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Chapter IV - ASC Acoustic room design
We know what the acoustic diseases are now. But what about cures? Step #1 in this project was selecting the acoustic contractor. In preparation for the building of our dedicated room, there were two very different solutions to consider. The first was a fixed built-in design such as Rives offers. These rooms are frequently beautifully designed, often with a cool recording studio vibe. I’ve seen and heard a couple of Rives rooms. You’d have been hard pressed to tell the rooms had acoustic treatments, each with outstanding visual aesthetics and sound.

The other option was external surface treatments such as offered by Acoustic Sounds Corporation (ASC). Although ASC has developed designer products which add to the décor, their signature product is still the TubeTrap, a large cylindrical cloth-covered tube. A fully trapped room can only be considered attractive in an industrial sort of way or perhaps if you’re into retro Greek temples. With a dedicated room, aesthetics were not my first concern. Sound quality and ultimate flexibility were. As good as the built-in options were, I had nagging concerns. What if the sound wasn’t right? What if I changed to a totally different type of speakers, planars for example? What if I wanted to adjust the acoustics? These questions gradually led me to the ASC solution. They are infinitely adjustable, almost maddeningly so. If the room modes are slightly outside the theoretical calculation, no problem, the traps can be moved and adjusted. If the listening location is changed, the traps can be moved to dampen the first reflections. If the room is too bright or dull, each trap can be rotated to change its absorption/diffusion characteristics. After talking to some respected people in the industry, I made the decision to proceed with an ASC solution.

I began and ended my search with Terry Menacker of Overture Audio in Wilmington, Delaware. I’ve known Terry for a decade, having purchased many pieces from him. In my opinion Terry is one of the most knowledgeable and top-class gentlemen in the industry and Overture is one of the best High-End stores. Again this project was not an audio review. I had taken a sabbatical from 6moons and contacted Terry as a retail customer. So from here on, you are getting the development and installation from an end user’s perspective.

The process started with a set of architectural drawings for the room forwarded to Art Noxon, president of ASC. Then Overture made several on-site visits taking additional measurements. The model and speaker brand along with some of the fixed room features such as the built-in bookcase were also forwarded to ASC. Art provided two designs - Phase 1 and the top-end Phase 2.

At first glance, the number of recommended traps for Phase 2 appeared startlingly counter intuitive. The design called for 26 floorstanding eight-foot tube traps plus 27 ceiling-mounted cubes over the front speaker area. How could adding this many absorptive devices increase articulation, dynamics, soundstage, bass and clean up the midbass without destroying the treble and transients?  My gut reaction was that this would result in an over-damped dull lifeless room. I admit I was wrong.

In both designs you can see that ASC recommended the construction of a wall behind the listening position. This would create what Art describes as an Ante-Room Base Vent – sort of a room within a room to further reduce reflected bass energy and lessen its return to the main listening area. The opening of the room would be covered by a thick curtain. In the end, I decided against this option. First, due to timing issues I received the final ASC designs after the room shell was complete. The final trim was done, walls painted, carpet laid and equipment installed. After two years I was burned out on construction and the thought of building even one more wall was out. Even though this was a single purposed room, I was unsure how I would like the aesthetics of the room with a wall chopping off 20% of the space. Following some extensive discussions with Terry, I decided to put a hold on the wall. In the future and if there were problems, the wall could be added since it wasn't load-bearing.

Overture and ASC were extraordinarily easy to work with. I’m a hands-on person and wanted to do as much as possible myself. Terry was completely amenable to the division of labor. Overture and ASC would produce the specifications and plans, perform the initial acoustic measurements including spectral analysis, MATT testing, provide the ISO-Damp wall parts, install the TubeTraps and finally assemble the newly upgraded Wilson X-2s. I—and/or my own contractors—would install the electrics, studs, IsoDamp walls and ceilings.

ASC History: When Terry recommended ASC, I did a little research on Art Noxon. He has published a ton of technical articles whose science unfortunately often far exceeds my understanding. Yet the history of Art and ASC is fascinating, displaying a lifelong passion for acoustics. Art Noxon founded Acoustic Sciences Corporation in 1984 by building the first portable bass traps to open up an entirely new field- high-end portable adjustable acoustic control. Although his formal career was that of a city engineer, Art Noxon had an underlying interest in acoustics and while dabbling in his hobby, produced the basic design of today's traps. While absorbing bass, the first traps unfortunately absorbed too much treble to make the sound dull and lifeless. It wasn't until later that a phone inquiry from John Dahlquist, the famous high-end speaker designer, led to the birth of the now famous trap. The reflective side was added to the tube to increase dispersion and reduce treble absorbency. This created the adjustability of the traps which is now a hallmark feature. Dahlquist's interest was not just idle curiosity. He was launching the legendary DQ-10 speakers. The story is that he liked the effect of the new tube traps so much, he ordered thirty for the CES show unveiling of his speakers and thus the TubeTrap was born. The rest is history. Today ASC is one of the premier acoustic treatments for home, commercial and industrial use.

Personally, Art Noxon holds Masters Degrees in Mechanical Engineering, Physics and Acoustics. His writings are published in many professional journals and he has developed acoustic solutions for home, commercial and industrial markets. The company has won countless industry awards, holds several patents and is one of the premier manufacturers of acoustic treatments. With the room design now completed, the next chapter will address the wall construction and unique IsoDamp™ wall system.
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