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