Video and Audio Center Blog

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Subwoofers Do More Than Just Make Noise

Everyone wants a home theater atmosphere that duplicates the experience of going to the movies. But while a big screen TV is what one wants to see, don’t forget about how sound enhances and excites what is being listened to. Stereo is no longer such a big deal — now an audio experience must include “surround sound” wherein the sound comes from many more points than just in front of the left and right ear. You can get a sound bar that will give you great sound in stereo for listening to music, and even create a “surround sound” effect aurally. And do so at prices that are outrageously low compared to what they were just a few years ago.

But lost in all this is the importance of the subwoofer — for most people, this power pumping block of a woofer inside an unobtrusive cabinet seems unnecessary, especially since its placement in a corner means it never gathers the attention or respect it deserves. Until it gets turned on, that is — then it will get plenty of respect, not to mention the admiration of those listening who now benefit from what the sub is offering to the audio being played. But again, what is a subwoofer good for — why do we need it in our home theater? Lets start with a simple explanation.

A subwoofer is a speaker that dedicates itself to producing the low frequencies — the deep bass notes that fall out of the reproduction range of those speakers normally used for stereo reproduction; the type of speakers found in sound bars, for example. To reproduce the low-end bass, the cone’s movements must be allowed as it’s the air being generated and moved inside the cabinet producing the sound. That’s not happening with the speakers reproducing the mid and upper ranges or, to put it more simply, the dialogue and music being listened to when watching a TV show or movie (generally speaking). Additionally, the subwoofer is powered directly, it’s not passive as the main speakers are. It takes care of reproducing the deep bass that otherwise would tax an amplifier and speakers, who are doing their blessed best to take care of the mid-range and upper range audio efficiently. So the speakers and amplifier don’t get pushed towards trying to handle what they can’t handle and, as a direct result, audio distortions are minimized or eliminated altogether.

So a subwoofer makes for powerful sound. It can be placed under a couch or behind it, in a corner or out of the way because its sound is omnidirectional, rather than coming at the listener from point A to point B (with some bouncing around due to walls and floors inevitable but not fatal). The sub “fires” its sound either down or out from the front, depending on how it’s been constructed, but either way it’s going to sound great because it produces density in what it does. That’s not to say some adjustments won’t be needed — mostly a volume control on its back, since matching the “sound” of the sub to the other speakers isn’t an issue here.

Another point that makes the use of a subwoofer even easier today is their ability to “cut the cord” and go wireless. Most subwoofers will “connect” to the amplifier/speakers through a wireless connection, rather than the traditional use of a cable. Additionally, there are sound systems encased in “stands” you put your TV on, and which have subwoofers built into them. The advantage here is that you’re getting a full sound system as an all-in-one, which is both convenient as well as sensible for someone who is first putting their home theater together and doesn’t have room to dedicate to amplifier and speaker placement.

But regardless of whether the subwoofer is built in, part of a complete system or stands alone — its use will enhance the audio being listened to and make it more dynamic. And for those who can’t imagine watching a blockbuster movie filled with explosions without clutching at the sides of their heads as the bass pound unmercifully, this is what you’ve been waiting for.


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