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Subwoofers Buying Guide

If you really want to feel the movie  action, be moved by your music  and immersed in the sounds of your television  programs, subwoofers may be the perfect addition to your home theatre .  These nifty sound system  accessories allow you to get an awesome bass sound that can't be produced by your run of the mill speakers , as they only play the attention-grabbing low frequencies of your favourite soundtracks.  Subwoofers come in all shapes and sizes, allowing you to place them in any part of the room to achieve the best sound quality possible.

Sub Sizes

Many speaker systems today have built-in subwoofers to try to create a more realistic sound and feeling when it comes to everything from explosions to gunshots and dance beats.  But these subwoofers are often very small, entry-level models that end up working more to round out the sound of satellite speakers  than anything else. So to get that truly tactile experience you're looking for, you may have to add a powered subwoofer to the mix.  This is especially true for larger full-range speakers and bookshelf speakers that could really benefit from a subwoofer to give the home theatre the extra oomph it needs.  Subwoofers with larger cabinets and drivers produce deeper bass sounds than smaller subwoofer units, so it's always important to match your subs to the set of speakers you already have.  

  • Small surround sound speakers work best with an added 20 cm woofer.
  • Large surround sound speakers work best with 25 to 30 cm woofers.

Passive Versus Powered

Passive Subwoofers 

Passive subwoofers are powered through external amplifiers .  But before you go adding an additional sub to the mix, you need to make sure that your amp is capable of handing all of your other speakers in conjunction with the new woofer.  Check the packaging for details on the amperage capabilities.

Powered Subwoofers 

Powered subwoofers are capable of sustaining themselves as long as they have a line output coming from your amp.  This is a better choice if you have amps that can't handle being hooked up to all of your speakers and added woofers at once--they can help your sound system run more smoothly and efficiently.  Traditional stand-alone, powered subwoofers can be small cubes that fit in the corner to large cabinets that have the capacity of shaking your floorboards right out from under you.  But no matter what the size, they normally have high-powered amps  built right in, with level controls that allow you to adjust the output as you see fit.

Room Placement

Subwoofer placement within your room is a key consideration when you're trying to optimize sound performance. 

  • Take advantage of room ergonomics .
  • Which room provides the best acoustics  as it is?  Perhaps adding a woofer to this room can help it achieve its maximum potential.
  • Placing the subwoofer in the corner allows the bass amplitude to play off multiple surfaces and achieve its best sound.
  • Smaller rooms require less powerful subwoofers and vice versa.  You want to achieve a balance of sound rather than be over- or underwhelmed.

Other Considerations

Once you choose between purchasing a passive or powered subwoofer, you may also want to consider a front-firing subwoofer versus a down-firing model. 

  • The down-firing subwoofer  has a speaker positioned toward the floor so you will be able to physically feel the vibrations from the bass.  This works great if you're interested in producing movie theatre quality sound.
  • A front-firing subwoofer  works to fill the entire room with bass, giving you a deep, rich feeling overall. 

Major Manufacturers

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