15 Sub Bass Mixing Tips from the Pros

We all want a solid sub-bass foundation in our tracks, but what other creative ways can you experiment with sub treatments like Submarine? We got a handful of pros to share their tips and presets on using the plugin and working creatively with sub design.

15 Sub Bass Mixing Tips from the Pros

 

The Submarine plugin includes presets by these six leading producers and mixers, and here they elaborate on when and how to use them for ultimate creative effect.

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Producer, Composer

(Dr. Dre, Beyoncé, Kendrick Lamar, Eminem)

1. Craft Punchy Kicks Quickly

“Many new producers feel like they must layer kicks to get the sound, punch, impact and drive they are after, but layering too many samples can cause all sorts of issues. Submarine lets me add instant depth to kick drums without having to layer a bunch of samples. I created the ‘TRUNK JUNK’ preset for this purpose – to get punchy, clear kicks quickly. This preset adds subharmonics to provide that desirable impact to the low end of your mix. Depending on your source, you might need to tweak the frequency range selectors, but this preset is a good starting point, regardless of the source you are feeding into Submarine.”

2. Get Bass and Kick Rumble

“Sometimes a bass or a kick can lack low-end dynamic. I created the ‘SUB SHADOW’ preset to add dynamic texture and presence to the sound. This is just a subtle way of adding rumble to these instruments.”

3. Fatten up High-Pitched Instruments

“I wanted to see how the plugin sounded on sources that you wouldn’t normally pass through a sub-generator like Submarine, so I played a simple sine wave in the higher register and found out I could use it creatively in my workflow to fill the mix in areas where more body is needed. Look for my ‘CO-SINE’ preset and try it yourself. This is an example of how Submarine can go far beyond just adding subs to kicks. It’s a creative tool that lets you experiment and step out of your comfort zone.”

OTT

Composer, Producer, Engineer, Mixer, Remixer, Sound Designer, DJ, Live Performer

 

4. Sum Your Subs for a Coherent Bottom End

“Use Submarine on an aux send, instead of as an insert. Set the mix to 100% wet and send whatever you want to it. This works better for me than inserting one instance across the kick, one instance across the toms and one instance across the bass, etc. There is quite a degree of interactivity when these signals are summed and then processed by the same instance of Submarine; the ‘Drive’ and ‘Dynamics’ sections in particular. Using it this way gives me a coherence in the bottom end that I don’t get when using separate instances. This method also uses fewer CPU cycles.”

5. Add Impact to Percussion Instruments

“As I experimented with Submarine, I discovered that it sounds amazing on hand percussion (bongos, congas, djembe, darbuka); it gave me the missing puzzle piece I’ve been trying to solve for years. The kind of sub you get from distant-mic'd hand drums is rarely usable, unless your mics and preamps are worth more than your house, and it usually only adds mud when boosted. Rolling them off at 180 Hz and then filling out the bottom octave with Submarine gives me that ‘improbable-sub-from-a-small-drum’ effect that makes them more apparent without turning them up. The bottom-end becomes usable and consistent, and, if configured as an aux send with a careful setting of the Drive/Dynamics controls, you can make the kick drum duck the bottom end of the percussion out of the way every time it lands.”

6. Submarine vs. R-Bass - Use the Right Tool for the Right Application

“I usually have both Renaissance Bass and Submarine at 100% wet on two aux sends, and I introduce them in varying amounts to fill out the bottom octave. Submarine adds true subharmonics that are audible on large sound systems, while R-Bass helps the low end become audible on small speakers and earbuds, so it’s really a matter of finding the right balance for what the track needs. I normally map my aux sends to a controller and use faders to add more Submarine or R-Bass, which is a much quicker and more intuitive way to build a mix.”

ADP

Producer, Mix Engineer

(Dua Lipa, Chris Brown, M.I.A.)

7. Shape Your Subs While Keeping Smaller Sound Systems in Mind

"Use my ‘KICK 2 THE RIBS’ preset when you want to add the perfect low-end punch to kick drums for club systems and heavy sub systems to really feel it in your chest. In the preset, I purposely focused on the 58-80 Hz frequency band, where it's not super low, so the same feeling can be felt on many speaker systems.”

8. Shape Smooth, Natural Lows on Synths and 808s

“Check out my ‘SMOOTH LOWS’ preset. I made this one for the times you want to add a smooth, wide low end to synth basses to give them extra presence, around 30-60 Hz, while keeping everything sounding natural. When it comes to 808s, yes, they have subs baked into them, but you can use Submarine to shape them to perfection.

Also, try my ‘TRUNK SHAKER’ preset. I made it for booming 808s to be felt at super low frequencies between 20-45 Hz, mainly for big sound systems and car audio speakers with big sub rigs in the trunk. This is for the subs to be felt, not heard!”

Dave Darlington

Composer, Recording, Mixing & Mastering Engineer

(Avicii, David Guetta, Sting, Oz)

9. Don’t Overdo It

“My number one tip for using Submarine is to start with only Sub -1 and turn off Sub -2. This lets you focus on the relevant frequency range, so you can zero in on the area you would like to enhance. If your source needs more bottom-end impact, you can try to introduce the Sub –2 generator and decide whether the additional sub-bass energy is right for the track.”

10. Adding Excitement to Surprise Elements

“I encourage everyone to try using Submarine on surprise elements like hits or kick bomb reverbs. Just like in the movies, that extra octave below really adds excitement. I love having control dialing in these totally focused sub-octaves. I can target only the frequencies I need to enhance, so I can go from subtle fattening to thunderous EFX!”

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Dave’s presets:

  1. ‘ACOUSTIC KICK ENHANCER’ – Both octaves focused on the upper to bring thunder to any wimpy kick.
  2. ‘OBESE SNARE’ – Because who doesn’t love a fat snare?
  3. ‘RACK TOMMY GUN’ – The frequencies are dialed into a typical rack tom to add some oomph.
  4. ‘FLOOR TOMMY GUN’ – Dialed into the frequencies of the floor tom.
  5. ‘E-BASS OCTAVE BOX’ – Put it on a finger-picked acoustic guitar to add an octave below the thumb notes on the low E-string; a phantom bass guitar!
  6. ‘WARM ACOUSTIC GUITAR’ – Fatten up that tinny guitar recording without making it boomy.
  7. ‘ROCK MANINOFF PIANO’ – Make the left-hand roar.

Mark Ralph

Producer, Songwriter, Mixing Engineer

(Clean Bandit, Years & Years, Jax Jones, TIEKS)

11. Don’t Overcompensate for Deficiencies in your Monitors

“With a tool like Submarine, you’ve got to be sparing - it’s easy to go overboard when the bass feels so good! Be especially careful if your monitoring struggles to reproduce the low frequencies you are adding, as you might be overcompensating for deficiencies in your speakers. Try to use headphones with a frequency response that allows you to reliably reproduce information below 60 Hz. In either case, test your mixes on multiple sound systems to make sure you are not pushing Submarine too hard.”

12. Experiment with Melodic and Harmonic Sources

“I’ve had surprising success using Submarine on dynamic, melodic and harmonic sources – things like single note guitars, pizzicato strings, or stab synth chords. It’s an interesting way of adding low octave guts to anything that needs to take a little more limelight in the mix.”

13. Craft the Low End with the Right Tool for the Job

“Submarine generates energy one and/or two octaves below the fundamental. This is useful for adding heft to instruments when the desired low end hasn’t been captured during recording. R-Bass, on the other hand, uses a psychoacoustics algorithm to fool the brain into hearing more bass when listening on small speakers or other devices that can’t reproduce deep low end. Since they play two distinct roles, they can be used together for a complementary effect. Submarine synthesizes genuine weight below the fundamental that you can really feel on bigger systems, while a subsequent instance of R-Bass can interpret this material with its algorithm and create the impression that this weight is being heard even when playing from a phone or laptop speakers.”

Graham Reznick

Sound Designer, Re-Recording Mixer, Composer, Writer, Director, Editor

(The House of the Devil, The Innkeepers, In a Valley of Violence, Until Dawn)

14. Treat Your Subs Differently when Crafting them for Music and for SFX

“As a musician, my instinct is to use Submarine to enhance the low end of instruments that need to feel fuller. However, as a sound designer, I always want to find new ways to create unexpected audio that maintains the essence of the original sound but makes it new and unrecognizable. I need a lot of bass drone elements in my work, and with Submarine I found a rad new way to create them: run a textural signal through it (like audio of an interview, or the ambience of a crowded cafe), run the drive and dynamics all the way up, then go 100% in Submarine so you just have the wet sub-signal. The result is a booming, earthquake-like bass drone element that has a humanized, random feel to it and sounds great in a mix.”

15. Add Sub Bass Balance to Samples and Synth Patches with Uneven Sub Response

“A problem I run into often with offbeat samples and temperamental synth patches is that I might get a much better bass response out of some notes than others. Certain notes will just sound ‘thin’ and lack a low-end presence that leaves the mix and melody feeling empty at critical times. Submarine is super useful in fixing this: take those “thin” problem notes and split them off into their own identical track, then run them through Submarine and adjust to match the bass response from the rest of the melody line! Total lifesaver.”

Want more tips on improving your low end? Get tips on bringing the low-end out of your mix.

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