Schubert's Trout Quintet is one of the best loved pieces in the repertoire, full of hummable melodies, easy to listen to and improbably combining energy and relaxed conviviality – what Stephen Johnson tags with the Viennese word “Gemütlichkeit“ in his wonderful piece on BBC discovering music. It's an unusual work in that Schubert was so young when he wrote it, and yet already had so much technical mastery.

Also unusual is the instrumentation. Rather than the usual formula of piano, two violins, viola and cello, the second violin is replaced by a double bass. This completely changes the balance of the music, with the double bass providing a solid foundation which frees the piano to play a variety of interesting melodic lines in the middle and higher registers. These radically alter the sound quality (musicologists would say the “timbre”) from what is found in much chamber music.

The instrumentation also makes the Trout an almost impossible piece for home sound systems. The bottom E on the double bass plays at 41 Hz, which is simply lower than many speaker systems will reproduce. My Genelec studio monitors, are fabulous loudspeakers for almost everything, but even on those, the instrument's contribution is dramatically reduced (I don't have a subwoofer). On my iPod, the instrument actually vanishes completely. Since the bass line is a crucial part of the sound from the very beginning of the first movement, this is a bit of a disaster.

The correct balance was very much in evidence when hearing the Trout live, played by the Greenwich Trio (plus violist and bass) at a concert at Netherhall House organised by our friends at Cavatina. I've commented on the Greenwich's impeccable balance elsewhere: in the Trout, the extra instruments allowed a great injection of excitement. Apart from anything else, the physical presence of the double bass is imposing, and Stjepan Hauser's cello and Rivka Golani's viola played tightly together with extreme levels of attack, quite tumultuously so in the second movement scherzo. Perhaps because I've listened to a lot of folk music, I love that amount of attack in string playing: most studio producers don't seem to permit anything close to it, presumably because it's so likely to stretch the performance of any sound system.

I've always viewed a subwoofer as something only for people who want the vibrations from the helicopter scenes in action movies, and unnecessary for music. Opera, orchestral, piano music, rock, jazz are all fine, and even Bach organ music works OK without one, because the organ produces such strong overtones that your brain is capable of reconstructing the low notes without actually being able to hear the fundamental. Hearing a double bass played in the Trout is the first time I've really missed having a subwoofer.

I could always go out and buy one, but then there's always the option of just going and seeing more music live, which is probably the right answer!