Choosing a subwoofer, if you've never done it before, can be a challenging experience. We'll try and make it as easy as possible. Before you make a decision, read the following answers to the most commonly asked questions about subwoofers.

What is a subwoofer?

Your current speaker system probably has a woofer, but not a subwoofer. This type of woofer will play some low frequencies but will not deliver the full-range, authority and high definition bass that today's exciting digital entertainment sources offer. Only a quality subwoofer will bring these sounds to you with full impact and clarity. A well engineered subwoofer very precisely matches a bass speaker (subwoofer), an amplifier (power), cabinet and crossovers (frequency dividing networks) all in a single efficient package that recreates bass you not only hear, but feel. The deep bass that you feel is important because it invokes an emotional reaction to the event or show and fully involves the audience in the event.

Do I need a subwoofer?

Unquestionably, every music and home theater system needs a subwoofer. Without a quality subwoofer you are missing the thrill of the lowest notes and exciting sound effects that modern digital technology has brought to today's music and movies. A subwoofer is a significant and efficient upgrade to any music system. Without question, a subwoofer is (other than a TV) the essential component of a home theater. Low and accurate bass has become such an important part of creating excitement, tension, fear and joy in modern movies that there is a designated subwoofer output on almost all audio and video components. In the case of the new digital home theater formats and digital television, there is a specific, discrete channel dedicated just to a subwoofer. When you set up your Dolby Digital receiver, in the small speaker mode, you can be reproducing up to six channels of bass through your subwoofer.

What should I look for in a subwoofer?

Setting aside for the moment your specific room size and tastes, or any unusual circumstances, lets discuss what makes a good subwoofer. A good subwoofer should have high definition (low distortion) to create realism, good low frequency extension for authoritative bass you can feel, and ample output to ensure plenty of dynamic impact and excitement. The most elusive subwoofer quality is high definition. Unfortunately, most subwoofers have a distortion rate of 25% to 30% which translates into a severe lack of detail and clarity. These subwoofers sound muddy, boomy and lack realism in home theater and accuracy in music systems. Choose a subwoofer low in distortion. Less than 10% is good, less than 5% is great and 1% or less is the ultimate goal. Few subwoofer manufacturers discuss distortion figures, so listening to a good music recording with deep bass content will be important. Try Night Parade on Robbie Robertson's Storyville CD. Can you distinguish the individual bass guitar notes and drum rhythms? Did the selection sound musical or were bass sounds blurred together? A high definition subwoofer will be able to unlock the ever increasing resolution of today's and tomorrows entertainment. Though you would assume that all subwoofers have good low frequency extension (below 40 Hz), many only hint at reproducing these frequencies although their specifications would lead you to believe otherwise. As some reviewers have pointed out, many of the pseudo subwoofers are merely powered woofers not playing below the frequencies of a regular full-sized speaker. With today's recordings you do not want to be without the lowest frequencies, so listen to a film with some truly deep bass information. For evaluation purposes look beyond demonstrations that highlight the sometimes undefined 40 -100 rumble created by tornadoes or other disasters. Remember you are after deep, clean bass that can be enjoyed at any level. Try the Lost at the Gas Station scene in Disney's Toy Story. Did the diesel engine sound realistic? Could you really feel it? The issue of ample output is primarily a function of matching the sub size to the room size (the rooms volume). The Find a Product section on our website should help in assuring that you select a large enough woofer for your room. However, bear in mind that selecting a larger subwoofer than the minimum recommendation will increase low frequency extension, dynamics, output and the fun factor. One last thing to consider is the experience and reputation of the manufacturer as it relates to subwoofer design and production. How long have they been making subwoofers? What have reviewers had to say about their subwoofers over the years A subwoofer is a very specialized product, high dependent on the very precise matching of all its components. As you might imagine, manufacturers who specialize in subwoofers hold an advantage over those who product a very wide variety of products. Some advanced technologies may provide better performance for the money and will offer a distinct advantage over other designs. Three of the most notable are the patented High Gain Servo, Energy Recovery System (ERS) and the Current Sensing Servo systems available exclusively from Velodyne.

Which subwoofer is right for me?

A subwoofers ability to offer good low frequency extension with ample output for the room (good impact), and yet still offer very good definition (low distortion), can make or break a home theater and music system. Choosing the proper subwoofer for your individual room size is critical to creating a truly enjoyable home theater and music experience. Though there are individual considerations, the Find a Product section will help you take the guesswork out of selecting the ideal subwoofer in your price range for your room.