I guess I am old school when it comes to audio. Growing up everyone wanted to have a pair of 12’s or at least 10’s for their speakers. Back then we did not have surround sound, just stereo. Our Televisions had built in speakers and most people never even thought of trying to connect a stereo receiver of any kind to the tv so that the sound could come out of their 10 or 12 inch speakers (or smaller if they even had any). Today tvs have speakers, but good luck locating them since they are so small. Nowadays we do add a receiver to the tv for surround sound, but typically with small speakers. Usually we run satellite speakers or perhaps bookshelf speakers. Because we use these small speakers they are incapable of producing any really deep bass so we then have to run a powered subwoofer.
Two problems with powered subwoofers:
1) Too much bass with music. I can’t stand booming bass that overpowers the music itself. I want it to all be somewhat balanced.
2) Too much bass for movies. This can at times overpower the rest of the sound effects found in whatever film you are watching especially if it’s an action, adventure, or sci-fi film where the sub is needed more.
So what then is the solution?
I believe it is all about balance. Balance in the size of speakers you choose to use, balance in the volume you turn up the sub, balance in how much gain you use on the sub. I choose to use 5 1/4″ book shelf speakers for my surround sound because they can recreate almost the full range of sound with the exception of the deep bass. I use a powered sub in one of my surround sound rooms, but with the volume and gain adjusted to give it just a little boom without overpowering everything else. Of course, acoustics matter too so trial and error is needed to get it just right. For music I do not use a sub at all! I use a pair of 12’s or dual 12’s or 8’s depending on what I am listening to and how I want it to sound. Keep in mind that if your goal is just lots of bass a powered sub makes sense. For instance, rap and some hip hop are usually loaded with lots of deep bass if that is what you are looking for.
How do you like to listen to your music? Do you use a powered sub? A passive sub? No sub at all?