In the past few weeks, I've been talking about my favorite audio subject: bass in yo' face. I admit it's a guilty pleasure because I've always had a fascination with bass.
I don't know what it is exactly, but it probably has something to do with the fact that you can feel bass as well as hear it.
But as we've noticed through my ramblings here, depending on the way your house is set up, there can be a zone you walk through where the bass is great, and yet 3 feet away could be an area where the bass is gone completely.
This is usually the fault of either the walls or the floor. Or the ceiling. Or all of the above. Bass waves are really long, and if they're not created the right way or in the right environment, they can pass right through the walls like a ghost. Ghost Bass Killah, if you will.
In these cases, you can bet that the neighbor that lives about 35 feet away from your subwoofer is enjoying your bass better than you are.
Have you ever noticed a car bumping bass so hard the license plate rattles? You can't find too many loopholes in the laws of physics, so I get a kick out of knowing that some of the bass lines coming out of that guy's sub are being heard loudest by the cars around him. There is some special science at play when you put a speaker box inside another box (i.e. a subwoofer in a car), and a sort of phenomenon permits the bass levels in the second box to be relatively high, provided it's a sealed enclosure and the windows are up. But if his sub is capable of truly low notes, they're still going to be best heard from a distance.
To compensate for this in car bass competitions, subwoofer rigs are loaded to bear with more drivers than a Kardashian has Instagram followers. In audio, often the best way to approach challenges like that is to bull-rush over them with brute force.
For example, a line array of subwoofers is a fantastic way to cancel out those weak and strong zones in your listening room. But honestly, what normal listener is OK with 12 subwoofers pounding back at him in the living room? I don't know too many spouses who would find that look very attractive.
In my house, I notice that when I close our upstairs bedroom door, the bass downstairs becomes more balanced and natural sounding. Geometry-wise, our first-floor living room opens up at the end to extend the ceiling to the second floor — so the bass goes up and around the house. With room like that to breathe, those waves can be tricky to get balanced. When I close the door, it segments the bass path to two different-sized areas, so it doesn't add any extra resonance and stays put to an extent.
If you're interested in trying to get the best bass out of your system, understanding how the waves move is the first step. Changes will come in the form of moving speakers around usually until the walls begin to work with the subs. Balance is key, because when it comes to bass, even the least tech-savvy of us will know when it's too boomy.
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