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Everyone loves the thump produced in music with rich bass. The vibrations make for a more enthralling listening experience. However, not all speakers can produce bass in the same way. Do speakers with lower (hertz) Hz produce more bass, or do you need to find speakers with a higher Hz rating?
Generally, lower Hz means more bass. The frequency range means that as you go lower in the scale, the bass becomes deeper until you are at the range where you are mostly just feeling the bass and not hearing it. So, a low Hz rating on a speaker means it can reproduce the deepest bass in most tracks.
To know how to get the best sound quality from your subwoofer, read: Which Way Should A Subwoofer Face In Home Theater?
The rest of the article will go over all you need to know about frequency ranges with a focus on bass and sub-bass. Watch out for the best Hz rating for a subwoofer, and some of the best subwoofers you can buy today.
Understanding Frequency Ranges
Sound is a wave, and the two main measurements for measuring waves are wavelength and amplitude. The former measures the distance between peaks, while the latter measures height. Frequency, on the other hand, is the opposite of wavelength as it measures the closeness between the peaks of a wave. One cycle of a wave refers to the space between two such peaks.
When a wave is measured at 1 Hz, it means that a cycle of the wave takes a second to get through a specific point in space. Frequency directly relates to pitch. Lower frequency translates to a lower pitch. Humans can’t hear pitches in ultrasonic and infrasonic (or subsonic) frequencies as they are too high and too low for the ears, respectively.
What Is Bass?
Bass refers to all low-frequency sounds from 20 Hz to 160 Hz on the sound frequency spectrum. It is further broken down to sub-bass, which starts from 60 Hz to the lowest frequency humans can hear—around 20 Hz.
At sub-bass levels, you will feel the bass more than you’ll hear it. This is what happens when you feel the bass vibrations when listening to music in a club or when you crank up your home theater, which has a powerful subwoofer at home.
Bass is generated by bass guitar, pipe organ, kick drum, and stand-up bass. Bass notes tend to elicit some of the deepest reactions to music right away, and it’s not just in your body. A song with rich bass notes will send vibrations everywhere else, including your doors, windows, pots on a kitchen sink, etc.
Without bass, the musical experience will feel bereft of definition and depth. When the bass is better-defined, you will feel more engrossed in the sound. Of course, there are times when listening to hollow or thin music without bass makes sense (think Ramin Djawadi’s the Night King!), but more often than not, you need deep bass for a track to feel substantial.
Does Lower Hz Mean More Bass?
Subwoofers deliver the best bass in any music setup. A 20-120 Hz rating is best for bass in most subwoofers. The lower the Hz, the more is the bass you can get.
Some of the best subwoofers in the market have this Hz range. If you are buying a subwoofer that has a fixed Hz rating, you should ensure it is lower than 80 Hz if the bass is important to you.
It is possible to find subwoofers that can produce tones below 20 Hz, but you won’t need this unless you want a commercial-grade listening experience. Remember, you most likely won’t be able to discern the sound.
Once the frequency has dropped below 20 Hz, it becomes harder for your ears to pick up the bass sound. A subwoofer that operates lower than this audible range will provide physical vibrations instead of actual sounds. If the music formats you regularly listen to don’t contain sub-bass below 20 Hz, such a subwoofer becomes redundant.
What Is the Lowest Frequency Limit for Subwoofers?
We now know that lower Hz means more bass. Some subwoofers are capable of producing sub-bass at 1 Hz frequency. Before you buy a product that makes such a claim, however, you’ll need to verify the range with scientific equipment since no one can hear sounds that low.
Also, you should know that the efficiency of the subwoofer will continue to drop as the frequency approaches zero. This means that the “vibrations” produced are less likely to be produced as originally intended. If you want a subwoofer that can produce the lowest tones, you should consider getting one with a larger diameter.
Other factors that can play an important role in the production of a very low-frequency subwoofer include excursion, wattage, enclosure design, and the quality of the materials.
What Is the Upper Frequency Limit for Subwoofers?
The highest upper limit you’ll typically find on a subwoofer is 200 Hz. Normal loudspeakers can go above this limit, but subwoofers are designed to handle the lowest frequency only. It’s possible to find a subwoofer with an upper limit that has been modified to exceed 200 Hz, but in such a scenario, the lower frequency sounds generated will be worse off.
If you want speakers that can produce frequencies of 200 Hz and above, it’s best to look at other speakers that can be incorporated into your audio setup.
What Are Crossovers in Subwoofers?
Crossovers are designed to throttle the frequency response of any speaker. The crossover system in subwoofers (my related article) is known as the low-pass filter. With this setup, only source frequencies of a certain hertz and below can reach the subwoofer.
This means that a subwoofer that has the capacity to produce 20-200 Hz sounds can be limited to producing sounds of only 100 Hz and below. Such a setup is beneficial if you have other speakers that can handle frequencies above 100 Hz and want your subwoofer to only step in when very low bass has to be produced.
What Are the Differences Between a Woofer and Subwoofer?
Woofers and subwoofers are the best speakers for reproducing bass as they are designed with an emphasis on reproducing low-frequency sound. Although both speakers have similarities, they are not the same. If you are looking for one and buy the other, you may not get value for your money. So, what are the differences between both of them?
The size is another important distinguishing factor for subwoofers and woofers. Generally, most subwoofers are built larger than woofers. This is because a large volume of air is necessary to drive low frequencies.
To actualize this, subwoofers come with a large cone surface area, backed by an equally large and powerful magnet. This is why the subwoofer ends up bigger than a woofer. It is possible to find woofers that are bigger than subwoofers, but even those cannot deliver the lowest bass.
The Frequency Range
A woofer is a loudspeaker that has also been designed to reproduce low-frequency sounds. This means that a woofer can reproduce sound with frequency ranging from 40 Hz to 2,500 Hz.
With subwoofers, on the other hand, you’ve already seen above that they are designed to produce sounds ranging from 20 Hz to 200 Hz. So, while a woofer delivers a wider range of sounds, a subwoofer will deliver a tighter range, which ensures it delivers more consistent bass at all times.
Most average users will not have any problems with the range on a woofer. However, if you want the deepest bass possible on any track, you’ll need to get a subwoofer instead. If you choose to get a subwoofer instead of a woofer, you need to make sure you have other midrange speakers that can produce higher frequencies. Otherwise, your music will sound subdued and too deep.
The Power Source
There is a difference in the way woofers and subwoofers are powered. Generally, woofers are designed to act as passive bass drivers, which means that they are powered by an external amplifier. The amplifier may also be powering other regular speakers, so as long as the woofer is connected to the amplifier output, it will work.
Subwoofers, on the other hand, can be powered actively or passively. With passive subwoofers, the connection is similar to what you’ll find on woofers, as described above. Active subwoofers, however, come with built-in amplifiers. The amplifier is housed in the same box with the subwoofer. For such a subwoofer to deliver the best sound, it has to be connected to a designated sub output from the amplifier.
The built-in amplifier can enhance the strength of the input signal directly from the head unit. This is how it drives the subwoofer. Active subwoofers also require a connection to a power source and another connection to the head unit. Therefore, they are a lot harder to set up when compared to woofers.
Remember crossover? You are more likely to find built-in crossover in an active subwoofer. As the higher frequencies are filtered out of the amplified box, you will enjoy the highest quality bass.
The Number of Drivers
Subwoofers generally have a single driver system in the speaker compartment. Even when there are multiple subwoofers built into the same box, each subwoofer will still maintain a single driver system.
This isn’t the same with woofers, as they are mostly designed to have a multi-driver system. You’ll find many 3/4-way woofer systems in the market today. In a typical 3-way setup, the system will feature a tweeter, a midrange driver, and the woofer. A 4-way driver system will throw in a super-tweeter into the mix.
The Power Usage
Woofers and subwoofers don’t consume the same amount of power. It takes a lot of power for the amplifier to produce the deepest bass. This explains why subwoofers dim the lights with every “boom” when you are using them with a weak source of power such as car batteries, solar power, or generators. You’ll most likely not experience this with woofers.
If you’d like to use a powerful subwoofer in your car or with similar energy sources, you’ll need to add a capacitor to your connection. The capacitor will store temporary electrical change that will be fed to the amplifier as it needs it. This way, you can cut down the visible impacts of the subwoofer, hitting lower notes.
Even when you are connected to the grid, the energy consumption from a subwoofer will most likely be different when compared to a woofer. The difference in your energy bill may not be significant, but you’ll see it.
If you are worried about just how much your home subwoofer is adding to your energy bill, don’t use it for one billing cycle and run comparisons. Of course, the data will have more weight if you can compare the numbers from a woofer. If you already have a woofer, you can make comparisons. Otherwise, you’ll have to settle for the earlier recommendation of going a cycle without your subwoofer.
Top Affordable Subwoofers to Buy Today
Are you looking to add more punch to your home or car entertainment? Below are some quality subwoofers you should consider right away.
Rockford Fosgate P300-12
The Rockford Fosgate P300-12 (check price on Amazon) is a powerful 12-inch subwoofer that features a 300-watt amplifier. This ensures you can hook it up to any existing system if you can provide the power, source, and space for it. The subwoofer comes with adjustable bass-boost EQ, which ensures you can adjust the bass with relative ease. The high and low-voltage feature ensures you never have to worry about power-related damage.
The P300-12 has separate low-level and speaker-level inputs and is 60% made of MDF. There’s also built-in adjustable low pass crossover. The closed-loop design and bass boost equalizer make this subwoofer a favorite for many.
BIC America F12
Music engineers around the world have been relying on the BIC brand for more than five decades. The company is known for producing mid-range and high-frequency speakers, but that hasn’t stopped them from stepping into the low-frequency niche with the BIC F12 (Amazon link).
The subwoofer is the perfect fixture for any home theatre or home studio setup. It’s a front-firing design that produces a crisp 475W sound. The built-in vent ensures you won’t get any port noise. Other features you can expect to find on this subwoofer include high-level inputs, automatic signal sensing, adjustable crossover, magnetic shielding, and gold-plated terminals.
The subwoofer delivers a frequency range of 25-200 Hz and comes with a five-year warranty.
Yamaha has been around for ages in the music world. With the YST-SW012 (Amazon link), the company is offering a truly powerful audio experience in a portable subwoofer. It’s easy to overlook this due to its unique enclosure, but it will only take one listen to change your mind.
With a 100W dynamic power, the YST-SW012 isn’t as powerful as others on this list, but it still delivers high-quality bass. It offers a 28-200 Hz low-frequency response and has a linear port designed to minimize noise disturbance. The 8-inch multi-range driver rounds off the features on this excellent subwoofer. It will fit seamlessly into any home audio system.
Polk Audio PSW10
If you’d like to transfer the bass output in your home theatre to a more capable subwoofer, the Polk Audio PSW10 (Amazon) is an excellent option to consider. It comes with speaker-level and professional-grade line inputs, which ensure it can be easily connected to any existing setup.
The PSW10 comes with a long list of features, which include a 40-160HZ frequency range, the smart sensing circuitry system, distortion limiter, a powerful amplifier, the famous Klippel measurement technology, and more.
The polymer composite and internal bracing ensure it is very durable. Throw in the compact design, and it’s hard to find a subwoofer that is miles better than PSW10 in its price range.
ELAC Debut 2.0 SUB3030
This is a very impressive subwoofer that fully merits its place on any list. The ELAC Debut 2.0 SUB3030 (Amazon) is a 500 watts subwoofer that will provide true deep bass when playing music, movies, or games. It’s a pricier option when compared to the rest on this list, but with the delivery it provides in rooms of all sizes, it’s a perfect investment.
The ELAC debut doesn’t come with any physical controls, but its iOS and Android app ensure you’ll be able to tweak the sound to match your listening environment as closely as possible. Operating at a frequency range of 25 to 150 Hz, the bass is rich and highly detailed. It also has a 12″ downward-facing passive radiator and BASH-tracking amplification.
By now, you should have a clearer understanding of how subwoofers work. A lower Hz means more bass, and a 20-120 Hz range is what you should aim for with any new subwoofer you are considering if you love listening to rich and deep bass.
The subwoofer options listed above come very close to this recommended range. Some of them start from 40Hz, but others go as low as 25 Hz. If you’d like much deeper bass, you can consider other options outside the list provided. However, these might be pricier than the options you’ve seen above.