In this tech spotlight we look at the SubPac S1 “tactile bass system” which offers a new way to feel your music without the need for a subwoofer.
SubPac – Tactile Bass System
The SubPac S1 is a new product that recently hit the market as a result of a successful Kickstarter campaign that launched in 2013. It’s a smallish pad that houses an audio-driven vibration system with a rechargeable battery, input and output jacks, and intensity level knob. I had seen the SubPac at events and on advertisements over the past year or so but never really got a chance to experience the system until recently, and the first experience was worth writing about. This “tactile bass system” proved to be more than a gimmick and has aided me in music production and enhanced enjoyment of video games and music sessions more than I had anticipated.
The purpose of the SubPac is to act a physical bass “speaker” that you lean against while you listen to music through headphones or speakers. The SubPac itself emits little to no sound, but rather sends vibrations of sound through your body, allowing you to feel sub frequencies in music. The end result is a music experience much like sitting in a car with booming subs in the trunk, where your body vibrates to the sound. The experience is surprisingly three dimensional and real, which I hadn’t expected from reading about the device.
“SubPac is a patent-pending tactile audio technology – it transfers low frequencies directly to your body and provides you with a new physical dimension to the music experience,” explains the company. “SubPac is used with any line in, and is used in conjunction with any headphones or speaker set-up. It is used in any seated, or laying position and its intensity is fully adjustable.”
In Use the SubPac is highly enjoyable and brings out a new dimension of sound in everything you hear / feel through it. The device also serves a useful purpose for modern music production. If your goal is to produce music that will be played in clubs, part of that experience for the listener will be physical, and you will need to reference your music with a subwoofer. Or now, you can reference that “oomph” with the SubPac, which delivers the same sensation without bothering your neighbors.
I had this experience recently when trying to refine the kick drum and bass line of a track I was working on. The mix was sounding good in both my monitor speakers and my headphones. But when I listened to music with the S1 I became aware that the kick drum needed much more attack and sidechain to punch through the mix and carry the weight I was looking for. A sub could have done the same thing, but I can’t use a subwoofer due to neighbors and a toddler in the house. As a result the SubPac became invaluable to me for late-night techno and electro sessions.
Proper Use of SubPac
One thing to note about the SubPac in use with music production: make sure to ride the intensity knob to find the sweet spot of sound. The SubPac will also respond differently to different levels of sound, so adjust both your input level and your intensity level accordingly. It may take a moment to find the balance between the two but the final result will be more realistic. This is less of an issue with iPads, iPhones and other music playing devices where the media and output tend to be more consistent.
“The SubPac does NOT separate the audio signal into lows vs. mids/highs like a traditional sub-woofer crossover,” explains the company on their Kickstarter page. ”It transfers low frequencies to the body while maintaining the original signal to your headphones / external speaker system. In addition the SubPac does not utilize artificial bass enhancement effects; rather, it delivers a flat, true signal to the user. With a frequency response from 5Hz to 130Hz, SubPac is the ultimate solution for experiencing low frequencies.”
In addition to music production, the SubPac proved to be a fun companion for video games (Nintendo 3DS and PS Vita take on new dimensions) and iPad video viewing. To be honest I’m using it right now, and I tend to bring it with me when I travel. While it’s not a necessary part of my studio, it’s become a much loved addition recently.
One struggle that SubPac inevitably faces is the introduction of new technology to the public. This is something that all new technologies have had to overcome and SubPac’s approach has been to let the information spread through grassroots methods and by gaining a long list of supporters that includes renowned producers such as Richie Hawtin, Dubfire, Salva, Pinch, Mala, Kode 9, Hank Shocklee, Daedelus, and Adrian Sherwood.
“Without a doubt, the most useful studio tool I have come across in many years!” – Adrian Sherwood
“As my studio has grown, and my productions have grown-up, the demands for detailed sonics from highs to ultra-low have as well. SubPac fills in a low, where my sub have feared go and acoustic treatment barely allowed. I’m excited for this development, and curious to see all the places I can bring it where I thought bass impossible.” – Daedelus
“Speaking of the future, here is another piece of equipment that will blow your mind away. Sub Pac is seriously one of the biggest game changers for listening to and making music. It literally takes your lungs and turns them into a bass chamber, so you can FEEL the music, as though you are in the club, only better. After experiencing this, listening to music will never be the same without it. You can also fit it easily into your carry on to listen to music on the plane and the person next to you can’t feel a thing, while you are getting a full on club experience in your seat. Also fun to try with movies and games as well. I love the future!” - Endo
The SubPac S1 is currently available for $379. Read more about the SubPac S1 and the new M1 wearable unit at the company’s website.
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