There’s a lingering sentiment in the audiophile community that subwoofers are only for home theatre and the benefits to music playback are suspect or even negative
It’s true that lesser subwoofers are not designed to optimally handle the speed, detail and nuance of certain music, but it’s certainly not the rule for subwoofers in general.
A great subwoofer elevates the listening experience in a way no other audio component can.
Below is a list of six different reasons why a properly engineered subwoofer, is important to music playback.
1. Reveals Sounds and Feelings Your Speakers Can’t Reproduce
We’ve been banging on about this recently. The majority of speakers start dropping off at about 50Hz, which deprives you of the full depth and clarity of bass tones. A great subwoofer will reach down to 20Hz or lower, right down to the limit of human hearing. This means you never miss a note and can even feel the lowest notes from something like a pipe organ, kick drum, bass guitar or the occasional cannon volley from the 1812 Overture, for a much more immersive experience.
2. Plays as Loud as You Want with No Distortion
In many systems, when you really start bumping music at high volumes, the woofers in your speakers can have trouble keeping up with just the mid drivers and tweeters. Remember, the problem with lower bass waves is that they are really long, so the driver has to work hard to produce those waves in volumes you can hear.
if you don’t have the massive cabinet to create the volume (which speakers don’t), you need lots and lots of power to generate the volume.
A great subwoofer plays effortlessly loud and distortion free, no matter how demanding the musical material and how loud you like to play it.
3. Accurately Reproduces Every Note in the Low Frequency Spectrum
Every piece of audio equipment has a “sonic signature”. A great subwoofer however is faithful to the musical content delivering bass notes exactly as the artist intended. Subwoofers are ‘specialists’ in base reproduction, so it makes a lot more sense to find a neutral sounding subwoofer than it is to find a speaker that produces a neutral base. This is also why if you have a great subwoofer, it can be matched with any brand or model of speaker to add weight and energy to the overall listening experience, without tainting the musical experience.
4. Adds Speed and Control in Low End Transients
Many genres of music present rapid starts and stops in the vocals and instrumentals that lesser subwoofers can struggle with, resulting in a smeared or undetailed acoustic image. A great subwoofer has the speed and transient response to present bass with phenomenal realism and impact so even the fastest bass lines are rendered with feeling and precision.
5. Blends Seamlessly with Full Range Speakers
Even full range tower speakers that are capable of producing the full spectrum benefit from a subwoofer. Why? Because you have to position your tower speakers where they’ll deliver the best stereo imaging -which is not where they’ll deliver the smoothest bass response. Measure the frequency response in your listening chair and you’ll see how uneven your bass is.
A great subwoofer should always sound and feel like an extension of the speakers without overpowering them or drawing attention to itself. When blended perfectly, a great subwoofer allows speakers to sound their absolute best, across the frequency spectrum, so highs sparkle and mids have perfect clarity without being overpowered.
Here is how to get the crossover right: After you have done the subwoofer crawl for correct subwoofer positioning, find out what the rated bass response of your speaker is (the -3 dB response, not the -10 dB response). If the manufacturer just gives one number, use that. Set the subwoofer’s crossover to the same frequency. Now sit in your listening chair and listen to that melodic bass line again. If the notes sound pretty even, you nailed it. If you hear a dip in the bass response on certain notes, try raising the crossover frequency on the sub by 10 Hz or so. If some of the notes sound bloated, lower the crossover frequency by 10 Hz. Keep playing with it until you get it right or your patience runs out.
6. Unleashes Sonic Potential of Smaller Speakers
It’s quite obvious that if you’re using smaller stand-mounted speakers without a sub, you’re not getting deep bass.
A powered subwoofer brings its own low frequency amplifier and with proper bass management, a connected AV receiver or amplifier can drive smaller speakers in the mid and high frequencies above the crossover point. This allows speakers to perform to their full potential no matter what the content.
Looking past the technical enhancements, having a subwoofer adds a whole new dimension to music. A great subwoofer should never be overbearing or boomy, but instead, should add color, depth and impact to the final output delivery.
From infectious bass guitar riffs and hypnotic drum beats to the most complex electronic bass compositions, a great subwoofer reveals layers of sound a speaker is simply not equipped to handle. And while some subwoofers merely add a few notes of bass, a truly great subwoofer elevates the listening experience in a unique and palpable way.
How do you write about SVS subwoofers and not sound like a fanboy? Seriously, I’d like to know. Because unless you are some sort of audio elitist with deep pockets that believes that no value priced product can be good, you’ve got to love SVS. Sure, they have high dollar products in their line-up, their bread and butter is helping the common man realize his (or her) dream of bass.
SVS are renowned for their world class subwoofers. They offer subwoofer technology normally reserved for subwoofers two or three times the asking price of the 2000 series.
The SB-2000 sound clean and clear, they disappear into the musical score exactly as you want them to. If you are serious about a 2.1 medium sized room setup the SVS SB-2000 should be a no-brainer.
Velodyne, like SVS, are subwoofer specialists with a vast range of subs to meet any budget. The brand probably has one of the most recognizable names in subwoofers, which to us signifies consistency. The reviews seem to agree.
The Velodyne subwoofer we would recommend is the Velodyne SPL 800i. This compact sub is designed with music/2.1 systems in mind. This 8″ woofer sub has a 95% efficient, 2400 Watt Class D amplifier, that gives you fantastic sounding bass from 40 Hz–120 Hz.
Also check out the Velodyne Impact series for some down-firing port subwoofers, providing bass output with less distortion.
Klipsch are a safe bet as well. We would recommend the R-110SW and R-112SW for music. First of all, The Klipsch Refernce subwoofer series stands out because of the low pass crossover and phase control, which allows you to blend the subwoofer’s low-frequency tones with other Klipsch speakers as well as establish the ideal level of bass.
In a complete Klipsch set-up, they are visually stunning with the beautiful Cerametallic drivers to brighten up any living area. In the same way SVS subwoofer specialists also make excellent speakers, speaker guru Klipsch have proven themselves as a decent subwoofer maker to compete with the subwoofer pros.
You are more than welcome to come and visit us at the Rapallo Lab and listen for yourself. Experience how dynamic and impactful a subwoofer can be for music. Put your ears to the test and tell us what you think!
Source: SVS, Audiophile Reviews, Audioholics, Klipsch, Velodyne