After a year with my system, I am thinking of adding a sub (and a DAC, but that conversation is ongoing in another forum...) I have a system I love, almost: Jolida 302 tube amp, Quad 21l2 speakers, and a Music Hall CDP 25.2. Speaker wire is wireworld and silver copper interconnects for the cdp.
One piece of the sound I don't love is that I feel the sound is thin at times, especially at the lower end. Detail is good enough for me, and the soundstage is fine, I just wish the music had a little more presence and richness.
What would I need to get this given my current equipment. Is this just a limitation of my current speakers?
If I had a sub, I would really like to keep it under 500, but is this what I need?
It will be tough (impossible?) to find a sub for $500 that will do your system any favors. Stay clear of the typical HT subs in that price range, they are boomy and don't integrate well for music. My advice is hold off for now and save your pennies to get a used REL Storm III (~$1000) when your budget allows. Run it off of your amp's speaker outputs to the sub with the supplied REL hi-level cable. You will be much happier with the results.
In the mean time, try placing your speakers closer to the corners or walls and see if that helps fill in the lean-ness.
I don't know anything about tubes, but I will tell you that manufacturer's recommendations for speaker placement are baselines at best. They simply can't recommend best placement for the variety of rooms that their speakers will find themselves in.
Chances are that you have your speakers and/or listening chair in a bass null. Go to Radioshack and get an ANALOG (the one with a needle and old style analog dial) sound pressure meter and a test CD and take readings at different speaker and listening chair positions. If you have never done this, I GUARANTEE that you can improve your frequency linearity (and imaging) significantly and you will probably end up with both the speakers and your listening chair at very different positions than they are now.
There is no amount of equipment changes that can approach the positive benefit of finding the best placement positions for your speakers and listening chair in your room.
Keep an eye open for the HSU 1220/1225.I believe these offer a crossover/amp and a pair of subs.Many will debate the merits of stereo subs,but it is my preference and is more uniform in its'bass performance.
The SED winged "C" EL-34's are probably the warmest new tubes. They go for about $120-140 for four? The HSU with the tunable ports (foam plug for port) may help with inegrating it into your system.VFT-2 series?
Hi, I had a Jolida 502, and used nos Tung Sol 6550's and the best 12at7;'s I heard in this amp were Siemens 2 mica. If you are using the stock tubes, I think you will be able to improve the sound a lot with NOS tubes, especially in the warmth/weight department. I used a sub for a while with the Jolida, and with other amps as well, when I had Spendor sp1/2e"s. I was happy with the sound, but when I got a pair of full range Vandersteen 3a speakers, I realized how much the monitor/sub thing sucked. YMMV. I spent days and days, had test tones and a spl meter, I achieved a pretty flat response +/- 3 db from 30hz to 100hz, but not even close to the Vandersteens. I have since heard only one other system where sub integration was attempted, and IMO it was obvious there was a separate sub is in the mix, I have read that if you are going to attempt this, to get 2 subs, but for 500 bucks this may prove difficult. My James emb-1000 is now used for movies. My advice if you decide to integrate a sub is that less is more.
If you're going to change tubes I'd suggest first trying to replace the 12AX7s in the Jolida (assuming that you're currently running stock tubes). Power tubes are expensive to replace and must be biased, and besides, I believe the stock tubes in the Jolida are re-branded Valveart EL34Bs which are on the warm side already. For 12AX7 suggestions there are numerous NOS candidates with a warm signature (Mullard, etc.). There may be some new production tubes that will give you what want as well, like the New Sensor Mullard, although I haven't heard too many new production tubes (the Groove Tubes 12AX7M has a warm sound to it, although I'm not sure if it's still in production).
Because tube rolling a pair of 12AX7s can be done for under $100 I'd suggest trying this before adding a sub. If you like what you hear you can always try further tube rolling with EL34s or 12AT7s to maximize your current gear.
adding a sub will have a much more significant effect than rolling tubes. hsu subs are, as stated, fantastic values. you might, however consider a martin logan dynamo, which is widely available in your price range. because the ml sub is designed to match planars, i think it'd be faster and conceivably a better match for your quads.
I agree with dlcockrum above - Finding the best placement positions for your speakers and listening position is the no-brainer place to start. It is by far the least expensive solution suggested and may have the greatest benefit. If this doesn't fully solve your problem, it should at least help it and make it that much easier to solve with one of the other suggestions above.
If you are indeed sitting in a null, a sub isn't really going to help you, just compound the problem. I was amazed in my own system using the meter how I could make my music sound so much better just by moving speakers and listening position a matter of inches. There are many test CD's sold for this specific purpose and they have simple instructions on how to test your room. You might actually solve your problem in 5 or 10 minutes, or at least go a long way towards doing so. Good luck.
I'm sure you can find a good sub at or below $500. Successfully integrating a single sub by ear is another matter. I've spent a good portion of the last two years fine tuning subs in my system and, IMHO, a sub controller is virtually essential. A stand alone device (like my Velodyne SMS) will start at app. $450, then add the cost of a sub. You could also use an HT receiver with Audyssey which might get you to the same place for a bit less money, but I don't know if that would appeal to many folks on this site.
So last night, I decided to double check my wiring and while the speakers were not out of phase, I did have the bired spades, with the bottom two spades attached to the tweeter. Argh.... Anyway, from some listening last night, the bass was definitely more pronounced, even when played at low volumes.
I have a lot to learn -- I knew that black spade connected to black output, red to red, but I did not think it mattered which set of spades went to the speakers as long as one of the cables went to the tweeter and one to the midrange/woofer...
Bass is still not what I would like in the long run, but definitely improving....
Here is what happened -- I have the Jolida 302 amp bi-wired to the quads with Wireworld oasis speaker wires that have 2 connections on the amp end and 8 on the speaker end. With the speaker cables approaching the speakers, I accidentally inverted the connections and thus connected the top cable (+ and -) to the low frequency terminals and the bottom cable to the high frequency terminals.
Does that make sense? When I first set up the system, I guess I did notice that I was connecting the cable upside down, and that I had the high and the low frequency connections reversed. In your opinion, would that account for weaker base?
I still think you might get by using SED Winged "C" EL34's. They are the most rich,and musical modern EL34's I have tried. New Sensor's choice of EL34's are sort of laid back sounding in comparison to the SED's. Then if not,try the sub option.The deal with the cables might not have much any affect to amount anything by the way you had then hooked up,unless they have a lot of capacitance and inductance in them.Then they may have some crossover affect. Their link doesn't say much about them.