Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Stillpoints Aperture: Acoustic Treatments Like Nothing Else

The Stillpoints Aperture in Walnut frame with black cloth

Acoustic Treatments like no other

The Stillpoints Aperture acoustic panels represent a whole new form of acoustical treatment. Each 22" h x 22" w x 3" d Aperture is actually three products in one: an absorber, a diffuser, and a resonator. They cover a broad frequency range as well, from 40Hz to well over 20 kHz.

Unconventional

According to Stillpoints, what makes the Apertures unique is their ability to continually adapt to the dynamic changes in the amplitude and frequency of the music. They say that Static, conventional acoustic treatments that offer one continuous level of absorption or diffusion may offer too much absorption at low levels and not enough at higher ones. The Stillpoints Apertures utilize a blend of absorption materials, and a unique design of internal chambers to trap acoustic energy. The diffusion portion of the Stillpoints Aperture breaks up the wave forms which will ad mid to high frequency absorption and reduction. The resonator portion offers control of the lower frequencies only when it's needed.

John Miller from Stillpoints was kind enough to send me several Apertures and stands in order to familiarize myself with their qualities, and to compare them to the plethora of acoustic treatments I already have in my listening room.

The Room

My listening area is located in a walkout basement. The immediate area where the speakers are located is 20' wide, which narrows to 15' from the left side after about 10', but then opens up on the right side to two doorways positions at roughly 45 degree angles with a stairway at the center. It then narrows to 14' for the remaining length of the room. The picture below leaves out the doors and stairs to the right, but you get the idea. It's a large, long room. It reproduces low bass really well, but has some issues with the midbass and lower midrange. This is due, I suspect to the little alcove adjacent to the left speaker.
The room minus the doorways and stairs, which are situated to the right,
and start where the area to the left begins to narrow.

The rooms and stairway to the right. This area starts exactly where
the room narrows to the left. If it were in the drawing above, it would
be located at the top.
Before the Apertures, I had spent quite a bit of time getting my listening space optimized. I had hung rails near the ceiling in the listening area and used these rails for hanging the acoustic treatments. It worked extremely well. I could swap out absorbers and diffusers, and could place them horizontally and vertically along the walls without leaving a bajillion holes behind. 
An early iteration of the room. Three GridFusors flanked by 2 Whisper
Wave absorbers and 2 bass traps. There are more treatments on
the side walls (not pictured), and the corner from hell is off to the left.
I also had hung 3 Sonex panels on the ceiling above the listening position to help with the slap echo from the wall behind the listening position, and to absorb some of the directly radiated sound. I like the Sonex on the ceiling for another reason. Should they become detached and fall they won't kill anyone since they are made of very lightweight foam.
The "cloud" located slightly in front of the listening position. Three Sonex
Whisper Wave panels hung on rails. It  creates a cool wave pattern,
and absorbs a lot of slap echo.

Let The Experiments Begin!

After spending several months getting familiar with my room treated with more conventional treatments (GIK GridFusors, Sonex Whisper Wave Absorbers, and Acoustic Geometry bass traps), I decided to begin experimenting with the Stillpoints Apertures.

The first Apertures I stacked vertically and centered them on the wall behind my speakers. They replaced a Sonex Whisper wave panel which won out over a GIK diffuser in that location.  With the Apertures in place, I felt the center image remained centered and depth had a little more clarity to it. What was shocking was I heard more detail, especially at lower listening levels.
The Two Apertures pictured are centered behind
the speakers. They are flanked by a Sonex
Absorber and, a GIK diffusor, and two Apertures
are placed in the corner.
I then added two more panels, one on each side and slightly in front of my listening position. These two Apertures had replaced the GridFusor diffusors. The soundstage remained wide, but was more focused with the Apertures. The GridFusors worked great in this location, especially for the money, but the Apertures just seemed to add more clarity, quiet and focus to the sound. Again I was hearing more low level detail, especially in the high frequencies.  The 4 Apertures as a whole seemed to help my speakers create a more balanced soundfield within the room.
Aperture at the side position, slightly in front of my
listening chair. Whisper Wave absorbers in the
background along the same wall.

Apertures & Bass

The most impressive feats of the Apertures were yet to come. I left the 4 Apetures up, and then I removed all of the bass traps in the room, 4 total. These were pretty massive, fairly expensive traps from Acoustic Geometry. They did the job fairly well (or so I thought) making the bass response in the room a bit flatter. I have an oddly shaped room that trapped lower midrange & midbass. Things could get quite boomy and congested with no traps, and I was made very aware of that fact after listening to the room once the traps were removed. Ugh.

I placed 2 Apertures in the corners nearest the speakers, 3 corners and 6 Apertures total. The Apertures seemed to exhibit a little better control of the resonant frequency than the bass traps, and the lows were magical. Not a term usually used to describe bass, but damn. It was controlled, balanced, fast, dynamic. It was lifelike. This was hard to believe just due to the smaller size of the Apertures compared to the Acoustic Geometry bass traps. The effect the Apertures had on the bass made it's way through the upper frequencies as well. Everything became faster, more dynamic and clearer. Even when the volume was at ridiculous levels, the sound stayed the same.
The corner from hell. This part of the room was off to the side of the left
speaker. It created a nasty resonance in the lower midrange and upper
bass. I had 3 Acoustic Geometry bass traps in the corners before I
placed the Apertures there. The Apertures worked miracles on the bass...

Summary

Here is what I liked about the Apertures: They quieted the room, made the entire frequency spectrum more balanced, spacious, dynamic and lifelike, and they were tiny in comparison to the conventional treatments. They were finished nicely as well. I forgot to mention that one can have art or photos printed on removable grills that can be inserted into the frame of the Aperture. This could give the Apertures a more artistic appearance in one's listening room. If done well, it might be hard for the average person to tell that they were indeed acoustic treatments. 
Stillpoints Aperture with artwork.

Due to budget constraints, the Apertures didn't completely eliminate my usage of conventional treatments. But my guess is they could. I will continue to experiment as time and funds permit.  Bruce Jacobs of Stillpoints will be dropping by in October as well to do a final tweaking of the room, but what I have so far allows my system to create the best sound it ever has. The apertures are not inexpensive, but a few go a long way. The nice thing is you can start with one or two, and build from there.


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