If you’re a car enthusiast, you might have heard a phrase somewhere, from the internet, or just people in general which is basically saying that if you want more power, you’re going to need more displacement. Displacement of the engine is, in simple terms how much air the pistons move. It’s the number which you see in front of the engine type on cars. Common numbers are 1.6L, 2.4L, 3.6L, etc. Now the next question that might pop up will be, why am I talking about this in an audio enthusiast website? Well, this is where I’ll be going to talk about similarities.
In general, bigger, may not be better, but it does bring about certain options in terms of the sound spectrum. If you’ve read some of my previous posts, you may have come across the mention of “fake” bass. To “fake” bass is to replicate the lower frequencies which might not be possible because of the speaker by design, and bring it to the upper frequencies, which it can replicate. Typically they are brought up to about 100hz. I just don’t like it because it’s not real bass, which can overlap with other sound in that frequency area and make speakers sound muddy.
Like the title says, there is no replacement for displacement. There is a reason why we have speakers dedicated for the lower end of the sound spectrum, which we know as subwoofers. I’m not talking about those small subwoofers that come with those soundbars. I’m talking about those big ones in serious systems, and a good example is my very own Velodyne CT-100, which you can also read about here. The reason why they’re big and cubic is to replicate the lower spectrum of sound, which is typically 120Hz or lower. They are the ones that generate the true “ompf” in a system. To explain why they need to be big, if you see their woofers, they come in typically sizes of 8″ or more. Your other speakers don’t need that big a woofer, but these sizes are a necessity, and especially anything larger than 10″ for deeper, intense feels, sound in movie scenes. Why? Science behind it is, if you know how the speaker works, it moves more volume of air for the thump that you can feel. It’s like moving paper through air. It’s harder to move the paper if you’re moving it through flat side that you write on versus the thin sides that can cut you. It takes more energy to move more air at a faster rate, and that’s why you need to dedicate that to a specific speaker to generate the full sound.
Well then, what about tower speakers? There are some that will generate a close to “full” spectrum, which I consider to be near or from 20Hz to 20kHz. But if you go by the stat sheets, some only goes to around 35, and can’t get the last 15 or so because it doesn’t have the woofers for that purpose. But in general not many sounds go down past around 60. But that doesn’t take into consideration the drop in volume because it will start to struggle by that frequency. That’s why in the specs you can sees something like ±3db attached the that back. Anything that says ±6db is basically not a frequency you can hear anymore, and even then 3db difference is something you probably barely hear, but is not at the listening level compared to the rest of the sound spectrum.
In music, you can get away with maybe models with a sub included in their enclosure design, such as those from NHT’s line, especially the older models such as the 3.3 or Evolution T series. However, even tower speakers need the help of Subwoofer for the full experience. They can go lower because of the bigger woofers and with the help of the enclosure, but having just towers without a sub in some form, will not deliver the best listening experience, especially in movies. So, to end it off, like the title says, if you want a seriously good sound system that will deliver the “full” package, there is indeed, no replacement for displacement.