When setting up your home DJ studio the most important component of your sound setup is your speakers. Once you have them set up you may find that you want to take the sound to the next level with a studio subwoofer. The low-end thump will enhance your music and allow you to enjoy your mixes even more. In this guide, I’ll go over everything you need to know. From why adding a studio subwoofer can be beneficial to how to select a subwoofer that will be perfect for your studio.
Why You Should Add a Studio Subwoofer
Adding a studio subwoofer is not a mandatory component of your studio. However, there are many benefits to including it as part of your personal studio space.
A studio subwoofer will handle the low-end frequencies of your sound setup. Studio monitors can handle low-end frequencies reasonably however having a dedicated subwoofer for this task will improve sound quality. Adding a subwoofer will also reduce the strain on your monitors. You won’t find yourself pushing the speakers too far to get that deep thumping bass sound.
Most modern music that DJs use in their sets have some elements of bass. From electronic music to hip hop. Artists have been using bass to infuse their music with a chunky thick sound for centuries. Adding a subwoofer to your setup is the best way to enjoy these low-end frequencies in the music you love.
If you do move into music production it will also be useful to have the low end handled by a studio subwoofer. You won’t want to be using it when mixing and mastering your music. Having the option to switch it off and on is a great way to break down how your music sounds in various setups.
Studio Subwoofer Specifications
Now that you know why it’s good to add a subwoofer to your studio setup it’s time to dig into the details. Below you’ll find what to look out for when buying one.
When it comes to subwoofers size does matter. The larger the subwoofer the louder it can go and the deeper the sound. For a home studio, 10 inch or 12 inches should be ample. Having a larger subwoofer will also prevent you from turning it up to levels it cannot handle. If you push a subwoofer too far you will begin to experience distortion. It’s better to have a bigger sub that isn’t turned up to max than trying to get the most out of a smaller sub.
Beyond size, the Power Rating of your subwoofer also determines how loud it will be able to go. This is represented in wattage. Depending on the size of your studio will depend on how powerful a subwoofer you’ll need. In most cases, a subwoofer with wattage in the 150 range will be plenty to give you deep thumping bass in a medium-sized room.
The frequency response will be listed in Hertz (Hz). Unlike speakers, a subwoofer is dedicated to the low-end frequencies. The typical human can only hear up to 20 Hz. Anything beyond this tends to be felt rather than heard. Of course, this is where quality subwoofers come into their own. Having that rumble go through your body is part of the joy of listening to music. A Hz rating of 50 or higher will ensure you get that rumble.
Adding a subwoofer to your setup isn’t a plug and play experience. If you want to maximise the sound quality you’ll need to check out the crossover frequency recommendations. These are included with the documentation for the subwoofer. In some cases, it will be listed on the subwoofer itself.
Without getting too technical the crossover frequency allows you to set the correct volume for your subwoofer. It also defines at what point the sub will take over certain frequencies from your monitors. You don’t want your sub to be set too low where you can’t feel the bass compared to the mids and highs. You also don’t want it set too high where it will be drowning out those mids and highs. Follow the guidelines provided if you’re not sure how to fine-tune this manually and you should be fine.
If you want to fine-tune this yourself you’ll need to do this manually by ear. Start by setting the subwoofer at half its max volume and then adjust your studio monitors via your amp to find the sweet spot. The top studio monitors will provide you with a graph of the frequency range. You can look at this to get an idea where the monitors begin to struggle. It will be within this range where your subwoofer will come into play.
Sound and soundwaves is a massive and complex topic and I could go into much greater detail here but to most home DJs you don’t need to worry about it too much. Focus on finding that comfortable balance and you can always tweak your sound system further down the track if required.
If all the above sounds overwhelming stick to the recommended subwoofer for your monitors. If you buy a pair of JBL studio monitors look for a JBL subwoofer. Likewise, if you were to buy a pair of Yamaha studio monitors aim for the appropriate Yamaha subwoofer. This doesn’t mean you can’t mix and match brands but it will make setup quicker and smoother.
Front-Firing VS Down-Firing
Subwoofers come in two varieties. The main driver can either be facing the floor or it can be facing forward. The ideal choice for your studio will depend on where the subwoofer will be placed.
If the only spot available will be in a corner or against a wall aim to get a down-firing subwoofer. This way the sound will radiate out and across the room from the floor. Down-firing subwoofers tend to be available in commercial sound systems. They often utilise the down-firing as a way to make the sub sound louder than it actually is. This type of subwoofer while adequate and fine for home use is not what most professionals use.
Front-Firing subs will send that deep bass out into the room and are the better choice if you can place them in an appropriate position. I’ll cover placement in a later section. If possible adjust your studio space to accommodate a front-firing subwoofer. You’ll then be able to buy higher quality professional grade studio subwoofers.
Sealed Box VS Bass Port
You may notice that many subwoofers have a cone that leads into the heart of the box. This allows air to go in and out of the subwoofer box to prevent and minimise distortion. This usually means that the subwoofer can produce louder and deeper bass without drawing as much power.
This isn’t to say that a sealed box subwoofer is worse. Sealed subwoofers produce more accurate bass. Just be aware that a sealed box will likely not be as loud as an equivalent bass ported subwoofer.
Powered vS Unpowered
Powered subwoofers will not need an external amp as all the components are built in. If you already have an amplifier it’s likely it has a connection point for a subwoofer. In this case, you can explore the various unpowered options available.
Installing Your Studio Subwoofer
Once you have selected your subwoofer it will be time to connect it up and start enjoying that booming bass. It’s usually very simple to connect up a subwoofer. If you are running an amplifier it will be a case of connecting the subwoofer and then adjusting some settings to your prefered levels. Likewise, if you are running an audio interface it should have a spot for you to connect your subwoofer.
The only thing to be mindful of here is the types of cables you may need. The subwoofer should come with appropriate cables. Be sure to double check the connection options for your audio interface. You don’t want to have to then go out and buy extra cables further delaying your addition to your studio.
The biggest recommendation when it comes to setting up your subwoofer is the placement. You want to place the subwoofer in the middle between your two studio monitors. With low-end frequencies, you don’t want to be able to hear where the bass is coming from. You want to feel it everywhere equally. This is why I recommend placing the sub in between your speakers.
Many commercial setups will mention that placing the subwoofer in a corner is ideal. The theory behind this is that the bass will reflect off the wall to give a deeper sound. While there is some truth to this you do run the risk of having dead zones within your space where the bass is not as noticeable. In some cases, the corner will be the only logical free space available to you. While I don’t recommend placing the subwoofer in a corner if it’s your only choice place it there. This will save you the hassle of trying to rearrange your space because of the sub. Also if you do have a bass ported subwoofer be sure to give it enough room away from walls to allow air to move around. Usually double the width of the port is enough.
Unfortunately, placement can be a tricky subject as it will be dependant on your room shape and size. Any room treatments for soundproofing will also impact on how sound travels within your studio. This is where some trial and error may be required. Setup your subwoofer and play some bass heavy music. Walk around the room and try to identify the variations in sound. If the majority of the room is consistent you’ve likely found a good spot.
Another trick is to place the subwoofer where you will be seated and then walk around your space to find the spot where the bass is sounding the best. Based on how sound dynamics work when you switch those positions you should have that same high-quality sound in the place you sit. You can learn more about this technique in the video below.
There is one other thing to note when installing your subwoofer. Where possible try to add isolation into your setup. Isolation removes the potential for vibrations altering the sound. It does this by minimising the contact your speakers or in this case subwoofer has with the floor or table. There are a couple of choices in this area. You can get a foam based isolation pad that will disperse the vibrations. These are often not very expensive so are a good choice for the budget minded. The other option is to use isolation feet that will raise your subwoofer off the ground. While more expensive they will give you the maximum isolation for your subwoofer.
Quality is Key
Before you go out and buy a studio subwoofer based on the above recommendation I want to touch on a few buying tips. As with many things in life you get what you pay for. Subwoofers are especially prone to this. More than any other category stick to well-established brands that have a track record of manufacturing quality products. If you already have a high-quality pair of say KRK studio monitors don’t ruin the setup with a cheap off-brand subwoofer.
There is also a difference between a studio subwoofer and a commercial subwoofer. Studio subwoofers are designed to be used by professionals. They focus on accurately replicating the sound delivered to them. Commercial subwoofers have a more coloured sound and will try to “enhance” the sound. This can be beneficial for general listening as you can tailor which subwoofer you buy based on how much you love bass. If you do want to hear your music in the purest form stick to a studio subwoofer.
When it comes to commercial subwoofers it becomes even more important to be wary of unknown brands. Often these sound systems will not be built to high standards and may not be as durable. Emphasis is often placed more on aesthetic appearance over sound quality. These are aimed at impulse buyers and not for sound aficionados. As a DJ you want high-quality gear that will last a long time. Invest in your gear and you’ll save money down the track. You’ll also enjoy high-quality sound in the process.
You should now be able to confidently explore subwoofer options. As with many components of your home DJ studio keep in mind your own needs and situation. Do you have neighbours or a partner who won’t appreciate you making them feel they are in the middle of a minor earthquake? In that case, don’t buy a massive subwoofer if you know you won’t be able to use it to its full effectiveness. Likewise, if your studio is small you can save money by buying an appropriately sized subwoofer for your space.
If you’re anything like me you love bass but also love the sound quality. Finding the harmony between both can be tricky but well worth the investment. Find an awesome subwoofer and add it to your studio. You won’t regret it!