Why should I not use a subwoofer?

Discussion in 'Monitoring' started by Chappy, Nov 21, 2005.

  1. Chappy

    Chappy Guest

    So i'm in a smal project studio, and it probably goes without saying that it's not the most sonically balanced room in the world, but I am using HR824's and i just purchased the 1280 Mackie sub that goes with it. I love the sound of those monitors and the sub sounds great with them, but I have heard/read that I shouldn't mix with the sub on unless i'm mixing 5.1 (which I am not.)

    Is this true? And if it is... Why is it?

    I understand the theory that if you're mixing down to stereo, it wouldn't include an LFE channel, therefore you shouldn't mix with it. But it seems like the sub aids in balancing my room out in the low end. Bass was pilling up several feet behind my mix position, but now it sounds and feels a lot more even with the sub.

    All this to ask: What am I missing? What problems will i run into? Is all of this a bunch of crap?
  2. TeddyG

    TeddyG Well-Known Member

    Jan 20, 2005
    I wonder how big your room is?

  3. baslotto

    baslotto Active Member

    Jul 28, 2005
    A sub is giving you all the low frequences that the small speakers lack. It's not nesessarily bad but you have to be careful with the room you are working with/in. Run a test with the sub on and see if you have a peak on some low frequencies (pink and white noise with an omni mic placed where your head is). If the response is flat you lucked out. If it's too bass havy try to treat the room and you are all set. (It's gonna cost money and time).

    This topic should be addressed to acoustic people.
  4. RecorderMan

    RecorderMan Distinguished Member

    Mar 28, 2001
    poor man's way of addressing this:

    play c.d.'s of music you are very familiar with. move the sub around (usually get it away a bit from a wall...don't have it flush up next to one...this increases the bass even more...something that it doesn't need).

    A sub is like super-salt in a meal..you only need a very little for it to be effective. So listen to some music you know and raise the level for the sub (relative to the mains) until you just perceive it and it fills out the bottom octave. Also make sure you flip whatever switch your mains have to roll off the bottom on them so that they do not overlap the frequencies the sub is now covering..this will make your mains more efficient as well.
    Next, try some mixes and check them out elsewhere. IF your mixes come back with not enough bottom end...this is because the sub is too loud in your mix position and that you are compensating.
    I've done a lot of work in untreated rooms..get those speakers in tight to you and don't crank the, too loud. Too much volume will only excite the room and make the "bad" room modes more apparent.

    Have fun!
  5. iznogood

    iznogood Member

    Feb 9, 2004
    if the sub is mono it can cause problems....

    if something is out of phase in the bottom end it will cancel out!!

    just as when you listen with the mono button enabled
  6. Chappy

    Chappy Guest

    Thanks guys! That helped out a lot. i've been doing quite a bit of testing with it and found that it's really difficult to not crank the sub really loud. I mean everything is so much fuller now with it than without it, i just keep wanting more and more sub. Good problem to have though, i guess.

    i just remixed a song I'd done before, and listened to it in my car and the low end was a lot tighter and not overwhelming. So i guess if it sounds good... it is good.

  7. TeddyG

    TeddyG Well-Known Member

    Jan 20, 2005
    If anyone wants "quotes", check out the site for Thiel speakers. Sorry, I don't have a link...

    Anyway, couple of ways to "do" subs, as I read it. Something about using(Or not) an "actual" crossover..?

    1. Plug it in, hit it's "switch"(If any?), which, rather simply and possibly arbitrarily(Particularly if the sub is not "matched" to the main speakers in question), just "cuts" the low frequency response of the mains(Ineffectively wasting that extra inch or two of mains driver you paid so dearly for! It's already loud enough to blow out your garage walls.) "somewhere in the vicinity of" the subs "upper range". Then, turn on the sub, dial up the subs volume level to your desire(This sounds sooo scientific, ey?).

    2. "Match" your sub to your speakers. Thiel(For instance - I don't own the place, I was just glancing over their site) offers a "box"(For extra BIG money, I suppose? After all this is THIEL, speakers of high-class medical doctors and other audiophiles...), an actual "custom crossover"(?), which goes between Thiel mains and Thiel subs, which "starts" the sub, where the mains leave off. Thiel also offers another box, likely for the BIG BIG money(?), which alleges to match any mains to any sub(s). A "computerised" thingey, which allows you to "match" or "contrast"(Go ahead and waste part of your mains driver, if you like, OR leave a big HOLE between the low-lows and the lows - it's YOUR BOX!.).

    Strangely, to my mind, at least some of the larger speaker/monitor makers offer "a" sub which "goes with" ALL of their tweeter/mains speakers "perfectly"(And any others known to man/woman), like a 10" "sub" for the 5, 6 or 8" "mains" they offer..? How do they do that? Plug it in, turn it up, perfection. They're good, I guess..? Real good.

    When is a "sub" a SUB? In the old days, it was supposed to be a speaker for "SUB-SONIC" frequencies, rather more felt than heard. Later on(MUCH later on!), it became, magically, without explanation, a speaker to "do" frequencies "sub"(Below) the frequencies the mains just couldn't - period. Obviously, a 5" main just cannot do low frequencies, at the very least not while "doing" everything below tweeter frequencies - well(Physics, irrespective of advertisements, will not be violated here, by me, at least not today.). Thusly, putting a 6" "sub" on my 3" mains, technically, is NOT a "sub-woofer", just a "below 3" capability" speaker. A 6" speaker is not even, again, technically, a "woofer"! More of a possibly competent "mid-range"(Irrespective of the miracles of recently discovered porting or modern plastics cabinet molding or density).

    Speaking of woofers and full-range speakers just how far should "the jump" from tweeter to "first speaker below tweeter" - be? For instance --- no ---- this.

    A speaker "system" could be comprised of:

    A tweeter, for the high frequencies. With maybe even a "super tweeter" above that(Dogs like music, too!)!

    A mid-range speaker. Or even a seperate upper-mid and lower mid(We won't go farther than that, for now.)

    A "woofer".

    A "sub" woofer.

    YES, indeedy-do! six(6) speakers might just cover the range? Of course, some have claimed complete coverage of most every frequency, via many "same size", rather small drivers(Bose 901's, for one/many), but let's leave-out the "weirdies"(I would have loved to have a pair of those weirdies circa 1972!!! WOW!).

    Anyway, "the jump".

    Let's assume a 2-way system.


    Now what? I had read Stereo Review, for many, many years and "Now what", was never answered.... Anyway, this is just for funzies, so......

    To my ears, under admittedly bad conditions with poor ears and lesser brain, I have yet to hear a fine 2-way system that "does it all". After all we're going from a, what, 1" tweeter? What's the next step? Well, double, certainly no more than triple the size should be "close"(Common sense isn't always, but, c'mon kids, how far can we go?). So, 1" to 3" "mains". I can tell you right now, it works fine. I've got 'em attached to theis very machine - Yamaha's YST-MS50(Only 100 smackers, sadly, no longer available -- they were just tooooo good.). How-some-ever, now what? double it again(Tripling it, to a 9", is..? Nah. So, add a 5 or a 6" "woofer". Hey, got it!(Love these Yammie's!) Works well. S-m-o-o-t-h.... No real "WOOF" though, for sure. Just nice and smooth from high to "mids"(Maybe lower mids"? It is "ported"! And, very carefully and nicely made.). Are we done?

    Maybe? You can go from a one inch, directly to a 3, 4, 5, maybe even 6" speaker and sound from "wonderful" to "good", but only within physical limits. Certainly, with too big'a jump, not "audiophile" smooth and far from "full frequency". Even 5 or 6 times the tweeter size is too big a jump to have no "holes", it just can't handle every frequency, in it's "attempted" range, perfectly(Some of these 1'/6" 2-ways claim down to, like 50 cycles! Uh-uh. If it gets there at all it's missing alot on the way down AND on the way UP to tweeter range. Still, they can be OK - sometimes - I guess? The Mackie 624's and several Dynaudio's, etc., have proven, to me, that this can be OK. Of course, keep in mind that if they were "perfect", they would need sell nothing else.


    When most recording studios were owned by those trying to sell things to BIG companies(Or, indeed, were owned by the big companies themselves) - just a few years ago - not a single one of them would have even considered a 1"/6" speaker as there MAIN monitor. THE WORLD ALREADY KNOWS HOW TO MONITOR AUDIO!

    YOU just don't know how to monitor audio. And you have not the slightest desire to do what would be neccessary to make it so. Mainly spend HUGE sums of money on WHAT HAS LONG BEEN KNOWN to work perfectly(Perfectly meaning, "more than good enough to pass any test, by any system ever to be found outside of a major recording studio." YOU just want "the secret" to how to do it cheap. Here it is. Are you ready?

    YOU can't do it. No, restate. YOU WON'T do it. You want to turn out MAJOR sounds on a total studio budget that wouldn't feed the band lunches for a week of "big time" studio recording in 1957.

    How did "fill-in the blank" _________ do it so well? Someone paid for it.

    Back to our show. What can you do?

    Can you go from a tweeter to an 8"? Sure, it's done all the time(Or at least WAS done AFTER the makers sold as many 1" to 5/6" that they could!), at studios just like yours and mine(What have you sold a million copies of lately? I can't seem to recall my last hit..?). Can the 1"/8" do the job beautifully, from high to low? No. I don't have to be a speaker designer to tell you that, it just can't. A car with two gears(I had one!) just couldn't do anything really well(Looked nice in the driveway, when it was new...). Too big'a jump. Even I(EYE) can "hear the holes", listening to them in a store! Some even have done a "full frequency" system with a tweeter and a 10" main! Does it work? Yes. Perfectly? No. But, Teddy, there are "stage/PA" speakers that "do" a "high frequency driver(?)" and a 15" main!!! Does it work? Yes. Perfectly? Need you ask? FOR THE APPLICATION it "works" just fine, thankyou. Likely as well as two 6x9" coaxials, in the rear deck of one's car might "work" - sometimes that's all anybody needs. But, "we" - the recordists(Sometimes) - need FULL-FREQENCY-MONITORING OF EVERYTHING ON OUR RECORDING - NO HOLES!. Can this be done with a -- no - let's cut to the chase. Can this be done with ANY 2-way system? No. With any 3-way system? No. I'm almost sorry. I know there are alot of people out there who truly believe it can be done. No, it can't be done. No.

    Let me, again, stop here.

    WHAT are you monitoring??? Me? I'm monitoring voice-over - MY voice - NO music, no "finished" commercials or programs, JUST my voice. I do not go down to, say, 30 cycles. I do not go up to, say, 20,000 cycles(No, I refuse to argue with you "192 or nothing'ers", this evening - remain insane, as you wish, but I will not be joining you for the forseeable future... If I were Capitol records..? Even then. No.). Fact is, I don't have much bass at all, neither I or my room can handle it, so my system is almost always "shelved" below 80(Even higher) cycles. And, my VO is used on radio and TV, which just doesn't "do" much range, anyway - even if I had it. So I(EYE) can use a 3-way -- tweeter/3"/5 or 6" system. Yes, a nice 4", alone, would be fine, you're right -- for me -- anyone want to sell me an Auratone? I only need one, I don't speak in stereo, either... If I MUST "hear it all", if only for reference, I have a very nice set of 0 to light headphones.

    However, for some recording, certainly including anything remotely "bassy", an 8" is the minimum(Let's see -- 1"/3"/6"/NINE inches would be better), but... anyway, how to get there? Tweeter/4"/8". That was easy..! Still. No "real" bass. Can't be done. Not a big enough jump - or- not enough jumps..!.


    I MUST MAKE A PREDICTION!!! I've always wanted to make a prediction, publicly(I'm tired of keeping the future to myself.) - here it is.

    THE NEXT "BIG THING" IN SPEAKERS WILL BE --- A 3-WAY MONITOR! TWEETER 3"/6" - TWEETER/4"/8" - TWEETER 5"/10" - TWEETER 6"/12". With, of course, a full-spectrum of "subwoofers" available, at optional high cost(Yeah, you knew that part already, good for you.).

    There it is. Remember my name - TEDDY G. You'll be able to tell your grandchildren. Me? I feel better.

    So what size/quantity, perfection? FOUR speakers!?!? Tweeter/3"/6"/12". NOW, we're getting somewhere... NO HOLES throughout the audible frequency range! To design a phrase, Now we're "gettin' down"(Up AND down..!).... Still, no extreme low bass(Just don't quite "feel" that CSI "rumble", ey?). The right "jumps", just not enough "jumps". (Thought we had it for a second there..... darn.


    I am NOT forgetting the "Only need one sub, 'cause bass is non-directional", thing. Yes, some bass(Quick, what's the "cut-off"?) is non-directional. Those frequencies reached, properly, by your 5 or 6" "sub" are NOT those frequencies. Or at the very least, not MANY of those frequencies. My "6" "sub" is NOT under the whatever or over in the corner, it is HOLDING UP MY COMPUTER MONITOR(Like the center channel on a home theater system), staring at me 2' away. Flanked by the "mains"(Ha!) to either side. Hint:(God, I hope you've gotten this far already... it would make this rant so worthwhile...) The 5/6, even 8" "sub" IS(Or should be) the main! Yes, you can cut-off a speakers ability to re-produce higher frequencies and call it a "sub", but, only to some degree can you force it to produce, at all, anything lower than it's 5/6/8" limits allow and NEVER "properly". THE ONLY thing a 1"/8" combo speaker
    would give you with the addition of an 8" "sub" is VOLUME(Possibly more proper volume) at the LOWER FREQUENCIES THE 8" MAIN can ALREADY PRODUCE - but CANNOT PRODUCE PROPERLY, as the 8" mains AMP can only do ONE THING AT ONCE and BASS need MUCH, MUCH more POWER than mids or highs. IT IS IMPOSSIBLE FOR A SINGLE SPEAKER WITH A SINGLE AMP TO PRODUCE EQUAL VOLUME BASS AND MIDS/HIGHS! AHHHhhh... I feel better again!(We really must do this more often!).

    So, does you 1"/8" tweeter/main sound "better" with an 8" self-powered sub(Or a 10" who cares?)? YES! YES! 1000 times YES! It would have sounded EVEN BETTER with a 1"/6"(Or even better 5")((Or even better 4")) main. To some degree(Without "proper" crossover - above - just cutting-off the lower inch or two of your 8" main's capabilities YOU DO NOW have a 1"- 5/6/7" main WITH an 8" sub - MUCH closer to the "way it should be"... Oh man, I feel so much better now, so relieved... I think I'm almost ready to sleep! And it's only 12:34am(My favorite time of the day 1-2-3-4.).

    Alright, so now we know what we SHOULD do, when we can't really do what we must do - and we're willing to settle for it. Fantastic. I can feel that platinum record coming on(Well, I can feel something coming on..?).

    Alright. You've bitten your nails to the quick, here it comes! The "audiophile special". The system of systems, the monitor what IS a monitor! The system that "does it all"(Still not with the absolute VOLUME a major studio might have, but no studio will better you with quality -- you WILL hear the mixers mistakes!).

    Super-tweeter/tweeter/3"/6"/12" - 18" jen-you-wine SUB woofer! Feeling THIEHL-RICHE??? Alrighty, then! TWO(2) 18" SUB-woofers!!! Hot diggity-dog!

    Ahhhhh - the joy! The ecstasie! Extasy?? Exctisee???? The perfection of it all... All properly and passively "crossed-over" and, at least, tri-amped, in a superbly designed listening room, with YOU sitting in the #1 chair........... It don't get no better than this.

    It's good to be king! It's good to - have it all...


    What's that, you say? Someone down the street has a 24" sub-woofer? Excuse me! I must FLY to the store! No one gets oneup(Or, in this case - onedown) on the king!

    TTWWOO 2244"" SSUUBBS, TO go! And, ONE 48!!!
  8. JoeH

    JoeH Well-Known Member

    Jun 22, 2004
    Philadelphia, PA/ Greenville, DE
    Home Page:
    Teddy; that's a helluva post. :cool: (and I used to think "I" ran on!!!! )

    Putting all the room size, speaker size, crossover point issues aside, the question comes down to something very simple:

    How much of the audio spectrum do you wish to monitor? Some of it, or all of it?

    Assuming all things are equal: Room dimensions are OK, amps, speakers and reflective surfaces have all been tweaked, tamed and tested, let's pretend you now have a good, accurate listening environment. (Not too bright, not too dark, not too thin, not to boomy).

    The question is still: do you want to hear SOME of the bass, or all of it?

    Doesn't matter if it's voice over, speed metal or punk polkas, do you want to take a chance on missing something important for your tracking & mixing? (Too much bass, not enough bass, p's popping really bad on the low end, etc.)

    Whether it's 2.1 or 5.1 mixes, you're better off knowing what's down there (or isn't) and finding out for yourself what the track's low end needs.

    I"m not suggesting exaggerated bass levels to rattle your trouser pantleg or shake your neighbor's cups off their walls, but I AM Suggesting you get familiar with a properly tuned and adjusted system so you DO get to have a choice and can make informed decisions on your low end.

    If you don't catch it, someone ELSE might and it might prove very costly and embarassing to fix it later.

    I say: go with the sub, get it set up and tweaked properly, and understand what you're hearing and why.
  9. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    Dec 10, 2001
    Pacific NW
    The only reason I know of NOT to use a sub is when your mixes do NOT translate simply because of too much bass. The reasons being myriad and have been covered at length previously.

    I would personally be cautious of adding bass....especially a non direct-bass response(ie sub-woofer)...to already rather non-direct bass response speaker systems. In your case Mackie 824's with a passive radiator already in place.

    But, if it sounds good, travels well, and makes your mixes better then it is good.

    I have a sub, it is a matched system...I have a small room and mix on near-fields and need the bass.
  10. Studioman05

    Studioman05 Guest

    I have to second what dave dog said. Also check to make sure the settings in the back of the Hr824's are correct for your mixing setting.

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