Having the right sound system in a music production setting usually boils down to getting the right studio monitor speakers.
It is for this reason that most people neglect and ignore the use of a Subwoofer, which may work well in some cases and not in others.
So the question then becomes “Should I get a sub for my studio?”
Subwoofers when designed and set up accurately can be very efficient and effective which would mean well for your mixes. A sub is very much needed in a recording studio particularly to tackle situations that require accurate representation and monitoring of the low-end sub frequencies. The key is to get the right sub and set it up right, because a poor design and set up will be extremely bad for mixing and mastering.
Importance of A Subwoofer in a Recording Studio
Compensate for Missing Low end
You need a sub to accurately get the Low-end right. But you need to first test your room and monitor speakers for bass before you even think of introducing a sub.
When it comes to studio monitors, you have to use them to be able to monitor just how well they respond to bass frequencies.
Manufacturer’s usually test out their studio monitors in perfect room environments which means the frequency response they specify for their monitor speakers will usually be an estimation of what you would normally expect.
Therefore, to get more accurate, you have to measure just how well your room responds to bass frequencies. As well as how much bass your studio monitors are able to produce.
Once you have a good idea of these two facets, you can then decide how to proceed.
Two situations would be possible here:
a) Your room may need to be redesigned in order for it to give the full low end effect being produced by your studio monitors.
b) You may need a sub once you determine that your room doesn’t need a redesign because it is the speakers that don’t give out enough bass.
A subwoofer will be of great help to your studio if your studio monitors are lacking the necessary low end that you need to be able to hear audio properly.
The low end is very important because it is one of things you have to get right for the reason that a mistake in the low end can easily ruin your mix.
on the other hand, if you can establish that your studio monitors are giving you enough low end that can assist you in your mixing. Then you can easily do away with a sub or calibrate it in accordance with your studio monitors to avoid any misrepresentation of the low end.
In other situations, you may use sub because it can be very helpful to compensate for any bass that is being swallowed by your room. Just in case you can’t afford to redesign your studio space or room.
Mixing in Surround
When mixing in surround format having a sub woofer is a requirement. I don’t recommend, delegating LFE management to other studio monitors.
Surround sound is basically a technique that is used to enrich and give depth to sound by utilizing multiple audio channels from speakers.
It is common to what is experienced in Cinemas, where the audience pretty much feels like they are in the movie because the stereo image is spread around them and isn’t in the center.
It is a technique that is also used in mixing of music during the actual production stage.
LFE basically stands for Low Frequency Energy which is produced from a sub usually from sounds such as explosions, low frequency sci-fi games, and many others.
Songs that are meant to be played in clubs typically have a lot of Low end presence and this is because instruments and sound elements like Kicks have to hit hard for the people that are dancing to the motion.
A subwoofer can be very helpful in turning up and exaggerating the low end in order to mix it to its fullness then turning it back to it’s normal level so it particularly fits the type of sound systems on which the end song will be played on.
Where should a subwoofer be placed in a studio?
Subwoofer placement is quite tricky because there’s no specific-for-all position that I can give. It all comes down to doing some experimentation and having a general idea of what a good position to start experimenting with would be.
The best practice is to place the subwoofer closer to the listening position and then playing some low frequency sounds in order to get a general idea of how much of the low-end you’re getting at that position.
You can then move to other positions slightly to get a feel of the amount of low-end frequencies being produced. The final choice of your location will be a position that can offer you the smoothest low-end frequency response and it is what is called the “sweet-spot”.
Be sure to avoid corners and walls. A subwoofer placed in a corner may produce an increased output which would result in the sub sounding much louder than it actually is.
Furthermore, having a subwoofer near a wall may cause it to produce harsh and rumbling sound output.
With that said, You should place your subwoofer in a position that will allow it to produce smooth low-end frequencies and the only way to find this sweet spot is by playing some songs with more pronounced low-end frequencies and then trying the sub at different spots within your space. Preferably not too far from the listening position.