The Benefits of Adding Subwoofers to your Stereo System? - Rapallo | AV Design & Installation
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Rapallo | Blog - Subwoofers and Music

Written by Deano Lambert, Posted by Simon Bell

November 18, 2020

This week we delve into the use of subwoofers with your music and how they affect the sound of your system.

We have come to associate subwoofers with home theater, thanks in part to the dedicated LFE (Low Frequency Effects Channel. The LFE channel delivers bass-only information (<120 Hz) and has no direct effect on the perceived directionality of the reproduced soundtrack. Its purpose is to supplement the overall bass content of the program or to ease the burden on the other channels. The LFE channel was originally devised for 70 mm movie productions to deliver a separate bass signal to one or more additional subwoofers placed behind the movie screen. This allowed deep bass effects to be added to movie soundtracks without having to upgrade the existing speakers and amplifiers in the three main screen channels. It also meant that the headroom of the 70 mm magnetic audio recordings would not be taxed at low frequencies, which would have detracted from their loudness capability at mid and high frequencies… more detail can be found here>>

This effect is present on many Hollywood blockbusters and the general expectation of impressive bass from the soundtracks of these movies. As when it comes to movie watching, we want to both hear and feel the action.

But, what about adding subwoofers to your music at home, have you considered that? Have you tried it? Well we have for you. 

Can A Great Subwoofer Elevate the Listening Experience?

If you have experienced a well-integrated subwoofer in a great audio system – you know that the subwoofer’s effect can be absolutely profound.

Many people wonder, “Do you need a subwoofer when you already have full-range speakers?” With one or two very rare exceptions, the answer is yes. Adding a subwoofer can provide the most realistic and engaging musical fidelity – resulting in an absolute incredible listening experience.

There are several reasons for this. Perhaps most importantly, we can never separate our music system from the room it is in. The main speakers are best moved away from room boundaries (the 4 sides) to achieve openness and clarity. This has the negative effect of reducing their bass output, sometimes dramatically. Adding a subwoofer allows you to position the main speakers where they perform best in the room while also finding the optimum location for the subwoofer to produce the low frequencies.

It is also true that a well-designed subwoofer with its own dedicated amplifier simply does a better job of reproducing deep bass than the woofer(s) built into passive speakers. Powered subwoofers have super robust drivers with large excursion capabilities.
A subwoofer’s electronics, which may include a DSP (Digital Sound Processing) feature, this can be used to equalize the system with high precision while providing the high current required.

Bass, particularly frequencies below 40Hz, requires moving a lot of air. Doing so with low distortion is very difficult, so its little wonder that a speaker dedicated to the task does the best job.

Adding a subwoofer to a stereo music system doesn’t merely extend bass response, it also provides a sense of scale and dynamics superior to the speakers on their own. This even applies to music that doesn’t have a lot of obvious bass content. The music comes from a larger, more dimensional acoustic space. By filling in the roll-off of the main speakers, a good subwoofer makes listening at lower volume levels more enjoyable.

If you add a second subwoofer, you will be able to even out the inevitable peaks and dips in room gain at bass frequencies, meaning you will get more even sound distributed throughout the room. Also, two subwoofers will work half as hard for the same acoustic output, reducing their distortion.

Rapallo | Martin Logan 800X

REVIEW | MartinLogan Dynamo 800X

Recently I took home two MartinLogan Dynamo 800X to review if they would help improve the bass with my Klipsch La Scala II’s (LSII’s). Every speaker has a certain point in which the woofer cannot go any lower in frequency. This is due to the design of the speaker (for the LSII’s it rolls off at 45Hz), so a subwoofer can potentially fill in the so called gap that exists from 45Hz to a reasonable 20Hz.

This is where the Dynamo 800X’s come in. After selecting a placement for the subs that work in the room, you can then download and activate the ARC (Anthem Room Correction) app. This incredible app gives you the ability to run audio sweeps from the subwoofer to your inbuilt microphone on you Android or IOS device from your seated position. The benefit of this is to have the subwoofers working correctly in your room, the ARC software allows the sub to work in your environment by controlling the subwoofers movement with the nodes of your room.

Once the placement is dialed in then the volume, crossover and phase needs to be tackled. Traditional subwoofers have always been a nightmare, you are constantly having to get up and turn the control knobs on the subwoofer and then rush back to your seating position and listen again before repeating over and over again until you get it dialed in perfectly.

With MartinLogan’s Subwoofer Control App, this has changed. Now listeners can effortlessly adjust subwoofer settings without leaving their listening position. Achieving perfect blending with a subwoofer has never been this easy.

THE APP | MartinLogan’s Subwoofer Control App

MartinLogan’s Subwoofer Control App uses a Bluetooth connection with a compatible subwoofer to effortlessly adjust subwoofer settings in real time. MartinLogan’s Subwoofer Control App is available for free to iOS and Android users.

Ok now let’s explore what they do. No they don’t just add the boom boom, it’s so much more than that. Unless you have experienced the difference then it’s hard to explain, but I will try. Firstly the soundstage i.e. the area in front of you where the artist or band are located gets bigger. The sound stage becomes deeper and taller, the imaginary singer in front of you raises higher,

But how can that be?

Imagine a clear box standing up, now fill that with different colored sand. Each colour represents a frequency of sound from 20 kHz (20 Thousand hertz) the Purple to 20 Hz (Twenty Hertz) Red sand and the colours in-between represent the other frequencies. See image below.

Now take the bottom red colour out and the other colours drop down. This is exactly what happens to the sound and the sound image. Without these bass frequencies there to stop the sound collapsing its does just that, it drops and all the other ambient sounds drop too.

When you support the whole range of frequencies, then the music is exactly where it should be as it was recorded.

Rapallo | Martin Logan 800X

But bass isn’t just the rumble, its a whole lot more to the music. There are quite a few instruments that produce low bass. Pianos produce frequencies below 30 Hz, Cello’s even lower, violins, acoustic guitars and so on… so its an important component for your sound.

Don’t get me wrong many speakers can produce amazing reproductions of the artist or artists’ music, but truthfully you are only hearing ¾ of what is actually there in the recording. By adding a subwoofer, the difference is huge and everything becomes more real and believable.

So are subwoofers only for home theatre? Absolutely not. The benefits of subwoofers in stereo has been proven time and time again, the problem is once you hear the difference you can never un-hear it.

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