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The Nerd Side Of Life

What Are Subwoofers and Why Do You Need One?

One thing’s for sure; subwoofer discussions are definitely not for the musical beginner. It brings a ton of related topics up for consideration, such as the size, ideal positioning, and problems associated with using the device. This often sheds a bad light on an accessory.

An accessory that has otherwise been proven to be a great addition to a stereo system and an essential part of a surround setup. Subwoofers also come in budget friendly options, so there are many good things about them.

Today, we’ll weed through some mixed opinions about this frequently misunderstood device to find out if it really does factor into achieving your audio goals.

What Is a Subwoofer?

First things first, let’s get to the bottom of what a subwoofer really is. It’s pretty much like any other speaker. In fact, you may even argue that it’s one of the simpler types of speakers available, considering that it has only a single driver.

It produces bass exclusively, which is a low-toned sound. Its frequency range also differs from one model to another.

Like there are powered and passive speakers, subwoofers also come in more subtle-sounding and powerful-sound-producing options. However, most subwoofers on the market are powered and, thus, come with a pre-configured amplifier. This part connects to the AV receiver via an audio cable rather than a speaker cable.

As for passive subwoofers, they’re usually a rarity. Though you can find them in exotic high-end soundbars or low-end setups, neither of which is particularly common. However, there’s a good reason for the passive subwoofer’s relative state of disuse. In general, subwoofers simply require a bit of power to meet their intended purpose, and passive units tend not to have that.

Power varies even among the more powerful subwoofer units, with different power ratings requiring specific electronics for optimal performance. The key to meeting gaps in power is to use an appropriate AV receiver. The less power your subwoofer has, the more powerful a receiver you need to operate it correctly.

Why Do Subwoofers Have a Lot of Power?

Bass sound production involves tons of air movement, requiring more power from a device. We’re talking about moving large soundwaves produced only by large drivers.

Nothing less than heavy-duty would do for providing optimal performance under these conditions. Thus, you’ll barely find subwoofers with drivers under eight inches being sold.

Eight to 12 inches is the most common driver size range. These accessories offer power and control to the same degree, allowing for clear and consistent bass audio. Choose an amplifier design that aligns best with your speaker for easier and more efficient control.

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Do You Need a Subwoofer?

Subwoofers aren’t exactly cheap, so you want to be sure you actually need one before making a purchase. “Doesn’t normal-speaker coverage include low tones, too?” Not quite.

Bass is an entirely different kind of low-sounding animal. They’re so hard to produce that even low-frequency-inclined column speakers can barely hit such lows. The lowest limit for these models is usually 40 Hz, mediocre bass at best.

You forcing speakers to go lower than they’re designed can lead to distortion, which is unpleasant. Smaller speakers can’t deliver low-frequency sounds optimally or at all. Again, don’t force the issue; otherwise, you could end up ruining the drivers and sending your amplifiers off to a burning death.

In a nutshell, you use a subwoofer to complement speakers that cannot reproduce low tones accordingly or pleasantly. It also provides a regular speaker respite from its other functions, which we know can take a lot of work in this case. Not producing basses allows your speakers to “breathe” and perform better at higher frequencies.

Problems You Can Expect

Using a subwoofer is not without its downsides. After all, it deals with high-energy bass sounds, sounds that can cause things to go wrong.

Subwoofers can produce strong vibrations that may cause your furniture to shake and decorations to fall over. They are also prone to delivering “room modes,” making their low-frequency sounds sound louder than the rest.

In particular, these issues surface when units are situated too close to walls or corners. While in regular speakers, such positioning results in early reflections, it leads to a phenomenon called “bass traps” in a subwoofer. What ensues is specific frequencies attenuate, thinning the sounds of the basses significantly. And, no, they do not sound pleasant.

Subwoofers Make a Difference

To the musically inclined, a subwoofer is a must if their normal speakers are less than all-encompassing. Even if they are, these units deserve some respite from the ever-laborious task of providing optimal bass performance on top of other functions.

Instead of leaving the entire audio system to your standard speakers, introduce a quality subwoofer into the equation to handle the bass sounds. You’ll find your sound system performs better and lasts longer this way.

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