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Saoirse O'Shea
post Nov 2 2011, 11:41 AM
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People here have beeb asking if adding a sub can help with a lack of bass in their monitoring. Each time I've suggested that they be careful as they can introduce more problems then they solve. Just to add to that here's a quote from a forum post by Hugh Robjohns, the technical editor of Sound on Sound:

''subwoofers can cause more problems than they solve very easily and I would suggest some very careful thought before commiting.

Subs in a movie system perform a very simple role. They just have to make loud bangs. Tunefullness isn't important. Standing waves in the room aren't relevant. Subwoofer distortion doesn't matter. So it's easy to make an impressive difference in that situation.

In a music system, though, the performance of the sub is dominated by the room modes -- standing waves. It doesn't matter how good the sub is, if your room has untreated mode issues -- and all rooms do -- then the LF response will be hugely lumpy with some musical notes booming out and others almost non-existent. So unless you have sufficient well designed bass trapping in the room the sub is unlikely to perform very well and is more likely to be misleading than helpful.

Next, budget subs tend to produce a lot of harmonic distortion because getting low-distortion bass costs a lot of money in terms of driver and cabinet design. Harmonic distortion arising from a 40Hz low bass will produce energy at 80, 120, 160 200hz and so on... smearing right through the lovely clean midrange of your main monitors. So adding a poor sub will often reduce the clarity of your monitoring system rather than improve it.

And then even with a really good sub you have to get the set up absolutely right in terms of crossover point, level, phase and positioning. None of these are trivial.''

So as I've said elsewhere if you need to use a sub make sure that you have it properly matched to your system and installed correctly. If you don't you will introduce more problems than you solve.


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Sinisa Cekic
post Nov 2 2011, 04:51 PM
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Great article Tony! Now you have me thrown into confusion, so I asked you a simple question: Do you have any suggestions on a decent budget sub monitor, because buying a quality(and expensive) still isn't on my priority list sleep.gif !


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Saoirse O'Shea
post Nov 2 2011, 06:08 PM
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Really depends on what you mean by budget subs Sinisa as I tend to think anything below about 2000 dollars is budget wink.gif .

Joking aside I think it not only depends on the particular sub but also the monitors that you are trying to integrate it with. So 2 questions - what's your budget and what are your monitors?


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Ivan Milenkovic
post Nov 3 2011, 10:29 AM
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If there is a question of getting a subwoofer for getting better low end response, isn't it better to get bigger monitors all together? 3-way speaker system from a good manufacturer?


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Saoirse O'Shea
post Nov 3 2011, 11:17 AM
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QUOTE (Ivan Milenkovic @ Nov 3 2011, 09:29 AM) *
If there is a question of getting a subwoofer for getting better low end response, isn't it better to get bigger monitors all together? 3-way speaker system from a good manufacturer?


Provided that the 3 way is designed and made properly then yes. This way the x-over, power amps and so on are better optimised.


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Todd Simpson
post Nov 29 2011, 01:16 AM
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Tony has some great points here. But again, the "Two Worlds" philosophy does seem to apply. Most of us here, are home recording enthusiasts trying to balance a variety of compromises (above all cost) against the severe limitations of recording in spaces not designed for recording.

So you can actually make things much worse adding the wrong sub. That said, for those working at home on their own music, adding a "matched" sub to a pair of powered speakers (E.g. KRK SUB with KRK speakers) can offer extreme benefits over mixing without one in terms of being able to have some idea of what is happening below the range of the smaller speakers pointing at ones head. A decent pair of mid range/lower end but still pro/semi pro monitors with a 6 inch woofer is going to have very minimal bass response. So mixing with no sub is going to be really, really tough. Your mixes won't "travel" well. You may take it somewhere that has better bass response (even your car) and be shocked at how over bassy it is.

So bear all these things in mind when considering a sub. I don't do any "paid work" in terms of mixing/mastering in my home studio. I take it to friends place where he has much nicer monitors smile.gif But I do tons of recording of my own stuff and usually turn on my cheapo sub near the very end of mixing to make sure I'm not just killing the bass range. I check it visually too of course on a frequency display plugin (which is a guess at best in terms of pro quality) and have learned how to make the mix travel about as good as it's going to.

So in short.

*Try to keep your bits matched (Speakers/sub same brand/series)

*Don't over rely on your sub at home, just use it to keep you from being shocked when you travel with your mix.

*Take all Pro work to a Pro! (like Tony) if you are planning on pressing copies, and it's not cheap when it comes out of your own pocket, take it to a PRO! You'll be glad you did wink.gif

Todd


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Gabriel Leopardi
post Nov 29 2011, 02:28 AM
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Great article Tony! This really clarifies the use of sub woofers. thanks man! smile.gif


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thefireball
post Nov 29 2011, 02:35 AM
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Wow, this is something i never thought of!


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Andrew Cockburn
post Nov 29 2011, 04:42 AM
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I'd like to address the "untreated" portion of this -

Everyone is assuming that an untreated room is just what we have to live with, but treating a room to remove modes is something worth tackling for every home recording studio. You might find that you don't need a sub if you treat the modes, or you might find that a sub is a useful adjunct to your existing monitoring, but until you figure out your recording space it is a little hit and miss.

When I built my studio I did some work around this that may be helpful (it was a GMC blog at the time):

http://www.cockburn.co.uk/a-studio-is-born.html

worth a look at least - room treatment is not scary, nor should it be swept under the carpet if you are serious about recording.



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Saoirse O'Shea
post Nov 29 2011, 10:02 AM
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QUOTE (Andrew Cockburn @ Nov 29 2011, 03:42 AM) *
I'd like to address the "untreated" portion of this -

Everyone is assuming that an untreated room is just what we have to live with, but treating a room to remove modes is something worth tackling for every home recording studio. You might find that you don't need a sub if you treat the modes, or you might find that a sub is a useful adjunct to your existing monitoring, but until you figure out your recording space it is a little hit and miss.

When I built my studio I did some work around this that may be helpful (it was a GMC blog at the time):

http://www.cockburn.co.uk/a-studio-is-born.html

worth a look at least - room treatment is not scary, nor should it be swept under the carpet if you are serious about recording.


Yes you need to treat your room appropriately so that it is as good as it can be for purpose. It's sad that people often spend money on monitors etc but spend nothing on treatment. It's also worth stating again that how you treat the room depends both on intended use and the construction and the shape of the room.


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Get your music professionally mastered by anl AES registered Mastering Engineer. Contact me for Audio Mastering Services and Advice and visit our website www.miromastering.com

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Cranesong Avocet II Monitor Controller, Dangerous Music Liasion Insert Hardware Router, ATC SCM Pro Monitors, Lavry Black DA11, Prism Orpheus ADC/DAC, Gyratec Gyraf XIV Parallel Passive Mastering EQ, Great River MAQ 2NV Mastering EQ, Kush Clariphonic Parallel EQ Shelf, Maselec MLA-2 Mastering Compressor, API 2500 Mastering Compressor, Eventide Eclipse Reverb/Echo.
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Ivan Milenkovic
post Nov 29 2011, 11:02 AM
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+1 on the treated room, it is so important to do it when building a studio. It sounds good when the regular room is treated too, makes me feel nice and comfy in the room smile.gif


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