If you’re familiar with surround sound arrangements, like 5.1 or 7.1, you’ll know that the “point one” speaker represents one subwoofer (or “sub”) to fill in the low frequency bass sounds in the soundtrack of what you’re watching. While one sub is the standard, did you know that you could incorporate a second subwoofer into your surround sound system, and that it can benefit both your movie and TV watching as well as your music listening experience?
But why would you? And should you?
One sub is enough to enjoy your favorite movie’s soundtrack or musical performance, but using multiple subs adds another dimension – literally – to bass reproduction.
Traditionally only one sub is used because low-frequency sound is generally considered omni-directional; the thought being that you only need one sub to fill a room with sound. The challenge with this is that, well, bass is omni-directional! That means it gets into mischief by bouncing off walls and ceilings. It can’t be “aimed” like a traditional speaker. As the low frequency waves bounce off of walls and ceilings, the reflected waves crash into the incoming waves and create acoustical phenomena called “standing waves,” which can sound like bass dead zones or fatiguing, one-note bass depending on your listening position.
Using two smaller subs instead of one large sub creates what is called a “layered” bass response. Meaning that they compensate for these acoustical phenomena by filling in dead zones or softening thudding bass.
So using one sub is great for power, but two subs are great for controlled and richer bass response. Whether you use one or two subwoofers is a matter of personal preference and depends on how you like to use your sound system.
If you want to use two subs, where do you start?
First you want to use two matching subs. That means two subs that are the same brand and model. This is the easiest way to get two subs that are as close as possible in quality and sound, which will require fewer adjustments later.
Second, it’s very important that you bring audio professionals in to guide your installation and calibration. Positioning your sub or subs is of critical importance, and there is no one-size-fits-all guide because the response you get depends on the size and shape of the room, as well as what’s in the room. Your audio professional has the knowledge and experience to make sure you hear every dollar you paid for.
If you have a dedicated theater room, this is a great place to use two subs, and you can benefit even further by using acoustical wall treatments to reduce bouncing waves.
The great part about using two subs is that you don’t have to spend more money to do so. Two moderately-priced subs will work in place of one larger sub. So if you had planned to spend $1,000 for your sub, you could instead use two $500 subs.
To help decide if one or two subs are right for you, talk to home audio professionals like the crew here at Suess Electronics. We have decades of experience designing home sound systems, and a free consultation about your space and its uses can help determine which option will make you the most happy.