Acoustic Panels and Bass Traps

Difference Between Acoustic Panels and Bass Traps

It took me a lot of analysis to decide how to soundproof my studio for the first time. Acoustic panels and bass traps were the first things I have installed. And you should too if want better audio.

Acoustic panels are sound-absorbing panels that are used to absorb middle and high frequencies of sound in a room, which helps keep a check on reverberation. Bass traps are also sound panels, but they remove low-end frequencies that acoustic panels cannot absorb.

Many podcasters don’t have a dedicated recording studio. Actually, they don’t even need one to get started, since these days it is completely possible and convenient to record at home.

But there is one downside. While podcasting from home saves you a ton of money, the acoustics might not be too great. When you listen to what you have recorded, you hear the decaying reflections of your voice. Or the music that you played for the recording, you realize that it has a hyperactive bass.

Perhaps you are in dire need of acoustic treatments to get a clean recording. And that’s where the use of acoustic panels and bass traps comes in. But many people mix up the two and want to know what the difference is.

Do I Really Need an Acoustic Panel or Bass Trap?

As a general rule, if you are recording regularly in the same, closed location, you need both acoustic panels and bass traps. For most rooms, you have to use both to achieve good recording conditions. Temporarily you can soundproof by adding objects inside the room to stop soundwaves from bouncing.

An unwanted sound is fine if you are interviewing someone outdoors or making a documentary podcast. Beyond that, it will only leave a poor impression of your work. You can eliminate such unwanted sounds by managing the acoustics of your home recording space.

Acoustics get due consideration in the construction of a professional recording studio; no professional artist or company would want echoes or low-frequency sounds marring their recordings. If you want to recreate the same effect at home (which you should, because podcasting demands high-quality), you should think of utilizing acoustic panels and bass traps.

Now let’s come to the main discussion…

Bass traps for corners
Bass traps for wall joints
Wall acoustic foam
good foracoustic treatmentacoustic treatmentacoustic treatment

Bass traps for cornersBass traps for wall jointsWall acoustic foam
Best forlow-frequencyfrequencies
(below 300 Hz)
(below 300 Hz)
mid to high frequencies
(300 Hz to 2000 Hz)
shapecubes to be put in room cornerswall-wall or wall-ceiling jointssquare walls/ceiling panels
thickness4-8 inches4-8 inches1-2 inches
check current pricecheck current pricecheck current price

What Are Acoustic Panels?

Acoustic panels are panels that are designed to absorb sounds, particularly the mid to high range of frequencies (300 Hz to 2000 Hz). They reduce noise and bring down reverberation and echo inside a room. They remove the extra sounds from your room and help you record a clean and crisp podcast.

These panels are made of sound-absorbing material like foam or mineral wool.

When sound waves hit the surface of the panel, the sound energy gets converted into heat energy (friction). The heat energy dissipates quickly, and consequently, the extra sound in the room gets eliminated.

Acoustic panels can be vertical or horizontal, and both kinds offer different features for the management of acoustic issues. The vertical panels do a better job if you want to block background noises, while the horizontal ones are more useful if you want to stop sound waves from spreading and bouncing around in a room. You can also find acoustic panels in multiple colors and designs, and utilize them to create a specific vibe for your home-recording setup.

Acoustic panels are great for podcasters (or anyone who record audio at home) who want a noise-free or echo-free environment to record their work, without making any major structural modifications. Podcasters who record at home often realize that their house is not suitable for the purpose. Their voice might echo in the recording room at home, or noises from the outside disrupt their recording.

Acoustic panels are an affordable solution to their problem. After knowing how to set up your mic, adding some acoustic panels to your room should be your first step on the way to better audio quality.

Where are acoustic panels used?

Apart from recording studios, you can find acoustic panels in:

  • Offices – The panels can be used from blocking the noises coming from other parts of the building, to let the employees focus on the work on hand.
  • Dance Studios – Dance studios have huge empty spaces, where reverberation is often an issue. Dance studios use acoustic panels to tackle the problem.
  • Auditoriums – Here, acoustic panel reduces reverberation and improves the sound experience for the audience.

What are acoustic panels made of?

Acoustic panels are usually made of:

  • Fabric – The best acoustic panels available in the market are made of fabric-wrapped fibreglass. They are excellent absorbers of sound, and since there is fabric you get to choose from a range of colors or print.
  • Foam – Acoustic foam is another material used for making sound absorbing panels.
  • Perforated Wood – Yet another choice of material for acoustic panels, and it’s suitable for those who prefer sustainable options.

What Are Bass Traps?

Bass traps are panels that are designed to absorb sounds, particularly the low-frequency sound waves, below 300 Hz. Bass traps are usually four inches thick. They are placed in room corners close to the walls, where bass frequencies dominate (trihedral and dihedral corners).

Have you ever observed the low-frequency sound of a speaker booming in a room, perhaps in a social gathering or a house party? Have you wondered why does that happens?

A sound is a bundle of several vibrations, and the higher frequencies get easily absorbed into sound-absorbing elements inside a room, like acoustic panels, curtains, furniture, etc. The low-frequency part does not interact with objects in the room but gets accumulated around the room corners. They reverberate around the room and cause a bass boom. The bass will dominate the rest of the sound. Or it will cancel out some of the bass waves. In either scenario, you would not get an even sound in the entire space. This effect could also become very pronounced in a podcast recording.

If the low-frequency standing waves are ruining the sound quality of your podcast, you should think of using bass traps. Bass traps, like acoustic panels, turn sound energy into heat energy (or friction). They particularly absorb low-frequency sound waves which acoustic panels and other materials do not absorb.

Bass traps come in two categories:

  • Porous liners – They could be made of rockwool, foam, or fiberglass. They make up for 95 percent of the bass traps sold due to their low cost. If you buy a porous liner that’s thick, it would work very well. They have a great broadband absorption, meaning that they absorb a wide range of frequencies, like standing waves, speaker boundary interface, room echoes, etc.

If porous liners are thin, they are not very effective on the lowest bass waves. You would have to place this liner far from the wall, which would be very inconvenient in a home recording setup. So it’s better that you buy a thick porous liner bass trap.

  • Resonant Absorbers – These are also called narrowed band absorbers or tuned traps.  They only work on low-end bass frequencies, and they do not work on mid and high-range frequencies. They need to be placed against the wall, where the sound waves collide. This means you don’t have to worry about space while if you bring home a resonant absorber.

Resonant absorbers, again, are of two types:

  • Helmholtz resonators – These have a small cavity through which they absorb bass frequencies.
  • Diaphragmatic absorber – A vibrating membrane or panel neutralizes bass frequencies.

Many artists use a porous liner and a resonant absorber together to achieve the best quality results. There are no thumb rules here, you need to figure out what works best for you, and decide accordingly.

Podcasting studio reverberations

Main difference between Acoustic Panels and Bass Traps

Acoustic panels and bass traps are both used to manage the acoustics of the recording room. However, they have some key differences that I want to highlight here:

  • While acoustic panels are great at absorbing and eliminating mid-range and high-frequency sounds, say between 300 Hz to 2000 Hz, it does little for low-frequency sound waves. Bass traps are made specifically to and eliminate low-frequency sound waves, below 300 Hz.
  • Bass traps are thicker than acoustic panels. In general, bass traps are four inches thick, while acoustic panels have a thickness of two inches.
  • Bass traps are placed in room corners close to the walls, where bass frequencies dominate (trihedral and dihedral corners – see image). Acoustic panels are placed on the wall or hung on the ceiling.
  • For most rooms, you would have to use both acoustic panels and bass traps together to achieve the ideal conditions for sound recording.

Benefits of using Acoustic Panels and Bass Traps

  • Acoustic panels and bass traps can aid you in achieving a crystal clear recording. Acoustic panels remove reverberation that’s often a problem in empty spaces. While bass traps eliminate over-powering low-frequency bass. The acoustic treatment could really improve your sound game and make your podcast sound ‘professional’.
  • Acoustic panels and bass traps don’t require any structural modification to the recording room. If you live in a rented space, you have nothing to worry about if you want to use an acoustic panel or bass trap for recording.
  • Acoustic panels and bass traps are not bulky, and you don’t need a lot of space to accommodate them.

In Conclusion

These days, you don’t need to spend big bucks on a recording set-up to start a podcast. Consequently, there are many podcasters out there vying for your attention.  The competition is tough, and that’s why you need to pay attention to the nuances of sound recording to ace the game.

Acoustic treatment helps you create a podcast that sounds clear and noise-free, free from reverberations or bass sounds. If you have not recorded your first episode yet, I suggest you check your room for bass sounds or echoes. Identify and tackle these issues using acoustic panels and bass traps before you get started. If you are already into podcasting, assess the sound quality of your podcast and see if you can improve it with a suitable acoustic treatment. If you can create engaging content and keep a focus on sound quality too, your podcast has great chances of developing a strong listeners’ base.

About the Author

Neha Pathak

Hi! I am Neha Pathak. I am a podcast enthusiast, and I wish to share my experiences with you to help you improve your podcasts. I am also an avid hiker and a cyclist.

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