When audio engineers mix songs, they know the very first thing they must nail down is the low-end material before they can build their mixes. This is because a solid low end allows everything else you place ‘on top’ of a mix will sit on a solid foundation. Without having your low end locked in, your mix will never sound solid no matter what you place on top of these low-end frequencies. Therefore, many audio engineers use a studio subwoofer to insure the very lowest of lows in their mixes are accurately represented. Using a studio subwoofer allows the engineer to hear all the way down to the very bottom of the lowest frequencies in the song. Having the ability to hear the lowest frequencies allows you to adjust them where needed for the best foundation of your mix. This simply must be done first, and, it must be done accurately, or one is wasting their time and turning to luck for the right low-end balance in each song. Further, as consumer playback systems become more and more sophisticated in their abilities to reproduce audio, the important of having a well-balanced mix is made even more important as audio technology continues to expand.
The good news is this critical mixing point is easily addressed by using the correct studio subwoofer. Choosing the best or most appropriate subwoofer for your mixing environment requires considering a few points:
- Size of your mixing room
- Size of the woofers on your main mixing monitors – how low do they go?
- Audio adjustment features provided by the subwoofer
- Will the sub be used in an appropriately acoustically balanced room?
Once you have selected the right studio subwoofer for your mixing room, the next step is to set it up, so it seamlessly takes over the low-end reproduction at the specific point your studio monitors drop off. You will want to refer to your studio monitor owner’s manual for this detail if you do not yet know that frequency. Phasing is also important, and you will want to pay close attention to setting up the studio subwoofer’s phasing correctly. Simply put, there’s no reason for your studio monitors AND your subwoofer to produce any of the same frequencies so you’ll want to be sure that crossover point is set as accurately as possible.
Some studio subwoofers like Fluid Audio’s FC10S offer a footswitch feature that allows you to turn the subwoofer on and off so you can check the low end against the low end coming from your studio monitors. This is a key feature that allows mix engineers to see exactly what their subwoofer is producing and allows for easier and quicker low-end adjustments. Turning the sub on and off will also show you how your mix will sound on different playback systems; those with accurate low-end representation, and those that don’t have an ability to playback frequencies as low as the ones you have assigned to the sub.
If you’re serious about mixing material that will accurately playback on numerous systems and sound just like the mix you intended to mix, then using a studio subwoofer is a key piece in your overall mixing strategy. Remember, without a solid low-end, it won’t matter what else you put into your mixes – they will not translate accurately to other playback systems. And while it is always recommended to check your mixes on different playback systems such as earbuds or other monitors of different sizes, mixing your material so that the low end is nailed down will serve your mixes better than if you had not done this step no matter what playback system is being used down the line – the mix will always sound more balanced. This is because when the low end is nailed down, the subsequent choices you will make about the rest of the mix will be better balanced against it and as such will have better balance overall.