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Never Use Bass Boost! Misguided Advice and What to Do

Angry woman

I believe we all need a good way to tune out distractions. Distractions keep us from focusing on things that really matter. I think it really matters to enjoy music and not be distracted by such questions as:

  • Am I going to blow my speakers by using the bass knob?
  • Is it shameful for me to like it loud?
  • Did I buy good enough equipment to gain approval of my peers?
Bass knob
Bass knob

This little knob gets a fair amount of hate, and I believe it’s unjustified in many cases.

Consider this. We listen to music, the news, podcasts and such in a variety of places with a wide range of distracting ambient noises at different levels of intensity. If you consider yourself a person who values high fidelity, or accurate playback, you probably value a very balanced, “true”, sound whether you have ever thought about it or not.

It is both satisfying and reassuring to know that both trained and untrained listeners recognize and prefer accurate loudspeakers…

Audio Musings by Sean Olive – 

Part 3 – Relationship between Loudspeaker Measurements and Listener Preferences

If you’re really savvy, you might know what this graph represents. If not, click or touch the image to read the linked article by Steve Feinstein at InMusic Inc.

Example of a frequency response graph

This image is one possible way to represent a bass limited speaker with excellent frequency response. It’s a very limited amount of information, but that’s a topic for future articles. 

This is derived with instruments such as a computer, a software package, and a microphone. This is unlike how our two ears and a brain hear and perceive sounds.

Target frequency response curve for the car
Target frequency response curve for the car

Next we have a different frequency response graph that is more closely illustrating what is widely accepted as an enjoyable balance of sound in a moving car. Remember that a moving car has distracting background sounds. Much of the background sound is at low frequencies(10-160 Hz), and the masking effects mean we need more bass than midrange and treble. Interestingly, there are applications of sound masking that can be beneficial. 

What in the world am I supposed to do with THAT data?

In a moving vehicle you need to get the bass right. Full, rich, deep – this is the lingo of good bass. 

Why Would You Not Want The Bass Turned UP?

A: It takes away from the way the artist intended the music to sound.

Truth: At best we are hearing some variation of an IMITATION of a single performance of the music. Your music collection could indeed have a more truthful, accurate sound and we also need to have the structure of aural memories plus “How to Listen” in mind to make that judgement. 

I turn up the bass but I hear distortion, rattles, vibrations(any 1 or a combination of the insults).

Other than damaged or defective speakers, which is very common, a very irritating insult to our enjoyment of music in the vehicle is often caused by rattles and vibrations happening in response to acoustic energy.

In other words, it’s time to get busy with sound damping.

Follow along with a journey of learning and exploring various sound damping(aka deadening) techniques which were done in the name of improving comfort and to better enjoy the MUSIC.


How To Improve Your Vehicle’s Bass – Sound Damping Part 1

I added a subwoofer and I’m NOT going to risk blowing it.

Oh yeah, I’m with you on that one. Almost everyone knows at least one person who has had a speaker, or an amplifier, let the magic smoke out.

The amount of bass in your program material is a constantly changing target.

Look at how many videos come up on YouTube for the search string “how to get the bass right in your mix”. The point is this is just one step in the process of getting the artist’s creative content from an idea to your ears, and there is someone’s skill and decision making at play, not to mention the equipment in use.

Do Not Be Shy About Adjusting the Bass Controls

If you don’t trust that your sound system is up to the task of getting the bass to your satisfaction it’s a fine time to ask yourself, “Why am I hesitating to correct this?”.

Take some time to dig in to the articles and videos linked throughout this article. If you’ve gotten a lot of value from this please subscribe to the e-mail list. Please share this article.

Barry Schanz

3 thoughts on “Never Use Bass Boost! Misguided Advice and What to Do

  1. […] Never Use Bass Boost! Misguided Advice and What to Do […]

  2. […] Never Use Bass Boost! Misguided Advice and What to Do […]

  3. Your article is interesting about bass boost however I cannot agree about never using the bass boost. If that knob is within reach while I am listening I tend to adjust it with every other song. That little bugger has so much power in such a small knob, assuming you have a decent subwoofer(s) and well designed system overall.

    I am not the type of listener that needs to see the mirror shaking constantly however. I like to hear the entire range of frequencies in the music. Flat response no. I like just enough bass response so it is not dominant. Not likely that everyone will agree but that is not the point. I like to change it and enjoy the variations at will.

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