Published by mike11 on 27th January 2012
RealTraps Bass Traps and Acoustic Treatment
Ok, giving all 10's is going to look like I'm biased... but read on and see why I gave such a high rating.
In my review the conclusion comes first for those who want the review in 15 seconds or less. The rest of the detail and background follows (obviously!).
CONCLUSION: (the short version)
RealTraps are an honest, reliable company of helpful, patient and passionate-about-acoustic-treatment folks who build USA made, top value for money acoustic treatment products that work and I believe, will last a lifetime - all in a timely fashion. Take your time to learn and work out what you need and learn about acoustic treatment, then order with confidence.
(the long version)
First of all, a prefix, as some will remember, I had a nuclear thread on here a little while back about another bass traps company that I ordered from, who took my money and didn't give it back for months. The police finally got involved and I got my refund after several months of trying without luck. The thread was removed once that happened, and I won't revisit it here - but I need to mention that episode because that's one of the reasons why I am compelled to write this review as the whole experience really made me appreciate honest companies who sell quality products and don't jerk you around, and because I really want to recommend the company that in the end saved my behind: RealTraps. It's my direct experience that there are certainly unscrupulous operators out there, and there are also genuine folks like RealTraps, so I hope whoever reads this gives them a serious look. If you don't go with them, my warning to you is to just be careful. I'm not saying others aren't *also* good I just can't vouch for those others in this review. Check out who you are dealing with before ordering, if you are in doubt, consider insisting on COD. If dealing with somebody and they start to raise red flags, like continually delayed orders, or partial deliveries, consider taking action early rather than later. Don't give them the benefit of the doubt unless you have a really good reason to and don't be bullied or conned. My episode with this *other* company cost me dearly in studio time and a lot of stress and worry - and possibly lost me a lot of work that I desperately need - something that's very hard to prove and nearly impossible to recover from. So fair warning: be careful of unscrupulous or poor quality vendors in this area of products - at worst don't hand money over unless you're confident. On the other hand there is RealTraps, and I have no hesitation in recommending them as a trustworthy, honest and reliable company you can depend on. I'm sure there may also be others but I'm just speaking from my direct experience, I'll leave it to others to review other companies. Now that I have that out of the way....
*What you want to know about your bass traps:*
1. Acoustic Treatment in general. [Save time and jump to point 2 if you already know what value and importance of proper acoustic treatment for your music.] If you haven't looked at acoustic treatment generally speaking, you really MUST if you want to be any way serious about what you're doing. That's from any company. What I love about RealTraps is they have great informative easy to understand videos on their website for anyone to view, even if you don't order from them. I highly recommend checking those videos out and listening carefully, you will learn a lot. I have a mix that I was forced to do without treatment, since the previous company never shipped my order, and I have now pulled that track out and remixed it in the room that is now treated with my RealTraps bass traps, and the difference is night and day. One now sounds like a B-grade demo quality and the other is a professional polished result. Others I did in the untreated room were "Ok", but I purely put that down to the simplicity of the mix in question and lucky guessing in correcting for the room - and they are certainly not "good" or "great" - just OK. This room was so bad that even just performing a piano part I could not hear properly how loud I was playing some of the bass notes. Now I can hear what I'm doing, so while treatment is even more important the more complex the mix, even for a solo instrument and the simple performance, it plays a significant role - which was surprising to me, but kind of an "of course" moment. The rest of the mixes I did in the pre-treated room downright bad. Bottom line: you need to acoustically treat your room. Although I have spent my life in music I did not look at the technical side of acoustic treatment until recently. I must say I probably learned 85% -90% of what I needed to know from RealTraps videos and posts alone. Very helpful resource, again, no matter who you order from. So check that out.
2. Build Quality. From what I understand RealTraps bass traps are 100% built in the United States, and the quality of workmanship and of the materials definitely shows. I am very happy I went with this company because I feel like these traps will last me a lifetime. I kept the quality boxes and materials they shipped with for future storage and transportation which is also important to think about and easily overlooked. They were packed simply and efficiently yet effectively, and in a way that was easy to get them out and store the boxes for future use. In my case this is very important so I give that a special mention, not something you would normally think about. The fabric, frames, and overall quality is very nice and I give the aesthetic a 10/10 as well - I find them a simple, elegant and functional tool. Artists who visit the studio are impressed with the look as well. I personally like simplicity and nothing fancy - I just got black on black, and I'm super happy - although they have other colors.
3. Do they work? Yes they do! RealTraps bass traps I can attest work as claimed although I don't have technical evidence I mean in the real world this worked for me. They work great and the difference in this far too small room that I have been working in has been an absolute life saver. I ordered 20 of their "baretraps" which are their most basic model - and they're great. I covered the corners reflection points and the difference is like night and day. 6 of the 20 panels I bought are their "HF" or high frequency versions - they're the same price but they reflect slightly more at higher frequencies to as they say "stop the room sounding too dead". Works for me. I put them at the left and right reflection points and the rear wall and overhead as advised by RealTraps and this has been perfect. At the time of purchase around November 2011 they were only $125 each. If I had the money I would have gotten their Megatraps for the corners and probably some of their diffusers as well for the back wall - but on the budget I was on, I feel I still got a 100% professional result. I did not test the room before and after - I didn't feel I needed to and for me the result is in the mixes which professionals who are listening to are telling me are great, whereas the "before" mixes I was not able to submit for any professional work - they simply weren't good enough despite my best efforts. The room I am currently working in is only approximately 4.5 X 4.5m - so far too small in my experience, but with these panels I'm making it work and getting great results - so my hopes were fulfilled. I use this room only for composing / mixing / listening I don't have any experience with using panels in a recording room but no doubt they would be necessary and useful in that setting as well.
4. The company. RealTraps staff / team were extremely patient with me, despite many emails and questions back and forward, and changing of my order - they took it in their stride and since I was in a huge rush because of being let down by another company their construction time / turnaround was very fast. From memory they had the order ready to ship in only a few days but I believe their official time is around 10 - 14 days - I assume you should check this with them when ordering. Point being, everything was early or on time. What I liked about this company was the sense of honesty and dedication to a quality product that is evident in their videos, and they really are passionate about acoustic treatments. Their time and patience in going through what you need - and I felt they were very honest in their recommendations. Finally, the product matches the expectation when you get it. In my case they had to travel a very long distance and everything arrived in perfect condition even though I had huge boot prints on the boxes because of the people who work in government customs and freight (not the fault of RealTraps at all) - but they were so well packed that everything in side was 100% A-OK. Very impressed. Their payment system worked fine and when I had problems in the country I am living in with customs being a pain in the backside RealTraps staff (particularly James Lindenschmidt) were once again incredibly patient in dealing with the import company, responding to their emails and silly arcane bureaucratic requests by the government here, politely and very quickly responding in a very helpful manner (sometimes within minutes actually), which helped me clear my import quickly and with a minimum of fuss. I mention that specifically because it could have gone the other way and been a nightmare with weeks of delay. You guys living in the US or other countries like that probably don't know what I'm talking about but many places are just very backwards with certain things and believe me they can make your life a hell if they want to, so this was very very important to me and RealTraps came through for me there as well.
5. Would I order from RealTraps in the future? Absolutely yes. If I can afford it later I would love to get their Megatraps corner traps and some diffusors. Don't get me wrong, I'm 100% happy with the panels I got on the budget I was on, and this is not a caveat to the rest of what I have written. It's just that if you're totally passionate about your music and a perfectionist like me then you're always looking for that edge and refinement in your gear and listening space, and even the guys at RealTraps would readily and honestly admit that what I got has probably taken me 90-95% of the way there, but not 100%. (In fact I did not go with their recommendations because of budget - and I believe now if I had done so I would have a 99% perfect set up for this room, but I just couldn't afford it as much as I believe it would be totally worth it). It's a process of refining, tuning and treating a room especially a smaller room like where I am now as anyone who has done it will know, and if I had the money I would do more - but for now, I'm 100% happy and this has got me where I need to be most importantly: a listening room where I can confidently produce professional results.
6. I would recommend RealTraps products for: Everyone who wants to improve the sound of a listening room - a home threatre, a piano room, a project studio, a vocal booth, semi-pros, and professional studios up to multi million dollar level recording studios, mixing and mastering rooms.
7. Bang for the buck. I bought their cheapest product, the "baretraps" for $125 a piece - I don't believe I could have justified a DIY and had a chance of getting anywhere near this level of quality of result. There are cheaper alternatives, that I have not tried, but I had messages from others who have told me that they have tried both RealTraps and other companies that were cheaper and found that the RealTraps build quality was what made the difference and made them worth the money. I can't directly comment on any comparisons myself, but the bottom line is that I feel good and confident about the investment I made. Buy quality and you can't go wrong that was the lesson I learned here. I feel good about investing in the workmanship and product that they make, and buying from a good company. A part of me wanted to rate them a 9 or even an 8 maybe for bang for the buck, maybe just so people would think my review was more balanced perhaps and take what I'm saying seriously - but then I thought: "compared against what?" I just couldn't justify reducing the rating because really what would I be rating them down for? They deserve the 10. When I look at what you get for what you pay, I must give them a 10 out of 10 for that. If you think buying a Chinese made product (sorry folks but I personally DO care that they are communist country and use slave labor, call me old fashioned....!) or something of inferior build, how can you say that is better value - it isn't. I feel they are giving the best possible value that they can given their construction process, workmanship, build quality and overall quality - and they're an honest company that I feel and in my experience do not cut corners to shaft the customer in ways that they perhaps only find out about later... and that is a very tempting thing to do especially in the economic climate these days. And they don't do that. So that's why I think they genuinely are a 10 out of 10 for bang for the buck and you should buy from them - the value is truly there in every sense. It's up to us to support quality companies who don't cut corners and show them that we value them and keep THEM in business through the hard times, not the corner cutters or the charletons. The result I feel is, as I said, a quality product and investment into my music that I feel will last me a lifetime.
Lastly there are a lot of weasels out there who make fake accounts or get their buddies to peddle their gear on forums like this illegitimately. I want to be perfectly clear, I have no relationship with RealTraps other than buying the 20 panels from them, I paid full list price on the items and everything I have stated here is true and correct. While I don't want to put my professional name up here right now, if anyone wants to PM me and is curious about me and the work I do, please feel free to contact me and ask. I don't even live in the same country as these guys and this review is 100% voluntary mainly borne out of the realisation that it's really important now more than ever for us to let each other know what works and what doesn't and to support the good guys wherever we can. This helps innovation and quality products and companies rise to the top.