The first time I tried out a SubPac was earlier this year at NAMM 2015 when I stopped one of their reps who was walking around with a demo pack. Since then, I've seen the packs pop up in many places across North America, including on Richie Hawtin's CNTRL tour. The company is quickly gaining support and recognition from the music industry; a sign that they've got a good thing going on. But would a pack that delivers bass waves really be something that could help to improve a music producer's studio work? I decided to find out for myself and knocked on the Toronto SubPac office door.
Sara Simms getting comfy in the SubPac S2.
The SubPac S2 is a tactile audio technology that transfers low frequencies directly to your body. It promises to deliver a new physical dimension to the music experience. The SubPac S2 is shaped similarly to a backpack that straps onto your seat. There's a corresponding control box that's attached to the pack that allows users to input a sound source and listen to playback through the headphone out. Once the SubPac is strapped to a chair, you simply lean against it and feel the bass, which gives a heightened musical listening experience. Its design is minimal and futuristic and is stamped with the brand's logo, a handprint.
"I could have easily spent a few hours listening to tracks and promos at the SubPac headquarters!"
Fully testing the SubPac S2.
Once the SubPac was strapped onto a chair, I plugged my iPhone into the Line In and put on my Pioneer headphones. I was quite impressed with the quality of the bass vibrations coming from the SubPac, which felt stronger than I anticipated. The Intensity of the vibrations can be controlled from the Control Box, a feature that many will appreciate. The combination of the vibrations from the SubPac and the frequencies from the music provided a unique, immersive experience. I could have easily spent a few hours listening to tracks and promos at the SubPac headquarters!
The S2 is an upgrade from the first SubPac, the M1, which is a wearable pack. The S2 has a comfortable, ergonomic design that can be used for long time periods. It includes side pads that will help to support the lower back when in use. There's a three point removable strapping system that straps the SubPac to your chair at different points and the top strap hangs the unit from the back of the chair and locks the S2 in position. The strapping system can hide in the S2's back pocket, which is handy for travel.
"There's a three point removable strapping system that straps the SubPac to your chair at different points."
The control box features a single strap from the main S2 unit to the control box. This allows users to place the box on the main unit or anywhere along the strapping system. There's an elastic armchair strap that allows users to place the box on the arm or leg of the chair, depending on preference. The S2 also features Bluetooth 4.0 with A2DP streaming and a Kensington lock is provided for situations where the units are used in public spaces.
The SubPac S2 in all its glory.
The SubPac can be used with battery power or while it's being charged. The S2 includes an international power adapter and a rechargeable battery.
Sara Simms with Sarosh Khwaja, the head of R & D at SubPac.
The SubPac S2 is an invention that electronic music producers and DJs will benefit from. Producers will be able to feel the bass frequency ranges, all the way from 5 Hz and up. At the SubPac office, I was able to do extensive testing and found the S2 did a great job of accurately transmitting frequency responses between 5 Hz and 130 Hz. This means the S2 will be especially helpful to producers whose speakers may not be giving them accurate responses in low frequency ranges, especially below 50 Hz.
The SubPac S2 is portable so you are able to take it with you and monitor the bass in your tracks no matter where you are. If your studio environment is acoustically imperfect, the room's design will matter less as you'll be able to monitor the low end with the SubPac. You'll be able to reference the bass in your tracks against other tracks, and tighten up the low end in your productions. You'll also be able to simulate how your tracks will sound in club environments and experience the tactile sensations of bass.
"Producers may be inspired to create more tracks with deep bass when they begin to use the S2."
Producers may be inspired to create more tracks with deep bass when they begin to use the S2. For DJs and label owners, the SubPac is great device that could be used to enhance the promo listening experience. Something's gotta help get you through the hours of time spent listening for the next hit!
Looks like you'll need more than one SubPac S2 when friends come to visit.
The SubPac S2 is designed not only to be used by producers and DJs, it's made for everyone who enjoys listening to music. It allows people to feel the richness of bass and the warmth in music, making listening sessions more enjoyable. Ravers and clubbers will especially appreciate the bass sensations as they'll be instantly transported by the immersive experience to the club/festival environment that they've come to know as home. Not only for the club goers, those who enjoy listening to genres like classical, jazz and soft rock will enjoy the SubPac. For softer genres, the bass vibrations can be intensified by increasing the Intensity knob. Since the pack is portable, it can be taken with you wherever you go and make your listening time a truly enjoyable experience. In addition, the SubPac will appeal to gamers, those who enjoy virtual reality and people who like to watch movies that have great soundtracks.
The SubPac S2 is designed for both professional and personal use, and its uses are many. The SubPac S2 could be useful at album release parties, silent discos and even be featured at house parties and club events. Whether you're a music producer, DJ, or simply a person who enjoys listening to music, the SubPac S2 offers a powerful experience. With the S2, you'll be able to feel the music and most importantly, the bass.
Price: $379 USD (includes free shipping to US, Canada and the UK)
Pros: Quality design and manufacturing, Accurately produces bass in frequencies from 5 Hz–130 Hz, Produces bass vibrations that simulate club environments, Fun to use.
Cons: Quality does come at a price and it's an expensive unit to own. I would like to see another type of input available on the Control Box, e.g., two XLR or 1/4” inputs that I could plug my sound card into. Other than that, no complaints!