Want chest-rattling sub bass without waking the neighbours? No problem. Just strap on this vibrating body armour…

SubPac-Photo3Just when you thought virtually every piece of studio gear imaginable had already been invented, along comes something which proves you totally wrong. April Fools’ Day is still nearly a month away, but this one’s got us rubbing our eyes in disbelief.

The SubPac, which came to our attention thanks to a late-night tweet from Hyperdub boss Kode9, is described as a “tactile audio technology” which “transfers low frequencies directly to your body”. The system appears to be a vibrating pad which connects in between an audio source and a pair of headphones, filtering off the bottom end of the signal and using it to drive some form of silent transducer or actuator in the pad, replicating the physical effects of bass and sub-bass frequencies by shaking the user’s body.

Kode9 is quoted on the product’s website: “From a DJ and production point of view, when you use the SubPac, you get that kick, that punch that you wouldn’t necessarily get unless you cranked your studio monitors.”

At the time of writing we don’t have much information on exactly how it works or when it’ll go on sale. The SubPac site suggests that it’s a Kickstarter project, but the links simply direct to the crowd funding website’s homepage, and a search for the product doesn’t reveal any results. The SubPac is being developed by StudioFeed, a Toronto-based organisation which claims to “support independent music through technology development and community engagement”.

(UPDATE: A Kickstarter page for the SubPac has since been created, giving more details on the “portable tactile audio device”, which is available at $275 to the first 20 backers.)

Normally we’d probably write this kind of thing off as yet another company attempting to cash in on the pro audio market with a superfluous, gimmicky product, but the SubPac website’s supporters page is enough to make us consider whether it actually might be something a little more serious. Testimonies from the likes of Adrian Sherwood (“Without a doubt, the most useful studio tool I have come across in many years!”), Mala, Joker and Gilles Peterson suggest that it might be worth keeping an eye on the development of this one.

For those of us who have no option but to monitor at low levels, isn’t the idea of replicating the physicality of a good club sound system quite appealing? And the applications aren’t limited to production, either – wouldn’t it be good to watch an action movie and ‘feel’ the explosions without having to crank the surround sound all the way to eleven?

The link to Kode9 – aka Steve Goodman – is interesting in its own right. Goodman is the author of Sonic Warfare: Sound, Affect and the Ecology of Fear, an academic text which seeks to document the proliferation of sonic weapon technology, research into acoustic crowd control methods and his concept of ‘unsound’. The latter describes sonic frequencies beyond the range of human hearing and also imperceptible vibrations “not yet audible within the boundaries of human hearing – new rhythms, resonances, textures and syntheses”. On a superficial level, at least, the SubPac would seem to fit the definition of unsound quite neatly.

Discover more about the SubPac on Facebook and Twitter and check out the promo video embedded below.

5th March, 2013

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