Is a subwoofer my next investment?

I have trouble hearing what goes on in the bass frequencies. I’m quite happy with my Samson Rubocon monitors, but they’ve only got 5 inch woofers, and that obviously won’t get you a good image below 100 Hz or so. I use a pair of cheap headphones with a remarkably big bass response to get a better idea, but they’re not very accurate. My question is this: should I buy a sub woofer or bigger monitors? Or is it a hopeless quest in a small studio (I have got bass traps in all corners and at reflecting points for the mix position)?
My guess it that a sub woofer is going to create a lot of low frequency output which will bounce around the room despite the bass traps. So is it any use, or will I get a poor response? Or would I be better off spending it on slightly larger monitors (I’m thinking of the 8 inch Yamaha HS8 for instance)? Again, my guess is that any increase of the bass output is going to increase bass frequency interference problems, but maybe at close range (the nearfield idea) at a lower volume.

Given everything you said, I would try those HS8’s first. It sounds like you have enough traps that the problem could potentially be the monitors.

And as embarrassing as it may be to ask this, are you sure it’s not your hearing? @Chordwainer admitted struggling with it, and I have some hearing loss at 900-1.3K in my right ear from a firearms accident 10 years ago. I ran a hearing test on my mom once, and found she couldn’t hear much of anything below 100hz.

I’m no expert on acoustics, but y understanding is that listening at a lower volume doesn’t solve any problems with standing waves. The room doesn’t care, the problem will exist anyway.

No problem :grin:, I’m quite aware of the fact your hearing degenerates as you get older, in particular if you’re a musician. In fact I have tinnitus: a constant high pitched ring in my ears (particularly left ear). I was tested and do suffer some loss in that ear, but in particular the higher freq’s. I’m all right in the low end. Although… I must say I was dissapointed in the extent medical science is accurate in that sense. Its a pretty rough eq curve on the basis of only a few subjective measurements (whether or not you hear noise with a certain eq and dB’s).

I was quite worried about this loss of hearing, but referencing helps out there. The left side of my mixes doesn’t have a higher. EQ than the right side (as far as I know). So I don’t think my hearing is the problem.

Well that’ seems to be true (I’m no expert either), but bass traps do decrease the energy of standing waves, so if there’s a limited amount of energy there to start with it should help.

I’ve been reading Mike Seniors “Mixing Secrets”. According to him small monitors acquire a bit more low end with a port, but at the cost of a lot of resonance in the low end. He prefers the limited bass response of the closed Yamaha NS 10’s because what you do hear is accurate. Strangely he mentions nothing about sub woofers in his book. So… I still don’t know what to think.

Question: Jonathan (and any one else): do you use a sub in your studio? And if so: all the time, or only to check the bottom end?

Hi, Yes i use one all the time, generally its always on but do turn it off occasionally just for reference. I’m happy with the balance of the sub (Focal CMS) Also i have the room correction software ARC2 running which is a life saver IMO. I find that i’m not guessing the bottom end anymore and translation across to other systems is good. I do have acoustic treatment panels and bass traps but its not too excessive.


FWIW, I found using a sub paired with 5" near field monitors to be an real game-changer. It helped me to have so much more confidence in the low end of my mixes translating to other systems.

+1 for getting a sub!

Bigger monitors raise the sound pressure level and cause ear fatigue.

Hi, I had m-audio bx5 d2 and sbx10 sub and they served me well. It was a bit tricky to properly set everything up, though. I spent a lot of time with an spl meter, measurement mic, REW and moving things around the room. I recently sold the speakers and the sub and got Focal Alpha 80s plus I made my traps 3 times thicker than before. I put the whole packages of rockwool (4 slabs in a pack, 10 cm thick each) floor to ceiling and I must say the music sounds amazing. Bass is even and tight. It’s really up to you, as long as your traps have enough mass. Integrating the sub with the mains will surely take you more time than just getting bigger speakers.

Thanks Andrew, Tacman and Sound Candy. You convince me, Partly because it’s a cheaper option than buying new monitors :loud_sound:

Wow, that is a lot of bass trap! I have 23 bass traps each 10 cm thick and about 7 cm off the wall in all corners and at the main reflection points. My room is 4.5 by 3.8 meters (if I remember rightly) and about 2.4 meters high. so I need them. I tried to do all the measurement stuff (even bought a special mike for it), but I don’t’ think I really knew what I was doing.

Just one more question. I’ve been checking our second hand site which offers quite a few decent (active) Hifi sub woofers for a reasonable price (eg Kef, Focal Cub, Tannoy). Are they any use? Or not - for the same reason Hifi speakers are not very good monitors? Second hand studio monitor subs are more difficult to find. Any tips on what to look out for?

Trust me on this - 10 cm is not enough for anythig below 100Hz or so. It does close to nothing there. When you check the absorbtion coefficients for rockwool of 10 cm thickness and different densities they don’t even mention anything below 125Hz. If you want a sub, you really need to put something a way thicker in the corners. Also, don’t use any foam. Mineral wool is the way to go.

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Is your room similar in size? And do you have these thick bass traps only in the 4 (vertical) corners? If that works: I still have some rock wool left to fill up the corners. I read somewhere that a 10 cm slab across the corner (with just air behind it) works almost just as good as a filled up corner. I didn’t test this theory… .

You need mass. Thicker is better. I had 10cm slabs in the corners (with air behind) and after I changed to 40 cm the bass was better immediately. I also found that sub test tones are as good as measurements for checking the response. I stopped obsessing about having a perfect room. There’s no such thing:) Good luck & all the best.

Of your used to the sound of your monitors and like them it seems pointless changing them and learning new ones.
If you got a sub and possitioned it correctly and dialed it in nicely with your current monitors you would notice a world of difference. Its a massive game changer!
As you get older your hearing does go but i think that would mainly be an issue at higher frequencies not the bass.
But yes i got a sub and it took a while to get itbin a place where it sits nicely.
If tuned in correctly you hardly notice it (dontbhave it set loud like a drum n bass prom night, thats even worse for mixing) as it just opens up the lower end but if u turn it off you miss it.

+1 on sub

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( sorry for off topic post but great Bio by the way aef! It reads great :+1:, it made me re write mine. Keep rocking, respect. E)

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Thanks E, Maybe I should start writing instead of trying to be a singersongwritermultiinstrumentalistmixerproducer guy :sunglasses:
I will now go and check out yours!
And thanks also for another vote of sub confidence. I was particularly worried that a sub wouldn’t help much in a non perfect room.

It took another 10 months but I am now finally a proud owner of a sub (Krk 10 S2) . Thought I’d keep you informed. And, yes! It certainly makes a difference, even if my wife was not impressed :grin:
I still have to set I up properly when I have some time left. But already it is so much more easy to get bass and kick right.
Strange thing is that now I’m more aware of my not so great 5 inch Samson Rubicons. I now feel a greater need to revert to my good headphones to get a better idea of the mids and highs. So better monitors (Yamaha HS7 is my goal, they’re on sale second hand quite often) remain on my whish list. .


…story of my life

Thats a good thing…trust your intuition there. When I became aware of the problems (like for me with bass trapping for instance), it’s usually a sign that your ears are getting better.

I think the HS7’s are a great next step. Highly recommended!

Congrats on the sub!

Thinking about it, a sub was the single most valuable and beneficial hardware (audio) investment I made in the last 10 years.

You may even get away with HS5s if you have a sub happening - that’s my setup - HS50s (predecessor to HS5) and a HS10 sub.

Hi… subwoofer…sounds like a dog in a submarine…my brain is just not right :slight_smile:

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I am personally not a fan of subs. Plenty of engineers get great results using them. I went to “the bigger speakers route” and enjoy it thoroughly. I do have a very treated room. 18" of insulation on every wall and 27" in the 15 foot ceiling.