The Value of Stereo Subwoofers

by Charlie Santmire

We have three systems in Omaha and one in KC that demonstrate the efficacy of stereo subwoofers. Even though we will not have an event because of health concerns we invite you to stop by or make an appointment if you prefer. Stereo subwoofers is not a new idea for us. We have been demonstrating and installing them for customers for quite some time. We just want to remind all how big an improvement it can make in a system.

Stereo REL S812 with Sonus faber Sonetto V Speakers

Why the emphasis on Stereo subwoofers?

A single subwoofer may give you more bass. That depends on the phase relationship of the bass between channels in each recording, so it will vary from recording to recording. One subwoofer will partially open up the recorded sound but not give you the full sense of space that a stereo pair will give you. A Stereo pair will give you more bass extension and slam with every recording – not just some. A stereo pair will also give the best integration with the main speakers so that one is not aware of the subwoofer as a separate source of sound.

The purpose of subwoofers is not just to add a little extra bass to speakers that don’t have much. Good woofers, properly dialed in, can improve any system. For instance, the best most expensive Wilson Audio speaker system includes two giant subwoofers.

Good subwoofers, properly dialed in, with the main speakers improve not just bass extension and slam but midrange sense of space and clarity as well. The keywords here are Good and Properly Dialed In. Good means not slow to react to the signal and not having high distortion. Timing must keep up with the main speakers. The woofers must have low distortion so that the bass is not boomy. They must be capable of reasonable high levels so that they can keep up with the main speakers for the music you play at the loudness you like.

Dialing in subwoofers combines careful placement and setting the adjustments. The sound from the subwoofer must integrate with the main speaker so they work together as one creating a convincing representation of the music. Correctly done, you should not be able to identify sound as coming from the subwoofers. This dialing in process is critical for best performance. It is complicated and our guys have had years of experience getting it just right. Setting the adjustments is counterintuitive and the instructions from the maker are usually incomplete and don’t address real-life situations. Dialing in is included with the purchase of subwoofers from us at no extra charge within our region. Your main speakers must be dialed in first. We call that process SRI (Speaker Room integration). Read more here.

We offer subwoofers from three companies: REL, Sonus faber, and Wilson Audio.

REL has many models. We eschew the lowest models. They may be fine for the price but we don’t think they add enough to be worthwhile, just get a better speaker or improve the system in some other way. Our consultants will help you with ideas on how to do that.

All REL woofers are powered and have an integrated crossover. We demonstrate three models in Omaha and one model in KC.

The RELs we recommend start around $1,300 each. Similar to REL but with different cabinet sizes, finishes, and control is Sonus faber. The models of Sonus faber we offer start around $1,500 each.

The step-up from REL and Sonus-faber is Wilson Audio. Wilson has three models. The least expensive is the WATCH Dog at $10,000 each. It is an extraordinary subwoofer but it is not powered so proper amplification, electronic crossover, and cabling can add quite a bit. A pair with all the necessary amplification, crossover, and cables makes this a $28,000 investment or more. We will be demonstrating the WATCH Dog starting in mid-June with the Rockport Cygnus.

When we are doing SRI (Speaker Room Integration) we often run into a problem with trade-off of bass performance and extension versus musically convincing midrange. Subwoofers alleviate this problem. We can place the main speakers for best overall performance and use the separate subwoofers to extend and improve the bass.

If you are curious about what stereo subwoofers can bring to the table, you now have three music systems in our Omaha showroom to listen to and one in Kansas City.

What woofers with what speakers?

We have carefully matched certain subwoofers with certain main speakers for best result. In our Omaha Showroom we demonstrate stereo REL S812 in a music system featuring Sonus faber Sonetto V speakers and stereo REL G1 Mark II with Sonus faber Olympica Nova III. In Our KC Showroom we are showing stereo REL S812 with Sonus faber Olympica Nova II speakers. Good, properly dialed in stereo subwoofers can add substantially to any music system. We make it easy for you to choose the best solution for you because we have done the work, the listening, and the research.

Special Note

We would usually have an event to promote and enjoy something like this. Given the current health concerns, that would be inappropriate. However, we would still like to share these systems with you. We are taking careful precautions to keep our showrooms as safe as possible. We invite you to stop in or set an appointment with one of our consultants for a demonstration of what subwoofers can bring to your music.



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