You are sitting down to watch your favorite movie or TV show in your theater, you see the scene set up for a big boom! You see the explosion but yet you don’t feel it. What happened? Your subwoofer is not outputting, and you feel as if your movie or show is now ruined. Well at this point there are only 2 options, you can see what you can do to repair it, or the more likely, replace it. What do you look for in a subwoofer? How much do you budget for?
There are so many manufacturers and types of subwoofers we must first look at the room and system you are using to drive the subwoofer. In certain size dedicated theaters, you can have the option of having more than 1 subwoofer. Having more than one allows for an even distribution of low-end sound instead of having hot spots close to where you have the subwoofer placed and cold spots further away. A lot of times people think you need to have the subwoofer turned up loud to make a difference. When you do that you actually cover up a lot of sounds that you need and of course, piss off a neighbor or 2. Without getting deep into technicalities, if you are in a large room or dedicated theater, having 2 subwoofers may be a good option. A multi-purpose or family room may be a good place for 2 subwoofers and having it equalized to the main sitting area. Remember placing the subs in the front or rear corners are the best choices. If you are having more than one, having the second one on the opposite corner is optimal. Also, have a look at the room’s walls, ceiling, and floor. If there are a lot of reflective surfaces, like a hard surface floor or lots of windows, you may need to consider adding carpets or blinds on the windows. The sound of your speakers and especially your subwoofer has the ability to echo. This will add false sound and will possibly make your system sound bad or out of sync with what you are watching.
Next few things to consider, how are you driving the subwoofer? Directly from the Surround Sound Receiver? Subwoofers have several types to power them, a built-in power amplifier or a separate amplifier feeding it. If you have a built-in subwoofer, remember to have power and proper ventilation for the amplifier. Having a separate amplifier from the subwoofer allows it to have more of its overall size dedicated to producing and reverberating the sound back out to you. Do not enclose a subwoofer inside of a cabinet that does not breath. A proper subwoofer will move a lot of air when they are at their peaks in performance. If you have a subwoofer with a separate amplifier, having the proper cable run to it will also help with the performance of it as it will have the correct amount of power when it is needed. Review the article written about speaker wire gauges.
Let’s look at budget versus performance. When working on your system, everyone’s budget is different! I am not writing this to say if you do not spend a certain amount of money on your subwoofers you will not have a proper setup. Instead, I am saying, spend your money wisely on what you are trying to achieve. If you want to have 2 subwoofers, then you will need the amplification necessary to drive the correct power needed for those subwoofers. Another thought is to step into what you are trying to achieve piece by piece. Also, realize that how much you spend on your amplification and subwoofer will directly relate to how it sounds. Let’s look at 2 different subwoofers and the difference in their performance. First look is at a Klipsch 10” subwoofer, its frequency response rate is 32Hz to 120Hz at +/- 3dB. That subwoofer is priced at $250 and offers 300 watts of power. A second subwoofer we could look at is the Velodyne 15” subwoofer with its 17Hz to 120Hz at a 3dB frequency response. This subwoofer is about $4000.00 and offers a powered amplifier built in at 3000 watts. I am a huge fan of Bowers & Wilkins subwoofers, so I will use them for the final subwoofer to show. They offer several subwoofers to choose from, but the one I am looking at offers 10Hz to 350Hz at -3dB. This subwoofer is around $4500 for 2000 watts of power. Looking at the response frequency’s the lower the better! This is where you begin the feel the sound of your favorite movie or show. Each of these mentioned subwoofers offers nice finishes so they will look good sitting out of a cabinet. There are other types of subwoofers that can be installed inside a wall with a speaker grill on it, so it doesn’t take up floor space. Others that can be placed in a different cabinet and use port tubing to then disperse the sound out a small grill face. Each year, more and more companies are coming out with new technology to make subwoofers sounds good. I would recommend not getting the budget subwoofers as their performance will be disappointing but jumping to the several-thousand-dollar subwoofers is not “needed” but if it can be afforded, you won’t be disappointed.
Enjoy your search for an amazing subwoofer to bring your home theater to life and make you feel the movie or show you are watching!
Links in the above article are used to show visual examples of items discussed as well as possible pricing knowledge or pricing comparisons. Some links also give direct links to the manufacturers spoken about.