Do you need a subwoofer in your home audio system?
This is indeed one of the most common questions we all have when setting up an audio system or a home theatre system at home – do I need to add a subwoofer to my music system? Some audiophiles feel that it isn’t necessary and some swear by it. Home theatre aficionados usually say this is non-negotiable, especially if you’re a big Micheal Bay fan and won’t be able to truly appreciate the dubstep sound effects and earth-shaking explosions.
This brings up an important point. Many people also think subwoofers are just what young people turn up to make their homes sound like a discotheque, killing all the other frequencies for the sake of thumping, cacophonic bass. Of course, some people do use them like that, but it’s not where a subwoofer can truly shine. When set up properly, the effect is very subtle. The bass shouldn’t sound like it’s coming from your sub, but rather as an extension of your main speakers, giving them depth and size.
That said, it’s a purely personal preference. There are no rules except those set by your ears. But there are some use cases where a subwoofer is warranted, and others where they are less so. Today, we’ll break down a few instances where you might or might now want to consider subwoofers.
You probably don’t need subwoofers if…
You already have massive speakers
If you have big, high-end tower speakers like Wharfedale’s Evo 4.4 or Elysian 4, or even the Monitor 300 Floorstanding Speakers, you probably won’t need a subwoofer – especially if you have a well-treated listening room. These floorstanders have several large woofers and more air to move so they can reproduce a solid amount of bass without needing any help.
You don’t listen to bass-heavy music
If you listen to softer music that isn’t very heavy in bass and have medium-sized bookshelf speakers like the Diamond 12.2 or Castle Knight 2, or 3-way speakers like the Wharfedale Lintons, you probably won’t gain much with the addition of a subwoofer.
You don’t watch movies using your audio system
If your music setup is for easy listening, like we mentioned above, and not movie watching, you probably won’t need a subwoofer.
The bottom line being, if you are happy with the amount of bass your system currently provides, then you won’t need to include a subwoofer in it. But then, when does one need it?
You probably need a subwoofer if…
You want more BASS!
This is as obvious as it gets, of course. If you aren’t happy with the bass from your system, get a subwoofer. Most small bookshelf speakers like the Wharfedale Diamond 12.1 or Q Acoustics 3020i can’t reproduce lower frequencies very well and would need help to truly bring your music alive. If you look at the technical specifications of speakers, you’ll see entries like the one given below. With small speakers, you usually get a frequency response of 65 to 70 Hz with a bass extension going a little lower than that. That means you will be able to hear the bass but it won’t be very deep. Speakers with a lower frequency response of around 40 Hz can be adequate in ideally set up rooms, or if you aren’t a bass fiend. But that’s not always the case, as we’ll see in the next point.
Your room isn’t ideal
An ideal room is not an easy thing to have. After all, your room is probably not the same as the one where the speakers were tested by their creators. There are a variety of factors that can affect the sound and make the bass from your speakers sound less than ideal. Some rooms are oddly shaped, some are small, and in yet others, you simply can’t position your speakers where you want them. The result can often be where the bass dies or moves away from the listening position. Then, getting a subwoofer becomes essential.
You watch movies through your system or listen to bass-heavy music
Movies do need a frequency response that drops quite low, even to points where you can barely hear it but are supposed to feel it. That’s when a subwoofer, or two, can make a huge difference. If you also listen to bass-laden music or just love the thump and grind of a good bassline, you definitely should get a subwoofer.
Summing up…and an important note
Subwoofers aren’t essential but they can round out your listening experience beautifully.
One thing most people don’t realise about subwoofers is that they don’t just add bass to your music or movies. A good quality subwoofer, that has been set up well, can also give you a sense of being in the same room as a live performance by playing the room resonances that other speakers may not be able to represent faithfully. So they don’t just provide depth, they give your music a sense of scale.
We hope this helped you make your decision whether to sub or not to sub. Do you think we subwoofers are necessary or not? Let us know in the comments. We are planning more instructional posts on how to set up your subwoofer so you can get the most out of it, so bookmark our blogs and watch this space for more.