The fundamental principle of bass management (also called LFE crossover) in surround sound replay systems is that bass content in the incoming signal, irrespective of channel, should be directed only to loudspeakers capable of reproducing it, whether the latter are the main system loudspeakers or one or more special low-frequency speakers (subwoofers). There are notation differences between the pre-bass-managed signal and after it has passed through the bass manager. For example, when using 5.1 surround sound:
|FL – Front Left||FL – Front Left|
|FR – Front Right||FR – Front Right|
|C – Center||C – Center|
|SL – Surround Left||SL – Surround Left|
|SR – Surround Right||SR – Surround Right|
|AW – Alternative Woofer||N/A (incorporated into SW)|
|N/A (bass can be in any channel)||SW – Subwoofer|
As the table shows, the bass manager directs bass frequencies from all channels to one or more subwoofers, not just the content of the LFE channel. However, when there is no subwoofer, the bass manager would direct the LFE channel to the main speakers. This is the only time the LFE channel would not be sent to the subwoofer.
As shown in the bass management block diagram, a 5.1 channel audio system consists of five discrete, full-range main channels (Front Left, Center, Front Right, Surround Left, and Surround Right), plus a band-limited Low Frequency Effects (LFE) channel for added bass (this corresponds to the .1). In such a system, the use of bass management allows the redirection of low-frequency information from any of the five main speakers to the subwoofer (SW). The high-pass filters applied to each of the main channels are typically 12 dB/octave and use a Butterworth filter topology. These are complemented by a 24 dB/octave low-pass filter in the subwoofer feed, which typically uses a Linkwitz-Riley filter topology. This approach tries to take into account the natural low-frequency responses of the main speakers, which roll-off at 12 dB/octave for sealed enclosures, and 18–24 dB/octave for vented enclosures. The aim is to have the low-pass filtered and high-pass filtered signals be −6 dB at the crossover frequency, producing what is known as an acoustical 4th-order Linkwitz-Riley alignment of reasonable accuracy. This helps to ensure that the low-frequency response of each of the main channels is extended downwards with a flat acoustical response. In the diagram a 60 Hz cut-off frequency has been illustrated, but this can typically vary between 40 Hz and 80 Hz. The LFE channel is a separate channel that contains low frequencies only. It is band-limited using a 120 Hz low-pass filter, and this frequency is independent of the settings of the low-pass and high-pass filters that are applied to the main speakers. The LFE channel is usually amplified by +10 dB on playback and summed into the signal going to the subwoofer.
- Elen, Richard (October 2002). "All Bass Is Covered – Part 1: A Dictatorial Approach to Bass Management in Surround Music Mixing". Surround Professional. Retrieved 2020-10-13.
- "What is the LFE channel?" (PDF). Dolby Laboratories, Inc. 2000. Retrieved 2020-10-13.
- "5.1-Channel Music Production Guidelines" (PDF). Dolby Laboratories, Inc. 2005. Retrieved 2020-10-13.
- "Home Theater Speaker Guide 5.1 Virtual Speakers" (PDF). Dolby Laboratories, Inc. Retrieved 2020-10-13.