“Steer course to two-five-four. Kick drum bearing zero-five-niner. Close all water-tight doors. Prepare plug-in for firing…” Oops, sorry. I was just trying out Waves’ new Submarine plug-in, a subharmonic generator with a GUI that looks like the control panel of a sub—including sonar-scope-style dials—and I guess I got a little carried away.
Seriously, though, subharmonic synthesis is a useful mixing tool, particularly for those producing hip-hop, modern pop and EDM styles where thumping bottom end is desired. Such plug-ins are also handy for thickening up wimpy kick drums or bass sounds in other genres, or even for adding some subtle thickness at the bottom of a guitar melody line. I just downloaded the fully functional demo of Submarine, and I’m impressed.
Submarine lets you add two independent sub-frequencies, referred to as Sub-1 and Sub-2, which generate subharmonics that are one and two octaves down, respectively. The key to controlling what Submarine creates are the Min and Max Range sliders. These define the frequency area in which the plug-in will synthesize its subharmonics. Waves suggests setting the Mix control to 100% wet while adjusting these parameters so you can hear exactly what’s being produced. Once you’ve got your setting, you use the Mix to dial in just the amount of sub-frequencies that you want.
You also get a Drive control, designed to help integrate the subharmonics with the unprocessed sound. The distortion is relatively subtle, but it smears the transients enough to help glue everything together.
The Dynamics control impacts the generated signal only and governs how tight or sustained it will be. The more compression, the more the synthesized subs sustain, and vice versa. Another impactful control is a button that toggles between Stereo Sub and Mono Sub. Mono keeps all sub energy down the middle, which helps you to create a more focused sound. With the Stereo setting, the subharmonics are generated on the sides.
You get meters for both Input and Output, with clip indicators, and an Output control knob. The latter is critical because adding sub energy can drive the signal into clipping pretty easily. I found that almost every time I added subharmonics, I ended up needing to reduce the output to stay out of the red.
Submarine retails for $79, but Waves is selling it at an introductory price of $29 for an unspecified time. If you’ve been thinking about getting a subharmonic synthesis plug-in, perhaps now is a good time to “dive” in.