Whether you’re an audiophile or a cinephile enthusiast, one disturbing question that’s likely to be ringing on your mind is whether a subwoofer is worth it. Now, there are two sides of life—the luxury side and the necessity side. Things such as air and water fall under necessities as we can’t live without them. Love, affection, and other material things fall under luxuries as they’re just there to make life worth living.
From this example, it’s quite clear that in the world of audio systems, there are necessities and luxuries. For the case of the subwoofer, the side it falls to highly depends on your ultimate goal. For instance, if you intend to add some pleasing background music, then a subwoofer might not be a necessity as you can well rely on your tower speakers as they have great woofers with a couple of drivers.
However, if you’re an audiophile, a movie lover, or an industry professional, then a subwoofer is generally an absolute must hence a major necessity. So, with that said, this guide will get deep into the world of subwoofers in an attempt to answer this concern.
What is a Subwoofer?
If you’re new in this world of all things audio, then you must be wondering what a subwoofer really is. If you happen to peruse through your home theater’s owner’s manual, you’re likely to see some terminologies such as 2.1, 5.1, and 7.1. I believe you must have been really curious and wondered what these terms truly mean.
In most home theater setups, terms such as these are used to refer to the number of stereo speakers in relation to the subwoofer. So, if you see the initials 2.1, then it means that your home theater audio set up consists of two, left and right speakers, and a dedicated subwoofer. 5.1 and 7.1 stands for 5 or 7 surround speakers plus a dedicated subwoofer.
Having realized this, the next question is what a subwoofer really is. In simple terms, the subwoofer is the main speaker that handles the lower frequencies. You see, when you’re listening to blockbuster movies or music in the RNB and Hip-hop genre, there will likely be low-frequency effects that will go below 40-50Hz.
If you’re using bookshelf or tower speakers will small woofers, these low-frequency effects will not be audible at all. However, since a subwoofer is constructed with a powerful driver, handling these low frequencies will not be an issue at all. This, therefore, makes a subwoofer a powerful speaker within your home theater set up that handles lower frequencies and bass with great enthusiasm.
Why is it Worth it?
When it comes to the necessity part of a subwoofer, what you need to understand is actually the basic concept of your subwoofer. If you happen to listen to RNB or Hip-hop music using your bookshelf or floor standing speakers, you will hear the bass. However, this bass will not come out quite clearly in the way a music artist or movie producer would have hoped.
But, with a subwoofer, you don’t just hear the low frequencies, but you also feel them as that’s the fundamental idea of a subwoofer. Since its main focus is on the low frequencies, especially the bottom two octaves from 20Hz to 80Hz, what you’ll have is a dynamic and more improved bass performance.
Having said that, this guide will discuss at least three key benefits that will clearly explain why a subwoofer is a necessary piece of peripheral in the audio set up business.
1) It Reveals Those Sounds and Feelings That Your Surround Speakers Can’t Reproduce
One of the major benefits of having a subwoofer as part of your home audio set up is its tremendous faithfulness that demands it to deliver every bass note, including the lowest octaves, in musical content. This is very different from most tower and bookshelf speakers as most of them start dropping off at around 50Hz destroying the full depth and clarity of the music you’re listening to.
2) Plays Loud Bass Without Any Distortion
If you’re an audiophile or a cinephile, one thing you definitely can’t compromise on is to miss those very-low-frequency effects that come by when listening to music or when watching blockbuster movies. However, to enjoy this low-frequency reproduction, you can’t afford to rely on your tower speakers as the woofers will have a lot of trouble keeping up with the mid drivers and tweeters. This will lead to sound distortion and lack of clarity which will not be good for your music or movie experience.
So, in this case, a subwoofer becomes the perfect recipe that can supplement your music or movie experience. Since its driver is designed to handle the low-frequency spectrum accurately, you won’t have to worry about missing those low-frequency effects when watching blockbuster movies.
3) It Unleashes the Sonic Potential of Your Surround Speakers
The reason why most people question the worthiness of a subwoofer in an audio set up is due to the traditional mindset that subwoofers are only good in reproducing pounding bass. But, in the audio business today, the subwoofer is not only tasked to handle the low frequencies but also to unleash the sonic potential of the surround speakers.
You see, for you to enjoy a high-quality listening experience, you need to tune your subwoofer to ensure that it blends well with the full-range speakers. This way, the subwoofer will sound like an extension of the full range speakers thus allowing them to sound at their absolute best.
Where Can I Place a Subwoofer?
This question usually come as pair with another question—aren’t subwoofers big? The reason why most people ask this question is following the traditional mentality or rather image that subwoofers comprise of large drivers concealed in large boxes. Although that was the case in the past, things have changed now where technology is trying to make the modern subwoofer appear smaller and sleeker both in driver size and the size of the cabinet.
You see, in most urban apartments, space has become a major concern. Since you’re likely to put your home theater system in the living room, space is likely to become an issue as the rest of the living room décor (such as furniture) will still demand a piece of the same space.
But, regardless of all these, you need to find a “sweet spot” where your subwoofer will perform at its best. For instance, if your subwoofer has a small driver and a low-powered amp, placing it close to a corner in the front wall will result in more bass. On the other hand, if your sub is high-quality and around 8-12” in size, then putting it a few inches from the wall will help to reproduce deep bass without any crappiness.
Whether you’re working on a tight budget or maybe you’re at an infancy of home theater development, a subwoofer is an absolute must if you’re looking to enjoying a 3-dimension sound experience. While full-range speakers handle high-frequencies perfectly well, that’s not the case when it comes to low frequencies.
Most music and blockbuster movies today rely on musically unrelated sounds (LFEs) such as explosions, engines rolling in a street chase, and rumbles of a subway train, which can reach very low frequencies of up to 17Hz. Since you’re more likely to feel rather than hear these low octaves, this makes your listening experience more realistic by leaving you at the edge of your couch when watching a Hollywood blockbuster movie.
With that said, a subwoofer is an absolute necessity if you’re truly looking to improve your overall bass composition.