atomic_fungus (atomic_fungus) wrote,

#824: How did Bach know about subwoofers? (or, ZOMG teh b455!!!)

I spent some Christmas money and got a subwoofer today.

I paid $99 plus tax at Best Buy for a 50-watt Yamaha subwoofer. As subwoofers go it's nothing special, and I got it just so my Dolby 7.1 surround system would actually have the "0.1" part, and so movies wouldn't sound so damned tinny.

I don't know what it is, except that the D7.1 spec expects a subwoofer to be present. The speakers I've got are not slouchy in the frequency response department, and in "stereo" mode the sound is perfectly acceptable. But kick it into "surround" and it turns tinny.

This ought to fix that.

So what did I select as the first music to test this new machinery? Bach's "Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor", of course.

The Passacaglia features an extended grease-gun blast of low C, a note so low that it takes a 64-foot pipe to generate it--and until today I have never had a stereo system capable of reproducing that note. Now I can listen to that piece and it sounds like a minor earthquake, which is awesome.

My primary interest in having a subwoofer is to generate a reasonably flat frequency response--and that's a whole 'nother rant right there; more on that in a moment--so I'm going to be spending some time trying to get the volume tweaked such that it's not overpowering.

These days, people call themselves "audiophiles" who cram 6,000 watts of bass into their cars, but that's not an audiophile. That's a "low frequency-phile". An audiophile is someone who wants his stereo system to perfectly reproduce sound.

That means that if you're listening to one of Bach's organ pieces, you hear what you would hear if you were there during recording. It does not mean you kind of hear the manuals but everything else is drowned out in a tsunami of the audio frequencies below 100 Hertz; it means you hear it all and it's as if the guy was playing the organ right there in your living room.

An audiophile uses a subwoofer to boost the bass response of his sytem so that it's approximately flat to the rest of the system's response. People with lots of bass in their cars boost the bass far above that level.

My stereo puts out 100 watts per channel. I didn't want that much bass, and I knew a 100-watt subwoofer would be too much. And, as it turns out, I was right.

I didn't do this blind, though. A friend is into home theater, and another friend lent him some monster subwoofer. On its lowest setting, it still overwhelmed the room with bass; there was just too much. So I knew that I didn't want a huge subwoofer.

It's far too easy to spend ludicrous amounts of money on stereo equipment, and once you get past a certain point you are wasting money on purely subjective gains. The difference between lamp cord and Monster Cables is purely subjective, as no human ear is sensitive enough to distinguish between them at audio frequencies. The Monster Cable is better because it costs so much, not the other way around--and I'm sorry to say that the laws of physics back me up on this.

While waiting for help at Best Buy I saw that Monster Cable is also in the business of selling power filters. The primary selling point of this junk is that it gives you a better viewing/listening experience by making sure the power getting to your equipment is "pure".

What rot.

Most equipment runs, internally, on DC these days, and if your components' power supplies can't handle the basic task of converting AC into smooth DC current, a $290 power strip isn't going to fix it.

By all means, use a line filter. But you can buy an APC surge protector for about $50 that'll do everything the Monster Cables unit will.

...and I am still waiting for some electronics store goober to try to sell me that junk-ass crap when I'm buying what I need. The subwoofer I bought today is connected to the amp with a $13 patch cord, and it only cost that much because I had a choice between 6 feet and 20 feet, and I knew the 6-footer wouldn't be long enough. The subwoofer is expected to reproduce frequencies up to about 100 Hz, and the bandwidth of the typical RCA patch cord is measured in tens of megahertz, at least--starting at DC, I might add. I don't need a $50 cable for my $100 subwoofer; it won't improve the performance one whit. What it would do is seperate me from another $37, if I was that stupid.

As for my system, I think I have the sub dialed in to the point that it's not obvious, but there--I am hearing things I haven't heard in music before but it doesn't overpower the rest of the music. That's how I want it.

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