Subwoofers: Pay Attention To Coverage, Feasibility, Sound Quality

Subwoofers: Pay Attention To Coverage, Feasibility, Sound Quality

While the selection process is very subjective, listening to different subwoofer models in your worship space will go a long way toward determining the right fit.

Subwoofers are a crucial part of live sound reinforcement, and to be honest, my favorite part. This article will focus more on the coverage options, feasibility, and sound quality aspects with relation to subwoofers. When looking at potential subwoofer configurations, recognize that there are endless ways to get one to the desired result.

Understanding your options pertaining to subwoofers, will hopefully help you going forward come decision time with what you deem will be suitable for your worship space.

Whichever sub box you select, you should make sure that you get coverage in every single seat.

Coverage Considerations

There are many options for subwoofer boxes currently available, with the most common being a double driver arrangement, using 18-inch woofers in the cabinet.

Some companies, though, have designed subwoofers using bigger and smaller sizes of drivers, for example a double 21-inch array, or even a double 15-inch sub box and everywhere in between.

For the most part, subwoofers today are omnidirectional, with the exception of a horn loaded subwoofer, which is pretty directional straight out of the box.

Whichever sub box you select, you should make sure that you get coverage in every single seat.

One such option is the cardioid setup, where one takes one sub box and faces it forward, while taking another sub box and facing it backwards. For such a setup, one needs to delay the front-facing subs just enough to where the back-facing subs have enough time to produce sound. At the exact moment the sound from the back-facing subs aligns with that of the front-facing subs, the fronts would fire. What this does is it sums both subs together in the forward axis and gives you more rejection in the rear axis.

Another option to consider for a subwoofer setup, and probably the most common, is stacking the subs on each side of the stage. Generally, a couple of double 18-inch sub boxes are either ground stacked or flown very close to the left and right main hang of the PA system.

The good thing about such a setup is that the load in and load out typically is very easy if the setup is portable, and you shouldn't have to do too much time alignment with this setup.

A stacked setup, though, does have its problems though. Usually with this arrangement, you end up with some issues as you walk across the room. In the center of the two sub stacks, you will get a power alley, where the subs will be the loudest. As you go off center, though, you will discover a power valley, where the two sub stacks will suffer some bass cancellation.

The last setup worth noting here is another cardioid setup, known as an in-fire setup. With such a setup, one box is placed in front of another box approximately 6 feet apart, with both subs facing forward. The front box is delayed to the back box, and this allows them to sum going forward and cancel going backwards.

The in-fire setup is great, if you have the space in front of the stage, but it can also leave the musicians feeling disconnected from the audience or congregation with that much distance.

These three coverage options are just a few different coverage options and the most common from what I have seen, but there are plenty of different configurations to fit any room, so research what could be best for your room and expectations, and try what you think will be the most ideal.

Feasibility Options

This element to selecting the correct subwoofer often gets overlooked and can stop any setup dead in its tracks, if certain things aren't considered.

The first factor to take into account is power. You will need to know how much power you have available in your space or how much power you will need, especially if you are in the process of completing a new building. Subwoofers take up a massive amount of power, so make sure to find out what you are going to need, no matter what subwoofer you pick.

The next factor is the weight of the sub, especially if you are going to fly your selected subs. In that scenario, you will need to know what the building's structure can handle. Find out how much your subs weigh and rig appropriately.

When it comes to rigging, if you don't have experience here, get some help, because if a speaker and subwoofer setup is rigged carelessly, it can be very dangerous.

Finally, find out from your leadership what type of subwoofer setup or type would be acceptable. For example, is it OK to put 10 boxes in front of your stage? Or do the boxes need to go under your stage? These are questions that you should be able to answer before deciding on which subwoofer box or boxes should be used, and will affect the end result.

Sound Quality Matters

Among the best manufacturers of subwoofers in the business are L-Acoustics, d&b audiotechnik, Meyer Sound, Adamson, JBL, and Danley, if your church's budget allows it to make such a quality investment.

At the same time, the selection process is highly subjective, and I won't get too deep into my personal opinions.

My best recommendation in deciding on the right subwoofer: listen for yourself.

To get a good handle on which of the various choices on the market should be listened to, your integrator should be able to get whatever boxes you want to demo. Once a demo is set up, make sure you listen to them in the space they would end up being installed in, and make sure you like them if you are at the point of getting ready to make a purchase. Understand that every manufacturer has a different sound, along with its own set of benefits.

Seek out a subwoofer that best aligns with your vision and direction.

TAGS: Audio
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