Understanding vocals and audio gear are two skills that any sound engineer or music producer should have.
Vocals when displayed on a frequency spectrum occupy and belong to a specific frequency range. This knowledge is what equips you with knowing exactly which speaker to expect your vocals to come out from; when played on sound systems with tweeters, subwoofers and mid speaker(s).
In this post I’m going to address a question relating to what I’ve discussed above. I hope you find this article insightful.
With that said, let’s get right into it.
Below is the question, as sent to my email:
Should vocals be coming out of a subwoofer?
Subwoofers are generally built to cover frequencies around 200Hz and below. This is bandwidth of most subwoofers.
If the vocals being played on the system fall partly within this bandwidth, you would expect to hear them come out of the sub, usually muffled.
The takeaway here is that, subs will only produce sound when there is something within their bandwidth to be played.
Vocals are dynamic and different. For example, deep male vocals can go down to the subwoofers bandwidth or frequency range which would allow you to hear them come out of your sub.
Vocal frequency range
Vocals are different and cover different parts of a frequency spectrum. Which is why you should have a frequency analyser on your vocal channels so you know exactly what their frequency range is.
This will make it easy for you to know where you should expect to hear them from, if you have a sound system with a sub, mid speaker and tweeters.
Most vocals are way above the bandwidth of most subwoofers so you shouldn’t really expect to hear much of them from a sub.
Other vocals, like deep vocals for instance can have a some low frequency content which could possibly be audible from your sub but not audibly clear enough.
On the other hand, other vocals don’t have any low end frequencies so you don’t even need to pay any mind to the sub when you play them.
For example, high pitched soprano vocals wouldn’t be expected to come from a subwoofer.
The role of subs
Subwoofers as you obviously know are supposed to be the speakers that drive the low end.
They’re meant to provide the bass in sound systems.
Which means it is not practical for you to hear vocals coming out from them unless the vocal is within the range of their bandwidth.
Which is common for male vocals or choir vocals that are layered and only EQ’d slightly in the effort to keep them as natural as possible.
Therefore, take some time to understand the bandwidth of your subwoofers so they don’t catch you off guard.
IF you’re carrying out tailored audio work like music production or audio engineering.
Go for studio monitors.
I recommend studio monitors because they’re balanced and are complete.
They usually come in pairs consisting of the right and left speaker.
The subwoofer is built into these speakers so you basically get the full package and won’t have to worry about your sounds coming from the wrong speaker.
There are various options for studio monitors out there which you can pick from.
You don’t have to worry about spending too much because studio monitors are fairly inexpensive.
Flat frequency response
When we work in audio production one thing we look for in speakers is a flat frequency response.
This is important because speakers that have a flat frequency response are able to provide us with an accurate representation of audio signals as we play them through our speakers.
Studio monitor’s are great choice for anyone shopping for a flat frequency response speaker.
Speakers are certainly important but so is the device we use to capture vocals or audio signals that we have to play through speakers.
A studio microphone should ideally be one with a flat frequency response. A condenser microphone is usually a great choice.
Of course you may think vocals coming out of your sub is a bad thing but that is not always the case.
Sometimes it’s just a matter of tweaking the right parameters, other times it’s just about understanding the specifications of your speakers.
If you’re doing deep audio work that requires audio engineering you need to get all your parameters right otherwise you may end up with badly engineered vocals as a result of misrepresentation of audio by your sound system.