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The subwoofer channel

The Subwoofer

Film sound lives from deep bass. Most sound engineers are only satisfied when the viewers’ hair blows back from the sound pressure levels. This was the case well before Dolby Digital and DTS sank even deeper into the lower frequencies with a dedicated Low Frequency Effect channel (LFE) - a channel dedicated to low frequencies under 120 Hz. Even conventional Dolby Surround sound channels on analogue media like VHS cassettes can wow the viewer/listener with the power of the bass. The use of a dedicated bass speaker – a subwoofer – makes full use of this addional bass track to give films an extra kick.

A subwoofer is generally defined as a loudspeaker with a deep bass frequency between 20 and 80 Hertz. By covering this low end, subwoofers complete and complement the frequency range of full-sized stereo speakers, bookshelf speakers and satellites

Subwoofers can be divided into three separate categories: Passive subwoofers without crossovers, passive subwoofers with crossovers and active subwoofers.

  1. Passive subwoofers without crossovers are usually found in THX licensed loudspeaker sets. They requies their own power amplifier and can only be powered via a special subwoofer cinch output, that is, an output that only passes on the deep bass frequencies and filters out the higher frequencies. Pr oLogic and Dolby Digital Decoders with THX licensing will always offer the appropriate bass output but many other A/V receivers and separate Pro Logic Decoders offer it as well.
  2. Passive subwoofers with their own crossovers are either driven via their own amplifier without a filter that is connected to an A/V receiver via a subwoofer output. It is also possible to connect it directly to the loudspeaker terminals on the amplifier or main loudspeaker.
  3. Active subwoofers used to complete an existed A/V system are very easy to set up. They have their own integrated amplifiers and with just about every active bass driver, it’s not only possible to adjust the volume but also the frequency up to which the subwoofer should play. Especially well thought-out models even allow you to adjust the roll off frequency.

A separate subwoofer channel

When it comes to hi-fi stereo systems, subwoofers are only necessary with very compact loudspeaker systems or to compensate for certain room conditions. When it comes to home cinema, however, subwoofers are a part of the basic equipment every system needs. One reason for this is that just about all movie soundtracks in recent years record the low frequencies on a separate channel. As long as the subwoofer is properly connected to the proper systems containing standard decoders, Dolby Digital or DTS encoding will automatically ensure that the subwoofer is well supplied with the low frequency signal perfectly matched to the other channels. If the bass still appears too loud or soft, the listener/viewer can always adjust the levels.