Written by 4:46 pm Subwoofers

What is Good Bass?

We audiophiles use the term “good bass” a lot. But does the term have a concrete definition? Steven Stone thinks not…


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My angler friends tell me that anything that weighs over three pounds
is a good bass…but for my audiophile friends the answer isn’t quite so simple…that
kind of good bass is harder to define…

Even the term “good bass” is subjective. Your personal
definition of what constitutes good bass will often be determined by the kind
of music you listen to. Good bass for an urban dance music and hip-hop fan will
be different from a classical or jazz listener. And if the backseat of a Chevy
Vega has been your “reference system” you’re gonna have different expectations
than someone plopped in front of a pair of Wilson Sashas.

My own definition of good bass revolves around definition,
detail, and transient speed. In other words, quality trumps quality. In most of
my systems I have ways to augment bass if I need to raise the bass levels. I
can use filters in my computer playback systems, or just turn up the subwoofer.
As long as the original signal is clean, I can raise or lower its level, but
if the initial source is muddy, it’s game over.

In many systems and with headphones, the “right” amount of bass
is mitigated by the system’s treble levels. The more top end a system has, the
more bass it “needs” to give the system a feeling of proper balance. Of course
there is a tipping point, where the system can lurch into the “happy face
curve” of midrange scoop, where the tiss-bang overshadows the midrange.

For some audiophiles, there is only one “right” amount of bass
– the amplitude that yield the flattest frequency response. And while on paper,
and in theory, a flat frequency response is always the best, in the real world
very few systems are really flat, and even on those that can achieve a flat
response, few are actually set up that way. Most have some variance, based on
user preferences, that yields a more pleasing sonic result than a “flat
response.”

As to whether an individual system’s variance from flat results
in more or less bass than “flat” depends more on the owner’s tastes than any
objective measurements, because after all the pundits have opined, good bass is
an individual call…

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