Are subwoofers worth the trouble?

im thinking of buying a ReL strata II for my audio system but I could just see myself constanting tinkering with the controls. Do you find yorself doing this or have you found that once you haveit dialed in its done? Thanks Emil
YES. It seems that with each cd or dvd you have to screw with it in a different way. A must have for movies though. But get a good one the cheap ones are worthless you'll be more frustrated than happy. Overall they don't really blend well with music but they can be very rewarding if you spend the bucks and choose right. They just don't satisfy me much for music as far as blending but I love the effect and power and it's hard to live without one. I recommend spending at least $2000. Or don't bother at all. But if your using very small speakers because of space issues than it's the way to go. Just try one for a couple of weeks then stop using it. If you find yourself longing for it than keep it. It sucks but sometimes trial and error is the best learning tool. Subs also sound very different from house to house and room to room and even corner to corner. they can be very finiky. Also keep the interconect short. If you can buy one with an outboard amp for long runs ( much better to run long speaker wire than a long interconnect). What matters is what you like and you really have to get one home to know.
It is hard to get compatible speakers and SUB! Small minimonitors satelites to a good Sub, is just matter of chance. Your best bet, is to get yourself a speakers that will accomodate your music preference, and your room acoustics. That's what you should spend your money for!
I've had little trouble dialing mine in, and leaving it alone. If your room is properly treated, the end result is very rewarding.
The REL Strata is very easy to dial in, so is probably an excellent way to go if you do not have experience in setting one up. Problems usually arise when you run the subwoofer level too high because of the "if I paid good money for it, I want to hear it" syndrome. When setting it up, do not just listen to bass instruments. In fact, I focus on how voices and cymbals sound, when dialling it in. Amazingly, even cymbals are improved by a subwoofer, in terms of getting a better balance between leading edge, body of the note, and the decay.
I agree with the above comments. In my opinion, it's easier to make a bad subwoofer than anything else. The integration between your main speakers and the sub is a pain. The easy trap to fall into is running the sub too loud, believe I've been there. It sounds awesome at first then it starts to really irritate you. The best setting I found so far is to set the cross over at the lowest possible level and turn up the volume of the sub just enough to notice it.
Well if your not going to turn it up then most good fullrange speakers can accomplish what your subs are doing. I'd have to admit that right now I don't even have a sub. Thats because I sold the amp and crossover to buy my thiel speakers. (and it was a very good trade up) But everybody who listens to it asks where I put the sub. When I tell them that I don't have it hooked up they are astonished by the bass they heard. So if your not in it for the full on effect then you may not get your moneys worth and would be better off upgrading the rest of your gear. Anyone heard the Avalon Opus? There is no way you would ever need a sub with these. Good speakers and good gear and wire make woofers seem like subs. But better blend! If any sub is going to beat out a good set of fullrange speakers than it has to be turned up somewhat loud, Then your using it for effect. With my system if I don't turn it up and use it for effect and power and drive than there would be no point!
Yes, subwoofers can cause trouble. Yes, they are worth the effort. Subwoofers are no more difficult to set up than any other components, its just that they really, really sound bad when less than optimized. There are two key elements to getting great low frequency performance from your system. The first is your room. Can your room support low frequency sound? Room dimensions and type of construction can make or break bass performance. If your room cannot tolerate bass, than you're probably better off staying away from speaker systems that go below 40Hz. The second element is the equipment. No bass at all is better than a cheap/bad subwoofer. My preference is towards mating subwoofers to full range speakers. The deeper your main speakers go, the better the potential integration of the subwoofer. You will have to pay attention to phase cancellation effects. An advantage of this approach is that there's no need for an additional crossover in the main speaker path. REL and Audio Physics have products along these lines. Also, you can probably get smoother, more accurate bass from a subwoofered system than from single speaker systems. Positioning a speaker for accurate imaging, best soundstaging and smooth frequency response can be very difficult. A separate bass module gives greater flexibility in speaker placement. A good subwoofer in a well set up system should not be perceptable unless there's deep bass in the music. For music, subwoofers are NOT an effect, instead they add a sense of naturalness to the music.
You are headed in the right direction by starting with a REL. I have a REL, and this is the last sub woofer that I will ever buy. This sub blends in so well with my mains, that I don't know that it is there until I turn it off, and then I miss it. If your mains have plenty of low base, you probably can do without one, but in my opinion a sub fills out what is already there in a recording, that main speakers sometimes cannot reproduce. The key is to make it blend in so that its not just a boom box.
Very much agree with Onhwy61. He's a "good'un", as John Atkinson likes to say. I agree with highway on every point he describes. Of course I don't use mine for "effect". I'm not a neophyte at this.
His question was if it would be worth the trouble. I was just giving him my experiances and others who I know. So he could make an informed decision. Best to hear it all than just one side. And if he does get the wrong sub for his room or system then he will run into the problems I mentioned. And I just think that the odds of picking a so so one are a lot higher than finding one that will work for him. I was just trying to answer his question are they "WORTH THE TROUBLE"? Apparently you guys got good subs and they work great for you. But I can bet it took a while for you to find the right one and the right placement and the right sound level. Anyways I'm just giving him an idea of what he may get into. And helping him to be objective.
Thanks guys for all your input. The sale of the REL didnt materialize but I did stumble upon the website for the ACI Titan. They will allow an in home trial and will pay shipping both ways if I decide to return it for the cost of $799. Any opinions? Thanks again. Emil
Are they worth the trouble? In this man's opinion, yes! For me, I feel, there is so much information below 40 hertz, the lower limit of my system without a sub-woofer, that is important for the recreation of the hall's sound and the original music event. Is it difficult to set up? At times it can be with some systems and some rooms. My experience has been that it is no more difficult than appropriately setting up a balanced two channel system. Which means, if you read between the lines, it is a passionate effort. As for continually adjusting your sub-woofer; Once I have it dialed in I leave it alone. I believe my ear to be a good tool. However, that can very depending on the software you use. That is why I always use warble test tones and a meter. A good place to start is with Stereophile's test disk and Radio Shack's meter. Of course the accuracy of the meter is questionable at the lower extreme's, 35 hertz and down, but you can adjust for that within its variance or deviation from flat. Using subjectivity and measured objectivity has always afforded me great sound and accurate recreation. I wouldn't give up the lower extreme's for the world. It will have to do until I can afford a full range system as balance as my present system. As for the above comment about dialing it in until you hear it. Frankly, I never can hear my sub-woofer. It always appears to me as if the sound is coming from my main speakers. And, if there is zero information below 40 hertz within the recording, it sounds that way. However, when the information is there, well, then that's why it is worth it.
Kacz is far more objective than the rest of us, so by all means, follow his "one sided" view closely. I was just trying to give the best advice too...It's not as if Emil was describing an inept subwoofer (REL), as Kacz suggests. The FREE in-home trial period for the ACI sounds great to me. I've not heard that one, but as long as it's fully adjustable, it should work great. And it doesn't take much longer to get the sub right than it takes to get the left/right speakers in the right place without a sub...only with the right sub, you don't have to trade off bass for imaging, as with a "full range" speaker. You do need ASC traps to get the best out of either, though. Just ask anybody at any hifi show or exhibit, or any reviewer for that matter. Those that don't use them are wasting theirs, and everybody else's time, IMHO. "There is no way you would ever need a sub," blah blah...Only a handful of speakers don't need subs, and they are costly, and no better than a great speaker with a great sub.
Hi everybody, Hope i'm not too late to offer a bit of help. I just bought a rel Strata II and if you go to you can locate amazing reviews of the REL sub. The Robert Harley review says it better than I can. EVERY single word of that review is accurate. I use Monitor Audio M14s' which have a gold tweeter that has very high extension but can sound harsh unless balanced by the lower frequencies. The REL sub connected to the speaker mains is the way to go. I found out about REL by chance. I was listening to Vienna Acoustics speakers at Harvey Sound in NYC and stepped into another room where Sonus Faber Concertos' wre being set up. Certainly this is a good speaker but when they added the REL to it everything jumped to life. I have always hated subs. BOOM, BOOM , BOOM, BOOM, you know what I mean. This was totally different. The sub was in perfect time with the mains and added dimension, weight and detail to all the frequecies. I set mine at 49 Hz, with volume set at a level that you do not notice the sub at all until some very low frequencies are hit, and you are fooled into thinking that your mains have awesome depth. This is the only way I have been able to approach the effect of higher end speakers at a resonable cost. If you are interested I love the REL so much that I would sell mine for $950 in order to buy it again in a wood finish instead of black. Keep us posted as to what you decide. BTW Carl, do you know if the Strata II can be set up from the mains and from the LFE channel at the same time so that if you were watching a movie you get the 5.1 mix with LFE and when listening in stereo still get the main speaker outs from your amp? Even if this is possible, is this a good idea? Good luck Emil!
I'm in full agreement with you about subs, BMP. I don't have the REL, I have the Sunfire. The Velodyne HGS-15 is my dream sub. As for your question, I suppose if the sub has line level as well as speaker level inputs, and can togle between the two based on whether it senses a signal or not, it would work. You'd need to try it first. I don't see it being difficult to do. AND YOU ARE SO RIGHT ABOUT BOB HARLEY!!!! He isn't always at his best (who is?), but his body of authoring work is truly the best in the world (with most of his reviews being better and more important than even his CGTHA book...the original Wadia 27 review in a 1996 SPHL is maybe the best review ever!!! And I don't even prefer any of Wadia's products right now...). I put Atkinson second, and Fremer a very very close third. Fremer knows how to review anything, not just vinyl; and he knows how to listen to an audio system. (He feels as we do about subs.) These guys are my audio heroes, whatever shortcomings they may have. I'd love to make friends with any of them sometime...I'm one of many who would.
yeah, harley is a digital dog who truly loves analog. his oponions are always backed up with fact or obvious extensive experience. femer not quite as much but still verrrrry respectable. too bad aboout tracking <, didnt subscribe but bought an issue just before the fold.