When building a home theater surround sound system, there are many upgrades you can spend big bucks on in the never-ending quest for immersive audio excellence.
In this article, we’ll explore why subwoofers are perhaps the most crucial to extracting the full emotional, sonic, and physical experience from your system.
What is a subwoofer?
Before we get into why subwoofers are important, let’s define what they are. A subwoofer is a speaker designed specifically to reproduce low-frequency sounds, typically below 120 Hz.
Most home audio subwoofers are powered, meaning they have a built-in amplifier that powers the motor and driver to create musical bass and LFEs (low frequency effects). The amplifier receives a signal directly from an AV receiver, powered speaker, integrated amp, or preamplifier connected via RCA, speaker, or XLR cables. For a deeper dive on all things bass and subwoofers, check out this article.
Why are Subwoofers the Best Home Theater Upgrade?
There are six reasons why home theater subwoofers make such a dramatic impact. They fill in the frequencies that normal speakers struggle to produce, they add depth and impact to the listening experience, they improve speaker’s dynamic output by reducing the strain up producing bass, they free up power from the AV receiver, they allow for better system volume control, and they add visceral energy to the experience, literally letting you “feel” sound. Read on below for more detailed explanations.
Why are Subwoofers so Important?
There are several reasons why subwoofers are crucial to a home theater or stereo setup. Often, new owners will note their speakers and system never sounded (or felt) better after adding a subwoofer. It elevates performance in a unique and important way that no other component can duplicate.
- Fill in where speakers struggle, deep bass frequencies Most speakers, including bookshelf speakers and tower speakers, are incapable of reproducing low frequencies with the same accuracy and weight as a subwoofer because the drivers lack the surface area and power to move enough air for deep, visceral sonic output. Without a subwoofer, you miss out on the full range of sound in your content.
- Add depth and impact to the listening experience Low-frequency sounds, such as explosions in movies or the deep notes in a bass guitar add a sense of depth and impact to the listening experience. Without a subwoofer, these sounds will be lacking in emphasis or clarity, or absent altogether. Not what the artist or director intended! Today’s cinematic blockbusters, video games, and music use bass to convey emotion, intrigue, impact you will not get to fully experience those mood-altering effects without a sub.
- Subwoofers take the strain off other speakers When set up correctly, subwoofers handle the low frequency output for every speaker in a home theater system, whether it’s stereo, 5.1 surround sound or some other configuration. By handling the low-frequencies, subwoofers reduce the strain on speakers. This allows the fronts, center, and surround sound speakers to focus on the midrange and high frequencies, where they excel, and not with bass, where they struggle. This is why many people claim their speakers sound better than ever with a subwoofer.
- Reduce power load from AV receiver and other sources Since home theater subs are generally powered and include their own amplifiers, it reduces the wattage demands on an AV receiver or preamplifier. This means more power can be diverted to the fronts, center channel, surround, or Dolby Atmos speakers. This, in turn boosts their dynamic output while reducing distortion. Or, in short, you can play the system louder while maintaining clarity.
- They allow for better volume control With a subwoofer, you can adjust the volume of the low-frequency sounds separately from the other speakers. This allows you to fine-tune sound levels and also avoid distortion at high volumes. It also gives more flexibility if you really want to shake the foundation!
- Subwoofers bring “feeling” to the cinematic experience Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, subwoofers are essential for creating a cinematic experience. Low-frequency effects, such as the rumble of a spaceship, the roar of a dinosaur, or the sense of ominous foreboding from an eerie bassline adds an extra layer of immersion you can’t get from any other audio component.
Bass involves sound you can feel but not always here (typically below 20Hz), and subwoofers bring you as close as possible to the experience of actually “being there” physicallyA post shared by SVS | Speakers & Subwoofers (@svs_sound)
How to Choose a Subwoofer
Once you’ve decided to add a subwoofer to your system, there are many factors to consider. If you’re just getting started, we’ve linked to some additional resources below.
- Tips for Choosing the Best Home Theater Subwoofer
- Ported vs. Sealed Subwoofers: A Comparison
- Why Go Dual Subwoofers
- SVS Subwoofer Matching Tool
Once you’ve narrowed it down, SVS makes it easy to test a subwoofer in your system with a 45-day risk-free trial and free shipping and returns. Have additional questions? Leave them in the comments or contact the SVS Sound Experts 7-days-a-week at email@example.com, 877.626.5623, or via chat. We’re standing by to help.