For home theater fans who’ve invested a decent amount of money into a quality audio system, few things are as satisfying as listening to a movie soundtrack with deep, room-shaking bass. Our Roundtable this week calls out some of our favorite demo scenes on home video that will really get your subwoofer rocking.
Like Josh, I’m currently evaluating an SVS beast for review and have been fixated on finding titles that provide bombast as well as delicacy in terms of lower frequency info. My go-to discs for blasting neighbors are the Atmos track on Blade Runner 2049 and the preposterous first notes in Edge of Tomorrow, both of which make easy testing for home-shaking lunacy.
I’ve been using the Blu-ray Audio of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon for a subtler, more musical integration of the subwoofer into my system, as well as the intros to Baby Driver and Max Max: Fury Road.
Yet I would be remiss if I didn’t mention my love for the LFE in Jurassic Park. The first time I truly understood the artistic use of low frequencies in film happened when I caught that movie theatrically in my city’s only DTS-equipped theater. There are louder, boomier films (even War of the Worlds trumps it in Spielberg’s canon), but for me, the T-Rex sequence will always be the perfect integration of subsonics and image, captured via the ripples of water from the cups sitting on a Jeep’s dashboard.
For a good while there, the opening scenes in The Martian and Sicario were my prime picks for feeling the power of a home theater. Right now, Dunkirk is the clear favorite. Yes, it’s a war film, but the variety of excellent audio intensity, from dive bombers hitting the beach to flooding transports and engaging Spitfires, provides a lot to ingest. Each vehicle, from the desolate little tug to the civilian train, has something to offer the lower frequencies.
M. Enois Duarte
When asked about bass, I always find the question a little tricky because it depends on exactly what the person is looking for. For intense room-energizing music, there’s Tron: Legacy. The plane crash in Flight of the Phoenix delivers a terrifying spinning sensation. But if you want crisp, accurate response, the fleet battle and cannon fire at the beginning of Master and Commander will deliver the goods. And then there are the sweeps that dig into the low Hz at high decibels, which is another long list.
Personally, I like long, extended bass rumbles that shake the walls, floor and couch all at once with serious potency, and only one movie continues to satisfy in that regard: Steven Spielberg’s War of the Worlds. Reportedly, meaning based on graphs and measurements, the bass digs as low as 1 Hz at over 80 dB, which is incredibly powerful, but for a majority of the movie, action sequences average at around 20 Hz or lower. Since most subwoofers stop producing bass at around 30-35 Hz at a decent decibel level, most people don’t really notice what they’re missing. Basically, the sound design for this movie is and continues to be a sub killer and has been known to ruin subwoofers. With so many scenes to choose from, I’ve always enjoyed demoing Chapter 5 when the alien tripods first emerge. I’ve measured my room down to about 5 Hz at decent decibels, so the scene, which measures down to 10 Hz, is fantastic because the ground grumbles, the seats tremble and it feels like an earthquake. Many people don’t care for the movie, but the Earth-shattering bass on the soundtrack is absolutely one of the best available for testing the capabilities of a subwoofer.
My favorite bass dropping moment is during the dubstep sketch by Key & Peele. In it, Jordan Peele is helping Keegan-Michael Key pack up his apartment for a move. Peele brought over some music to get their blood moving, and Key is happy to check out some new tunes, as long as they keep packing. At first, it starts out innocently enough, as most dubstep does. But when that bass drops, their minds are blown. The camera starts zooming around, and the speed of filming goes into slo-mo and fast-forward. The fact that they’re able to stylistically match an action film’s bass drop with just two dudes packing an apartment is a perfect summary of the brilliance of Key & Peele.
Adam Tyner (DVDTalk)
My Axiom EP350 subwoofer has been with me for well over a decade and literally thousands of movies. As much as I’ve put my sub through its paces over the years, I’ve never heard it snarl the way it did throughout Kong: Skull Island. The standout sequence for me arrives just after the half-hour mark, as the air unit encounters Kong for the first time. Visually, the film does an exceptional job establishing just how colossal Kong is, contrasting the beast with the tiny helicopters buzzing around him. The LFE then truly cements Kong’s staggering scale and power: the pounding of his chest, the claps of thunder as his feet collide with the ground, and an all-but-deafening roar. And, sure, swatting an entire squadron of military choppers like so many houseflies – and the explosions and violent collisions that follow – don’t hurt either.
At the time, I had a stack of unwatched movies sitting on top of my subwoofer, as I have a bad habit of doing. I’m used to occasionally straightening that stack after watching a movie, and sometimes I’ll have to pick up a stray title or two off the floor. The battle royale between Kong and the helicopters sent my backlog flying, and that was a first for me. I could certainly hear and feel how powerful the bass was throughout Kong: Skull Island, but that physical representation made it all the more memorable.
When I upgraded my previous subwoofer to an SVS SB-2000 a couple years ago, that decision was prompted after watching the climax of John Wick. When the bad guys Wick is chasing slam their car into a pole, the bass hit was so powerful that my sub emitted an unpleasant farting noise, and I quickly realized that I’d just overdriven it past its limits. I hoped that maybe this was an isolated incident, but as soon as the same problem recurred during the opening chase in Mad Max: Fury Road, I knew that sub was done for and I’d need a better one ASAP.
Most of my favorite bass demos have already been mentioned by others above, but I’ll also highlight the throbbing techno score that plays over the first zombie attack in Resident Evil: Afterlife and the bone-rattling bass drops during the Dia de los Muertos set-piece that opens Spectre.
Recommend some more bassy goodness in the Comments below!