Using a consumer sub while mixing

Discussion in 'Tracking / Mixing / Editing' started by yz, Oct 21, 2006.

  1. yz

    yz Guest


    In my project studio, I do the bulk of my mixing on Tannoy near field monitors, never cared much for NS10s. Anyway, I've gotten quite comfortable with my monitors and room over the years. I have a good idea of how things will translate, and I am almost always satisfied when checking my mixes in the car and other systems. Predictably, I do have occassional low frequency issues that I have to go back and correct. My main question refers to an inexpensive consumer sub that I have recently incorporated into my system in order to check the lower frequencies from time to time while mixing. I know this qualifies as a recording/mixing question, but I'll be turning some mixes in for mastering soon and I'm wondering what members on this forum think about using such a sub. Although it is a consumer piece, it does represent lower frequencies which just aren't there on my near fields. Any feedback would be appreciated...YZ
  2. JoeH

    JoeH Well-Known Member

    Hey YZ, that's a great question, and I think you're on to something. There may be some who disagree, but I think a good, accurate sub is important in mastering as well as mixing, etc., as long as it's accurate and not overdone, etc.

    IMHO, regardless of the genre, it's important to hear everything, from top to bottom. It's a given now that many home (and car) systems are going to have subs, so it's in your best interest to make sure you've got everything covered.

    I pretty much ignored the whole idea of subs until the late 90's, when I heard my first surround-intended tracks mixed on a true 5.1 system with a sub. What a revelation! From then on, I decided a sub was going to be an intrinsic part of any of my home and professional monitoring systems, and have never looked back.

    I started out with something as simple as an RCA 12" (sold at Radio Shack, of all places!) down-firing self-powered sub woofer to get my feet wet and it served me well at the time, although there were some anomolies and it wasn't terribly linear all the way down. (My son has it now in his bedroom system, and he's got few complaints, though!) For each upgrade, I made sure I did some freq sweeps, using an SPL meter (as best as I could for the lows which can be all over the road), and doing a lot of listening. (Obvious tip: Although low bass is supposed to be "omnidirectional", it still IS very critical where you put the sub in your mix area.)

    I'd say the biggest things to watch out for is deciding on your crossover point, room resonance, and overall flatness in your subs response. I'm sure you know the drill: Too much bass in your monitoring system will yeild thin sounding mixes on other people's systems, and too little bass will yield boomy and overdone-sounding mixes elsewhere. As you know doubt know, you'll want to do a LOT of listening and comparitive analysis as you get settled in with any upgrade.

    A lot of the price differences are bells and whistles, may not need all the features of some of the higher end boxes....pass through connectors, stereo/mono configurations, balanced vs. unbalanced inputs, and many of the various power schemes: timed-out on/off functions, etc. I'd just make sure you have a wider choice of crossover point, at least as low as 80 hz and maybe as high as 120-160 hz. Depending on where your main speakers rolloff, this is going to be one of your critical points when making a serious purchaces.

    I've upgraded a few times, and have settled in for a while now with what I feel is the best one yet for my uses (the BagEnd InfraSub-Pro 12), and it's a smooth, comfortable ride, allllll the way down. I've heard some great things with it (including some pretty startling stuff that other "Pro" mixes on Commcercial CDs have missed - footfalls, trucks or buses outside of the studio, etc.) For me, the difference between a serious box like the BagEnd and my old subs was night and day, and the various anomalies and resonances mostly disappeared (including some of the room treatments I THOUGHT I needed).

    I do think you're better off WITH a sub than you are without one, as long as you know what you're hearing, and why. As long as you understand the stuff that's down there, you can deal with it accordingly. Others may not agree with me, but I think a good sub is important for any serious mixing/mastering work.
  3. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    IMHO there are two classes of subs. One is the sub that will accurately tell you what is in the range between 0 and 80 Hz and the other one is the sub that will give you misinformation about that same frequency range. I like to think that the second class could be referred to as a "one note wonders" because that is what it is reproducing. This maybe fun for watching and listening to the DVD "Top Gun" but when listening to music it sounds like a boom car and not like music. Again IMHO there are only one or two manufactures than have it right. REL is one of those manufactures and I am sure that the one that JoeH has is a good one as well. If you have a good sub woofer and you listen to it without your normal speakers on it should sound like the bottom octave of the music. It should never sound like it is resonating around one or two notes and that anything else is lost. I have heard some subs in surround systems and they sound fine for DVD listening but if you put on any music they bass is very artificial sounding to my ears. Before commiting to purchasing a sub you should try it in your setup and use if for a couple of days to see what it can do.

    Best of luck!
  4. DIGIT

    DIGIT Guest

    Stay away from ANY sub labelled as MOVIE/FILM, Theater, etc... as they exagerate the bass way too much. Some better consumer units from Yamaha, JBL and others have a SWITCH for "real" and "movie" or whatever each calls it.
  5. JoeH

    JoeH Well-Known Member

    Good points, Tom and Digit. I've seen that "movie" and "real" switch on some models. (Always made me suspicious!) I'm wondering if that refers to the crossover point?

    I know what Tom means about single resonant frequencies and semi-useless subs. That was certainly part of what was wrong with my initial foray into a sub with the RCA unit. (But it did give me a taste of it, and a good idea of what I did NOT want! ;-) )

    Probably the big caveat for anyone considering it is to know what you're hearing, and why. It's tempting to get a full-body-low-end massage with some over-hyped boxes, and that of course is NOT the goal.
  6. sheet

    sheet Well-Known Member

    The big question is can your room handle a sub? Can your room play down to 40Hz accurately? What about 20Hz? Does your room vent to accommodate? If not, you won't be learning anything new about your music.

    What most people find is a huge disconnect between subs and monitors, unless the monitoring system was designed "as a system". On the low end, the Blue Sky seems to be as seemless as one can get, in the opinions of many users, including me.
  7. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    Good thing to remember and something that a lot of people overlook when they try and put a sub woofer in a room that is 8 by 8 by 8 feet (typical bedroom) and wonder why it does not sound the way it should. Also some rooms are not designed to have subs in them and if you use a sub in an apartment or duplex you may incure the wrath of your neighbors since tt is designed to increase the low frequency level it maybe the "straw that broke the lease".....<GRIN>
  8. JoeH

    JoeH Well-Known Member

    Which one of the Blue Sky systems do you have, Sheet? (I've got a Sub 15 Universal here for review, actually...)
  9. yz

    yz Guest

    Wow, thanks to everyone for the great pointers. I am in an apt and I have my monitors in the corner of a diagonal room that is roughly 20x12. I have tried using the sub on a particular mix that was a bit muddy in the low end between kick and bass guitar. It's an acoustic rock song woth lots of strumming and driving rhythm. When I compared the original mix to the new one in the car, where I originally noticed the issue, I didn't hear much of a difference at first. They both sounded good at my ususal medium eq setting. Then I pressed the "loud" button on the car stereo and the lower frequencies were boosted. The new mix was definitely more controlled and listenable in the low end while the old one was sloppy, especially the bass guitar. I do have to keep in mind that I am using a consumer/computer sub that is giving me an innaccurate representation, but it is at least giving me some ability to address some potential problems in the lows.
  10. JoeH

    JoeH Well-Known Member

    Glad it's working out for you, YZ! I think you've got the right mindset on this....better low end, and a full appreciation of what you're hearing.

    Congrats on sorting it out. It's going to make you a better engineer/mixer in the long run, I have no doubt.
  11. DIGIT

    DIGIT Guest

    I have a Yamaha YST SW-305 SUB which I use with my NS-10M STUDIO monitors. It works well is properly matched.

    It has a MUSIC/MOVIE switch which of course whould always be set to MUSIC .

    I have seen it used first in a few major studios and then, inside a studio right next to mine where I had a chance to ck it out before buying it.

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