Do I Need a Subwoofer to Go with My Tower Speakers?
Q I know that subwoofers are recommended for use with small bookshelf or satellite speakers, but are they also needed with floorstanding tower speakers such as the GoldenEar Technology Tritons? — Frank Hendricksen / via email
A That all depends on the capabilities of the particular speaker, your listening tastes, and the size of your room. There can be benefits to using a separate subwoofer even with tower speakers. First, the spot where you position your tower speakers for best imaging may not be the best location for bass reproduction. By using a separate sub, you are free to experiment with placement to find the spot in the room where the sub can generate the smoothest and most extended bass, as well as improve the system’s overall power handling by removing the burden of low-bass reproduction from the main speakers.
Second, subwoofers can bridge the gap in a system’s bass reproduction by filling in frequencies all the way down to 20 hertz (or even lower, depending on the sub). For reference, the lowest pedal on huge pipe organs is usually tuned to 16 Hz. As you say, subwoofers are recommended for smaller speakers with limited bass. But they can also extend the bass capabilities of tower speakers into the sub-bass range, as few passive tower speakers deliver significant output at frequencies deeper than 30 to 40 Hz.
Some compact tower speakers, including a number of models from GoldenEar, Definitive Technology, and others, address the deep bass issue by incorporating built-in powered subwoofers that let them reproduce frequencies well into the sub-bass range. That said, if cost is no object, these can also be enhanced by adding an even more robust subwoofer. Just be certain the subwoofer you choose is truly more capable than the towers themselves.