|For some time I wanted to open a discussion about subwoofer set-up, where audiogon-ers can share their experiences and knowledge on the matter. |
My story is about REL subwoofers (the only subwoofers with which I have experience). However, since the physics of low waves does not change when going from REL to VELODYNE to JL Audio, etc., this discussion should definitively NOT BE restricted only to REL subwoofers. Any tips and tricks that might help us improve our set-ups are very welcomed.
Here goes my story:
In august last year we have moved to a new home where I've got to have my own music/study room. The dimensions of the room are (L x W x H) 4.70 x 3.60 x 2.40 (i.e. 15.42 x 11.81 x 7.82). While it is not a very large room I find its dimension more than decent. My system consists of Accuphase electronics (E-550 class A integrated amp, DP-550 cd player and the DG-38 vicing equalizer) and a pair of Focal Micro Utopia Be speaker complemented with a REL Stentor 3 subwoofer. (For more detail see the page of my current system, i.e. Kosh Naranek.)
In the last 6 months I have been moving the system around the room, placing the speaker and woofer agains each of the four walls, then further optimizing the position of the subwoofer. While getting a good stereo image was never a problem, obtaining a smooth bass response was challenging. Depending on the wall against which the speakers were place I was getting either too much or too less bass.
Placing the speakers against the long walls yielded much better results then when placing then against the short ones. This is in agreement with my findings in my previous rooms, though this need not be always the case. As can be seen in the 3rd pic on my Kosh Naranek system, I ended up with the subwoofer between the speakers, about 30-40 cm behind de plane of the speakers and rather close to the left speaker (about 20-25 cm).
** SPEAKER PLACEMENT:
From experience I know that it is best to place my MicroBe about 2.0 - 2.30 meters apart and place the listen chair at approximatively the same distance form the speakers. Thus, given the dimensions of my room, the speakers were placed approximately 1.2-1.6 meters from the back wall and 0.75-1.5 meter form the lateral walls (different room layouts led to different values, of course).
** SUBWOOFER PLACEMENT:
* I start by following the REL procedure - as indicated in the REL manual. With the subwoofer in one of the corners behind the speakers and while playing a track with repetitive strong bass I do the following:
a) adjusts the phase of the subwoofer in order to get the loudest bass,
b) moves the subwoofer away from (or closer to) the corner, again looking for the position that gives the loudest bass
c) adjusting the crossover point and the volume of the subwoofer in order to obtain the smoothest response
While this method yields decent results, one can almost always improve the results obtain with it. This is how I accomplish this:
Using the settings for the crossover and volume determined using the REL procedure, I moved the subwoofer in my listening position. Then, I move around the room looking for the position that has the most even bass response. What I actually do here is: 1) Play an walking bass line, most often the first 3 seconds from track 3 on Norah Jones's "Come away with me" album, i.e. Cold cold heart. I make a loop with my CD player and play the first measure of this track continuously. 2) Walk around the room and look for the place where all notes of the double bass sound equally loud. Once I have found the right place I move the subwoofer there (keeping the sub orientated exactly as it was when placed in the listening position). Further fine tuning can still be done by moving the sub in very small steps of 5 cm or so. Slight movements of the listening chair closer or further from the plane of the speakers can result in additional small improvements. Finally, I should mention/stress that in my room I always had to change the phase setting of the REL (compared to the setting determined when using the REL procedure, even though the REL is still behind the speakers) in order to obtain the most even bass response.
Following this procedure I was able to obtain a very natural and full body bass in my room. At this point, I have run the room set-up procedure of the Accuphase DG-38 voicing equalize. This has improved things even further, much further actually, i.e. by clearing up all bass notes (by removing any bass bloat) and making them sound much faster.
The final result was definitively worth the effort, though moving my large drum kit around the room 5 times (and then setting it up) was a bitch. Moreover, my wife has now the greatest respect for my patience and determination. She knows me for 11 years and had no idea I have this in me ... though, like all women, she wishes I would put this kind of effort into something more useful ... :)
Take home messages:
1) BE PATIENT AND DO NOT GIVE UP EASILY!
2) Subwoofer placement is crucial
3) Electronic correction can make a huge difference BUT apply it only in the last stage and as little as possible
As mentioned in the beginning of this post I look forward to hear your thoughts/experiences on subwoofer set-up procedures.