What Is Bass? (Answered)

What Is Bass?

Bass, in audio terms, refers to the low deep frequencies, generally in the range of 16 to 256 Hz. The frequency range is responsible for those moments in music or movies where you can literally feel the sound. It reverberates throughout your body. It adds power to the sound and the experience. 

While music has always incorporated bass sounds it has become more important in recent years. Instruments such as the bass guitar, bass drums several woodwind and brass instruments, not to mention several vocal ranges, rely on decent bass reproduction. Modern music and movie soundtracks often use a lot of bass in their audio. 

Why bass is so important 

Bass is such an important element of music, the spoken words, and soundtracks or special effects that to neglect it would be a sin. While certain music styles or movies make more use of powerful bass it is critical to all audio for a deep rich sound. 

Even when bass is used subtly as a bridge between other frequencies it is still important to the overall sound of the audio track. 

One of the first examples of the importance of quality bass reproduction was from the 1974 movie “Earthquake”. At the time of release, only 17 theaters in the United States were equipped to deliver the full impact of the soundtrack. 

A new special-effects technology known as sensurround was used. The results were spectacular and drove the use of heavy bass in special effects and soundtracks. The use and implementation of the technology and equipment developed rapidly. 

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The power of the speaker’s system, including the bass or subwoofer, is measure in watts. Provided your amp is up to it, the more power the better. 

How to appreciate bass

The average decent speaker system should be able to deliver decent bass from the woofers. To really get the most out of the audio experience, a subwoofer is recommended. You can read more about subwoofers here. 

It is also important to understand phase control when installing and setting up your woofers. 

What is sub ass?

Sub-bass is about as low as it gets. The typical frequency range is from 80 to 20 Hz, the limit humans can hear at those frequencies. It would have always been a welcome addition to a high-end audio system or professional rig but as music production and particularly movie soundtrack technologies have improved it has become more relevant. 

Many artists and movie producers in the 1980s started to rely heavily on the sub-bass and the trend has continued. Those without the equipment to appreciate sub-bass lose much of the full impact of the audio.  

Subwoofers tend to be larger to be able to produce deep sub-bass but there are compact options available if space is an issue. 

Bass vs Treble

A concept that confuses some people is that of bass vs treble. You often see these terms on your receiver, amp, or equalizers. The answer is quite simple. 

All audio or sound travels in waves that cause vibrations. The speed of the vibrations determines the frequency. Bass frequencies have a large slow vibration. Treble is a faster and smaller vibration with a higher pitch or frequency. The rest of the sound falls into the midrange category. 

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This is the reason a comprehensive speaker system has a range of speakers allowing for the full range of frequencies. The size, materials, and design of the speakers, as well as other factors, will determine the frequency range. 

More on frequencies

To better understand frequencies, the following might be useful:

Sub-bass16 to 60 HzEg. Bass guitar, Tuba
Bass60 to 250 HzAverage speaking frequency
Lower Midrange250 to 500 HzEg. Alto Sax and mid woodwinds
Midrange500 Hz to 2 kHz
Higher Midrange2 to 4 kHz
Presence4 to 6 kHzEg. Violin harmonics
Brilliance6 to 20 kHzEg. Certain cymbals and whistles

While bass through to midrange or higher midrange accounts for most audio, to fully appreciate the production and all of the nuances, it is best to cover the full range of frequencies the human ear can detect. As music production becomes increasingly sophisticated, more complex frequency combinations are used. 

Final thoughts

It does not matter what music you listen to or movies you enjoy, bass is important. Ensure that your system is able to deliver the deep bass available in most modern audio formats. It will enrich the experience and increase your enjoyment. 

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By Charl Jooste

Writing full time from home, Charl enjoys modern technology and advanced gadgets but still has a soft spot for quality reliable appliances. He is passionate about durability and quality going to great lengths to find the very best ideas and leading products to share with readers.