In my strong opinion, a subwoofer should be audible and authoritative down to 20 hertz, and have a relatively flat frequency response while doing it. Not just make noise, but be heard clearly and powerfully. Simple enough, right?
Most commonly available ported subwoofers sold in stores do not have the ability to produce quality sound below 25-35 hertz. There is a “secret world of bass” where you can get subs that go down to 20 hertz with authority and clarity, and it’s fairly affordable, all things considered. You can spend over $5,000 on a sub that won’t reach 20 hertz. Why pay that much or more for something “incomplete”? I tend to gravitate to subwoofers that are more value based, and I list subwoofers that I would consider buying myself here: Best Subwoofers “The List”
Even a lot of high end professional ported subs used at theaters and concerts are only rated for 40 hertz, so what are you missing? The “WOW” feeling we all hope for. You won’t know it until you’ve heard it. The visceral feeling I get at home is more substantial than most movie theaters. That’s an insane statement, and it’s a LOT of fun!
Theaters may have more loudness, but for the home you can have more controlled deep bass with fewer bleeding eardrums, while still being able to go louder than I am personally comfortable with. I prefer sound quality over maximum volume. Some Imax theaters produce comfortably down to 23 hertz according to the video below. The most economical subwoofer I recommend is measurably comfortable at around 21 hertz, and clearly audible at 19 hertz. Amazing for a 10 inch driver, and absolutely uncommon.
It’s important to understand that frequency response numbers are commonly misleading, and a sub accurately rated for 19 hertz can trample all over a sub “factory rated” for 16 hertz. Confused? I was too, and seriously frustrated! I’ll try to simplify as much as I can. I’ll try give you the basics, show you some specific examples of quality subwoofers, and you can take it from there.
My goal is to help save my audience some time, money, and frustration. I don’t mean to make anyone feel bad about their current subwoofer, just bring your attention to what is available for when you do decide to upgrade. Spending good money on audio and getting that unsatisfied feeling is no fun. There are a lot of good brands out there, but the really great subwoofers are known to very few, or they are crazy expensive. I don’t focus on the crazy expensive, I’m more value conscious.
Have a look around, the subwoofer is not as simple as some might believe, and just because a brand is well known does not mean everything they offer is top notch. There are a handful of brands that produce excellence, and they will be discussed quite a bit.
The Audio Return Channel (ARC) can really simplify your HT setup. It requires your AVR (amplifier/receiver) and TV to both have the ARC option. It sends the sound from your TV to your AVR with an HDMI cable. The really nice part is that when I turn on my TV, my amp comes on automatically. Whether I use TV or AVR volume control, they both change at the same time. It’s a nice feature. For smart TVs that have Youtube and Netflix embedded, it makes a lot of sense.
However, when it comes to Blu Ray players, Roku players, etc… you may want to keep using your AVR to do the switching instead of your TV. Why?
Much to my embarrassment, I discovered that I was not getting full True HD or DTS Master like I thought I was, and most certainly not Dolby Atmos or DTS:X when running through the ARC. Some TV’s may pass through the lossless formats, but many do not, including my own LG 65UF8500 3D 4k TV.
I also found that on some players, like my Sony BDP S6500, you need to make adjustments before your AVR will receive lossless formats. See the video for more on that. Moral of the story? Don’t put too much faith in “the system”, I never imagined this could even be a problem.