Home Theater: Is Subwoofer a must?

I'm just setting up my first home theater system. I have a Proceed PAV, with Classe amplification. A CA-200 drives my Legacy Classic mains while a bridged CAV-75 does center and surrounds. The Legacy Classics have (2) 10 woofers in each speaker, crossover set at 120hz. When I play music, which is 90% of my listening the bass is plentiful and solid. I've noticed though, that when I watch movies the bass is a little lean. I checked my Proceed PAV and made sure the internal crossover was turned off. My question is this, when they make these recordings on dvd, vhs or whatever do they separate all the bass information for the subwoofer channel? Do they think nobody buys full range speakers anymore? Or do they just want to make you buy a subwoofer? I thought with the bass response of my Classics I wouldn't need one. Am I wrong? Thanks for your help.
My opinion,for what its worth is that a sub for theater applications is a must and sometimes the more the merrier!
(I have 3 myself on my theater)
Jmc; I'm from the "no subs",camp. Have you checked to see if you have chosen, "speakers full range" option in your Pav menu? / mine calls it " speakers lg". or "small".I assume you have chosen "sub off"? I have "Hell Freezes Over". There is more bass in DTS,than when I play it 2ch.
Thanks for your responses. Avguygeorge, in speaker setup I have crossover off. This is suppose to allow all frequencies to go to the fronts. I have center channel selected as large so it can go full range. I don't see any other options under speaker setup. That is why I was wondering if the DVD format is encoded with the low frequencies rolled off and deep bass sent to the sub channel. In stereo when bass information is there the Classics can go pretty deep, so I assume the software manufacturers are doing something to change that.
In most cases, I am also in the "no" camp. However, my opinion that a sub is not an absolute necessity is contingent on a couple of factors. First, do you have full-range speakers? If so, you can probably live without a sub. Second, how much do you value the special/low frequency effects? If you don't care particularly whether your system can reproduce explosions, etc., you can probably live without a sub. Third, what is the balance of audiophile music listening versus home theater? If the bulk of your listening is to music, and HT is the secondary function of your system, then you can probably live without a sub. All of that said, adding a sub does not need to be a horribly expensive proposition. I bought an AR 300 subwoofer from "Accessories4less.com" for less than $400, and it works reasonably well for my HT needs. You can also buy a used Sunfire Jr. subwoofer for around $750 and it will probably meet your needs. On the other hand, if you are a serious music listener and want to use the sub as part of your main audio system, most of the better subs for music (REL, Velodyne, M&K, Vandersteen, etc.) are in the $1000-$1750 range. My system -- Vandersteen 3A Signatures with Vandy VCC-1 Sig center channel and Coincident Triumph Signature rear speakers, all driven by Bryston electronics -- is primarily intended for serious music listening. However, now that the quality of my system is pretty high, I am finding that the percentage of use for HT is slowly increasing.
The LFE channel does require in most cases that you use a subwoofer. I don't believe that this channel is re-routed by the processor to other channels, so your are missing part of the "movie".
I beg to differ on the "lfe" The.1 of 5.1. They only go there if you direct them there thru the menu. I have Aerial 10Ts. To say again: dvds in the 5.1 have MORE bass partly because of the type of sounds within movies.It is there in music dvds as well. I bought "H F O" because it was in dts.(to much bass in dts)In 2ch less, but tighter. On Lazer disc....more and tighter bass still.Maybe I have a bass heavy processor,but that's my take from here.
I have four 12" woofers, four 10" woofers and six 8" woofers in my home theater NOT including any subs. Adding two more 12's for the dedicated LFE channel made a BIG difference even though my mains are -3 db down at about 25 Hz and the surrounds at about 32 Hz. While all of these speakers are low efficiency ( 86 db's or so ), the system is powered by 6450 watts RMS. Believe me, nothing is "choked" or "compressed" sounding in this system. Having told you all of that for a reference as to where i'm coming from, you Legacy's should do pretty well by themselves. That is, as long as the amp is not "pooping out" on extended bass notes ( movies have much longer duration low frequency passages than ANY music that i know of ) or the room is not extremely large. My Father has been running Classics in a decent sized room with amps rated for between 350 wpc @ 4 and 600 wpc @ 4 and never had ANY problems. The floor and walls shake when dinosaurs and earthquakes come into play. I would suggest that your speaker placement might need some work or that your system is not fully optimized in this regard. Keep in mind that when you find "optimum" speaker placement for HT use, that probably WON'T coincide with best results for 2 channel use. This means that choosing which is more important to you probably WILL come into play unless you can find a happy medium between the two. This is the reason that many folks that have the space and money do seperate HT and stereo systems. This way, neither is compromised. In my opinion, making movies "realistic" has NOTHING to do with making a 2 channel system seem "realistic". Sean
Hey,Sean,somebody better check you into one of those half way houses for woofers'abusers.Oh,and at 6480 watts/same there also.Time to run consecutively.You could do this voluntarily or we can look into an intervention program. There probably isn't an ant,spider,or whatever ;alive in your house after viewing 'Pri. Ryan? Did you have a geological report,before adding that last pair of subs? Do you have a seismologist recording data? The foundation have those "freeway overpass" bolts attached? Ok,enough of that/this .The point was/is we both agree there should be more bass for movies. Jacgrogan has plenty of 2ch. bass;but less for ht/something don't seem right.It sure ain't the dvd format.
From my understanding, a sub really helps if you have good fronts that roll off relatively low. Even the best subs can't compete if they are trying to produce the stuff above 50Hz. What you want is SEAMLESS integration with your fronts, so look for a sub that integrates well with your system. It will definately help for HT. Veloydyne, Rel and M&K, Vanersteen seem to be on everyone's A list. HSU has also got good reviews in the mid price range. Stay away from cheap, boomy subs, they will only make things worse
Avguygeorge, I must now disagree with you, not all processors provide the flexibility to route the lfe (.1) channel to another channel. And most, the user has no idea how the bass is being managed, e.g. if or where the bass is routed for channels where you select "small" or limited frequency speakers. Therefore, unless this is a specific option in the processor, this information doesn't go anywhere.
I own Legacy Focus speakers. I love them. I have a Velodyne 12" sub that I needed with my previous speakers. I do not need it now. I use the sub with movies, but for most movies it doesn't matter.

I have a SACD player and my preamp/processor has a analog bypass option which greatly improves SACD sound (or should I say avoids the digital processing that chokes my SACD sound?). A shortcoming of the bypass option is that no processing occurs including bass management. I don't miss the sub.

On the other hand, I attended one Legacy demonstration. They recommended subs. Do not assume that just because you have two woofers you would not benefit from a sub. Legacys are designed with the philosphy that large woofer movement results in distortion. If you notice, Legacy woofers do not move very much (throw distance). Two 12" Legacy woofers do not move as much air as some single 12" woofers from other companies. Legacy prefers to build speakers with 3 woofers (Focus) that move 1/4" than one woofer that moves 3/4".

You can call Legacy and ask their advice. They have been helpful for me on other issues.
Thanks for your responses. It seems like everybody is saying this is a hardware or room placement issue. That helps, my main concern is if it was a software issue I HAVE to get a sub. If it is hardware I need to keep fiddling with what I got. Tommart, if you say you don't notice the bass in movies then that means the software is not sending all low frequency information to the sub channel. That was my main question. Sean, I don't really have much room to fool with placement a couple inches either direction but as I am pleased with 2 channel sound and that makes up 90% of my listening I won't bother with placement. Kevinm brings up the point of bass management. I'm new to this so I don't know how the Proceed PAV does in this regard. I only see crossover on/off and center large/small/off as only options under speaker setup. I have crossover off and center large. This should send all low frenquencies to all speakers. The only other explanation is the software people encoding the dvd with low frequencies directed to sub channel.
I would check with Proceed. I am of the understanding the same as Kevinm. The .1 is the LFE channel and I believe that (at least) the default would route that channel separately and not mix it into the other 5. If you get a powered sub you can just shut it off for 2 channel.
one word: ABSOLUTELY.
Another word -- that can be used alone or in conjunction with Estmad's lexis: "NOT!"
are very exaggerated and don't sound like the real thing. Car accidents, gun shots, explosions, etc. don't have as much bass in reality. I'm not saying that HT doesn't sound goog but I believe given the info in this thread you can get by without a sub much of the time IMHO.
George, let's not get carried away. My amps are factory spec'd at 6450 rms, NOT 6480. : )

Since others here have had similar results using equivalent Legacy speakers that "Jmc" is using, that tells us that it is probably NOT in the speakers but in how it is all set up. I would also agree that how the bass management is set-up on the individual processor ( Proceed in this case ) can DRASTICALLY affect the overall output. I have seen some processors that were HORRIBLE in this respect while most others offer limited versatility. The good thing about the Proceed stuff is that it is all "modular" and computer based. I think that you can probably even have them "program" something for your specific system if it comes down to it. As to some of the other comments about using "boomy" subs, that is NOT a problem as long as they are crossed over low with a very steep slope. Most of the "impact" on movies is based at 30 - 50 Hz. If it can do this at HIGH levels and is rolled off sharply ( 18 - 24 db's / octave) above that, that's fine. Electronic crossovers will work MUCH better than a passive unit in this respect. The only time that "boom" will detract from movies ( NOT music ) is if it is creeping up into the 70 - 80 Hz or higher range. I've measured some subs with built in passive crossovers that were still "barreling away" at 180 Hz or so. This can make male voice "chesty" or sound like they are talking into a barrel. The problem is that most "boomy" woofers are of some type of a bass reflex design. If the active driver has a relatively high resonance, feeding it high power at points below that frequency will result in MASSIVE cone throw, distortion and possible driver damage. That is, unless it is designed as a "long throw" ( high Xmax ) unit. The drivers are "unloaded" at that point and will flail about massively, much like when you play a severely warped record. Not only does this rob power needlessly from the amp, the bass that it is trying to reproduce will be of much lower quality and definition along with a possible increase in port noise ( commonly referred to as "chuffing"). Like anything else, it's all a matter of having a balanced system and taking the time to dial it all in. Sean
You don't mention whether you're using the PAV with the outboard digital controller necessary for Digital 5.1 surround. The PAV by itself is an all analog pre/pro with THX Dolby Pro Logic built in. The small speaker setting has a fixed cross over point of 80hz according to THX standards. I think the add on Digital unit, the PDSC?, must have additional programmable settings for the .1 LFE channel and your other speakers regarding small/large, or for specific crossover frequencies, and whether your using a sub. If you are not using a sub make sure to turn off the subwoofer output. Normally this will redirect all .1 LFE to your 'large' mains, including the low frequencies from other speakers designated as 'small'. Your Classics should provide solid and satisfying bass, however a sub IMO makes a big difference, not just for action scenes, but it helps to hieghten the drama.
I FOUND IT!! Thanks for all your help. I sat down and went thru the whole program step by step. Previously I spent time in Speaker setup and input defaults. Iwent into Mode Defaults, which had THX Cinema, Dolby Pro Logic, Stereo Surround and all other modes. Inside each mode there was a switch to turn sub on/off. Needless to say the sub switch was on in the Pro Logic/THX modes I thought since I turned the sub off in Speaker Setup section this was all taken care of. WRONG. I turned the switch off and put in Twister (hey my kids were off school today). Now I have real bass even in home theater mode. I felt the house shake. I don't think I need that sub. Thanks for all your help.
Sean; sorry for my gross exaggeration for the power figure. It must be awesome! I live in an apt/part of my agenda for "no subs". I have actually had 2, and couldn't integrate w/ my CLSs at the time. Funny,the Pav gives you bass management in each mode.But it was there!/and that's what counts. Like an Easter egg hunt.
Killer !!! Glad that you were able to work out your problem without spending any more money. That's always a good thing : ) Sean
hello i own a pair of legacy focus speakers usin a mark levison amp do i need set my speakers on large or small i have a lexicon processor. and three sub woofers. thank you
I too have Aerial 10T's driven with PLENTY of power... they are about as full-range a speaker as you will find.

I find that the sub absolutely adds to the experience when it comes to theater. I am using an SVS PB12+/2 (2 12" sub's with a 900W amp). I also use a Velodyne SMS-1 which really improved the performance.

I am quite surprised at how well it does with music - but I rarely need it as the Aerials do such a wonderful job all by themselves.

I do agree - that no sub is better than a cheapie... it will create more problems.

Good luck.
Since the LFE channel allows for peaks of 115dB SPL versus 105dB SPL for the main channels at reference level in a Dolby Digital sound track and that's likely to clip amps and bottom speakers, many processors & receivers discard the LFE channel when a sub-woofer isn't present.

Movie producers are warned against using the LFE channel for important (musical) bass (it's just there for Low Frequency Effects which need silly headroom) but some do anyways.

Some (example: Lexicon) processors allow the user to specify the LFE level in the down mix, although you still have to worry about clipping amps and bottoming drivers.

Clipping and bottoming are less likely with sub-woofers because all THX processors have a peak limiter built-in and many commercial powered sub-woofers offer this functionality.

You also pick up a substantial (theoretically 12dB, or 8X) output boost for a given level of excursion and power by corner loading a sub-woofer - I measure less than 60W to get my ~90dB sensitive subwoofer to the 111dB peak of a typical Dolby Digital sound track at reference level. Doing the same is not practical with a conventional loud speaker because only the low frequencies get boosted. Parametric equalization can be used to cut peaks from room-modes.
When I first started into home theater I was using watt puppies only. I lived with the two channel set up for about 18 months and truely enjoyed the movies this way.
I came into some money and I started to add the speakers first the center than the sub and then the surround. IMHO the .1 makes a huge difference in theater set up. The DTS setting when available is so impressive when watching movies that I would not want to be without it now.
Money well spent, get a good sub and have a blast.