Full Review: SUBPAC S1

Discussion in 'Production' started by lostnthesound, Apr 21, 2014.

  1. lostnthesound

    lostnthesound Burns Easily in the Sun

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    REVIEW: SUBPAC-S1
    Low End Response that Opens Up a New Dimension of Sound

    Preface
    Beats by Dre. Beamz by Flo. The T-Pain Effect. These are but a few products that have been introduced to the audio production/DJ industry making grandiose claims of being revolutionary, game-changing tools of the trade. The reality is that any producer/DJ with even the slightest bit of technical knowledge (or common sense) can quickly assess based on the presented specs (or lack there of in the case of Beats by Dre) that each product is simply a gimmick preying on the wallets of the uninformed and/or gullible. Sure these products may be "endorsed by pros," but let's face reality–money sways opinions and covets truths.

    That being said, I couldn't help but feel great apprehension when first hearing about the SUBPAC-S1, especially after reading all the praise for it by many supporters. Much to my surprise, however, the many who started supporting the S1 were not the Top 40 Guetta types. Rather, I was seeing names such as Phaeleh, Dubfire and the likes of Rock n Roll Hall of Fame nominated Hank Shocklee. And then there's the constant stream of tweets that flood the Subpac handle from random artists ranging from High Rankin to Busta Rhymes. I read a few reviews, watched a few first reaction YouTube videos and suddenly, my curiosity was began to get the best of me--especially since my basement dungeon studio is not properly treated to handle a sub for low end.

    After reading about SUBPAC's 30-day satisfaction guarantee/full refund on their website, I decided to pull the trigger. And goddamn I'm happy I did.

    Tech Junk
    The S1 is a bass response system that acts like a traditional subwoofer that filters out the high-end leaving an impressive range of low end (5 to 150Hz I believe) that's quite literally "felt" within the body (more on that later). It's connected from the headphone out of your audio interface to the 1/8" input of the S1's pass-thru box--an important factor to note because it does not color the sound in any way, one of my dealbreaking requirements. It simply acts a filter to acquire the low frequencies just like a typical external subwoofer. The user then has the option to connect headphones to the "out" of the S1 box (which I have done in my setup). If the user wishes to use monitors, simply neglect to use the S1's output. The unit is powered with a simply AC connection and includes additional adapter connections for differeing power outlet types found in other countries. Battery packs are available separately.

    First Impression
    After connecting the S1 and my headphones (Beyerdynamic DT-880 Pro Headphones-250 Ohm) it was time to hear what all the fuss was about. I started by playing the Mefjus remix of Neosignal's Sequenz and once the first drop hit with the huge bassline, I had to gather myself for a moment. At first I thought that I was hearing an abundance of low end noise from the S1 bleed into my open back headphones. I ripped said headphones off in disgust, ready to return the S1 and flame the company all over the interwebz...but then realized there was actually only a whispers amount of true of audible noise emerging from the S1! What I was actually hearing (and feeling!) was the low end being injected into my body and somehow magically merging into the audio coming from my headphones to my ears. In disbelief, I began attenuating the volume control on the S1 box and suddenly, I was left with a rather flaccid sounding tune in my ears, desperate for the bass to return. The difference made in the listening experience by the Subpac was, quite simply, astounding. Right away my excitement began to build, but I kept it in check and continued to play Devil's Advocate in an attempt to find a flaw or potential problem with the S1...for the next consecutive 8 hours.

    The fact of the matter is that the more I explored and tested the S1 for flaws & cons, the more benefits I found.

    Further Observations
    You're now wondering "Well that's nice that is sounds great for listening, but what about producing?"

    With DnB, we often say that the kick resides in the chest and the bass sits below. The S1 demonstrated this on a literal level. For example, when listening to the Mefjus tune (and some other heavy DnB tracks) I could clearly "feel" the kick thumping in my mid-back area, while the bass was dominating my lower back. While this sounds a bit silly, let's apply to another scenario that I tested.

    I opened up one of my projects in Logic and immediately noticed something with the S1–the lack of definition between the kick and the bass that I felt with the pro DnB tunes I heard. After soloing the sub bass and the kick, I began to chip away the low end of the kick and pitched it a bit. Suddenly, I could feel the thump of the kick and the low end of the sub. I had managed to separate the two which in turn had really opened up my mix . Furthermore, the S1 allowed me to truly feel/hear the difference when adjusting my EQ gain/slope (ex. 6dB, 12dB, 24dB, etc.), and the consequential adjustments made a world of a difference–especially given the fact that for me personally, it can be hard to hear the consequence when using varying gain/slope values with relation to the overall affect on low end sounds and the mix as a whole.

    After A/Bing the before & after S1 mixes on a couple different audio systems, I could tell there was no chance I would be returning the S1.

    Another Trial
    With House tunes, the tendency is for the kick to occupy the low end and the bass to occupy the chest–the opposite of typical DnB sound placement. To make sure my observations from earlier weren't a fluke I demoed a few house tunes. As assumed, I felt the kick smashing my lower back and the bassline occupied my mid-back area. I was able to feel the isolated elements, yet I could still audibly hear the lowend clearly. The same results occured when pairing the S1 with my monitors (KRK6 2nd Gen).

    Conclusion
    When I finally received my S1, my goal was to maintain a "hater's" mindset. I wanted to find flaws and problems that I could share with the world. I wanted to call out Subpac and tell them they're running a scam with a gimmicky product that does nothing but act as a vibrator for my back. When it was all said and done, I just couldn't do it. I had found that the S1 had in fact now become an extension of my workflow AND monitoring.

    Much to my disbelief and expectations, the S1 truly is an audible & tactile low end solution for producers. It provides a two-fold benefit: much needed audible bass and unique tactile response that allows for properly placing low end elements of a mix so that they are clearly defined.

    I'm positive many of you reading this review are rolling your eyes and I for one don't blame you. This whole tactile response shit does seem a bit far fetched and gimmicky on the surface. The reality is, the S1 is no gimmick. It's legit, it works as advertised and it is easily the best investment I've made in quite awhile. For $299 (USD) you get your money's worth and then some. As a producer, it provides me physical cues for mixing and helps me analyze the low end, especially when A/Bing my mixes vs. pro mixes. As an audiophile, it provides audible & physical bass that quite literally puts a smile on my face and adds a new dimension to music. As a dad and someone who lives in a townhome, it won't wake up my kids when I'm making tunes at 3 in the morning nor will it cause my neighbors to bang on my front door with pitchforks and torches in hand.

    Subpac is a great company. They promptly respond to any inquiry you send them. To add, you have to respect a company that stands by its product to the point where if you hate it, you receive a full refund without any questions asked. Try the S1. If you don't like it, return it and get your money. Chances are, you won't.

    Rating
    5/5 stars.
    Fucking Legend. Believe the Hype.
     
    Last edited: Apr 21, 2014
    RUSSLA, DYSRUPT, xiris and 5 others like this.
  2. Phobic

    Phobic Member

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    Thanks for the review. Literally was looking into these the last couple days and this was what i was hoping to hear. I've got a nice set up but i rarely get to take advantage of it be cause of my neighbours so this sounded like a godsend to me. Almost to good to be true.
     
  3. lostnthesound

    lostnthesound Burns Easily in the Sun

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    I'm glad you found the review helpful. I wanted to write it up because: 1.) Most of the reviews I found didn't offer the insight I was looking for with regards to its usefulness and 2.) I was sincerely impressed. Too often the term "game changer" is tossed around without merit. I won't say the S1 will bring about world peace, but it's a damn fine addition to a studio. Best part: if you hate it, you get your money back. Every question I sent to Subpac they responded personally. No premade response bot shit a la Native Instruments. Actual human interaction! :)

    Cheers.
     
  4. IV4

    IV4 Currently a newt.

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    Wow, I could care less about the product but that is one solid review.
     
  5. lostnthesound

    lostnthesound Burns Easily in the Sun

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    Much appreciated IV4. Thank you.
     
  6. Sovereign

    Sovereign Member

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    Great review, I'm definitely thinking about getting a SubPac in the future because during the day and evening I can work on my monitors/subwoofer but once people in my house go to sleep I have to switch to my headphones and the feel/response in the sub-bass frequencies just isn't the same so I pretty much don't produce after that point. The SubPac could solve this dilemma.
     
  7. mr meh

    mr meh Well-Known Member

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    Yeah I have the same problem as you, also my setup is in a corner so not exactly ideal for bass response from my monitors either.

    Anyway, nice review lost! Its interesting what you say about the definition between the kick and sub, as thats often a problem area for me.....so definitely gonna look into getting one of these :)
     
  8. Mania

    Mania i fukin wot m8

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    How does it deal with sub pitching? can you distinguish the key?
     
  9. Riisu

    Riisu Not the Preacher Man

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    Heard some talk about this recently, just palmed it off a gimmicky marketing thing "feel da bass mang, sick" but your review seems solid. Not sure I'd lump out the cash for one at any point but would be interested in trying one out.

    Be interesting to see how you feel about it in a month to six months and how much you still use or rely on it. Might be the case that it re-enforces your decisions through your speakers and you no longer need it? Although it must be good to feel the power of the bass/drums etc that you'd only get via a club system.

    Anyways, good luck with it and thanks for the review.
     
  10. lostnthesound

    lostnthesound Burns Easily in the Sun

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    Here's the unique thing: as you play a sub through a scale, you can "feel" the sub hit different spots on against your lower back. This becomes handy especially when you're trying to get your kick and sub to sit together nicely because you when they're sitting together properly, you can feel both the thud of the kick and the sub independently. When they're clashing, the two elements have a cluttered "feel" to them. It's a bit hard to explain, but when I was experimenting I purposely did several A/B tests with a properly placed kick & sub and a cluttered, frequency clashing kick & sub.

    Also, you can really go crazy with the notes you use for the sub sequence because the Subpac will accurately hit them. This will sound cliche', but it seems to respond almost in the same manner that a club subwoofer hits, lots of freq range. Like any monitor setup, it's important to adjust the volume control on the subpac so that it's calibrated in way that blends with your monitor or headphone setup. A little bit goes along way–mine is maxed out less than a 1/4 of the way up. I'm afraid if I go any higher the bass may cause me to shart myself.

    Thanks for the feedback, much appreciated. I felt the same at first, that is going to be a "fuck yeah, bass bro" product that would hire Pitbull as a spokesman lol.

    You raise a good point. Like any gear, there's always a chance that the initial love affair may end quickly and I'll toss it on the shelf. If that does happen, I'll definitely post on this review in the interest of full disclosure. What really caught me by surprise was just how effective being able to "feel" the effect of certain edits like low cutting helped me out. Sometimes in my headphones or monitors it sounds like I've cut all the bass from a sound that I intended–the Subpac has let me know that this isn't always the case–especially when it comes to selecting the gain/slope curve.

    You're spot on though about the power–the low end feels like that tight, controlled intensity you get with a club sound system. It's crazy how I can feel and somehow "hear" the lows, yet the pack itself is barely audible.

    It's definitely solved it for me. After pricing out how much it would cost to somewhat acoustically treat my dungeon basement studio, I quickly realized that it was beyond my budget much to my dismay. In the future I would love to have a properly treated room with a slick monitor/sub setup. The reality is that for now the Subpac is providing that "umph" that I need. It actually has made me a bit more pumped when writing basslines because for once I can actually feel the bass without having to bounce the tune and run out to my car every fucking time. :)

    What's funny is that the kick/sub thing really caught me off guard. I wasn't expecting it, nor did any review I read/watched mention it. To me, that's perhaps one of the strongest selling points. And remember, you have 30 days to try her out and you're not digging it, Subpac will give you a full on refund with no hassle. I was a bit shocked by the speed which they replied to my inquiries, such customer service is nearly extinct nowadays. :)

    If any one does end up picking one up, please add to this post. I would love to get others impressions.
     
    Last edited: Apr 22, 2014
  11. tornadolphin

    tornadolphin New Member

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    Sorry to dig up an old thread, but [MENTION=78060]lostnthesound[/MENTION] - really wanted to hear what you think about the Subpac S1 now you've had it for around 6 months as I've just found about about this device and am thinking about getting one.

    Are you still using it day-to-day? Has it survived the test of time or have you tossed it aside like so many other gadgets we all have bought and never used again?
     
  12. RUSSLA

    RUSSLA DNBF Monarch

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    ^ Im interested too actually! [MENTION=78060]lostnthesound[/MENTION]
     
  13. lostnthesound

    lostnthesound Burns Easily in the Sun

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    Hey fam! Sorry it's been awhile since I've been around the forum, between family, work, DJing and attempting to squeeze a few hours of production everynight in the wee hours of the morning, my time has been limited to say the least. I'm glad to see I was summoned from my dormant state.

    [​IMG]


    To put it simply: YES. YES. YES.

    The S1 has never left my studio chair and is always fired up during a session. To be honest, my main setup consists of the S1 and a pair of Audeze LCD2 (with a pair of LCDX on the way).

    The S1 still continues to impress and show its usefulness time and time again. Everything I wrote about it in my original review still holds true. One thing I really appreciate it about it is that it really helps me know when my sub (or other bass part of a track) is just too loud in the mix. To add, being able to feel the kick/sub/mid bass relationship has really helped clean up my mixes significantly.

    Bottom line: Buy it. If you hate it, you've got 30 day money back guarantee. But take my word for it: you're going to fall in love. It's fucking awesome. Just take the time to find the right balance with the S1 volume and the output of your speakers or headphones–a little bit goes a long way with the S1 volume knob.

    Cheers,




    Hey Russla! You will definitely dig it my friend.
     
  14. Gloxxy

    Gloxxy I SNORT COAL

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  15. RUSSLA

    RUSSLA DNBF Monarch

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    haha imagine strolling round town with thing on!! You'd be having a little rave out and no one would know(obviously wearing a jumper over the top cos no bender would wear that with pride) hahaha! I find that highly amusing for some reason!!
     
  16. Gloxxy

    Gloxxy I SNORT COAL

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    ........and then the Brown Note hits you in the back/bowels/bladder.
     
  17. RUSSLA

    RUSSLA DNBF Monarch

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    hahahaha! InstaShits
     
  18. mr meh

    mr meh Well-Known Member

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    Calyx & Teebee at the beginning of this video rocking the Subpac;

     
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 12, 2015
  19. Therapy

    Therapy Member

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    Thanks for the review, really want one.
     
  20. lostnthesound

    lostnthesound Burns Easily in the Sun

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    I'm laughing my ass of at this...need to fireup South Park.