Understanding speakers doesn’t only mean knowing how they work when they’re hooked up to your gear. As an audiophile it also means understanding speaker specifications.
Subwoofers for example have various specifications that one need be aware of before purchasing them.
In this post I’m going to discuss frequency response with regard to subs.
Frequency response is simply the ability of the subwoofer to handle frequencies applied to it. This measure is used to characterize the dynamics of a system.
Without further ado, let’s get into the meaty part of this post.
What is the best frequency response for a subwoofer?
A subwoofer is a device that is meant to provide the sub or low frequencies. Therefore, the best frequency response for a sub is anything lower than 60 Hz, preferably 50 Hz and below.
A good subwoofer rating, would be 20Hz to 120Hz because this means that the sub can handle and produce pretty much all the needed low end frequencies.
The human ear can only pick up frequencies from 20Hz to 20Khz so there’s really no point in worrying about what’s below 20Hz because we can’t hear it.
Frequency range explained
All sounds have a frequency which is simply how high or how low they are. Frequency is measured in Hertz (Hz), and for subwoofers, being able to understand frequency is important.
Bass notes have a low frequency, therefore, the best subwoofer is one that is capable of reaching the lowest possible frequency.
Human beings can hear down to about 20Hz, which means that the closer a sub can get to these low frequencies, the better.
Some subwoofers can manage to reach down to 25Hz, although the more expensive ones can reach as low as 16Hz.
If you’re an audiophile doing surgical audio work, it’s best you always try to go for a subwoofer that reaches 25Hz.
If bass isn’t really your thing, you can settle for a sub that can reach 50Hz and still be able to get some good low end out of it.
You’ll obviously have to pay more for a lower frequency floor, so take that into account when buying a subwoofer.
When setting up or buying a subwoofer, it’s also important to take note of the highest frequency it can put out.
This point is called the crossover, and is where your regular speakers stop producing sound, and your subwoofer starts.
Other things to consider when choosing subwoofer
Below are some other things that you need to take into consideration when looking to get a subwoofer.
Size of the subwoofer is something you need to consider because the range and quality of bass is to a large extent determined by the size of your driver, which is basically the subwoofer’s speaker (the circular cone that creates sound)
Moving low frequencies through air requires a lot of energy.
Therefore, The bigger the sub speaker, the more energy it can handle and essentially put out.
Therefore, pay attention to this and determine what the right size of subwoofer you need for your intended use.
One thing that most people don’t speak about when discussing subwoofers is sound quality.
In truth, sound quality is of vital importance.
However, sound quality has to be accounted for with regard to other considerations such as the size, power output and frequency range of the subwoofer.
Don’t let price fool you into thinking you’re getting a sub with great output quality. Consider the things I’ve listed above as well and then make your purchase decision.
It’s not worth spending tons of money on something just because you perceive high prices as high quality.
You also need to pay attention to the watts or wattage which is usually listed on the specs of the subwoofer.
There are usually two kinds of wattage that are listed; Peak and RMS.
Peak is just the measure of highest power a subwoofer can put out when you turn the volume all the way to the maximum.
You need to pay more attention to the RMS or the Root Mean Square which is simply the continuous wattage.
The RMS is an important spec to look at because it gives you a general idea of how much power a subwoofer is able to put out when it is pushed to a high volume over extended or long periods of time.
Wattage doesn’t really mean or equal volume. So in essence a high wattage means that the subwoofer can play audio that is free of distortion at high volumes.
This essentially means that you will pay more for higher wattage figures.
As a general rule, most people will be entirely happy with a wattage in the range of 150-500 watts, which balances good power output and a reasonable budget.
Front or down firing sub
You also have to know whether you’re dealing with a front or down firing sub.
So let’s get into these two.
A front-firing subwoofer has its main driver or cone facing forward.
A down-firing one has the driver or speaker cone on the underside of the subwoofer, pointed down into the floor.
There’s really very little differences between the two.
The one you ultimately go for should be determined by where you plan on placing your subwoofer.
If you know your sub is going to be closer to the main speakers, then you may want to go for a front-firing subwoofer.
But again, you can choose either one without running into a lot of problems.
If you want to boost the bass performance even further, then get a subwoofer with passive radiators.
These are unpowered drivers that usually point out from the sides of the subwoofer and they can help carry your bass overall.
They may cost a little more, but the output is worth it.