Recording - September 2014 - 42

The lowdown
on subwoofers
Placement and wiring
If you're trying to incorporate one or more subwoofers permanently into your setup, what you
don't want is to be able to close your eyes and
point to where the sub is in the room. In theory, frequencies under 150 Hz are not supposed to be
able to be localized by the human ear, but in real
life this is frequently not the case. For example, the
closer you place the sub to a wall or corner, the
more likely it is that you'll be able to hear where it's
sitting. This is another area where using two smaller subs rather than a single larger one will probably yield better results, as the placement load and
balance will be shared between the two subs.

The rear panel of a sub will offer a variety of
controls to help you tweak placement and
performance. This sub, the PreSonus Temblor
T10, has controls for subwoofer gain, lowpass
filtering, polarity inversion, and more.
If you are using a single sub, there are sources that
will tell you the best way to place it is to put it in the
center of the room, and then play bass-heavy material though it while you move around the room until
you're standing in the place where it sounds best...
then plunk the sub there. That's always seemed a bit
odd to me, as you need to place it so it sounds right
in the listening position, which is often in or near the
42

RECORDING September 2014

center of the room, and even after you do that, the place in the room where it
sounds best may not work well ergonomically.
I find that the most reliable place to start when placing a single sub is on the
same vertical plane as the satellites, as if they're all part of the same enclosure.
This doesn't mean the sub should be directly physically under (or over!) the
speaker-just that it should be placed so that the sub's driver(s) and the satellite's drivers are lined up when viewed from the side, so their sound reaches
the ear at roughly the same time. While this may not produce ideal results in
all rooms with all sub/satellite combinations, I've typically found it to be a pretty reliable place to start. Naturally it's trickier to do when your sub's driver is
aimed at the floor rather than forward, but the general idea of "the sub should
be time aligned with the satellites" is still a good rule of thumb.
I also usually try to avoid putting the sub dead center between the two
satellites, as that can lead to problems with room nodes and nulls. If you're
using two subs, it'll obviously be easier to achieve the same mirrored placement effect that you get from the satellites.
Also, if your room is wider than it is deep, it may actually be better to aim
the sub lengthwise across the front wall-as opposed to pointing it towards
the back wall-so that the bass wave has as much room as possible to stretch
out and develop. Of course, in those instances, proximity to the wall and corner may be a problem, but it may be the lesser of two evils, so to speak.
Another critical choice is deciding how to hand off low end from your
satellites to your sub(s). Many studio owners simply use a sub's built-in bass
management system (if it has one) to shelve the low end being fed to the
satellites and the top end being sent to the sub. I prefer to feed the sub and
satellites with full range signals, then dial in the sub so that it gains energy
just as the satellites are losing it, resulting in an arguably more natural transfer of energy than can be achieved with a hard shelving crossover. In order
to accomplish this "natural transfer" setup, a subwoofer needs to be
equipped with a variable lowpass filter that can be set to engage the sub a
bit higher than the point where the satellites begin to lose energy-a number that's usually provided in the specs of any professional studio monitor. If
you go this route rather than letting the sub's electronics do the work, you'll
also probably need to get a dedicated router/switcher at that point (see the
sidebar).
Regardless of which method of crossing over from the satellites to the subs
is chosen, it is important to understand that if only one sub is being used,
both sides of the stereo signal need to be wired into it. It is a common mistake to wire a single sub with only one side of a signal, but it's a bad practice-not only do some mix engineers pan some of their bass tracks to one
side or the other, but the overall energy of the mix will not be correct unless
both sides are wired in. It's easy to check the reliability of the system by toggling to a mono feed, to see if the balance stays the same and that the stereo
signal is in phase. If your bass suddenly gets wimpy or thin in mono, you
have something wired backwards!
Once the sub is placed, the first thing you need to do is set the volume
level correctly. To do that, choose a piece of music that has a walking bass
line. If it gets louder on lower notes, you are suffering from what's known as
room loading, where the room's acoustics are boosting what you're hearing
from the sub.
To correct for this, first try adjusting the volume and (if the sub allows it)
the crossover point. If that doesn't produce the result you want, try tweaking
the sub's phase-many subs have at least a polarity switch. If neither of those
adjustments delivers smooth results, you'll need to physically move the sub,
then start again with the volume/crossover/phase tests. Sometimes, it's just
a matter of moving the sub a few inches, or changing the angle at which it
points into the room.
The bottom line (pun intended)
Unless you have an acoustician come in and tune your room and set up
your sub, it will probably take you more than a little bit of time to get things
right-fussing, listening and tweaking to get your low end situation sorted
out to deliver the best results. If you're one of the folks who just want the sub
in there for non-critical applications, it'll probably take less time than those
looking to add the sub as a permanent fixture to a critical monitoring system,
but even then, it'll still probably take some adjusting to get it to where it's
performing ideally.



Recording - September 2014

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Recording - September 2014

Contents
Recording - September 2014 - Cover1
Recording - September 2014 - Cover2
Recording - September 2014 - 1
Recording - September 2014 - 2
Recording - September 2014 - 3
Recording - September 2014 - 4
Recording - September 2014 - 5
Recording - September 2014 - Contents
Recording - September 2014 - 7
Recording - September 2014 - 8
Recording - September 2014 - 9
Recording - September 2014 - 10
Recording - September 2014 - 11
Recording - September 2014 - 12
Recording - September 2014 - 13
Recording - September 2014 - 14
Recording - September 2014 - 15
Recording - September 2014 - 16
Recording - September 2014 - 17
Recording - September 2014 - 18
Recording - September 2014 - 19
Recording - September 2014 - 20
Recording - September 2014 - 21
Recording - September 2014 - 22
Recording - September 2014 - 23
Recording - September 2014 - 24
Recording - September 2014 - 25
Recording - September 2014 - 26
Recording - September 2014 - 27
Recording - September 2014 - 28
Recording - September 2014 - 29
Recording - September 2014 - 30
Recording - September 2014 - 31
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Recording - September 2014 - 35
Recording - September 2014 - 36
Recording - September 2014 - 37
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Recording - September 2014 - 42
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Recording - September 2014 - Cover3
Recording - September 2014 - Cover4
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