Setting up a home studio can be taxing work. Every recording space is different and thus has different needs. If you don’t want your recording to be muffled or poor vocal quality, you’ll want some sound absorption pads to help control the sound waves. Regular sound pads may be necessary, but do you need bass traps in the corners?
You do need bass traps in a vocal booth. Bass traps absorb excess sound waves for the lower ranges and prevent vocal quality from becoming muddy or muffled. Bass traps are necessary for any recording area, but they’re essential if it’s a small space.
In the rest of this article, I’ll tell you more about bass traps, including what they are, what they do, why you need them, and how to install them properly. I’ll also talk about what kinds of sound absorption materials you can use to give your vocal booth the cleanest, crispest audio quality for recording.
What Are Bass Traps?
Bass traps are a specific type of sound absorption material. While regular sound panels decrease sound waves at a higher frequency, bass traps are thicker, made special for lower frequencies and more powerful sound waves. This is most helpful when vocalists need very clear recordings.
Bass traps are often shaped to fit in the corners of rooms because lower frequencies tend to bounce to corners. However, bass traps come in all shapes and sizes because vocal booths vary significantly in their makeup and sound absorption needs.
Why You Need Bass Traps in a Vocal Booth
There’s just no getting around it: you do need bass traps in your vocal booth. Unless you have a remarkably soundproof room and only record in the mid to high frequencies (which is pretty improbable), you’ll need some bass traps to clean up your recordings and make the highest quality sound.
The idea of a padded sound studio is to mute all extra noise in the room and hear the recorded music or vocals. The “room tone” is the natural sound of a room. Human brains tune out the ambient noises in a room, but a microphone will pick up those sounds and record them. When you listen to a recording, it will sound different than you imagined.
Sound studios aim to decrease the difference between live and recorded sounds by taking out the room tone. Music professionals do this by adding sound pads and bass traps to reduce the surrounding noise and keep the audio as straightforward as possible.
While setting up a sound studio can be expensive, bass traps are not always the priciest thing to order. Depending on how many and what kind of traps you need, you can buy them online for relatively cheap. They are just as important as your regular sound panels, so don’t neglect to pick some up for your home studio.
For more information, check out why its so hard to record vocals.
There are many kinds of bass traps – some are tailored to specific sound registers, but most cover a wide range of lower-range sound waves. For an inexpensive set, I recommend the Ueemph 12 Pack of Black Bass Traps. These traps will work in most small vocal booths to cover the extra bass sound waves.
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Bass Traps & Soundwaves
Before we talk about bass traps specifically, let’s discuss sound waves and recording a little bit. Sound waves are a form of energy created by sound. They are the vibrations of a voice or another sound that travel in the form of a wave. These waves reflect off of surfaces or are absorbed by them.
Sound waves reflect off hard surfaces, such as tile or wood (which is why a bathroom or garage tends to echo so much). While more reverberations are fantastic for live music or performances, recorded audio can get muddled when the sound bounces off the walls and comes back to the microphone.
This is why sound studios use absorption pads to treat their rooms – they absorb sound (up to 75% of excess waves for small audio booths) and make the sound dryer and clearer. There are several different kinds of sound pads, including reflection and diffusing panels, ceiling clouds, and bass traps.
Can I Use Standard Sound Pads Instead of Bass Traps?
You cannot use standard sound pads instead of bass traps. Bass traps’ unique function is to decrease excess sound bouncing around the vocal booth and make the recording cleaner and more precise. Any home studio with a vocal booth will need bass traps for an increase in audio quality.
You might be thinking that regular pads will do the trick. However, a standard sound absorption pad is usually about two inches thick. This thickness works excellently to absorb weaker sound waves, but longer, more robust audio will go through it and hit the wall behind. Anything below 300 Hz is complicated for a sound pad, and most bass sits in the 150-250 Hz range.
If bass waves are unchecked, they tend to bounce around the room and amplify or detract from themselves. Because this process isn’t controlled, the result can be a sloppy or uneven recording. To prevent the bass from peaking over all the other sounds, you’ll need to install some bass traps.
It is easy to record in a room without bass traps and not think that you need them. The recording may sound satisfactory to you – it can be hard to catch the nuances of lower frequencies. However, once you add bass traps, you will immediately hear a clearer and less muddy sound in your recordings.
If you want to experiment with bass traps without committing, you can always buy a set and return them if you don’t like them. Or, go a more straightforward route: you can buy a few Rockwool or fiberglass insulation packets at a local hardware store and set them in your recording place (leaving them in their packages) to see how that increases the sound quality.
Using packaged insulation will help you understand how bass traps (and sound insulation in general) work. You can use the regular insulation if you like how it sounds or return it and buy pads designed for audio recording. Either way, you’ve found a way to trap the extra bass sound waves.
For more information, check out my article about whether bass traps actually make a difference.
Tips for Placing and Using Bass Traps
Use and set up bass traps just like regular sound pads you’d place in your vocal booth or home studio along the walls. Because bass tends towards corners, most bass pads are triangle-shaped for easy setup. Many sets come with adhesives to place the traps on the walls or in the corners.
If you can only afford a few bass traps, start by putting them in the higher corners of the room, then move on to the lower corners. Ideally, you’ll be able to cover an entire corner floor to ceiling, especially if it’s a more rigid material like wood or tile.
The smaller your space is, the more traps you’ll need. The sound waves bounce more frequently in a smaller vocal booth. Unfortunately, you might not have room for all the bass traps you want, but you can experiment with the ideal amount for vocal quality without muffling the room itself.
When using bass traps or any other padding, you need to be careful not to pad your room too much. If your recording sounds stuffy or muffled, but you have a complete setup of pads, you might need to take a few away and see if the recording sounds more natural. Again, it’s different for every vocal booth – you’ll have to make it your own!
For more information, check out where to place bass traps in a home studio.
Bass traps are vital for excellent, clear sound quality in a recording. Especially if your vocal booth is small, you’ll want some bass pads to absorb the extra sound. With bass traps and other sound pads, you’ll be able to get the best audio from your recordings.