When I tell non-audiophiles that I work at a subwoofer company, the first question is usually either something like “What is a subwoofer?” or “Why are subwoofers important?” Believe it or not, I love getting these questions, because they give me the opportunity to go on and on about how a subwoofer can fundamentally change the way I experience media until my conversational companion’s eyes glaze over. Since I now have this platform to gush about them, I may just refer people to this page for my answer in the future.
So why do you need a subwoofer? Here’s my answer, in a nutshell: subwoofers reproduce bass (sound frequencies at the low end of the spectrum), and bass is absolutely essential to the emotional connection you forge with audio media. The cleaner and more powerful the bass, the more you can lose yourself in what you hear.
As far as I’m concerned, low frequencies are the id of entertainment. They tap into the base-level emotional and physical instincts that compose our collective psyche. Bass is sex; bass is terror; bass is overwhelming, uncontrollable joy. The heart and soul of sound lies in the foundational frequencies, and what is sound without feeling? Why listen to music, or watch movies, if not to be moved in some way?
Take hip-hop, where the bass is explicitly held in high regard. (Bass is essential for every musical genre, but in hip-hop the low frequencies take center stage.) I listen to rap to feel like a badass, and every time the bass kicks in a core-shaking rhythm, my whole demeanor takes on a life of its own. Thump thump rap lyrics thump, and I’m feeling like the king of the world in three beats flat. Badass indeed.
Or, consider the home theater experience. Movies are meant to be experienced, not just watched; a good film is meant to involve you wholly in its story, stealing you away from your daily life. If you want to be truly engulfed in a movie, you need to feel like you’re right there in the action, and the soundtrack is instrumental in bringing you there. Nautical battle scenes can’t seem real without thundering cannons; the tremors of an approaching beast’s footsteps can’t scare you if you don’t feel them thumping. Full and accurate bass reproduction allows you to forget that you’re watching a movie, letting you feel everything the characters do.
So, audiophiles and audio-philistines alike, I say to you: let there be bass! No matter the media, a subwoofer rounds out the sound and lets you turn on, tune in, drop out with all your consciousness. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go watch The Dark Knight on Blu-Ray and put my subwoofer to work.