Subwoofers. Advantages/disadvantages?

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Mistro17
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Post 05 Jan 2021

I'm thinking of buying a subwoofer to go with my monitor speakers so I can hear my cinematic music making with more low end and warmth. But I'm wondering if it's necessary aside from being a more fun way to hear the sounds or would it cause an unintended illusion while mixing? Or I should ask, are there advantages/disadvantages to using a subwoofer in a small home studio? Like do you turn it off while mixing most of the time etc. These things are not cheap so I want to move forward knowing what I'm getting into. Thanks in advance.

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guitfnky
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Post 05 Jan 2021

kind of depends on the size and shape of the room you’re in (first), and the monitors you’re currently using (second). if you’re in a small, square-ish room, using a sub to make mix decisions is likely going to cause issues with the final product, especially if you don’t have much in the way of acoustic treatment. using one for enjoyment only is a totally different topic (in that case, there are no rules—just go with what feels best!).

assuming your current monitors aren’t super anemic in the lower registers, chances are you’ve already got acceptable bass from a mixing standpoint. if they are, a sub still probably would be less useful than just upgrading to a more well-rounded pair of mixing monitors.

if you’re in a small space like that, and your monitors put out an okay level of bass already, the best bet to double check your low end when mixing may just be a set of decent headphones with a slightly hyped low end, just to help you get a sense of how things are likely to sound through a more bass-heavy listener’s perspective.

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Mistro17
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Post 05 Jan 2021

guitfnky wrote:
05 Jan 2021
kind of depends on the size and shape of the room you’re in (first), and the monitors you’re currently using (second). if you’re in a small, square-ish room, using a sub to make mix decisions is likely going to cause issues with the final product, especially if you don’t have much in the way of acoustic treatment. using one for enjoyment only is a totally different topic (in that case, there are no rules—just go with what feels best!).

assuming your current monitors aren’t super anemic in the lower registers, chances are you’ve already got acceptable bass from a mixing standpoint. if they are, a sub still probably would be less useful than just upgrading to a more well-rounded pair of mixing monitors.

if you’re in a small space like that, and your monitors put out an okay level of bass already, the best bet to double check your low end when mixing may just be a set of decent headphones with a slightly hyped low end, just to help you get a sense of how things are likely to sound through a more bass-heavy listener’s perspective.
Thanks. My monitors are Studiophile BX5 from M-Audio bought back in 2005. They have decent bass but cannot get to that "thumping" level. I guess I have to do research on what specs to look for. I know even a low grade subwoofer would be a huge improvement to get that thump but not sure if it's worth $200+. I'm willing to spend the money though if I determine it's very useful for my creativity. At what frequency should I look to be at reasonably low end in my mix if I do not have a subwoofer? Are there monitors that cost less than the typical subwoofer prices that can get at more low end?

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guitfnky
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Post 05 Jan 2021

honestly, most consumer grade studio monitors will have plenty of bass for mixing in a small room. the only monitors I’d really be worried about being too thin there would fall into the “grotbox” category (Auratone/Avantone mixcubes, and the like). those are speakers that are intentionally pretty mid-heavy to allow for easy identification of mix issues in the troublesome midrange. I’d guess any M-Audio speakers would have decent low end.

I don’t know your room, but again, if it’s fairly small, any speakers with a reasonably flat curve down to say 50 or 60 Hz should work out fine. there are plenty in that sort of price range, too. I use 5-inch KRKs in my room, which is pretty nearly a 11-foot cube (about as far from ideal as it gets, but I spent a lot on treatment). they fill out the room very well, and I still find myself needing to cut the bass a bit when I do my referencing.

the smaller the room, the more bass is going to be a problem, and the smaller the speaker you’ll want. I had 6-inch speakers before, but they were too much for this new, smaller room I’m in.

ultimately, you’ll need to answer whether you want to use a sub just to feel the music when listening (not mixing)—I wouldn’t recommend buying one for mixing unless your mixes are already too bassy (which probably means the low end in the room is insufficient and you’re boosting to compensate).

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bxbrkrz
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Post 05 Jan 2021

Music is fun. Get a sub, blast it, then when it is not useful just turn it off, or ajust the EQ (in the back) to your spot.

The main problem is getting the sub that was built/calibrated for your monitors. Getting anything else could be too much of a (crossover) headache imho.

After the year 2020, everybody needs a subwoofer :puf_smile:

https://m-audio.com/products/view/sbx10

Good luck, and Happy New Year!

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selig
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Post 05 Jan 2021

Mistro17 wrote:
05 Jan 2021
guitfnky wrote:
05 Jan 2021
kind of depends on the size and shape of the room you’re in (first), and the monitors you’re currently using (second). if you’re in a small, square-ish room, using a sub to make mix decisions is likely going to cause issues with the final product, especially if you don’t have much in the way of acoustic treatment. using one for enjoyment only is a totally different topic (in that case, there are no rules—just go with what feels best!).

assuming your current monitors aren’t super anemic in the lower registers, chances are you’ve already got acceptable bass from a mixing standpoint. if they are, a sub still probably would be less useful than just upgrading to a more well-rounded pair of mixing monitors.

if you’re in a small space like that, and your monitors put out an okay level of bass already, the best bet to double check your low end when mixing may just be a set of decent headphones with a slightly hyped low end, just to help you get a sense of how things are likely to sound through a more bass-heavy listener’s perspective.
Thanks. My monitors are Studiophile BX5 from M-Audio bought back in 2005. They have decent bass but cannot get to that "thumping" level. I guess I have to do research on what specs to look for. I know even a low grade subwoofer would be a huge improvement to get that thump but not sure if it's worth $200+. I'm willing to spend the money though if I determine it's very useful for my creativity. At what frequency should I look to be at reasonably low end in my mix if I do not have a subwoofer? Are there monitors that cost less than the typical subwoofer prices that can get at more low end?
SOS review from 2003 has one guy saying basically "get a sub with these monitors" if you want full range response.
https://www.soundonsound.com/reviews/m-audio-bx5
At a rated response of 56 Hz - 20 kHz, you're not going to get a lot of useful low end from these guys, which is great for a second pair (I used to have the same monitors!) but lacking on their own IMO.

But I'm a long time fan of woofers (and tweeters), and just because they are in a separate box doesn't mean they cannot sound like one giant three way system when setup correctly. My JBL LSR 6300 system has been my main monitors for almost 20 years now, and they have sounded great in every room I've used them in from the 12 sided house in the woods outside Nashville to a converted garage in Utah, to my 10x10x10 mix "cube" in NYC (where I mixed plenty of projects with no problems), right up to their new (more spacious) home here in the north woods of Connecticut. But this system was not cheep, and uses an 8" woofer for the mains and a 12" woofer for the sub - you get what you pay for, I guess!

The key is IMO to get a "system" so the sub has a better chance of integrating with the main monitors rather than appearing to be a separate system. And try to have the chance to listen to it before you do so. That will give you the best chance of getting a full range system that you can use rather than a "fun box" you have to turn off to get any real work done. That being said, you MAY luck out and find a decent matching sub for your BX5s (ask around the internet to see what others have found). I have had luck adding a random sub to a pair of Equator monitors, but you never know until you try.

As for low end in general…I always want to hear the full range of frequencies my gear can produce, so a full range system is essential for my work. I don't enjoy monitors that crap out when you send a low frequency sound to them - the distortion alone is going to give you the wrong impression of what's going on down low. Giving the bottom two octaves their own amp and driver takes the load off the main monitor's (often small) woofers), and can give you not only lower extension but also CLEANER bass at all frequencies.

And ask any producer, most will say getting the low end "right" is one of the toughest jobs there is - so I don't want to make it any harder by relying solely on a system that doesn't even reveal these issues to me! As for room treatments, I also consider these essential in most spaces, sub or no sub. Any monitor that has enough bass to mix on will have enough bass to excite a room mode…s

Bottom line in your case, maybe save your $$$ and wait until you can get a decent 2.1 system (M-Audio used to make one, but it's no longer available, Blue Sky and others even have more than one model to choose from). That way you can not only enjoy it, but also use it! ;)
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Mistro17
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Post 05 Jan 2021

selig wrote:
05 Jan 2021


SOS review from 2003 has one guy saying basically "get a sub with these monitors" if you want full range response.
https://www.soundonsound.com/reviews/m-audio-bx5
At a rated response of 56 Hz - 20 kHz, you're not going to get a lot of useful low end from these guys, which is great for a second pair (I used to have the same monitors!) but lacking on their own IMO.
From reading that review, until I get updated monitors, I think a subwoofer would actually help me. I just played through some music I have that I know are heavy on bass and low end and really notice what that second opinion is talking about with the lack of it. Perhaps it can't hurt to just have one until I upgrade my monitors one day. Worst case scenario i will have a fun box :D I have a good friend about to bring me a spare sub he have to try out on my system.

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bxbrkrz
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Post 05 Jan 2021

You may need to add something similar for whatever subwoofer you'll end up with (if you can't find the one matching your system). It's an active crossover. This one is $80 on Amazon :puf_smile:

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selig
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Post 05 Jan 2021

Mistro17 wrote:
05 Jan 2021
selig wrote:
05 Jan 2021


SOS review from 2003 has one guy saying basically "get a sub with these monitors" if you want full range response.
https://www.soundonsound.com/reviews/m-audio-bx5
At a rated response of 56 Hz - 20 kHz, you're not going to get a lot of useful low end from these guys, which is great for a second pair (I used to have the same monitors!) but lacking on their own IMO.
From reading that review, until I get updated monitors, I think a subwoofer would actually help me. I just played through some music I have that I know are heavy on bass and low end and really notice what that second opinion is talking about with the lack of it. Perhaps it can't hurt to just have one until I upgrade my monitors one day. Worst case scenario i will have a fun box :D I have a good friend about to bring me a spare sub he have to try out on my system.
It's important to get the right sub, just any old subwoofer won't necessarily do! Plus, if you get one read up on tips for finding the best placement and settings, it really makes a big difference.
I would also suggest getting one that provides complimentary crossovers for both the sub AND your mains. You plug the sound card output into the sub, then from the sub to each monitor. That way no matter what the response of either system there will not be any overlap or doubling up at any frequency. Make sense?
:)
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BRIGGS
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Post 05 Jan 2021

"Subwoofers. Advantages/disadvantages?"

If you don't like your neighbors, maybe your sub will get them to leave. lol :lol:
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Mistro17
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Post 06 Jan 2021

Thanks for the advice. Well my friend brought me a Polk Audio sub https://www.cnet.com/reviews/polk-audio-psw111-review/ Not sure what I'm doing here but maybe a better audio interface as suggested above would probably be cleaner. We had to fit a 1/4" adapter into the headphone jack of my Behringer U-Phoria UMC22. I don't have a clean feeling about it as is right now. Reason had a couple crashes due to the audio driver crapping out. I saw the output really spiking. But I can play music from VLC player with no problems. It makes a big difference but it can be overpowering a bit. I find myself turning it way down then very slowly turning the sub volume up. For now I would not mix or use it while working in Reason but use it after I render out a song for fun. Anyone know why adding a subwoofer would crash my audio driver while using it in Reason? And yes, I became fearful for my neighbors a bit and turned it down. :D

EDIT: Not sure if the Reason crash was because of the subwoofer. After plugging it out, I had another crash.

DaveyG
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Post 06 Jan 2021

Whilst subwoofers can be useful in certain circumstances they are difficult to set up correctly and I'd hazard a guess that 90% of subwoofers in home/amateur studios are set too loud and make it very difficult to get a balanced mix. You are better to spend your money on decent monitors rather than try to supplement poor monitors.

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miyaru
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Post 06 Jan 2021

I used to have a sub in my former music room, in my current room, which is twice as small, I just have a pair of monitors (Presonus Eris E8 MK1 - with 8 inch mid/low units in it).

I use Sonarworks reference 4 to tame the "unwilling" frequencies, and to straighten te frequency response. This works well enough for me to make decisisions in mixing.

In an mostly untreated room it remains difficult to have a good jugdement on what is going on.......
Greetings from Miyaru.
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Korg N1, Korg R3, NI Massive, Rob Papen's Predator 2, Sonarworks Reference 4 and Scaler.

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selig
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Post 06 Jan 2021

Mistro17 wrote:
06 Jan 2021
Thanks for the advice. Well my friend brought me a Polk Audio sub https://www.cnet.com/reviews/polk-audio-psw111-review/ Not sure what I'm doing here but maybe a better audio interface as suggested above would probably be cleaner. We had to fit a 1/4" adapter into the headphone jack of my Behringer U-Phoria UMC22. I don't have a clean feeling about it as is right now. Reason had a couple crashes due to the audio driver crapping out. I saw the output really spiking. But I can play music from VLC player with no problems. It makes a big difference but it can be overpowering a bit. I find myself turning it way down then very slowly turning the sub volume up. For now I would not mix or use it while working in Reason but use it after I render out a song for fun. Anyone know why adding a subwoofer would crash my audio driver while using it in Reason? And yes, I became fearful for my neighbors a bit and turned it down. :D

EDIT: Not sure if the Reason crash was because of the subwoofer. After plugging it out, I had another crash.
This is one of the designs that isn’t helpful for your setup, from the RCA inputs to the lack of line outputs from the crossover. You’re likely to end up with a good bit of overlap between the sub and your main monitors, making it difficult to get good integration and extension.
Don’t think M-Audio still sells this model, but something like the SBX10 is a better match on all levels, starting with the proper connections for your setup, not requiring adaptors or additional outputs.
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Mistro17
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Post 06 Jan 2021

selig wrote:
06 Jan 2021

This is one of the designs that isn’t helpful for your setup, from the RCA inputs to the lack of line outputs from the crossover. You’re likely to end up with a good bit of overlap between the sub and your main monitors, making it difficult to get good integration and extension.
Don’t think M-Audio still sells this model, but something like the SBX10 is a better match on all levels, starting with the proper connections for your setup, not requiring adaptors or additional outputs.
I agree. It did not sound balanced at all. In fact it sounded like the monitors and sub were competing even when the sub was very low. I will wait a while and save up for a set that actually works together. Given the fact these monitors I have are old and not good with low end, an upgrade on those alone is warranted.

So what about Reason crashing...can a badly set up subwoofer cause that?

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pushedbutton
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Post 06 Jan 2021

Still looking for a Fostex PM 0.5 Sub but they stopped making them.
If anyone knows where I might find one please get in touch.
@pushedbutton on twitter, add me, send me a message, but don't try to sell me stuff cos I'm skint.
Using Reason since version 3 and still never finished a song.

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Billy
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Post 06 Jan 2021

I wouldn't add a sub to my monitor setup, but I have considered adding one to my PA playback system.

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Mistro17
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Post 07 Jan 2021

I ordered a set of Presonus Eris E5XT monitors bundled with a PreSonus Temblor T8 8 inch subwoofer. Figured I can't go wrong with a set made for each other and this will be an upgrade from what I have now. The price was within range (just over $500) given I wanted to buy 2 better monitors anyway.

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Mistro17
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Post 07 Jan 2021

One more question. My friend told me I should turn the bass all the way down on the monitors and use the sub for the low end. Is this typical practice for mixing? Or should I use the monitors mostly for mixing and be subtle with the sub if the monitors have decent low end?

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selig
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Post 08 Jan 2021

Mistro17 wrote:
07 Jan 2021
One more question. My friend told me I should turn the bass all the way down on the monitors and use the sub for the low end. Is this typical practice for mixing? Or should I use the monitors mostly for mixing and be subtle with the sub if the monitors have decent low end?
Follow the setup procedure that came with the system you purchased! If the sub is indeed simply extending the low end response of your main monitors as it should, you won't want to deviate from the instructions except to "season to taste". If you turn the "bass" down on the monitors you may leave a hole between the bottom of the monitors response and the top of the subs. The system should be designed to prevent this as well as the opposite, a build up (bump) of frequencies where they overlap. This is why it is essential IMO to use a system that has TWO crossovers, one for the sub and one for the monitors. The frequency is the same for both (ensuring an even response), with all the lows going to the sub and everything else going to the mains. This is EXACTLY how the crossover between the main woofer and tweeter work, BTW.

If you don't have a second pair of monitors for reference (a good reason to keep your BX5s), some folks will bypass the sub (which hopefully ALSO bypasses both crossovers) to check the mix on just the main monitors. But I find that far less useful than an entirely different pair of monitors, which gives you a totally different perspective. So while I CAN bypass my sub with a foot switch, I prefer to check on my NS-10s and little Equators (and mono Roland Cube monitor!) from time to time. Again, I don't like to think of the sub as a "butt kicker", but rather simply as the woofer in my integrated 3 way sound system - make sense?

Find what works for you!
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bxbrkrz
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Post 08 Jan 2021


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selig
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Post 08 Jan 2021

Mistro17 wrote:
07 Jan 2021
I ordered a set of Presonus Eris E5XT monitors bundled with a PreSonus Temblor T8 8 inch subwoofer. Figured I can't go wrong with a set made for each other and this will be an upgrade from what I have now. The price was within range (just over $500) given I wanted to buy 2 better monitors anyway.
Congrats, now you're talking! Note that the "complementary crossover" for the mains is fixed at 80 Hz (labeled HPF) so ideally you'll want to set the LPF to 80 Hz as well. Since this system is designed to work with your mains, that should be fine. I would only use a different setting if using the sub with other monitors.

You'll also want to read up on tips for finding the best position in your room for your sub, testing/setting the polarity switch option, and setting the level.

My personal approach is to use room analysis software (REW is free, I use FuzzMeasure) and a cheep $50 test mic (Behringer ECM8000). While you won't get a perfectly flat result in the real world, being able to compare two or more positions because easier when you have a way to compare them side by side (since you can't just flip a switch and compare one position to another). It actually pays off to have a friend help out with this part, so you can focus on listening while they move things and flip switches etc.
I can't stress this part enough - if you're using a sub you need to take a little time to make it work well for you, it's totally worth it! So break out your favorite LF reference tracks, call a friend, move the furniture and prepare to party (or at least put on a lab coat and get science-y). ;)

BTW, once you get things more or less "flat" in as much as that is possible, listen to your ref tracks and don't be afraid to make some adjustments "to taste". For example, I LIKE low end, maybe a little too much. So what can I do: either learn to mix with less low end and not have a fun time of it, or just turn the sub up 2-3 dB and mix the way "I" hear it. For similar reasons I also sometimes turn the tweeter down 1 dB so I can "stand" to make brighter mixes, although in my new space I'm running them flat (could be because it's a bigger space). This originally came from being frustrated with my mixes constantly leaving the studio with too much low end and not enough high end, so out of necessity and frustration! But it really works, just like turning the monitor level UP when you start your mix will keep you from pushing levels too far - seriously, try it (if that is a problem for you)! :)
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selig
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Post 08 Jan 2021

bxbrkrz wrote:
08 Jan 2021
I'll see your excellent room mode/eigentones video and raise you another:

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bxbrkrz
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Post 08 Jan 2021

selig wrote:
08 Jan 2021
bxbrkrz wrote:
08 Jan 2021
I'll see your excellent room mode/eigentones video and raise you another:

The OP's awareness was raised a lot, thanks to the whole Reasontalk's community :D :thumbs_up:

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Mistro17
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Post 09 Jan 2021

OMG I spent the evening making a quick 3D model of my studio room to ask questions about placement with visual aids and I come back here and find these videos posted :D
I will watch them with interest. In the mean time here are some renders i did showing the space I have to work with. It's 9'x14' and messier than in these pics :mrgreen: I also do artwork here. I'm looking into upgrading that compact computer table because I don't like the monitors kinda hanging off a bit. But it's what I have now. I made evrything to scale. Any advice or roasting is welcome. Thanks for the advice @selig!

This is my computer work area
My-RoomWIP8.jpg
My-RoomWIP9.jpg
This is the overall space
My-RoomWIP10.jpg
I will come back after studying those videos.
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