Missing the point
I sometimes feel like a lonely preacher in my quest to get every audiophile invested in a subwoofer. The few who pay attention to my sermons write back with effusive praise and always there’s the accompanying exclamation, “I had no clue”.
Perhaps the most oft-quoted reason for not adding a subwoofer sounds something like, “I don’t need any more bass” or “my speakers already go low enough”. We should not forget the classic, “I don’t listen to music with subwoofer-deep bass”.
All these procrastinations are missing the point of what’s in it for them: an added realism that simply cannot exist without a full range speaker. And no, most passive speakers do not deliver subwoofer-low bass to listeners in the room.
It’s true most of our systems don’t need more bass. What they lack are the subtle cues we hear in real life like ventilation systems, footfalls, room modes, and environmental rumblings—and what they produce is the unnatural (and unintended) phase shift of their woofer’s high pass function.
All passive speakers have a high pass roll off at the point where the woofer is no longer is flat. This adds an unnatural phase shift to the music within our audible range. Adding a properly aligned and tuned subwoofer can correct this shift (as well as any crossover can) and take the sub’s high pass below the frequency recorded on the disc. Thus, we don’t hear the phase shift.
Powered subwoofers, whether built into a speaker or external to it, add life and realism to the music in not so obvious ways.
Is your system full range or missing the point?
We all love to learn but today’s education systems are antiquated to the task. Student’s heads are crammed full of information that bears little relevance to their lives—information they will someday learn how to put to use but in the meantime essentially worthless.
The problem is the lack of a framework. Imagine trying to build a home with everything but the framework. It can probably be done but it wouldn’t be a pretty sight. Once a foundation and framework have been built it’s easy to visualize adding everything else.
I remember my starting lessons in electronics by a very strict by-the-book German engineer, Rudy Ströebel. Herr Ströebel insisted I learn the color code that distinguishes resistors and the formulas that determine circuit values before I had an inkling of why this was being crammed into my head. In Herr Ströebel’s view, he was building a framework for me to design audio circuits—but he was taking a long way ’round the bend—like following a recipe without first a clue what you’re baking.
Imagine trying to bring a newbie into the audiophile fold by forcing them to learn first the vernacular before hearing a system. Better first to be immersed in the wonder of a high-end audio system—the framework—which then prompts the newbie into filling in the blanks.
I have watched so many experts turn off potential stereo lovers by qualifying them, filling their heads with disconnected information, before immersing them in the joys of music reproduced like only a high-performance system can.
The formula for learning is to create wonder and desire first, filling your head with the answers to mysteries second.