Technical & Editorial

Subwoofers: A Brief Look at the Effectiveness of Using a Subwoofer in a Music System


How Low Do We Need to Go?

The lowest frequency limits of standard and exotic extended range instruments (for example, contrabass flute) are shown at the following URL:

Some scores call for these instruments. The dominant instrument is the post 18th century organ with 32 foot pipes down to 16Hz. To hear the lowest sustained notes of the second movement of Saint-Saëns Organ symphony (No. 3) without significant attenuation, a subwoofer with more extension than what can typically be found in the sub $1000 price range is required The large SPLs produced by the giant organs also require a subwoofer with low distortion at these frequencies. The classic Munch recording is an excellent rendition with the organ well-reproduced in the second and final movements (RCA Living Stereo 61387). But, the Saint-Saëns is a rare example of a symphonic work with such a prominent organ part. Unless you listen to a significant amount of 19th and 20th century pieces for organ, the expense to get beyond 27Hz is hard to justify. As an example, only half this CD is the Organ Symphony. The CD also contains an exceptional rendition of Debussy's La Mer where the lowest notes are 27Hz and higher.

I do not define the cannon shots found in the score of the 1812 Overture as an exotic instrument. To reproduce these, please refer to another article by Tom Nousaine: