Best multi-purpose subwoofer

Best multi-purpose subwoofer - meaning it fulfills my pursuit for audiophile 2 channel listening and my home theater needs. I have a large TV room 22x22x8 (LxDxH) with floor standing Von Schweikerts VR4 speakers. Room is used both for dedicated 2 channel listening as well as home theater. Unfortunately the design of the room is not the best as it has glass on one side (leading to the backyard) and laundry room behind (meaning its also the family room). Currently I have a 8 inch NHT SW1 old subwoofer which needs an upgrade. The maximum dimensions I can afford on a subwoofer is  15x18x20 (LxDxH). 
As mentioned I want to be able to connect a High Level Input (for 2 channel) and .LFE for HT - so the subwoofer will need to have both. Grace for dedicated listening as well as power for HT. The only time I would consider a larger subwoofer is if it has wireless capabilities so I can place it anywhere in the room. 
Any suggestions on which subwoofer may work best for me? 
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I really like Hsu products.

But in general, room acoustics and room correction matters a great deal.

I generally prefer sealed subs for music, SVS or Rythmik. One thing nice about SVS subs is you don’t have to worry about ground loop or ac mains hum (if you have those problems), their low pass filter will actually remove that noise.

      You don't mention your budget but there's a solution that'll give you state of the art bass for both 2-ch and ht.  It's called the Audio Kinesis Swarm distributed bass array system.  Here's a review of it from The Absolute Sound magazine:

     It's not cheap at $3,000 for the 4 (12" x 23" x 12") subs and the 1,000 watt class AB amp that powers the 4 ohm subs.  But I know it'll give you sota bass for music and ht because I've been using this bass system in my 23 x16 foot room for about 2 years now and it provides the best bass I've ever heard in my system. 
     I believe it would work very well, even in a room as large as yours, since it was designed for any size rooms from residential sized rooms to commercial club sized rooms.  
     Other big benefits of this system are that it provides great bass response throughout the entire room, not just at a predetermined sweet spot, and it requires no mics or room correction software or hardware, just some included equalization if you have some bass 'slap echo' present caused by bass sound waves bouncing between the floor and ceiling.  
     I run my subs configured as ported but the system does come supplied with port plugs if you prefer to configure the subs as sealed.  I compared ported vs sealed in my room and thought the ported configuration sounded better for both music and ht.   
     If $3K exceeds your budget, it's possible to create your own custom distributed bass array system using any 4 subs of your choice.  The only requirements are that you need to use at least 4 subs, although 3 may be sufficient in some rooms, and follow the specific sequential sub positioning procedure provided (which I can detail for you if you're interested.).  As the TAS review mentions, however, why bother when the Swarm system works so well and is so reasonably priced.  But it is true that the better the sub quality, the better the sound quality.  

Here is a great resource that does not get referenced enough.
How are the REL subs? Earthquake Supernova?

     Are you ruling out a Swarm type bass system?

     If it's too expensive for you, I understand.  Prior to the Swarm, I tried multiple brands and models of single and dual sub configurations and positions in my room ( Velodyne, REL, JL, Hsu, Klipsch, Polk, B&W, Theile and a few others) and none performed as well as the Swarm.
     My main speakers and center ch are Magnepans, which are notoriously difficult to integrate subs with.   The Swarm system was the only system I tried that blended seamlessly with the Magnepans for music and still delivered the bass impact I wanted for ht.  It truly is a state of the art bass system. 
     I'm unaware of any single or dual sub setup using conventional subs, at any size or price, that can match the performance of the 4 moderately sized Swarm subs properly positioned.   I do believe, though, that utilizing 4 of almost any top line conventional subs properly positioned in a distributed bass array system would likely outperform the Swarm subs.  I've never personally tried this but I know it would cost about 4x or more than the $3K price of the Swarm and probably only deliver marginal bass response improvements.
     The 4 sub distributed bass array system is the result of years of research on in-room bass response conducted mainly by 2 PHDs in acoustical engineering, Dr. Earl Geddes and Dr. Floyd OToole.  Google their names if you'd like to learn more about their experiments, conclusions and White Papers.
     My intention is to share my many years of experience and knowledge trying to achieve the same bass response it seems you're now searching for.  I have no financial or other interests with Audio Kinesis/Swarm other than purchasing their bass system and knowing how well it works in my system.
      My opinion is that the single 15 x18 x20 sub that you are looking and hoping for does not exist.  Sorry, but it's as simple as that.  
     The $3K Swarm system is the least expensive solution I'm aware of that will provide you with the bass performance you described.

The storm is just 4 10 inch passive subs running off one 1000 watt amp.  
 Its pretty commonly known that 4 subs is an ideal setup for home theater,   I would get 4 subs and dsp and could be under the price of storm all day long.   And have dsp....
Never really heard of the Swarm. The website seems weak without much info and it’s not been mentioned or written up elsewhere besides AS. Also the set up for 4 not being wireless means running wires all across which is definitely a no. 
I’ve narrowed down my choices to REL, Rythmik, SVS for the smaller dimensions. What is hate the most and it’s true the larger the woofer and better the room is pressureized. I am locally getting a 15 inch earthquake supernova - a very tempting offer. 
Rythmik, HSU, SVS, JTR, PowerSoundAudio (co-founder of SVS). With my preference being the first two.

I don’t think anybody makes better subs than these brands in regards to bang for buck (the >$10,000 JL Audio Gotham is hardly worth it other the $2300 Rythmik G25HP).

Well, also should mention BIC and Dayton for entry level budgets.

However, not all models from the brands mentioned take high level inputs.  
REL is garbage for home theater, even their >$7000 flagship is only -6dB @15Hz in-room. That’s is pitiful, even the cheapest sealed Rythmik is -6dB @12Hz anechoic.
I have a Hsu 15" subwoofer in a rather large cabinet.
Well integrated with the room and other speakers, it is better than every single sub out there that is not well integrated.

My point is, good integration is worth almost everything, and this is something few ever get to hear. I'd shop not just for a sub, but for help setting it up, otherwise i"d shop for the one with the best auto room correction if I didn't already have it, and talk to GIK acoustics for help.


     The REL Storm III sub woofer consists of a single 10 inch (250mm) long throw bass driver,not 4 drivers, that faces downward in a large cabinet ( 16.5"w x 24.5"h x 13"d; 60 pound).   It is powered by an internal 150 watt amp, not a 1,000 watt amp.  
     Dsp and room correction can be used with the Swarm bass system but is not required or necessary.

I think we meant the Swarm.

Thanks Tim for your perfect post and this excellent link

Uncommon around here, I actually clicked the link and read the whole article. Being cursed with excellent long term audio memory every word of that review rings true. I can't enter a large space like a concert hall without immediately being aware of the size of the space by the way it sounds. Even without any sound. The space itself generates its own acoustic signature. Something completely lacking and lost in every single system I have ever heard, regardless of its ability to play impressively low bass. 

Also uncommon around here, I just don't like to go banging my head against the wall, or throwing money down a pit. Which, just how long does it take to try every possible sub location and listen and understand what you said, the single sub solution simply does not exist? Possibly an infinite amount, to judge by the responses to your post. Or an afternoon, if like me you actually do the work and listen (and measure). 

Between reading your post and reading the absolute sound review I actually followed the link erik provided and spent a fair amount of time reviewing various sub designs. Which there definitely are some great ones for getting awesome bass outdoors or in very large rooms. Not in a home. In a home they are all just more head banging and money pitting.

Why don't more people see this?

Oh well. I've got enough experience to know what to discount and disregard and what might actually work. Thanks to you I now for the first time in years have something that might actually work. 

So you helped me, at least.



The VANDYS come in two configurations in their Model 2W Series Subwoofers...2WQ AND V2W .....both are exceptional

“.... Two versions of the 2W subwoofer are available, each engineered and optimized for specific situations. The 2Wq receives its input from the power amplifier and is designed to maintain maximum sonic continuity between the subwoofers and main speakers in all music and home theater systems where a crossover can be inserted between the preamplifier/processor and the main power amplifier.

The V2W accepts line-level inputs exclusively and is designed for home theater systems with integrated processor/amplifier units where the bass is handled by a line-level subwoofer channel...”

Repost .....+1 on integrating a subwoofer with your 2-channel system speakers , and why it can be either done well or done poorly.

So, (reposted again as an FYI) it still provides a good summation of the conflicting strengths and warts in setting one up properly and more importantly , "why" you would undertake to do so.
August 3, 2008 by ultrafi in Tips, Tricks & Info | Comments Off on Why Everybody Needs a Good Subwoofer…

" …And Why a Really Good Subwoofer is so Hard to Find

Audiophiles and music lovers are missing out on one of the most dramatic improvements they can make to their audio system: Powered Subwoofers. Most audiophiles won’t even use the word “subwoofer” in public, let alone plug one in to their precious systems. There is a kind of snobbery that exists in the world of high-end audio aimed primarily at receivers, car audio, home theater and especially subwoofers. As a matter of fact, subwoofers are responsible for many people disliking both car audio and home theater, since it is the subwoofer in both of those situations that tends to call attention to the system and cause many of the problems.

The truth of the matter is that subwoofers have fully earned their bad reputation. They usually suck. Most of them sound boomy, muddy and out of control with an obnoxious bass overhang that lingers so long as to blur most of the musical information up until the next bass note is struck. We have all had our fair share of bad subwoofer experiences, whether it’s from a nearby car thumping so loud that it appears to be bouncing up off the road, or a home theater with such overblown bass that it causes you to feel nauseous half-way through the movie. You would think that high-end audio manufacturers would be above all of that, but you would be wrong. In many cases, their subwoofers are almost as bad as the mass-market models because they too, are trying to capitalize on the home theater trend that is sweeping the land.

You see, it’s very difficult and expensive to build a good subwoofer. One reason is that a sub has to move a tremendous amount of air, which places big demands on the driver (or drivers). Moving lots of air requires a lot of power and that means an amp with a huge power supply, which can cost huge money. Finally, in trying to move all of this air, the driver (or drivers) which operate in an enclosure, create tremendous pressure inside of the box itself. The cabinet walls must be able to handle this pressure without flexing or resonating. Building such a box involves heavy damping and bracing which gets very expensive. When you consider these requirements, you quickly realize that it is virtually impossible to build a really good subwoofer (I mean good enough for a high-end music system) for under $1000. Yet most of the subwoofers out there sell for between $500 and $900. Manufacturers do this because their marketing research has shown them that that is what people want to spend on a sub, never mind the fact that what people want to spend and what it takes to get the job done right may be two different things. The result is that even most high-end manufacturers are putting out poorly constructed subwoofers that just don’t sound very good.

I don’t want to give you the impression that anyone who really wants to can build a good subwoofer so long as they are willing to throw enough money at the problem, because that really isn’t true either. There are some pretty expensive and well-constructed subwoofers out there that you would never want to plug into your music system because they would most certainly make the sound worse. Why? Because of their crossovers. A crossover is inserted into your signal path in order to remove the lowest frequencies (the deep bass) from your main speakers so that they no longer have to do all of the dirty work. The deep bass will instead be dealt with by the subwoofer. The #1 benefit of adding a high quality subwooferto your system is not how it further extends the bass response, but how it can dramatically improve the sound of your existing power amp and main speakers from the midrange on up. That, my friends, is by far the most compelling reason to add a sub to your high-end music system. Once your main speakers are freed from the burden of making deep bass, they will sound cleaner, faster and clearer, especially in the midrange and midbass. They will also image way better because there will be far less air pressure and therefore resonance and vibration affecting their cabinet walls. And since the power required to make the deep bass is provided by the subwoofer’s built-in amplifier, your main power amp will be free from that burden and begin to sound like a much more powerful amplifier. The one big problem with all of this is that you need a crossover to roll off the deep bass in your system and achieve all of these benefits. And the crossover that comes with almost every subwoofer on the market will cause more damage to your signal than can be overcome by these benefits. That is the main reason that audiophiles refuse to consider adding subwoofers, even very expensive ones with well built cabinets.

Enter the Vandersteen 2Wq 300 watt powered subwoofer.

This is the only subwoofer that is specifically designed to be inserted into the highest of high-end music systems without doing any harm to the precious signal. So how does Vandersteen do it? Simply. In fact his crossover scheme is so ingeniously simple that it’s a wonder nobody else thought of doing it the same way. I’ll spare you an in-depth description and just say that the only thing you end up inserting into your system is a couple of high quality capacitors. That’s it, nothing more! No additional wires or gadgets enter your signal path. Hell, you don’t even have to disconnect the wire between your amp and speakers to add this subwoofer. The model 2Wq sub uses the same basic crossover scheme as the $15,000 flagship Model 5As. As a matter of fact, you can even run the specially designed Model 5A crossovers (M5-HP) with the 2Wq if you want the most transparent sound imaginable.

So what about the other reason to add a subwoofer to your system: for more powerful and extended bass? I don’t care how big your main speakers are, they’re no match for a good subwoofer in the bass. A really good subwoofer can run rings around the best floorstanding speakers when it comes to bass extension, power and control because it is designed to be good at that and nothing but that, whereas main speakers have to be good at higher frequencies as well. Ideally, you want two subwoofers so that you have true stereo separation down deep into the bass. Stereo subs can also help to lessen room interaction problems by providing two discrete sources of bass information. Remember, if you can’t afford to buy two subwoofers at once, you can always add the second one later. Adding a pair of 300 watt powered subwoofers is exactly like adding a pair of 300 watt monoblock amplifiers to your system and upgrading to a pair of better main speakers at the same time. The beauty is that you don’t have to replace your main power amp or speakers to do it.

But there is a problem here as well. Everything comes at a price, and the price you pay with most subwoofers is that when you add them and their built-in amplifiers to your system, they don’t tend to blend or integrate well with the sound of your power amp and speakers. This is especially true if you own a tube amp, because the character of your amp is nothing like the character of the big solid-state amp that is built into most subwoofers. The result is that your system sounds split in half. You can hear where one part of the system leaves off (namely your amp and speakers) and where the other part takes over (the sub and its amp). This is a HUGE problem for audiophiles who aren’t willing to destroy their system’s coherence for additional power and bass extension. Fortunately, Vandersteenhas the perfect solution for this problem that is, again, so simple, I wonder why nobody else thought of it first. His solution is to build a very powerful 300 watt amplifier that strictly provides the huge current needed to drive the subwoofer. You can think of this amplifier as only half of an amplifier; or just the power portion of an amplifier. The release of this power is controlled by the signal that is provided by your power amp. Vandersteen’s amplifier needs a voltage to modulate its current output, and what better place to get that voltage than from your main power amp? This way, your power amplifier is directly responsible for the sonic character of the deep bass coming from the subwoofer because it provides the necessary voltage signal. This voltage signal contains the unique and characteristic sound of your main power amplifier and insures that that character is maintained in the sound of the subwoofer itself. The beauty of it is that your amplifier is only providing a voltage reference and no actual current, so it is not taxed with the burden of “driving” the subwoofer in any way. As a matter of fact, your amplifier doesn’t even know that the sub is connected to it. The 2Wq’s potential is almost unlimited given that it will ratchet up its performance as you improve your power amp. Remember that you always want your subwoofer to sound just like your power amp. No better, no worse. NO DIFFERENT!

After having spent time with the amazing Vandersteen Model 5A loudspeakers with their 400-watt powered, metal cone subwoofers, we were reminded of the sound we had with the awesome Audio Research Reference 600 mono power amps. With the Ref 600s there was a sense of effortlessness, openness and unrestricted dynamic freedom that we have only otherwise heard with live unamplified music. Listening to those monstrously powerful amps made us realize that all other systems sound compressed by comparison. Only when we heard the new Vandersteen Model 5As with their hugely powerful built-in subwoofers, did we again have a strikingly similar sonic experience. The reason is that the Model 5As provide a total of 800 high-quality watts, to which you have to remember to add the power of the amp we were using, the ARC VT-100, at 200 watts. This means we were listening to about 1000 total watts of amplifier power – not far from the 1200 total watts provided by the Ref 600s. With the Vandersteen subwoofer crossover and amplifier, you are able to get those hundreds of subwoofer watts to blend seamlessly and even take on the character of the ARC VT-100. It’s amazing! What’s even better is that the price of the system with the Model 5As and the VT-100 is under half the cost of the Ref 600s alone! Since this discovery, we have achieved the same kind of unbelievable dynamics and seamless blending with ProAc loudspeakers and twin Vandersteen 2Wq 300 watt powered subs. So, if you want the sound of Ref 600s but cannot afford them, buy a pair of Model 5As or your favorite pair of ProAcs plus a couple of 2Wq subwoofers and mate them with a VT100 and you’ll get surprisingly close. You can cut the cost even further by running a pair of Vandersteen 2Wq 300-watt subwoofers with your existing speakers. Or mate a pair of 2Wqs with your favorite ProAc. In any case, it is the magic of SUBWOOFERS that allows this to happen. It is for all of the above reasons that there is only one subwoofer in existence capable of integrating seamlessly into a high-end music system, allowing you to reap all of the benefits of having a subwoofer, with none of the drawbacks. And the Vandersteen 2Wq is the one. And just in case you think I am a biased source, our correspondent Blaine Peck (who, for all you know is also a biased source) recently wrote the following, with no discussion between us about the topic prior to his sending us his comments. Whether reproducing the plucked string of an acoustic bass or the sound of an analog synthesizer, the Vandersteen2Wq subwoofer is a seamless extension of any system. Nothing else need be added! With its internal 300-watt power amplifier, it is the perfect compliment to any sound system. Designed to take on the characteristics of your main stereo amplifier, the amp in the 2Wq will not sound foreign in your system. Also, through an extension of the Vandersteen design philosophy, a unique gradually sloping crossover system is implemented so you simply do not know where your main speakers stop and the 2Wq begins.

Now that your main speaker/amplifier combination need not concern themselves with those power demanding low frequencies, they are freed up to work in a more comfortable range. Yes, now what is coming from your main speakers will sound better than ever.

The 2Wq is not just another subwoofer. It consists of three 8″ floor-facing drivers, each with a massive motor. So why not a more typical single 12″ or 15″ design? Well frankly, the mass of a larger driver will not allow it to respond as quickly as the Vandersteen 8″ drivers to today’s demanding recordings. The 2Wq’s 8″ drivers are designed to handle the content but be “fleet of foot” at the same time. Concerned about where to put them? You need not worry. With the control of both its respective level and the “q” (how loose or tight the low end is) you have the flexibility to place them in a location that fits your living environment and not sacrifice performance. The simple beauty of this product will soon become an addition to your room.

So whether on orchestral music, hard rock or something in between, the Vandersteen 2Wq will exceed your expectations...."
So whether on orchestral music, hard rock or something in between, the SVS line of subs will exceed your expectations.
Thanks eric_squires for the link. It seems to have a lot of answers to a lot of my questions.

Here is a great resource that does not get referenced enough.

I have listened to REL and I have listened to SVS. All the REL subs seem very refined and when set up correctly, blend in seamlessly. The only drawback I have found is price. They are a bit expensive, but I really like the whole line. 🙂
SVS is another animal. For home theater they are fantastic!  The pricing is fair for what you get. But for critical two channel listening I would not look at SVS. Oh and both have great customer service.

Sorry I can’t help you with any other brands.

GoldenEar  SuperSub series


I use 2 REL S/3 SHO subs which are used for Hi Fi Stereo and in conjunction for movie surround sound bass. I did not want lengths of cable around the room so I used the longbow transmitters for each. These are connected to the speaker outputs so that can accurately produce the almost inaudible bass below your speaker pair. They also connect to the LFE for movie impact. The S/3 is smaller, yet with a pair, are damn fast, exhibit that beautiful low bass that you can feel, and when setup correctly are nearly inaudible, which is what you want. (unless you are into doof doof).

I am not a sales person (ret in Aus.) so have no particular interest in any brand of equipment. I am just passing on what I have experienced.


I like REL the best.   After cycling through several different subs over the years, REL will be the last sub I ever buy.  I currently use the REL T/7i, but they have multiple lines of subs, and just about any size one might need.   Good luck.  

     I don't really understand what is meant by pressurizing the room.  Can anyone please explain this physical process and its benefits?
     I do, however, understand many of the terms and concepts involved related to achieving very good bass response in a given room. 
     A 20Hz deep bass tone sound wave is 56.5 ft. long. Since few people listen to music in a room that has a dimension that is that large, it means the 56.5 ft. sound wave of 20 Hz is emitted into the room and, once it hits a room boundary (floor, wall, ceiling) or other solid object in the room, it will reflect or bounce off these surfaces (at predictable angles) and it then continues on its new trajectory until it encounters another solid surface and reflects again. This process continues until the long sound wave runs out of energy.
     How one perceives this long 20Hz sound wave depends on exactly where your head/ears are positioned within the room and whether the direct sound wave from the sub arrives at your ears first or if a reflection of the direct sound wave arrives first.  To further complicate matters, the most likely scenario is that your ears will be detecting the direct sound waves and reflected (indirect) sound waves within milliseconds of each other which alters the bass frequency and detail perceived. 
     Also, as longer bass sound waves continue to bounce off of room boundaries they inevitably collide with one another.  These collisions cause what are called 'room modes', which result in exaggerated, attenuated or even negated perceived bass at specific locations in the room.   The more bass modes in a room, the poorer the perceived bass and vice versa.
    Through their research and experiments the acoustical engineers mentioned on one of my previous posts on this thread, doctors Geddes and O'Toole, discovered that bass room modes decrease in direct proportion to the number of subs in a given room.  The more subs in a given room, the fewer bass modes present.   
     Of course, they realized that there's a practical limit to the number of subs that individuals' significant others will find acceptable in a home environment.  
     Interestingly, however, they found that when 4 subs are deployed in a given room and located following a specific sequential procedure (which I can detail in another post), that the vast majority of the bass room modes are eliminated or considerably lessened in their affect.  This is the basis for the AK Swarm bass system and the reason it consists of 4 subs.     
     Without any doubt, the Swarm bass system by a wide margin provides the best bass response in my room/system that I've ever used, much better than any of the numerous single and dual sub configurations I've ever used.       
    The improvements I notice are an effortless quality to the bass in which it will go as deep, dynamic and powerful as the source content calls for while also being very articulate and detailed in the bass that allows for clear recognition of the instruments being played and small variations of pitch and tempo.  I believe both these qualities are unique to, and possible with, the Swarm due to its use of relatively smaller 10" sub woofer drivers and the fact there are 4 and not just 1 or 2 in the room.     
     I doubt it's a coincidence that none of my previous 1 and 2 sub bass configurations could match this high level of bass performance of the Swarm.
I have a pair of REL t7i and it’s awesome. They have high input and LFE. They just become an extension of your two channel system, and they rock in HT

Wouldn’t it be easier to just get 2 subs and run room correction than go 4 subs?

Saying an infinite number of subs would eliminate room modes is like saying having an infinite line source would eliminate the problem of a limited sweet spot. It doesn't seem to be rocket science.
The flagship HSU can be tailored to whatever your particular needs may be. If you want it to blend perfectly to your setup or if you want it to be the star of the show,it has you covered.

$1,000 shipped.
By a used REL...I have 2 and they're amazing, and they do "pressurize" the room in the sense that having ambient low frequency sound around makes things more life least that's what I think that makes the room feel better.
Another +vote for REL.  Happy Listening!

" Wouldn’t it be easier to just get 2 subs and run room correction than go 4 subs?"
    Yes, many users might be satisfied with 2 subs room corrected to provide good bass response at a single sweet spot in their room and it would be certainly easier.  
     I've helped several friends and family members with their smaller music and ht systems, usually just an a/v receiver, 3-5 spkrs and 1-2 subs. 
     They usually want good sound for 1-2 people from a sofa facing an hdtv.  I've positioned the mic at the center of the sofa and this has resulted in decent bass response for anyone sitting on the sofa but poor bass response at other seating positions in the room.
     Makes sense, right?  Room correction is only capable of optimizing bass response from the single spot in the room you are giving it frequency response and volume data from (wherever you decide to position the mic). 
     I haven't been overly impressed with the results of the limited room correction systems I've utilized.  I've found I can easily attain better bass response results by positioning the subs by ear and trial and error, though I am able to get the best results using 2 subs rather than just 1.
     In my system, I was looking to get very good bass response for music and ht at all 7 seating positions spread around the perimeter of my 23 x 16 foot room.  I positioned all 4 subs sequentially by ear and concealed all the wiring by running it in the crawl space below my living room.  My best sounding sub configuration turned out to be 2 subs along the front 16' wall and 1-2 feet in from the front corners along with one sub along each 23' side wall, about 1-2 feet away from the rear corners.
    I've never had a room frequency response analysis done for my room but bass response is exceptionally and consistently good throughout the entire room.  
   So, in my experience and to answer your question, 2 subs with room correction do not equal the bass performance quality of 4 subs either with or without room correction.  4 subs will provide an increase in a sense of effortless bass with increased detail and improved bass dynamics.  These improvements will also be present throughout the entire room, not just at a predetermined sweet spot.  
     Each individual needs to decide whether or not these bass improvements are important to them.

I don’t really understand what is meant by pressurizing the room. Can anyone please explain this physical process and its benefits?
I do, however, understand many of the terms and concepts involved related to achieving very good bass response in a given room.

Yes Tim its clear from what you wrote that you do indeed have a good grasp on the situation. Having read everything here its apparent a lot of others would do well to read through your comments carefully, and more than once. And then go and read the referenced work as well.

This is something I’ve been studying for quite a long time, going back to when I built my first transmission line (Roger Sanders, published in Speaker Builder) back in 1980. Like most things I don’t work on it consistently but in fits and starts, which I just happened to be doing recently, and so was really good timing coming across your Swarm experience here. One sold last October and if another one comes up I am on it, otherwise will probably be ordering new some time later on this year.

Pressurizing the room is kind of descriptive but ultimately misleading. The only way the room could truly be pressurized is a closed room with speakers mounted in the walls. Even then it would only be pressurized when the drivers were moving into the room, depressurized when they move the other way. And even then there would still be the time it takes for the waves to propagate. There would still be nodes and anti-nodes.

A lot of what we read about acoustics is like that, descriptive in a way that makes sense, sort of. Actual experience though, like you have with your Swarm, there is nothing like it for turning abstract idea into concrete reality.

Like, we all talk about this stuff with regard to bass, when in reality its not only bass but all frequencies. With bass its in your face obvious. But its across the board.

My listening room is a standard rectangle- 17x24x9. No odd shapes and when first built nothing in it, no furniture, no carpet, no nothing. At one point in fact it didn’t even have sheetrock! I had the unique experience of hearing this space go from framed up to fully treated, and everything in between.

At one point the only "room treatment" was the carpet. Playing a CD with test tones you could clearly hear the distance between the nodes! As the frequency increases the node spacing decreases, some of them down to a few inches, something you can easily hear if you’re ever in a plain room like this. Clap your hands, you could hear it echo back and forth real fast- and even hear the difference between the fast echo lengthwise and the really fast echo crosswise!

Same thing with bass of course, only as you know the wavelengths are so much longer. So one wave doesn’t even have time to generate a full cycle before it could start getting canceled by its own reflection.

Another thing, almost always the talk is about the speaker location. As if that’s all that matters. When in reality (and as you so clearly understand) listener location matters just as much. Anyone who has ever had the experience I have had, of being able to stand where you cannot hear anything at all, then move your head just a very small amount and its loud, would know this. Its not abstract. Its reality.

This is why the Swarm concept is so patently obviously correct to me. Any one speaker/listener setup can never get us where we want to be. It has to be a combination. Its simply physically impossible to eliminate the nodes. So don’t even try. Instead, make enough small ones to seem smooth.

I have a couple of 12" woofer SVS subs and like them.  I think an important consideration is whether you want a ported or sealed box design.  I have the sealed box, and truth be told I bought them because I read this is what was the best for 2 channel use.  My system is 2 channel, but it is also hooked up to my video set up.

Just like purist believe a preamp should not have tone and balance controls, they believe sealed box is the way to go.  But I have to admit nowadays that I wish my preamp had tone and balance controls and MAYBE that my subwoofers were ported, to have that "explosive" quality, now and then.
This can always be tough, as you’ve already noticed. The variables are great when maximizing your ROI and the overall acoustics, not to mention personal tastes and your “ear”.

I’ve owned many subs... But will continue to invest in SVS’s SB-16 Ultras (until the next revolution 😉). Had a tough time between JL Fathoms, but in the end the SVSs put a smile on my face every time I listen to 2-channel or a movie. 

I still have the 3 Martin Logan subs it replaced, but I no longer use them unless no one is home, and I can’t see neighbors cars across the street. 

Enjoy the journey! 
It’s interesting to see so many different opinions. The product reviews online are all over the place too. Right now I am getting a good deal on an Earthquake supernova MKIV 15 inch for $625 and an NHT CS-12 for $500. Just lost a great deal on a REL T9i this morning for $300. I’d like to keep myself under the $600 budget - would have definitely opted for the REL’s. But so far it’s the Earthquake and NHT that I need to decide on. Any suggestions - maybe I wait and don’t get either. Thoughts? 
This might have been mentioned already in one of the previous uber-wordy posts, but one of the cool things about RELs (and Vandys but not sure which others) is the speaker jack output to High Level input resulting in the subs sounding like your amp...otherwise long non balanced cable or, if yer lucky, balanced are the only alternatives, but I prefer the REL solution...besides you get to use Neutric Speakons which are made in Liechtenstein. 

     It seems like you've decided to go with a single sub in your system.  You'll still be able to get good bass response with a single sub if you're willing to accept just having a single bass sweet spot at your listening seat.
     I'd suggest looking at Monoprice's sub offerings and you could buy 2, or even 4, for about your $600 budget.  These will not go as deep as the Earthquake or NHT but I think having 2 or more 12" subs will give better results than a single 15" sub. 
     Remember, all of these subs are run in mono  and you'll get the dual benefits of cumulative bass output(you'll perceive the bass as more powerful but will not be able to pinpoint where it's coming from) and the reduction of room modes that begins when you have 2 or more subs in a given room (bass will sound smoother and more natural).  Also, neither sub is being over-driven.
     I know in any room, 2 subs will provide better bass performance than 1 sub, 3 better than 2 and 4 will provide exceptional bass response.  I can advise you on proper positioning when using any quantity of subs from 1 to 4 and in between.

    For the optimum positioning of 1 sub in your room, I'd recommend placing the sub at your listening position and play some music with good and repetitive bass.   Then, starting at the front right corner of your room,  slowly walk along the perimeter of your room counter-clockwise until the bass sounds best to you.  When you find this exact spot, place your sub at this position.
     Next, sit at your listening seat and replay the same music.  If the bass sounds just as good to you, then you've successfully positioned your sub.  If it doesn't sound just as good, you can either make small adjustments to the sub's position through trial and error until it does sound good to you or start the process all over again from the beginning. 
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" Like, we all talk about this stuff with regard to bass, when in reality its not only bass but all frequencies. With bass its in your face obvious. But its across the board."

Hello millercarbon,

     From your last post, I can tell you have a good understanding of all this stuff.  
     I agree with your comment that all frequencies are important in a room for good sound reproduction.  I've reached the conclusion that, since bass frequencies behave differently than midrange and treble frequencies in any room mainly due to the large differences in the length of their sound waves, it's best to treat them separately.
     I've learned to get the bass response functioning properly first since it's the most difficult to get it sounding good in most rooms due to the very long lengths of low frequency sound waves.  I think you agree with me that a precisely positioned 4 sub distributed bass array is the best method of achieving this.  There are no mics, room correction software or hardware, parametric equalization and room treatments required.  The complete Audio Kinesis Swarm or Debra bass systems work very well, come with everything needed and are relatively inexpensive but any 4 subs will work as well or better as long as they're positioned properly, although they'll cost more.
     Once the bass is sounding good, the next step is to get the remaining midrange and treble frequencies sounding good which involve different room considerations due to the much shorter sound wave lengths involved.  These frequencies also reflect off room boundaries but colliding midrange and treble sound waves are so numerous they're normally perceived as an 'airy' quality.  The most important factor for good stereo imaging is that the direct, non-reflected sound waves from both the l + r speaker reaches the ears first before any reflected sound waves do.  Room treatments, that absorb or redirect first reflections, are proven methods to ensure this happens at the selected listening position. The later reflected midrange and treble sound waves arrive at the listening position, the better.
     But I'll refrain from further discussing the proper speaker and room configurations for good midrange and treble response at the listening position since most reading this are likely already knowledgeable about them.


     Just callin' em like I see'em.  I'm just enlightening guhlamr to some pertinent truths.  It's his money, system and choice.  Besides, I'm almost certain he'll be happier with multiple 12" subs than a single 15" sub. 
     Everybody also knows I'm the chump responsible for guhlamr's happiness.  And let me tell you, millercarbon, it's a lot of gosh darn constant pressure!

I'm just hoping I don't blow a gasket,
Hey I have a question. My first post on the forum, been ghosting for a while. Why don’t people like the martin logan dynamo subs? 
Believe me I have read your post in detail slowly, sometimes a couple times and it has a wealth of information in it - and all of it makes sense and follows the audiophile do’s and dont’s. I am now inclining to give the Swarm base system a serious consideration. 
Can you help shed some light on how you best play 2 channel music with the Swarm system? I understand playing HT you can connect to the processor LFE - but how to best play 2 channel? 
Currently I play my 2 channel using the Benchmark DAC as preamp powered by Simaudio W5 amp driving VR4 speakers. 
" Can you help shed some light on how you best play 2 channel music with the Swarm system? I understand playing HT you can connect to the processor LFE - but how to best play 2 channel?
Currently I play my 2 channel using the Benchmark DAC as preamp powered by Simaudio W5 amp driving VR4 speakers."   

Hi ghulamr,
     The supplied  class AB amp for the Swarm has a single unbalanced rca input for LFE and separate L+R rca inputs for connecting the outputs of a preamp or your Benchmark DAC.
      I'm semi-familiar with Benchmark DACs and believe most models have both XLR and rca L+R outputs.  I'm not certain whether your model has both but I'll assume it does until you tell me otherwise.
     I know the Simaudio W5 amps usually have 2 sets of rca inputs, one istandard set and one set with inverted phase.
     If the above is accurate, you're likely already using the Benchmark's rca outputs to connect to your amp so there would be 2 options:

Option#1: Use the Benchmark's XLR outputs and connect to the Swarm amp using either a pair of cables with XLR connections on one end and rca connectors on the other or use XLR to female rca jack adapters and connect to the Swarm amp using a pair of rca cables.

Option#2: Use the Benchmark's rca outputs and use 2 rca y-adapters (male rca plug to two rca jacks) with one connected to the right channel output and one to the left channel output.  Then use pairs of rca cables to reconnect the amp and connect to the Swarm amp.

     I'm glad you posted again and haven't ruled out the Swarm just yet.   I can directly relate to your search since I was searching about 4 years ago for the same thing; very good bass response in my system that integrates seamlessly with my main speakers, capable of being fast and articulate enough for music while still being powerful and dynamic enough for both music and ht content.
     I know the Swarm may be a bit more expensive than you were expecting to pay for really good bass response in your system/room because, again, I initially felt the exact same way. When I began my search I recall thinking I'd probably wind up buying 1 of the several newer self-powered subs then on the market,  experiment with it for a few weeks and return it if it didn't work out well.  If it did work well, I could always try a 2nd one and determine if that performed even better.
     However, I then decided I needed to first become more knowledgeable about bass room acoustics and the best methods to achieve very good in-room bass response.  After a few weeks of internet research. I learned about the distributed bass array concept,  read the very positive TAS review of the commercially available complete kit example based on this concept (the AK Swarm system) and called AK.
     At this point, I was still hesitant mainly because it sounded too good to be true and I considered the $3K price a bit steep.  But, after numerous phone and email conversations with AK dealer,James Romeyn, in Utah, I gradually gained confidence and, when he offered a free  4 week in-home trial, I decided to buy the system.
    It took about half a Saturday for a buddy and I to properly install it but I still consider the Swarm the best system upgrade I've ever made.  I've used it for about 4 yrs now, and I still consistently have feelings and thoughts about how fortunate and grateful I am that I decided to give it a try.  I don't think I can overstate how well the Swarm system performs in my room/system.  I justified the price by equated it to about the same or less than the price of 2 very good conventional subs.
     Please don't hesitate asking if you have any further questions.

Hi Tim, 

Once again thanks for the detail write up. I also have been reading a ton and making phone calls to better understand how multiple subwoofers in a room make the bass better and how at the end of the day the Swarm system really is a great value. I am still a little unclear on how I can leverage the Swarm system for both HT and 2 channel listening. Subwoofers like the REL make it real easy for simultaneously connecting both the LFE and 2 channel ( using neutrik connector). Not sure how I would leverage the Swarm system.

I am connecting my Benchmark DAC to the Simaudio via balanced XLR cables for 2 channel listening. I have a separate Marantz pre AV7005 for HT that I connect to my other 3 channel amp and when ready for movies I switch the XLR on the Simaudio to RCA connection out of the Marantz to get 5.1 (since Simaudio has both XLR and RCA). XLR for Benchmark and RCA for Martantz - but obviously never both at the same time. 

What I am hoping for is - I continue to use the Benchmark as the preamp for 2 channel listening and somehow connect to the Swarm using RCA y adapters (will have to compromise using RCA to connect Benchmark to Simaudio) as you had mentioned in option#2. 
When switching to HT - remove the RCA from Simaudio and connect the RCA R/L coming from Marantz pre and also take the Subwoofer out (SW1) from Marantz into the LFE input in Swarm and remove ther RCA line in from Swarm (as you cannot have both LFE and RCA connected to the sub at the same time). 

All this is doable but seems like a lot of work to switch between dedictaed 2 channel listening and HT. Feel like REL offers a more painless and easy solution. 

The other option is - I can stop using the Benchmark DAC as a preamp and start using the Marantz for both 2 channel and HT. Simply connect to Swarm using the LFE inputs. In this scenario I will be; 
(a) compromising on sound quite a bit in my 2 channel listening (Benchmark pre sounds amazing) and, 
(b) will be using the pre-processor cross over and not the subwoofer’s. 

As you can see there is not a clear solution to this without some compromise - but I really hope I am going about this incorrectly and there is a better/cleaner way to connect both HT and dedicated listening for Swarm system since you can only connect LFE or the RCA line in but not both at the same time. LFE uses the pre-processor cross over and RCA line in uses the subwoofers. 
" but I really hope I am going about this incorrectly and there is a better/cleaner way to connect both HT and dedicated listening for Swarm system since you can only connect LFE or the RCA line in but not both at the same time. LFE uses the pre-processor cross over and RCA line in uses the subwoofers.

Hi guhlamr,

To help you find a good solution, I need to know the model number of your Benchmark DAC, the music source you use and how do you connect this source’s output to your DAC (which exact input you use?).

Just to clarify, you stated: "LFE uses the pre-processor cross over and RCA line in uses the subwoofers."
This is correct for the inputs on the Swarm sub amp. The bass cross-over setting for the LFE output would be set on your AV7005 and the Swarm amp’s low-pass onboard cross-over is bypassed.  For music, the bass cross-over frequency is set using the Swarm amp's front panel  control.                               
You also stated: " you can only connect LFE or the RCA line in but not both at the same time."
This is incorrect for the inputs on the Swarm sub amp. You can connect both and the Swarm amp will automatically detect which input is active and amplify it. This is how my system is setup. I only play one at a time, either music or ht and it automatically sends the source I’m playing to the subs.

I forgot to mention, I wasn’t aware your amp had both XLR and rca L+R inputs. This is a good thing since I think you should be able to keep the L+R outputs of your DAC connected to the L+R inputs on your amp via XLR cables.

Now I just need to take a closer look at your DAC and sources for their connections.

Hi Tim, 

this is great news. I am glad that the Swarm system can connect the LFE and Line in both at the same time. 

I have a Benchmark DAC1. The source for my digital music is Apple TV. I am connecting via HDMI in to OPPO 105 and coax out of OPPO into Benchmark. Music sounds heavenly. I play my FLAC files (all CD's burned to an external 2TB hard drive) via OPPO as well, which has an excellent file management system with Grace notes. I have thought about moving to Tidal music, but don't see a whole lot of improvement in sound at 320kbps. The only advantage I see is Tidal will allow me better streamer connection capability - like Allo Digi One Signature - instead of Apple TV. But I guess Apple really locks you in with all the ecosystem integrations. What do you think? 

Back to subwoofer connection. I took some time out to draw how the connection will look like on paper and I think I may have a solution. 
My 2 channel dedicated listening set up using Benchmark as preamp will be connected using XLR output into Simaudio XLR inputs. Subwoofer will be connected using the Benchmark RCA outputs to the RCA Line inputs of the subwoofer. I will calibrate the sub cross-over for stereo. 

For HT connection - Marantz LFE output will connect to the LEF input of the subwoofer and the preamp will calibrate the cross-overs. This connection will stay in place and the only manual change between HT and dedicated listening will be to remove the XLR inputs from Simaudio and connect the RCA input from Marantz every time I set it up for HT (have to borrow the 2 channel amp). I can use a switch box for that eventually. 

Does that sound right? Also any thoughts on the best way to connect/listen to streaming digital music? Thanks again Tim for your expert input. Getting closer...

Have a Rel S/5 SHO.  This is one amazing sub.  Ck out the Rel line.
Hi guhlamr,

     I also have an Oppo BDP-105 in my system. Excellent and versatile machine that has exceptional audio performance.  
     I also use a 2TB external hard drive that contains ripped copies of all my cds and some other hi-res 24/bit/96Khz Flac files (great minds?).
     Your description of hook-up details looks good to me with one exception:
" the only manual change between HT and dedicated listening will be to remove the XLR inputs from Simaudio and connect the RCA input from Marantz every time I set it up for HT (have to borrow the 2 channel amp). I can use a switch box for that eventually. "

     Why not just connect the front L+R mains outputs from the Marantz to the L+R inputs on the Simaudio amp permanently?  You're only playing music or HT and never both at the same time, right?  This would eliminate any need for unplugging/plugging of connections and switching would be automatic and seamless.  
     If there's no switch on the back of the Simaudio amp to select XLR or rca inputs, this indicates that both inputs are active and the unit will just amplify the signals that are inputted.  I doubt it would attempt to amplify both XLR and rca signals if they are present at the same time.  But it really doesn't matter since you only play 1 at a time (music or HT) there will only be either XLR or rca signals inputted to the amp at a time and not both.
     I also wanted to suggest a change to your HT setup  that I've made in my system that you may not have yet considered.  This is just an optional change to your system mainly focused on simplification and streamlining.
     I believe you could remove the Marantz AV7005 from your system without a performance penalty.  You're currently using two high quality prepros in your system, the Oppo and the Marantz.  Unless the Marantz has a capability that the Oppo lacks that I'm unaware of, there really is no need for this redundancy.  
    I think we both use a 5.1 surround for HT in our 5.1 HT systems (5.4 with the Swarm?).   You could connect your 3-ch amp directly to the Oppo 105, it has a very high quality surroud sound processor that decodes up to 7.1 ( contained on a separate/isolated audio board using multiple high quality and expensive Saber 9018 dac chips), the cross over frequency can be set on the Oppo and its LFE output can be connected to the LFE input on the Swarm amp.
     I eliminated a Parasound AV2500 prepro from my system and replaced it with the Oppo 105.  I thought the surround performance improved without a downside but YMMV.  You could experiment and decide for yourself.
     For streaming, I'm just using Spotify on my laptop connected to a separate dac,3 watt class A headphone amp and good phones.  But I think I should probably be receiving advice on this rather than giving it.

    Overall, you're plan sounds very good to me with the exception of switching inputs on your amp.

+1 for Rythmik.
My FG12 is a servo-controlled, paper-coned, 12" sealed sub. Very fast and musical, it marries really well with my Maggie MMGs for music and is all you could ask for in a HT application as well (certainly for my modestly-sized listening area of ~ 24’ x 15’). Has the connections you want, is powerful, infinitely adjustable, and the dimensions are almost exactly what you listed. Very reasonably priced, I’ve always considered it a superb value for the money.
I even bought it here on Agon!
I love the REL subs.  I use my G2 primarily in a 2 channel system for classical music.  Some rock.  It is also the base for my 7.1 system.  It mates surprisingly well with my Magnapan 3.7s.