As a natural skeptic of products with big claims, I decided to support the SubPac kickstarter based on personal recommendations from high profile bass music artists. Having received support from the likes of Kode9, Bok Bok, Flying Lotus, and more, I was keen to experience what the SubPac had to offer. Cutting straight to the point, purchasing the Subpac is something I am not regretting. It’s a great and innovative product, and I’ve broken down my experience with the SubPac below.
I, like many people am a temporary apartment hopper, an urban nomad, a downtown dweller if you will. Living in a large city, I’ve regularly come across a particular problem that many of you bass heads can relate to. No matter how many like minded bass friends we come across over the years, one particular group despises us: Neighbours.
As a producer and DJ, I find myself making music at increasingly louder volumes over the length of a sitting and ultimately attain many noise complaints even with my subwoofer turned down. StudioFeed’s SubPac is the solution.
The SubPac had me very curious upon initially hearing about it and for the months that followed my interest increased as the buzz around the product did as well. The SubPac’s claim is that musicians finally have a (relatively) silent reference for subwoofer frequencies.
Before we get into the device’s practicality, I want to go over my impressions with the build quality, functionality, and aesthetics.
The SubPac is a straight backrest that can be used with a desk/studio chair, couch, and whatever other upright seat with a back that you prefer. Measuring 18.5” x 12” x 1.75”, the SubPac is relatively comfortable and keeps me sitting up straight.
The device comes with a control box strapped to the right side with the strap being long enough to wrap to the opposite side. This was important to me because my interface where I will be connecting the SubPac to is on the opposing side.
The control box of the SubPac is simple, featuring a power button, intensity knob, line in, and headphone out. The line in is where you connect your audio source, be it your PC’s audio interface, an iPod, TV aux ports, or even a DJ Mixer. The input jack is a standard 3.5 mm (think iPod headphone) connector and the package was bundled with a male to male 3.5mm cable. I was able to snap on a spare ⅛” to ¼” adapter from a spare pair of DJ headphones and plugged right into my interface’s headphone out.
I want to explain right away that this thing works! Right off the bat I played Mind Vortex’s remix of Sonny Wharton’s “Raindance” and I felt the kicks hitting like they do in the clubs. I thought that the vibration of the kicks were “cute,” but those were merely a tease for what was in actuality a subwoofer succubus that appeared as the song dropped. I picked this song because Mind Vortex uses a number of different notes and sub drops in this remix. While listening with the SubPac I was able to pick apart the sub channel from the rest of the song so easily that it instantly changed how I listened to the song.
If you have ever listened to music with a very loud subwoofer set up you know that higher notes hit your chest while lower notes hit your stomach. This is exactly what the StudioFeed team accomplished with the SubPac. The vibrations came from different points on the SubPac based on the frequency being presented and this was tested with the fixed frequency setting on Ableton’s Operator. Using Abelton’s Operator, the SubPac proved to be sensitive enough to detect frequencies at fractions of a Hertz. Throughout testing I discovered that the SubPac starts to fade in intensity below 30 Hz, simulating most club speakers.
I want to take some time to explain the practical functionality of the SubPac as this is a very new way of listening to music (let alone helping you make it.)
Instantaneously I learned that I was not using notes that I could have been using previously in my productions; thinking that they were “too low” even for subwoofers. In a matter of minutes and getting used to the SubPac I was already much more creative in the studio.
The next point I’d like to discuss is how the SubPac can help you compare your track to the professionals. Since it makes direct contact with your body, the SubPac makes comparing tracks very responsive and easy. You can’t argue with yourself and there is no guessing. Either your body is vibrating too hard or not hard enough.
Next I decided to compress the hell out of my subwoofer channel. Doing so did not prove much of a difference in output since it is an even sin wave. Next I turned the ratio up even higher, to a ridiculous 30:1 and noticed the signal weakening (as it should.) Generally it’s best to not compress your sub channel, but a slight 1.5:1 tightens up the bottom end if that’s what you need.
To satisfy my own curiosity I threw a Saturator (distortion) on the channel and noticed that it took a lot of gain to make the sub channel unusable. This may be where the accuracy falls off as the added gain was very noticeable and the clipped signal did not feel clipped. Regardless, do everyone a favour and leave your subwoofer frequencies clean. Saturators (and most effects) should never be anywhere near frequencies this low and was solely done so for testing purposes.
One of the best parts to using the SubPac is that since it is not pushing air you don’t have rattling walls and built up air pressure clouding up your perceived hearing. To be quite honest this gives the SubPac a unique advantage over producing with a subwoofer. If you are like me and do not have a studio built for a subwoofer, pushing air can have a negative impact on how you perceive your track thus causing poor mixdowns.
After hours of testing I decided to put on a movie and enjoy what the SubPac offers casually. The bass at this point felt so comfortable that turning it off left me with a hollow feeling; as if something was missing from my core. The SubPac immersed me into the film, every gunshot left an imprint on my psyche and the film score added previously unrecognizable depth and resonated stronger emotions. Explosions made me flinch, glass shattering made me cringe, and overall it provided an entertainment experience unlike anything else.
Technicalities aside, the vibrations of the SubPac resonate through your body enough that your ears perceive it as audio. This gives you the wonderful feeling you get in a club where the audible part of the tune is the lovely frosting on top of the fat bass. This unique feeling allows you to produce a track almost as if you are producing on club speakers. DJ’s will also find this very useful for helping select songs and hearing where they need to add or subtract mid’s, hi’s, and low’s with eq. You can also centre your song selection based on the bassline very easily. All in all, the SubPac just makes you understand and enjoy the music so much more.
If you aren’t a musician, but you spend lots of time listening to music, playing video games, or watching movies; then the SubPac will take your media further.
Final words on this product are that it works. It works very well, it’s comfortable, it’s practical, and it’s fun. It instantly changed my perception of music for the better and even inspired additional creativity.
In conclusion, the SubPac added a new way of listening to music that I haven’t felt since the first time I bought a pair of studio monitors. This product is an essential tool for bass music and EDM producers with bedroom studios, but for live musicians it’s more of an accessory. I still highly recommend the SubPac as a listening accessory for anyone that enjoys listening to, producing, playing, or recording bass music. The SubPac uniquely replicates the resonance of loud systems in a compact and efficient manner allowing you to experience the feeling and sensation of loud systems in the comfort of your own home. I highly recommend it for anyone looking to elevate the way they perceive and feel sound.
- Frequency response: 5Hz – 130Hz
- Powered with 15V DC adapter (110-240V AC)
- Dimensions: 18.5” x 12” x 1.75”
- Weight: 3.8 lbs
- Made in the United States and Canada
Words by: THuuN