SUBWOOFERS: Are essential … apparently

Do you have a subwoofer or two in your system?  You should. Unless your loudspeakers have a built in powered subwoofer, or you have added a sub, you aren’t getting the full musical experience the artists intended. I am not familiar with any standalone loudspeaker that is full range in your room – despite the claims of loudspeaker manufacturers who, for some unknown reason, seem to get personally offended when you suggest their products are lacking and need some help in the bass.

I always smile when I read that a particular passive speaker pair is touted as “full range” and flat to 20Hz.  Truth is, it may measure flat when you place the measurement microphone 1 meter away from the speaker in an anechoic environment – meaningful only if you sit that close and don’t have a room in the way.

The goal of any high-end setup is to deliver a full range of audio, from 10Hz to 20kHz at the listening position.  In almost all cases, it requires a pair of separate subwoofers to accomplish this.  There are two reasons for this: most loudspeakers don’t produce flat response down to 10Hz and the perfect placement in the room for a speaker pair is most likely not the perfect place for producing bass.

The separate enclosure of the subwoofer gives you the freedom to place it in the room where it gives flat response at your listening position.

If a well recorded pipe organ doesn’t drop your jaw when you’re listening then your system needs a sub.  No doubt about it.

One thought on “SUBWOOFERS: Are essential … apparently

  1. Yes, I wonder whether a lack of bass is the true cause of many audio woes that are blamed on other things. Speaker enthusiasts strive to remove suckouts from their frequency responses, but surely a lack of bass is the biggest suckout of all.

    I think it highly likely that listening to music at high volume without the requisite bass foundation is going to cause ‘listening fatigue’. We all know that listening to a tweeter on its own at high volume would hurt the ears, and *adding* the missing frequencies (rather than turning the tweeter down) would cure the problem. Speakers with poor bass response are just a less extreme example of this.

    I also suspect that ported speakers with their rapid roll-off below resonance are part of the problem. Having reverted to sealed speakers after many years of struggling to enjoy ported ones, I am convinced that they are better on several counts, with the more natural gradual bass roll-off being one of them.

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