Subpac Review

Subpac Review:


I live in hotels. I have been on the road for the last year and a half, in different states and different rooms every week. I bring my music with me.  Monitoring has been a big issue.  A decent pair of studio monitors isn’t really practical, due to size, weight and volume limitations. Anything that would work for me has a 4 inch driver, which does not lend itself to low frequency monitoring at all. In fact, since studio monitors are not supposed to affect the sound at all, small drivers are unable to replicate most sub frequencies. I had to settle on a high end computer speaker system. It’s 200 watts, with a sub, and not particularly accurate, but it serves its purpose, and has been robust enough to survive over a year on the road. I use it to make mixes, to listen to music, and to write music on.

The issue you come across in hotels and apartment complexes is that usually the floors and walls are built out of drywall or plywood over wooden framing, with minimal insulation. Sub frequencies with any volume behind them travel through these surfaces like they aren’t even there. So how do you make bass music at 4 AM without all your neighbors pounding on the walls and ceiling? Headphones are the most obvious answer.  You can write music on headphones. Making a DJ mix is a different beast though. You need to be able to hear the music and to monitor with headphones. When you are mixing music that is built around bass, you really need to be able to hear that low end to get right, too. I had a really hard time dialing in that low end in these low volume situations. Until now.

A couple months ago, a friend reached out to me, and told me about the Subpac. Knowing my situation, he kept telling me: “This thing will change your life!” So I pre-ordered one. Now I trust my boy, but believe me, I was still skeptical. Eventually the thing arrived, hot off the assembly line.  In fact, the tag inside it said it had been manufactured about 3 days prior to its arrival.  It was shipped in a box, with no packaging. External construction is a black, woven nylon kind of material. I’m not a scientist or an engineer, so I didn’t take the thing apart.  It about 2 inches thick, sits between you and a chair or bed, and has a metal control box which you run a 1/8 inch jack into and out of, either to headphones or a speaker system. This box also has a volume control and a power button. There is a separate lead for a power line, which connects to an AC adapter. I hooked it all up, plugging it into my phone and a set of headphones, and pushed play on some drum and bass.

This thing is powerful. Loud isn’t the best way to describe it, because it actually makes a minimum amount of noise, but you FEEL the rumble through you. It rips. With the intensity level set at half way, the drum and bass was overpowering. After listening to this mix for a while, I settled on turning the intensity knob up about 1/4 of the way. I have to say that it takes a little getting used to, and I think that some people who are unfamiliar with hearing music they are familiar with on line arrays or club sound systems, will find it completely disorienting. The thing is though, it’s the truth.

I spent the next couple of weeks mixing tunes and writing music with the Subpac. Listening to songs, samples and instruments I was familiar with, you can hear and feel the difference between the sub frequencies on a kick, a bass line, and a sub bass line. You can hear and feel changes in intensity from changes in volume. You can hear and feel the “mud” that you get when you have frequencies clashing in the low end. While the intensity level would vary with each user’s personal taste, when you get used to Subpac, you really have an entirely new perspective on the low-end in your music. The biggest thing I noticed: You use less volume on your speakers or headphones. Way less.  I found myself mixing tunes at barely above a whisper, with a very accurate understanding of what was going on in the low end, and in a situation like mine, that is an incredible advantage. Prior to the Subpac, it was impossible. Most of the rooms where I would write music and DJ had multiple sound sources: Studio monitors with subwoofers, Powered speaker systems with subwoofers, high-fi with 15 inch drivers, passive PAs with subwoofers. I am used to playing and listening to music on mini line arrays and club sound systems. I know what things are supposed to sound like, and the Subpac is very  close to recreating that sound, WITHOUT VOLUME!

Does the Subpac have any limitations? Well it’s physically large, but not very heavy. I think it weighs around 5 lbs. It still fits in my bag, along with an APC40, but when they are both in the bag it is almost impossible to get it latched, but you can do it. The Subpac is thick. So when you put it on a chair, you have a 2 inch pad behind you. It also has three wires sticking out of it, with jacks attached to them. It’s easy to get tangled up. The AC adapter is the kind that is designed to hang down from a wall jack, so you have to put it in the end of a power strip. It would be nice to see  a lower profile adapter or an adapter with a remote cord. It would be nice to see a one piece, low profile cabling system that handles all of these cables in one place. These are minor concerns, however, for a product this revolutionary to music production.

The Subpac has definitely earned a place in my music production. In low volume situations, the thing is incredible, adding a whole new dimension to music, a dimension that some people may have never experienced. The Subpac will have a place in a higher volume, full range studio situation as well, as I really cannot say enough about how much damage this thing can save your ears.  I plan on buying a second one for whenever I have guests in my studio.

First mix recorded with the Subpac:

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About The Author

Just a place for me to talk shit and post music, hope you enjoy.