While we recommend purchasing a nice pair of monitors or professional grade headphones for mixing, we admit the need for a subwoofer is one of the more debatable gear purchases.
While a sub can be great for helping you monitor the low ends of your mix, it can also boost the low end too much and cause you to react by mixing your bass too low.
If you’re keen on getting a sub for your studio, here are a few things you should look for first.
Any subwoofer is going to dramatically alter the overall response of your monitoring system. Because of this, you’ll want to make sure that your monitors and sub will pair together well. One of the simplest ways to see that your monitors pair together well is to match the make and series. Do your monitors already have a matching subwoofer made by the manufacturer? Often these systems are made to calibrate together well.
Also, if your monitors have seven inches woofers or larger, you may not need a subwoofer. They will likely already give you enough bass that adding a sub could overwhelm your highs. If their woofers are smaller than seven inches, then adding a sub could help you achieve a more accurate low end in your mix.
Because bass frequencies tend to spread out much more prominently, one of the most important things to look out for before you get a sub is how well-treated the acoustics of your mixing room are.
If you don’t have properly controlled acoustics in your mixing room, you could end up with a muddy response when mixing. The best way to prevent this is to treat your room with bass traps in the corners. They’ll will absorb the bass frequencies rather than letting them bounce around your room.
If you don’t meet these two criteria, you may want to pass on picking up a subwoofer for now. If you still would like to hear a little better how your mix sounds in the low end, try demoing it on a bookshelf stereo. Often commercial stereos like those have a natural boost in the low end to make them sound better to consumers. Plus, you can save your money.