8 Tips to Get More Bass from Your Turntable and Stereo
If you are like me, you have a preference for a healthy amount of deep, tight and punchy bass when listening to music. Listening to music we love is an emotional experience, and to me, nothing triggers more emotions than when the “beat” from the rhythm section of the band is reproduced with awesome depth, intensity and precision.
It is by no means cool when the level of bass is totally blown out of proportions compared to the rest of the music. But within reasonable limits and balance, and for the right kind of music, big punchy bass is pretty cool.
So, in this article, I will show you 8 ways to get more bass from your turntable and stereo. Each tip is described in detail and rated on cost, effect and how pure it is when it comes to potential negative impact on the sonic performance of your stereo. In other words, it will be clearly stated for every tip if it is Stereophile approved or not. For some music lovers that is important. While others probably could not care less.
The tips are summarized in the table of content below. Feel free to skip ahead to any tip that might catch your interest first. Or to go through them one by one.
Some of of the tips are only relevant if you use a turntable as the music source. While other tips are applicable for all kinds of music sources that might be hooked up with your stereo. Like CD players or digital streamers.
There are probably a few tips on this list that you have never thought of before. A few really cool insights. And there might be a few tips on the list that are quite obvious as well. I choose to also include the obvious ones to make the list as complete as possible.
(PS! I also have an article on how to make a turntable louder were you will discover 5 ways to increase the volume of your turntable.)
Alright, let’s look at the tips for more bass in detail.
1. Increase the stylus tracking force
If you have a turntable with adjustable tonearm, you are probably aware of the possibility to adjust the vertical tracking force. Tracking force is the amount of weight the stylus put on the record when reading the grooves.
Recommended tracking force varies a bit from stylus to stylus and from cartridge to cartridge. But it is usually around 2.0 grams.
One trick to get a bit more bass out of your turntable is to increase the tracking force slightly above its recommended weight. Too much is not good as it will negatively impact the sound quality and potentially put more wear and tear on your records. But up to 20% above the recommended tracking force should be absolutely safe.
So if your turntable’s stylus and cartridge have a recommended tracking force of 2.0 grams, try to bump it up to 2.4 grams and see if you can hear a difference. A common effect is that the bass increase slightly in volume at the expense of treble. One downside can be that the bass sounds more closed in and muddy so that is something to look out for. A bit of fine tuning might be needed.
The effect is minor rather than dramatic. But it can be a nice option to tweak the sound of your turntable to make it just perfect for you. So it only gets a 1 out of 5 for effect. When it comes to pureness, it gets a 5 out of 5 as this is a totally pure way to increase the bass. As long as it is not taken too far. And it is totally free!
2. Move speakers closer to the back wall
Another cool way to increase (and tweak) the bass from a turntable and stereo in general, is to experiment with the distance your speakers are placed from the back wall.
This is especially effective if you have large floor standing speakers with bass reflex.
I remember experimenting with this at a friends house a long long time ago. He had a pair of giant Cerwin Vega speakers with double 15-inch bass drivers. When placed close to the back wall, the bass level increased enormously. The downside was that the bass got bloated and lost much of its precision.
When we moved the speakers a few feet from the back wall, the level of bass dropped, but the bass got much tighter and punchier.
The Stereophile approved way to place larger speakers is to place them with good distance to the back wall. To achieve tight punchy bass with control and precision. Rather than just a lot of bass. But if bass is king, and you are not a Stereophile, it is a cool project to mess around with the speaker placement to find the right balance between tight bass and a level of bass.
3. Add a preamp with tone control (EQ)
The way to increase the bass from your turntable that probably will give the most bang for the bucks is to get a preamp with tone controls (EQ). This way you can significantly increase the bass by letting the EQ boost the lower frequencies of the music signal. It is also very convenient as you can decide the level of bass you want just by turning a knob.
One popular option is the Bellari PA550 Preamplifier with tone control (Amazon link). It has a PHONO input for your turntable as well as LINE inputs for your CD player or tuner and so on. I have not tested it my self, but it seems like a very good piece of kit for the price.
You can watch a YouTube review of the Bellari PA550 Preamplifier by clicking here.
A hardcore Stereophile that gladly uses $1000 or more on a pair of speaker cables would likely shew off one of his arms before putting this lower-end preamp into his stereo setup. So in all honesty, it only gets 2 out of 5 on the puristic score as it is not a Stereophile approved option. But for anyone that can enjoy music without $1000 speaker cables and are not super picky on sonic performance, this can be a really effective and affordable way to increase the bass from your turntable.
And if you are really picky about the sonic performance of your stereo, there are plenty of more expensive Stereophile approved preamps available to add tone control to your stereo setup.
4. Upgrade to a cartridge with more bass
Different cartridges have different sound characteristics. Some cartridges emphasis details in the mid-range and top-end. While others emphasis warmer sound and more volume in the low-end.
It is highly down to personal preference and opinion, but as two examples, the Ortofon cartridges have a reputation for being on the bright side while the Grado cartridges have a reputation for being warmer with more emphasis on warmth and big bass. This might be a huge generalization, so please take it with a grain of salt and do your own research.
If you think that your cartridge might be too much on the bright side, it is worth checking out some of the cartridges that are considered as warmer, more “exciting” and better suited for rock and roll music.
The puristic score for this one is 5 out of 5 as changing cartridges to suit your music character preferences is totally Stereophile approved. The effect is not dramatic but should be quite noticeable. So a 2 out of 5 on effect.
5. Upgrade the turntable platter mat
A quite affordable way to increase a turntable’s bass level and control is to upgrade the platter mat.
This is one of the most popular upgrades for the highly popular AT-LP120 turntable from Audio-Technica. Upgrading to a rubber felt mat like this one is often reported to increase both the level of bass as well as the overall sonic performance of the AT-LP120. And this should be true for other turntables as well.
I have done several upgrades to my AT-LP120, but as I write this article, I have not yet upgraded the platter mat. So that is next on my list.
I expect the effect of a platter mat upgrade to be relatively minor. But the cost is quite low and this mod is totally pure.
6. Upgrade to speakers with more bass
As for everything else on planet earth, our home stereos live under the laws of physics. And as a consequence of that, bigger speakers generally produce bigger bass. Size is not the only factor. But it is the most important factor when it comes to a speakers ability to reproduce high levels of bass.
If you play music on a set of small bookshelf speakers, there is a natural limit for how much bass they can produce. Due to their small size.
So a highly effective way to get more bass from your turntable and stereo is to upgrade to bigger speakers. I know, quite a no-brainer.
While size is the most important factor when it comes to levels of bass, it is not the biggest factor when it comes to the quality of the bass. To not only get decent levels of bass, but also control and precision, the quality (price) of the speakers is a big factor.
I guess what I am trying to say is that to get more bass from your turntable and stereo, a very effective option is to buy bigger speakers.
And to get more bass as well as higher quality bass, buy big and expensive speakers.
And by the way, buying big expensive speakers is totally Stereophile approved.
7. Add a subwoofer
Another great way to achieve more bass is to add a subwoofer to your stereo setup. Yup, another no-brainer.
A cool thing with a subwoofer is that you can turn it off when you want to listen to music without boosted bass. Also, on most subwoofers, you will be able to tweak the volume and crossover/cutoff frequency. So there is a lot of things you can do with a subwoofer to make it match your sound preferences. Which make it a more versatile option than buying bigger speakers as discussed in the tip above.
And, another great thing about a subwoofer is that it comes with a built-in power amplifier. The reason why this is great is that deep tight bass requires a lot of amplification power to produce. Hence, you might be pushed into also upgrading your amplifier/receiver if you chose to buy bigger speakers for more bass, to be able to drive them properly. With an active subwoofer, on the other hand, there will be no need to upgrade to a more powerful amplifier/receiver. As it is built-in.
If you are picky on the sound, and already have a set of good quality smaller (bookshelf) speakers, a good way to add a subwoofer to your system is to select one that is designed to be matched with your speakers. If possible.
This is something a currently consider doing myself. My Bowers and Wilkins 705 speakers are of quite good quality. But due to their small size, they lack a bit in the low-end. So Bowers and Wilkins have designed a subwoofer that is perfectly matched to my series of speakers. The Bower and Wilkins DB4S Subwoofer. Unfortunately, it is quite expensive so I have to save up a bit.
Different subwoofers will suit different stereo setups, needs and budgets. As a start, you might want to take a look at the current best selling home audio subwoofers at Amazon to find a good match for your stereo.
Buying a standalone subwoofer for music listening is probably not 100% Stereophile approved. But who cares. I’ll give it a 3 out of 5 on pureness. And 5 out of 5 on effect.
8. Upgrade to a receiver with tone control (EQ)
The final tip on this list is to upgrade your stereo/receiver to one with tone controls. The Denon PMA-1600NE I use in my stereo has adjustments for bass and treble that can be totally bypassed when I put it in “Source Direct” mode. This is also an option on its smaller and less expensive brother, the Denon PMA-800NE (Amazon link).
This is an option that is totally pure (as the tone controls can be bypassed) and has the same great effect as adding a standalone preamp with tone control as we discussed in tip number 3.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to get more bass from a turntable and stereo. But there are several options available to us that have different cost, effect and levels of “Stereophile pureness”.
There are quick, effective and affordable ways to do it like adding a preamp with tone controls as we saw in tip no 3.
There are free options available this might need a little trial and error. Like finding the perfect stylus tracking force (tip 1) and moving the speakers around in the room (tip 2).
There are also a few Stereophile approved tweaks available, like changing the platter mat (tip 5) or finding the perfect cartridge (tip 4).
And there are effective but more expensive options like buying bigger quality speakers (tip 6), buying a standalone subwoofer (tip 7), or buying a high-quality stereo receiver with tone controls that can be bypassed (tip 8).
I hope this article has been helpful and wish you good luck in hunting for that big awesome bass.
Thank you for your time.