Subwoofers can be a tricky thing. Sound systems with .1 in their name have them, and sound systems without the point and the one don’t. You can see people buying both types, and you can read online reviews praising and panning them. So, if you’re out to buy a speaker system, it’s perfectly normal to ask yourself - do I really need a subwoofer?
First of all, let’s make sure you understand the role a subwoofer plays in a sound system. The simplest explanation would be that the subwoofer is the part of the system whose sole purpose is to reproduce the lowest tones. It doesn’t do anything else but that. The rest of the sound spectrum is covered by the satellites - the smaller speakers represented by the number before the .1. In systems without a subwoofer, these speakers have to reproduce the deep end of the sound spectrum as well as the rest of the sound. This has led to some really big speakers, because when it comes to bass - size matters.
These .0 systems are still able to produce a respectable level of lower tones, but there are some inherited problems to that kind of system that make subwoofers a better solution. The size can be a problem in itself, because rich bass needs big speakers, which demand a lot of space. But the inability to separate the subwoofer from the rest of the set up is best noticed when you consider that speaker placement influences the quality of sound, and with .0 systems you have less options. Still, it might be good enough to listen to music, if you’re not someone who specifically looks for bass-heavy reproduction.
Games and movies are where the subwoofer really counts. The .1 in a surround system is reserved for what are called low frequency effects - the lower tones that are designed to enhance the experience immeasurably. These effects can really make the difference between only watching a movie and being immersed in it. They also allow the movie’s soundtrack to work its magic on you to the fullest extent, and the same goes for video games.
So, it turns out that your need for a subwoofer solely depends on your preferences. If you’re someone who’s easily satisfied by the quality of sound you can get on the speakers in a laptop, then you really don’t need a subwoofer, or a large system without one. If you want to listen to music only, but you don’t want to turn that bass up to 10, bigger .0 speakers will work well for you. But if you want to make the most out of any type of content you want to view, listen, or play - you really need a subwoofer.