- Subwoofers are a type of speaker that boost the lowest frequencies in whatever audio you’re listening to.
- These low frequencies usually include bass guitars, pipe organs, deep voices, kick drums, and movie sound effects.
- Subwoofers are incredibly popular for home theater and car stereo systems, and are easy to set up.
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How many speakers do you own? If you count your phone, computer, TV, car — there’s probably more than you think. Speakers are basic equipment for anyone who wants to listen to music, watch TV, or even browse the internet.
But for audiophiles who value having a quality sound system, speakers aren’t so basic. Deciding what equipment you’ll need for the best sound possible can get complicated, especially if you’re new to audio tech.
One of the best kinds of speakers you can get to immediately enhance your sound is a subwoofer. These reinforce the bass and richness of whatever you listen to.
Here’s everything to know about subwoofers, including how they work, where to use them, and what kind to get.
What is a subwoofer?
Every sound in the world has a frequency. Higher-pitched sounds have higher frequencies, and vice versa.
Regular speakers and surround sound systems can’t properly reproduce low frequency sounds. This makes a lot of music and movies sound flat.
A subwoofer (or “sub”) focuses on producing the lower frequencies within music, known as the bass and sub-bass, amplified through the woofer.
While regular speakers can allow you to hear the bass, a subwoofer enables the listener to feel the sound. The frequency range, specifically between 20 to 200 hertz, highlights instruments within that range like bass guitars, pipe organs, and kick drums. It also enhances deep voices and movie sound effects like explosions.
If you’ve ever gone to a movie theater and felt your chair shake when something big happens on screen, it’s probably because of subwoofers.
Depending on what devices you already have for your sound system, a subwoofer may be the perfect addition. Subs take away the strain your speakers are under to reproduce the audio’s complete sound, allowing you to not only hear but feel how a director or artist intended for you to experience their work.
How subwoofers work
It can be confusing to understand how a subwoofer works. If you haven’t seen one in action, know that they’re strong enough to send ripples through a glass of water or vibrations down your spine.
Subwoofers utilize speaker drives, or “woofers,” (yes, like a dog) within a specific diameter size. Variables like the subwoofer’s base size or the targeted frequency will determine the woofer’s overall size.
The sound and sensation that subwoofers can achieve are because of components that allow you to reduce or boost the output of particular frequencies, ensuring that woofer cones on the subwoofer and speakers are moving in sync.
Where to use a subwoofer
Deciding what kind of subwoofer you need may take some time. But here are a few tips for those looking to add a subwoofer to either a home theater or car stereo system.
Home theater subwoofer
In general, a home theater subwoofer integrates into your central sound system, increasing the width and depth of a system’s soundstage.
The sound waves created are omnidirectional and bounce around the room. Both the room size and furniture arrangement can affect audio, with bass frequencies being sensitive to room factors. There’s a chance the waves bounce into each other, making standing waves or bass nulls.
- Standing waves: These waves are determined by the size of the room and length of the soundwave, creating an excess of bass energy producing a ‘boomy’ effect that lacks definition.
- Bass nulls: Occurs when reflecting soundwaves cancel each other out, creating a dead spot.
Installing a subwoofer into your home might take some work. Try placing it in different spots around the room, like corners surrounded by a sound-absorption device or a filled bookshelf to help reinforce the bass. Understanding the environmental factors in your home, like its natural acoustics, will help you find the optimal position for your home theater.