6″ and 12″ sizes) are easy to find, but aren’t always the best solution for treating low frequencies. They also can sometimes be difficult to work with because they’re not pre-cut. If you’re looking for something more sophisticated, you’ll want to look into brand specific options like the SonoTrap (available in 6″, 12″, 18″, 24″ and 48″ sizes). These types of foam bass traps can cover a lot of ground, especially when used on walls or ceilings. Brands like Auralex and FatMat have been around for years and have created a number of great products that are ready to meet any budget.
If you’re working with a large space, you’re going to need a lot of foam bass traps. In this case, you’re probably going to want to work with a professional acoustician because calculating the amount of bass traps you need can be challenging. To help figure out what size bass trap you need, keep these things in mind:
• The dimensions should be a multiple of your room’s longest dimension. For example, if the room is 10′ x 16′ x 8′, choose panels that are 16″, 24″ or 32″ inches long.
• The distance between panels should be at least 24 inches.
• To achieve the best low frequency absorption, keep 1/3 of your space between each bass trap. This will create a 30-degree angle between foam panels.
• Start with one type of bass trap first (i.e., standard or corner), and then add others later if needed.
No matter what kind of acoustic treatment you choose to use, you’ll want to make sure it’s installed correctly. Here are a few things to remember:
• Read the instructions that come with your acoustic treatment. There could be specific mounting instructions for your gear that you don’t want to ignore.
• If you’re working with Auralex and FatMat products, we suggest using their mounting kits and samples as a guide. They each offer great mounting options that will make your life much easier!
• When mounting foam panels to the wall, make sure it’s sturdy enough to hold the weight of the panel (i.e., heavy duty drywall anchors ).
Can foam absorb bass?
It’s pretty simple: just about any kind of foam will do the job of blocking low frequencies. In the studio, you’ll often have a choice between open cell foam and closed cell foam. Open cell is the more porous type of foam available at specialty retailers, but closed cell will work just as well. The advantage to a closed cell bass trap is that it absorbs bass more efficiently, so it reduces comb filtering and makes your room sound bigger without increasing reflections from higher frequencies bouncing off the ceiling or walls .
If you’re looking for a way to add some low end definition to your room without making too much noise, then an open cell bass trap is probably the best investment. We recommend using the Auralex Studiofoam 6″ or 12″ models (available in 6″ and 12″ sizes). They’re easier to work with than the bigger models, but they can still get the job done. Some of our clients choose to use open cell foam for its durability, while others like it for its easy-to-work with size.
Can foam block high frequencies?
Foam isn’t designed to block high frequencies (much like blankets, panels or bass traps). However, if you’re looking to shield your speakers from potentially damaging low frequency sound waves, then even open cell foam will do the trick. When it comes to bass traps, we like using Auralex Studiofoam (available in 6″ and 12″ sizes).
How strong is foam?
At Audio Solutions, we often hear “I want something that’s strong enough to hold the weight of the panel”. Well, that’s not an easy task. It depends on where you’re buying your gear and what kind of weight you’re putting on it. For example, if you’re working with open cell foam, we recommend using a heavier duty drywall anchor when installing it to the wall. Keep in mind that foam can break and it’s important to be careful when handling the product. If the bass trap breaks in your space, it’s going to make a lot of noise and/or create unwanted reflections from uneven surfaces.
Which foam is best?
There are a lot of options available when it comes to bass traps. Open cell foam works well for absorbing low frequencies, while closed cell can work well for absorbing high frequencies, but both options will get the job done! Since there are so many great choices out there, we’d suggest going to one of these places:
Auralex : Their website offers a free catalog with a variety of different products you can buy directly. We recommend heading over to the ” Find the right foam ” section where you’ll find detailed recommendations for different types of bass trap. Here’s a quick rundown of Auralex options you’ll want to look into:
• Studiofoam 6″ has an NRC rating of .45, so it’s great for absorbing low frequencies in smaller rooms. It also comes in 12″ and 24″ sizes, but it’s probably best for isolating your speaker from unwanted room reflections.
• Studiofoam 12″ has an NRC rating of .82, so it’s great for absorbing low frequencies in larger rooms. If your room is 15′ x 10′ x 8′, that means you’ll need three panels to cover all areas of the room.
• Studiofoam 24″ has an NRC rating of .80, so it’s great for absorbing low frequencies in larger rooms. If your room is 15′ x 10′ x 16′, that means you’ll need six panels to cover all areas of the room.
Acoustical Solutions: Their website offers a catalog with a variety of options in different sizes and materials. If you’re unsure about what kind of acoustic treatment you want, we’d recommend looking into their signature bass traps and how they work in different studio spaces .
Cornerstix: Their website offers a variety of products that come in rolls that you can unroll and cut to your desired length. They offer great foam choices for both open cell and closed cell. Some of their products even come with Velcro so they can be adhered directly to walls or ceilings.
Should I use foam or UHMW?
Many people ask us about using Auralex Studiofoam 6″ or 12″ instead of UHMW (Ultra High Molecular Weight Polyethylene). From an insulation standpoint, soundproofing with UHMW is pretty comparable to the weight of 1-2 rolls of foam at 20 inches. Acoustically, the two materials are a little different. Here’s a quick rundown of what you can expect from each material:
• UHMW is a synthetic plastic that comes in sheets that runs on the higher end of the price scale. It tends to have a more noticeable “pop” when it’s hit with a stick, so it’s more effective at absorbing high frequencies. The advantage of UHMW is that it’s very strong and doesn’t really break down over time.
• Foam is made from organic materials and runs on the lower-end of price spectrum. It has less mass than UHMW, which means it won’t absorb high frequencies as well as low frequencies .
Can I cut foam to fit my space?
Absolutely! One of the great things about foam is that it can be cut to any shape or size. If you’re looking to get rid of some of the clutter in your studio or bedroom, then getting more of it into less space is always a great option. You’ll want to score the foam at your desired position on your wall, but keep in mind that it will stretch when you unroll it so you might need to use extra tape or glue in order for it not to pull away. For example, if you’re buying 12″ sized foam and need 6 feet, you’ll use up all 6 inches on one side when unrolled.
In the end, it’s all about how you plan to use your bass trap. If you want to build a huge sound proofing barrier, then you’ll need a heavier duty drywall anchor. If you’re looking for a product that can hold up to daily abuse from people dropping things on it and banging on it, then foam is probably your best bet. Whatever route you go down, we’re pretty confident we’ve got just what you’re looking for.