Subwoofer & Amplifier selection guide for new owners

Casey Nolan

by - | 3 years ago
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14 Dec

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How would you define a perfect subwoofer? Is it its capacity to send vibrations across your room walls? Or is it the overall loudness of the resulting sound? If there is one thing that I certainly know is that newbies tend to rate subwoofers on the basis of bass and thump effect. They apply the same formula to their car stereo system, hence projecting a typical image about subwoofers all over the community.

The louder and the thumpier the subwoofer is; the better it gets. NOT

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

Experts suggest that bass factor, alone, is not the only determining point about a subwoofer’s performance. You cannot simply go over to YouTube and run a Subwoofer Test Track to assess the device’s performance. Most likely, your subwoofer will fail and result in a broken sound because of the sole reason that the soundtrack was not made for your subwoofer.

Enough said already; there are some important questions about subwoofers/ amplifiers. I am not really an expert but I have dabbled in using sound systems for a long time now. I’ve always had an affinity for subwoofers; it is a department that I feel comfortable with.

This subwoofer and amplifier selection guide is for newbies. In your case, you are a newbie, if:

  1. You don’t know how to rate subwoofers against your room space.
  1. You are looking to upgrade a subwoofer/ amplifier and need to buy something from that perspective.
  1. You have no idea, not even a general one, about woofer wattage, speaker diameter and all kinds of technical terms.

Speaking of technical terms, I don’t mean to scare you. They are important because a subwoofer’s performance depends on them. If you are craving loud thumpy bass, the bone shattering type and that too without compromising on the overall sound quality, then this guide is worth reading.

What is a Subwoofer?

In other words; what is a woofer, or what is an amplifier? You already know the answer, but I am addressing to first time users here. Therefore for their sake, let me jog the memory. A subwoofer or an amplifier is a square-ish box. It does not produce music; its main purpose is to supply low end bass notes.

Sub Kiik Subwoofer side view

Why doesn’t my sound system produce high quality bass? I spent a fortune on it!

Yeah, about that… listen, you spent a lot of money on a sound system, a sound bar, or maybe even a HTIB home audio setup. The bass part, however, is dependent on the woofer’s quality. In case of sound bars, they have built in woofer(s); their primary purpose is focused on powering up bass and sound quality in one package.

With an extra subwoofer, in case of a 2.1, 5.1 or a 7.1 sound system, the company is individually focusing on emitting high quality bass. The unit is separate in this case, which gives developers time to put in a lot of effort into creating something worthwhile.

The disappointing part is that not every 5.1, 7.1 or 2.1 surround sound system comes with rib crackin’ subwoofers. There are shitty systems with awesome subwoofers, and there are $1,000 sound systems with low quality woofers. It is a tough decision to finally go for something that you have little or no knowledge of.

Amazon Pioneer Subwoofer Image

Can you upgrade your subwoofer?

Regardless of whether your subwoofer is for the car, your living room, or any other place, there is always an option for upgrading them. Upgrading means either replacing the subwoofer with a new one, or using it with inferior quality speakers so the performance levels could be matched.

If you bought your subwoofer separately, it is most likely to have an RCA speaker wire or some other connection cable. This cable will be running to it from the speakers or your main power unit. In this case, there is a strong possibility of an upgrade. However, if you bought a branded sound system, such as, but not limited to,

Onkyo LS3100 2.1 Surround Sound Speakers

Bose Cinemate Series Speakers

Sonos Sound Bar

Creative 5.1 Home Theater Speakers

It means that the system can’t be upgraded. Normally, it can’t be upgraded because the subwoofer that comes with them becomes part of the brand name. This is why; “experts” buy speakers and subwoofers separately because they know what they are looking for. In a branded sound system’s case, there are remote controls, speakers and lots of simultaneous processes running back ‘n forth between the unit/ speakers.

Okay I bought a subwoofer. Can I connect it with my television?

Maybe yes, or maybe no – there is no rock solid answer. When it comes to connecting subwoofers with TVs, it is the other way around. In rare cases, if you are lucky, your TV will have a subwoofer connection port. Most of the TVs don’t have an in built connection port, which is why an AV receiver is bought as an extra to connect speakers, subwoofer and the TV altogether.

To see whether your TV has a woofer connection output, read the user manual. There will be instructions and some diagrams to let you in on this mystery. With any luck, you should be able to locate the subwoofer audio out port behind your TV or near the side panels. However, as the general population goes, you will need to buy a sound system and an AV receiver for that.

And that's what a cross section view of a subwoofer looks like

But what IF your TV has the port and you want to connect the woofer to it? Go for a wired subwoofer. Connect the TV audio output or woofer with a cable and run it through to the woofer’s connection port. Additionally, an Optical to Analog adapter will be needed to convert the signals. The cheapest optical to analog audio adapter should be available at Amazon between $20 – $50 price range.

What does “Watt/ Wattage” mean to a subwoofer owner?

Wattage means power to your woofer. Wattage/ Watt however is not sole factor for depending your woofer’s performance. If the company has a small sized woofer with more watts, it would result in unbalanced results. You don’t want a crappy woofer, so you?

1000 Watt Subwoofer Against a 100 Watt Subwoofer doesn’t have to mean that the first one will produce high quality sound. At regular room volumes and with an awful lot of neighbors you cannot go really high. The volume has to be controlled. Even if you have a spacious room, there is a limit to how much sound your ears can tolerate.

Kenwood official woofer wallpaper

If you have bought a small wattage subwoofer, you can digitally amplify its results. Digital amplification through software, I mean, is a collection of programs to virtually enhance sound levels. The bottom line is that watt rating, in itself, is not a determinant of subwoofer performance. There is driver size, which is more important than the rest.

The ideal driver size of your subwoofer should be…

A woofer with 12 inch driver would require extra space and a large box to fit in. A woofer with 8 inch driver size means a smaller box and a small cabinet to fit in. Whenever you are placing a subwoofer, place it in a closely knit environment. The sound will “boom” off the woofer’s surroundings. The tighter these surroundings are; the better results it’s gonna generate.

There is a general notion that subwoofers with bigger driver size produce better results. Yes, they do. As a matter of fact bigger driver size will product better sound IF the subwoofer’s environment matches it. A woofer has to work really hard to produce audible wavelengths. There is no specific cheat sheet or shortcut to subwoofer driver size. I will recommend a multiple driver size subwoofer because this way, you can always change its configuration whenever needed.

Closing thoughts about subwoofers – bigger and thumpier is not always better:

Bigger subwoofers are a marvel to look at, but they are not better in any case if all they produce is a loud thump. You can always differentiate between thumpy bass and good quality bass. Therefore BOOM BOOM BOOM is not a final factor to overall subwoofer rating. If the “boom” is louder than vocals, what’s the point of investing in that subwoofer?

The perfect subwoofer is the one which generates audible bass, alongside amplified sound levels. Otherwise, it is just another piece of shit boom box which you will eventually grow tired of. 

This entry was posted on Saturday, December 14th, 2013 at 10:32 AM and is filed under Computers, Home Slider, How To. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

Casey Nolan

About Casey Nolan

Hello everyone, I am Bilal Malik AKA 'Casey Nolan'; Head Editor and owner of 'Infinarium.Com'. For product reviews, article requests, recommendations, or if you just want to get something off your chest, send me an email at techguy@infinarium.com.

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