Why Do Audiophiles Hate Subwoofers?

audiophile

Now, before I even begin, who are audiophiles? If you’re a newcomer in all things audio, then this is the first question you’ll find yourself asking. In a nutshell, audiophiles are an exceptional breed of individuals that are fascinated with pure audio and focus more on sound quality rather than sound quantity. Such people are passionate about music and are addicted to audio gadgets.

They’re always curious about how modern technology impacts how we listen to music. They’re always digging to learn the science of how sound is reproduced as well as the merits and impacts of modern technology on different audio file formats. 

When I joined college, I was amazed to discover that most of my friends were audio-obsessed. Although I wasn’t an audiophile myself, I noticed that over time, I was becoming totally obsessed with the latest audiophile jargon. In fact, I realized that I was developing a hunger to master modern audio technology and how it impacts today’s audio gadgets.

Instead of studying to become a doctor, I realized my vision was to become a sound engineer. Instead of being at the center stage, I now wanted to be the mastermind behind a great Grammy Award Winning event where I would “rub shoulders” with the biggest names in the music industry.

Now, back to college, I mentioned that most of my friends were audiophiles. What I came to realize from our discussions is that most of them had high-end audio equipment such as amps and tower speakers but none of them spoke of a subwoofer. Although I had one myself, this left me wondering why do audiophiles hate subwoofers?

Why Audiophiles Hate Subwoofers

Although I do have a subwoofer myself, I began to wonder why audiophiles hate subwoofers and what came to mind are a few reasons which I’ll discuss below.

  • The first reason is about the quality of bass you’re looking to achieve. Since most audiophiles rely on high-end speakers with large woofers that can deliver bass at frequencies as low as 50Hz, most of them trust the performance of such speakers in medium rooms rather than adding a subwoofer. Although you’ll miss out on most of the low frequencies, most audiophiles are satisfied with this type of setup instead of having that loud punchy bass.
  • Another reason is that subwoofers are very hard to integrate. Although it’s easy to add bass, it’s really challenging to blend your subwoofer with the rest of the surround speakers. Although you can rely on a surround processor to help you integrate your sub with the rest of the speakers, most audiophiles hate this idea as they believe the processor will only ruin the quality of sound produced.
  • Thankfully, most of the A/V receivers or surround processors today come with subwoofers that have in-built crossovers. These crossovers are the ones responsible for filtering the bass from the tower speakers and the mids and highs from the subwoofers. This simply means that the subwoofers will shoulder the low-frequencies and relieve the speakers to allow them to focus on the highs and the mids.
  • Most audiophiles who enjoy listening to music produced by real instruments prefer using their ordinary speakers instead of subwoofers. Most of them, especially those operating in small rooms such as studios, mention that the listening experience of a large speaker in a small room can easily be ruined.

So, What’s the Solution?

Although audiophiles and subwoofers seldom get along, there’s always a way you can integrate the subwoofer without ruining their listening experience. So, in this last part, I will discuss some key solutions you can employ to enjoy rich music without having to eliminate your subwoofer.

Check the Size of Your Room

The first remedy that can be used to solve this issue of audiophiles and subwoofers is by inspecting the size of your room. You see, if you’re focusing on full production and recording in a small room such as your basement or attic, then the size of the room will have a great impact on the quality of sound generated especially the low frequencies. Low frequencies can travel at great distances. Therefore, if you place a subwoofer in a small room, it will develop something called a “room boom”.

 A room boom is when your small room amplifies the already strong bass output of your subwoofer. This high bass reflection will end up ruining your sound by masking the fine details of the song being recorded and destroying every piece of its musical coherence.

Proper Subwoofer Placement

Another remedy is trying to understand your room’s acoustics when placing your subwoofer. After listening to most of my audiophile friends, one mistake I realized most of them had made was placing their subwoofers on the wrong spots. Some audiophiles place their subwoofers next to the main speakers while others place them at an equidistant from both the right and left main speakers hoping they’ll manage to blend both sounds perfectly.

What happens eventually is that big peaks and dips occur in the bass response that completely ruins the quality of sound reproduced. To solve this issue, all you need is to understand your room’s acoustics. From there, perform a “subwoofer crawl” by playing a tune then move your subwoofer across the room until you find the perfect spot where your sub’s bass will blend smoothly with the mains.

Make Sure the Frequency Response is Tuned Perfectly

Earlier on, I mentioned that one of the factors that make audiophiles hate subwoofers is adding extra components in the signal path of your audio system. Since most of these components tend to ruin the quality of bass reproduced by your subwoofer, you can use your subwoofer’s crossover instead to tune the low-frequencies to a level that will match your room’s setup.

In most cases, your subwoofer’s crossover setting will be somewhere between 80Hz and 150Hz. To ensure the bass blends well with the rest of the full-range speakers, you can try to lower or increase the crossover frequency by 10Hz. Play with the crossover settings until you get to a point where the bass doesn’t overwhelm the vocals or the high-frequencies.

Choose the Right Subwoofer

Although this factor came last, it’s usually one of the first things you need to think of if you’re looking to enjoy the best audio experience if you have a subwoofer in the mix. What most audiophiles don’t realize is that speaker selection has everything to do with the quality of sound you’ll get. Therefore, if you don’t get a speaker that doesn’t interact with the size and shape of your room, then the boundaries, walls, and ceilings on your room will definitely ruin the quality of bass reproduced.

Although you’ll most likely buy a subwoofer that meets your budget, you need to ensure that you get a subwoofer that reproduces the right amount of bass within that price range. Always listen to the speaker to judge its performance and don’t forget to peruse through the sub’s specifications such as the frequency response, SPL (Sound Pressure Level), and dispersion. In the case of a passive subwoofer, don’t forget to check the wattage and the Ohms resistance (impedance).

Conclusion

If you’re an audiophile that hates the idea of adding a subwoofer to your audio system, then this post has offered you some great remedies you can try out. First, you need to think about your room’s acoustics before selecting a subwoofer. From there, you need to consider your subwoofer’s placement and the crossover settings for you to enjoy the best music experience.

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