What Is A Subwoofer

WHAT IS A SUBWOOFER?

A subwoofer is a loudspeaker which captures low pitched audio frequencies that ordinary electrostatic Speakers typically find difficult to convey (usually the bass) to give you that extra audio kick.  It enhances the ability of the human ear – via tehnology – to tune into and pick up sounds that would otherwise be lost. The typical audio frequency range is 20-200 hertz (the measurement of range of frequencies or musical tones a speaker can reproduce). Whilst a “powered subwoofer” includes a built-in amplifier to drive the speaker. First developed in the 1960’s and were generally back then much larger in size compared to modern versions came into greater popular consciousness in the 1970s with the introduction of Sensurround in movies. The range of pitch reproduced by Subwoofers vary in accordance with their specification ie size of enclosure, drivers and design. Common uses of subwoofers include installation in one’s car or, more commonly, for home use including musical instruments and computer use. The subwoofer is not usually considered a stand alone device but helps to fortify the higher pitched sound produced from the speakers. Subwoofers have reached great popularity due to their ability to pack a large, low frequency punch in a small spaces such as cars.

In conclusion, most users add a subwoofer because high levels of low bass are desired, beyond what is in the original recording, as in the case of house music enthusiasts. Subwoofers may be part of a package that includes satellite speakers, may be purchased separately, or may be built into the same cabinet as a conventional speaker system. For instance, some floor standing tower speakers include a subwoofer driver in the lower region of the same cabinet.

HOW MANY SUB WOOFERS
Many people struggle with the question of whether it is really necessary to buy more than one subwoofer for their listening enjoyment. There is no doubt that subwoofers have become an integral part of the home theatre experience whether that is for a clearer and deeper sound frequency for the television or because you desire that perfect bass for your musical tastes; jazz, rock and so on. The decision to Purchase multiple subwoofers also referred to as active or powered speakers does depend on the size of your room as well as budget and personal taste. In addition, bear in mind that it is not just the size of the room but an irregular shaped room that can affect the desired listening experience/ impact of your subwoofer too. It is in this instance that multiple subwoofers are generally beneficial.

MULTIPLE SUBWOOFERS

If you decide to go for multiple subwoofers, it is usually considered best to opt for the same brand often offered as “satellites” within a package purchase anyway. Or if you currently own a subwoofer you might experiment with different sizes which range from a 4 inch sub up to the more typical 12 inch sub.

WHERE TO PLACE THE SUBWOOFER

This can be tricky; however as a rule placement near a side wall tends to amplify bass response. You can get very technical here and use methods coined “the golden rectangle rule” whereby the distance of the subwoofer speaker from the side wall is 1.6 times the distance from the front wall. Therefore if the subwoofer is placed 4’ from the front wall; then the distance it should be from the side wall is 6.4’. If this is confusing, please do not worry about it, simply place a few inches away from a sidewall and take your time to experiment with the angle of the speaker.

SETTING THE CROSSOVER
For a floor standing main speaker set the cross over in the range 40hz-60hz, For smaller bookshelf sized speakers set at a slightly higher 50hz to 80hz. Also note that the phase control can affect the sound of your bass or lack of bass, so start at zero and adjust accordingly until you find the most pleasing setting.

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SUBWOOFER PLACEMENT BY STEVE GUTTENBERG: AN ALTERNTIVE VIEW

While your subwoofer’s deep bass is  non-directional, you can’t just stick the sub pretty much anywhere that’s  convenient without possibly forfeiting most of the quality you paid for.

REL’s $798 T2 sub(Credit: REL)

Finding the right spot in your room can make a dramatic difference in the way  your sub sounds. Corner placement is the de facto strategy for most people,  possibly because it’s out of the way and almost always produces the most bass,  but corner placement may not yield the most accurate bass (and/or smoothest  transition to the satellite speakers).

With small (8-inch tall or less) speakers it’s best to keep the sub within  three or four feet of the front left or right speakers. Once the sub is a lot  further away it’s just that much harder to maintain the illusion the bass is  coming from the speakers and not the sub. And that goes double for small home  theater in a box subwoofers, keep them as close as possible to the front  speakers. Oh, and don’t be shy about volume when you’re finding the right spot  for the sub, turn it up so it’s easier to hear what’s going on down there.

Some placement experimentation may be useful here, play a CD with lots of  deep bass and keep repeating the track as you move the sub to all of the  visually acceptable locations in your listening room. You’ll be amazed just how  different the bass will sound in different locations–some will be muddy, some  will sound louder, and some will reduce the bass volume. The goal is to get the  best balance of deep bass and still have mid and upper bass in equal  proportions. In some rooms that’s not all that hard to achieve, but I’ve heard  my share of “problem” rooms where the bass always sounds boomy/muddy.

In those cases try this method: move your couch or chair out of the way, or  into another room, and start with the sub in the listening position. Yes, I know  that sounds like a crazy idea, but it’s just for test purposes. Now play music  and movies with lots of bass, and take a little stroll around your room,  stopping in the spots where you’d like to place the sub. As you move about  you’ll notice the bass’ apparent loudness and definition changes from place to  place.

When all else fails, try locating the sub as close as possible to your couch  or chair, in what I call the “end table” position. That location can work  wonders.

Larger speakers are generally easier to match with subs, and small speakers  and/or speakers with 4-inch or smaller woofers, can require more fine-tuning to  get right.


 

Subwoofer Setup Part II:
Connectivity &  Fine-tuning

 

(Credit: Steve  Guttenberg)

The Hsu Research subwoofer’s rear  panel pictured on the right is fairly typical. To non-audiophiles the maze of  connectors can be intimidating, but in most instances the single cable “Sub In”  hookup is the easiest and best sounding method. You can see the Sub In here on  the Hsu’s rear panel; on other subs the input may be labeled “LFE,” “Direct,” or  “Bypass” (the red and black speaker level inputs and outputs’ uses may be  covered in a future blog).

To use the Sub/LFE input you’ll need a long interconnect cable; most consumer  electronics dealers stock these cables or try Radio Shack. How long is long  enough? Measure the distance between your A/V receiver and sub and remember to  include the distances up and down over doorways and furniture. Buying a cable  that’s a foot or two too short is a drag, and after you’ve opened the package  you may not be able to return it for a refund or exchange.

Next, turn the sub’s frequency/low pass crossover control knob to its  maximum, highest numerical setting (you’re going to rely on your A/V receiver’s  internal crossover control to route the mid and high frequencies to the speakers  and the bass to the sub).

You’ll find the receiver’s crossover setting in the speaker setup menu, and  on some receivers you’ll be presented with a wide range of settings from 40  Hertz up to as high as 200 Hz. Your speaker and/or subwoofer’s user manual may  offer specific guidance in this area; otherwise use the Audiophiliac’s crossover  recommendations–for small speakers with 2 or 3 inch woofers, try between 150  and 200 Hz; for midsize speakers with 4 or 5 inch woofers, use 80 or 100 Hz; and  with large bookshelf speakers or skinny floorstanding speakers, try a 60 or 80  Hz crossover.

If you’re lucky enough to have large floorstanding speakers with 8-inch or  larger woofers, you may wish to run them as “Large” speakers, without any  crossover. But your center and surround speakers will still likely work best run  as “Small” speakers, and benefit from the crossover settings referred to in the  previous paragraph.

One of the other subwoofer controls is marked “phase.” It’s provided because  the speakers and the subwoofer sound best when they are “in-phase” –meaning  their woofers move in and out in synch with each other. To check if your sub’s  phase is correct, play music with lots of bass, listen for a minute or so, and  have a friend sitting by the sub flip the sub’s 0/180� phase switch slowly  back and forth. The “correct” setting is the one that yields more bass. You may  have to try a few different recordings before you hear any difference, and it  might help to turn up the sub’s volume level a bit for this test. If you don’t  hear any difference between the “0″ and “180″ degree settings, just leave the  phase control in the “0″ position.

Setting subwoofer volume is next. Precisely matching the volume levels of the  left, center, right, and surround speakers is important, but bass volume is more  subjective. Some folks like to feel the sub working the room all the time–and  some prefer to only hear the sub’s contributions with big special effects driven  movies or dance music. A Sound Level Meter (such as Radio Shack’s Model 33-4050)  can be a big help when setting speaker level, but it’s nearly useless for  determining the sub’s correct volume level. The “by ear” method works best.

DVDs’ bass tends to be fairly consistent from one disc to the next, but CDs’  bass will vary a lot more. Adjust the volume (on the subwoofer itself or the  receiver, whichever is easier) as you play through a stack of discs. I can set  the sub’s volume level with DVDs in 10 minutes or less, but with CDs I might be  fiddling around days.

Auto setup A/V receivers can do a fine job with speakers, but most are less  adept with subs. Actually most auto setup receivers do a lousy job with subs.  Try readjusting the receiver’s crossover setting, check phase, and volume level.  If you don’t like the change, rerun the auto setup to return to your original  settings.

By the way  a later version of REL Subwoofer can be found here: – http://subwooferuk.com/rel-t9-subwoofer-high-gloss-piano-black.html

Originally posted at   How To

 

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