written by Torkom Ji (Torkom’s 10 min SUBHARMONIX track included below)
Mission Control, We Have Lift Off
My first experience with a SUBPAC was in 2015 at Further Future, and I was utterly blown away to say the least. I had listened to and produced music for most of my life, but this was different than anything I had ever heard or felt. That initial activation changed my focus and interest around physical sound, and how immersive technology can enhance both traditional and emerging modalities of art, wellness and entertainment.
Not everybody will enjoy the same genre, but everybody can get behind enhancing the ways we experience music. We are swiftly embarking on an exciting future in various immersive technologies and it’s no wonder that according to a recent study the haptic technology market will be worth $20 billion within 3 years. Clearly the SUBPAC is a product, but it’s also very much at testament to how the ways we engage with sound are still evolving. It radically shifts your perceptions around what sound, music, and immersive tech is and can be. This is why I do affirm that the SUBPAC has been an incredibly important and useful tool in my life as a sound designer and event producer. It didn’t just change the way I physically experienced music, but it also expanded my understanding of how music can influence and inform us.
From Sound Healer to Bass Enthusiast
I began to incorporate my SUBPAC M2 into private sessions and immediately noticed the positive difference. My clients enjoyed the vibrational component to the experience and found the bass to be very relaxing. Wearing my SUBPAC during the sessions would also allow me to have an extra layer of insight and control over how the sounds were being experienced by the participants. This feature alone drastically improved the quality of my work and paved the way for what would come next.
Visual Reality began three years ago with a mission in mind. This newly organized collective of VJs, artists, sound healers, performers, and creators had been organically assembled to facilitate experiences that allow for contemplation, exploration, and transformation. The SUBPAC devices were abundantly utilized throughout the event layout and incorporated with a variety of VR experiences, sound meditations and performances. Visual Reality has been home to many incredible projects such as Galactic Gallery VR, Quantum Harmonix, Inner Activity, Liquid Light Project, NAGA 360 / The Being VR, Kamea VR, and many others which all benefited by using SUBPAC technologies for optimal bass delivery and sensory enhancement. Here are a few ways that I’ve found the SUBPAC to be an essential addition to live events and musical performances.
1. Accurate and controlled low end monitoring for live musical performances
There are not many feelings quite like strapping on the SUBPAC M2X before you’re about to hit the stage. It always tends to remind me of putting on a jetpack or space suit component which can transport me to a distant place. I think a big part of why I have that feeling is because I know that my SUBPAC is going to deliver the most accurate and informative feedback on where my low end is sitting and how to respond accordingly. That point is coupled with an extra feeling of confidence around the overall delivery of my set, and the ability to just “feel it”, and it turns out there is research to support this. A study from 2016 found that pairing a haptic device with a live performance can improve the quality, timing, and intonation of the musician. I personally like to start with my adjustment dial a few clicks below 0, then match the house sound system to find a good sync. This allows me to accurately gauge how the low end is being produced from my device while also through the house sound system. Perhaps one day in the not so distant future, they will wonder how we ever enjoyed music without tactile bass enhancements.
2. Enhancement of VR and New Media Experiences
One of the common questions I get from people who first try a SUBPAC is “Have you ever tried pairing that with virtual reality?!” In fact there are many artists, designers and VR developers who have been exploring just that. Music and sound effects can become exponentially more effective when you’re exploring a cave, watching a documentary, or journeying through a meditative forest when a SUBPAC is in use. Consider the vibrations produced by a train or jet passing near you, or walking upon a great cascading waterfall. What would that feel like? With a SUBPAC on, even a digitally generated version of those moments in VR can come to life with a level of immersion that has prior been unattainable. The combination of feeling with hearing is what allows a person to fully drop into the context of that given virtual reality space. This is an extremely valuable tool for ensuring that the user has a full, dynamic, and controlled experience as intended by the designer. It’s an exciting time to witness how the combination of emerging technologies with new media can help broaden our understanding of how art, music, and immersive experiences can positively affect and influence us.
3. Immersive & Meditative Environments
One of the most talked about installations that attendees have been able to experience at Visual Reality has been Quantum Harmonix 432Hz sound healing meditations paired with SUBPAC M2X and S2’s. The ability to enter a crowded environment, sit back and put on headphones makes diving inward an effortless and enjoyable practice. The combinations of music, physical sensation, and a disconnect from the outside world make for a deeply calming and enjoyable experience which gently guides the mind from an over active state to one that is much more balanced. This type of offering has been a major hit at events due to the complementary nature of giving the attendees options that accommodate their mood and desires. Many people have stated that a single 10-minute session had enhanced other activities like VR, dancing, socializing, and exploring other various mediums. This is likely due to the way in which a meditative experience can bring you from a stressed state into a more self-aware and grounded one. Some people want to dance, and some people want to relax. SUBPAC is a tool to help drive that effect; and works as a great add-on for meditative, ambient, and relaxing environments as well as dance floors and silent discos.
4. Hook Up Directly Into the Main House Feed
The SUBPAC is bluetooth enabled and when combined with an audio transmitter can allow for multiple units to be powered at once. This allows for a “silent disco” type setup which works very well to keep noise pollution minimal while maintaining the bass vibrations on max. You also get the added benefit of making sure that everybody has the same sound experience regardless of their position in the space or placement of speakers. An alternative to the wireless functionality is to run an audio feed into a headphone distribution amplifier from a mixer; which can then direct individual line levels to a number of devices via a standard 1/8th’ auxiliary cable. With the proper cable management; this can also be an ideal solution for smaller scale seated installations and concert settings when wireless is not an option.
The versatility and ease of use is what makes the SUBPAC a wonderful ally in any condition or scenario where unwanted noise pollution, quality control, and other factors can impact an otherwise amazing performance or experience. It not only provides the bass but also helps remove the distractions.
Enjoy Torkom’s SUBPAC Optimized SUBHARMONIX 10 min meditative journey mix: