I think if integrated properly, a bookshelf speakers/subwoofer combo can equal or even surpass equivalent($$$ and quality) floorstander speakers.
Many variables come in to play though.
Many variables come in to play though.
I generally agree with willand that bookshelf monitors with a good quality sub can equal or likely better the performance of a pair of floorstander speakers, if $$ and quality are equalized.
Acoustical experts have proven that frequencies below about 200 hz interact in any given room very differently than frequencies above 200 hz interact. Low frequency sound waves are much longer than mid-range and treble sound waves. A 20 hz sound wave is about 56ft long while a 20,000 hz sound wave is less than an inch long. Basically the lower the frequency, the longer the corresponding sound wave and the higher the frequency, the shorter the corresponding sound wave.
Because of the above, the room size is also an important factor in how bass sound waves interact within the room and affects how the bass response sounds in that room. Generally, the smaller the room, the more difficult good bass response becomes. This is because the very long deep bass sound waves launched from the sub are likely longer than any room dimension within the room. This means these waves will be forced to continue to bounce off the room boundaries (walls, floors and ceiling) until they run out of energy.
Further complicating the situation, the sub is continually launching additional bass sound waves, of varying frequencies and lengths, into the room. The result is that these long direct and reverberated sound waves inevitably crash into each other, causing something called bass standing waves.
These bass standing waves are audible at the specific room locations they occur as bass peaks (perceived as bass over-emphasis), bass nulls (perceived as bass under-emphasis) and bass cancellations (perceived as a complete absence of bass).
If given a room's dimensions, ceiling height, room boundary materials and location of the low frequency drivers (woofers/subs) within the room, acoustic experts are able to accurately predict and plot the bass response throughout the entire room; including the specific locations at which bass peaks, nulls and cancellations will exist.
If you were to play music with good and repetitive bass content and walk around your room listening for how the bass sounds at various positions within the room, it's obvious exactly where the bass response is good and where bass peaks, nulls and cancellations exist.
The only empirically proven method discovered to date for providing very good bass response that is well dispersed throughout any given room is the use of a Distributed Bass Array (DBA) system.
The DBA system was initially theorized by 2 PHD Acoustical engineers, mainly Dr. Geddes and to a lesser extent Dr. Toole. Through experiments they discovered that the more bass point sources (subs) present in a room of any size, the fewer bass standing waves exist in the room. This means the more subs in a room, the better the bass response and the more evenly it is dispersed throughout the entire room.
Of course, they realized there was a practical limit to the number of subs consumers would find acceptable in their commercial (theaters, clubs and bars) or domestic (residential) rooms. Fortunately and critically, they also discovered that the use of four strategically located subs eliminated the vast majority of standing waves in any given room, with only marginal improvements obtained through additional subs.
This is why most commercially available complete DBA systems, such as the $3,000 Audio Kinesis Debra and Swarm systems, consist of four 4 ohm subs along with a 1,000 watt class A/B amp to power them.
I'm definitely not an acoustical expert. I just learned the above through my extensive internet research in an effort to find a good home bass system solution that would provide very good bass response for both 2 channel music and HT use and integrate well with my Magnepan speakers.
I'm going to end this post here before I write a book. But I'm willing to assist you in finding a good bass solution for your room. It doesn't need to be a $3,000 DBA system since I have some other ideas. Please let me know your room size, budget and whether you'll be using your system for music, HT or both. I'll continue my advise on a future post if you'd like.
+1 on integrating a subwoofer with your 2-channel system speakers , and why it can be either done well or done poorly.
So, ignoring the author's Vandersteen Point of view in the following article (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 subwoofer to 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, Vandersteen has 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 Vandersteen 2Wq 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...."
Thank you for all the good responses. As you can see from my original post, this is a modestly priced system as will be the subwoofer. If full range speakers were superior they would have been down the road sometime. My aging subwoofer was producing less and less bass at lower listening levels which prompted my original question.
In answer to Noble 100, my budget is $700 with shipping for the sub. A used one is fine within a couple of years old. This is a 2 channel music system. I have a fully finished walk out basement that is my "Man Cave", so I do not have any limitations by my wife for this room. It is L shaped. The larger portion of the L is 11 x 23 with speakers on the long side firing across the short side. Ceiling height is 8 feet. The other portion of the L is 9 x 11 with a 7 foot ceiling, and while it may add volume, I do not consider this a part of the listening area. Floors are carpeted and wall finish is drywall.
This is a nice SVS sub that has been replaced with a newer mode (SB2000) . The price was $679.00 before it was discontinued. It is a bargain at this price ($399)!
Willland, thanks for the offer. The subs you listed are older and I am not looking for anything over 3 years old.
Bob_reynolds and yogiboy, I was surprised and happy to see the good reviews on the SVS subs, hard to find a decent sounding sub under the $1000 list price. I really wanted something other than black, but may consider black at a later date.
Thanks for the replies.
"Though I’m a fan of Dr. Geddes and Duke’s implementation, the above quote isn’t quite true. The vast majority of systems use parametric equalization to manage room modes. Both approaches have their place."
" There is no approach that will produce a smooth bass response everywhere in the room and there is no need for it."
Let's investigate your sentence for truthfulness. It requires breaking down because your single sentence actually contains two statements that are false:
1. " There is no approach that will produce a smooth bass response everywhere in the room"
Yes there is. It is called a Distributed Bass Array (DBA) system that consists of 3-4 subs strategically positioned in the room and it does exactly what you claim it does not do; it produces a smooth bass response everywhere in the room as a result of removing the vast majority of bass standing waves which are known to cause bass peaks, nulls and cancellations in typical rooms.
This was theorized and empirically tested and proven by two PHD acoustical engineers. Dr. Earl Geddes and Dr. Floyd Toole, years ago. Their theory, methodology, testing experiments and results are thoroughly documented in the White Papers they subsequently published. Their results have since been independently verified numerous times.
2. " and there is no need for it". What there is no need for when utilizing a DBA is any mics, room analysis/room correction software, room treatments or PEQ. I think many members and audiophiles would likely disagree with your statement that there is no need for a hi-fidelity state-of the art bass system that is able to accurately and seemingly effortlessly reproduce the full spectrum of bass frequencies in any room without the need for any equipment or software assistance.
I'm surprised that you, as an admitted 'fan of Dr. Geddes and Duke's approach', apparently know so little about their DBA approach and its simplicity and effectiveness.
Sure, not everyone can accommodate 3-4 relatively small subs in their rooms that a DBA requires, but this is a separate matter.
Yes, the DBA approach may not produce smooth and accurate bass response literally everywhere throughout the entire room. But, as a user of the Audio Kinesis Debra DBA system for the past few years, I'm not aware of any position in my 23 x 16 room at which bass response is poor. There may be a spot or 2 but I'm not concerned since it's definitely not at any of my room's 6 seating positions.
The only need for parametric equalization (PEQ) in a DBA system is for bass exaggeration or attenuation based on personal preferences.
Here is the best value that I've seen in along time.... SVS marketed this model for Black Friday last November... They retailed it somewhere around $1200... This company bought all they had left... $399
In my experience if you listen mostly to small scale music then a sub/sat approach is best. If you like large scale music - symphonies, hard rock, maybe big band, then you'll prefer full range speakers. Small woofers aren't satisfying on really dynamic music. You need at least 8", preferably 10" or more woofers. Not subwoofers. Subs are crossed over at 80hz or less. You need a big woofer playing up to at least 200hz to produce the right slam. Little 6.5" drivers won't do it from more than a few feet away.
This 1st link is an interesting and informative interview with Dr.Earl Geddes, although he only addresses multiple sub theory for a short section, on Dagogo’s website:
Here’s 2 links that go into more detail on his multiple sub theory (DBAs):
To be fair, the reviewer, Robert E. Greene, does mention that the parametric equalizer on the supplied amp can be used as needed (usually to eliminate the floor-to-ceiling boom).
So, I will concede the point that a DBA’s performance can be even further optimized through the use of a PEQ. But I should note that I leave all the PEQ settings on my amp set to ’flat’. I believe my thickly carpeted floor may be responsible for taming any potential floor-to-ceiling boom and obviating the need for any correcting equalization.
I have nothing against using PEQ to optimize bass response in a room/system. My stance is just that I have no need for PEQ, room treatments (beyond my carpeted floor which was not pre-planned) or any other tools/equipment in my room/system. If you, or anyone, is obtaining good bass response through the use of mics, room analysis/room correction software, room treatments and PEQ then my response is: "Great!".
I’m sufficiently humble to realize there’s more than one method to achieving very good bass response in one’s room. The gist of what I’ve been attempting to convey is that the use of a complete or custom DBA, without the use of any further equipment/tools or materials, is one of these methods that has worked very well for me and may work for others looking for a relatively simple and affordable solution for their rooms/systems.
I'm running Revel M106 mains and an SVS SB16-Ultra sub. If you get a sub like the SB16-Ultra, there will be NO SPEAKER that comes close in terms of bass distortion or quantity. These subs also have 3 parametric EQ bands to deal with standing wave issues.
If you dial in the sub, it's pretty hard to tell it's there. For now, I'm really happy with the sound. I will have to spend a LOT on different speakers to achieve a significant upgrade.
The main issue I see with buying bookshelf or 2-way speakers is that you have one 6 inch driver trying to handle over 5 octaves of music. It means the lower bass from the driver will have high distortion and not much punch, and the higher midrange is being produced by a larger than optimal driver. In addition, it might be trying to reproduce 1500hz while trying to reproduce 50hz at the same time, and that causes phase distortion for the higher frequency. In other words, the 1500hz isn't coming from a single distance driver from you, that driver could be moving in and out a half inch or more.
I like the concept of the KEF Ref 1, because it has a modest bass driver to take the load off of the midrange driver. I would expect a better midrange from a system like that, and imagine they might be able to cross the tweeter over at a higher, easier frequency.
BTW, I replaced an old sub with the SVS and it is a huge difference. It really sounds integrated now and doesn't sound like it's behind.
Phasecorrect brings up an interesting point about the importance of set up as have others in this thread. In reading a review of the Elaq Debut S12 EQ the reviewer came to the conclusion that it sounded better in his room than similar price subs that went lower and had more output, due to the built in EQ. So is it possible to spend a lot of time experimenting with placement and manual adjustments and equal the quality of sound of a sub with EQ? Other than the Elaq I have not seen other subs with EQ in my price range.
near full range speakers (40 hz or so) with a quality , higher powered amplifier .
i used to have psb tower speakers that played solid down to 40hz and a good NAD amp rated at 150 watts / channel. a powerful amp controls the speaker motion extremely well and has the power to create dynamic bursts even at low volume. the bass was spontaneous, tight and incredible and you could feel the impact from the excursions at really low volume.
the sign of a quality amp is to see if its rating goes up with a lower ohm spec, example 150 watts at 8 ohms, 200 watts at 4 ohms. a good sign that the amp has a solid design and large enough transformers to have reserve power.
The only empirically proven method discovered to date for providing very good bass response that is well dispersed throughout any given room is the use of a Distributed Bass Array (DBA) system.
<< cough cough>> Hahaha. Hahahah. Hahahahaha. Let's ignore all of the literature on the subject to date.
Getting good bass is no joke, and (DBA) has merits, but typically room acoustic treatment + EQ is the solution and yields very very good results when done properly.
When it comes to a large full range vs. Satellites+Sub, the best solutions are usually satellites + subs, BUT!!! What a pain to do right. I mean, there are technical advantages, in being able to place the sub separately, and being able to put an EQ in front of the sub without altering the mains, but it is a lot harder to do than just dropping a sub into the room.
My usual answer is get a really good 2 way. :) Mine are flat in-room to 25 Hz or so.
There is also the issue of loudness. If you have a receiver, having a loudness control is a really good thing at low volumes. Otherwise, you want a speaker with a smile-shaped response which will be great at low volumes, and then be uncomfortable at higher levels.
Denon used to have a wonderful loudness control for this.
DSP is a digital nanny not necessary for great sound, and it’s also generally a box of circuits your precious little signal runs through to allow the imposing of its designer’s opinion on all of your gear. My ego won’t allow it as I’m a pro concert sound engineer (also worth noting, a close friend has a well regarded DSP system in his rig and since he’s NOT a live sound engineer and in fact utterly hopeless about such things, I get it…although I think his rig sounds better with the DSD off). Although the lengthy articles preceding me may have covered this, it’s not that hard to get great sound with a sub, and the REL subs I use (apparently also the Vandy’s mentioned previously) get their tone from the amp driving the main speakers which is a good idea, but might not be all that important under 40 hz or so. I like the idea anyway. Distortion is minimal or, better stated, unnoticeable, and all you have to do is move the sub around until it sounds right to YOU. I use 2 RELs and I think that does help with standing waves (the sloping and very tall ceiling in my room also helps) , and I adjust the REL’s levels from time to time to deal with bass heavy or bass light recordings. My main speakers are efficient designs driven by an SEP amp and do 40hz before dropping off, and that’s right where I run the subs.
My personal advice, considering your budget get 2 martin Logan dynamo 300, open them and put inside a small cushy pillow back in the ointernal wall to dump internal resonances which will improve the tightness of the sub and put some cotton clothes on the firing port so you seal them. The port for me only gives boomy and uncomfortable, not musical bass, maybe good for ht.
Then get the bheringher 2496 digital equalizer to adjust the frequency response according to your room , to do this you will need to download the audio tool to your cellphone, learn to use it, is not so difficult. Then spend a long time tunnig your subs with the recommendations given to you on the other comments.
Later, someday get a preamp with phase tuning option, it is VERY helpful, I would say mandatory.
I own the ml sub with a pair of tiny paradigm Sig s1 v3 (is a sealed bookshelf) and could not express how good it sound.