Theatre Simply Isn’t Theatre Without a Quality Subwoofer

Watching movies at home requires adding a subwoofer. It’s as simple as that.

Unlike music, much of popular theatre relies upon oodles of low bass, often at exceptionally high levels of volume. Contemporary exceptions to the previous sentence may lie in the realms of hip hop and rap, but the basic difference is existential. Much of music can still be enjoyed–albeit far less, without the contributions of a high-quality subwoofer. A great sub, like the ones REL makes, unlocks so much more space, texture, and reality to music’s reproduction. Likewise, the impact of a photon torpedo slamming into the bridge of a U.S.S. starship without the necessary horsepower of a good sub? Um, not so much. The scene no longer works. This is true enough that I’m comfortable making the statement that without the inclusion of a good subwoofer, home theatre doesn’t work at all; it sinks back into the realm of “watching tv.”

Here’s where recent developments in our home theatre range helps to inform specific choices that will  deliver the wildly dynamic bass that makes home theatre owners “jump” when hit by the suddenness of special effects.

Speed is Fun: ALL RELs, especially over the past decade or more, are fast. Whereas most theatre-centric subs rely principally on pure loudness, loudness has its virtue in theatre applications, but without great speed and tactility. Your home theatre can become similar to what music lovers refer to as “one-note bass”. In theatre, this refers to a steady, drumming thump that cannot track and transform various types and kinds of special effect-heavy scenes. Watch Fury with a lower/slower home theatre sub. Check out any scene wherein tank rounds smack into an opposing tank. You’ll consistently hear the same sound, over and over. That loud, dull whump, is the result of slow, heavy cones struggling to keep up with the scene. Loud? Yes. Compelling? Not really. Using a new REL HT the same scene startles you with a loud WHANG!!!  as the first shell glances off the turret. German tanks clearly have larger (88mm vs. 76mm shells)  guns and you can clearly hear they are pitched lower. It’s this versatility, resulting from speed and low bass power/extension that leads to deeper involvement with the art form.

Wider Bandwidth: In the HT models, this has been improved upon by experiments in extending bandwidth in such a way that all the explosiveness of movie sounds are accurately reproduced, yet the lows remain crossed over properly low. You see, home theatre requires a higher frequency upper limit than music to not muffle the dynamics of movie scenes. This is one of the principal ways that HT allows for a more accurate capture of the movie experience when compared with our traditional models.  Most theatre-centric subs allow too much to get through, often allowing  scenes to lose dynamic control resulting in less enjoyment, and more worry that things can get out of control or overload when the going gets crazy.  Our HT range splits the difference between traditional RELs and home theatre-mostly subs and is very much the better for it. It’s now easier to watch a full-length action film and relax into the plot instead of hovering over the volume control button, ready to turn it down a click during the biggest scenes.

RELTip: Don’t advance your HT crossover past the 1 o’clock setting. Instead, set your receiver’s bass crossover to 120-200Hz and let your REL HT’s crossover fine-tune that setting. You’ll find that in almost all instances, you’ll wind up between 10 and 1 o’clock for the most natural AND most explosive special effects. Anything beyond 1 o’clock is likely to result in boomy bass that wastes power and can lead to overloading the HT’s amp for no benefit. Keep the crossover below 1 o’clock and your HT will actually play louder on peaks.

Big Power, Big Fun: HT delivers lots of power because that’s a key ingredient in being able to express the instantaneous explosiveness of a great special effect. 300watts, 500 watts, 1,000 watts…check, check and checkmate. And all of this at remarkably affordable prices because we know that affordability, linked with high output, is part of the positive theatre experience.

So, the next time you settle into your couch, or you lucky ones settle into your $6,000 purpose-built theatre seats (“Butler, bring me my popcorn and a stiff drink, please.”) and fire up your theatre for a long night with Netflix or the blu ray of your choice, remember that it’s those subs like REL’s HTs that deliver improvements across the board in theatre. Follow our tips above and you’ll hear the benefits to dialogue as well as totally uncompressed .1/LFE special effects. All accompanied by the speed and transient snap our traditional subs deliver. Next time, we’ll show you how to combine trad-RELs with HTs for the ultimate in-home theatre experience.

July 20, 2022 - Posted in: Principles of Sound