To Sub or not to Sub...?

...Or to buy best full range speakers i can afford? For listening classical music.
The lowest note produced by any orchestral instrument is 29Hz, from contra-bassoon, while piano goes down 27.5Hz. Actually, it only rarely that those instruments get down that far. When they do, fundamental is very weak anyway, and most of the character is imparted to the tone by the harmonics. The lowest harmonics, which is the second, is in the above cases 55Hz and 58Hz respectively! The bass drum is about the only orchestral instrument that really needs a deep bass response to do it justice, as it has few harmonics beyond the starting transients.
To reproduce down to the lowest frequencies, it is by no means essential. In fact, SUB-bass response it reveals nothing but the rumble! Bass response within a few dB dowen to 45Hz can be considered desirable to give depth and richness to the reproduction, little is gained by going lower. And even higher limit can often be preferable to a lower one gained at the expense of naturalness. Also listening room dimensions may not permit the propagation of bas much lower than this anyway.
Wow.....Great response!!
Well, I certainly disagree with Lindeman. Deep bass response (as a minimum flat to 30Hz) is a critical element to the musical listening experience. Even if musical instruments do do go that low, the acoustic space in which they are recorded adds a low frequency signature to the sound. It's not rumble. Futhermore, linear frequency response into the deep bass contributes to a system's smooth phase response throughout the frequency spectrum. My recommendation to Tinfoi is to get a reasonably full range speaker and to then add a subwoofer (stereo pair, if possbile). Personally, I strongly favor the REL approach to sub design and implementation. Lindeman does make a good point about getting bass to work in a room. Obtaining good deep bass, whether from a main speaker or a sub, is a time consuming and difficult project. I would recommend that you get the rest of your system to an excellent level (get the mid-range right) before pursuing deep bass. However, in the end, the musical results are more than worth the effort. Good luck!
Once you have it you can't go back. The excellent points noted in the first post on this thread over focus on the lowest possible note. A great sub isn't only producing the lowest note, its giving you great sound across a broad range (and HT explosions). And since bass spreads out, you are filling out the sound throughout your listening room. I use Talon Khite monitors, which are great on violins, going down to 35Hz. But once you've heard them do Edgar Meyer's double bass or YoYo Ma's cello accompanied by the ROC sub, you'll never go back to just main speakers. REL are very good, too, and made to blend with other speakers unlike a lot of subs which are made for HT.
Definitely sub. Just try it. Especially with classical, and particularly with organ music. It's one of those "makes a bigger difference than science can explain" kind of things, in my opinion.

Some speakers (usually very expensive) really don't need subs or a sub makes very marginal difference. Then there's the question of power. Bass frequencies require lots of power while higher frequencies do not. By adding a sub with active cross-over and its own amp, you free the other amp to reproduce just the less power demanding higher frequencies. Two benefits: more head room less clipping and usually more phase coherence due to the coil-less electronic cross-over. Bottom line--much clearer sound with the subsonic signature alluded to above. If you need bass, this definitely the way to go.
Definitely Sub. Onhyw61 is correct. All instruments have a larger sound signature than the note being played. The same reason a large regular speaker will sound fuller and richer that a small one. The Sub will fill in the lower half of the sound signature that most all speakers lack. It is amazing how a good sub will improve the detail and space between all of the instruments (even wind instruments). After I got one (a REL Storm III), I quickly discover what I was missing in the lower octaves. Recordings that once had strings playing low (Bass & Cello), all of a sudden had the Bass and Cellos clearing playing different notes in harmony.
Sub ... no doubt. I agree that it is the single most difficult thing to add to your system and if the rest is marginal at the start you'll be throwing gas on a fire. The thing that's usually missing for me from real live music in the hall to ANY system is the signature of the room the recording was made in. I made lots of recordings in college ... choirs, orchestras, soloists ... all types of groups, all kinds of equipment ... ALWAYS, I would find that I couldn't 'feel' the room unless I had a system in front of me with true full range extension.

Before you discount my college recording experiences, know that the department head and guru of all things audio at the school was a guy named Gary Galo ...
Hey guys forget about how low/HZ certain passages go. Especially if you own monitors, there is FULLNESS you can achieve by intergrating a sub. I own a pair of Sonus Faber Electa Amatours which go down to 45HZ. There really is not much recorded material that has information below that, but still a sub adds that certain fullness I'm referring to. I'm with the REL boys. I own the Stadium II which intergrates seemlessly in my system. Not many if any full range speaker can image & soundstage like a good monitor & will be as flexible as far as room dependency with the adjustments REL/monitor combo offers. I feel I have the best of both worlds by using a sub.
Lindemann is right in theory, though he forgot the lowest organ pedal point, which I believe is about 16 hz and comes at you in huge waves, more felt of course than heard and will scare the shit out of you, if it hits you unprepared. Otherwise I fully agree with the above posts. As has been stated, you need a good sub to get the feel of the space of the recording venue and also the placements of instruments right up into the midrange is vastly improved. As Kevint has put it so well: If you have one, you can't go back. Live concert goers will know, that the soudnd of a big orchestra playing full tilt can hit you like an ocean wave, both heard AND felt, coming at you on one huge continuous flow. You will never be able to get that in your own home, except with a really good sub which should go well below 20 hz and should be able to move a lot of air. Once you've experienced that, you're addicted. So caveat auditor....Cheers to all...
"One man's meat is another man's poison" Nowhere is it more true than in choice of loudspeakers. What features do you look in a loudspeaker? The perfect loudspeaker doesn't exist, and many of the requirements are incompatible when applied to practical loudspeaker design. If we want one we must sacrifice another.
' 'Tinfoil' is interested in classical music. He didn't mention anything about 'explosions' home theater or for that matter size, shape and associated gear. We do not know these facts. The fact is that amount of bass, that can be fully developed in any listening room depends on the room size. The lowest frequencies that can be produced is governed by the longest room dimension and is given by: f=560:d (divide). Where f is the lowest frequency and d is longest dimension in feet. So 12ft dimension limits the response to 46Hz. It follows than that throwing out other furniture to make room for large speakers or SUB, that goes well below the room's frequency limit does no good at all!
For 'Tinfoil' purchasing best speakers he can afford is best way to start.
I just installed a home theater system consisting Paradigm active 40s with active center and surrounds they each all have their own 325 watt amp. This is supplemented by their Sub 15. This has its own 400 watt amp. The Sub is marvelous during classical listening.
The other thing to remember is what you are buying as you go up a speaker line is better bass performance. The Tweeter in all the B+W Nautilus Speakers is the same. Not everyone can afford a pair of N802 at $8000 List. A pair of N805 and a REL Stratus III Sub is $3300 List, less than a pair of $3500 N804s (maybe the same with stands). If bass performace matters to you, the N805/Stratus combo will kill a pair of N804, and probably give a $5000 pair of N803 a run for the money.
I attend over a dozen classical concerts a year and perform in another half dozen. I cannot reproduce the sound I experience in the Meyerhoff Symphony Hall and Kennedy Center without my REL Storm III sub. Not even close. My opinion is not based on any hypothetical theory about MHz, room resonances, or how the phases of the moon affect sound in Mongolia. It is based 25 years of real life listening. Even if I were to get a pair of mega dollar speakers someday, I will then start saving for a mega dollar sub to make is sound even better.
How did that bold happen?
Sorry guys, my computer got excited I guess.
Fixed finally I hope.
i am sorry that you lost me sugar...and i hope that you are better performer than a listener.
What's a good sub to get then? Rel, Velodyne, or Aerial Accoustic?
Linenam5, I just performed in a concert and the next day a recording session with Dave Brubeck. Is that good enough?
You can add Vandersteen to your list.
Hi Tin, which speakers are you considering adding the sub(s) to? What other speakers are you thinking about? I think this is as important as the subject of whether subs are better or worse.

I really disagree with the broad strokes of the brush that state that subs are definitively better or worse, or that they only apply to the lowest frequencies on your music of choice.

I recently added a pair of Kinergetics SW800/SW800C to my ML CLS's and I can tell you it is a whole different world. We're talking exponential imrpovement. And, not just more "bottom end". In addition to solving the CLS's LF rolloff problem, there's more detail, better imaging and a bigger soundstage. Now, my sub system (including crossover) were specifically designed for my speakers and allow me to use a 100htz crossover point with no negative effects, taking much stress off the panels. Additionally, the SW800's are a line source (just like the CLS's) down to 200 cycles. In short, it works flawlessly.

Now, the REL's and Vandersteens didn't work at all with my speakers, and these are considered to be some of the best subs out there. I couldn't find crossover points or slopes that didn't kill the inherent speed and transparent qualities of the CLS's. And, though some claim that the Vandy's and REL's are "fast", they were obviously lagging behind the main speakers -- big time. Yet, these subs can work great with other speakers.

I guess what I'm trying to say is: "it depends". So, I'm back to "what are you using now and what would you contemplate using as an upgraded speaker sans sub?"
Most manufacturer's speaker line increases in price as the bass gets better. Once you have invested in a good woofer system, it can save you money on future speaker purchases. The low frequency limit of my speakers is 28 Hz but I cross them over at 40 Hz to two 15" woofers. Makes a HUGE difference in giving the music body and I don't do HT.
Even on recordings that hardly work my sub the "soundstage" will shrink if I turn it off. The hardest part (after finding where it works best in your room) is the crossover. Many subs have no hi-pass filter, and most that have them degrade the sound from your speakers. I run my main speakers full range and keep my sub at the lowest setting. I read in Absolute Sound that one of the reviewers uses passive in line filters made for car sterio in his tri-amped system. I think they are from Harrison Labs. Has anyone tried them? I think they are cheap, and as my speakers have a small mid-bass driver I would like to try some kind of filter that would not do more harm than good. Also, line or speaker level connection, which is better? I have read conflicting opinions on this. Is anything simple?
I wish I read my own stuff before I posted it. If you cant spell to begin with, having questionable typewriting skills does not help. But if I cant spell stereo.......
Subs were made for home theatre.Speakers are for audio.Buy the best speakers you can afford for your classical music and you'll be happier in the long run.Subs just complicate things and after you get over the love at first listen impression and compare music with sub in and sub out on a good system you will probably come to the same conclusion as I have after spending much money experimenting.Just my humble opinion of course.Good luck and may the music Gods be on your side:)
Soliloquy makes a very nice sub that is one of the few that can keep pace with magnepans. Works great with my Mg10.1 mains. It is also self powered with a high quality 150wpc amp.
Not so, there are subs meant strictly for 2 channel audio that sound awesome.
Appreciation all around! I didn't expect such a response, and once again it is left to me to make a final desicion. According to majority, you can "...have a cake and eat it too". And then again Mr. Lindeman made some interesting points.I have a SFC-40 amp SFL-1 and Linn Genki along with the room 24x15x10. I will check into AR-1 with self powered SUB's. Also i am considering Triangle Antal, Coincident and even Snell D. Thanks again. Carl
Lindeman, use your specious formula to compute the lowest note I can hear from my Stax headphones and get back to me. I could swear I can hear things below 6746 Hz.
Dear Mr. Lindemann, as I said, your theory is correct. However have you ever listened to a good sub in your system? I tend to suppose not, otherwise you would not maintain what you do. I suspect, that you don't know/heard what you are talking/theorising about. No offense intended. Regards,
Is is not true that subs are made only for Home Theater. The first thing you will read on REL brochures is "REL is an Audiophile Company". Their ST Subs (Status, Storm, Stadium, Stentor, Studio) were all designed for music reproduction. They have HT connections also for convenience. They make a separate line of Q Subs (Q100E, Q201E) for Home Theater (and are actually quite musical also). These Q subs range from $700 to $1600. The ST subs range from $1300 to $8000. Obviously, this company cares more about music and only make a couple HT subs to fill out their product line. The Vandersteen 2W Sub was also made for music. They now also make a HT variant which came much later. There are other music subs out there by other makers ranging up to $10K and more.
Yes, i do not know what i am talking about. I am just a... 'masochistic' a bit? I probably like to deprive myself from a 'decent' sound. Well, you should know about that 'malady' Dr. Detlof?
..laughing... I do Sir, indeed I do. And of course its alo nice to have it "indecent" .Cheers and long live the music with or without subconscious rumblings. (Still, you don't know what you miss, listening to those old Wilkinson Decca LP's, when you can hear the London underground train, aka "the tube" rumbling happily from left to right or vice versa, right through the Mozart, while your kitschy busts of old Beethoven, Freud and Haydn get a good shaking on the mantlepiece, as the dust flies. That's audiophile living, I tell you ! ) Regards,
Besides being audiophile teacher, you are a great philosopher. You cinviced me, i am ordering me a PAIR of SUBwoofers, today! Regards! Aaron Lindeman
i definitely recommend *a pair* of subs for audio, even if ewe have full-range main speakers. as mentioned before, subs can take the load off of the full-range speakers' woofers, cleaning them up considerably. other adwantages are allowing ewe to place the *main* speakers optimally for imaging/soundstaging, not worrying about having to optomise bass response. when i 1st got my subs - a pair of vmps larger subs, my *monitors* were thiel 3.5's, which are 20h-19khz, +/-2db. the improvement in sound was *not* subtle.

ok, these are my sub *preferences* - my opinions, of course! ;~) i *greatly* prefer passive subs, such as my vmps', used w/an active outboard x-over, such as my marchand xm-9 deluxe, and your choice of decent-quality amplification. 1st, i believe the quality of the amplification & x-over electronics is *far* superior to that offered in active, powered subs. also, the flexibility is far greater, both for initial set-up, & for future changes. also, i don't like the amps & electronics being so close to (inside?) the subs. also, most powered subs are smaller, using electronics to get lo-frequency response. passive subs (like vmps) use no trick electronics, yust simple engineering w/large, appropriately-sized boxes. yes, my subs, @~18d-26w-39h, *are* big...

then, there's the cost-thing. being a cheapskate, i rarely buy audio equipment that's not used, or a close-out. however, i bought my subs & x-over brand-gnu. these, w/my used adcom gfa555's to drive them (well, one was gnu, but it cost me $450, back in '85!), plus decent tara-labs cabling, cost me <$2.4k. and, the only subs i've ever heard that equal the low-end output, at such accurate, tight, non-distorted levels, were the 7' towers of the old infinity irs-lll's, now approxomated by the top-line $135k/pair genesis speakers. there's *no way* i could afford, even used, to get the quality & quantity of bass my sub system is capable of, at anywhere *near* the price, imho.

ymmv, doug s.

Aaron, don't do this to you. They are such a bitch to set up right, but if you like rumbling "tubes" on Mozart, so be it. You have my blessing.
If you want two subs and cannot afford two good ones, buy one for now and save for the second. One good sub is better than two cheap ones.
Sugarbrie is definetly right sayeth my man and I
....and so unfortunatedly is Detlof about setting these critters up. So A.L. beware.......
vmps' are good *and* cheap. :>) i've heard the top-line welodynes, & the mid-line rels in one-sub set-ups - they never sounded right, the bass always sounded like it was coning from the sub, never blended into the soundstage, and was boomy one-note *thump*. perhaps set-up was poor. the *only* time i ever heard a single sub set-up sound ok was a hsu powered sub - one of the older models that, while round, wasn't as tall as the latest iterations. it was placed in the near-field, like a coffee-table, right in front of ya. the soundstaging was wery natural...

doug s.

C'mon guys, you really believed me? I prefer my music not to be 'dis-jointed'. Regards!
Aaron,c'mon, why did you let the cat out of the bag so soon. I was hoping for some more fun. Mind you, if you set phase, crossover point and slope right and place the subs where they upset the least nodes, you will find that you can hear every single wheel turning on the London Underground and the only things dis-jointed will be those, who haven't been greased.
On a serious vein now: I must agree with you, at least in part, many setups with subs do sound disjointed, as you very rightly say. In the very rare cases, when they did not to my ears, a painstaking process of adjusting and placing went beforehand. The seamless meld which you have in a life event, I have never really heard achieved in a system, so I can understand and respect your point of view. I have subs, set for 30hz and below. I am never a 100% happy with them, but more unhappy without them. So its a matter of compromise and taste , I suppose. Regards,
Yes, bag end elf with 2 18 bag end subs in stereo!
I too, am wary of subwoofers. While auditioning speakers in a local shop, the salesman let me hear some JM labs monitors he was enthusiastic about (I forget the model). They did indeed sound impressive but when he kicked in the sub, it totally muddied the sound IMO. I much preffered no sub. Also, I owned Maggies for many years and loved them (no one told me that they were lacking in bass and I never noticed it that much). Therefore I have concluded that maybe a sub is not for me, although I am still open to trying one. My rather convoluted point is, some ears may not require the bass that a sub puts out.
Most dealers have their subs set up terribly, because they get moved around, turned on and off a lot, and reset constantly for different speakers. It takes more than the minute the salesperson takes to integrate a sub properly. So do not forsake subs because they sounded lousy at the store. Find a local audiophile who will demo theirs in their home. You bring the Pizza and Beer.
Mvwine, PS: I forgot to say that I was assuming the salesperson even understands how to integrate a sub. A lot are completely clueless or even worse (ie, they think they can sell you with a big boomy sound that shakes the room).
I definitely don't think that the sub was set up correctly. If subs are suuposed to sound like that, they wouldn't be very popular. I'd like to hear a Vandersteen sub set up correctly, from all of the rave reviews I've heard.
Mvwine: If you walked into a room with a music sub playing that is set up correctly, the sub would be invisible to the ear. You might think, WOW I never knew the bass on those (main) speakers was so good. In other words; the bass should integrate with the sound from the main speakers, so you cannot tell where the mains stop and the sub takes over.
How about speakers that already have powered subs within? I heard AR-1 is great speaker, also Vandersteen 5...any other in mind?
Sugarbrie is correct. Subs when correctly matched to main speakers and properly set up can provide absolutely seamless integration. While the effects of my SW800's are dramatic (even startling), they are quite "invisible". They don't sound like separate speakers. As much as I loved my els's before, there were very real limitations. Amazing for acoustic music, vocals and jazz. But there was other music that really fell very short of the mark. Now I realize that I was missing things even on music that was well suited to the speakers before adding the subs. If anyone hears boominess or rumblings from subs they are either: (1) the wrong subs for the mains; (2) not properly set up (not just physical placement, but also the crossover, high/low pass slopes, and crossover points); or (3) just plain garbage. Admittedly, speaker systems with subs designed into them are much easier to deal with, but most other applications just take some work and a little understanding of what's going on.