Hip-hop legend DJ Jazzy Jeff is a self-professed “audio geek” who was intrigued by the technology in the SVS 16-Ultra subwoofers after watching several Youtube videos showing the subs in action. As someone who’s always on the hunt for the latest and greatest tech to help with his craft, Jeff upgraded some old 18-inch studio subwoofers to the PB16-Ultra. Without making a single adjustment and just running test notes, Jazzy Jeff and his production crew were floored by the low-frequency output and extension, with no distortion to be found. Now, he’s in the process of re-mixing many of the pre-SVS subwoofer music he thought was completed because he’s found true reference-quality bass.
In this artist interview, we dig into audio technology, why collaboration matters when making music, the importance of bass, mixing and mastering with the PB16-Ultra subwoofer and what’s in store down the road.
The written transcript below contains several excerpts from the full audio interview which can be heard here.
Q. Hey Nick from SVS here, talking to hip hop legend and recent SVS owner DJ Jazzy Jeff. You have been in the headlines a lot recently, what can you tell us about what you have been up to?
A. Just recently I’ve been working on a brand-new album that will be releasing this year, and I got back in touch with my old music partner Will and did a few shows and released a track with more on the way. But mainly I’m about to go on a 5 and half week world tour.
Q. I saw that, saw that you were going to Europe for a few shows, will you be returning to the states to do a few shows after?
A. You know I usually try to do 4 or 5 international tours a year but mostly I do shows in the U.S. but usually with no set tour so people can check my website and catch me when I’m appearing with other musicians or on a solo trip, but there are some big things in the works.
Q. Besides doing tours you do a lot of work with DJs and other musicians, helping them understand the process of making music, can you talk about how you got involved with that?
A. I have always been a music lover, a lover of all kinds of music even as a kid. I would hear a song and would want to figure out which instruments made which noise. What they all looked like and how I could get my hands on it. I came from an era with big soundboards, a tape machine and all this outward gear to watching it transform into a laptop with a bunch of plugins. What we lost in this laptop era is the art of collaborating. And I wanted to kind of bring that back so I host events that help some of the younger musicians understand the technology but also the importance of collaboration when making music.
Q. Obviously technology plays an important part in music production, what is your philosophy on sound quality. Why is it important from a production and a listening perspective?
A. I think you can take your favorite record of all time and change the mix on that record and it’s no longer your favorite record. I think that is how important sound quality is, I always match my tones and my levels because I realize you can play the most popular record in the world but if you turn it down 5db it loses the impact going from one song to another. This is something the average person might not even think about, so it is up to the people who produce the music, who present the music to kind of take note of just how important sound quality is. When you play music on your sound system or in your car, you shouldn’t have to adjust it for each song, if you do then the true source sound isn’t how it should be.
Q. There is a lot of parallels with making good speakers, that sense of neutrality so when you talk about consistency in playback, that is what a speaker manufacturer should be trying to do. I think that conveying that to the average person who may not realize that with cheap speakers or headphones you aren’t getting that.
A. You know what’s funny is, you go to a movie theater and you watch Transformers and what makes that movie special is the sound. The music, the effects, you want to feel like you are actually in it. So, when you have a great system, and we live in a world with Dolby digital, 5.1, 6.1, 7.1 and you know you start to get an understanding that you can get that movie theater experience in your home. With the explosion of all these new content sources like Netflix and Apple TV, that give you this amazing content it’s like a movie theater in your own home. When you go to the movie theater you get this great experience then you go home and it’s over, people want to be able to continue that in their own homes.
Q. So, recently you alluded to it, but you recently brought our SVS PB16-Ultra ported subwoofer into your studio, can you tell me what role it has been playing in your process?
A. Well you know what, the bass or the body of the bass has always been important to me. It’s funny to me, I read all the specs and did my research and all the specs told me this would be the best subwoofer I ever had in my studio. And I’m a total audio geek. Like, I love the technology and everything about the 16-Ultra was just calling to me because I was already looking for a new subwoofer.
I got this subwoofer, it was very simple to connect, it had all the same wires as my old subwoofer. And it came with an app, you could basically tune it from the sweet spot, I didn’t have to turn a bunch of knobs. I’ll be honest, I didn’t even really adjust it, I just went and played my favorite record with one my engineers and we were just looking at each other. We were blown away, if it sounds like that without any tuning, imagine what it will sound like after we set it up.
You know, I’ll put up an 808-kit drum and I’ll just go through the notes all the way down, for me to get to a note that is so low that it shook the studio and there wasn’t even an ounce of distortion, we just looked at each other like, that’s it.
Q. You kind of alluded to it earlier, but what is the biggest difference between what you had previously and what it has allowed you to do from a production and artistic standpoint?
A. I probably went and about 10 or 15 mixes that I’ve done, I went and redid them because there were frequencies that I could really touch on that my old subwoofer made me believe was too much. To realize that you could put that on and made hear the true sound of it made me want to start retweeking stuff. I’ve always said a great sounding system, starts to sound normal if that makes any sense, I want that as my standard, a great system becomes the normal. It will sound so good I don’t want to touch it. I have this spot in the studio that I have people come in and sit there and when the subwoofer comes on I watch their face, and everybody has this peculiar face of “oh my god what is that”. And I wait for how long it takes them to get up to try to figure out where the sound is coming from, you know they were here a few months ago and the studio didn’t sound like that.
Q. Can you tell us about what you have coming up in the future?
A. I am about to start a barrage of releasing music of all kinds. I just wrapped up a third album that was part of a trilogy, so it was great to get that completed. Now that I have everything situated and set up the way I want it to sound, I’m just really looking forward to getting a lot of things moving. All the information is available on www.DJJazzyJeff.com. If people want access to some cool live mixes from places I’ve gone, I also have a mobile app in the Android and Apple store that’s free and I’m always updating with mixes and content to take with you.
DJ Jazzy Jeff shares his first impression of his new PB16-Ultra in the video below: