GIK Acoustics Monster Traps, Acoustic Panels, and Elite Bass Pilar Review

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Pez

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Before I get started I want to underline something of great importance. Room treatment is one of those things that can completely alter a system for the better, I however have placed this review in the "Accessories" section because there just doesn't seem to be any better place to put it. IMO treatment is far from a simple accessory, so please keep in mind that this is no minor part of any system.

It's a TRAP!
I was able to get my hands on 3 242 acoustic panels in black from a friend of mine who had no use for them. After making a few calls to Glenn and Bryan w/ GIK and taking a few photos for their reference of my listening space we had a plan in place for my room. BTW the entire experience with GIK was fantastic! Bryan especially was incredibly helpful and knowlegable as to what was the best thing for my setup. I ordered 2 standard GIK Monster bass traps, one custom sized Monster bass trap for the cabinet space above my computer desk (adjoining desk, kitchen and family room).

Of significant note is that my wife (who deserves a ton of credit for not only being understanding of my hobby and passion, but also allowing me to pursue treatment in OUR living room!) actually likes the way they look. Not just being ok with them, but actually likes them! So kudos to the GIK crew on putting together an attractive product. Though I will say the panels are not perfectly squared. There are some areas on them that bulge out a bit, nothing deal breaking, but certainly not 100% squared. (see photo)


Note the slight bulge, again nothing damning, but visible.
 
We're being setup!
Setting up the GIK panels was more or less a snap. All that is involved is a tape measure, pen, Ook Hooks, and a hammer. Don't go too nuts in trying to get the location of where you will place the panels perfect. Why? Because they won't be perfect no matter how accurately you measure them. The way they hang is by an included picture framing wire and try as I may I couldn't get them to the same length on all panels no matter what I did. So I got them to be approximate then hung them, eyed their general position, took them down and shorten or lengthened the wire accordingly. The end result is visually perfect alignment despite less than accurate measurements.


242 panels in the rear of room.


Above my computer desk

What they don't do
I want to dispel any misconceptions that one might have (including myself) as to what bass traps and the like will do. In my case, while they tamed some of the bass peaks and nulls I had from my listening position by a few dB, they certainly were no where near eliminating them... Not even close. For one my listening space is abysmal in it's layout acoustically speaking. As I said before I have a kitchen, desk area, dining area, listening/family area and a hallway that leads to a bedroom that is ALL open and connected space. I would essentially have to treat all of that to see a substantial change in nulls and peaks... Not going to happen.

What they do oh so well
So on to the meat and potatoes of this review! Despite my previous paragraph I will say that the GIK stuff did something I didn't expect them to do at all. That is they tamed the bass everywhere else in the room! Where before I would walk around and find a few spots where there were extraordinarily deep nulls in bass or areas of car audio like boominess that just killed the believability of anything the system presented, now the presentation is even... Very even everywhere I go. They went a long way in taming everything else so well it's almost beyond belief.

The biggest thing I noticed right off the bat with the treatment was something before I even turned on my system. My somewhat lively sounding listening area was suddenly calm, quieter, more conducive to just sitting in silence. My wife even pointed out that it is actually soothing to just hang out in our living room. The standard clap test reveals 0 slap echo from the listening position, a slight slap echo coming from the kitchen area when standing up walking around. Not a big deal for me compared to the echo chamber I had before.

F the measurements, my ears say something else
After extensive listening I have concluded that bass response in my system has gone from deep, good, but lacking a bit in mid bass to DEEPER more impactful, stellar overall bass, and great in mid bass though not the absolute best I have ever heard. Things have really tightened up substantially with the low end of my setup, probably because of the previously stated taming of the entire listening space if not so much in the primary listening location. Apparently the bass outside of your listening position matters.  :o Maybe some will read that last sentence and say 'DUH!', but for me it was quite a revelation, one that I get to live with every day.  :thumb:

So are those speakers on yer wall
Then why do I hear sound coming from them? My nephews very words when he came over to visit and saw the new mysterious objects on my wall. I can't say I blame him, if I didn't know better I would say these panels are the best speakers I have ever heard. Imaging and soundstaging is absolutely supernatural compared to before which I would have described as quite close to real, I now describe as downright spooky. But before I go into detail here I wanted to mention something.

Another setup!
Prior to the panels my imaging and sound staging has always been very good indeed. When I installed them I didn't change speaker positioning or anything else, yet once the panels went up imaging and sound staging went to absolute shit. And I mean level 11 frustration SHIT. I then spent the next 3-4 days trying to figure out why.

I don't have a perfect explanation for it, but the most logical reasoning I have come up with is this; Without treatment in your room the sound naturally smears a bit. This phenomena in my setup actually allowed for 'looser' speaker placement sans panels. An inch here a 10 degree difference in toe in there... No big deal. Plop the panels in and suddenly my soundstage and image was pulling heavily to the left and smearing horribly to the right.

The GIK panels basically held up a magnifying glass to my entire system and said "This ugliness will no longer work, fix it or be forever mediocre" So literally days of slight tweaking here and there, pulling out the tape measure to get both speakers the proper distance and location then tons of fine tweaking got me to a place where I have never been. Utter and total soundstage symmetry.

The process was cathartic, almost like a spirit journey. I was angry, desperate, worried that somewhere else in my audio chain was damaged or problematic, maybe it's my ears! Maybe I'm crazy! Wasting my time....ARRRGGGGHHH!!! Then finally AHHHHHH!!!!! Not only was the end result superior to what I had previously it gave me a deeper understanding of speaker placement in my system than I ever thought possible.

the results
First interesting thing, I listen to my system about 7-10dB quieter than previously. There is way more detail, micro dynamics, macro dynamics, and believability at this level than there was previously due to the lowered noise floor. This is important to note. I have actual changed my listening habits because of these panels.

Cuts like Bob Marley and the Wailers 'Legend' remaster is actually a perfect album to test out the tonal taming the panels are capable of. Hot cymbals and boomy bass sections are much much better and cleaner and present themselves not as a poorly recorded collection of hit songs, but soulful and emotional works of mastery. No longer do I think 'ugh... so much sizzly bright cymbals!'. Yes... This is an excellent remaster and this is the first time I can say that with confidence or without qualification. If it sounds bad, it's your room and/or systems fault as it was with mine.

On something of exemplary recording quality such as Peter Gabriel's 'Up' the setup truly flexes it's sound staging and imaging capabilities. sound effects, instruments vocals extend well outside the speakers and into the room. Sense of recording space is incredibly and frighteningly realistic. 'Growing up' gives a psychedelic sense of sirens circling your head with pin point accuracy and 4th dimenionality.

This concludes my ravings
Depth, presentation, soulful, crazy close to real. I don't know how else to say it, these panels took a great system (if I do say so myself) and made it beyond comprehension. I am thrilled to say the least. Dumbfounded and giddy to say the most. While they certainly did not cure every ailment in my room they certainly went above and beyond in what I thought would be possible to achieve with recorded/reproduced sound. If you've read this far and haven't figured out that these deserve my highest recommendation you are pretty dense.  :P

Associated equipment:

RM-40s fully active DCX crossover, Simple SE tube amps for mids and tweets, QSC DCA 1222 solid state amp for woofers, Sony XA-777ES sacd player, Bolder Cables Nitro digital, signal, power and speaker cables, Bolder M-80 cables for woofers, Kimber special edition solid core copper speaker cables for mid panels.
« Last Edit: 22 Mar 2011, 05:24 am by Pez »

poseidonsvoice

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Pez,

You have a gift for writing. Very entertaining, informative and enjoyable review of one of my favorite companies here on AC.

Welcome to the GIK club.

Anand.

Kinger

Great write up and thanks for sharing your experience and pictures.  Unfortunately, due to WAF and a funky room layout I only have a single bass pillar from GIK, but even just that one item made for a very different (for the better) listening experience.

Pez

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Thanks guys, FYI I have been putting this review together for a while in my mind. It's hard to summarize exactly what these panels do!

bpape

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Thanks for the write-up Pez.  It's nice to read something real, not just a gushing review.  You're correct that they're not going to fix all of the problems and they can make you rethink your setup and positioning since there is nowhere to hide now.

Just to clarify, the additional tightness, extension, etc in the bottom end is a function of getting the decay time under control and stopping the bass from just flying around the room endlessly in time and cancelling itself out or creating a boomy, muddy mess of things.  This same decay time control is also what allows for better ability to resolve imaging cues, harmonic textures, and dynamics.

When the bottom end is out of control in time, the overall level in the room is higher in general which makes the same peak loudness not as far from the ambient level with all of the ringing.  Same peak, lower starting point, more dynamics at the same overall volume level.

Bryan

sirbrine

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Pez:

So, If I read right, you have three 242 panels, two standard Monster Traps, and one Custom Size Monster trap.

It looks like you have one of the 242 panels set up in-between the two standard Monsters and the other two 242 panels set up behind the listening position.

It looks like you have a problem similar to mine in that there is really no place for panels at first reflection points.  It is good to know that you were able to achieve good results anyway.

What is the size of the custom Monster trap above your computer desk and can you give us some insight about the choice of Monster traps in lieu of some Tri-Traps placed about the room?  Also, how big is your total space?  I figure I have about 7500 cubic feet not counting the basement at the bottom of my open stairwell.

Thanks.





Pez

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You are correct, the first reflection point is a sliding glass door. I am going to purchase some thick curtains for that spot and it should substantially help with that. On the left side of the room there is the kitchen with a bar stool area so any 1st reflection from there is pretty broken up as is, not saying it isn't causing some issue it probably is, I just doubt it's as big of a problem as the right side of the room.

I will say that when it comes to the way my system sounds now 1st reflection doesn't distract at all. As a matter of fact I have experimented with blankets and the like covering the glass doors, but it really didn't make a huge difference like the panels behind the speakers and behind the listening chair.

The custom bass trap is 38" by 23", so not drastically smaller than a standard panel, yet perfect for taming some bass boom and corner loading effect.  Tritraps were really never an option for me due to their size and lack of 'flush' corners. It seems like there is either a door, fireplace, or blinds that prevent something as big as a tritrap from fitting in my listening space unfortunately. I do think that the combination of the Elite pillar, Monster traps and custom monster trap in the corner above the computer is a great substitute.

Any way long story short while you may not be able to tame 1st reflection in your room I have found that it's better to treat anyway and the results will likely still be excellent.

Edit: and yes the front of the room is 2 monster traps flanking a 242 panel. I originally had the monster traps in the rear, but they were just too darn big and moving my chair forward is not an option as it starts to encroach on the point where my speakers imaging is compromised. So they were relocated to the front.

lonewolfny42

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Quote
On something of exemplary recording quality such as Peter Gabriel's 'Up' the setup truly flexes it's sound staging and imaging capabilities. sound effects, instruments vocals extend well outside the speakers and into the room. Sense of recording space is incredibly and frighteningly realistic. 'Growing up' gives a psychedelic sense of sirens circling your head with pin point accuracy and 4th dimenionality.

"Growing up"....that's the track to use Jason.....it's amazing in the right properly treated room.
The sound will first expand in front....then down the sides...then encircle from the rear...you'd swear there were rear speakers....what an effect. :o

Good review....treatments really work.
Happy listening.... :beer:

Pez

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Just an update. I never really re-did the EQ settings on my DCX after getting the GIK panels. I do not personally own a serious calibrated mic setup (I have some silly app on the iPhone and iPad that sort of tell me what's going on), but Tyson does. Last week he came over so we could remeasure and see if we could get things any flatter on the in room response.

I expected that we would tweak things here and there by adding whatever EQ was necessary. To both of our surprise after measuring everything most changes we had to make were to actually take a lot of EQing out!   :o I went from having about 7 EQ points throughout the spectrum (most of which were in the bass section) to having 3 total. I still had a peak at 43hz on the left speaker we had to knock out and a 39 hz of the right and a little bit of peakiness at 878hz, but that was it. To our surprise the setup after the panels required substantially less EQing. Maybe we shouldn't have been surprised by that. I know Bryan is reading this and shaking his head saying "Well DUH!"

Any way Tyson said my room is pretty much the flattest response he's ever measured. That coupled with the least amount of EQing I've ever had to do in my system should speak volumes to just how well GIK stuff works! :thumb:

bpape

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Well DUH!  (did I say that in my outside voice.....)  :lol:

Seriously though, glad it's getting better for you Pez.

Bryan