HARBETH: Bass response – how deep should my speakers go for a lifelike sound at home?

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Mr. Alan Shaw writes .....

Ah! That old chestnut again. OK, you probably won't believe me if I say 'not as deep as you've been led to believe' so let's actually make some audio clips and you can hear and judge for yourself.

First: I'd like you to forget all about the numbers you see in speaker marketing literature. They are all as good as useless. Speaker designers are coerced by marketeers to provide these numbers, and cautioned by the same marketeers that if the competitor's speaker spec says 'bass down to 38Hz' then unless he gives way and writes the spec for his creation as 'bass down to 37Hz' he won't sell any. And believe it or not, the consumer will assume, based on just numbers, that 37Hz must be better than 38Hz. It's all smoke and mirrors.

The problem is that it is very, very difficult for a designer to say, with certainty, how the bass end of his speaker measures. That's because the bass wavelengths are so long (10mtrs. at 33Hz) when playing bass notes, in effect the speaker is reaching out and touching every object in the room. That means, the poor designer cannot say with certainty where the speaker's contribution stops and the room contribution starts: they are fused together. So he has to use an educated guess but even that guess cannot be how the speaker behaves in your room: at best it is how the speaker will behave in a reflection-free, anechoic chamber. A chamber of free field room is a good way of trying to minimise .....

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