What percentage of audiophiles use a sub ?


Since joining the site I have noticed that a lot of you don't actually use a subwoofer. I was pretty surprised by this as I could never listen to any music without some good low-end, so, curious how many do and how many don't and if not, why.
thomastrouble
I've gotten over the need to vibrate my internal organs. I also live in a nice and quiet apt building. i despise others making noise around me, and i certainly do NOt want my neighbors to hear anything from my apt either.
When i was younger i liked it louder... But the phenomenon of "BASS" came around later. About the same time as surround sound started. (because subwoofers became a product normal folks could buy) Suddenly all the music being produced had MUCH more low frequency content, and folks in general began clamouring for more bass.
Play some 1960's and 1970's rock... that has NOT been remastered: no bass. Remastered after the 90's bass up the wazoo.
I do like natural bass. but the uber bass in some post 90's Rock is just not needed. (except of course, to massage one's internals, which some enjoy.)
If you have the right sub, such as a Velodyne, and don't live in an apartment, condo or attached homes, the answer IMO is--100% should use one -- I have B&W 800Ds & love 2 Channel music & there is no comparison without the Sub
I have a B&W ASW 850 15" sub integrated with N800's. I use the Velodyne SMS-1 EQ and Rives Audio professional test measuring kit to make sure I was able to integrate the sub properly. Above all, my ears were the final measuring stick in which to gauge the quality of the sub integration. I love bass to, but, one should not hear the presence of the sub when it is on and it should not be localized. It should add some dynamic swings to music that has very deep bass, otherwise, one should not hear it.

Don't get me wrong, when I want to feel the bass, and play Aerosmith loudly, Train Kept a Rolling, I increase the sub volume a lot, because I can and because, the bass in that song kicks ass when played at very loud levels. Most of the time, I am driving the speakers with little 140 watt per channel mono amps and the bass is sufficient.

So add me to the pro sub camp. In fact looking for another ASW 850, just to increase bass as you know, but, you already knew that.

Ciao,
Audioquest4life
I've tried over the years on a few occasions to match a sub with my preference for planar speakers (Apogee and Magnepan)

I was never able to get what I felt was the proper match between the sub and main speakers. I always felt the deeper bottom was gained by sacrificing other things.

Having said that, I fully agree that as was mentioned earlier, a properly matched setup would be great.

I've always been happier with optimizing low end with speaker placement. Which at least in my case, has always gotten me close enough. Besides, I'm a mid-range fanatic. deep deep low end is about number 4 on my list for music enjoyment.
I, too, used to think that it was extremely difficult to integrate a sub in a high-end two-channel system. However, the JL Audio F113 has shown me how easy and effective it can be. It is the first sub that I've heard that is fast enough to keep up with my B&W 800's. The main improvement is a sense of scale and filling in the soundstage. Since I don't have any neighbors to offend, there are no compromises at all with this setup.
Elizabeth said "except of course, to massage one's internals, which some enjoy."

I do hope that you are not too old to still enjoy that. Get a sbwoofer:)

Bob
I'd have to say that a good percentage of the systems that include subs that I've heard don't impress me. The bass is overblown and unnatural and doesn't much resemble the live acoustic music I enjoy.

That's not to say a sub that has been well matched to the system and properly adjusted can't help with large orchestral pieces, but my exposure indicates "doing it right" is hardly a slam dunk.

Keep in mind that the majority of instruments don't have fundamentals that are all that low. Low E on a bass guitar is 41 Hz. Low notes on a grand piano are ostensibly lower, but they have a very heavy component of overtones that are actually louder than the fundamentals in that range. Large drums can also benefit.

However, the vast majority of music is in the midrange. I lose interest if the system doesn't have that right or if the added subwoofer screws up that balance.

In short, for some of us a subwoofer done poorly is a far worse offense than a system with a slightly shy bottom end
Determine the kind of music you like and listen to the most. Then go to live events featuring that kind of music. If you then feel you need a sub, go for it. Start out at a lower level, both hertz and volume settings and slowly integrate it to as close to what you heard live.
In short, for some of us a subwoofer done poorly is a far worse offense than a system with a slightly shy bottom end
Amen,brother!! Most of the systems that I've heard with a subwoofer fall into this realm. I have had the pleasure to hear a couple of systems with well integrated subwoofers that sounded wonderful.I guess it's like anything else,having good tools and using them correctly will reward you with good results.
I used a REL with my Harbeths and will probably always use a sub even when using full range speakers. Setup and integrating it was easy and very rewarding. It has nothing to do with vibrating internal organs.
If you have a good system with good speakers you don't need a sub for 2 channel sound. Music isn't recorded in the studio or even played live with the bass dominating everything... although bass is an important part of music... just don't over do it.. happy listening.
I've tried integrating subs several times to varying degrees of satisfaction, but never really got a single sub to integrate well in my rooms and ultimately just went with full range speakers, which I've found more satisfying. The best integration by far, of subwoofers into a system has been with multiple subs - Audiokinesis Planitarium/Swarm system is a phenomenal success at doing just this, making it much easier to integrate that kind of solid low end seamlessly into a room (no easy task with a single sub). I'm not sure if Duke has a white paper on how this works, but he's the best spokesman for his own work and he contributes here regularly - you may want to seek out his words on subwoofers (user: Audiokinesis). There are also some speakers that utilize an integral active subwoofer to reach into the depths. This can also be very effective also, but those that do it well tend to be quite expensive, but they'll take up less real estate than multiple subs will.

Determine the kind of music you like and listen to the most. Then go to live events featuring that kind of music. If you then feel you need a sub, go for it. Start out at a lower level, both hertz and volume settings and slowly integrate it to as close to what you heard live.


The idea of using live music as a reference is a bit misleading on two counts: First it assumes the event you go to actually sounds good which is a crap shoot these days, especially with some genres. Trying to get a system to duplicate a live event on a large scale is an exercise in frustration. It certainly can be used as a point of reference, but don't expect to duplicate it. Turning up a sub to the point of trying to duplicate an amplified live concert is, IMO, a very bad idea. A subwoofer is meant to enhance a relatively narrow band of the low end. If you looked at most music we listen to you'd realize that not much music lives there. Yet the effect of a well-integrated sub is unmistakable. With the best integrated subs I've heard, like Audiokinesis system, you don't even notice they're there until the music goes down to those registers. Yet at the same time, a well integrated sub system will also enhance the midrange and low midrange by taking some of the demands off the midrange driver to produce low-end energy, so they are working there for you as well. When it all works well the effect should be totally invisible and natural to listen to, at least that's my ideal. A sub that makes itself ever-present is more likely to send me out of the (vibrating) room.

You also asked the question about headphones (OP) on another thread, and I'd echo part of my comment there - just to produce low-bass is one thing. But to to reproduce bass with accurate tonal shades, nuance, and detail that actually enhance the illusion of the instruments/sounds being reproduced is an entirely more demanding ballgame (much more so with speakers than with headphones, by the way). If you've heard the difference, you probably understand what I'm talking about. Of course if the kind of music you prefer is largely electronic dance music, or some similar genre that just uses bass as a coloration to a beat then you may be entirely happy with just about anything that reproduces a clean low-end without too much distortion, though it will still be need to be well-integrated with the rest of the music.
It is not about the 'sub'. If your main speakers can get down to at least 25 hz, no need for sub. Otherwise, a sub is a must. Also, records in most cases needed to take out the bass as the cutting on the disk master was always a problem, groove width. Once cd's came on, and were in turn re mastered from the original tapes, it was very clear what had been dropped from the vinyl stuff. I've gone back on a number of records and compared the vintage cd, you will amazed what was dropped. All this being said, the integrating is still the biggest challenge to get it right.
Don't forget subs can indirectly help the mids and treble.
I always hear "any system can sound better with a high-quality sub." That may be the case. I was never able to integrate one successfully. These days some of them such as JL Audio will self-optimize and are supposed to sound good.

The problem I always had is the level of low frequency information among recordings greatly varies. If the sub is set up to sound good with one recording, the next thing you notice is it's thumping you out of the room on the next and hearing nothing at all on the next.

If I were to integrate a sub into a system I would puposely integrate it to a monitor speaker such as my Aerial 5Bs that don't go that low. That way you can make use of the sub's capability without it walking on the speaker's bass and vice versa.
I think where I differ from most people re subs is most people want to replicate "accurately" what is in the recording. For me I just LOVE the stomach punch of good bass whether it was meant to be or not meant to be that way in the recording. That is not to say my music is All bass - it is not, but for me there has to be a healthy dose. I spend a lot of time getting my REL sub right and just can't live without it or I feel the music sounds too "thin" which sounds to me like listening on an iPod, in fact without the sub I wouldn't even be interested in hi-end audio. Again, I come from a music background which is all about bass - electronic music so my taste will differ from most on here.
Some rooms are difficult to make a "full range" speaker work. Without a dedicated listening room where acoustic treatments don't look out of place, sometimes you have to make due with what works. In my room I have had ultimately better results with stand-mount speakers w/sub(s).
I agree with Wireless that sometimes you have to adjust the sub to different recordings, usually just the gain. With music that is not bass heavy, your sub setup is right when you don't notice the sub unless you turn it off and then it seems like something is missing.
Although I have successfully integrated the Rel B-2 to Verity Fidelio Encore's (floor-standing 3-way) and Sonus Faber Auditor M's (2-way monitor), in my experience, subs integrate best with monitors. The best example I ever heard was the combination of Sonus Faber Guarneri Memento's and the Rel Stentor III. I love the Memento's and ended up buying them. As great as they are, the Stentor took them to another level, not just in the bass response as would be expected, but also and more importantly for me in terms of unexpected yet quite remarkable improvements in soundstaging/imaging.
I'm a believer. I think that the great advantage of subs is room EQ in the bass via a(n external or built-in) subcontroller with DRC. With this arrangement, the main signal remains free of digital processing (might not be critical, but sure feels good) and the generally crappy in-room bass response can be addressed with a x-over point that is still low enough (
The extended deep bass response from good subs is just gravy.

Just MHO

Marty
4music44107.....

Good point !
Never thought of it this way, but it does work wonders re. soundstaging which is my number one priority when putting a system together.
Thomastrouble -

And unfortunately for me and my $, I have the perfect spot in the Memento system room for a Stentor . . .

I wonder if I could sell my wife on the idea of a $6K end table for the Den?! ;->

Seriously though, when I made my speaker selection for my reference system, it came down to the Mementos and a Stentor, or the DeVore Fidelity Reference Silverbacks. I ended up choosing the Silverbacks, but it was not a particularly easy choice. The Stentor significantly narrowed the gap between the two speakers wrt soundstaging.
Four modest active subs realistically integrated with four standmounted Para. Signature 40's. Sensible application is required for the music to be reproduced as the artist intended it to be heard, subs do not necessarily need to be driven to the level you encounter with one of "those" cars at the stop light.

As to the above comment concerning bass being a recent discovery, I think I'll go & listen to Toccata/Fugue/D- (with and without subs) as I ponder that statement.

Who was it who said: "If less is more, think about how much more more would be." ((;^))?
I think it was the same guy who said "Too much of a good thing is never enough."
I have used a sub for years with my bookshelf speakers. Recently, when I switched to floorstanding speakers, I tried setting them up without the sub. I was never able to achieve the quality of bass in my listening room that the sub provided. So I added the sub back to the system.

My use of a sub is not because I like things that go "boom." In fact, the hallmark of a well integrated subwoofer, IMO, is that you cannot hear it until it is turned off. That level of integration is difficult to achieve. In my case, it required a long effort with digital room correction, EQ software, and a good microphone. But the results were worth the effort.

One benefit of using a sub that I don't think has been mentioned so far is that it can significantly improve the perceived macrodynamics (i.e. headroom) of your main speakers. I have found this to be true with both bookshelf and floorstanding speakers.
I own a sub, and use it when watching movies......not when listening to music though.

Cheers,
John
Personally, I have yet to hear a sub that sounds anything like live, unamplified acoustic music. For me, they are for movies or electronically produced music.
Done right a sub adds the bottom kick you experience in a live performance. I listen to progressive jazz like Yellowjackets etc. The speakers I use are full range but they don't quite do it.

Byron
The only way to get real feel in the music is to use subs...... But not the boomy flabby type. A good sub(or2) will effortlessly fill in the lower bass regions, give dynamics and scale but without blowing your ears out.

This takes time, the right equipment and set up..... Something the average user doesn't do

to relieve the main speakers of deep bass cone movement means they can do the other areas a bit faster/tighter in general.

This of course depends on the main speakers.
I use 2 subs, sometimes turned on. Other times they are off. One thing that significantly improved integration of the subs in my system was to forget about using rca cable connections from preamp to subs. I instead use speaker level connections from amplifier to subs now. This was the biggest improvement I've experienced in subwoofer performance.
Good responses from both sides so far. I use a sub with my speakers and do not experience any integration problems. I read that a pair of stereo subs are the minimum recommended for a stereo system but I am getting pretty good results using only 1 sub.
I use 2 JL f113's for both 2 & 5.1 channel. What I like most about the JL's is the LFE trim pot. I set it in one possition for 2 channel and another for HT. I dislike subsonics when listening to 2 channel. That is unless the music is rap, lots of added bass in that type of music. I do not listen often but when I do it is nice to have lots of bass.
Ryder -

Agreed on the feedback (and appreciated) - never expected such a good response to the question. Very interesting and enlightening. I too use only one REL sub but all this discussion has me thinking about getting a pair (JLs) too. Keep it coming guys - thankyou!
I love music. The older music from the 60's and 70's with minimal bass and the newer music with great bass. I am a bass lover. I bought a stand alone home so I wouldn't bother others with bass and the volumes I still enjoy. In your face rock is still alot of fun to me. I like my internal organs to be vibrated. My speakers are Definitive tecnology BP7000sc's. Each has a 14 inch bass driver with a 1800 watt class D amp. The room is about 14 x 24 x 9. The integration blends great. What is most important is they sound great to me.
Finnman

Now that's what I call a music enthusiast - buying a home to accommodate the hobby!!! Nice one. Yes, bass makes the hair on my arms stand up too and I love it.
I have a sub and it is used for the home theater sound and effect and I try not to use it for 2 channel audio but sometimes I do.
One of the few subs on the planet I've been able to integrate properly is the MJ Acoustics 150 MKII. It has a remote control that allows me to tweak the sub as I like for a recording. From my listening position I can adjust every setting on the sub over and the adjustment is very fine. You can view what you're doing on the LED panel of the sub easily.

I've been talking with several speaker designers and suggested that they consider a crossover to limit low frequency. When it comes to room tuning and subs it would be useful be able to cut the sub off at 22hz even if it's capable 19hz output and limit issues with sympathetic vibration and other problems.

But I do like subs. If you set it up right you shouldn't even know it's there as it very gently fleshes out the sound.

Rob
I've never used a subwoofer, but I do like bass. I agree with the FAQ on the Vandersteen site that saya, "Bass is the foundation of music and conveys much of the emotion. Without bass, there is no music." This is one of the reasons I've never cared for tiny bookshelf speakers; I appreciate what Linn Kan speakers, and others of this size/type, are capable of, but they just don't provide enough low end response to satisfy me. On the other hand, as others have mentioned, successfully integrating a subwoofer into a system is not an easy task, and I'd rather give up a bit of extreme low end than suffer a disjointed lower octave.

I've always found the formerly ubiquitous 8", two-way speaker to provide sufficient bass foundation to satisfy. More important to me is having a tonal balance through the mids and highs that works with whatever bass capability is present to provide what Grado describes as warm, smooth, full-bodied, non-fatiguing and rich sound. I don't need extreme low-end extension or thump-your-gut power to get that, and as an apartment dweller, too much low-end energy could be an annoyance to the neighbors.
I think that if a lot of the anti-subwoofer crowd let a professional home theater calibrator come into their room with some subwoofers, a good means of filtering the bass below 80hz out of the mains, and a couple of days to make it all work - they would be amazed by the results.
I think that if a lot of the anti-subwoofer crowd let a professional home theater calibrator come into their room with some subwoofers, a good means of filtering the bass below 80hz out of the mains, and a couple of days to make it all work - they would be amazed by the results.
You unwittingly made the case for those of us who advised to "proceed with caution" when it comes to subwoofers.

You pointed out that: 1) you will likely need more than one subwoofer, 2) you will have to add an active filter to your system, 3) you will want a professional involved, and 4) it even may take the professional several days to get satisfactory results.

That certainly explains why there are so many poor sounding examples of subbed systems out there.

I'm not a home theatre person (in fact I often don't care for the over-done sound in commercial theatres) and have near zero interest in action films and the like. It's not that I and a lot of the others are "anti-subwoofer" as much as we recognize that it is often difficult to do right. And, done wrong, it takes a system backward instead of forward in other areas where our hearing is more sensitive.

I'd also be rather cautious as to whether a "professional home theatre calibrator" is listening for the same things this two-channel guy wants from his system for music. Maybe what I need is a "professional two channel subwoofer calibrator" but that strikes me as a rather rare sub-specialty. ;-)
Mlsstl,

I agree. I do use subs, but they are a PITA to get set-up properly. However, you don't need a professional to do it - provided you have a taste for the work.

A good DRC subcontroller (like Velodyne or SVS/Audyssey), a good active x-over (I use NHT), two (or more) good subwoofers and some elbow grease will work out fine. At the end of the day, count on app. $2500 and up, plus your hourly rate x 20 or 30 hrs. Once done, you may very well get IN-ROOM bass performance (depending on your room) that's unmatched by any non-DRC full range speaker at any price.

Not for everybody, for sure, but IMHO worth it if you're willing on the terms above.
Martykl, I actually think we're in substantial agreement. Summed up, both of us are saying that adding a well integrated subwoofer to a system is a lot of work to get right. My added comment is that, if not done properly, you can end up worse off.
BOOM BOOM BOOM A BOOB SUBWOOFER MOOM LIKE BOOM BOOM BOOM REL OR BOOM JL BOOM AND MAYBE BOOB BOOB A VELODYNE BOOM IS NICE BOOOOOOOOOOMMMMMMMM
Mlsstl

Completely agreed. Hence, my last post started with "Mlsstl, I agree". I was only amplifying on your comments.

Subs aren't for everyone and you can !definitely! end up worse off with subs if you don't get it just right.

Marty
Hi,

for me, the point is not getting more Boom, but extending frequency range.
And for that it doesn't matter if ou are using subs or full range speakers.

Many instruments show some amount of very low frequencies (e.g. wehen strings ar plucked, drums are beaten etc.), and several larger concert halls have modes at low frequencies (The Vienna Musikverein @ 21 Hz).

This means that the room interferes with those low fequencies.
If they are missing, because the setup cannot go that low, the music will sound flat, not spaceous.

An important thing here is that the listening room needs to have a good (dry) bass response.

If that is not the case, any sub oder fullrange speaker willsound boomy, which is awful.

Cheers

Babak
BOOM BOOM BOOM A BOOB SUBWOOFER MOOM LIKE BOOM BOOM BOOM REL OR BOOM JL BOOM AND MAYBE BOOB BOOB A VELODYNE BOOM IS NICE BOOOOOOOOOOMMMMMMMM

= subs done entirely wrong. "BOOM" is not at all the point. If this is the limits of your experience with subs then you've never heard subs well integrated into a system.
I agree with most of what Byroncunningham said, above. I have not had good experience with integating subs into my 2-channel system. I dislike overbrearing and, more especially, one-note bass. I have never heard a sub-based system that delivers the delicate differentiation of sounds in the sub-40 Hz region, if one can refer to the bass region as delicate. I find that it's not about the notes per se, but rather it's more about the space and air between the notes. Most sub-based systems just sound electronic and artificial to me.

Granted, I have not heard everything or any of your individual systems. The only two solutions that have heard and believe came close to providing "authentic" bass are the (now discontinued) NHT Xd system and the Meridian Tri-Field system. The NHT demo I heard was very, very good, but I did not care for the presentation of the midrange and upper scale.

The Meridian system was better by far, not only in the bass response but the presentation of the entire soundstage. It was the best "stereo" imaging I have ever heard. But it is an expensive system (needs Meridian full-range speakers), is SS only - no tube options, and difficult to integrate with an analog front end.

For now, I am using Audio Note AN-E speakers. With the right corner positioning I get excellent bass response with only a minimal fall off below 40 Hz. No sub required.
Most full range speakers still lack deep bass and I think a sub that is integrated well fills out the bottom regions when done right. Plain and simple most speakers just don't get below 28-30Hz. My last set of speakers played down to 30Hz but I knew there was much more bass in some of the CD's I played and it pissed me off sometimes because I wanted to feel it, knew it was there and they couldn't play it. Now I have floor standing monitors and a sub I KNOW the sub needs to be integrated better but when the music has the sub bass regions it hits but not like a thud or totally inaccurate bass. Takes time to get it to integrate but I will get it there soon and overall I like the sub and don't regret downsizing somewhat. Its basically a personal preference so be happy with what you got and enjoy the music. Happy 4th :)
Well, perhaps some of my issue with subs and people's description's of "deep bass" is that almost no acoustically produced music goes anywhere near as low as 28Hz. Some pianos don't even go that low. An organ, some pianos, perhaps a doublebass provided with a low C extension, maybe a contrabass trombone, I'd have to look that up, or the very largest tuba, that's about it. And very rarely are those notes actually called for even on these instruments, and when they are, they don't sound anything like any sub I have ever heard, even a well-integrated one (I have heard them both in stores and in people's homes). So I do repeat that they are really only for movies and electronically produced music, and are simply not necessary for listening to acoustically produced music. In fact, if they are used for this, the result is invariably not realistic sounding, IME. The timbres are just not right.
Well, perhaps some of my issue with subs and people's description's of "deep bass" is that almost no acoustically produced music goes anywhere near as low as 28Hz. Some pianos don't even go that low. An organ, some pianos, perhaps a doublebass provided with a low C extension, maybe a contrabass trombone, I'd have to look that up, or the very largest tuba, that's about it. And very rarely are those notes actually called for even on these instruments, and when they are, they don't sound anything like any sub I have ever heard, even a well-integrated one (I have heard them both in stores and in people's homes). So I do repeat that they are really only for movies and electronically produced music, and are simply not necessary for listening to acoustically produced music. In fact, if they are used for this, the result is invariably not realistic sounding, IME. The timbres are just not right.

A sub is not limited in function to the lowest reaches of its range. It augments a range where certainly less of the music lives, but pointing at just the lowest realms of that range is viewing its purpose through blinders - you are not seeing the whole picture. It also takes some of the burden off of the midrange drivers by supporting part of that lower range that they'd otherwise have to handle. Certainly I completely agree that subs are not "necessary" to enjoy acoustic music, but in my experience they can enhance my enjoyment of it. The music I listen to is pretty wide in scope - much of it is acoustic and vocals.
Certainly I completely agree that subs are not "necessary" to enjoy acoustic music, but in my experience they can enhance my enjoyment of it.
The problem with these types of discussions is that people prioritize things in different orders.

I'll agree with Learsfool that a very high percentage (but not all) of the sub-augmented systems I've heard over the years sound unnatural to me when playing acoustic music.

Part of that is the nature of recordings while another part is that a living room doesn't have the same acoustics as a concert hall.

Simply put, any system playing recorded music - regardless of cost - is a set of compromises when compared to a live acoustic performance.

However, it is no surprise that some people are very happy with their added sub while others look at it as a complication that may or may not improve the situation.