From a Close Minded Audiophile--Sumiko S5 Subwoofer Helps


I thought I've never met a subwoofer that I liked.  Well, I stopped auditioning them when I left home theatre in the 90s and never looked back. 

I hooked up a Sumiko S5 two days ago.  At first I thought it sounded wonky and, while better than subwoofers that I remember, not for me.  I was pretty certain that I would be sending it back.  

I didn't use software to set it up.  I simply experimented with tons of fuzzy logic, real world trial and error.  I found the best setting was at about 45hz on the crossover, and the gain set to about 11/10:30.  The unit is hooked up to my Creek Evolution 100A integrated amplifier via Speakon hookup.  

The results are superb.  You cannot see the subwoofer (it's placed adjacent to my mid century media center on the right wall).  You also cannot hear it--at least there's nothing directional or flubby coming out of it to give its presence away.  I've played guitar for many years and I used my ears to painstakingly tune the unit in to a point where it ever-so-slightly overlaps my floorstanding PSB Imagine T2 loudspeakers bottom end.  The effect is very subtle, yet impressive.  The way I have it set up makes it doing so little;  it's merely rounding off the bass on the PSBs.  This allows drums, stand up bass, and electric bass to sound fuller without ANY of the bad bass that I do not want. 

Let me just say that I listen to 70% vinyl, and about 50% of that is jazz, 20% acoustic/folk, and the remainder rock/pop.  I do not want to hear sounds that do not sound like instruments being played in a studio.  I hate bloated bass.  I only want to hear notes. Well, that's exactly what I have. 

The introduction of the Sumiko has pushed the gestalt of my listening experience to a spot where things are overall better.  The midrange and highs are in no way adversely affected as I have this thing set up.  Indeed, the imaging and realism seems to have opened up in a very nice way. And, I don't have to drive my amp as hard to get the scenario to be believable.  I have much more fun at lower levels than previously. 

I'm curious as to others' thoughts, opinions, comments, experiences. 


Thanks!
jbhiller
Hi JB!

Subwoofers are great when they are well set up, which is rarely.  I would strongly encourage you to make the most of them by learning how to measure your room and the speakers.  Room EQ Wizard is free, and an inexpensive, calibrated mic starts at $20 for the iMM6 from Dayton.

You may find you can get up a couple more layers of Nirvana with the right DSP and or bass traps.

Best,


Erik
I will not have a system without subs anymore. 

I dont int know the sub your using. Do you use a true crossover? I have found that makes a huge difference. 
I will look into a software setup solution to ensure most precise and proper setup. That's a good, inexpensive idea. 

I'm not using a true crossover.  The Speakon setup (heavily promoted by REL/Sumiko) allows my floorstanders to function as normal.  It has a super low ohm tap that attaches to the same speaker output lines as the loudspeakers.  It is supposed to help seamless integration of gain and the flavor of the amp.  I'm crossing over the sub at about 45 hz, so it's not participating much in what the PSBs are doing.  I think it adds about a 5-10% improvement in the overall picture.  
The minefield in most rooms is the below 100 Hz, if not the below 40 Hz area, where room modes are most likely to be excited. Since most floor standers cut out around this region, they are less likely to get into problems.  So, less setup drama, but less bass extension.

Having a subwoofer that is well integrated to the ROOM first, and then the speakers however is like the gates of heaven. To get there Bass traps and DSP is usually required. The good news is that you can often avoid doing any DSP on your main speakers, and keep it all in subwoofer land, or use pre-DAC DSP units which are pretty cheap and very very good.

Best,


Erik
All speakers roll off eventually, so you don't necessarily have to high-pass filter the mains. However, your amplifiers still have to pump out the same amount of effort as if there was no subwoofer, so you don't get the benefit of higher dynamic range that you would if you did. 

This gets complicated though, as integrating a main + subwoofer has all the challenges of traditional speaker crossover design. If there's an existing recipe  you are following and it works for you stick with it until/unless you start measuring to find better.

Best,


Erik
All speakers roll off eventually, so you don't necessarily have to high-pass filter the mains.

Yes, they all roll off in the bass eventually. Unfortunately, they distort badly as they do it. And the louder you listen the worse they distort.

Anyone curious enough can look at the published specs of B&W's large floor standing speakers. Note the frequency for which they report the distortion; it's still pretty high so that the distortion value doesn't look so terrible. Speakers distort so badly in the bass that very few speaker manufactures are brave enough to report the results.

What I think Bob is saying is that low frequency distortion is kind of inversely related to driver size. The only way to get clean distortion free, low bass is with lots of surface area.

Few report it or measure it, but fortunately SoundStage does along with compression. You can get a list of all speakers tested here:

www.speakermeasurements.com

Sadly, most hear bad room modes and report that assume it's distortion, when it's not the case, but they assume big woofers must sound terrible.

So, yes, you are an Audiophile heretic for using a subwoofer, but let them not cause you to falter for your cause is righteous.  :)

Best,

Erik
The only upgrade better than a sub is two subs...
And subwoofer measurements can be found here:

http://www.hometheatershack.com/forums/subwoofer-tests-archived/6015-index-subwoofer-tests-manufacturer-model.html

So the moral of the story is that high passing the main speakers will yield a less distorted system. And that the main speakers will behave better since the bass load has been removed from them.
Great sounding well designed main speakers functioning full range can yield very musical results, and small woofers (and baffles) can also sound great, with astonishing soundstage capabilities…adding subs makes it all better as good subs can charge a room and really help mains to sing even when the mains are left at the full range they're designed for in the first place. I use 2 RELs with Silverline Prelude mains (3.75" D'Appolito array woofers in each) and the system never displays audible distortion even when driven to levels approaching discomfort. Fear not the full range.
I have 2 REL t9's (very similar to your Sumiko but bigger) and they are the first subs that i can stand. Others seem strangely disjoint from the music. (I an disregarding the 1 note wonders that people crank to show that "I have a Subwoofer!")
I think that the Speakon connection simply cuts through all that DSP / slope / rolloff / crossover jive, and you can achieve outstanding results with your ears. Maybe use a sound pressure meter.
I don't like DSP's, or 4th or even second order crossovers - they introduce too much delay/phase etc. anomalies.
The internals of the REL/Sumiko seem to have a simple, elegant solution and just work.
That said, I wish I had gotten the next size down, the t7i (I think).

I agree with setting the Sub(s) up so they energize the room the best, then introduce your mains.
And then make the adjustments on the Sumiko, not the amp or room correction.