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GIK Acoustics 4A Alpha Panel and TriTrap

05-01-2019 | By John Acton | Issue 103

When it comes to room acoustics, size matters. The axiom that smaller listening rooms lead to larger acoustical challenges holds true in my experience. Room-mode resonances, which greatly affect bass response, generally manifest higher in frequency in small rooms, leading to coloration, not just in the bass, but further up into the midrange. Those of us relegated to listening to music in smaller rooms know all too well the challenges associated with loudspeaker and listener placement. Closer proximity of wall surfaces leads to a preponderance of early reflections and slap echo, which can result in tonal coloration and diffused, confused imaging. Paradoxically, acoustical treatments are frequently more of a necessity in smaller rooms than in larger listening spaces.

Upon recently moving into a room with approximate dimensions of  13' by 10.5', I realized that acoustic optimization would be problematic, even listening in the near field, which tends to mitigate early reflections by increasing the ratio of direct sound at the listening position. Research conducted into acoustic-treatment solutions led me to GIK Acoustics. GIK Acoustics, headquartered in the United States in Atlanta, with offices in the United Kingdom and Germany, specializes in end-to-end acoustic solutions. Offering absorption and diffusion products for professional recording and mastering studios, as well as for home-theater enthusiasts and audiophiles, GIK also provides a full suite of design and consultation services, with initial and basic consulting offered for free to prospective customers.

GIK Acoustics' consultation process was easy, collaborative, and non-pressuring. Upon completing an initial consultation form that asked me for the dimensions of my listening room, along with other data points regarding the configuration and utilization of the space, I was contacted by Nick Christian, one of GIK's Acoustical Engineers. I spoke with Christian on the phone several times and provided him with photos of my room. Christian analyzed all the information I had furnished and responded quickly with a product recommendation.

I listen along the long wall in my room, and the entire back wall is filled with CD storage (I'm one of the few remaining Luddites who listen to physical media), with one side wall dominated by a window and the other by a large closet. Christian and I agreed that treating the front wall behind the system would offer the best results. Christian recommended the following products—four TriTraps positioned in the front corners and three 4A Alpha Panels placed along the front wall.

The GIK Acoustics TriTrap is a wedge-shaped bass trap designed for placement in room corners. Standard dimensions are 47" tall by 23.5" wide by 16.5" deep on each of its sides, with custom sizes available. Tested at the Riverbank Acoustical Laboratory to have effective absorption below 50Hz, the TriTrap also absorbs frequencies up to 5000Hz, allowing for a balanced in-room response signature. Customers can order the TriTrap in a myriad of cloth colors, and can customize the wood end-caps in black, white, or blond veneers. Christian advised stacking the TriTraps in each of my room's front-wall corners, enabling floor-to-ceiling coverage.

The GIK Acoustics 4A Alpha Panel is made with 4" deep fiberglass material, wrapped in cloth of various colors and fronted by a wood plate that has a mathematically-determined sequence of slot-openings designed to add high-frequency diffusion / scattering to the low-frequency absorption afforded by the underlying panel. Standard sizes for the 4A Alpha Panel are 23" tall by 23" wide by 4" deep for the square version, 45.5" tall by 11" wide by 4" deep for the Narrow version, and 45.5" tall by 23" wide by 4" deep for the rectangular version. Christian and I agreed that, for my room, the rectangular version, which weighs 15 pounds, would work best. In addition to the cloth-color choices, customers can select from numerous wood veneers for the front scatter plate.

Upon placing my order, assembly and shipping took about three weeks. The TriTraps and 4A Alpha Panels arrived well-packed in sturdy cardboard boxes. Installation could not have been easier. I simply placed the stacked TriTraps on the floor in the front corners of my listening room. The 4A Alpha Panel comes with an eyehook on the back, affording the ability to be hung like a picture frame via standard nail. The combined task of measuring and installing all three panels took less than an hour.

During the course of the review period, my system comprised the Marantz SA-10 SACD player, conrad-johnson CA200, Luxman L-507uXII, and AVM A3.2 integrated amplifiers, Audio Physic Tempo plus, Focal Aria 936, and Focal Electra 1028 Be loudspeakers, Kimber Kable Kimber Select KS-1036 and Nordost Heimdall 2 interconnects, Kimber Monocle X and Nordost Heimdall 2 speaker cables, Audience aR2p-TO power conditioner and Au24 SE-i powerChords. All components were placed on a SolidSteel 6.2 Audio Table.

We audiophiles obsess over sound, striving constantly for ways to get closer to our music through component upgrades and tweaks, but we tend to overlook how much influence room acoustics can have on the overall sonic signature of our systems. Installing the GIK Acoustics TriTraps and 4A Alpha Panels transformed my room's acoustics, leading to improved sound and enhanced musical enjoyment. Bass response was clearer, with greater articulation in the mid-bass and lower midrange, which benefited male vocalists. Accompanying this tighter response was an apparent increase in depth, with low-bass instruments such as pipe organ and synthesizer possessing greater weight and impact. The midrange was more pellucid, with female vocals and woodwind and string instruments expressing greater insight and expressiveness. Some acoustic treatments can lead to over-deadening, resulting in a flat, dull quality that robs the musical message of air. With the GIK Acoustics treatments in place, my system retained its ability to breathe, with crystalline trebles and a more dimensional soundstage. Depth of the sound field was improved, and image focus was enhanced.

One aspect of the GIK Acoustics products that I haven't yet mentioned in this review is price. For the benefits realized, the TriTraps and 4A Alpha Panels are inexpensively priced in comparison to solutions offered by competing companies such as Acoustic Sciences Corporation (ASC) and Stillpoints.

Are there any downsides to the GIK Acoustics TriTraps and 4A Alpha Panels? From a performance standpoint, none, especially when cost is taken into account. From the vantage point of aesthetics, the GIK Acoustic products tend to dominate a room, and while attractive in appearance, that visual-domination aspect will have to be adjudicated by each prospective individual customer. Lastly, and this may relate to the price, fit and finish of the GIK Acoustics products are good, but I've seen better from competitors, whose products are admittedly more expensive.

GIK Acoustics has an established history of providing comprehensive and effective acoustic solutions for professional recording and mastering studios, as well as for audio enthusiasts and music lovers. What's more, GIK Acoustics offers complimentary consulting services for individuals interested in improving listening-space sonics. My experience in working with Nick Christian was exemplary, and his recommendations proved to be very beneficial for my room. The GIK Acoustics TriTraps and 4A Alpha Panels brought my system to an heretofore unrealized level of performance and maximized my musical enjoyment in ways I didn't previously believe possible. I can't imagine an acoustic situation that could not benefit from GIK Acoustics' products and consultation services.

GIK Acoustics 4A Alpha Panels and TriTraps

Retail: Pricing dependent upon size and configuration selected

GIK Acoustics