How to place a subwoofer in your recording studio.

When I first started making music I worked at a ridiculously loud volume. I had to feel every kick drum in my chest even if I was working for hours at a time. Over the years I learned my mixes came out better if turned the volume down below eleven. Today I work very quietly; slightly below talking level. This lets me work for long periods of time without fatigue. However, I think it’s a good idea to have a subwoofer with lots of power to check the low frequencies of a recording from time to time. The best scenario is to have the sub attached to a speaker selector so you can turn it on and off separately from your nearfields. I use a Presonus Central Station with the CSR1 remote control for speaker selection. Another good option is to have the sub attached to a foot pedal. M-Audio BX10s are a an example of a subwoofer that has a foot pedal attachment.

A subwoofer can cause audio mayhem unless it’s placed properly. Here’s a good way to find the spot on the floor it should be placed:

1. Create an even full bass sound in your DAW.

2. Record that bass note stepping up over a low octave.

3. Move the chair you sit in while you work out of the way and put the sub-woofer in that spot.

4. Play your low bass octave. Have it looping continuously.

5. Get on the floor, on your hands and knees and move around the room listening to the scale. In some parts of the room one or more of the notes will feel weaker or less loud. Those parts of the room are bad places to put the sub. When you find a place that every note has equal volume and quality you found a good place to put your sub!

I should point out the better your room acoustics and treatment the easier it will be to find that sweet spot. In general most small studio rooms need a serious amount of Bass Traps. Room acoustics is another full post (or book!) but if you want my fast recommendation I would say go spend 2.5k at RealTraps.com. Take a look at their Mini and Monotraps. You can make your own traps for less money but it will take some research and sweat and they wont look nearly as nice as the RealTraps stuff. For a huge amount of info and help regarding room acoustics head to the John Sayers forum: click here

photo credit: phunkstarr

4 Comments

  1. Great advice! Thanks!

    p.s. – I found that placing a half dozen boxes of fresh donuts on top of my subwoofer greatly improves the “sweet spot”.
    ;-)

    Reply

  2. baphomet_irl May 9, 2008 at 9:07 am

    i still dont even have proper monitors yet :s – i have Beyer Dynamics DT770 PRO cans, I know the limitations of headphones, esp in regards to staging and obviously bass, but I live in a fully attached house and can’t really make massively loud noises at night :(. (trust me due to my already fairly damaged hearing from listening to music way too loud when I was young and dancing beside (if not actually in) speaker stacks at concerts/clubs, it is necessary for me to turn speakers up fairly loud : | )

    I intend to eventually get some form of Genelecs when we move house someday.

    oh yeh sorry a question: what is working out/handling the crossover between your monitors and the bass bin? – or do you just turn off some kindof bass switch on the monitors when the subwoofer is on? (I remember seeing that on a pair of speakers in SOS i think)…

    Reply

  3. Paul White of Sound on Sound magazine said to “put the subwoofer IN your mix chair”…
    Makes sense as some rooms just have crazy modes everywhere. Played at a pub recently where there was NO BASS on the dancefloor – move away from the centre of the room and too much bass appeared from nowhere!

    It is OK to dance ‘IN’ a wall of subs – bass won’t trash your ears. Just don’t dance in front of Mid/Tops – keep them above the heads of punters. A lot UK venues have the tweeters too low, and people at the front get destroyed!

    Stay Funky, James http://www.thegrits.co.uk

    Reply

  4. This might be a little late but I just stumbled across this article. I like your tip on listening at lower than talking levels most of the time. That hits home for me. After soundproofing my home studio I have the urge to push the levels too high because I can get away with it after not being able to for awhile but after reading this I think I’m going to turn it down, at least sometimes.

    Reply

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