Is bass the most important frequency band?

One thing I’ve noticed when upgrading my audio system is that when I have really good bass, I’m happy. If the bass is top notch, I can overlook less-than-stellar treble or so-so midrange. The opposite does not seem to be true. Sure, I can get tremendous enjoyment out of a high-fidelity playback of a flute or other instrument that doesn’t have much bass impact, but when I switch to a track that has some slam, if my sub/woofers don’t perform, I’m left wanting, and I am inclined to change the track. When my subwoofer game is top notch, there is something extremely pleasing about tight, powerful, and accurate bass response that easily puts a smile on my face and lifts my mood in a matter of seconds. Maybe it all boils down to the fact that bass frequencies are heard AND felt and the inclusion of another sense (touch/feeling) gives bass a competitive edge over midrange and treble. I am not talking about loud bass (although that can be really fun and has its place), but the type of bass that gives you a sense of a kick drum’s size or allows for the double bass to reach out and vibrate the room and your body. I propose to you that bass and sub-bass should be optimized first and foremost, followed by treble and midrange in order to maximize enjoyment. Thoughts?

Showing 3 responses by asctim

Yes, you can measure bass. In order to get good bass a measurement microphone and something like REW helps a lot.
I use REW with a calibrated microphone. The question wasn't meant to be if we could measure bass, but if we could measure the goodness of bass. In other words, can we make measurements that tell us if the bass is likely to be good or bad? It's a rhetorical question because I think we can, to some degree. I'm wondering what anybody here may think qualifies as good bass in acoustical terms. What measurement criteria correlate strongly with the perception of excellent bass?
But to answer your question, that would be a flat response measurement,  as close as one can…
I agree with flat response, but also think group delay, and appropriately fast decay times are important, along with adequately low noise and distortion. There's a lot written up about what kinds of numbers there should be for these measurements and it does seem to get a bit complicated. Plus or minus 3dB comes to mind for flat response, but really narrow band peaks and dips can exceed that and still sound good, while really wide band anomalies might have to stay within less than 1dB to sound good.

Here's a paper on time domain issues with bass:

"The main conclusion is that at typical listening levels down to 100 Hz  the modal decay time T60 is allowed to increase from about .3 seconds by .1  to .4 seconds, while at 50 Hz even decay times of up to 2 seconds do not make a noticeable difference." 

Keep in mind that they were EQing resonance frequencies down to make their perceived level the same in attempt to isolate just the perception of decay time, suggesting that to not notice the long decay times you will need an equalizer.