Last week, a company called StudioFeed launched a Kickstarter campaign for a product called SubPac, described in the title as “Portable Tactile Audio Technology.” At first glance, the device looked like something that would appear in the back catalog of Sharper Image or Skymall, but my eyes perked up after seeing endorsements from electronic music legends like Kode9, Bok Bok, Daedelus, and famed electronic label Hyperdub.
SubPac is a pad that transfers low frequencies from 5hz to 130hz into physical vibrations, bringing something of the club experience of a bass show into the privacy of one’s home. This isn’t something as gimmicky as, say, Nintendo’s Rumble Pak, though. This is a device that caters to musicians first, as the vibrations from the seat-like pad actually replicate the specific frequencies of instruments like the bass and kick-drum. It’s ideal for music fans like me who constantly get the broom-to-the-ceiling warning from my neighbors when my subwoofer is cranked too high.
I spoke to John Alexiou, the creator of SubPac, and he explained that the two and-a-half-year-old company “was built by music engineers and music people,” with producers, engineers and other “music people” in mind. The SubPac is ideal, he said, for “anyone that needs to experience music in a quiet setting.” If you can’t turn up your speaker system due to tight quarters or missing equipment, then SubPac can be the best substitute.
The same thing goes for car-owners who don’t want to buy ten subwoofers to feel the bass on a Ben Klock song. “The walls of apartments seem to get thinner and thinner," Alexiou noted, "and this could be a solution to a real issue.”
SubPac | Kickstarter Video from SubPac on Vimeo.
Many around the music community have embraced SubPac with open arms, as the company’s site reveals a who's who list of high-caliber endorsements. “All these DJs typically don’t endorse products, but a lot of them reached out on their own," Alexiou said. "They knew that this technology would help them in the studio and would help fans understand their music a little better.” SubPac can be used for gaming and film as well, he added, but the company is mainly focusing on reaching out to musicians and music fans at the moment.
I asked Alexiou what would happen if I listened to a podcast or watched porn while using the Subpac, and he explained that I wouldn't feel the vocals (or moans), as the frequency range only works for any music with low frequencies— meaning instruments like the bass, the cello, the kick drum. This means the Subpac can be used heighten subtleties of music genres besides bass-heavy electronic. Jazz music and even classical can be enhanced. “You can hear the musician’s expression, the frets moving, the vibrato,” explained Alexiou.
I could see SubPac used for music therapy; tactile therapy has been known to reduce anxiety. Think of hand-held back massagers that cooperate with cello-heavy symphonies.
The makers of SubPac have 25 days to meet their Kickstarter goal of $75,000, and the company is already close to $40,000 in pledges. If individuals donate $5,000, then Alexiou and his team promise to come to your home city and take you out to party. A pretty lovely gesture, if you ask me.
SubPac could be the future of music listening for serious producers. If anything, it could at least tranquilize tension between me and my elderly neighbors.