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How To Boost Your Bass

By Smarthouse Team | Thursday | 14/12/2006

Want to add subtle depths to music? Crave sofa-shaking movie action? You need better bass - here's how to get it.

1. Decide exactly what kind of bass boost you're after
If you want the sort of bass that can be heard emanating from nightclubs, the answer's easy. Put your speakers on the floor in the corners of your room, whack up the bass control on your amp and let those cloudy low frequencies dominate your music. Not for you? Good. Bass is great, but we're interested in quality as well as quantity.

2. Choose your kit carefully
Every link in your system's sonic chain influences the bass you hear and feel, so pick with care: amplifiers, sources and the audio connections between them all have a say. Reviews will help you identify those products with the best low-end ability, but make sure you hear the whole set-up to ensure it has the right synergy.

3. Choose your speakers even more carefully
If you've a big room, little speakers won't provide the bass scale you want; conversely, huge speakers in a small space can chuck out too much ill-controlled low-end stuff. Also remember that the best standmount speakers - when mounted on sturdy stands - provide tighter, faster bass than many affordable floorstanders. However, for ultra-deep bass, quality floorstanders are essential.

4. Use your speakers wisely
Your room's acoustic characteristics are unique, so spend some time positioning your speakers. Obviously, decor and taste will narrow your options, but big differences in sound can be achieved by moving speakers around in a relatively small area. Backward a bit, left a bit… bingo!

5. Pay attention to ports
A great many speaker designs feature ports that use the energy created by the movement of the drivers to reinforce bass. If your favourite speakers have ports that fire backwards, they could sound cloudy and bloated when placed too close to a wall.

6. Invest in accessories
A decent kit rack makes a big difference to the speed and weight of your bass, while dedicated stands are vital for standmount speakers. You should also ensure that every nut, bolt and spike is properly tightened. Finally, upgrade mains cables can tighten the sound all round. Yes, really.

7. Buy a subwoofer
If you still find your music lacks low-end conviction, adding a dedicated bass speaker is an option - so long as it's a good one. However, for home cinema, adding a sub isn't so much optional as essential.

8. More subwoofers
Subs intended for hi-fi use must time effectively if they're not to drag on your music's tempo. Outright bass levels won't be a problem (even a cheap sub goes deeper than most bookshelf speakers), so look, first and foremost, for pace and agility.

9. Yet more subwoofers
Multichannel set-ups have slightly different needs - timing's still important, of course, but many movie soundtracks rely on the huge low-end presence and dynamic ability a good subwoofer possesses. So, depth and punch, plus invisible integration with your speakers, are also required.

10. Spread the load
What's better than one subwoofer? Easy: two subs. Sharing the low-frequency load between two subwoofers makes it harder for your ears to localize the sonic source of all that bass. Depending on your kit, you may also be able to set your subs up to run in stereo, further aiding integration.

And: four tracks to test you've got it right

 Boards Of Canada: Offers sinuous, speedy, awfully deep bass on Aquarius. Your system must stop and start on the proverbial…

Johnny Cash The Man Comes Around: Mount Rushmore voice and portentous piano test expression and emotion.

Massive Attack Angel: provides drive and, erm, attack to test your set-up's extension and control. Utterly unforgiving!

Prokoviev Montagues and Capulets: from Romeo and Juliet as a wide-screen test of sheer scale. Should sound like a storm coming.



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