5 Things to Listen for When Choosing a Home Theater Subwoofer

A subwoofer is a purpose-built speaker designed to exclusively deliver bass, yet it may be the most important single part of any home theater. A properly designed subwoofer exploits the non-directionality of human low frequency perception, so a single subwoofer creates bass for all the other speakers in an audio system or home theater.

Low frequencies are critically important to the enjoyment of any music or cinematic content. The sounds the listener not only hears, but literally feels, and a huge part of the immediacy, excitement, and emotional impact of the source is contained there. But to unleash a truly convincing and immersive experience, the subwoofer must do its job properly.

Whereas choosing a full-range speaker is a highly personal and subjective decision, choosing the best subwoofer for you is a complete objective process. A great subwoofer must do its job in five highly objective and easily understood ways:

  1. Extreme Low Frequency Extension – One would think this is obvious, but the truth is, many subwoofers don’t have the ability to reproduce the deepest low frequencies, down to 20Hz and below, so they attempt to make up for it by exaggerating the mid-bass performance to address the deficit. This results in boomy, one-note bass and a less believable experience because it robs the listener of knowing what the artist or director really intended to present in the content. A world-class subwoofer delivers the deepest low frequencies in the content being played, sometimes at frequencies under 20Hz, which is below the level of human hearing. In this range, audio content can only be felt, and not heard at all!

  2. Produce Low Frequencies at the Highest Sound Pressure Levels (SPLs) – A world-class subwoofer plays effortlessly loud and distortion free, no matter how demanding the source material. Unlike passive speakers, subwoofers are self-contained ecosystems and make their own volume adjustments when a home theater or audio system is cranked up. Lesser subwoofers use amplifier limiting to cap output, resulting in the bass “disappearing” at the very moment you want it to kick in the most. This is meant to save the subwoofer from damaging its driver or amp, but it creates a deflating experience. The best subwoofers performs effortlessly with massive volume levels without clipping, bottoming out or cutting itself off.

  3. Accuracy in Frequency Response - World-class subwoofer bass should only include the exact frequencies you’re supposed to hear in the exact proportion contained in the source with complete faithfulness to the movie, music or other content. This is a hugely important factor in creating a convincing and believable home theater experience because it reflects what the artist or director intended you to hear and feel in its purest form without sounds and frequencies added by the subwoofer itself.

  4. Pinpoint Speed in Transients – This is frequently described as the subwoofers ability to “stop and start on a dime.” A great subwoofer has speed in musical and cinematic transients so it can keep pace with the content with no overhang or smearing. Lesser subwoofers have difficulty keeping up with full range speakers when complex basslines, aggressive action scenes and other full range content is presented, which results in a loss of detail. World-class subwoofers stop playing bass at the precise moment they’re supposed to and kick back in at the perfect moment so the sound is indistinguishable from the speaker output and everything plays in perfect unison.

  5. Blend Seamlessly with Full Range Speakers – As much as SVS loves subwoofers, no one wants to listen to only bass in their home theater or audio system. Proper home theater audio is about creating a total experience where the subwoofer serves as the low frequency foundation but never draws attention to the bass alone. Bass is omnidirectional and a subwoofer should energize or pressurize a room without overwhelming the soundstage or clearly announcing its location and presence in a distracting way. The best subwoofers adds a powerful and tactile sonic element that can’t be ignored, but always complements overall system performance.

From infectious bass guitar riffs and drum beats to attention-grabbing action movie and TV sound effects, a subwoofer unleashes low frequency content a speaker is simply not equipped to handle. And while some subwoofers merely add more bass, a world-class subwoofer elevates the listening experience in a unique and visceral way that makes everything you listen to more convincing and immersive, as if you’re onstage or in the middle of the action.

From our most compact sealed box SB-1000 subwoofer to the flagship ported box PB16-Ultra, all SVS subwoofers are engineered with the five key performance attributes driving our design philosophy. To make choosing a subwoofer as easy as possible, SVS offers a risk-free 45-day in-home trial with fast and free shipping and returns, so you can judge for yourself, in your own home, how a world-class subwoofer can impact your home audio experience.

If you’re ready to unleash world-class bass in your home theater or music system, start browsing all SVS subwoofers now.

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Jan 19, 2022