I'm a big proponent of using room treatments. Even before I could afford to buy professionally manufactured room treatments, my friend and I would often make our own, though admittedly we never empirically tested them to see if they worked. We believed they did. I relied pretty heavily on DIY solutions until I came upon GIK Acoustics. GIK Acoustics is an Internet-direct company that specializes in room treatments for studios, home theaters and large public spaces. The bulk of its clientele are professional and/or semi pro musicians, though it's not like room acoustics are exclusive to just producers and mixers - after all, a room is still a room. I became a GIK customer a few years ago and wrote about my experience in my first GIK Acoustic review. Since those initial phone calls, I've stayed in touch with the good people over at GIK and, in some ways, we've become friends. Don't think for a second that my friendly relationship with GIK has anything to do with me being a reviewer, as it doesn't. All you have to do is pick up the phone and call 'em and you'll soon realize everyone who inquires is a friend of GIK Acoustics. It's just that kind of company.
Truth be told, I had been discussing my new reference theater with the folks over at GIK when they suggested I try out one of their newest products, the Scatter Plate. The Scatter Plate isn't so much a new product as it is an adaptation of or add-on to many of GIK's existing treatments. The Scatter Plate is a wooden plank or plate, with a series of slats cut into it in a precise mathematical sequence, which provides a level of scatter, as well as diffusion, to any of GIK's existing products. The new Scatter Plate sits on top of GIK's existing product with the fabric of your choice wrapped around it. When wrapped, there isn't much to distinguish a Scatter Plate-equipped GIK product from one that isn't equipped, until you touch it and/or pick it up, of course. The idea behind adding the Scatter Plate to any room treatment is to help give your room a more balanced sound, for no longer do your treatments have to solve only one acoustical problem at a time. Now you can layer absorption and a bit of scatter/diffusion together in one affordable package.
Because the Scatter Plate is an add-on, its size and weight varies, but its price does not. The cost to add a Scatter Plate to any compatible GIK Acoustic product is $49, meaning GIK's 242 panel (their cheapest product at $59.99 each) with a Scatter Plate addition would cost you $108.99. The cost of achieving similar absorption and diffusion using discrete products would run you upwards of $180 or more. Obviously, discrete products may yield better, more tailored results, but if you're tight on space and/or money, adding a Scatter Plate begins to make a lot of sense. Furthermore, the Scatter Plate doesn't prevent you from enjoying any of GIK's standard fabric finishes, nor does it alter the company's commitment to sustainable manufacturing.
I took delivery of two Scatter Plate-equipped Monster Bass Traps, which on their own, without the Plate, cost $118.99 each. The price of the Monster Bass Traps with Scatter Plate jumps to $167.99 each - an increase for sure, but still within the realm of reason. I happened to own a pair of non-Scatter Plate Monster Bass Traps already, so I wanted to test how the two compared, as well as how the new Monster Traps with the Plate compared to GIK's own Tri-Traps. Because the Scatter Plate-equipped panels are designed to go in your room anywhere other than first- and second-order reflection points, I decided to test their effectiveness in one of two places: first, in the corners of my room and, second, behind my listening position.
First, in comparison to my Tri-Traps, which I use in the corners of my room, I found the Monster Bass Traps with Scatter Plate to perform just a touch better. The Scatter Plate-equipped traps resulted in a slightly (emphasis on slightly) smoother, less peaky response from about 50Hz on through to 100Hz, with decay times actually coming up shorter from about 80 to 120Hz, which was surprising. However, the Monster Bass Traps with Scatter Plates were not quite as physically stable when resting in a corner, meaning some tricky mounting or stabilization would be required for corner placement, which isn't impossible, but is still not as easy as placing and/or stacking a couple of Tri-Traps. Compared to the non-Plated Monster Bass Traps, the Scatter Plate add-on proved beneficial, but only slightly - in terms of its absorption, that is. In a head to head battle, both Monster Bass Traps were pretty evenly matched, with the Scatter Plate-equipped panels eking out slightly better performance from about 60Hz to 100Hz when measured against the wall and behind my left and right mains. However, when I put the Scatter Plate-equipped traps behind my primary listening position, approximately 18 inches up off the floor, things improved more dramatically. GIK recommends Scatter Plate products behind the seated position, and I can see and hear why. It's not that the difference was night and day, per se, but it was noticeable. My center image tightened up and stepped a little forward, thus opening up the depth of my audible soundstage. Bass wasn't so much a factor, though I felt as if mid and high frequencies gained a touch of urgency. There were still appropriate amounts of reverb, air and decay; it just sounded a bit more natural, more acoustic, as opposed to mid-hall. Of course, these are just my subjective opinions, as every room and situation is bound to be different, though after several days of experimentation, I definitely saw the point with regards to the Scatter Plate's effectiveness. Do you need it on every trap you purchase from GIK? No. In fact, if money is tight, I'd probably opt for using the Scatter Plates on traps that would otherwise be positioned along your back wall, as that is where their effect is most dramatic.
Read about the high points and low points of the GIK Acoustics Scatter Plate on Page 2.
At $49, the Scatter Plate addition to any GIK product is a notable upgrade that isn't going to ultimately break the bank.
With the addition of the Scatter Plate to its product line, GIK's build quality appears to have improved over previous generations. Likewise, the addition of the Scatter Plate doesn't stop customers from enjoying the wide variety of finish options available as standard.
The Scatter Plate add-on effectively makes most (if not) all of GIK's products dual threats, often providing for absorption while allowing for a level of diffusion and scatter, too.
When placed along the back wall behind the primary seating positions, the Scatter Plate's effectiveness on midrange and high-frequency diffusion is most noticeable.
Depending on your room and/or needs, you simply may not need the Scatter Pla
te. For example, I use acoustic treatments primarily to help with low frequencies, where the Scatter Plate addition isn't going to be much help.
While the Scatter Plate does allow for some measure of diffusion and scatter, dedicated products, including those made by GIK, will still perform better if only diffusion and/or scatter is what you're after.
The Scatter Plate cannot be added later, but rather only at initial purchase.
Competition and Comparison
Scatter Plates aimed at providing diffusion and scattering of high frequencies are not wholly new. Auralex makes a series of products aimed at doing the same things as GIK's Scatter Plate, as does RPG, though neither, to my knowledge, is as affordable. For more on room acoustic treatments and/or products, please visit Home Theater Review's Accessories page.
The Scatter Plate from GIK Acoustics is sort of a strange beast, in that it's an add-on to any of GIK's already excellent product offerings. As such, it merely enhances GIK's existing products by providing a measure of diffusion and high-frequency scattering when and if needed. When in place, the Scatter Plate doesn't appear to negatively affect the existing trap's low-frequency absorption, which is a very good thing. While the Scatter Plate may not be a necessary upgrade for every trap or every environment, I like that, should you need it, its cost isn't prohibitive. Also, it can help curb the number of traps ultimately needed should you require both absorption and diffusion throughout your room. Definitely worth a look and a phone call to GIK to see if it's right for you.