Gearslutz (
-   Q+A with Michael Beinhorn (
-   -   Recording with sub array (

citrusburst 15th March 2013 08:13 AM

Recording with sub array
Hi Michael,

In a few of your posts, you reference renting a "12K Watt Sub Array" for tracking bass and drums.

Was hoping you would be willing to talk about your process here. Is this basically using a massive bass playback system for recording a powerful low end? So, running a kick drum mic through a 12KW system, and then micing the output of that system?

Thanks so much for your time.


fexurbis 16th March 2013 06:31 PM


I work with what I can get but in an ideal situation, yes- 12K watts gets the job done. Generally, a dynamic mic because it's more directional and will feed back less (MD421 or SM57) is sent to the array, or if we can use a kick mic, this is sent to the PA from the recording console.

The idea is to enhance the acoustic character of the low end elements in the room. For this reason, I don't mic the subs (which is very difficult given the range of frequencies we are dealing with). A system comes with amps and usually an equalizer or some kind of low pass filter. I generally cut above 60-80 Hz depending on the room.

drew 17th March 2013 01:21 PM

So you're basically "exciting" the room with subs and this makes its way into the room mics? Does any of it get back into the close mics?

Jules 17th March 2013 07:20 PM

Hi Michael,

Do the drummers enjoy it? And does it benefit the rest of the band in the same room? Thanks!

fexurbis 17th March 2013 09:38 PM


Yes, the subs not only excite the room- they also affect the character and subtly alter its frequency response. In this sense, I'm not using it as an effect but an amplification of acoustic instruments in an acoustic space. I guess it's like having a level/tone control for some of the components in the kit (as I will often put snare and toms in the subs, as well).

An additional benefit is that this does affect the close mics- often profoundly. It really pushes the low frequency response of the large diaphragm mic's, especially.

fexurbis 17th March 2013 09:49 PM


This varies quite a bit and depends on the drummer. Most of the time, a drummer will register an expression of utter delight the very first time time he plays a bass drum in a recording studio that is so loud, it cause the room to shake. It's an extremely empowering experience and helps him put more emphasis on that part of the kit.

I've also seen one or two drummers who couldn't handle this, or found it extraneous to their performance. Since my priority is to capture a great performance, I have to roll with this.

A lot of recordings I've worked on, I don't have the band play together, hence this is not an issue. For those who do, I try to keep them far away from the subs for their own physical health and well-being.

Maschinenraum 18th March 2013 03:49 AM

Michael, did you use the sub setup on Mechanical Animals? What was used for the kit and how was it miced on that one, if you don't mind me asking, anyhow?

I know my own drummer's reaction to the subs at proper big venues when we gig; I'd love to record him with a PA in the room!

citrusburst 18th March 2013 05:41 AM


Wonderful - and very useful - information. Thank you so much for this. Really, really appreciate it.

Best Regards,

jahtao 18th March 2013 11:47 PM

WOW :)

floater138 19th March 2013 01:38 AM

Very cool!

fexurbis 19th March 2013 08:16 PM

Regarding Mechanical Animals- I've drawn a blank regarding the kit- all I can remember are the 1057 pres. The subs were very loud and, as I mentioned in another thread, we blew a few of them in the first week of recording. I think they were about 6 dual 18 cabs with power amps and a low pass filter set to roll off above 80 Hz (?). Pretty sure the arrays were flanking the kit with 3 cabs on either side. It was thunderous and shook the entire building.

kmandude 20th March 2013 05:59 PM

Room Mics
Fascinating & mindblowing read Michael. Can you tell me what room mics you favor for recording the sub infused drumkit? Any special patterns or configurations?

fexurbis 20th March 2013 09:19 PM

Thanks. Room mics vary from project to project. I tend to prefer proximity mics (within 3 feet or less of the kit, because I'm not partial to spill from the room or having the transient response from the kit adversely effected.

Generally, I work with a bunch of different mics- starting with a pair of Neumann M250's. From there, I'll play with one or two CMV3's, one or two CM51's and a Royer SF24 at varying distances from the kit. This depends on obvious variables such as room, player, etc

Since the subs tend to be pretty loud, these mics will pick up a lot of useful low end and according to their own unique frequency response. It also helps that the subs become part of how the drums respond in the room, hence this is perceived as a natural acoustic phenomenon.

OpusOfTrolls 20th March 2013 09:44 PM

What are some records that really show this off?

fexurbis 20th March 2013 09:49 PM

Hole- Celebrity Skin; Marilyn Manson- Mechanical Animals, Korn- Untouchables are the best examples I can recall.

OpusOfTrolls 20th March 2013 09:57 PM


OpusOfTrolls 20th March 2013 09:59 PM

How big of a room was required to record this way?

fexurbis 21st March 2013 02:15 AM

I did most of the recording with this system in Conway Studio C- don't recall the exact dimensions- it's a large room, but not too live. Probably best to have an array which is compatible with the room you're working in as long as you can get the level you want out of the subs.

kmandude 21st March 2013 02:59 AM

Wow Michael, that is quite the array of room mics, prob about 30-40k worth. (Sigh)....oh well. Lets say youre going for a big sound (but not washy) and the M250s are the main room mics, what pattern are they in, omni or directional (cardioid)? Do you buss the room mic arrays to 1 stereo track or keep them separate? Do you print any processing on the room tracks?

fexurbis 22nd March 2013 05:55 PM

Generally, I like the M250's in omni- the frequency range is more even and the low end pick up seems more sensitive. I like the M250's in stereo, and depending on the recording media, I'll leave everything separate. When I first recorded with the 8 track, tracks were at a premium, so the ambience went to mono with one CMV3 track.

I generally don't process anything, but if there is processing present in the recording, it gets printed.

Twiggy 23rd March 2013 04:54 PM

Thanks so much for taking the time to do this Q&A Michael, very much appreciated!

I was just wondering if you did any processing to the drums before you sent them to the array, gates etc? As these could help with feedback issues, but would it impact on what you are wanting to do with the subs?

My thought was that gates would help tighten up the subs a bit, make them less 'woofy' but that might be the opposite of what you were going for...

EDIT: I've just noticed the strangeness of my username posting in a thread with you in it Michael, given your discog! Call me Alex if you prefer :)

kmandude 24th March 2013 11:53 PM

Thank you Michael, I think you have blown a lot of minds on this thread. The sub reinforcement is a fantastic concept, Im curious where/when you discovered it. I had piped drum machine sounds out to the studio to mics before on some NIN stuff I mixed but this is even cooler. You are clearly confidently at the top of your craft in a very modest way (quite rare), and so generous to share some your tricks, very inspiring, thanks again.

fexurbis 25th March 2013 01:12 AM


I don't believe I've ever used gates (or anything else- apart from using a dynamic mic instead of a condenser) to process anything feeding the subs- although this makes a lot of sense. In many cases, I've pushed the subs to the point where they ring a little and leave this alone. It adds a little, barely noticeable trail to the kick which I really like.

I appreciate your kind words, your username and your PS- it gave me a good laugh.

fexurbis 25th March 2013 01:17 AM


It's good to share ideas with a community of people in this way. Very pleased if it's helpful.

I first discovered using speakers to amplify drums when Garth Richardson was engineering the tracks for "Mother's Milk" and rented a small PA system for this purpose. I considered this and later on thought about what I was missing from drums in general- almost always had to do with bass presence. That's where I started using subs only and gradually added more wattage on each new project.

Bullseye 25th March 2013 06:37 PM

Can you comment on the balance between the amplified room sounds and the direct or close mic'd sounds on and of the referenced recordings?

Twiggy 25th March 2013 09:07 PM

Michael, glad you had a chuckle. :)

I tried recording a kit with some subs last night (not the best kit, room or player - me, hah) but it was very interesting.

We ran a 2.5 k/w sub rig, with LPF at 60hz 24db/octave (it was a 1band EQIII), and we ran them loud, real loud. We had a gate on the kick mic to get the level without the subs feeding-back.

There was a big difference in the OH's, and we liked the extra power we got there. The close mics improved too, with everything seeming to have more top end, which we put down to us 'exciting' the room more.

We had 2 room mics, a beyer M130 and JM47 valve. The ribbon was OK, but the valve (on omni) was almost unusable until we filtered a good chunk of the low end out - I just wondered if you had similar experiences with your room mics picking up a massive amoutn of what the subs are pumping out, or are your rooms more controlled? Maybe we were pushing out way too much low end....

I can put the tracks up for anyone else that wants to listen...

bambamboom 25th March 2013 11:05 PM

Just to clarify a small point -

Wattage does not equal output.
12000 watts into a variety of different subs can have drastically different results, ranging from a meaty punch to death by internal organ damage :lol:

Output is determined by the sensitivity of the speaker, which can vary TREMENDOUSLY due to physical driver characteristics and due to cabinet type (front loaded sealed, ported, bandpass, bent horn, tapped horn, etc). The sensitivity figure for a cabinet is typically listed in the specs, listed as a certain db level at 1 watt at 1 meter. From there, the output increases by 3db every time you double the amount of power (though at high power levels power compression and excursion become limiting factors)

When Michael says 12K sub array, I really can't gauge that, though if I had to guess, I would expect he likely is referring to around 4 2x18 front loaded subs running on a pair of amps capable of 3 kW at 4 ohms per channel. And that 12000 watts is likely PEAK, not RMS, which is a whole other discussion I won't get into.

Nick Morris 25th March 2013 11:29 PM

This is one of my favorite ideas I have ever read here. I can't wait to try this out!

ambiguity 26th March 2013 04:26 AM

goodness gracious... i would never in a million years think of doing this, and i actually have more than 12kW of subs stored in the tracking room. it's not that huge a room, so i'll tone it down, but stil... this is gonna be fun.


fexurbis 26th March 2013 05:03 AM

As far as the balance between the rooms and the close mics, I feel that everything functions together in an eco-system. The kit tends to balance itself and generally maintains this balance through the recording. I never really rebalanced things too much once overdubs began...

It's exciting to hear about other people trying this approach- I hope everyone has fun with it and great results.

And, regarding the systems I used with that kind of amplification, it's generally 6x dual 18 cabs with 3 on each side of the kit.