80% of music is in the midrange.
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Another way to look at it, realistic Bass is difficult to reproduce. There is a minimum entry fee to get to bass that isn't colored, mushy or just one-note thudding, and that threshold doesn't occur in my opinion until around $500 to $800. Above that you are going to get greater portions of the lower octaves with each exponential increasing increment of investment. It is a matter of physics, low frequency sounds require big drivers, solid boxes and a lot of power to start and stop the big driver. Conversely, bad bass is hard to hide, "thud thud thud".
On the other hand, listenable speakers with reasonably musical midrange can be had for as little as $250 to $300 (see entry level speakers from manufacturers like PSB and Pardigm). These speakers don't display the last word in treble or bass extension, but will get your feet tapping never the less.
So what should you do? If good bass is important to you and your budget is limited, you may want to invest as much or more in your sub as in your speakers (go with monitors). If you have about $3000 to spend on speakers and a sub, you could get some really nice monitors or floor standing speakers for about two grand, and get a nice REL sub for about one grand and have a good time.
There is no hard and fast rule about this, but I think you are guaranteed to be disappointed with a "bargain" subwoofer, no matter what speakers you use.
Answering your question as a % is difficult because it depends on the price of the main spkrs.
FOr best results you'll use two subs for better reproduction (think of subs as "woofers", rather than SUBwoofers)...
It is indeed said that, "bass is the foundation of Western music". Very few systems reproduce bass and we're generally accustomed to missing out on quality low-frequency reproduction... more's the pity.
I prefer primary speakers which do not require bass augmentation (I'm talking non-A/V systems here), and there are many to choose from. G-o-o-d bass? Too many have been weaned on exaggerated bass such as that dreadful sound in cineplexes (yes, there are movie theater venues with good acoustics, but they are few and far between). I always tell fellow audio shoppers to first attend folk, Jazz, classical performances in various intimate indoor venues. Most over twenty-something know what outdoor concert sound systems sound like, but most will not be replicating that effect in their homes. For those with room correction software/equipment who disagree with me, we all have our opinions.
Only one observation here:
High qulity bass in most rooms requires a lot of effort, because this is the range where the room is putting up a real fight. If your speakers are within 5ft of a reflective surface (wall), expect serious issues below app. 150hz.
Bass traps IME can be pretty effective down to app 80hz or so (best case), but below that, you're into high tech (DRC) type solutions and/or multiple subs (2 is better than 1, 3 is better than 2, 4 is better than 3, etc.). This is an expensive proposition, relative to midrange reproduction where the room does not "interfere" nearly as much.
Whether fighting this fight is worth it is a personal decision that rests on individual taste and priorities, preference in program material (if you listen exclusively to solo flute, it's probably not worthwhile to spend a fortune fixing the bass), room size, etc.
In the end, no-one can decide this for you.
I've been battling with some bass that's too boomy on some recordings. I added some bass traps and pulled the speakers farther away from the wall which helped a great deal. Sometimes I wish I hadn't purchased rear ported speakers but I'm not willing to change right now. My thinking is that part of the problem is the ports might not be large enough and are creating noise as the pressure passes through them, kind of like blowing really hard on a wind instrument like a flute..
Great bass is the hardest part of the sonic picture to do just right.
or so many threads here and elsewhere have said.
Costs are a matter of your own device. How they will break down ultimately depends on all of your choices.
The above notes on treating the room are very accurate and a must do at some point. Sooner is better Im sure. But again, all things in due time and affordability.
BUT if you look at a system as a work in progress instead of a one off all at once project, this hobby becomes vastly simpler. Naturally, if budget permits . Then go all in right up front! Ill assume theres no money tree in the back yard and say do what is possible now and then add to it later on.
Every multi ch system Ive owned has begun as a stereo system. Then a sub was added. Then rear ch speakers were added. Then a center ch speaker. Then things began to get upgraded. Every effort was initiated with a HT receiver too . later, it was upgraded when funds permitted or not.
In a moderate sized room or less, begin with a pair of nice monitors for mains. Floor or stand types.. you pick. These will likely either get traded off or used as rears later . Again, you pick.
Get a very good active sub. If possible something with room correction built in, or at least a parametric eq. My room is about 2600 cu ft closed off. I have a DD 15. and I could stand one more sonically. I also cant afford one more so Ill live with it this way forever or until I can add another. Simple huh? No one will shoot me either way.
. Even two different sized subs can work well if each one has variable levels and so forth. HSU SVS Velodyne REL Paradigm Definitive Tech, etc., all make some pretty good subs that are affordable for the most part.
In AV systems the sub sonic cues in film are vastly important and quite plentiful. Owning a quick powerful unit will definitely enhance your viewing events I guarantee it. In fact think hard on that point. The soundtrack alone provides a lot of them, let alone the guns, cars, monsters and space ships.
The front speakers are important to voice closely. Mains and center. The rears arent so important. Neither do they need to be quite so costly as the rest if you get my drift.
Mains & Sub (s) are important for aV were I to add another exact same sub in my room the ratio of subs to speakers would in MSRP speak, equal 8:10. or 80% of the current in house, speaker expenditures.
As many here will say twin subs is the better approach, THX says it should be 4 . So again you pick. Many only use one. Im sure some out there dont do even that! Again, you pick.
One of if not the greatest things in this hobby is just that we pick. There are few unbreakable rules. Optimizing the sound of ones rig is usually done once one has a rig to optimize. Its pretty tuff to tweak a thing in advance. Also one needs to know more about what sound they have and what sound is really like in order to affect such a polishing up of things.
If you choose a receiver with the auto EQ feature many today now have as standard equipment, and you eq your sub in first with its own calibration process, you wont be far off the beam if at all. Technology has come a long way now and made the end result much easier to come by for even the beginner audiophile.
Everything here is optional. Everything. There is no perfect either. Thats important to remember perfect is just an illusion . A mirage. I guarantee, your best effort will be a very good one. Especially if you can both pay attention to, and sift thru the counsel given in this thread and others.
Very good luck.
I agree with what's been said here, except I think the price tag for good bass in full-range speakers starts at about $3000, closer to $5000 (new).
Again, it all depends on your budget, and if you're buying new or used. Anything under $800 used, I'd start with a good pair of two-way monitors and go from there. Add a sub later. Or later on get a pair of full-range speakers and make the monitors your surround speakers or sell them. Etc.
It depends on how your budget, your room and how good you are at shopping. The cost of good bass response is disproportionate to the amount actual bass contained in the music. That said, I sure do miss it when it's not there when it's supposed to be. If it's at all possible, it's worth trying to acquire. Is it "high end" if it's imcomplete?