Overview of Home Theater Subwoofers
Subwoofers are speakers designed specifically and exclusively to reproduce the lowest register of audio in home theater and audiophile systems. Often using large drivers sealed in a square-shaped box, subwoofers originally were designed to augment the lackluster bass performance of floor-standing speakers. Getting subs to integrate with audiophile speakers in the early days was without question a challenge but, when done properly, the results added tremendous impact to the overall sound.
Today, subwoofers get a lot more respect, because in 5.1 surround, the “point 1” channel is the LFE or subwoofer channel, meaning that even with most good surround sound formats, ranging from Dolby Digital to DTS to today’s best lossless formats like DTS Master Audio and Dolby True HD, your subwoofer is getting discrete audio mixed and mastered only for your woofer. The significance of this for audio and movies is that the mixing engineer can determine exactly where the most bass-demanding effects or instruments can go; the best place for them to go in the mix is the subwoofer. It allows your main speakers to do what they do best and do it more clearly, while not sucking the life out of your amplifiers, which are trying to power a gigantic explosion or the dynamics of a tympani drum. Most modern subwoofers today are powered with digital or powerful class AB amplifiers, allowing them to do their job of reproducing bass from around 140 Hertz to subsonic levels of below 20 Hertz.