Monday, February 25, 2013

Do You Need A Subwoofer?

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Before I give you my opinion let me state that I am very conservative in my taste for bass. I am by no means a basshead. I am not a fan of RAP played at such intensity that my kidneys bleed and my heart skips every fourth beat, although I know just how to achieve that effect if desired.  Now, I am a major proponent of a subwoofer…IF it is a realistic sounding one.  I’m not a fan of the subwoofer that just HITS. For me personally, the sub has to do much more than create BOOM, THUMP or relentlessly and monotonously make unmusical and indiscriminant bass. On the other hand, I can’t live without one of those melodic Paul McCartney Hofner guitar runs or the vibrancy and attack in the bass guitar of Yes’ Roundabout or the really deep bass tracks in Genesis’ Selling England By The Pound. I want to hear the exact difference in pitch as the bass guitarist moves up and down the musical ladder. I want to be able to distinguish between a bass guitar being plucked or picked or the difference between an electric bass and a kick drum on the same song. I don’t want to miss out on the fundamental subsonic frequencies that add weight and sole to the original recording.    

So, the first reason for a subwoofer is the realistic reproduction of the music in its entirety. As you go lower into the musical scale you pass a threshold where the sound transitions from more of an audible sensation to more of a tactile sensation. What was strictly audible gives way to what is also feelable. How are you going to reproduce a 32-foot pipe organ without moving some serious air? The pipe organ certainly moved some air and can be felt deeply. And for plausible bass, if you are trying to reproduce a real instrument, then both the subwoofer and sub amplifier have to be working well within their limits. Exposing the limits of either speaker or amplifier quickly ruins the bass quality. You cannot reach these lower registers and get true authoritive bass with coaxial/components.

The second reason and maybe even bigger than the first, is that once you place the coaxial/components in the highpass mode (meaning the very lowest frequencies are filtered out) and relieve them of the longer bass excursions and notes that they can't effectively reproduce anyway; suddenly the fullrange speakers deliver far more clarity, dynamics and a sense of transparency. It also helps to limit the fullrange amplifier’s bandwidth and responsibility. Now there is more power and dynamic space available to reproduce the fullrange. Those long and wasted excursions by the coaxial/component midbass driver smear the midbass and midrange content.

In any playback medium, every higher frequency and upper harmonic is inherently modulated in a lower frequency. When you bi-amp with a separate subwoofer you are simplifying the signal that each amplifier and speaker is asked to reproduce and you are significantly raising the quality level of the fullrange.  

Earmark Car Audio

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