If you’ve already spent a lot of money on your home theater setup then it can seem difficult trying to justify spending out more money on bass traps. I regularly have people asking me why bass traps are so expensive, so I decided to put some information out there to make it clearer.
So, why are bass traps so expensive?
Bass traps are expensive for 2 reasons. First, they’re a specialty product made of specific materials that are relatively expensive to produce. The second reason why bass traps are so expensive is because the market for them is quite small, and so companies can simply charge more money for them.
It’s completely understandable that you might not want to shell out loads of money on acoustic treatment, but it’s definitely worth considering. In this article I look at why bass traps are so expensive, along with their pros and cons, and some alternatives.
Acoustic treatment is probably one of the most overlooked parts of a home theater, particularly for those with smaller spaces. Many people think that acoustic treatment is only useful in large rooms or actual theaters, but this isn’t the case.
I feel that basically any home theater can benefit from acoustic treatment. Unlike soundproofing, which blocks sound, acoustic treatment is designed to improve the quality of the sound in the space. In short, this means it makes things sound better.
About Bass Traps
Bass traps are designed to absorb and attenuate sound waves, particularly low frequencies. Normal acoustic panels are designed to do the same for high and mid-range frequencies, and it requires different materials to do the different jobs. Acoustic panels typically have an open-cell structure, but bass traps are denser.
Bass traps typically come in 2 sorts:
- Resonant absorbers
- Porous absorbers
Resonant absorbers are designed to resonate in sympathy with the bass frequencies, which make them more effective at absorbing the sound. Porous absorbers, however, are more “passive” and don’t need to be tuned at all.
Typically, bass traps will be made from materials like fiberglass, mineral wool, or a denser open-cell foam. They may also include facing, made from foil or paper, which is designed to reflect higher frequencies back into the room where they can be absorbed by other acoustic devices.
While the materials might not sound particularly specialist, much of the work comes in the construction. Bass traps have to be made in a particular way to capture the correct frequencies, and much of the work is also taken up by the exterior design, as they often have to blend in nicely with the surrounding room.
Why bass traps are expensive
As mentioned, the main reason bass traps are so expensive is because they’re a specialty product, and so the market is smaller than something more widespread, such as a TV or other home theater equipment. While every home theater will likely include a TV, not every one will include bass traps.
As a result of this, companies are able to charge a higher price because the market simply isn’t as busy. This phenomenon isn’t unique to bass traps, but can be found in many other markets too. However, you don’t necessarily need to suck it up when it comes to buying bass traps, and you should definitely decide whether they’d be a good addition to your space first.
Also read: Why are acoustic panels expensive
Building bass traps on a budget
One of the best things about bass traps is that they’re actually surprisingly easy to build. Sure, you might not have access to exactly the same specialty materials that are used in commercial bass traps, but you can build pretty good ones using normal household materials.
You can use a variety of different materials in bass traps, but dense foam or fiberglass (or something like Rockwool) are generally the best materials to use. Obviously for this you’ll need a bit of DIY knowledge, but it doesn’t really need to go beyond screwing and gluing.
To build your own bass traps, you’ll need timber, fabric, and your filling material. I’d recommend buying this online because you can find some pretty good deals on materials, such as this Owens Corning 700 series fiberglass, which is a popular product.
- Build a timber frame that’ll fit where your bass traps will go. These are typically most effective in corners, and if so, build a right-angled frame to sit in the corner.
- Cover the back side with either fabric or wood. Fabric is best because it keeps the structure more porous, which helps with sound absorption.
- Fill the inside with your filling material, packing it reasonably densely, but not overfilling it. Stick everything down with some epoxy glue.
- Cover the front with fabric, holding it taut while you staple it in place. It’s best to go over the fabric with fixing spray because this makes it more rigid.
- Hang on the wall using brackets.
As you can see, building your own bass trap is pretty easy. If you want a more visual representation, check out this video tutorial, which follows essentially the same steps as the method above.
When hanging your bass traps, try to leave a small gap between them and the wall, as this will greatly improve their sound absorbing ability. When deciding on placement, directly opposite your subwoofer and in the corners are the best places to start.
The pros and cons of bass traps: are they worth the money?
I’m of the opinion that acoustic treatment is a useful addition to almost any home theater, but there are a few factors that will influence this decision. Of course there’s price, but there are also things like space and the type of speakers you have.
First and foremost in deciding whether bass traps will be a good addition to your home theater is the type of speakers you own. For example, if you’ve got a large subwoofer that’s pumping out mega bass, then a bass trap will probably be a good idea. However, if your subwoofer isn’t that powerful then you might be able to get away with not having them.
Larger rooms will definitely benefit from having bass traps. More wall space means more room for the sound waves to bounce around, although this can still be a problem in smaller rooms.
Also, rooms with lots of corners and angles will usually result in greater reflection of sound waves, so this can be another reason why bass traps are a useful addition. Sound waves love to bounce off flat surfaces, but corners and angles give them more opportunities to cross over themselves, which results in poorer sound quality.
Lower frequency sound waves, those typically falling into the bass category (below 100Hz), are much harder to absorb with the normal materials, and so bass traps can be very useful for solving this problem.
Here are some of the main pros and cons to help you decide whether bass traps will be a useful addition to your home theater.
- They’ll make a big difference to sound quality by absorbing sound waves before they reflect and by reducing crossover.
- Bass traps are effective against lower frequencies, which typically aren’t absorbed by normal acoustic foam.
- Similarly, they help to reduce noise pollution by absorbing low frequency sound waves from ambient noise too.
- If designed properly, bass traps can also add to the appearance of the room, although this obviously isn’t their primary function.
- If untreated, bass traps can be a fire hazard because of their flammable materials. However, most commercial products are treated with fire retardant chemicals.
- Commercial bass traps are typically quite expensive.
- If not placed properly in the room, bass traps will essentially be useless. Therefore, proper planning is needed to find where they’ll be most effective.
- Ideally bass traps should be used alongside normal acoustic panels, which is another added cost.
Overall, I feel the pros of bass traps outweigh the cons. After all, issues like placement and using alongside other forms of acoustic treatment aren’t too difficult to overcome. Similarly, if done properly, then the benefit of bass traps is definitely very noticeable.
Perhaps the main drawback of bass traps is simply their price, as we can probably all agree that they’re quite expensive. This is especially true if you start looking at higher end products designed for recording studios, which are often designed to look nice as well as functioning properly.
Although echo and reverberation are definitely lesser problems in smaller spaces, they can still occur. You may have installed a new speaker system and noticed that the sound is a bit muddy. Even if this hasn’t happened, you might notice that the sound quality wasn’t brilliant once you install some bass traps.
Some final thoughts
As I found, the reason why bass traps are so expensive is relatively simple. However, you shouldn’t feel that this is enough to stop you from adding them to your home theater, because, as you can see, bass traps are very easy (and inexpensive) to build yourself.
Jason is a home theater expert with over 10 years of experience in setting up home cinema rooms and systems. What started out as a hobby soon transformed him into an authority in the audio-visual field. He is passionate about providing readers with accurate and up-to-date information on the latest audiovisual technologies and their applications for home theaters. Read more about Jason.