I recently moved to a new location to have a dedicated mix space. I came across a spot that was so beautifully Seattle in its setting that I wanted to — no, had to — make it work. The room is out over the water on a dock, with boats coming and going, and views of the bridge and surrounding city landscape. The location, the view, the water — this is where my mind wanted to mix, so I figured I had to make it work.
The room itself is a chunky L shape — asymmetric with lots of right angles — with 9 ft ceilings. In a semi-rush to get up and running again, I set up the mix position in what I felt was probably the best spot in the room. I brought out the limited selection of 24" × 48" × 4" Owens Corning 703 panels from my previous studio, and placed them behind the monitors, on the side walls, and in the "nook" of the L.
Alright... Let's get to work! I took an "in progress" mix to the car, expecting to hear a few deficiencies or exaggerations in certain frequency areas. Instead, the mix just sounded wrong. The low end was off, and some elements were overly bright. So with a less-than-gentle sigh (it was more of an "Oh F%&$!!!"), I realized how much work the room would require to make it a trustworthy listening and working environment.
I have built two functional and good sounding studios from scratch. I have built bass traps into corners and made permanently mounted diffusers and slat-panel absorbers. The research — reading about room modes, nodes, standing waves, scatter, absorption coefficients, RT60 measurements, rigid fiberglass, mineral wool, and all the rest — was fun and educational, but it took a hell of a lot of time! So, as I was on Amazon about to click "buy" on a couple of cases of 703, I came to a sad but liberating realization: My days of hardcore DIY are over.
But, lo and behold, right around the time I usually need something for the studio, I find myself at a trade show with a world of options and solutions at my feet. How convenient! At this year's NAMM Show, I met Glenn Kuras and his wife Shelly from GIK Acoustics. Their products looked great in their booth. A few weeks later, after some back and forth over the phone to further discuss my issues, as well as me sending room photos and dimensions to Glenn, it became clear that GIK was the right solution. The customer service — and Glenn's willingness to have these conversations in order to develop a solution that is neither over the top in price nor more than I need to get back to work — really went a long way with me. His "let's start with this and go from there" approach left me feeling like I was not just another "sale." In fact, based on these early interactions alone, I recommended GIK to my friend Pete Droge, who called asking me for input on some bass trapping solutions for his studio on Vashon Island.
GIK makes a full line of acoustic treatments to address a variety of needs in all shapes, sizes, and colors; and for the quality of build and the availability of custom options, it is all quite affordable. On GIK's recommendation, I ended up getting six Tri-Trap corner bass traps for three corners of the room, and six broadband 244 FlexRange bass traps for early reflection points on the walls and ceiling, to round out the 703 panels I had already mounted in the room.
The 244s can be ordered in three standard sizes: 24.25" × 48.25", 24" × 24", and 12" × 48" . I purchased the largest ones. Custom sizing is also available. The patented design incorporates FlexRange technology in a two-frame system, with a hidden air gap behind the panel to improve absorption. Specifically, a backing frame spaces the acoustic material away from the wall, allowing sound to come in through the fabric-covered sides and into the air gap, where it can be absorbed, even when the panel is flush-mounted on the wall. Additionally, FlexRange allows the customer to pick the frequency absorption profile. If you choose to go without an integrated membrane, the panels offer true broadband absorption, which is ideal for first reflection points. With the range-limiter membrane added, the panels are extra effective at lower frequencies and less so at high frequencies, which can help a room sound bigger without sounding too dead.
The Tri-Trap corner bass traps come standard at 23.5" × 16.5" × 16.5" and stand 47" tall. They have a triangular cross-section with flat ends, so you can place them end-to- end in wall/wall, wall/floor, or wall/ceiling junctions. I stacked two on top of each other, for floor to ceiling coverage, in three corners of my room.
There are nine color options at standard pricing, as well as fabrics from Guilford of Maine for additional cost. I ordered mine in standard light grey fabric. It's worth noting that GIK uses mineral wool with ECOSE absorption technology from Knauf Insulation, as well as PureBond formaldehyde-free plywood from LEED-certified Columbia Forest Products. Personally, I am glad to see some companies in our industry developing products with the planet in mind. Installation was relatively easy on the ceiling cloud over the mix position (my back would tell you differently), and the bass traps hung easily on the walls with simple picture-frame hanging wire.
When you have issues in a room, and you correct them with effective acoustic treatment, the results are immediate. In my room, focus and image were greatly improved, bass response became more accurate, and it was easier to sit and listen for longer periods of time. When the listening environment is better balanced, your brain is relieved of making compensating calculations. I can now trust my ears without the stress of second-guessing everything I am hearing in the room. Here's another thing: You can have great monitors, but only a fraction of their potential performance is revealed if your listening environment isn't properly treated. I have two great pairs of monitors — PMC and Focal — and neither were sounding anywhere near accurate in my under-treated room. In fact, the reason why I picked up the Focals is because, in the untreated room, I wrongly assumed I had "outgrown" the PMCs. The moment I sat down to listen with the new GIK room treatments installed, I felt that I had gotten my old familiar monitors back — and a new and improved version of them! It was shocking to hear what I had missed while trying to work in a compromised environment, and it was comforting to know that all I had to do was properly treat the room. Importantly, I regained confidence in my mix decisions, and my mixes were translating immediately.
If you are working in an untreated environment, do yourself a favor and look into some well-made acoustic treatments. In a small room, you may need less than you think, and the return on investment will be immediate. I recommend calling GIK Acoustics. It is obvious to me that Glenn and his team are passionate about their work and their products, and their customer service is tops.