Brief Subwoofer History – Facts You May Not Know

The term ‘subwoofer’ has now become synonymous with the home theater experience. A subwoofer dramatically enhances this experience by delivering ...

By Dewayne

The term ‘subwoofer’ has now become synonymous with the home theater experience. A subwoofer dramatically enhances this experience by delivering the deep, resonating bass that brings our favorite movies and music to life. The history of these speakers is remarkable, having traversed decades of technological advancement, starting from basic approaches to advanced and highly sophisticated designs.

Further, the invention of the subwoofer addresses a lack of response to lower frequencies in standard speaker systems. Whether it’s for a cinematic experience in a home theater or for an immersive musical experience, subwoofers have found their indispensable space over the years. In this article, we explore the fascinating journey of subwoofers, from their inception in the 1960s to their evolution into today’s modern, sophisticated systems.

We will delve into the contributions of key figures in the journey of subwoofers, insights into various pioneering technologies, the subsequent growth spurt in the market, and how the advent of compact discs influenced their development. We will also provide you with the modern dynamics of subwoofers, fill you in on today’s top brands, and finally, give a conclusion to summarize these significant chronicles.

1. The Invention of The First Subwoofer

The year 1964 saw the invention of the first official subwoofer by Raymon Dones in California. This genesis stemmed from the absence of bass from regular speaker systems, resulting in an inferior sound quality and an overall diminished listening experience. The subwoofer was designed to reproduce frequencies as low as 15 Hz while maintaining a distortion-free sound, thereby augmenting the low frequency range of contemporary stereo systems.

The first patented subwoofer design positioned Dones as a pioneer whose invention would later shape the music and film industry. This technological marvel amplified the bass sound, adding depth and realism to audio playback, which was a revolutionary step to a premium sound experience. As the subwoofer was omnidirectional, it projected the sound to the surrounding environment without any discernible direction, enhancing the sonic experience.

This turning point paved the way for the evolution of subwoofers over the coming decades. The patented technology and the inherent demand for improved sound systems set the stage for future inventors to advance upon Dones’s foundational work. Dones’s patent was a stepping stone in the journey of subwoofers, marking the inception of an audio device that would reshape the texture and richness of sound reproduction.

2. Raymon Dones and ‘The Octavium’

The first-designed subwoofer by Raymon Dones was aptly named “The Octavium.” This exceptional invention was favored by several recording artists during the 60s and 70s, as it remarkably enhanced the quality of sound. The pivotal role played by ‘The Octavium’ was evident, as it was also employed in theaters for the release of the famous movie Earthquake in 1974.

This remarkable invention marked a new era in sound engineering, with ‘The Octavium’ offering an unparalleled listening experience. Consequently, the subwoofer started gaining recognition for its potential to drastically improve the sonic effect. The utilization of ‘The Octavium’ in the movie industry also demonstrated the potential of subwoofers to revolutionize the cinematic experience.

Throughout the 60s and 70s, ‘The Octavium’ was frequently used by recording artists and the movie industry due to its superior sound augmentation capabilities. This widespread application played a crucial role in identifying the inefficiency of standard speaker systems and emphasized the need for advanced audio systems in everyday life.

The advent of ‘The Octavium’ marked the start of a new chapter in the history of subwoofers, demonstrating their potential in transforming audio output. Its use, particularly by artists and theaters, lay the groundwork for subsequent advancements and the ultimate integration of subwoofers into various systems from home theaters to professional sound setups.

3. Other Subwoofer Technologies in the 1960s

The 1960s was a transformative period for subwoofers, as a variety of technologies was introduced. One prominent technology was the Servo Statik 1 (SS-1) by Arnold Nudell and Cary Christine. Another notable development was by Ken Kreisel, the then president of the Miller & Kreisel Sound Corporation, who was revered for his contributions to subwoofer technology.

The SS-1 and Kreisel’s design added significant value to the growing platform of subwoofers. They offered diversity to the existing technology, catering to an expanding clientele who valued a quality musical experience. As with other revolutionary inventions, these technological advancements pushed the boundaries of conventional subwoofer design and function, showcasing the scope of possibilities.

The inventions spearheaded by Nudell, Christine, and Kreisel during the late 1960s flourished, permeating the audio industry with pioneering technologies. This period also hinted at the advent of impressive modern designs, urging the audio industry to pave the way for more innovative creations. Once again, the subwoofer was at the forefront of a revolution, creating a new paradigm for existing audio systems.

4. The Impact of Subwoofers on Music and Cinema

Subwoofers have played an instrumental role in transforming the music and cinema industry. In 1973, Ken Kreisel, a known figure in the sound arena, was invited to introduce his subwoofer at Village Records for its first recording session. This marked the inception of a new technological era, where subwoofers started becoming an integral part of the recording process.

During the 70s and 80s, Kreisel made several improvements and modifications to his subwoofer designs. His creativity led to the birth of the first satellite speaker and subwoofer system, known as ‘David and Goliath.’ The combination of these downsized, easy-to-place satellites and a dedicated subwoofer for low-frequency enhancement started a whole new trend in home audio systems.

The popularity of subwoofers saw another surge in the mid-70s as a result of their application in cinema theatres. Movies such as Earthquake, Midway, and Rollercoaster tapped into the potentials of subwoofers to produce a groundbreaking cinematic audio experience. The low frequencies and rumbling effects produced by these subwoofers made moviegoing a whole new experience.

The significant impact of subwoofers on music and cinema cannot be overstated. Kreisel’s innovative designs, along with theater applications, have significantly shaped how we experience music and cinema today. Without a doubt, subwoofers have redefined the audio landscape, pushing it beyond the realm of conventional Listenability.

5. Ken Kreisel’s Contribution to Subwoofer Technology

Ken Kreisel made significant contributions to subwoofer technology. His design of home theater subwoofer systems during the 60s provided an incredible leap forward in the enjoyment of audio experiences. Kreisel’s designs were distinctive and extraordinary, with low-frequency outputs that rightly enhanced the cinematic and musical experiences.

Kreisel’s subwoofer was adopted for a recording session at Village Records in 1973. This event was instrumental in demonstrating the potential of subwoofers. It displayed how they could dramatically elevate the quality of recorded sound and music, making them an essential component of any audio setup.

The notable quality of Kreisel’s design was the direct result of his keen understanding of acoustics and audio engineering. His subwoofer provided a dynamic response to audio signals, becoming a crucial part of many home theater and sound systems. This was a pivotal point in the history of subwoofers.

Over the years, the influence of Kreisel’s design can be seen in the evolving subwoofer technology. It set a standard for future designs, inspiring many audio engineers to push the boundaries and continually improve upon their designs for even better sound quality.

6. The Arrival of the DJ Club Subwoofer

The rise of the disco era and DJ culture in the late 70s and 80s demanded a powerful bass sound for music and dance clubs. Subwoofers quickly became the go-to solution for this. Their low-frequency output made them perfect for creating that throbbing bass sound.

The adoption of subwoofers in clubs brought about a distinctive change in the sound quality of music. The bass beats were amplified, making the clubbing experience more immersive and pleasurable. This enhanced the popularity of subwoofers among DJs and club owners.

As clubs grew larger, the demand for better and more powerful subwoofers increased. The evolution of DJ club subwoofers played a significant role in changing the soundscape of music and dance clubs. Subwoofers became essential for any club or music event with large crowds.

The influence of subwoofers in the club scene cannot be overstated. Their impact went beyond just amplifying music; they shaped the very nature of club music and culture. The sensation of feeling the music, rather than just hearing it, made all the difference.

7. Birth of Residential Subwoofers

Building on Raymon Dones’ invention of the first subwoofer, the 1980s witnessed the emergence of residential subwoofers. These were, fundamentally, smaller versions of their larger, more potent counterparts. They were designed to bolster the low-frequency range of home theater and music systems.

Recognizing the potential market, several companies began developing residential subwoofers. Consumers preferred these due to their compact size and easy integration into existing sound systems. Besides, they made an undeniably noticeable improvement to the audio quality of home theatre and sound systems.

Residential subwoofers rapidly grew popular among music and movie enthusiasts. Their popularity was primarily driven by their compact size, which allowed them to fit snugly into most living room setups, and the quality of the bass that they delivered.

To paint a vivid picture, imagine watching an action-packed film or listening to a pulse-pounding musical track with a residential subwoofer. The audio experience was dramatically enhanced, making the movie or music feel so much more immersive and enjoyable.

8. The Success of the Bose Acoustimass AM-5

The Bose Acoustimass AM-5, released in the mid-80s, was an innovative home theater system that introduced compact subwoofer technology. The Acoustimass module, effectively a compact subwoofer, was designed to deliver low-frequency effects without compromising space.

Bose’s Acoustimass technology was groundbreaking due to its unique combination of compact size and powerful audio output. This made it an ideal choice for homeowners who wanted to improve their home audio experience without requiring a large space.

Another notable feature of the Bose Acoustimass AM-5 was its ability to produce a wide soundscape. This made the delivery of audio seamless and immersive, even in smaller spaces. This became a popular choice among homeowners, significantly contributing to the widespread adoption of subwoofers.

As a result of the Acoustimass AM-5’s resounding success, Bose became a household name for high-quality audio equipment. It marked a significant milestone in home theater history and demonstrated the capabilities and potential of compact subwoofer technology.

9. The Development of In-Wall Subwoofers by Origin Acoustics

As home theater systems evovled, there was a demand for a more aesthetic integration of subwoofers into homes. Origin Acoustics’ in-wall subwoofers answered this call, providing tremendous bass response without occupying floor space. Their design offered a blend of performance and aesthetic appeal that was never seen before.

Regarded as an innovation, these subwoofers brought people closer to the cinema experience in their homes. They added a new dimension to the home theater system with their unobtrusive installation and efficient output, shifting the paradigms of traditional home entertainment.

The advent of in-wall subwoofers by Origin Acoustics laid another brick in the foundation of subwoofer technology. Freestanding subwoofers could often be intrusive due to their size, but in-wall variants offered a more streamlined and integrated option for the modern home.

While many other manufacturers have since replicated the design, Origin Acoustics continues to be a leader in the industry. Their craftsmanship, continuous innovation, and commitment to delivering superior quality, have cemented their place in the realm of home theater systems.

10. Evolving from Niche to Mainstream

Through the 80s and 90s, the subwoofer evolved from a specialized component into something more mainstream. The intersection of evolving technology, booming consumer electronics industry, and the proliferation of home theater and stereo systems helped popularize subwoofers.

Subwoofers started being utilized in more varied applications, from automobiles to professional sound reinforcement. The flexibility and adaptability of subwoofers to settle into new environments helped their transition into mainstream markets with ease.

Technology advancements also led to the creation of subwoofers in diverse sizes, making them a staple in homes and cars. Their wide-ranging capabilities and increasingly affordable prices drew a larger audience, leading to their mass adoption.

Tower speakers and soundbars in modern day owe a significant part of their proficiency to integrated subwoofers. The journey from being a niche component in high-end audio systems to a mainstream and essential element in virtually every sound system is a testament to the subwoofer’s impact on sound reproduction.

11. The Influence of the Compact Disc

The launching of the Compact Disc (CD) in the early 80s revolutionized digital audio playback. It provided listeners with an unprecedented quality of sound playback, paving the way for a newfound appreciation of the lower frequency ranges, thus boosting the demand for subwoofers.

The digitization of music and its storage in CDs gave listeners the ability to experience music like never before. This new format of music storage, coupled with subwoofers, allowed listeners to explore and enjoy new dimensions in their favorite tracks.

In the realm of audio playback, CDs helped celebrate the importance of bass, making subwoofers a valuable component in music systems. The new technology also made it easier to integrate subwoofers into existing hi-fi systems, contributing to the rise of home theater.

As the world was enriched with high-quality music reproduction, the CD initiated a ripple effect in raising the demand for subwoofers. Home theater enthusiasts and music purists increasingly sought the immersive and full-bodied audio experience that only subwoofers could guarantee.

12. Modern-Day Subwoofers

Today’s subwoofers have undergone significant advancements, delivering lower frequencies with greater precision and power. These contemporary devices cater to a broad spectrum of audio needs, from home theaters to professional sound reinforcement, and even automotive industries.

Modern home theater subwoofers are now remarkably compact, but still offer quality and power. Their designs have advanced to embrace elegance and style, merging seamlessly with home decor while still maintaining their primary function of enriching audio experience.

Subwoofers have also evolved with the times in terms of technology. Now, they incorporate advanced features like digital signal processing, low-frequency effects, and even wireless connectivity, providing an immense audio experience in tune with contemporary lifestyles.

The widespread availability of high-definition audio sources and high-resolution media content has sparked an increased demand for quality subwoofers. The current generation of subwoofers are finely tuned to meet and exceed the audio quality expectations of today’s discerning listener.

13. The Popularity and Use of Subwoofers Today

There’s no denying that subwoofers have become an integral facet of today’s audio and home theater setups. The deep bass response they offer makes movie soundtracks more immersive, and music tracks more alive, gradually transforming the way we perceive and enjoy sound.

Moreover, their versatility extends far beyond home theaters and music systems, finding place in public venues, stadiums, and even churches. Subwoofers enhance the audio quality in these spaces, ensuring every note is felt as profoundly as it is heard.

The popularity of subwoofers can also be attributed to their price range, which has become more accessible over time. Today, a quality subwoofer can be purchased without breaking the bank, contributing to its widespread usage in homes and public spaces alike.

Subwoofers are also increasingly used in automotive applications, ensuring an elevated in-car audio experience. Given all these diverse applications, it’s hardly surprising that subwoofers continue to enjoy an ever-increasing popularity and use across the globe.

14. The Best Subwoofer Brands of Today

Several noteworthy brands contribute to the subwoofer industry today. Each brings its own unique contributions to the table, setting new standards in sound quality, innovation, and performance. Among them, Bose, Klipsch, Bowers & Wilkins, and Sonos are widely recognized.

Bose’s reputation as a premium audio brand is reflected in their top-quality subwoofers, which provide deep, resonating bass with high fidelity. Their systems ingeniously blend functionality with aesthetics, earning them a respected position in the audio industry.

Klipsch, another pioneer in audio technology, is known for its powerful and precision-tuned subwoofers that deliver astonishing bass. Their subwoofers are designed with a keen sense for authenticity and detail, creating an audacious listening experience.

Bowers & Wilkins stands out as another commendable brand, merging innovation and design artistry to create engaging and captivating audio experiences. Sonos, with its smart, wireless subwoofers, has also established itself as a versatile player in the modern subwoofer market.


The history of subwoofers is marked by impressive advancements, characterised by novelty, quality, and a growing appreciation for enriched sound experiences. From Raymon Dones’ inaugural creation to today’s diverse offering of subwoofers, the journey has certainly been transformative.

Subwoofers have not only enhanced our music and movie experiences but also played an instrumental role in shaping the development of sound systems. Both in homes and larger venues, their effect on our overall audio experience is irrefutable.

In the future, we can only expect this trend to continue as newer technologies are developed and implemented. As long as our love for clear, deep, resonant sound endures, so too will the evolution and relevance of subwoofers in our auditory ecosystems.

The history of the subwoofer is a testament to human ingenuity and passion for sound. It’s a vivid representation of how a simple concept evolved over time to become an essential part of our daily experiences. Indeed, the story of the subwoofer is far from over.

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