Apparently all of us had their beginning of recorder-playing with the descant-recorder. And we developed - according to the offers - up to the bass-recorder. These instruments (descant, alto, tenor and bass) are forming the so called "little recorder-quartet". When playing these voices an octave lower one speaks about the "great recorder-quartet". Now a greatbass-recorder and a contrabass-recorder are added. Then four-part-pieces are sounding equal to the human voices with the tenor-recorder as descant. In my collection of instruments there are two greatbass- and two contrabass-recorders respectively in two constructions: historical copies (Moeck) of renaissance-recorders and the modern square-formed basses of Herbert Paetzold. The sqare-formed basses have a sound like an old reed organ and produce a very good musical outline. The renaissance-recorders have a softer sound, more acoustic noise but they intermingle in a better way with the other (renaissance)-instruments and have more sustain.
As one of the very few ensembles in the world(!) we have a subcontrabass that is one octave lower than the contrabass, so it is in the 16 feet register. It is not often to apply this recorder. But if there is an occasion the optical and acoustical impression is overwhelming in the interaction with the other instruments.
In addition there are more renaissance-recorders from descant to bass. Sometimes we placed a crumhorn in a voice of christmas chorals. We have a whole quintet. If this should be insufficient we can have a viola da gamba to reinforce the bass voice.
Behind this collection of instruments is a concept that leads back to the renaissance era. At that time there were as we know from the "Syntagma musica" by Michael Praetorius a vaste variety of instruments whereof each instrument had its own sound properties. Therefore one can conclude that the musical tone had a great significance and was very meaningful. If listening to newer recordings of pieces with early (prebaroque) music (I think about recordings made in the 1980's or later) one rapidly perceives, that this tone-color is very different from the tone and sound of a modern symphonic orchestra. Practising music was more likely a sensual enjoyment than an intellectual pleasure. This does not mean that the ancient compositions were less sophisticated than our modern contempory pieces. But the crucial difference was in my humble opinion the handling with the affects.