How To Improve B&W N802 Bass Response?

I’m not satisfied with the bass response of my current system in stereo. It seems weak and doesn’t seem to fill the room at low to mid volume. I’m looking for any ideas or suggestions on improving the bass response. My application is mainly 50/50 stereo music / multi-channel HT. Listening room dimension is 24’(W) x 17’(D) x 20’(H) with openings to living room, foyer, kitchen and sun room.

System configuration:
• Digital sources: Sony DVP-NS 755 DVD Player and Scientific Atlanta 8300HD Cable Box
• Digital-Analogue Converter: Apogee Mini DAC (1 week away from being replaced by Apogee Rosetta 200 DAC and Big Ben Clock Regenerator)
• Preamp: McIntosh C200
• Amps: 2 x McIntosh 501 monoblocks
• Speakers: B&W N802
• Cables: Mogami balanced XLR interconnects (soon to be replaced with Apogee Wyde Eye for all interconnects), Cobalt copper speaker cables bi-wired to N802s.
• Receiver: Denon 5803 (for HT only passing thru C200)

I had tried a few configurations along the way, though I’m not satisfied yet, they may be interesting tips for some of you with similar components:
• Canare L-4E6S Star Quad balanced XLR cables tend to “filter” out mid and high frequencies to a point that the sound becomes muddy.
• Belden 1800F XLR balanced cables are better than Canare where they are clearer and seem to give the illusion of sound stage opening.
• Mogami XLR balanced cables better than the above in my system. They are very transparent, clearer and sound stage opens up tremendously.
• Setting the output trim to +12 on C200 makes a lot of difference. It drastically improves details and sound stage even further.
• Connecting N802 low frequency taps to 8ohm and mid/high freq to 4ohm taps of MC502 helps. The bass response seems to be louder and the mid/high seems to be “sweeter” and just right.

I shall soon see what kind of performance improvements from the Apogee XLR cables, Rosetta 200 and Big Ben.

I’m also considering getting a good sub to extend the lower frequency. In my initial research, the SVS PB12 Ultra/2 ($2300) sub seems interesting. It has 1000W BASH digital amp and 2 x 12” TC Sound Ultra drivers. Anybody has any opinion about this sub for music application? I’m wondering how well it blends in with the N802s. I’m not sure how good the 1000W BASH amp is compared to McIntosh MC501 monoblocks. Would I be better off getting passive sub and let the 501’s drive it?

As an alternative to sub, would a 2-channel equalizer help boost the low frequencies of N802s to make frequency spectrum “flatter” at a given db? I hate to waste my investment on N802s, I mean the spec says it can go down to 30Hz. My reservation of EQ is it stretches out my signal path (dtx EQ has AD and AD built-in, in addition to my Apogee DA in the signal path). Not sure if this latency will lead to video syncing problem for HT application. Also, I don’t want to find myself having tinker with EQ’s instead of enjoying the music. If you have good experience with EQ, please share your experience about the brand(s) you tried.

I will appreciate any suggestions you may have on improving the bass response.

If you really have 20 ft. ceilings and your listening room opens onto other rooms, you have a ton of cubic feet and most likely not enough woofing power to fill it (two 8" woofers per speaker can wash out in such a big area).

I would suggest moving the speakers closer to the back wall for bass reinforcement, but my recollection is that the 802's use downward-firing ports, which means this won't do much.

Subwoofers are an answer, as are N801's, which usually sound like hell because most rooms are too small to support their prodigious bass output -- could be perfect for you.
If your shortage of bass is only at low volumes I'd suggest you install an equalizer or tone control in the tape loop to boost the bass. You can then switch it out when you are listening at higher volumes. Research Fletcher Munson theory re frequency response curve at low volumes. This was a basis for including 'loudness compensation' circuits in preamps 20 years ago. I think Mc used to have them as well.
More than anything else more appropriate amplification will make the most significant improvements in the bass regions.

But I also would not underestimate the significance of following areas:

o ics and speakers cables that provide only a minimal or no time smear does wonders for the bass.

o Proper vibration control for the components and the speakers can make a world of difference pertaining to bass definition.

o A dedicated circuit/line is an absolute requirement for each amplifier, even at lower listening levels.

o Proper speaker placement does have any overall impact on bass. Typically, the closer to the wall the muddier, boomier, and more sluggish the bass response.

Try the Flavor 4 by Vh audio power cord on your monos,You should notice right away the increase in the bass impact.You will also find out why many ( or all ) love the flavor 4 so much.
Weak bass response is an inherent characteristic of the 802. I would suggest a pair of subs or better yet switch to a better speaker.
I wasn't going to respond. But Judy426 has to but her nose in where it doesn't belong.

You have an execeptionally large room with few reflection points. Not that at lower frequencies that matters. Remember you are dealing with 2 eights they are fast, tight, controled and will not give alot of air pressure espically at low volumes. Will they hit the lower notes shure. Will you feel those notes at lower volumes no. If bass reinforcement (for either air pressure or frequency response) is what you are after a good pair of subs may be the way to go.
Disclaimer ... I've never heard any of your gear.
So the reason I'm posting is that I have used a subwoofer with a couple of different speakers and may be able to help in that respect. For reference I use a REL strata, which is a sub that leaves the signal to the main speakers intact and is crossed below their rolloff point. This minimizes the clutter in the signal path, but will not allow you to augment any frequencies currently handled by your main speakers.

If you feel the 802s are lacking midbass (the bass you hear) but the brochure says they extend to 30Hz (and I can believe it ... they're not small) then a subwoofer will probably not help a great deal.

If you're happy with the midbass and just feel that the system lacks "scale, impact, and a sense of power" then adding a sub might be just the ticket.

The reason I say this is that I was in a similar position with Spica Angelus. They went very low but the bass was very controlled, and sounded a bit thin. I added a REL sub crossed at 27Hz (where the main speakers run full range and the sub comes in beneath them) and it helped but never really solved the problem.

I then switched to monitor speakers and kept the REL. My monitors roll off sharply below 50Hz but have ample mid-bass. Adding a sub works much better with these speakers and gives me great midbass, and also a good sense of scale and power.

Some subwoofers (usually more expensive ones) can also act as a high-pass filter to the main speakers. This removes mid-bass duty from the main speakers, and I'm sure it's the optimum approach, but I think you'd be spending in excess of $5k to take this approach with a quality to match the rest of your system.

So, in summary if the midbass is OK you could try a REL or velodyne (I don't think you need thousands of watts in a properly designed sub). If midbass is lacking selling the 802s and putting the money towards a larger speaker (like the 801) might be a better way to go.
Judy426 is always bad mouthing B&W's I would like to know what here system is???????
I can only focus on the MUSIC system aspects, not the HT ones:

1.) How new are the N802s? Do they have at least 200 hours of music playing? If not, run them past 200 hours and then re-evaluate.

2.) Are the N802s standing on soft rug? If so, use the spike feet set. A highly stable platform improves bass response tremendously.

3.) The N802s may be revealing the deficiencies of a weak DVD player used in place of a good hi-end CD player. Even though you use an expensive external DAC, a weak CD/DVD transport is not the way to go. Instead of spending money on a new DAC, go for a great CD player like the Arcam CD23 FMJ which can be purchased used for about $1000.

4.) Speaker Cables - Go to your local Transparent Cables dealer and ask for an evaluation pair of Music Wave Plus or above models to try at home. Transparent cables are fuller sounding in the midrange and bass. Note that they are NOT cheap.

5.) Interconnects - evaluate a pair of Transparent Music Link Plus.

6.) Buying subwoofers for high caliber speakers like the N802s is unnecessary. You already paid big money for a pair of great speakers with great bass. Your components in front of the speakers are just not harnessing the true potential of the speakers.

Feel free to contact me via email instead of using up forum space. Hope this helps.

I have a remarkably similar setup, and have experienced similar issues. My livingroom is 34x17x20 and opens into other rooms. I have a pair of N801s and they also seem to be lacking in the very lowest frequencies (or as a friend puts it, "missing that last octive"). I think some of the effect can be attributed to the shear volume of airspace that the 801s need to drive, even with their 15" woofers. But I also think that I'm experiencing room nulls / cancelations due to room dimensions and speaker placement. When listening to frequency sweeps, I can detect 3-6db drop outs at regular intervals.

I read this paper recently which suggested that multiple subwoofers, carefully placed to compensate for room modes might be the way to go: I haven't yet experimented with this, so I can't give you my results. However, I'm considering 2 subs toward the back of the room to offset the woofers in the front. (One of these Saturdays I'll get down to taking some measurements!)

>>Buying subwoofers for high caliber speakers like the N802s is unnecessary.<<
Auaarons is way off base (no pun intended) here. Virtually every speaker system benefits from a subwoofer IF: The subwoofer is carefully matched with the main speaker system and it is postioned correctly in the room. Furthermore a subwoofer for each channel is superior to a single unit responsible for the entire system.
I’m thrilled to share with you that I’ve found the solution to my weak bass problem. I picked up the dbx equalizer (model 1231 for $300) this evening and added it my signal path, between pre-amp and amp, with balanced XLR connections. Wow, I was totally amazed what a difference this EQ makes! The bass now can extend way down low to 30Hz the B&W N802 woofers are capable of producing. The bass is extremely crisp, deep, tight, solid and punchy yet extremely musical. I can easily discern and appreciate every single low musical note. The N802s now sound like a pair of stereo subs and actually make the room rumble when watching Toy Story 2. I really don’t need a sub any more.

The EQ has +/-12db boost, it seems to “boost” the sensitivity of N802s, making N802s become alive! The midrange and high frequencies also benefit from this EQ. My system now sounds sweeter than ever.

I was looking at the Auralex acoustic treatments earlier today but was concerned about making my family room unsightly (sure won’t pass WAF). What a relief, this EQ did such a wonderful room correction job that I no longer need the acoustic treatments now.

Interestingly, I also installed the Apogee Big Ben (clock generator), nah, it didn’t improve the sound a single bit. My Apogee Mini DAC’s dual stage design is so jitter immune that making Big Ben absolutely unnecessary. The BB is going back…

Boy, am I satisfied with the big bass now! I’m glad this has been an inexpensive but highly effective solution. Thanks to all, nonetheless.

Hey, Jteoh1! That's cheating!!! :)
It's basically about getting the speakers and listening chair(s) where they give the best/flattest/most even response in relation to EACH OTHER...nothing more.
The room is basically a pool filled with bass modes/waves. You ideally put your listening chair(s) where the bass is the most even/balanced, and then placing your speakers where it compliments the reponse from the seating possition...were talking ONLY bass response here.
You can start by placing the 802's woofers/port where your head will be(once you've disovered your seating), then play some bass steady music while you move around near where the speakers are to be located, finding the best spot for bass response. Ideally you do the same for the other speaker, in a symetrical fassion. If not, you balance as close as possible and find a "balance" between them, keeping soundstage in mind as well.
You may then play test tones up to 300 hz with a sound level meter, and see how it measures. Flat/even is what you want for best dynamic range, reponse, etc.
You may then interchange the speakers for the seating possition! They correspond to one another.
Basically, if you're not getting good response, you can measure your system with test tones, an write down your measurements. If, say, you have a hole at 80hz/63hz,50hz, whatever, then you simply play the test disc at that(those) tones, and measure around till you find the spot(s) where the room couples well at that frequencies)...then move the speakers there and compare.
It's basically a balancing act.
I garantee those speakers can make bass. You just don't either have your seat(s) or the speakers(or both) set up right in relation to each other. That's it.
Other variables would be if you have a big bass hole/suckout due to structure or large trap of some sort. This is rare on a large scale, and is likely just setup error.
Weak bass is not a inherent characteristic of the 802. The N802 needs to be broken in longer and mated with a high quality power amp. Judy426 is doing the usual B&W bashing. Folks, just ignore any of Judy426 words because I feel for the way she puts down B&W I wonder just how safe any of her advice really is.
These speakers require a ton of power and even then are dry and lifeless. One of the power problems is you are usually forced to use Krell, ARC, Bryston, etc. and they share the same characteristics as B&W. There are a myriad of choices which give better sound at a lower price. And yes I do know of what I speak.
These speakers do not require a ton of power just a decent amount of power. I should know as I own a pair, do you own a pair? B&W speakers have always sounded Liquid and dynamic as well as highly resolving. Krell, ARC, Bryston, among others are all very fine products which I have personally owned and used in the past. Judy426, I now after reading your last reply see how much you seem to put down excellent companies that have had a lot to do with advancing the state of the art in each of their respected catagories. Krell, ARC, and B&W each have done a lot in the years they were making products to making our music sounding better and better. Judy, I really don't know why you have such a dislike of these very fine companies but you style of writing idicates to me that you have the mind of a child and one who needs to grow up a little to learn how to be nice to other people and not go bashing other companies when you can't really prove anything. I will still try to explain to you in laymans language about power amps and why amps with a little more power are better.
High-powered amplifiers do have their place in good sound. You may have an efficient speaker, but for some reason the speaker always sounds better when it has more power---even when you don't use all that power. People don't realize they may only be using an average of five or ten watts, but all those little clicks on the attack time of the guitar, for instance, may shoot up to 150 watts. It doesn't sound like much, but if you have a 70-watt amplifier there's less of a click and it sounds less open and less natural. With a high-powered amplifier, you have all this reserve power and everything just sounds more natural.
So Judy, lighten up a bit and stop your ARC and B&W bashing because you can't just say that a B&W speaker sounds bad without first asking if it's broken in, what it's hooked up to, and seeing if it's properly set up. This also applies to the speakers you own and your own equipment as well. Remember one thing, most of your high end audio equipment companies products all sound pretty much dry and lifeless until they settle in or break in.
spike'em....pull em out from the walls ....and position them properly...break em in...make sure your source and power is up to par and enjoy!
...and if that doesn't work for your B&Ws try Jetstream’s suggestions with your girlfriend/wife.

Try demoing some Analysis Plus Solo Oval 8 or Silver Oval In interconnects on your system. Or you can approach it via the speaker cable front - the Solo Oval 8 and Big Silver Oval speaker cables seem to work great on bass. The bass is tight, powerful/strong, fast and defined. Give them a try.

An alternative is the Audience AU24 IC or SC. IC would be the cheaper route.

Good luck!