Deepest Bass Ever?

We’ve received a few inquiries from readers about a music track I’ve mentioned in recent subwoofer reviews. Considering that I’ve described the piece in question as having “the most intense low bass I’ve ever heard,” this interest isn’t surprising.

I was introduced to this recording by the founder of subwoofer specialist company Hsu Research, Dr. Poh Hsu, who included it on his own subwoofer test CD. It’s a 1983 performance of Camille Saint-Saëns’ Symphony No. 3, better known as the “Organ Symphony.”

As you can see in the spectrum analyzer readout above (measured with True RTA software in peak hold mode and the graph set to span 10 to 100 Hz), the deepest note in this recording is at 16 Hz. Hearing it through a subwoofer with ample response below 20 Hz is an astounding experience.

You don’t really hear the deepest bass notes, you just feel them — and yes, if your sub is capable enough and the fabric of your khakis is light enough, you will feel your pants flap a little. Surprisingly, this isn’t the kind of obnoxious, headache-inducing sturm und drang one often encounters on test CDs. It’s a gorgeous orchestral recording that seems to float above the deep organ notes like cirrus clouds passing over California during a 7.0 earthquake.

This recording was originally released on the Boston Audio Society’s Test CD-1, which is available through DB Systems. Beware: Not just any recording of the “Organ Symphony” will match the deep bass you get here. The other recordings I’ve heard of this piece can’t touch this one.

You have to be careful with this track, though. Play it too loud through a subwoofer that’s not equipped with a limiter, or through a full-range passive speaker, and you risk blowing the woofer. Even with a monster sub such as the Hsu Research VTF-15H, the woofer diaphragm moves so far back and forth when playing this track that you might fear the cone will pull free of its basket.

If you dig the “Organ Symphony,” I’d suggest also checking out organist Michael Murray’s Telarc recording of Joseph Jongen’s “Symphony Concertante” with Edo de Waart conducting the San Francisco Symphony. The bass doesn’t drop quite as deep as on the Saint-Saëns’ recording on the Boston Audio Test CD-1, but it’s still a challenging piece that only the best subwoofers can faithfully reproduce.