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Your opinion on the need for subs in a project studio

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Your opinion on the need for subs in a project studio

Postby Watchmaker » Tue Nov 26, 2019 8:35 pm

It occurred to me yesterday while de cluttering my studio that my sub was harmful to my listening environment. I've cottoned on to the notion that: if small rooms are plagued by low frequency resonances, then a sub is probably the worst thing I could to to my monitoring environment short of shrinking it.

I have yet to fix my room so until then I'm stuck with the fairly mediocre Yamaha HS-5's I'm using, but my system sounds a hell of alot better now that I've yanked the gawd awful sub that matched them.

Assuming the logic above is sound...when is a sub useful?
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Re: Your opinion on the need for subs in a project studio

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Tue Nov 26, 2019 11:30 pm

The obvious, if rather trite, answer is that a sub is useful when it improves the reproduced sound... And not when it doesn't!

But, as you have observed, the practical realisation is complex and not always intuitive.

One or more subs can cefinitely be useful in some (if not many) situations if placed appropriately, to 'fill in' standing wave cancellations by stimulating the room from a different location separated from the main speakers. But if the sub is located inappropriately it can easily make the frequency response in the room even more lumpy.

And then there are all the usual challenges of subwoofer quality, such as their level of self-distortion generating harmonics which overlay and thus degrade the midrange clarity from the satellites. Cheap subs are never helpful, and good subs are never cheap.

The quality of integration between the subs and the satellites is also critical, including the crossover frequency and filter slopes, the relative phase, and the absolute levels. Imprecise alignment of any of these parameters will make things worse, too.

Given the challenges, then, and the considerable ease of making things a lot worse, I'm hesitant to recommend the aberage DIY-er using a sub in a small room... It takes a lot of experience and some good acoustical analysis tools to make it work well. But, having said that, I have been in small, well-configured rooms where a sub has definirely been beneficial.

In my own small room, my solution (in addition to big corner traps) is to use compact sealed-cabinet speakers which have a naturally gentler roll-off than most ported speakers, and as a result I can still hear signals down to 30Hz perfectly well, albeit at slightly lower level than signals at 300Hz. A sub could potentially bolster the level of very low frequencies, but I'm not sure the small improvement would be worth the hassle. It is something I might experiment with in the future.
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Re: Your opinion on the need for subs in a project studio

Postby awjoe » Wed Nov 27, 2019 3:19 am

Hugh, do you remember that SOS article, not so many years ago, in which the writer said that almost without exception, every room had a problem with lows, and his recommendation was to get a sub? If you know which article my memory's trying to retrieve, I've got a follow-up question related to it and the OP's question.
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Re: Your opinion on the need for subs in a project studio

Postby Eddy Deegan » Wed Nov 27, 2019 3:30 am

Was it this? Though I think it might be too old and doesn't exactly say to use a subwoofer.

https://www.soundonsound.com/sound-advi ... -subwoofer

Even if it's the wrong article, it's worth checking out for the photo of Hugh under a desk :lol:
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Re: Your opinion on the need for subs in a project studio

Postby awjoe » Wed Nov 27, 2019 4:09 am

I like the way someone's propping gear on the bongo. But no, not that one. Thanks, though.

I seem to remember the article in question talking about a fairly vicious EQ trough at about 125 Hz in just about every mixing room in the world aside from the posh purpose-built rooms. But my memory's so dodgy. I think my memory has a vicious trough at about 125 Hz.
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Re: Your opinion on the need for subs in a project studio

Postby blinddrew » Wed Nov 27, 2019 9:19 am

I remember the article but i seem to recall that it was a tool for one job, as Hugh mentioned above. With all usual caveats.
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Re: Your opinion on the need for subs in a project studio

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Wed Nov 27, 2019 9:37 am

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Re: Your opinion on the need for subs in a project studio

Postby blinddrew » Wed Nov 27, 2019 10:19 am

That's the one, thanks Hugh. Interestingly I've subsequently heard a lot more about Carl Tatz and his approach but I'd never heard of him before reading the article.
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Re: Your opinion on the need for subs in a project studio

Postby Wonks » Wed Nov 27, 2019 11:17 am

I'd have thought having an elephant in your mixing room would make quite an effective bass trap, though you might get through an astonishing amount of Hobnobs.
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Re: Your opinion on the need for subs in a project studio

Postby Rich Hanson » Wed Nov 27, 2019 11:26 am

But if you were to have an elephant in the room, would anybody talk about it?
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Re: Your opinion on the need for subs in a project studio

Postby Wonks » Wed Nov 27, 2019 11:27 am

What elephant? :D
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Re: Your opinion on the need for subs in a project studio

Postby Sam Spoons » Wed Nov 27, 2019 11:28 am

Only when the red light is off.....
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Re: Your opinion on the need for subs in a project studio

Postby awjoe » Wed Nov 27, 2019 3:42 pm

Hugh Robjohns wrote:Are you thinking of this one? https://www.soundonsound.com/techniques/elephant-control-room

That's the one, yes. Thanks, Hugh.

So here's my follow-up question. If Carl Tatz is right, then why does my Sonarworks Reference 4 software not indicate anything problematic at that frequency? I'm not trying to be challenging or provocative, I'm just wondering. If Tatz is right, and if the Sonarworks stuff does what it says on the box, then...

Or maybe I have one of the only good rooms in the world? :clap:
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Re: Your opinion on the need for subs in a project studio

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Wed Nov 27, 2019 4:23 pm

awjoe wrote:If Carl Tatz is right, then why does my Sonarworks Reference 4 software not indicate anything problematic at that frequency?

Maybe you have a perfect room! ;-)

There are lots of possible reasons for not having a dip in the 125Hz region, starting with the specific dimensions of your room and the constructions of the walls, floor and ceiling. In order to get interfering bass, the boundaries have to reflect most of it rather than absorb it or just let it escape!

Then there's the effect of the specific positions of the speakers relative to the side walls, front/rear walls, ceiling, and floor. And the presence, absence, size and shape of any desk or other furniture near the speakers. There's also the frequency response of the speakers themselves to consider, and most critically, the position of the measurement microphone(s).

As I've often said, room measurement is almost as much art as science, and it's incredibly easy to get measured results that paint a far worse -- or far better -- picture than actually exists. You usually don't have to move the measurement mic far to get dramatically different results.

H
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Re: Your opinion on the need for subs in a project studio

Postby MOF » Wed Nov 27, 2019 5:19 pm

You need to do a final mix check on your soffit mounted main monitors, subs are for amateurs. :D ;)
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