The term 2.1 “two dot one” consists of using one speaker for the left channel, one for the right channel, and a single subwoofer channel. It’s a perfect intro to a good system for even the most critical listeners.
Most, if not all music audio tracks are recorded in Monomultitracks and it’s up to the producer/production to assemble all these tracks together to make the final master track. Focusing the vocal segment of the track to the center of your listening position and the background audio being sent to the sides. This is called imaging, depending on how good the sound processor and the speakers are at achieving this, you will experience a great sound stage making it seem like the performer is right in front of you! The audio source at the same time is segmenting the lower frequencies of the track that are somewhere in the 80hz to 12hz range and sending those frequencies over to your subwoofer for bass reproduction like low beat melodies, chords, keys, and even vocals at times.
If you are looking for a 2.1 listening experience, either on a desktop, living room or in your garage, you will have a great auditory experience. For this type of system, you will need a set of either passive speakers like the PSB Alpha P3/P5 Compact Speakers or a set of powered/active speakers like the Dynaudio LYD Studio Monitors, a subwoofer, an audio source like a DAC (Digital to Analog Converter), or a source amplifier. You will also need to have speaker wire and a couple of RCA cables or in some cases XLR cables.
Let me first explain powered vs. passive. As these are the most commonly asked questions when choosing speakers. As you may have guessed, powered speakers are self-powered with a built-in amplifier used to amplify audio signals coming into the speakers from a source. So, the only thing you will need going into them is an audio source signal and an audio source device like a Blue Sound Node and AC power. Simple! By having passive speakers since they do not include a built-in amplifier, they will have to rely on the audio source amplifier to do the heavy lifting by supplying power through an amplified audio signal delivered by a source amplifier like a Bluesound Power Node or a NAD C368.
Next, we move on to a subwoofer. As we mentioned previously the subwoofer is going to take care of the grunt work when it comes to reproducing lower bass frequencies that the speakers just can’t produce. It should be a harmonious pairing with the speakers you have chosen where the speaker drops off then the subwoofer picks up. It is advisable to crossfade both speaker and subwoofer so you don't have a sharp fall-off between the two when listening to music that has both highs and lows playing together on the same track. When choosing a subwoofer you have to plan for how big your listening area is going to be, how much bass you want to achieve with your setup, and what you are more sensitive to. Some people love a big bass sound that will fill up a room, while others love a more subdued bass response out of their setup. At the same time, you don't want to choose a subwoofer that will overshadow or even overpower your speakers; most, if not all good subwoofers will have controls built into them to really dial in your sound! One important thing to remember is the only person that has to like how your system sounds, is you.