Owning multiple subwoofers is no longer restricted to the most hardcore AV obsessives. If you want to put together the best home theater audio you can, dual subs can make all the difference. Not only do they help add much needed weight to the best soundbars or stereo speakers’ output, they help balance your audio to give you a far richer listening experience – which is why home theater installers recommend multiple subs.
I’ve owned a first-generation Sonos Sub for years now, but it was only recently when I splurged on an additional Gen 3 subwoofer that I realized I’ve been selling my sound system short. When you sink the sort of ludicrous budget I’ve dropped not only on a Sonos Arc but a pair of up-firing Sonos Era 300 speakers, what’s an extra (still eye-watering) ’woofer, right?
If nothing else, buying two subs has at least helped improve my normally slumping, caveman-like posture. To maximize their impact, I’ve finally started to sit up straight on my couch, placing myself totally in the center of where their audio output should theoretically cross over.
There’s a lot of back-and-forth about where exactly you should place a single subwoofer in your TV room, let alone facing the conundrum of figuring out where to drop a second one. For the purposes of this piece, I decided to stick one in the corner of my living room – placing a sub near a wall can help broaden its sound – while I stuck the older model diagonally across from it.
And how did I go about breaking in my multiple subwoofer home theater setup, you ask? By binging some of my favorite movies of all time… and also Godzilla vs. Kong, for some reason.
For context, I played a collection of both normal and Ultra HD Blu-ray play discs through my Xbox Series X. Sporting respectable Dolby Atmos coverage considering it’s a games console first and foremost and not one of the best 4K Blu-ray players, I was impressed at how good the following assortment of films both looked (and crucially sounded) on Microsoft’s machine.
Sure, there’s a slight audio delay of a second or so when pausing and resuming Dolby Atmos content on Xbox Series X’s Blu-ray app, which is less than ideal for obsessive audiophiles. Yet despite these minor tech hiccups, the night I just spent revisiting a collection of my favorite flicks with my relatively new Sonos home theater system is one my exhausted but exhilarated lobes won’t soon forget.
The Dark Knight Rises
It may be the least beloved of Nolan’s Bats trilogy, but there’s no denying Rises brings the bass. With my dual subwoofer setup, the beatdown Bane lays on the Dark Knight has a new dimension of brutality. As Christian Bale’s vigilante takes a heroic pasting for the ages, my Sonos subs batter my ears from opposing sides in a style that’s worthy of an iconic scrap where Tom Hardy’s mumbling villain finally breaks the Bat.
Michael Mann’s criminally overlooked LA thrillride is one of my favorite films of the early 2000s, and it’s another movie that gets your ears purring with a surround system bolstered by a pair of ’woofers. The pivotal Korean nightclub scene as The Cruiser goes on an assassation spree that would turn John Wick green with envy delivers epic audio. As Oakenfold’s Korean Style blares away against a backdrop of strobe lights and choke holds, the spatial height my Sonos 300 speakers provide are complimented by my duo of Sonos subs that make the audio experience feel truly three-dimensional. Also, Cruise really needs to play more bad guys.
Godzilla vs. Kong
A veritable all-you-can-eat bass buffet, and the best audio experience I squeeze out of my twin subwoofer experiment. The thoroughly camp monster flick serves up a soundscape that feels all-encompassing thanks to its Dolby Atmos support. The bass levels when the two titanic beasties go to war for the first time on an aircraft carrier is practically bone-shaking. It’s so loud, I have to dial down the volume on my Sonos app to a mere 28 out of 100 to stop my neighbors calling the authorities on me. The bit where the puny humans deploy depth charges to stop the Big G from pulling Kong down into the depths is cinema-boosting bass at its best. It’s an audio barrage that’s all the more impactful when those low frequencies are being delivered from multiple sub sources.
Forget his already ironic turn in Barbie. This cerebral, ultra stylish take on what the Fast & Furious franchise could look like if it had two brain cells to rub together will always be the Ryan Gosling performance in my mind. During the opening getaway, Kavinsky’s Night Call brings all the boom to my room. As does A Real Hero, by College featuring Electric Youth, which bookends the big emotional beats of this self-aware action flick with pulsating low notes that hit me from opposing corners of my living room.
Blade Runner 2049
For my money, the most pristine transfer I’ve ever seen from a 4K Blu-ray. It’s hardly a monocle-dropping shocker that this spellbinding, utterly unjust commercial flop also sounds the absolute business bass-wise. As the late Vangelis’ iconic Tears in Rain theme builds to a subtle yet rumbling conclusion, K quietly accepts his fate on snow-covered steps, where the benefits of multi-directional subs can be keenly appreciated.
Saving Private Ryan
The mournful WWII epic also gets the full Dolby Atmos treatment, and hoo-boy can you ever feel an all-encompassing soundscape during that opener. 25 years on, it remains the most visceral depiction of war committed to celluloid. When those Bangalores go boom around the 18th minute mark – shredding the sands of the Normandy beach – the rich, multi-directional bass shivers my spine. It’s humbling, it’s harrowing, and it’s really bloody loud.
It’s no surprise that this pioneering sci-fi delivers riveting bass levels, given that it has such a rich score to fall back upon. The low-frequency highlights? How about when Neo and Trinity meet in that (S&M?) club for the first time; their terse introduction punctuated by pulsating underground tunes I feared would rip my new LG G3 OLED out of its wall bracket.
Neo and Agent Smith’s subway smackdown is another real highlight, with the pair’s gravity-defying scrap eking the sort of stomach-churning bass you’d expect from a fight where the combatants can punch through concrete walls. But the best dual subwoofer moment? That comes when composer Don Davis’ score reaches a swelling crescendo during the pivotal scene where Keanu finally realizes he’s The One. The resulting bullet-stopping setpiece might just be my favorite scene in movie history, and my pair of subs only deepen my immersion by adding greater audio texture to a scene I’ve probably rewatched 96 times.
Saving the best to last, I fire up my favorite movie of all time. I’ve adored Jurassic Park ever since I saw it at the theater when I was eight years old. Fast forward three decades, and the experience of watching Spielberg’s masterful dino blockbuster on one of the brightest and best OLED TVs (with a pair of Sonos Subs further deepening that iconic, glass-shaking introduction of the T. rex) inspires just as much childlike wonder in me.
I round off my double sub fun by rewatching my actual favorite scene of all time, as JP’s heroic Rexy triumphantly takes down a pair of villainous raptors. The Tyrant Lizard King then rounds off the dino damage by letting off a roar so guttural, it makes me physically want to kiss both of my subs.
So even if you already own one of the best subwoofers, if you have a surround system that will support a second unit, and you have the cash, I’d definitely recommend doubling down on an additional sub.