Should I Add a Second Subwoofer to My Surround System?


This reader is adding Blu-ray and upgrading his audio to 7.1, and wants to know if a second subwoofer (to go 7.2) makes a big difference.

Dec. 17, 2009 — by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

I am in the process of upgrading my home entertainment system. I want to get as much out of the Blu-ray and HDTV as possible. I have been doing some research on the 7.2-channel surround systems and I am wondering if the extra powered subwoofer would make a very big difference. My listening/viewing area isn’t that large, and currently I have a non-HDMI receiver with 5.1 and it works really well for my space. I understand that Blu-ray has more sound information and 7.1 is the new thing, but is 7.2 better?—Keith, Ga.

A. Keith, one subwoofer may be enough for you depending on the room size—you mentioned yours is smaller, so you may not want to be overwhelmed—and your preferences for bass. If possible, having the extra sub will allow you to create a smoother, deeper soundstage (even if it’s a 5.2).

Blu-ray technology does offer better sound through more information if your system has the capability to decode the Dolby TrueHD and DTS Master Audio formats. These new formats are less compressed than Dolby Digital and DTS and they sound more dynamic and detailed.

There are two ways to decode Dolby TrueHD and DTS Master Audio: one, buy a receiver with built-in decoding. These receivers will include HDMI as part of their feature sets and that could allow you to buy a less-expensive Blu-ray player.

The other way to decode these formats is to buy a more feature-laden and expensive Blu-ray player that incorporates built-in decoding. In this type of scenario you will need six RCA cables to run from the player’s multichannel audio outputs into the analog multichannel inputs of your receiver or preamplifier/processor.

Most systems in today’s home aren’t 7.2, but there are many 5.1 or even 5.2 for those that choose to go that route.

To answer your question more simply, 7.2 isn’t necessarily better, and the improved performance you are talking about most likely refers to the compressed Dolby and DTS formats in comparison to hearing the lossless Dolby TrueHD and DTS-Master Audio formats.

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