In recent years Subwoofers have become popular, but they are not always found in dance halls – yet. This is what they are, how they work, and why we need them.
Dance music has 2 components (you could say): The Melody, high pitched, and the Rhythm, low pitched. In the High Fidelity era, the 50’s, we started to separate these 2 functions and we provided 2 separate speakers to play them: little tweeter and big woofer (later on a third “mid range” speaker was added to fill the gap).
Tweeters give us the high frequencies that distinguish the violin from the bandoneon, and cause the music to sound like a live band. Woofers, with their big cone, move more air, such that we can Feel the low frequencies. A “crossover” separates the high and low frequency sounds and sends them to the appropriate speaker.
High frequency sounds are clear and sharp – except when they echo from the walls and ceiling, or interfere between speakers, in which case the sound is “warm”, or “muddy” or “mushy” and not so great for dancing. Low frequency sounds are harder to reproduce, because it takes so much power to move that much air, so their sounds lose their peaks, and kind of blend together like a great Thanksgiving dinner put through a blender. When we can’t hear the musical details clearly, we turn up the volume, but even though the music is louder, it is even mushier, and it is hard to hear the details that we like for dancing. It sounds like a stereo turned up high, and not at all like live music.
The high frequencies can be cleaned up, echo can be eliminated, crosstalk cut out, and speaker distortion removed, with electronic processing for each note in each speaker, using the wonder of high speed computing, see the Pioneer Elite system with MCACC at: https://www.jaytango.com/?p=481 . The low frequencies need a more powerful woofer: a Subwoofer. With a subwoofer, the volume can be turned way way down, and still each note can be heard clearly, and the rhythm can be felt, not just heard. This is how life-like sound is generated in movie theaters and professional dance halls.
The tango Vuelvo al Sur, by Astor Piazzolla, https://youtu.be/mMqVoUQVlCU has both 4/4 rhythm and 3-3-2 rhythm; in this performance with just violin and piano, you can hear the 2 rhythms, one on each instrument, or swapping sides, or both playing the same. It’s a challenge to separate them in your hearing, but watching makes it much easier. If you listen with different headphones, and different speakers, you can see how hard it is to distinguish the 2 rhythms. I think you will find it easier if you play it on a stereo with Pioneer Elite MCACC and a subwoofer. This would be quite difficult to dance to in a hall with mushy blended sound. If you listen to other recordings on YouTube, you will hear different studio conditions that make it harder to separate the 2 rhythms. The goal of the tDJ is to make every song danceable.
The other goal of the tDJ is to make the room so quiet, that people can have conversations without screaming, while the dancers can hear every note. In only 2 dancehalls have I found this ideal balance of music quiet enough that you can hear the person beside you, but loud enough that you can dance easily and comfortably. One is Salon Canning, at Milonga Cachirulo, and the other is my dances in Atlanta. (And, of course, my home – which is the best, but small.
My home stereo is a Pioneer Elite VSX-94TXH driving 6 ceiling speakers with tweeter, mid, and woofer in each, with crossover. My subwoofer is an 18 inch pro-audio Harbinger V2318S VARI. This is a big sub for home use, but I will take it on gigs when there is not one in the hall, and meanwhile, the sound is incredible in my house. I’ve been building up to this system for 60 years, and I wish you could hear it; It is more sound for the money than any other system I’ve ever heard. Plus, I can use it for testing and research.
For more information you can email me at Jay@JayTango.com