If you’re an audiophile and love bass beats or spend a lot of time in a music studio, you might own a subwoofer.
Subwoofers boost bass frequencies, and subsystems can be tricky to get the hang of it if you’re new to them. You could have the best or most expensive subwoofer in the market, but unless you calibrate it properly, you won’t be getting the best performance out of the speakers.
Luckily, this article will cover everything you need to know about how to calibrate subwoofer systems. Whether you’re setting up your new subwoofer in a music studio, a guest room, or simply in your own personal music space, you’ll need a good guide to educate you on the hows and whys of calibration.
Keep reading to learn all about calibrating studio monitors with subwoofers!
How To Calibrate Studio Subwoofer Easily
Pre-checks and Equipment requires
Before you get to the real work, you should be sure of a couple of things while you’re setting up your subwoofer and monitor system. So keep an eye out for the following.
1. SPL meter
An SPL (Sound Pressure Level) meter is a device that is used to measure sound levels. Usually, a good SPL meter has a strong mic that can pick up a wide range of frequencies.
You can pick up an SPL meter from the store or buy one online, but you could get an SPL smartphone app if you’d prefer not to make an extra purchase. The app on your phone can be set up to match your subwoofer frequency levels and tell you what frequencies are registering.
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2. Proper placement
This is vital for getting good quality audio out of any subwoofer. You may have to experiment a bit, but it’s best not to place a sub in corners or near the wall. Keep some distance.
For accurate subwoofer placement, studio rooms must be large enough to accommodate a triangular placement of monitors and the sub.
You can be more casual about where you place your subwoofer in home studios since it’s unlikely you’ll be working with several sets of speakers and monitors.
3. Zero out the board
An essential step in pre-calibration is ensuring that all the sub-settings are normal and that no added effects have been used. Keep your sub at phase zero. Then you can begin from scratch.
4. Tone generator
Some subs have built-in tone generators, a kind of device that converts electronic signals into audio. You can use online ones to test your sub-signals or buy them in the form of hardware or software.
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Steps To Calibrate Studio Subwoofer
After you’re done with studio subwoofer placement and other pre-checks, it’s time to actually calibrate the subwoofer. This may take a little bit of testing out, as calibration is a process that requires a bit of experimentation and fine-tuning.
Step 1: Connect The Studio Monitor And Subwoofer
To start with subwoofer calibration, ensure to connect your subwoofers and studio monitor. Check the rear panel of the subwoofer to see which inputs and outputs are available (for example, TRS, RCA, XLR, and so on).
You may have to acquire the necessary cables, or they might be provided with the sub you buy. If you have multiple subwoofers and multiple monitors, it’ll take a while to set things up neatly.
A good cable management system is advised, especially if you’re in a small studio. Most subs have their controls and inputs/outputs on the rear panel, so keep your cable area neat to avoid further confusion. However, sometimes some subs do place some controls on the front.
Step 2: Calibrate The Studio Monitor And Subwoofer
There are two things to consider when calibrating. The first is the subjective calibration standard, and the other one is the Empirical calibration standard.
This refers to calibrating two speakers, standing equidistant from them, with your SPL meter held at arm’s length until it reads the calibration you’d like. If you have several monitors with different speakers or subs, you should calibrate each speaker differently.
However, it’s important to maintain the same level of calibration for each set of speakers, otherwise, there will be acoustic interference when you try to play or mix sound. This can change the quality or accuracy of the audio, so make sure you’re calibrating the subs individually and that they all have the same reading on your SPL meter.
Empirical standard calibration, on the other hand, isn’t as subjective. The DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) should give you a reading of 0dB in this instance, as opposed to the 85dB a calibrated speaker should read via your SPL meter.
At this stage, your speakers need to be connected to your monitor or monitors, and then you can turn the input and the output sensitivities to the lowest levels. Your mixer should also be at zero (if you’re using a mixer).
Using the pink-noise bandwidth sample, set the output level source to ‘unity,’ and you should hear no pink noise. Once you’ve established that, you can keep increasing sensitivity till you reach 82dB on each speaker.
For both processes, you should be in your natural listening position when you make the calibrations. Otherwise, you might end up with different results depending on where you are in the room.
Make sure you calibrate the speakers from the same position, and once they reach the level of 85dB, you’ll know you’re done. However, the 85dB mark is just the standard. You can calibrate to whatever audio level you like.
In case your sub has a variable lowpass filter, you can keep the frequency setting at its highest so that you get a good amount of overlap between your sub and your audio system. You can try playing some music that’s loaded with bass to see how your subs are doing.
If everything sounds good and you can hear the lower frequencies, you’re on the right track. So now you know all about subwoofer calibration!
Step 3: Final settings and tuning
Some monitors and subs have highpass filters, which will help your subs and monitors work together more seamlessly to produce better crossover. Highpass filters prevent lower frequencies from being interfered with by the monitor systems.
If you have a sub with a variable lowpass filter, it becomes easier to control these lower frequencies and encourage better crossover frequencies.
Frequency results also depend on your studio monitor and your subs. It could be that your monitors can’t handle frequencies below or above a certain level or that your subwoofer can’t either.
So be careful before you purchase a whole setup and look carefully at the speakers and systems you’re about to buy. When you’re setting up your systems, try to make the frequency crossover as seamless as possible.
If your sub can handle a lowpass frequency of up to 80Hz, you can set up the monitors to highpass frequency of the same. Play a bit of music, adjust the settings, and see what sounds good. You’ll soon be able to figure out what works for you, depending on whether you just want to play music or mix and produce it as well.
If the 85dB setting turns out to be too much for a studio or your home, you can dial it down to around 79dB, which means your sub speakers should each have a frequency reading of around 76dB.
Now you know all there is to know about how to calibrate studio monitors and subwoofer calibration! Yes, it might seem slightly intimidating at first, but once you’ve given it a go and play around with sounds that work naturally for you, it should be smooth sailing.
And when you’ve found a calibration setting that works for you, you’ll enjoy listening to deep, rich bass music the way it’s meant to be heard. The right calibration settings will ensure that you really benefit from your new technology, rather than giving you a muddy sound without good lows.
You should be able to pull off the calibration process easily with this guide. Good luck!