If a tree falls…
…in the forest and there’s no one to witness, does it make a sound? We all know the answer to this question because we understand the mechanism of sound, but the old chestnut gets one to think.
How much do hidden sounds impact our world?
If your audio or video electronics pass all the details in the music to speakers unable to fully reproduce those details, does it make sense to afford high-resolution electronics?
I think this is the same question people ponder when contemplating the addition of a subwoofer. Most music has very little in the way of subsonics, yet subwoofers offer a presence that cannot be achieved without them.
It is the reproduction of hidden cues that can influence what we perceive: Extended phase response can help the highs sound more present. Quicker transients improve plosives. Lower noise levels blacken backgrounds. Subwoofers extend realism.
It is not always the obvious we should focus on. Sometimes, it’s the hidden gems that make magic.
All amplifiers have personalities—sonic traits that distinguish one from the other.
We choose our power amps first to handle the loads our speakers demand followed closely by how they sound.
Once you’ve settled in with your power amplifier you’ll do what it takes to preserve or enhance the sonic personality you enjoy. This can be anything from choosing the right speaker cables to positioning your speakers to best advantage.
Once we’re locked into our sound perhaps we’d like to stretch our boundaries by adding a subwoofer. That’s a practice I have long preached along with yet another Paul axiom, connecting that sub through the output of your power amplifier. This carries forward the audio personality of your power amplifier so the final presentation is seamless. Which is why the perfect match for your amplifier is when the right amp is built into the subwoofer or loudspeaker.
In the case of our upcoming speaker line, the built-in subwoofer amplifiers we designed to power the speaker’s bottom end have been specifically tailored to get out of the way of the main amp’s personality. This has several advantages: a seamless sound and the ability to focus on one task without affecting the rest of the audio spectrum.
If we were starting from scratch with a new full range amplifier design, we could not equal the performance of a built-in subwoofer amp without sacrificing the rest of the spectrum. By that, I mean a great woofer amp uses gobs of feedback and other techniques to provide slam, pace, and rhythm—all desirable attributes that coincidently detract from the other goals of full range amplifiers such as delicacy and inner detail.
You can’t have it all in one full range amplifier, but what you can focus on is choosing a main amplifier with exactly the personality you’re looking for.
Then it’s up to you to keep that personality intact while enhancing the rest of the spectrum.