What’s the Deal With Bass Augmentation Devices—and Why Should You Care?

Wearable bass augmentation. Tactile bass experience devices. There’s a whole lot of names out there for this relatively new technology, but what it boils down to is the ability to experience music playback with club-like bass pressure—but without a set of huge speakers. Two new companies are bringing this tech to market right now, and it’s an exciting development in the DJ, production, and home-listening worlds, so today we’re going to show you what it is, how it works, and why it’s useful for DJs and producers.

So how does bass augmentation work? Basically, instead of a pair of massive speakers vibrating the air particles around you to make you feel the low-end of a bass-heavy tune, these bass-augmentation packs replicate that experience by vibrating your diaphragm (according to whatever sounds you’re playing through them, of course) through a series of transducers that come in contact with your back. It’s those frequencies below 100 or 200 Hz where the kick and the bass really vibrate your entire body in the club setting, and it’s your body’s vibration that actually allows you to hear that crazy low-end.


SubPac, which hit Kickstarter about a year ago, makes two bass devices: a wearable pack (the M1; $349) and a seat-based unit (the S1; $379), the latter of which you lean against while sitting in a chair. Simply plug a line out from your laptop or mixer into the unit, run your headphones out from there, and lean back so that its transducers come in contact with your back. When the bass rattles through you, it’ll forever change the way you browse tracks on Beatport, so that you can really hear how a track will hit without having to drive your neighbors crazy.

Producers might also find the SubPac S1 to be a useful addition to their studio arsenal. With it, you can A/B test your mixdowns for a better idea of what they’ll sound like when you play them out.


There’s a handful of great ways for DJs to save their hearing as they get on in gigs, and both the SubPac M1 and bassAware ($299) wearable units can help on the stage. Not only will you be able to feel the same bass that the crowd you’re rocking is feeling, but it’ll allow you to keep your headphone volume down when you strap on one of these battery-powered backpack-style bass kits, making for a more pleasant experience for both your body and your ears.


What’s next for these wearable bass techs?

Want to learn more about wearable bass technology? First, peep the video above, in which Ean Golden takes a quick-and-easy look at this game-changing format. We’ll take an even deeper dive in the months to come after we’ve had a bit more time to really test these pieces out, but what we can say right off the bat is that despite their somewhat goofy look, these high-tech bass devices really do deliver some amazing results.

Ever tried bass augmentation devices before? Tell us what you think of them in the comments below.

bass augmentationbassawaresubpactactile bass experiencewearable bass technology
Comments (80)
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  • Sam van Buuren

    Check out Basslet. Small bracelet let’s you feel the beat. Targeted at headphone music listeners on the go. Still prototype however: http://rescuedideas.com/ My idea: give everybody on the dancefloor such a device, capture someones heartbeat too, connect to WIFI, show the DJ average BPM of his crowd. Sync BPM music/people.

  • J.sto

    i like the driver size… 16″ in. subs? lets just pick the one diameter that no one hears of ever…

  • ChaZ

    Music was all about hearing in early days, now it’s upto marketing!

  • Lee S

    This product does interest me for many reasons that have been talked about here and other forums relating to production at a lower cost then an acoustically treated room and also in the evening hours as not to disturb anyone else nearby who might be affected by the noise from my studio. So, how can I make an informed decision on whether to purchase an S1 or an M1? Are they evenly matched with how the bass hits the body? Does it feel exactly the same?

  • royaldust

    I think maybe the chair version should be the limit of this device.

    the other two look like suicide terrorist bomb packs. Try explaining the average TSA agent that the thing you got strapped on to yourself with wires, knobs and leds coming out of it is a bass augmentation device 😀

  • Kial Knickerbocker

    The Sub Pac is awesome for producing music! I didn’t believe it really until I tried it out for myself, but everyone in the house could be sleeping and I’m working on music with my headphones on feeling the bass as if I’m on a big sound system producing my tune! Its awesome.

    • Lee S

      Which SubPac do you recommend?

      • Kial Knickerbocker

        depends on what you are using it for. if you are on stage, performing and moving around probably the M1. But if your like me, and mostly need it while making music in the studio, then go with the S1. S for stationary, M for mobile. 🙂 The intensity on both of them can be adjusted to suit your needs. Hope that helps.

  • #BassLvr

    Money Back Guarantee & Discount Code….!! Try SubPac Enter IMSTA2014 when checking out & qualify for a discount today

  • T.R. Walker

    There should be a disclaimer added to this post. Hawtin’s involvement with the sub pac ( http://www.thesubpac.com/order/subpac-plastikman-bundle ) combined with Ean’s work with Hawtin makes me believe this article is an advertisement and not a review.

  • Vanholsaet Chris

    What about a buttkicker gamer 2 for your chair?

  • M8

    Hey Ean. I have a question about your in-ear monitors. What monitors you use?

  • MIDI Designer

    We were VERY skeptical of wearable subs until we tried out bassAware at an event in NYC a few months back. It’s fantastic. Strictly from an audience perspective, wearable bass actually feels MORE natural than giant subwoofers at a club… but there are so many other advantages relating to portability and control. The control issue might actually result in lower headphone volumes being used (since you can get the punch of the bass via your body), which is another side of the health debate (here in the comments).

    We’ll be playing for a lot more hours with a bassAware unit later this month. It’s good fun, and I think the uses for music-makers will be huge.

  • The Mad Beaver

    Guys I love the concept, but I can’t get over a single thing. Nothing about health is mentioned.
    You know that deep-bass is harmful for heart, don’t you? This being said, imagine that this device takes those sound-waves all way from your backbone to your diaphragm (affecting most of you organs somehow).
    That’s what makes me NOT buy this thing. Nothing is said about eventual health issues. For me it’s disturbing, sorry guys for being a prick, but I actually care about this factor!

    • eugene

      Let’s see what other health issues a dj has to deal with on a regular basis besides visceral bass. Drug use? Cocaine? Ecstasy? Nothing like vitamin C & E to contribute to your recommended daily intake of. Of course, this is probably perfectly fine for your heart. Dj’s usually drink, some studies show it is proven to be good for your heart, maybe…but alcohol causes liver issues as well as brain damage (in higher doses). Dj’s also have to deal with girls jumping all over them, hence an increase in catching an STD. This is a health hazard. Dj’s have to lift heavy equipment. (Maybe not so much now due to the rise of the digital dj.) Lifting heavy equipment can cause hernias, herniations and lengthy visits to your local chiropractor, acupuncturist, and physical therapist. Not to mention all those countless hours spent standing and working in a tilted/protruding head posture…only adds to the deterioration of your back, core, stability. Speaking of digital Dj’s, looking at that computer screen can be hazardous to your vision/eye health. Worse if you are a waveform watcher. Headphones? Yes, these can reach decibel levels similar to a jet engine taking off. Probably not safe for your hearing. Better visit that audiologist to make sure. What about those long hours dj’ing? You know lack of sleep causes stress hormones to increase, therefore causing your heart to work harder. Lack of sleep also causes weight gain. (Won’t be wearing those skinny jeans anymore.) And then you have to take into account dj’s who are knob twisters. You can quickly develop carpal tunnel syndrome by the unnecessary need to manipulate the eq when chances are those EDM songs you are already playing sound like shit. So all-in-all, I’ll take my chances with a bass-backpack. 🙂 haha

      • shootdaj

        His point was that we don’t know what damage the bass wear causes. We know what damage the other stuff causes. I would rather know that I’m causing damage to my health than not, wouldn’t you?

      • synapticflow

        Jeez. 🙁

        • eugene

          I understand that point….I’m just being a humourous pessimist. but, when it comes down to it, there are so many other things that can potentially do harm to you as a dj. the amount of bass these bass-backpacks produce is nowhere near the amount you would need to cause any type of harmful/detrimental stimulus to your body. (it’s a little vibrator on your back) however, loud music can cause an enhanced adrenal response, high blood pressure,etc…so yes, throwing yourself into the dj scene in general will not be something you want to do if you have a weak heart/build. better not take a chance….get a hobby such as book collecting, knitting.

      • Sam

        So if I’m a non-drinking non-drug using stay at home dj in commited relationship I can’t use this? I just want to make sure I understand that possible health effects from this device are only limited in severity if I already lead a risky life style.

        • eugene

          I’m a non-drinking, non-drug using dj, married as well…I’m using this just fine so far. I haven’t developed any heart arrhythmias or hernias. If anything, the vibrations give my back a nice massage during my sets…couldn’t be happier!

    • Ean Golden

      you bring up a good point, and we have been researching this important detail. In our next article about the specific products, we will be going into greater detail on the known side effects and science of these vibrations.

      • KoenraadVDS

        You have to be able to produce 5 hz and lower to make your insides scramble. Nausea and diarrhea are the first symptoms you would get.

    • Kial Knickerbocker

      I think the frequencies have to be much lower than most music, and of much much higher pressure to do any damage to internal organs. The SubPac feels like a gentle massage, and not a gut rattler. Plus, there is a knob to change the intensity if it is too much for you. 😉

    • Benjamin Campbell

      Can you provide a source for your claim that bass is bad for the heart? I can’t find anything relevant using Google Scholar, and it sounds suspiciously like an old wives’ tale. I really can’t imagine any reason why this would be the case.

      • Kea Gilbert

        Hey guys, I’m a physician (who happens to LOVE bass), and it’s not like I’ve done a thorough literature review on the subject, but I doubt these systems are harmful to your health. The heart mostly operates on electricity, so if you’re a young healthy person, extrinsic vibrations should not overcome that electrical signaling. Honestly, vibrations are mostly considered helpful for well-being (hence why so many music lovers appreciate haptic feedback), and it’s been used for decades in clearance of lung secretions and opening up the lungs for clearer breathing (think cystic fibrosis).

        Granted, everything in moderation. I have no idea what wearing this thing for like 10 hours a day would do. Hope that helps.

  • eugene

    This isn’t really a tool for beatmatching, but more for monitoring your overall mix. I have been using the M1 for about 3 months now. I have to say, this thing is “real”. I have to say this put a smile on my face as soon as I put it on. I chose the M1 over the S1 as I am more of a dj than a producer. I love the mobile aspect of the M1. This isn’t a gadget or toy. You may look like a napoleon dynamite time traveling dj, and yes, you may look a little dorky, however, the trade off is well worth it. You feel bass. You swim in it. To compare, it feels like you are positioned 20 feet behind an 18 inch subwoofer. There is sub-bass and mid-bass impact. The first time I used it I actually got a bit nauseous and dizzy. As sick as it sounds, I was in love. I learned not to turn up the intensity dial all the way up, leave it at halfway. I have it hooked up to my Xone92 rotary through the booth output so I can fully control and decide how much of the M1’s bass I want per mix. Also, this way I do not have to touch the M1’s dial, and can modify everything through the Xone92. I mix in headphones 99% of the time in my apartment, this has been a God – send. However, when I do turn my monitors up, I can also utilize the sub pac together for a more engulfing sensation. I also utilize a few different IEMs in my setup and Ian is right, it is an experience. I choose at the moment to mix with headphones on, sennheiser hd8, and the mixes I’ve been putting out are to say a lot more in-tune, involving, and deep. I mix primarily House and basslines are such a prevalent part of the music/genre.

  • chris

    oh yeah,
    the hematoma fasten seat belts

  • Gabriel Rodriguez

    I have the wonderful opportunity to try out a subpac at the the Silent Disco stage at this year’s 2014 Movement Electronic Music Festival in detroit. I have to say it’s really nice, you can feel bass, and also makes a nice back massage too! It’s like adding another dimension of sound. I would consider this for production in my apartment where I can’t really turn my bass.

  • jason

    or you can have two of your friends push you when the bass comes in

  • Fatlimey

    It’s like Frankie Wilde relearning to listen.

  • teknik1200

    How does this help a dj in the booth? don’t most folks use hi hats and snare drums to beatmatch?

    • Sweat

      Not sure how well they “help” in the booth but they do kick it up a notch in intensity! I wore one during a set a few months back, didn’t assist with my mixing my any means.

  • Axl

    I’ve always missed that deep rumbling sub bass I love so much at parties. I’m definitely getting one in the future just to boost the overal music experience while listening at home. I just wonder how realistic this feels compared to the real deal, if it’s like a vibrator taped to your back it would be a disappointment.

  • ?The Other Denzel?

    This technology would be PERFECT for the automotive industry. In seat bass packs would make the driving experience so much more awesome

  • Tim Kerr

    Nice to see you pick up on this tactile augmented reality trend.
    You were giving the spiel to the pros – but should add that the sensation of these devices is so true to life, that they are also a breakthrough for the hearing impaired.

    • Ken DJ TechTools

      Thanks for all the comments on Woojer—we’ll make sure to check that out as well.

      • Keren

        That’ll be very helpful. Thanks!

  • Tomash Ghz

    Check out my old open source bass couch project over here!
    Quite similar concept, just dirt cheap

  • calgarc

    it sounds like a fancy back massager lol

  • Sergio Johnson

    BassAware needs to post on their site the sizes avaliable. would be upset if I ordered the product and recieved it and it was to small.

    • Michael White

      Michael with bassAware here. The mid body strap on the product adjusts from 22.5″ to 45″. Note that this is not a standard chest measurement (across the top of the pecs), rather it should be measured from the base of the sternum all the way around the body – so for most bodies this will be a little smaller than a standard chest measurement. That said, we would happily make a custom order if something larger is needed – we simply would just have to add in a bit more webbing – no other changes needed. We’ve put this only really tiny bodies and on really large bodies and it works just fine most of the time. Get in touch if you’d like to know more: michael@bassAware.com Thanks!

    • Eddie

      I had a demo of Woojer in NY. The coolest thing ever!!!

  • Sergio Alvarez

    Hey Ean,

    I noticed that mentioned in your video that your IEMs didn’t produce a great amount of bass. Have you ever considered taking a look at Shure’s higher end earphone products?

  • jack

    Bass aware’s are $300 BTW….

      • Backed Woojer on KS

        and Woojer is less than $100….

        • Tim Kerr

          Woojer?? Give me a break….How can something the size of a matchbox give the same kick as a backpack?

          • riddimdojo

            Hmm, I agreed with you at first, but there are some seemingly honest reactions from these people at a trade show:


          • Steven

            Wtf are you talking about??! I tried it and it’s absolutely awesome!!! And who will go walking around or sitting on the chair all day on pillow vest???

  • KoenraadVDS

    Install a butkicker under your chair or in the back support and you’re good to go. Many more purposes for your money than this suit-like device I think.

    • killmedj

      Is that the same one that drummers use? if it it is it gets super hot! I wonder if these suffer the same issue?

      • KoenraadVDS

        Hjeah, dunno if it’s the same technology. Tactic transducers can go very hot when putting low stuff through it. But mostly if you “misuse” them and put subby sine waves through them for an excessive amount of time.

        • eugene

          The transducers do get a bit hot. I sometimes see a round, circular sweat stain from the heat the transducer can emit during a session.

  • old grey cat

    this, dude, is awesome. IEM’s + the bass pack is a sustainable hearing path…

  • noxxi

    i love how you said crucify, because back in the day you used to remind me of jesus! the god of midi controllers

  • Prof_Strangeman

    I was actually curious, can this be used for production? Say you live in an apartment, you cannot use much more than a 5″ driver. Say you used some songs you know really well and “tuned” this with your monitors, could you use this and still get an accurate mixdown and master?

    • dj forage

      The reviews for the SubPac on their site are from some pretty serious producers. That was the motivation for me to get one. It’s weird to get used to, but once you have it tuned to a level that feels locked in, your body starts to learn what frequencies feel like. Sine wave sweeps are fun. Clean mixes make you chair-dance, and muddy bass feels like a rattle rather than a groove.

      • eugene

        Exactly. And you can definitely use this to mixdown and master. (Up to an extent_)

        • Sweat

          I need to check out the chair model. I tend to lean forward a lot when writing music and even mixing so not sure if I could get past that. Bad posture blast you!

          • Mike Kraze

            Welcome to my life