This article will discuss the difference between bass and sub-bass sounds.
Low frequency and bass are terms used to describe the lower end of the sound spectrum. In sound, frequency refers to the number of waves or vibrations occurring in a given time. The lower the frequency, the slower the vibrations and the deeper the sound.
Bass is a term often used to describe the lower frequency range of sound. Typically, bass refers to frequencies between 20 and 250 Hz, responsible for the “thump” and “rumble” in music and other sounds. Bass is an important component of many types of music, including hip-hop, electronic dance music, and heavy metal.
Low frequency is a broader term that refers to any sound with a frequency lower than the normal range for human hearing, typically around 20 Hz to 20,000 Hz. Low-frequency sounds are often felt more than heard and can be experienced as vibrations in the body or the environment.
Low-frequency sounds can be found in various sources, from natural phenomena like earthquakes and thunder to artificial sounds like airplanes and machinery. Now let’s arrive at our main question.
What’s the difference between bass and sub-bass?
Bass and sub-bass are terms used to describe low-frequency sounds, but sub-bass generally refers to an even lower range of frequencies than bass. Bass typically refers to frequencies between 60 and 250 Hz, while sub-bass usually refers to frequencies between 20 and 60 Hz.
In the image below, the area to the right of the vertical white line is bass, and the area to its left is sub-bass. The image shows a song’s typical sub-bass and bass frequency spectrum.
In music production and mixing, sub-bass is often mixed separately from other elements to give it more control and to ensure it is properly balanced with the rest of the track. It is also often emphasized in live music performances through subwoofers, specialized speakers designed to produce the low-frequency sounds characteristic of sub-bass. Bass and sub-bass are important elements in various musical styles, but they have different applications and can be used differently.
Bass is a fundamental component of many types of music, including rock, pop, and jazz. It provides the foundation for the rhythm section and is often played by instruments such as bass guitars, synthesizers, and drums. In addition to providing a rhythmic foundation, bass can add depth, warmth, and richness to a musical composition. Usually, bass (mid-bass) frequencies are more audible in a mix than sub-bass frequencies which are felt rather than heard.
Sub bass is often used in electronic dance music, hip-hop, and other genres emphasizing a strong, driving rhythm. Sub bass can add a sense of power, weight, and physicality to a track and can be used to create a sense of tension and release. It is often created using synthesizers or other electronic instruments capable of producing extremely low frequencies.
The sound of sub-bass frequencies may be less distinct and more difficult to perceive than higher-frequency sounds, but their impact can still be very powerful. In contrast, bass frequencies are more audible than sub-bass frequencies, and their impact is more apparent to the listener.
In both cases, bass and sub-bass can create a sense of groove and movement in a musical composition. They can also create contrast and tension within a track by emphasizing their absence or creating a dramatic shift in the low end of the frequency spectrum.
Whether to use bass, sub-bass, or both depends on the musical style, the composition’s goals, and the producer’s or artist’s preferences.
In mixing, the bass is typically placed in the low-mid frequency range and can be panned to the center or slightly to the sides, depending on the mix. It is often mixed to be prominent and audible but not overpowering, and it is often side-chained to other instruments in the mix to create a sense of rhythm and space.
Sub bass, on the other hand, is typically mixed to be more felt than heard. It is often mixed in mono and panned to the center and is usually cut off at around 40 Hz to prevent it from interfering with other elements in the mix. Sub bass can be side-chained to the kick drum to create a sense of syncopation, and it is often mixed to be slightly quieter than the other elements in the track, to create a sense of tension and anticipation.
In production, bass can be created using traditional recording techniques, such as picking up an amplifier or recording a direct signal. It can be created using digital synthesizers or samplers.
On the other hand, sub-bass is often created using digital synthesizers, as they can produce the extremely low frequencies characteristic of sub-bass. Sub bass can be created using various synthesis techniques, including subtractive, frequency modulation, and wavetable synthesis. It can be shaped and manipulated using various effects, including distortion, filtering, and modulation.
Below is the image of Serum, a wavetable synthesizer great for programming and designing bass and sub-bass sounds. You can use a sine wave to create great-sounding sub-bass sounds that can sit below your kick drums, synths, or bass line and adds depth and weight to them.
What’s the difference between a subwoofer and a bass speaker?
A subwoofer is a specialized speaker designed to reproduce the very low frequencies characteristic of sub-bass. On the other hand, Bass speakers are designed to reproduce the lower end of the frequency range but are not as specialized as subwoofers.
Subwoofers and bass speakers are designed to reproduce low-frequency sounds but have different characteristics and applications. Subwoofers are typically larger and heavier than standard speakers and are often housed in a separate cabinet.
They are designed to be driven by a dedicated amplifier or power source, and they are often used in home theater systems, live sound reinforcement, and music production. Bass speakers are often used in guitar amplifiers and PA systems for live sound reinforcement.
They are typically smaller and lighter than subwoofers, and they can be used in a wide range of musical styles and applications. The main difference between subwoofers and bass speakers is their frequency response. Subwoofers are designed to reproduce frequencies below the range of most standard speakers, typically between 20 Hz and 200 Hz.
On the other hand, Bass speakers are designed to reproduce frequencies ranging from 60 Hz to 500 Hz. As a result, subwoofers are better suited for reproducing the extremely low frequencies characteristic of sub-bass, while bass speakers are better suited for reproducing the mid-to-low range of bass frequencies.
There are many good subwoofers and bass speakers on the market, and the best choice depends on several factors, including a budget, intended application, and personal preferences. Some popular brands of subwoofers include SVS, JL Audio, and REL, known for their high-quality construction and accurate reproduction of low frequencies.
For bass speakers, some popular brands include Eminence, Celestion, and Electro-Voice, which offer a range of sizes and configurations to suit different musical styles and applications. Ultimately, it’s important to research factors such as frequency response, power handling, and cabinet design when selecting a subwoofer or bass speaker for your specific needs.
How to treat sub-bass frequencies?
Treating sub-bass frequencies is an important aspect of mixing and mastering music. These frequencies can be particularly challenging to control and easily become muddy or boomy if not handled correctly. Here are some tips for treating sub-bass frequencies:
- Use a high-pass filter
One of the simplest ways to control sub-bass frequencies is to use a high-pass filter to remove unwanted low frequencies from other instruments in the mix. This can help to create more space for the sub-bass and prevent it from clashing with other instruments.
Alternatively, cutting the lowest frequencies can help to reduce unwanted rumble and improve clarity in the mix.
- Use side-chain compression
Side-chain compression is a technique that can be used to create space in the mix and prevent the sub-bass from overpowering other instruments. This involves using a compressor to reduce the level of other instruments in the mix when the sub-bass is playing.
Also, there are plugins by Kickstart (given in the image below) that let the sub-bass duck down on every full, half, quarter, or eighth note set to your BPM. That helps greatly with EDM genres like house, which kick has a 4/4 rhythm and can help sub bass and kick from clashing.
- Adjust the volume and tone.
Adjusting the sub-bass’s volume and tone can also help control its impact on the mix. The sub-bass should be loud enough to be felt but not so loud that it overpowers other instruments. It may also be necessary to adjust the tone of the sub-bass to ensure that it blends well with other instruments in the mix.
- Monitor different systems.
Finally, monitoring the mix on various systems, including high-quality headphones, speakers, and consumer-grade systems, is important. This can help ensure the sub-bass is balanced and consistent across various playback devices.
- Room acoustics
Room acoustics play a crucial role in mixing sub bass because the low frequencies produced by sub bass can interact with the physical dimensions of a room in complex ways. If a room is not properly treated, the sub-bass can become boomy, muddy, and overpowering, making it difficult to achieve a balanced mix.
Room acoustics affect how sound waves travel and interact with surfaces in a room. Low-frequency sounds, in particular, can bounce around the room and create resonances, standing waves, and other acoustic anomalies that can interfere with the clarity and balance of a mix. This can be especially problematic when mixing sub-bass, which typically requires a clean and controlled low-frequency response.
To minimize these issues, it is important to optimize the acoustics of the mixing room by using acoustic treatment materials such as bass traps, diffusers, and absorbers. These materials can be strategically placed in the room to help absorb and scatter low-frequency sound waves, reducing the negative effects of reflections and standing waves.
It is also important to position the subwoofer and other speakers in the room to minimize the interaction between the low-frequency sounds and the room’s surfaces. This may involve using specialized subwoofer placement techniques, such as the “subwoofer crawl,” which involves moving the subwoofer around the room until the best position is found.
By paying close attention to room acoustics and optimizing the mixing environment, achieving a cleaner, more controlled, and more balanced sub-bass response is possible, resulting in a more polished and professional mix.
In conclusion, low frequency and bass refer to the lower end of the sound spectrum, with bass typically referring to frequencies between 20 Hz and 250 Hz responsible for the “thump” and “rumble” in music and other sounds. Low frequency is a broader term that refers to any sound with a frequency lower than what is considered to be the normal range for human hearing.
Sub bass generally refers to an even lower range of frequencies between 20 and 60 Hz and is often mixed separately from other elements in a musical track to give it more control and balance. Subwoofers are specialized speakers designed to reproduce the very low frequencies characteristic of sub-bass. In contrast, bass speakers are designed to reproduce the lower end of the frequency range but are not as specialized.
While both subwoofers and bass speakers are designed to reproduce low-frequency sounds, they have different characteristics and applications. Subwoofers are specialized speakers designed to reproduce sub-bass frequencies, while bass speakers are more general-purpose speakers designed to reproduce a wider range of bass frequencies.
Bass and sub-bass are important elements in various musical styles, but they have different applications and can be used differently. I hope this article was of help. Thank you for reading.
Shaurya Bhatia, is an Indian Music Producer, Composer, Rapper & Performer, who goes by the stage name MC SNUB, and is also 1/2 of the Indian pop music duo, called “babyface”. A certified Audio Engineer & Music Producer, and a practicing musician & rapper for more than 6 years, Shaurya has worked on projects of various genres and has also been a teaching faculty at Spin Gurus DJ Academy.