Had someone told me, back when I first started FatKidOnFire, I’d be sitting down (some four years later) to review something that mimics the vibrations of a sound system in the comfort of your own home – I’d have probably laughed at them.
But today, here I am.
Perhaps testament to the global proliferation of bass music and its culture, when combined with the intersection of both technology and music, the SubPac S1 might – at its simplest – sound like something that vibrates to music. Trying to explain what it is to someone outside of the bass music world results in a few awkward looks and occasionally a derisory snigger.
But when you try the S1, that all changes…
“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.”
First appearing in a Kickstarter campaign in early 2013, the Pac was dreamt up and developed by an LA-based company called Studiofeed. Studiofeed, for any of you interested, “is a social venture that supports independent music through technology development and community engagement”.
The team pitched early demos of the S1 in the campaign and asked for the internet’s help in funding the first production run. Studiofeed ended up raising $100,000 (beating their funding target by an impressive 36%) last April. Since then, the SubPac S1 (the one I’m reviewing – there is also the wearable M1) has captured the heart and minds of anyone who tries it.
For music lovers, producers or DJs who’ve ever struggled with noise issues, cost, portability or hearing problems, the S1 is an absolute godsend.
Its compact size (120cm x 77cm x 11cm) and simple power supply (up to six hours on the lithium battery or a 15V mains charger) make the S1 an easy set up. It’s as simple as finding your favourite chair, plugging it in and enjoying the experience.
The intensity control changes the vibrations from an almost un-noticeable tickle to a headache-inducing (at least in my case) rumble that reverberates as loudly as a sub would. At higher intensities the Pac does emit a fairly noticeable noise – enough to disturb someone who’s in the same room as you and not wearing headphones. I ended up settling on an approximate 25% intensity – you really don’t need much.
The line in takes the standard 3.5mm jack – my unit came with a male to male cable – which easily connected pretty much anything I wanted to test.
While its frequency response range is 5-130Hz; you’d be surprised just how three dimensional things sound when you use the Pac. It’s difficult to picture if you haven’t tried one, but it is like the experience you get when standing in front of a big rig. While wearing headphones. Sat in your living room.
But don’t be fooled, the SubPac S1 is not a simple ‘vibration device.’
It’s more like a quiet, high-end subwoofer that generates a dynamic, rich and accurate tactile representation of whatever sound you input. And while its design fits comfortably with bass-rich music, I tried the S1 with a range of genres, a few films, games and pretty much anything else I could think of. The Pac didn’t hesitate with any of them and created a wonderfully rich and immersive experience (although, as you’d expect, with audio that lacking a low-end punch, the Pac intensity did have to be increased).
As a producer or DJ, the Pac provides realistic club-level bass monitoring, giving you the opportunity to experience your music as the listener would as you build or mix the tune. And if you need proof, the talk on the grapevine is Truth‘s recent 30,000 Ft (that featured on their MEDi081 release) was made on a plane (hence the name) with the S1…
While some of you may baulk at the £299/ $379 price, to get the same frequency response with monitors or a decent sub would require room treatment, sound proofing and a lot more hassle than simply plugging in the Pac. I’ve been pretty bereft since I gave my review unit back to the European Studiofeed HQ – the audio experience without one seems so flat and dull!
Studiofeed are partnering with a number UK and US companies to demo the SubPac out and about, so if you’ve not yet tried the S1 you’ll hopefully be able to soon. To my knowledge, it’s stocked in Juno (although they only have one left – so if you want it don’t sleep) and Scan but they’re so popular they don’t hang around. If you find one, can afford it and are a bass music fan, buy it. You will not regret it.
Thanks to James and Steve at SubPac UK/ EU for lending me a review unit. I’d like it back indefinitely please!
Peace, love and respect.