Any artist that has started recording music or podcasts in a regular room will know how important bass traps are for improving sound quality and preventing bass booms. Low-end bass frequencies are why sound becomes uneven in a room and can cause inner ear damage. So, how should you place bass traps?
You should place bass traps in the corners of the room. This will reduce the effect of bass frequencies and can give you more neutral sound effects. Always prioritize placing bass traps in trihedral corners as opposed to dihedral corners.
The rest of this article will discuss how bass traps work, where to place these traps, and why bass traps are so important for a good listening experience. I’ll also give you tips on how to make and install your own bass traps in a room or studio.
The Importance of Bass Trap Placement
In order to understand the importance of bass trap placement, you first need to know how they work. And, to do this, you must understand how different forms of energy can be converted into another energy form. For instance, think about how ice will turn into water when heated and thus move from a solid into a liquid.
The total amount of energy in a substance remains the same even after it converts into another energy form, and this is because energy cannot be destroyed.
Bass traps work the same way, except that it converts sound energy into heat energy. This happens because the low-end sound waves hit the insulation material of the traps, creating friction. This friction then causes the sound energy to turn into heat, which weakens the sound level of low-end frequencies.
Bass traps are specially designed to absorb low-end sound waves and convert them into heat through friction. These low-end sound waves are called bass, and they affect the sound quality in a room because these frequencies tend to bounce off solid objects in all directions.
However, these frequencies tend to bounce off the corners of a room more because that’s the meeting point of two solid objects.
If these low-end bass frequencies are being emitted across a room in different directions, the artist won’t be able to get a good perception of what their music actually sounds like. This means that bass reflections in the recording room won’t allow an artist to hear whether or not the track is balanced.
This is where bass traps come in and why they’re so important to an artist trying to achieve high/professional standards. Bass traps work as an insulator that converts sound energy into heat energy.
They’re made mostly of insulation materials such as fiberglass, rock wool, and foam, and they’re mainly placed in the corners of a room where there’s the highest low-frequency build-up.
Therefore, where you place bass traps in a room is essential to the sound quality. Bass traps are used in every major studio and vocal booth to absorb excess sound waves, and they’re even more important in smaller rooms. So, if you’re not happy with the sound quality and consistency in your homemade studio, you need to install bass traps.
Bass traps are designed to only work for low-frequency sound waves because these waves could create a bass boom or ruin the sound quality. If you want to remove mid to high frequencies, you would need wall panels.
Where Should I Place Bass Traps?
The low-end bass frequency bounces off the corners of a wall more because of the higher pressure. This is why it makes sense to place bass traps along the eight corners of your room (that is, if your room is rectangular).
However, there are two types of corner placement that many people consider when placing bass traps: trihedral corners and dihedral corners. Trihedral corners are the ideal place to place bass traps, which I’ll discuss more in the following section.
Place Bass Traps in the Trihedral Corners
Trihedral corners are where three surfaces meet and act as a suction cup for low-end frequencies. If you’re dealing with a rectangular room, there will be eight trihedral corners. Thus, it’s no surprise that these corners have the highest pressure points in a room.
Placing bass traps in these corners will significantly lower the bass in the room and provide you with a more direct sound. These corner traps are a great start to reducing bass frequencies, but if you can’t place that many bass traps, it’s best to start with the upper four corners of your room.
However, other areas could be covered to further improve the low-frequency response within your setup.
If you’ve already placed bass traps along the eight trihedral corners of your room (wall, wall, ceiling/floor), then the next best place to place traps is in the corners, a ceiling trap, and a floor trap.
Thus you will have four extra bass traps, which would make twelve traps altogether. If this bass trap system is implemented, the sound quality and consistency should be optimal in a recording room.
However, if you’re not satisfied with the result and want to further improve the low-frequency response in your room, then placing traps on the ceiling and walls will help. Check out this video on where to place bass traps for the best effects:
How To Properly Install a Bass Trap
Bass traps are quite easy to install, and the following steps will show you just how. Note that different bass traps may be of different sizes, so you may need to read the manual provided to have the right distances between the L-shaped brackets.
Nevertheless, here are the steps to properly install a bass trap:
- Get a drill, a level, measuring tape, and a pencil.
- Take out the provided mounting hardware that comes with each panel.
- Measure 16 inches (41 cm) from the corner to your first L bracket (or the length instructed in the manual). Pro-tip: take the L bracket and place the level against it when mounting.
- Ensure the other L bracket is at the same height and 16 inches (41 cm) from the corner on the opposing wall.
- Measure 47 and 1/8 inches (120 cm) down for the next L bracket, or the length instructed in the manual. (Make sure that you use the level for each L bracket, as this will ensure that your base trap is mounted level).
- Once you have your hardware set all the way up, you’re ready to easily insert the base trap between your four corner L brackets.
- Drill the screws directly into the panel frame, and you’ll do this for the top and the bottom screws.
How Bass Traps Improve the Listening Experience
Let’s try and understand why Bass traps are so important in the first place. Bass traps improve the overall sound quality and listening experience by absorbing most of the low-frequency sound waves that affect the listening experience as well as cause bass booms.
Bass booms are the terrible sound of low-frequency sound waves below 100hz that ruin not only a beautiful music performance but also cause permanent hearing loss.
Here’s why bass traps are important in a recording space and how it improves the listening experience:
- All small recording rooms will have bass issues. It’s naive to think that a recording room won’t have any low-frequency issues at all. This is because bass frequencies bounce around the room with no object that can absorb or transform these frequencies in any way. This will then result in a bass boom or unevenness in the sound quality.
- Bass problems cause sound quality issues. Artists who record in a room with bass issues are unable to hear what their mixes actually sound like because of the environment they’re in. Therefore, if you’re a small-time artist that records at home or in a small studio, bass traps are a must.
- Bass frequencies aren’t removed by normal soundproofing systems. Having soundproofing materials such as acoustic panels are a great way of removing high to mid-range sound frequencies but are no good when it comes to removing bass frequencies. Bass traps, whether homemade or manufactured, are the only way of removing these frequencies and giving you the sound quality you deserve.
- Bass traps can save you a lot of time. By removing the low-end frequencies during recordings with bass traps, you end up saving a whole lot of time during the post-production process. It would take many hours to remove all of the low-frequency sounds during post-production without bass traps.
How To Make Your Own Bass Traps
Bass Traps aren’t that hard to make on your own, and it can save you money in the long run.
Firstly, you’ll need the following tools and materials:
- Cheap fabric
- Furring straps
- OSB plywood
- Power drill
Also, remember to wear protective gear (such as gloves) to ensure that safety measures are maintained. You’ll be working with a power drill, so be aware of your fingers as well.
The two types of fabric required should be acoustically transparent, which means that they should be thin enough for sound waves to pass through. If this isn’t done, then sound waves will simply bounce off the fabric rather than be absorbed by it.
1. Work Out How Many Traps Are Needed
The first step is to plan and work out how many bass traps are required or how many you want in your room. For example, if you plan to cover the trihedral corners, you’ll need eight traps.
When this is done, you should begin measuring the dimensions of the trap. The two main measurements will be how thick and long you want it to be. A normal bass trap would be about 5-6 inches (13-15 cm) thick and 46 inches (117 cm) long, but you can create them with any dimensions you want. Three decent-sized traps should be able to cover a full corner from floor to ceiling if stacked on top of each other.
Once the calculations are done, mark them out onto the fiberglass and wood so that you’ll know where to make cuts.
2. Cut and Assemble the Components
Once the measurements are done, cut out the OSB, wood, and furring straps into the correct sizes. You’ll know that it’s going well if you end up with triangular boards with right angles. This step requires caution and precision because you must be careful of the eclectic saw and ensure that the measurements are correct.
Once all the cuts are made, you can begin assembling them together. Simply glue the furring straps and OSB together with wood glue (making sure that they’re aligned), and wait a few minutes for the glue to dry. Then, add reinforcements by screwing them together.
This is done by drilling a few small holes into the OSB and then putting the screws in place.
3. Cut the Fabric and Put It in Place
Cut the fabric according to the size of your structure, but add a few inches so that it covers the frame fully. The cheap fabric can be used to cover the back half of the trap, as it won’t be visible at all, while the better fabric may be used in the front half.
You can either glue the fabric onto the structure or use a staple gun to get it firmly in place. The staple gun is a much quicker and more efficient option.
4. Place the Fiberglass and Insulation in Position
Measure and cut out the fiberglass and place it into the frame. Then, simply fill the frame with insulation as much as possible without the material sticking out. Cover the front of the frame with good material, and you’re good to go!
Bass traps are an essential component of most studios and can significantly enhance the recording experience. You can use as many traps as you want in a studio, although it’s best to have just enough for neutral sound effects.
Where you install these traps can make a world of difference on the sound quality and the number of bass traps needed. Always place these traps in the room’s corners as this is where sound waves convene before spreading out.
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