to Sub or not to Sub?

I have a pair of Focal Alpha 65’s in my spare-bedroom ‘studio’. The room is full of sonic flaws for a ‘studio’, but it’s the best I have at the moment (certainly better than nothing). I need to add some more acoustic treatment, which may have a bigger impact on what I mention below that I realise.

I bought a JBL LSR310 sub (200W, downward firing 10") to compliment them as a have a bit of a habit of wanting too much bass in my mixes (and overcompensating). But, I’m not sure if it is ‘better’ as a reference sound. What I gain from having an extended low end, I feel I lose with a less linear response from the Focals. It is also a quite subjective sound as it depends where I am in the room. If I step back 3-4 meters back from my mixing position, the sub thunders, but even when running the Focals full-range (no sub) the bottom end is fuller.

So, the question - am I better off without the sub? I have considered trying to run the Focals full-range in conjunction with the sub, or doing some funky crossover sends though Cubase. But, it seems a pretty messed up solution.

I guess the other question - how else do people best to manage the varying frequency responses around the room? I actually like the ‘fuller’ sound 4m back from the monitors, but it’s obviously not the recommended position to be mixing from! Could the problem (the pronounced variations) be mainly due to insufficient acoustic treatment allowing those sub frequencies too much ability to bounce around?

I’d rather sell the sub and be well dialed-in to the sound of my Focals, than to assume the sub is making things ‘better’.

Flattery will be your undoing! :wink:
You don’t want your speakers lying to you, they should be giving you an actual account of your mix, and Subs do not belong in that scenario - especially if your room is not properly treated to deal with problematic bass frequencies.

Our stuff really doesn’t go down into the range of my sub-woofer, but I would rather have it so that I know what unwanted sounds might be rumbling down there, as meters don’t always tell the true story.

The main problem I found is balancing its sound with the stereo monitors.

When I first got it, I had it on the floor under the desk, but its balance with the stereo pair was too position dependent, and hard to do because I had to get to its level control, so I took to raising it above my main screen, bringing it into an arc with the pair, equidistant from me, so now its sound is tight and in-phase:

SOK-MUS.Studio-speaker_layout.small.2014-07-09.jpg
In my first attempt of getting it off the floor, I had it on some wood shelving, but it vibrated them too much. Finally, I used some soft-steel slotted angle bars (Metal Mate) to build a frame, with a layer of thin neoprene webbing between it and the sub – no vibration.


As for getting your room right, the first step is to find the optimal position to mix from (that is by sound, not what fits in with the room layout), so that you can use less room treatment. I suggest using the empirical technique described on page 28 of Mixing With Your Mind by Michael ‘Stav’ Stavrou.

Thanks for the replies!

I totally agree with the ‘flattery’ idea - 'twas what I was concerned with. I kinda equate it to singing in the shower - it’ll make most people think they are sounding good.

I’d rather keep working on training my ears to hear a balanced response than crap bouncing off walls making me essentially mix in a shower!

I might try a few options with the sub before i sell it and lose money though . . . . . ., but first, updating treatment in my room sounds like the best plan of attack

Usually what happens when you move away from Your speakers and certain areas of the audio Spectrum increases, you have an area where the audio Waves in certain frequencies work together and either cancel each other out or as you notice, increase. A good way to avoid these types of standing Waves (areas of multiplication and/or cancelation) is to make sure there is buildt in basstraps and not having walls that opose each other like: | --> | (bad) and | --> / (good).

Another thing to look into is having really good speaker stands for your monitors. I got in touch with a friend that runs a profesinal studio, and bougth some of his old homemade. These are really heavy, filled with sand to eliminate all reasonans for the speakers. The less resonanse you have between your speakers and floor etc the better. Make sure the treble hits above Your ear, and the bass hits below your ear, and that the angles in your spot are perfect.

When it comes to the question if you need a sub in your setup; Peronsally I know you can do without. The more sub you add to Your room thrugh Your monitoring, usually ends up taking away sub from the mix. Although for listening purposes, to see whats going on Down there. It can be Nice With a sub to get a good grip of whats going on. But in general when you are recording or producing. A sub usually makes more mess than it adds to your mixes. It goes without saying that if you really are on top of your game when it comes to your set up and how your room handles frequency responses, you would know how to set a sub up for your needs.

For sub bass mixing I use headphones (sacrilege I know!) but they go down to under 20Hz and my monitor don’t! I’ve been putting sub basses on nearly every track I do lately (such is the trend) and hearing them afterwards on a subbed system the levels seem to match what I was expecting from the headphone mix.

Subs can and do have their place as a few have pointed out, but generally for mxing and especially for one starting out I’d advise against using them. Learn to mix without one.
That being said I have 2 subs in my studio, one is part of a 5.1 configuration in which case a sub is an integral part, the second can be fed a mono submix for checking - much as Patanjali described. My studio is however well treated with lots of absorption, trapping, slat and hanging resonators, and angled walls. Even with all that, bass frequency energy is very difficult to control, especially in a small room and a set of decent reference monitors should be adequate.

Thanks again for the advice! I plugged the sub back in for a comparison yesterday, and all it really did was fatten out some of the low low frequencies, at the expense of scooping others out.

It sounded akin to the doof doof audio systems in cars that have competitions. It’ll shake the windows to pieces, clean snow off, buckle the trunk/boot - but in reality it sounds like crap. Unless you are into that kind of thing . . . .

I was considering a sub too, but instead opted for bigger monitors… as beginner I am not ready yet for the big near field brands, but having new monitors (Yamaha HS8) with larger (8") woofers gave me better bass response in my mixing then with my first set of Rockits (5").

So instead of expanding the amount of speakers, I advise speakers with a better bass response…

But hey, as said, I am no pro… :wink:

If you’ve got enough outputs on your audio interface, I hope you kept your old monitors so you can use them as another reference point when mixing or mastering, if you use control room you can just flip between them to check the sound, chuck a set of cheap pc speakers in there too!

I considered that too, it looked awesome in my setup… but my second output is at a different level as my main, hence A/B comparing was a pain in the but… besides that, my lil sis could use a pair of decent speakers too :wink:

Good man! :slight_smile: