Mixing with a Subwoofer: Is it important or not?

Double check the bass levels by turning on the subwoofer

This is the time you need to check the bass levels of your mix with an additional subwoofer unit. You only need to turn on the subwoofer when double checking bass levels. For most of the time in the mix, you will be mixing middle/high frequencies and balancing the levels. So you won’t need the subwoofer when mixing these frequencies because most nearfield monitors can reproduce these very well. Bear in mind that adding a subwoofer in your mixing studio requires your room to be fully TREATED with bass traps for accuracy. Not the ordinary foam bass traps or sofa but real traps like rigid fiber glass, placed in the corner of your room. Discussing to build bass traps is beyond the scope of this post. I suggest you read Ethan Winer bass trap guides. Without proper room acoustical treatment can result to big problems in mixing because bass frequencies can easily create standing waves in small rooms (typical for home studio) drowning the mid/high frequencies and creating an overall muddy monitoring environment.

subwoofer picture

subwoofer picture

Photo Credits: Front Room Cinema

Double check your mix OUTSIDE your studio

Not all home studio environments have that laser-accurate sound reproduction environment especially with the bass levels. The solution is to play your mix outside your home studio. It can be another playback system such as your car stereo, iPod, hi-fi speakers, etc. The objective is to check how well your mix bass levels translate to another system.

Although an added task, I would highly recommend this if you are very serious in creating a high quality mix. Even though you are confident that you have well-treated rooms; the reality is revealed when you play your mix outside your studio. So the main question is that why you would be mixing with accurate nearfield monitors in the first place and not hi fi speakers?

The mix should translate to a variety of systems not just on a single hi-fi monitor. If you would be mixing using a hi-fi monitors and not a nearfield monitor, it will only sound good to your hi-fi monitors and not on other systems. It is because hi-fi monitors do not have FLAT frequency response. But mixing with a nearfield monitor then double checking your work with hi-fi systems ensure that you have done the job properly.

Back to main question: Is it important to mix with a subwoofer or not? It’s important for monitoring bass frequencies accurately. You do not need to buy additional unit if you have a nearfield monitors with reliable low bass capabilities. If not, you can still double check your mix bass levels with an additional subwoofer unit or listening in another monitoring environment.

Content last updated on August 8, 2012