Tip for great home music systems: subwoofers

small subwoofers like sub air help home music systems sound better

People are listening to more music, often using streaming music. Many have music (and surround) speakers discreetly installed in their living spaces. Frequently this involves installing ceiling speakers. While they can sound great and are hidden in plain sight in the ceiling, there’s something missing,.. true low-end bass. This includes the low-end dance beat or the rumble from a movie explosion. These low-end sounds require subwoofers. But, there are ways to hide subwoofers too.

Speakers need to be physically large to create proper bass – blame physics. Even with the technical sorcery that manufactures build into their products to make small speakers produce surprising bass, they just can’t hit the true low notes. Its not just for dance music aficionados or action movie fans, good bass helps better fill sound in the room and is more pleasing to listen to (often without specifically noticing ‘bass’). We always encourage people to consider a discreet subwoofer (or completely hidden) whenever possible.

Standard subwoofers

A standard subwoofer needs to be large to properly produce proper bass – especially if you want explosion feeling bass. A true audiophile or cinephile will require a ‘proper’, read very large, subwoofer. In these cases, aesthetics often lose to sound. It doesn’t always have to be the case though. If you’re building or renovating, often some planning can greatly minimize impact to your living space. For example, its sometimes possible to cloak subwoofers with end tables or cabinetry. Often this doesn’t work for a room though, so we have to look to the next two categories.

In-wall or in-ceiling subwoofers

In-wall and in-ceiling subwoofers only need the speaker itself exposed. All the electronics can be hidden in some other part of the home. Some in-wall subwoofers use the space in the wall as part of the speaker to create great sound. Others like in-ceiling subs have the speaker cabinets hidden in the ceiling. Our ears can’t perceive where bass is coming from, so we often ‘hide’ speakers low to the ground behind furniture. Even if exposed, they’re usually barely noticed – like a vent cover. While you can get audiophile or cinephile grade in-wall subwoofers, even a reasonably priced setup can really open up the musicality and sound of a room.

Alternative subwoofers

Sometimes you’re in a bind – perhaps you want to more bass, but you can’t plan for a standard or in-wall/in-ceiling sub. Here you can look at clever subwoofers that are either small or non-standard shaped. While this category of subs can’t play as low as the others, they definitely improve the sound without a large visible presense. For example a small sub can easy be placed under an end table. You can also consider one like the Focal Sub Air that is just over 6” deep. If you’re a Sonos fan, their Sonos Sub is also just over 6” deep. These and others are wireless if you can’t run cables. Some are available in black or white to help blend into your decor as well. These can be  placed under or behind furniture as still sound great.

The addition of a good subwoofer will help improve the sound of home music systems. Depending on your situation and budget, from building to simply adding a wireless music streaming system, there are many subwoofer options available. With some planning, you shouldn’t have to compromise your home’s sound system.

Case Study: User Friendly – “nice and simple”

Living Room cropped shrunkThis busy couple were looking to update the home technology in their new high-rise home to work for their tastes and lifestyle. When they took over the space, it had a weak and dated music system in the living room, kitchen and master bedroom & bath. The old system didn’t provide any flexibility for their preference for satellite and iTunes music, and the only space to watch TV and movies was shoehorned into the den.

They previously had expensive and complex systems in other homes, but those didn’t live up to promises and were wrought with reoccurring issues. We decided to step back to focus the technology side of their home renovation on what truly mattered to them: simplicity with music throughout, and immersive but not overbearing TV & movie experiences. For this update, we worked with Sandra McIntyre of McIntyre Cresswell Design to meet this power couple’s aesthetic and home tech needs.

DenThe first task was to allow easy access for their satellite and iDevice music throughout the home.   For this, we employed Sonos Hi-Fi audio components and custom installed in-wall and in-celiling speakers for all the living spaces: living room & kitchen, den, guest bedroom & bath, and master bedroom & bath. The Sonos system not only offered full access to satellite and iPod music, but also Internet radio & streaming services and even their computers.

Next we turned our attention to design their unassuming but entertaining video spaces. In the living room, master bedroom and guest room, we layered Apple TV, cable boxes and high quality AV components with Sonos to allow flexibility and fun. Now the full range of options from broadcast TV to iDevice AirPlay to Netflix to satellite radio is at their finger tips.

Every room had its unique goals and needs, and as with most Vancouver homes, space is a premium. We countered this by designing the solution to tuck away AV amps and gear in a small laundry room cabinet. This not only saved valuable floor space, but also helped maintain living space aesthetics. We also retrofitted a Nexus21 TV lift in the master bedroom that conceals the TV and front speakers to work in conjunction with the master’s in-wall speakers for flexibility for music Connected Home In-Wall iPadand surround sound for movies. The home solution can be controlled using universal remotes and iDevices, including the convenient wall-mounted iPad Mini in the master bedroom. Care was also taken to ensure the wired and Wi-Fi network was solid not only for today’s work and play, but also for whatever tomorrow brings.

Home solutions should be easy to use and match lifestyles.  In the end this great couple got the perfect system they deserved – “Nice and simple!”

Master Bedroom TV Lift