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Double bass player Vivien Garry playing a show in New York City in 1947. The double bass is the sub-bass instrument of the orchestral strings family, as it produces the pitches in the lowest register for this family. (Portrait of Teddy Kaye, Vivien Garry, and Arv(in) Charles Garrison, Dixon's, New York, N.Y., ca. May 1947) (LOC) (4976467461).jpg
Double bass player Vivien Garry playing a show in New York City in 1947. The double bass is the sub-bass instrument of the orchestral strings family, as it produces the pitches in the lowest register for this family.

Sub-bass sounds are the deep, low- register pitched pitches approximately below 60  Hz (C2 in scientific pitch notation) and extending downward to include the lowest frequency humans can hear, assumed at about 20 Hz (E0). In this range, human hearing is not very sensitive, so sounds in this range tend to be felt more than heard. [1] The low E-string on a bass guitar is usually tuned to 41.2 Hz, while the lowest note on a piano is A, at 27.5 Hz. Sound reinforcement systems and PA systems often use one or more subwoofer loudspeaker cabinets that are specifically designed for amplifying sounds in the sub-bass range. Sounds below sub-bass are called infrasound.

Hearing and usage

20 Hz is considered the normal low-frequency limit of human hearing. When pure sine waves are reproduced under ideal conditions and at very high decibels, a human listener will be able to identify tones as low as 12 Hz (G–1). [2] Audio tracks known as bass tests use sub-bass frequencies which are used to test or to demonstrate the capabilities of audio equipment. High-end subwoofers can accurately reproduce sound to about 18 Hz ±2 dB. [3]

Sub-bass energy is popular in dance music, where the low frequencies involve energy from the kick drum (bass drum), the bass guitar and electronic synthesizers and drum machines. Particular genres such as house music, drum and bass and dubstep often feature a bassline that consists mainly of sub-bass frequencies. Much experimental music uses sub-bass, in particular drone music, where the majority of the sound can often be in the sub-bass range. Often, hip hop and rap songs feature prevalent sub-bass. The pedal keyboard range on pipe organs also often extends into the sub-bass range; the bottom note of a 16′ stop is typically tuned to 32 Hz (C1), a 32′ stop at 16 Hz (C0).

Related Research Articles

Bass (sound) Tone of low frequency or range

Bass ( BAYSS) (also called bottom end) describes tones of low (also called "deep") frequency, pitch and range from 16 to 256 Hz (C0 to C3) and bass instruments that produce tones in the low-pitched range C2-C4. They belong to different families of instruments and can cover a wide range of musical roles. Since producing low pitches usually requires a long air column or string, and for stringed instruments, a large hollow body, the string and wind bass instruments are usually the largest instruments in their families or instrument classes.

High fidelity High-quality reproduction of sound

High fidelity is a term used by listeners, audiophiles, and home audio enthusiasts to refer to high-quality reproduction of sound. This is in contrast to the lower quality sound produced by inexpensive audio equipment, AM radio, or the inferior quality of sound reproduction that can be heard in recordings made until the late 1940s.

Subwoofer Loudspeaker designed to reproduce low-pitched audio frequencies

A subwoofer is a loudspeaker designed to reproduce low-pitched audio frequencies known as bass and sub-bass, lower in frequency than those which can be (optimally) generated by a woofer. The typical frequency range for a subwoofer is about 20–200 Hz for consumer products, below 100 Hz for professional live sound, and below 80 Hz in THX-certified systems. Subwoofers are never used alone, as they are intended to augment the low-frequency range of loudspeakers that cover the higher frequency bands. While the term "subwoofer" technically only refers to the speaker driver, in common parlance, the term often refers to a subwoofer driver mounted in a speaker enclosure (cabinet), often with a built-in amplifier.

Loudspeaker Electroacoustic transducer that converts an electrical audio signal into a corresponding sound

A loudspeaker is an electroacoustic transducer; a device which converts an electrical audio signal into a corresponding sound. The most widely used type of speaker is the dynamic speaker. The sound source must be amplified or strengthened with an audio power amplifier before the signal is sent to the speaker.

Pitch (music) Perceptual property in music ordering sounds from low to high

Pitch is a perceptual property of sounds that allows their ordering on a frequency-related scale, or more commonly, pitch is the quality that makes it possible to judge sounds as "higher" and "lower" in the sense associated with musical melodies. Pitch can be determined only in sounds that have a frequency that is clear and stable enough to distinguish from noise. Pitch is a major auditory attribute of musical tones, along with duration, loudness, and timbre.

A woofer or bass speaker is a technical term for a loudspeaker driver designed to produce low frequency sounds, typically from 50 Hz up to 1000 Hz. The name is from the onomatopoeic English word for a dog's bark, "woof". The most common design for a woofer is the electrodynamic driver, which typically uses a stiff paper cone, driven by a voice coil surrounded by a magnetic field.

Infrasound Vibrations with frequencies lower than 20 hertz

Infrasound, sometimes referred to as low-frequency sound, describes sound waves with a frequency below the lower limit of audibility. Hearing becomes gradually less sensitive as frequency decreases, so for humans to perceive infrasound, the sound pressure must be sufficiently high. The ear is the primary organ for sensing low sound, but at higher intensities it is possible to feel infrasound vibrations in various parts of the body.

The low-frequency effects (LFE) channel is an audio track for deep, low-pitched sounds of 3–120 Hz. This track is normally sent to a subwoofer—a loudspeaker designed to reproduce very low-frequencies. LFE channels originated in Dolby Stereo 70 mm film, but in the 1990s and 2000s, they became common in home theater systems to reproduce film soundtracks for DVDs and Blu-ray discs.

Missing fundamental

A harmonic sound is said to have a missing fundamental, suppressed fundamental, or phantom fundamental when its overtones suggest a fundamental frequency but the sound lacks a component at the fundamental frequency itself. The brain perceives the pitch of a tone not only by its fundamental frequency, but also by the periodicity implied by the relationship between the higher harmonics; we may perceive the same pitch even if the fundamental frequency is missing from a tone.

Scientific pitch notation

Scientific pitch notation is a method of specifying musical pitch by combining a musical note name and a number identifying the pitch's octave.

The brown note is a hypothetical infrasonic frequency that would cause humans to lose control of their bowels due to resonance. Attempts to demonstrate the existence of a "brown note" using sound waves transmitted through the air have failed.

Bass reflex

A bass reflex system is a type of loudspeaker enclosure that uses a port (hole) or vent cut into the cabinet and a section of tubing or pipe affixed to the port. This port enables the sound from the rear side of the diaphragm to increase the efficiency of the system at low frequencies as compared to a typical sealed- or closed-box loudspeaker or an infinite baffle mounting.

A tactile transducer or "bass shaker" is a device which is made on the principle that low bass frequencies can be felt as well as heard. They can be compared with a common loudspeaker, just that the diaphragm is missing. Instead, another object is used as a diaphragm. A shaker transmits low-frequency vibrations into various surfaces so that they can be felt by people. This is called tactile sound. Tactile transducers may augment or in some cases substitute for a subwoofer. One benefit of tactile transducers is they produce little or no noise, if properly installed, as compared with a subwoofer speaker enclosure.

Loudspeaker enclosure Acoustical component

A loudspeaker enclosure or loudspeaker cabinet is an enclosure in which speaker drivers and associated electronic hardware, such as crossover circuits and, in some cases, power amplifiers, are mounted. Enclosures may range in design from simple, homemade DIY rectangular particleboard boxes to very complex, expensive computer-designed hi-fi cabinets that incorporate composite materials, internal baffles, horns, bass reflex ports and acoustic insulation. Loudspeaker enclosures range in size from small "bookshelf" speaker cabinets with 4" woofers and small tweeters designed for listening to music with a hi-fi system in a private home to huge, heavy subwoofer enclosures with multiple 18" or even 21" speakers in huge enclosures which are designed for use in stadium concert sound reinforcement systems for rock music concerts.

Bass amplifier

A bass amplifier or "bass amp" is a musical instrument electronic device that uses electrical power to make lower-pitched instruments such as the bass guitar or double bass loud enough to be heard by the performers and audience. Bass amps typically consist of a preamplifier, tone controls, a power amplifier and one or more loudspeakers ("drivers") in a cabinet.

A rotary woofer is a subwoofer-style loudspeaker which reproduces very low frequency content by using a conventional speaker voice coil's motion to change the pitch of an impeller rotating at a constant speed. The pitch of the fan blades is controlled by the audio signal presented to the voice coil, and is able to swing both positive and negative, with respect to a zero pitch spinning blade position. Since the audio amplifier only changes the pitch of the blades, it takes much less power, per dB of generated acoustic sound level, to drive a rotary woofer than to power a conventional subwoofer, which uses a moving electromagnet placed within the field of a stationary permanent magnet to drive a cone which then displaces air. Rotary woofers excel at producing sounds below 20 Hz, below the normal hearing range; when installed in the wall of a sealed room, they can produce audio frequencies down to zero Hz, a static pressure differential, by simply compressing the air in the sealed room.

A subharmonic synthesizer is a device or system that generates subharmonics of an input signal. The nth subharmonic of a signal of fundamental frequency F is a signal with frequency F/n. This differs from ordinary harmonics, where the nth harmonic of fundamental frequency F is a signal of frequency nF.

A super tweeter is a speaker driver intended to produce ultra high frequencies in a multi-driver loudspeaker system. Its purpose is to recreate a more realistic sound field, often characterized as "airy-ness". Super tweeters are sometimes found in high fidelity speaker systems and sometimes even in home theater systems. They are used to supplement the sound of tweeters by reproducing frequencies which the tweeter may produce only with a narrow polar output, or perhaps with distortion.

Psychoacoustics is the branch of psychophysics involving the scientific study of sound perception and audiology—how humans perceive various sounds. More specifically, it is the branch of science studying the psychological responses associated with sound. Psychoacoustics is an interdisciplinary field of many areas, including psychology, acoustics, electronic engineering, physics, biology, physiology, and computer science.

Keyboard amplifier

A keyboard amplifier is a powered electronic amplifier and loudspeaker in a wooden speaker cabinet used for amplification of electronic keyboard instruments. Keyboard amplifiers are distinct from other types of amplification systems such as guitar amplifiers due to the particular challenges associated with making keyboards sound louder on stage; namely, to provide solid low-frequency sound reproduction for the deep basslines which keyboards can play and crisp high-frequency sound for the high-register notes. Another difference between keyboard amplifiers and guitar/bass amplifiers is that keyboard amps are usually designed with a relatively flat frequency response and low distortion. In contrast, many guitar and bass amp designers purposely make their amplifiers modify the frequency response, typically to "roll off" very high frequencies, and most rock and blues guitar amps, and since the 1980s and 1990s, even many bass amps are designed to add distortion or overdrive to the instrument tone.


  1. "Interactive Frequency Chart". Independent Recording Network. Archived from the original on 24 March 2013. Retrieved March 9, 2012.CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  2. Olson, Harry F. (1967). Music, Physics and Engineering . Dover Publications. p.  249. ISBN   0-486-21769-8.
  3. "VTF-15H Subwoofer". Hsu Research. Retrieved March 9, 2012.