Sealed, Ported, or Passive Radiators?

What do you use? And more importantly, why? Since my setup is made up of a Sh**load of left overs, I use all three. Do you think that would be better or worse? When I built them I tuned all of my sub boxes to cover specific frequency ranges.

For instance two 12" ported subs (in a very large box of about 18 cubes or so) handle 45Hz and below, four sealed 12" subs handle 35Hz to 80Hz, six ported 6" woofers (tuned at 50Hz) take care of the 50Hz to 120Hz range, and four ported 8" subs (tuned to 20hz) handle super low quick transitions, two 12" subs in a band pass box (tuned to about 38Hz) and a single 12" sub with a 15" passive radiator (tuned to 45Hz).

Yeah I know, overkill, but like I said I had a lot of left over equipment.... and I was bored.

I don't drive them with tons of power and only the subs in the same frequency ranges share amps. The super large two 12" ported box gets its own amp. I mean three amps just for the subs is already ridiculous.

Sure it is powerful but that wasn't my goal, I was simply doing what everybody else does with mid-bass drivers and super tweeters, just kinda in reverse.

So should we be splitting up subs like we do with the upper frequency ranges?

Shahinian's Diapason setup uses many drivers aimed at specific frequency ranges. And I have yet to hear anything as good as his design. So I tried the same with my sub woofer setup and at least in my opinion it worked. I can still refine it down to something less insane. But it is the idea that I can't help but think this would work well, even scaled way down.

I don't know maybe I'm just a little loose in the screws.

Please let me know what you think of the concept and if anyone's tried this already.

Synesthesia Studios
Ported in all cases currently because I like full range sound with lots of meat on the bone to go with good detail and all the rest and size is a problem otherwise, although a good sub integration can help alleviate that, in which case sealed/acoustic suspension can keep pace.

I have heard some vintage speakers with passive radiators that I liked in their day, like the old OHM Hs, but have not heard any newer models with passives that I know of recently. Passive radiators seem to have fallen our of favor in recent years compared to the other design approaches.

ALso I would note to pay more attention to amplifier damping factor with larger ported speakers which tend to be less naturally damped alone.
Last year I spent some time w/ Thiel 2.4 and really liked the radiator application. Very rich sound indeed.
So, you have what, 19 subwoofers in your system? I would think you'd be better served by selling all of those woofers and getting a nice Velodyne 15" or 18" DD Series or Optimum Series subwoofer.

Not to mention how much floor space you're gonna re-claim...

Just curious, have you ever heard of wave cancellation?

My first choice would be transmission line. Yah, they can take up some space but if done properly, they'll give you the most realistic bass(midrange too) and won't require much power.

My second choice would be sealed. You still get good clean sound with plenty of extension and weight to the music but you'll need more power to drive them. No problem, you can get that from good plate amps like those available from Rythmik Audio. They're reasonably priced, give you tons of flexibility and are, in my opinion, the best plate amps available.

Other than a few REL's, like the old Stadium or Stentor, I hate ported bass. To my ears, it always sounds flabby and ill-defined. Solid state current will tighten things up a bit but you never get realistic pitch or tone. I know, many will disagree but if you haven't heard bass done right, you don't know what you're talking about.
01-04-13: Mapman, I used to religiously use ported subs as well and for a long time couldn't be talked out of it. Then I was shown an extremely large transmission line system and liked that even better. But as far as performance in a variety of situations, I found, that a properly built passive radiator system had deeper extension and smoother response.

I kept going back to a ported setup though simply for it's ease of use and design. I also don't run my sub amps down to 1 ohm or any thing like that. I use three Audio Source 200 watt amps for the subs. They are bridged down to mono but never see less than 4 ohms worth of a load on any one of them, they usually stay at 8 Ohms bridged. So even though the amps aren't any thing special, they do alright.

I was also under the impression that giving the largest ported box it's own amp would help keep them under control...... is that right???

In any case, thanks for the comments, I hadn't given much thought about actually building/using a transmission line box yet. And I've got plenty of space.......

01-04-13: Jafant, Of course I'd have to agree with that, however it's the time and energy I'm a bit short on. I'd have to build up with some more prototypes before I could fully integrate them into my system, I am looking toward changing my system around again one day soon.

01-04-13: Rlwainwright, I would most certainly agree with you if, we were referring to say, my living room. I usually try to follow the K.I.S.S. (keep it simple, stupid) philosophy, however in this case we are talking about what is in my sound room. Which I built specifically to explore some extreme setups.

01-05-13: Geoffkait, Yes of course I have heard of wave cancellation. If you re-read my post you'll see that I have split up my subs into frequency specific "task masters" if you will. I also use a Pioneer Elite SC-61 that comes with a mic and tunes itself, adjusting for Standing Waves, Phase Control, Speaker distance from listener, and so on. I also keep all my sub boxes up front and on the same plane as the L/C/R channels.

01-05-13: Rfogel8, Again I agree that Transmission line subs are performers...... and that sealed boxes can do well also.

It is perhaps my fault I didn't make my question(s) clear enough.

Does the simple concept of using task specific subs & woofers, split among the frequency ranges like mids & highs, in order to handle specific areas of low end frequencies, have it's advantages?

And more specifically, I am wondering if combining the best setups into "Frequency or task specific" groups can be beneficial? As far as I can tell it is, but my setup is huge and made up of a lot of left overs. So......has anyone else done this before? With what kind of results?

I feel like I've finally got a system that never says no, regardless of my constant poking and prodding. It has the authority of a hard hitting car stereo and the best clarity I can afford.
A passive radiator is the same as a port, but it can just be tuned by the mass of the radiator verses a HUGE column of air or a port so small it would chuff. BOTH systems will show the maximum port velocity or passive radiator excursion when the active driver moves the least. This is the theory of the critical damping frequency system. The active driver hands off more and more of the work to the port or passive radiator the lower you go. That's good as it minimizes cone excursions at the very low-end improving disortion numbers. It's bad in that the port / radiator can take control of the active driver as it has a lot of acoustic leverage on the active driver the lower you go. New driver integration and suspension allow much better control than past systems (ever hear a JBL L36?).

Ports are tough to do well, because they have two resonance design frequencies, though. One is high enough to give the classic mid bass "hump" many ported speakers are noted for. Air suspension has one resonance hump to manage but needs LOTS of cone excursion to go deep, or BIG woofer area, or both. CAD has allowed a HUGE improvement in ported speakers such that sealed enclosures are almost a lost art. Amazing what a few decades do to design.

Still, each has pluses and minuses. I don't really have room for HUGE ported subs or do home theater so that I need infinitely loud explosions. How loud is too loud on a movie sound track? If the blast didn't turn your guts into paste, it wasn't realistic enough. Music doesn't need to do that, it's enjoyable. Dying standing beside a bomb isn't.

There is a lot of good info on the web on speaker design and when you read about the complexity of ported speaker design, you think, "no way!" Well, amazingly, there is a way today. But, ported or passive radiator cabinet volume is bigger all things being the same (low-end frequency reach). Physics can't be denied just used to perfection in modern ported or passive radiator speakers.
01-06-13: Rower30, I agree with your take on how passives sound and work, we just have a difference in opinion about how much bandwidth should be available from a system. To be taken to the literal edge would mean constructing an I.E.D. series of Loudspeakers. While that sounds tempting and profitable, from a military standpoint, I don't think that is what I'm after...... Well only if I get a controlling stake in the company.(LOL!!!)

I imagine we don't listen to the same music either, you see, I listen to some music that was designed to be turned up. I don't mean to judge or any thing, but, I don't know many people that enjoy 28Hz bass-lines playing away at 120db. I also believe that constantly (and by choice) listening to music from inferior setups can be an injustice to it's composer/creators.

One of my favorite little "prototypes" I built used Two massively overbuilt 5" drivers/woofers (I forget the actual size of the magnet, but it is the same diameter as the cut-out hole for the woofer!) mated to a 15" passive radiator in a 2 cubic foot enclosure. That became my "little" sub-woofer of choice for listening to Pink Floyd's album "Wish you Were Here".

Also - What do you think of the idea about using different woofers in the same system? Split up to cover specific frequencies. Just like mid-bass, mids, & mid-tweeters.

Synesthesia Studios
At 120dB you may not get to support your artist too long, or hear them anyway!

Multiple drivers are simply super hard to integrate as every driver is a slave to what it sounds like and is made from, and the overlap to the drivers above and below is critical to sonic integration. The electronics are probably the easier part.

Playing 120 dB, just about any driver will be seeing near maximum cone excursions, and lots of doppler or intermodulation distortion, too. That is a sound that gets hard to hide, so more driver that are driven less for 120dB, may actually be better, even if they aren't as "like" sounding as the mains on up.

So the answer isn't obvious to me at 120 dB!

I'd be more interested in using multiple distributed subs covering the whole bass spectrum than in using different subs for different portions of the spectrum. The reason is, if you spread multiple low frequency sources around the room, each one will interact with the room's modes differently, and the net result will be a significant smoothing of the bass response throughout the room (of course this is only true down to the lowest room mode, below which we are in the "pressure zone"). Smooth bass = fast bass, tight bass, good pitch definition bass.

As for what type of sub is best, imo the ideal would be a sub whose native response is roughly the inverse of room gain. This can be achieved with ported or passive radiators tuned properly, and approximated with a low-Q sealed box, or achieved with an equalized sealed box.

01-10-13: Rower30, I agree that some of my sustained SPL levels are certainly high enough. I am quite aware that my tastes are off pace with the normal:-) And definitely agree that it is very difficult to get everybody to cooperate, all the different subs I mean. I've spent most of my time tuning and keeping the frequency spectrum from having any huge lumps in it. It has worked out a bit, although I've only had a few trusted heads listen to it. Keeping in mind the number of subs, on a single plane, and the timing issues, phasing, and so on. I'd say it's definitely not for the easily discouraged types. Although, since I have so many subs playing together I do benefit from a shared workload. It's probably just as well, my job doesn't go well for people that flinch at loud noises anyway.

01-12-13: Audiokinesis, I have to say if some one wanted to pay me to make this for them..... I wouldn't. I've built and seen sound rooms with multiple distributed subs, and the results are outstanding. Say using four 12" drivers one in each pocket but, not quite in the corners, right? And as far as the right sub/setup, I just don't know. Maybe I just feel like a single source can't operate efficiently at 30hz and 100hz simultaneously.... So perhaps I achieved one goal with my idea there.

Synesthesia Studios
I am thinking that the newest Thiel designs have dropped the passive radiator?
No, the new 2.7 use passive radiators very nicely.

Andrew, have you tried stacking subs? Sometimes this "blends" four subs into a room well. Also, some stack subs with a footer under them to get them away from the floor some (two subs have ample extension way low without floor reinforcement).

I LOVE subs in systems, too. I have C4's and use two subs! Why? They are good, but not to 30 Hz flat. Every speaker I really like has either been built with TWO subs, or have them added. Once you hear effortless DEEP bass, it's hard to go back. I use two DD10+ subs for stereo. Movies are OK but the subs won't kill you when a bomb goes off (my wife say I should have gotten bigger subs!). There are 50 ways to leave your lover. Big subs might have been one?

01-27-13: Rower30, Actually I have all my subs stacked into a small 10 foot by 6 foot area, I was aware that using so many subs in a system can cause a lot of phase issues. So I tried to keep everything on a wall radiating together, along with adjustable gains I can dial everything in.

Also I definitely agree that once you've experienced effortless low end, especially below 30 Hz, there is no going back. Since I come from a large military family I have had some of the experiences expressed in today's movies. And I honestly do not believe, that most systems out there, do justice to the air disturbance caused by battlefield munitions. I've heard it before, having a system that could liquify you like in I.E.D. isn't appropriate. But I propose at least an approximation of the aforementioned battlefield duress.