Speakers

Why You Should Include a Subwoofer in Every Room

Subwoofers are the most overlooked element in multiroom audio applications, says Mike Jordan of SnapAV.

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8 Comments
Posted by Adroit1 on July 20, 2018

I find it funny that the wife acceptance was included in this because I have that issue. While I try to sell subwoofers into all my clients’ homes, I can’t turn mine on in my home office, where a beautiful Dolby Atmos system is set up, when she is home. There are 2 in the room, but I have to have them off when she is home. If I want to listen to loud, good sound when she is home, I am forced to go to my $600 headphones, that she, gladly paid for.She is so sensitive to lower frequencies, she sometimes complains about the Heos players throughout the house. Fortunately, the vast majority of my clients don’t have that issue. It is helpful that in wall subwoofers have progressed because the biggest complaint about subwoofers I get is the amount of floorspace they take up.

Posted by Richard G on July 20, 2018

Someone from a company that sells subwoofers believes that more people should buy subwoofers? Do the math!

Posted by highfigh on July 21, 2018

How do you hide a sub outdoors when the area with speakers has nowhere to hide one? How do you hide a sub indoors when someone doesn’t want to see it and the room isn’t conducive to hiding one?

How do you prevent people in one part of the house being exposed to the bass when they’re listening to something else, engaged in quiet activities or trying to sleep? Anyone who knows about sound and acoustics knows bass is almost impossible to block without spending a lot of time and money.

Posted by RobMacK on July 22, 2018

highfigh: plenty of companies offer outdoor subs that can be buried (Sonance’s SLS and Sonarray series; James’ extensive outdoor/buried subs; Triad’s Garden Array…). Granted the “mushroom cap” is not the most attractive thing but it works. Indoor subs: I’ve used Sonance’s ISW series, Stealth Acoustics’ B-series as well as the James Powerpipe series. The latter are very good at providing bass in rooms where you need “directed” low frequency. But yes, bass mitigation is v hard- I’ve even used Rockmat and/or Dynamat to isolate “troublemaking” subs and it does work quite well.

Posted by highfigh on July 22, 2018

@Rob- well aware of those but if you put one of those in the ground near a sitting area that doesn’t have any place to hide it and you’ll probably be asked to remove it, regardless of how good it sounds. Also, landscapers aren’t much different from interior detonators- they want the results to be a testament to their design prowess and don’t care about the results of our work. Sometimes, they’ll make allowances, but when their ego is in full bloom, we end up with the short straw.

Unless you have weatherproof seals around doors, all of the Dynamat in the world won’t cure the problem completely unless the problem was only sound transmission through walls, ceilings and/or floors and even then, it’s sometimes necessary to use some kind of dampening material between the sub cabinet and floor.

Posted by jrbishop on August 1, 2018

Ah yes, Bass the final frontier.
Another way to consider this is from the end user’s perspective. What is the music performance level we’d like to achieve?

That doesn’t mean we’re pitching subs, we’re addressing the quality of the music experience.
In some of these ‘architectural speaker’ examples were talking about a $500 or perhaps a $1,000 package. I’m not sure how important a subwoofer pitch is in a $500 system context, but that’s another topic.

The James Loudspeaker package might be $1,000 to $5,000 for a system depending on the level of the satellites (Quad Tweeter Array with Power Pipe for example) so what might be the selling strategy?

I see it as a HiFi pitch; Bookshelf speakers can be $500/pair or $5,000/pair and both may be limited to an 8 1/2 octave bandwidth. But the higher priced system would have much better accuracy, dynamic headroom and lack of resonances within the system. A better musical listening experience. Floor standing speakers may run into the same price range but would move closer to a 10 octave bandwidth. Both are valid, and the latter, with response down to say 25Hz or so will allow bass transmission to other rooms as LF isolation is challenging. But a full bandwidth experience is far better. And volume controls are always available!

In Architectural Entertainment System designs the goal is to be as accurate, dynamic and artifact free as the best free-standing systems within the same price class.
Integrating them attractively is what our industry is all about. And that goal has driven companies like James Loudspeaker to offer so many subwoofer sizes and formats (with a vast array of interface registers & grilles), and clever satellite designs that allow integration of 8 ½ octave stand alone satellites from small aperture lighting system style grilles in the ceiling. The important performance factor is that these speakers offer that 8 1/2 octave performance from a 3” opening. That’s the trick, and clients who appreciate the art of music as much as their interior design usually come our way, and happily pay for a superior experience and aesthetic in the process.
Better living through music and a beautiful interior at the same time!
Just a thought on this timely topic.
Cheers,

Posted by highfigh on August 1, 2018

As great as some of these systems sound, the question needs to be asked- “Will they actually care about the differences in sound, or are they trying to make the statement that a lot of money was spent on this?”.

One good way to find the answer can be to start by looking into the other equipment in their house(s), to determine the level of quality. If asked, they may tell us that they want great sound but if they’re using a HTIB that has dinky speakers in a room that’s a bad match for it, they haven’t been hearing great sound, so what we provide, while full-range and dynamic, will likely be called ‘bassy’, thumping, annoying and “I don’t like it because I hear it in other parts of the house”. Outside, we need to be careful that the sound doesn’t annoy the neighbors, regardless of the fact that it sounds live and kick-ass. If they can only play it at a whisper, what good did it do to sell/install the better system? Conversely, we need to find out how they’ll use it, because it could go the opposite way- we may interpret “We won’t play it very loud” as fact, when they really want to re-create Woodstock or Lollapalooza.

We need to ask a lot of questions and pay attention to what we’re told, often re-stating the questions that seem to have been answered without the info we need.

Who, here, hasn’t had a single customer ask “What’s all that rumbling?” after we installed what we know is a great subwoofer, but they have never heard (except maybe, at a stop light)?

Posted by Richard Stoerger on August 10, 2018

Mike Jordan is correct in noting that dealers might be leaving money on the table when it comes to providing customers with a warm audio experience that includes great bass sound.  But there is more than one way to skin this cat.  As John Bishop noted in his comment, it is not as if custom installers are often selling cheap and underperforming speakers.

More important than just adding a subwoofer is the need to properly power the main loudspeakers.  And here, a high-current power amplifier will more accurately drive speakers than a voltage driven amplifier, especially in-wall or in-ceiling speakers that often lack a proper enclosure. 

Power is an equation of Voltage x Current and as such, while a great many amplifiers keep the current low and throttle power by raising and lowering voltage levels, constant-voltage high-current amplifiers maintain a steady and low voltage level and achieve similar power by throttling current levels.  So are both W/Ch equal, especially when the speakers are drawing between 7 and 12 Watts (the typical power used for multi-room audio playback)?

The answer is NO!  While it doesn’t take much power to actuate a tweeter, the larger magnetic element, the woofer will respond more accurately and affectively when driven by current.  The end result is deeper, richer bass from the exact same speaker.  A simple analogy is that of a lantern and car battery.  Both output 12 Volts and both will make a 12V light bulb (the tweeter) shine bright.  But the lantern battery won’t turnover the car engine (the woofer) because it doesn’t output enough current.

Back when my daughters were still having sleepovers, parents were picking up the kids in the vestibule right off of our kitchen.  On one occasion, a father came in and asked me the “million dollar” question for a life-long multi-room dude.  He asked, “Do you have a subwoofer in your kitchen?”

His one question immediately told me that he understood not only multi-room audio but also sound-reinforcement using subwoofers.  I proudly responded no, that my 15 year-old ADA system was driving $100/pair 2-way six-inch in-ceiling speakers without a sub.  “Proudly” because this gentleman quickly learned what we at ADA have been all about, great sound even at background audio levels.  Mind you, in addition to the ADA high-current amplifier, my ADA preamplifier also featured our custom active loudness contour circuit that enhances bass at low volume levels and as the volume is increased, the effect of the filter rolls off.  Cheap speakers without a subwoofer but still awesome bass at background audio levels.

No doubt there are other multi-room electronic manufactures that provide components that deliver high-current power.  But with so many amplifiers now featuring low-current Class-D designs, it is no wonder that many are not getting the bass response from speakers that could easily do better.

8 Comments
Posted by Richard Stoerger on August 10, 2018

Mike Jordan is correct in noting that dealers might be leaving money on the table when it comes to providing customers with a warm audio experience that includes great bass sound.  But there is more than one way to skin this cat.  As John Bishop noted in his comment, it is not as if custom installers are often selling cheap and underperforming speakers.

More important than just adding a subwoofer is the need to properly power the main loudspeakers.  And here, a high-current power amplifier will more accurately drive speakers than a voltage driven amplifier, especially in-wall or in-ceiling speakers that often lack a proper enclosure. 

Power is an equation of Voltage x Current and as such, while a great many amplifiers keep the current low and throttle power by raising and lowering voltage levels, constant-voltage high-current amplifiers maintain a steady and low voltage level and achieve similar power by throttling current levels.  So are both W/Ch equal, especially when the speakers are drawing between 7 and 12 Watts (the typical power used for multi-room audio playback)?

The answer is NO!  While it doesn’t take much power to actuate a tweeter, the larger magnetic element, the woofer will respond more accurately and affectively when driven by current.  The end result is deeper, richer bass from the exact same speaker.  A simple analogy is that of a lantern and car battery.  Both output 12 Volts and both will make a 12V light bulb (the tweeter) shine bright.  But the lantern battery won’t turnover the car engine (the woofer) because it doesn’t output enough current.

Back when my daughters were still having sleepovers, parents were picking up the kids in the vestibule right off of our kitchen.  On one occasion, a father came in and asked me the “million dollar” question for a life-long multi-room dude.  He asked, “Do you have a subwoofer in your kitchen?”

His one question immediately told me that he understood not only multi-room audio but also sound-reinforcement using subwoofers.  I proudly responded no, that my 15 year-old ADA system was driving $100/pair 2-way six-inch in-ceiling speakers without a sub.  “Proudly” because this gentleman quickly learned what we at ADA have been all about, great sound even at background audio levels.  Mind you, in addition to the ADA high-current amplifier, my ADA preamplifier also featured our custom active loudness contour circuit that enhances bass at low volume levels and as the volume is increased, the effect of the filter rolls off.  Cheap speakers without a subwoofer but still awesome bass at background audio levels.

No doubt there are other multi-room electronic manufactures that provide components that deliver high-current power.  But with so many amplifiers now featuring low-current Class-D designs, it is no wonder that many are not getting the bass response from speakers that could easily do better.

Posted by highfigh on August 1, 2018

As great as some of these systems sound, the question needs to be asked- “Will they actually care about the differences in sound, or are they trying to make the statement that a lot of money was spent on this?”.

One good way to find the answer can be to start by looking into the other equipment in their house(s), to determine the level of quality. If asked, they may tell us that they want great sound but if they’re using a HTIB that has dinky speakers in a room that’s a bad match for it, they haven’t been hearing great sound, so what we provide, while full-range and dynamic, will likely be called ‘bassy’, thumping, annoying and “I don’t like it because I hear it in other parts of the house”. Outside, we need to be careful that the sound doesn’t annoy the neighbors, regardless of the fact that it sounds live and kick-ass. If they can only play it at a whisper, what good did it do to sell/install the better system? Conversely, we need to find out how they’ll use it, because it could go the opposite way- we may interpret “We won’t play it very loud” as fact, when they really want to re-create Woodstock or Lollapalooza.

We need to ask a lot of questions and pay attention to what we’re told, often re-stating the questions that seem to have been answered without the info we need.

Who, here, hasn’t had a single customer ask “What’s all that rumbling?” after we installed what we know is a great subwoofer, but they have never heard (except maybe, at a stop light)?

Posted by jrbishop on August 1, 2018

Ah yes, Bass the final frontier.
Another way to consider this is from the end user’s perspective. What is the music performance level we’d like to achieve?

That doesn’t mean we’re pitching subs, we’re addressing the quality of the music experience.
In some of these ‘architectural speaker’ examples were talking about a $500 or perhaps a $1,000 package. I’m not sure how important a subwoofer pitch is in a $500 system context, but that’s another topic.

The James Loudspeaker package might be $1,000 to $5,000 for a system depending on the level of the satellites (Quad Tweeter Array with Power Pipe for example) so what might be the selling strategy?

I see it as a HiFi pitch; Bookshelf speakers can be $500/pair or $5,000/pair and both may be limited to an 8 1/2 octave bandwidth. But the higher priced system would have much better accuracy, dynamic headroom and lack of resonances within the system. A better musical listening experience. Floor standing speakers may run into the same price range but would move closer to a 10 octave bandwidth. Both are valid, and the latter, with response down to say 25Hz or so will allow bass transmission to other rooms as LF isolation is challenging. But a full bandwidth experience is far better. And volume controls are always available!

In Architectural Entertainment System designs the goal is to be as accurate, dynamic and artifact free as the best free-standing systems within the same price class.
Integrating them attractively is what our industry is all about. And that goal has driven companies like James Loudspeaker to offer so many subwoofer sizes and formats (with a vast array of interface registers & grilles), and clever satellite designs that allow integration of 8 ½ octave stand alone satellites from small aperture lighting system style grilles in the ceiling. The important performance factor is that these speakers offer that 8 1/2 octave performance from a 3” opening. That’s the trick, and clients who appreciate the art of music as much as their interior design usually come our way, and happily pay for a superior experience and aesthetic in the process.
Better living through music and a beautiful interior at the same time!
Just a thought on this timely topic.
Cheers,

Posted by highfigh on July 22, 2018

@Rob- well aware of those but if you put one of those in the ground near a sitting area that doesn’t have any place to hide it and you’ll probably be asked to remove it, regardless of how good it sounds. Also, landscapers aren’t much different from interior detonators- they want the results to be a testament to their design prowess and don’t care about the results of our work. Sometimes, they’ll make allowances, but when their ego is in full bloom, we end up with the short straw.

Unless you have weatherproof seals around doors, all of the Dynamat in the world won’t cure the problem completely unless the problem was only sound transmission through walls, ceilings and/or floors and even then, it’s sometimes necessary to use some kind of dampening material between the sub cabinet and floor.

Posted by RobMacK on July 22, 2018

highfigh: plenty of companies offer outdoor subs that can be buried (Sonance’s SLS and Sonarray series; James’ extensive outdoor/buried subs; Triad’s Garden Array…). Granted the “mushroom cap” is not the most attractive thing but it works. Indoor subs: I’ve used Sonance’s ISW series, Stealth Acoustics’ B-series as well as the James Powerpipe series. The latter are very good at providing bass in rooms where you need “directed” low frequency. But yes, bass mitigation is v hard- I’ve even used Rockmat and/or Dynamat to isolate “troublemaking” subs and it does work quite well.

Posted by highfigh on July 21, 2018

How do you hide a sub outdoors when the area with speakers has nowhere to hide one? How do you hide a sub indoors when someone doesn’t want to see it and the room isn’t conducive to hiding one?

How do you prevent people in one part of the house being exposed to the bass when they’re listening to something else, engaged in quiet activities or trying to sleep? Anyone who knows about sound and acoustics knows bass is almost impossible to block without spending a lot of time and money.

Posted by Richard G on July 20, 2018

Someone from a company that sells subwoofers believes that more people should buy subwoofers? Do the math!

Posted by Adroit1 on July 20, 2018

I find it funny that the wife acceptance was included in this because I have that issue. While I try to sell subwoofers into all my clients’ homes, I can’t turn mine on in my home office, where a beautiful Dolby Atmos system is set up, when she is home. There are 2 in the room, but I have to have them off when she is home. If I want to listen to loud, good sound when she is home, I am forced to go to my $600 headphones, that she, gladly paid for.She is so sensitive to lower frequencies, she sometimes complains about the Heos players throughout the house. Fortunately, the vast majority of my clients don’t have that issue. It is helpful that in wall subwoofers have progressed because the biggest complaint about subwoofers I get is the amount of floorspace they take up.