Do I need a subwoofer? Which brand and model?

I mainly listen to classical and jazz - mostly trumpets and violins, with the occasional piano, viola or bass guitar. A couple of my friends have been suggesting to me that my ensemble lacks bass and having a subwoofer will address it. My setup includes a 2 ch. NAD C365BEE integrated amp, Wharfdale EVO 50 loudspeakers (pair), and an Oppo BDP 105 Bluray player as a CD player. The setup is in the living room, with three walls, and the fourth side open to the dining room. The living room itself would have been 18' L X 12' W X 18' H = 3888 cu. ft, but the fact that it opens up to the dining room makes the entire space more like 40' L X 18' W X 12' = 8540 cu. ft. Would I benefit from a subwoofer and which one should I get? Budget $1000 or close to that.
Interesting...a few observations:

1. You have an exceedingly large space...that will challenge many systems to provide serious bass/impact. Presumably you know this already. After all, you live in the space and know how much volume it takes to really drive that room with impact.

2. Bass impact comes from [simplistically] two places: a) the ability for your main speaker AND amp to wallop you in the upper bass, and in the case of your speakers perhaps teh mid bass as well. So a powerful amp here [may help]. Sometimes, adding mass damping to the top of your speaker can help a little as well...try a 20kg weight on top of each speaker (preferably not iron due to magnetism issues)...and see what happens

It also comes from lower regions which can be enhanced by a sub when set up well. Surprisingly, a classical recording often has very low bass signals that give you a sense of the recording venue/ my case, i drive a Velodyne DD18 with Wilson X1/Grand Slamms...and when you shut the Velodyne off, the sense of space collapses and you have 2 speakers in front of you with a soundstage behind them...vs around you.

3. If you can try a high powered (high current) amp even for a weekend, i would be curious what happens to your upper bass slam. If you can try either a Velodyne or REL, i would be curious as well

Hope that helps a little. YMMV. Good luck and pls continue to post questions...
Several good brands are available on-line and offer a free in-home trial period. I'd agree with Lloyd that your space is large and that a subwoofer (or two) would likely improve the tonal balance of your system, but a free trial allows you to satisfy yourself.

One very appealing offer comes from SVS (, which shows a pair of sealed 12" subs for $950 (last I looked). The SVS subs have an excellent rep, and a pair of subs is likely to get you smoother in-room response than a single sub. If you do want to stick to one subwoofer, you could check out Rythmik (I use two and am completely satisfied) or HSU (another brand with a good rep).
I have OPPO BDP-105 , I think you will be happy with HSU-VTF15H. I am very happy with this.
Thank you Lloyd. I will try a more powerful amp if I can get one. Good suggestion and thanks for the detailed explanation on the physics.

Marty, I have researched the brands you suggested. My options are a pair of SVS SB1000, a single SVS SB2000, a single Hsu VTF 15H or ULS 15, or a single Rhythmik F12.

The Hsu VTF 15H or ULS 15 are the best deals at the moment - a Black Friday special.

I would rather buy a single higher end now and add one more later.

Please let me know which one you think fits my need the best - my needs are musical rather than movies.
Lloyd, When you suggest a more powerful amp, what level of power should I consider? My NAD 365BEE is 80W per channel. I could consider something like an Anthem integrated amp at 225W per channel. Should I consider other brands or wattage as well? My spend comfort is around 2K. Thanks again!
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Hi there.

1. Agree to buy quality now and 'double up' later if you wish.
2. I would think if you are able to get a powered sub, that will allow you to try to blend the 2 speakers using the crossover...or run them in parallel. I have played with Celestions and SF Guraneris and subs...and eventually found that running in parallel seemed to work for me despite its own imperfections due to the extension of the satellites.
3. If you are going to try an amp...i always like trying a brand whose sound i like...and go a bit higher up the chain just to see if the effect you are looking for is possible...and then back down into the price range. Because if the bigger models still cannot deliver what you want...then you've saved yourself a lot of time trying to audition a particular model(s) seriously. Parasound, Bryston's newer stuff, NAD make good stuff.
4. Between HSU and SVS, hard to say. I think both have good reputations. SVS is known (i think) for tremendous bass power/$. But a lot of people with music only systems stick with HSU as well. Gut tells me the ease/flexibility of setup will matter more here, and there you are going to have to investiate the speicific models in your price range and see which one allows better setup options.
5. Finally, regardless of which sub you go (or amp), if you can isolate the sub from the floor...i often find it makes a big difference (usually a good one) in terms of deliver clean bass that is not being 'echoed' by a wooden or vibrating floor.

hope that helps...keep asking if you have any other questions...
"The setup is in the living room, with three walls, and the fourth side open to the dining room. The living room itself would have been 18' L X 12' W X 18' H = 3888 cu. ft, but the fact that it opens up to the dining room makes the entire space more like 40' L X 18' W X 12' = 8540 cu. ft. Would I benefit from a subwoofer and which one should I get?"

I would first get a more powerful amp for your main speakers given the size of your room. You're NAD is good in that it jumps the amp and preamp section externally using rca jacks. It can be used just as a preamp. For subs, I would consider getting 2 small powered subs that are designed for music and not HT.
Thank you all for your comments, all of which are very helpful. I will definitely try adding a separate amp down the line and using the NAD I have as a preamp - I'm glad that is possible. Lloyd, I will take you up on raising the sub - that sounds like an interesting and worthwhile thing to try.

I still am debating SVS SB 2000 vs Hsu VTF 15H vs Hsu ULS 15. My needs are music oriented rather than HT. Any comments specific to these three choices for music rather than HT would be most welcome, to help me with my decision. Thanks again all!
I apologize for not mentioning in the last comment that Bob Reynolds is already recommending the SVS SB2000 over the Hsus for my system. Any other comments specifically towards these three models are welcome.
Lloyd, you mentioned about having setup options. The Hsu VTF 15H offers more options with regard to fine-tuning, according to what I understood from the web site. I am somehow leaning towards this model from a power and flexibility standpoint but also feel that I will be taking a risk with this model. The reason it is a risk is that this model is beind sold at a discount and there is no return policy on it. I feel that the SVS SB 2000 is the safest bet because of their return policies. However, I am leaning towards taking a risk with the Hsu VTF 15H. Not sure if this is the right thing to do. Any help is welcome.
"However, I am leaning towards taking a risk with the Hsu VTF 15H. Not sure if this is the right thing to do. Any help is welcome."

Don't get them both at the same time. Do the amp first, as it may have an effect on what sub you choose. Also, you may find that you don't need a sub with the added power.
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"11-30-14: Bob_reynolds
Since music is the priority, a sealed cabinet would more likely be a better choice. And there is no reason to get a power amp. You do not want to drive your main speakers more -- this only creates more distortion."

No offence, but that's silly. There's more to audio than reading a spec sheet. And in this case, you're guessing in order to fill in the blanks. In the real world, you're far more likely to get a speaker to distort by under powering it. The OP has a big room and his current amp, while of good quality, is not all that powerful. If a speaker has to be driven harder than normal because the room is big, its far safer to do it with a more powerful amp. You'll get less distortion, not more. (Unless, of course, you're foolish enough to push the system so hard, it starts to break up. After reading the OP's comments, I really don't think that will be a factor here.)

Take into consideration also, that driving the OP's current speakers to their potential, will make it much easier to integrate a sub. The integration works both ways. Just as you can push an amp and speakers into distortion, the same can happen with a subwoofer and the amp that powers it. In fact, you're much more likely to have a distortion problem with the sub, as opposed to the main speakers.
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presume you have no ability to try the Hsu at home. you might wish to call Hsu and ask for their advice...specifically the size of your room and basic system components.

As for the amp, i can only suggest you try one at home. Typically i find that the bass becomes more 'solid', defined with greater punch...what i have NOT found is that it goes dramatically deeper or surrounds me in waves of propulsive bass...but for some people, this solidity, definition and punch are what they are looking for. good luck.
"11-30-14: Bob_reynolds
In the real world, you're far more likely to get a speaker to distort by under powering it.
You may be confusing the fact that you are more likely to damage a speaker by driving it with an under powered amp since you can drive the amp into clipping more easily. I assure you the driver will distort less at 65dB versus 80dB."

I'm not confusing either. That's why I put this in my last post.

"(Unless, of course, you're foolish enough to push the system so hard, it starts to break up. After reading the OP's comments, I really don't think that will be a factor here.)"

I think its a given that if you turn your system up really loud, it will probably distort at some point. Also, you are doing some guessing.

"Unfortunately, they don't quote an SPL level and distance, but it's likely 85 dB at 1 meter. This tells me that, as is typically the case, too much of the budget went into the cabinet and not the drivers to meet the price point. The distortion could double by 150 Hz and double again by 75 Hz and again by 30 Hz. You will be better off taking the bass load off of these speakers."

That, and the 2 other references are general and not about the OP's equipment. And that's really where your argument fails. Look at this, as well.

"Distortion created by a driver increases with level; just consider the heat. This is common sense, it certainly isn't silly and I'm not guessing. Distortion also increases as frequency decreases. Again, I'm not guessing; it's a fact.
In fact, you're much more likely to have a distortion problem with the sub, as opposed to the main speakers.
Now, that's just silly. You can't seriously believe that a 6.5" driver is going to distort less than a 12" driver when asked to reproduce a 40 Hz signal at 85dB.

That's exactly the problem with driving the majority of speakers full range (they are not designed for it). Speakers using crossovers use high pass filters on their tweeters and on their mid range drivers (if it's a 3-way design). It only makes sense to high pass the woofer when adding a subwoofer (effectively creating a 4-way design)."

In all this, you're missing the most important issues. Quality of the components going into the speakers, the design of the speakers, and the build quality and power rating of the amp. So going back to your example of using a 6.5" driver for a sub over a 12" driver as being silly, may not be the case. If you take a high quality 6.5" driver and put it into a well designed enclosure and power it with a very powerful, high quality amp, there's no reason why it can't outperform a lesser 12" driver with a low quality, low power amp. Not too many people use 6.5" drivers in subs, but there are many examples of 8" designs on the market that easily outperform 12" and 15" subs.
Thank you all for taking the time to help me out. The inputs give me a few things to think about and will help me make a suitable decision. I am inclined to try out a couple of scenarios before I make my decision, based upon the inputs provided. This has been an enjoyable read. I appreciate everyone's help and hope to have a solidly punchy and bassy musical holiday season! Cheers all!
A better amp will do very little to fill that room. Find the best sub you can for the money and then get another. Learn all you can about eq's, room correction and time delay.
You don't have to spend that much....subs are not that critical.
"12-02-14: Stringreen
You don't have to spend that much....subs are not that critical."

Not for you. lol. But the OP doesn't have a pair of Vandersteen 5's.
I need to add the following observations on my situation and ask a few more questions. I am testing a variety of music on my current setup and my observation is that the bass drivers on my speakers are hardly being driven, even with bass heavy punchy songs. I tried to turn the volume up to see the effect that had - the other drivers reacted a lot more than the bass driver. Turning the bass control on the amp increased the bass but not in a satisfactory way - the sound was muffled.

First - I would like to ask (apologies if this is getting repetitive) if this is due to the amplifier- to remind everyone, this is a NAD C375BEE integrated amplifier, at 80W per channel.

Second - my Wharfdale EVO 50s continue to satisfy me at the high end but are practically non-existent at the lower end. Is this a speaker issue? Does anyone have experience with these particular speakers? Should I consider replacing the speakers to get the full sound I seek?

Third - if this is an amp issue and adding a power amplifier to this setup and using my integrated as a preamp is the way to go, can I go with a NAD C275BEE, which is a power amp at 150W per channel? Will that be good enough or do I need to go higher such as a NAD M series? How high should I go to see a distinct difference in the fullness of the sound I want?
Make absolutely sure that you have your speaker cables connected in phase.

Also make sure that your Oppo is set up to play in 2 channel mode, and not something else like 5 channels.

Try removing the jumpers on the back of your NAD and run interconnects from the output on your Oppo going directly into the amp section of the NAD. Listen to the system and use the volume control on the Oppo.
ZD ....Pullllese.....My speakers are 5A's.....enough jest. Richard and I spoke at length about subs, and for the vast number of 5.1 systems, almost any sub (a couple of hundred dollars worth) is fine. Yes, subs are valuable in that they allow the regular speakers and amps to work without that extra load of lows. I have a separate 5.1 system in a different room than my "big" system. It is a Denon AVR X3100 with NHT floor standing speakers...with zone 2 connected to two speakers in every room of the house. It can show me what speakers are working, and generally, unless I am showing a movie with colliding railway trains, or bombs, the sub Isn't even working. (control is by Audyssy (spelling??). My sub is an Outlaw Audio set in a corner of the room, and it can shake the house when those bombs explode...and my room is quite large

Can you take an M series amp home for trial? I'd suggest you at least try it for a weekend if you can. I am not saying it works...but at least you have gone well up the NAD range to see...and if you get the right can determine which NAD amp you can afford (and whether it will be enough).

I do think the sub is also definitely worth a trial...any sub.
you need a much more powerful amp. It's that simple.
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Thanks all for your continued guidance.

ZD, I believe the connections are in phase - I checked them. I rechecked the Oppo settings and changed two - one said Stereo down-mixed which I changed to Front 1-2, and the other said Crossover 80 Hz which I changed to 40. Other than that, I did not see anything worth changing. I think these made a difference in the fullness of sound, but could not be completely sure. I need a way to measure that.

Bob, Sprks, I completely agree that I need to figure out the room correction and measurement aspect before I make any changes. I am concerned that even with my current setup, which is not shabby (I think), I am not getting enough out of it. The suggestions you made will help me get there.

Others, I am open, even excited, about getting a sub and a better amp - after optimizing my current situation a little more`- and need some more guidance on the amp front. I need to determine whether I should go integrated or separate pre-power. I also need some opinions on the brand I can get without breaking my bank (3K) and would to consider something other than a NAD. I once demo-ed a MF M6i integrated which I really liked, driving Paradigm Studio 60s - thought it more musical than an Anthem integrated 225 I was comparing with. I could also consider a Krell 550i as I read good things about it. Beyond that, I am unsure what else to consider, especially when going separate.
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Bob/All, GREAT NEWS!!!

I adjusted my speaker positions around until the zone they transmit to overlap further. Also, brought the speakers further in front and closer to each other - roughly 4 feet apart. I also re-checked the connector between the Oppo and the NAD and reset the Oppo settings back to their defaults.

Result was MAGICAL.
Fullness of sound TRIPLED.
Soundstage QUADRUPLED (just saying - not based on actual measurement).

Based upon the current situation, I don't think I need another amp. I am getting the effect I want at a quarter of the full volume.

I don't even know if a sub is required, but I will definitely give it a try to see if there is a further effect.

Bob, I did check that I am using the dedicated stereo outputs on the Oppo. Those are separate outputs entirely from the 7.1, so there is no room for confusion.
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I have been standing in the middle of the room, about 4 ft away from the speakers, dancing in delight :) Ordinarily, I would sit 8-10 feet away on my couch. I could adjust them a little I suppose, to accommodate the normal listening position.

I ordered a SV2000 subwoofer right now and will let you know how that improves the situation!
I just have to add this because I'm THIRLLED. There is a sweet spot that can be achieved. I have found it by moving things around - speakers, furniture, myself. Having found it, I am going through my collection - Bach - Julia Fischer, Hilary Hahn; Barber, Corigliano. Chris Botti. Everything sounds AMAZING. This is what I have been pursuing for a while. I am in HEAVEN.
The 4 ft separation is the best I can achieve given my room, I ran into space issues with my furniture and a fireplace on one side. The important things I did was to bring my speakers out far enough in front such that there is nothing barging into the sound (such as a sofa that partly impeded the sound cone, if you will - I am referring to the area the sound may emit into). I then angled them more towards each other (say roughly 35 degrees from the center line). If I stand roughly 4-5 feet from the speakers on the horizontal straight dividing them, or closer, I get outstanding soundstage, which varies as I walk close to the speakers in in interesting way. If I walk back further than 4-5 feet, there is a drop in soundstage. I am trying to adjust the angle now to bring the sweet spot closer to my sitting position, which is a good 9.5 feet away from where the speakers are at the moment. I am ordering a SPL meter to make this a little more scientific - saw a product named Galaxy Audio CM 140 on Amazon. This is cool stuff.
Excellent article on using SPL meters on RealTraps.
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I do notice a difference between standing and sitting. In fact, I now listen standing up, at that aforementioned 4 ft away position.

I will certainly take you up on the cables - I ordered a garden variety on Amazon but can return that.

I noticed that Ethan Winer is based in CT - Cool! I am only a state away in MA. Are you the jazz saxophonist Bob Reynolds who I see on Wikipedia? If so, I am impressed and even more grateful for your time.
One thing I am curious about is why my setup responds so well to high-pitched instruments such as violins and trumpets, which sound really loud and lush, whereas solo piano sounds a lot more muted. With the former, I can barely push the volume up more than a quarter way, or wife complains, With solo piano, I went up to max volume and it did sound loud then, but the loudness was a lot less pronounced and the sound jars a little. The mid level speakers are the main ones that seem to be pushed in this case. Is it normal for piano to be less loud than other instruments.
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Sorry about the shot in the dark. Grateful anyway. The piano reproduction in my setup is the worst of the lot. I have always suspected it but for the past couple of days I have focused on playing solo piano pieces and find the sound to be artificial. I don't know if it's the reproduction or the recording. I don't know if you know of a high quality solo piano recording I can try, I tried Artur Rubenstein Chopin, Vladimir Ashkenazy Bach, and a audiophile high res download of Bill Evans Waltz for Debby. I had my son play on a real piano alongside. This additionally confirmed that the notes from the system sound artificial. It may be that the system itself is not effective in this area - the mid level drivers are the ones that seem to be used.

My room has all hard surfaces. The furniture is all leather. There are no drapes - just blinds.

I will surely read all the articles. I have been reading in all my spare hours and switching from article to article.
Piano is one of the most difficult tasks that you can ask of your audio system. It goes beyond just having a system that is full range.

"I had my son play on a real piano alongside. This additionally confirmed that the notes from the system sound artificial. It may be that the system itself is not effective in this area - the mid level drivers are the ones that seem to be used."

That's a very good test. But I would recommend being cautious about upgrading here. To get things like timbre on a piano correct, is something that will take some work. You're not going to fix it with some well placed room tunes or switching to a speaker with different midrange drivers. You'll need to be comfortable moving into areas that go beyond specs. And that means you will be selecting components based on your experience while listening to them, and little else.

Before you do anything, I would recommend you seek a reference system. Find a system that will reproduce a piano to whatever standard that makes you happy. The reason for this, is so you can see if what you are asking for is even possible, and can be done at a price you can afford. I know that very few people do it this way because its a lot more work, and they would rather just go by reviews and opinion. But you will save yourself from making a ton of mistakes, by doing everything yourself.
Good advice Zd. Can you explain what you mean by a reference system? Do you mean an equipment setup put together by a dealer, for example, that is able to reproduce the sound the way I like it? I can try a local dealer that is willing to do that. I also need to find a piano recording that can be used in such a reference system, or even my own. By doing so, I would eliminate the effect of a poor recording. If you know of one, please let me know. I thought of contacting to see if they will even respond to this question.
I found this thread on good piano recordings somewhere and will give these a try.
I am also looking to change the connector between my Oppo blu ray player and the amp, to eliminate that from the question. It is a cheap connector. I will try the blu jeans place,. I spoke to an audio store near where I live. The guy is quirky but has been in business for a while. He suggested not using a blu ray player but rather going with a CD player. This may be worth trying if the Oppo is giving it a digital sound. I am also getting my Music Hall MMF 2.1 turntable fixed by him so I can compare the same recording from both aspects (assuming the recording exists on vinyl as well). This will tell me if the digital aspect of the setup is the issue.
I have a JL Audio F112 and believe it to be the best unit available regardless of cost
I am seriously considering tape at this point :) (partly joking) I found a recording studio mentioned in that link in my post earlier that will actually make them as custom orders - at $125 each! I wonder if the sound on tape would be better than on CD and what tape players are now available. Interestingly, my NAD player has tape inputs.
Thanks Verneal, for your suggestion. I have moved beyond the subwoofer at this point. I should probably start a new thread.
ordered a few of the CDs mentioned in that earlier post. Will let you guys know if they sound any better on my system than the previous ones I mentioned.