January 13, 2023
There’s no substitute for that chest-pounding low end, especially if your music is any kind of rock or electronica that seeks to get people moving. Whether you’re playing heavy metal, groove rock, or old-school techno, the combo of kick and bass is crucial for real impact.
For some music, though, it’s not necessarily about heavy bass or even about dance. Introspective acoustic work, for example, is more about lyrics, songwriting, and intimacy.
So how do you know if you need a sub in your stage rig?
The first question to ask is how big are the venues you’re playing? If you’re playing a tight room that only fits twenty people, a subwoofer may be overkill, as would a large PA in general. In fact, for this kind of gig, you may want to adjust your set to fit.
Then again, a huge venue will probably have its own house sound system, and you may not need to use your PA at all. It’s in the in-between where you’ll find the most use for a subwoofer. When the venue is big enough to call for it – say a decent-sized bar, outdoor stage, or convention area – you’ll want a subwoofer to bolster your sound. In fact, in some venues like medium-sized bars, it may be better to emphasize reinforcing the low-end, especially for the kick, than to concentrate on boosting mids and highs from guitars, snares, and cymbals. In many bar gigs, bands are too loud and harsh on the high end without much weight in the lows. This makes audiences cringe rather than get enveloped in the music. The solution is often to incorporate a sub such as Carvin’s TRX3118A 2000W Active 18-Inch Subwoofer to bolster the kick, low toms, and other weighty instruments first – before turning up guitar amps.
That’s why all Carvin’s TRC Active Column Array Systems incorporate subwoofers. It’s just the right way to build a strong sound that carries and grooves without being harsh.
In studio mixes, the number one issue new mixers have is muddy low end. The same is true for live mixes, and improper use of the sub can cause this issue. So, you’ll want to dial in a judicious balance for the sub before you go too far. One way to do this is to listen to some known mixes in the room before the band sets up. Get a good, luscious low-end sound dialed in, and then start mixing the band.
You can use the same subtractive EQ concepts you would use in a studio mix to remove low-end (below about 100 Hz) from instruments that don’t need to live there like horns, vocals, guitars, and some keyboards. This will leave room to dial in punch and weight from important low-end instruments like kick drums, low toms, and bass. Of course, you don’t want to overdo the cutting either. Sometimes instruments need a little heft to sit right – just not too much.
Finally, remember that while a room may call for a subwoofer, it may also need very little of it to be effective. In fact, most rooms aren’t treated acoustically and tend to emphasize certain frequencies. Smaller bars, for example, can get muddy quickly. It’s wise to take a close listen and consider tight EQ cuts where needed to dial in the room. This work isn’t one size fits all, so be prepared to dial in the low end differently for each new venue.
At the end of the day, the answer to whether you need a sub in your stage rig is a resounding yes, even if you may not use it in every case. Unless you only plan to play super intimate acoustic gigs in one particular small space, a good sub is always a good thing to have in your arsenal.
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"Make a joyful noise unto the Lord all of the earth; make a loud noise and rejoice and sing praises. Sing to the Lord with the harp and the voice of the psalm." - Psalm 98:4-5