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Acoustic Sciences Corporation (ASC) SmartTrap Reviewed

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HTR Product Rating

Performance
4.5 Stars
Value
4.5 Stars
Overall
4.5 Stars

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ASC_SmartTrap_acoustic_treatment_review.gifAcoustic Sciences Corporation or ASC is arguably the grandfather of today's modern acoustic treatment movement. Their first ever product, the TubeTrap, was introduced in 1984 by its designer and ASC founder Arthur Noxon and has been so popular that it is still in production today, albeit with some modifications. The TubeTrap has been so successful that it is virtually synonymous with room acoustics much in the same way the word Xerox is for copy machines or Kleenex is for tissues. Furthermore, no other acoustical treatment product has garnered more awards or been used in as many professional recording spaces as Noxon's TubeTrap.

Additional Resources
• Read more AV racks and furniture reviews by the staff at Home Theater Review.
• Learn more about putting a room together by Andrew Robinson.

Today ASC has grown into a full fledged acoustic treatment manufacturer designing and building products that address a number of acoustical needs and issues for a wide variety of clientele. Among ASC's newest product offerings is their SmartTrap line of acoustical products reviewed here. The SmartTrap family of products include, surprise, surprise, a number of TubeTraps as well as HalfRounds (289/ea), SoundPanels ($119/ea), PolyDiffusers ($229/ea) and AcousticSconces ($139/ea). ASC states that the SmartTrap family of products is aimed at providing consumers with a "complete acoustical tool kit" for any room.

SmartTrap products are available for purchase through ASC's dealer network. If there isn't an ASC dealer in your area, customers are encouraged to contact ASC to find a dealer to work through, either by phone or via the Internet. My SmartTrap review setup consisted of two 16-inch diameter SmartTraps ($488/ea), four 13-inch diameter SmartTraps ($389/ea), eight 11-inch diameter SmartTraps ($338/ea) and two 14-inch wide SoundPanels ($119/ea) for a total of 16 acoustical treatments at $5,474 retail. All SmartTraps measure three feet tall but ASC has other products that can be customized to nearly any height. SmartTrap products come in three standard finishes, black, grey and tan - with my review samples being shipped in the latter.

SmartTraps, like ASC's original TubeTraps, treat a number of acoustic issues within a single design. For starters all SmartTraps help to break up low frequency waves aka bass while also providing high adjustable frequency diffusion and absorption. The result, according to ASC, is a finely tuned sound that is neither overly damp nor bright, which I'll get to in a bit. Of course the SmartTrap's low frequency performance is dictated by its diameter with the larger diameter traps able to tame frequencies lower than those with less size to them. For instance the largest of the traps that I was sent, the 16-inch diameter full-round SmartTrap, works down to 55Hz. The 13-inch diameter traps are effective down to 70Hz with the smaller, 11-inch diameter rounds, reaching down to 90Hz. But as I mentioned above, the full-round SmartTraps also provide diffusion, which, unlike their low frequency performance, is constant, providing high frequency diffusion from 400Hz and above. Even ASC's SoundPanels help absorb frequencies from 190Hz as well as diffuse frequencies above 500Hz. All of the SmartTrap products manage to pull off the double threat, absorbing low frequencies while diffusing highs, thanks in part to their unique construction.

The Hookup
Before I get into what I've dubbed "ASC moving day," it's important to note that there's a lot more to the process of treating your room than simply buying and installing a couple of tube traps. For starters, ASC and its highly trained dealer base aren't about to let you address your acoustic challenges blind or even alone. Potential customers are encouraged to speak with their dealers, who will consult with ASC directly when deciding which products will work best.

For the purposes of this review ASC treated me like any other client who didn't have a local dealer; they even asked me to call in and go through a very simple yet cordial question and answer session with an ASC project advisor. Afterwards, the ASC project advisor instructed me to make a detailed drawing of my room, complete with measurements, indicating every opening, hallway, window, cubby etc. Along with my drawing they asked me to stand in the middle of my room and with a simple point and shoot camera (I used my iPhone 4) take a series of photographs that would give the folks over at ASC a 360-degree view of my room. Once completed, I sent both the drawing and photos over to ASC via email and in a little over 24 hours received a response. Surprisingly ASC's initial response didn't include any recommendations for which products to purchase; instead it was a list of suggestions of how I could improve my room without spending a penny. Wow.

A few of the suggestions were a bit drastic, such as moving the entrance to my kitchen, but I appreciated ASC's attention to detail. I found out later that many of the suggestions came from Mr. Noxon himself, which was doubly cool for very few founders have anything to do with their own companies, let alone get their "hands dirty" these days. After a few brief email chats between myself and ASC explaining what I could and couldn't accommodate in terms of modifications to my room/home, they were ready to make their recommendation(s). A few days later I received very detailed CAD drawings of not only my room but of the various SmartTraps located within and how I should arrange them based on the unique properties of my room.

ASC_SmartTrap_acoustic_treatment_review_ScreenDown_floorplan.gif

Truth be told, the suggestions and arrangements seemed a bit dramatic for I was prepared for ASC to come back with a pretty basic layout - traps in the corners, panels on the first and second order reflections and so on. Instead I got a schematic suggesting a layout unlike anything I'd ever seen and something that was 180-degree different than what was recommended to me by GIK Acoustics, who originally did the acoustical design of my room. I contacted ASC after receiving the drawings to ask them about their unique plan and they told me that for the absolute best performance in my primary listening position I should set up the various traps as suggested but they also encouraged me to experiment too. A few weeks later 13 boxes arrived with the various SmartTraps inside.

Read more about the set up and performance of the SmartTraps on Page 2.
continue to page two
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