Is adding a subwoofer beneficial with floorstanders which go down to 35 Hz?

This question must be asked before I rearrange the room and roll back the big rug. I have the nSUB centre and front, so could install a cable - but the speakers already go down to 35Hz so would I hear it??!

Don't spoil what you have with what you wish for!

Original Post

Depends. 35Hz doesn't tell you about the rolloff curve. Also depends on how problematic the room will be at those frequencies. There are some users who use a sub to augment a fairly narrow frequency window down there despite using some fairly hefty floorstanders. They are not necessarily bass freaks either but just trying to get a nice linear response in a area where most speakers tend to have rolloff characterstics that are anything but.

For example, went from one pair of PMC speakers at 28Hz to another at 27Hz. But 1Hz difference aside, it was apparent that the newer pair had a much sharper rolloff and actually went much closer to their 27Hz than the previous pair did to their 28Hz which I suspect started the roll off much much higher.

feeling_zen posted:

Depends. 35Hz doesn't tell you about the rolloff curve. Also depends on how problematic the room will be at those frequencies.

I agree based on my experience. I went from speakers "rated" at 38 Hz to ones "rated" at 40 Hz. The bass in my room is far better controlled with less bass node excitation using the 40 Hz speakers. Probably a truer roll-off curve with the 40 Hz speakers accompanied by better port design.

Consider also the type of music you listen to. For rock listening there really aren't instruments that go below 40 Hz., save for the very bottom of a piano.  A pipe organ can delve considerably deeper. While a sub woofer can add to transient impact at the lowest depths, it can just as well muddle bass information in the room unless you have some hefty bass traps or are using room correction software. If you are using room correction, you ought to be able to tune the sub woofer and overall bass response in the room accordingly.

Yes, the notion of rolloff has to do with how a manufacturer specs their speakers. One may claim a rating down to 35 Hz at a -6 dB rolloff. Another may claim a rating down to 40 Hz at a -3 dB rolloff. Yet both speakers could have very similar bottom end response in a given room, and it's possible the 40 Hz rated speaker could yield cleaner bass.

As others have said, it depends on how well your speakers integrate with the room.  I have Wilson Benesch Vectors, which also go down to 35Hz, and they sound fabulous.  I also have an nSub in the room which is used for AV duties.  I have tried it with music several times but all it does is cause imbalance elsewhere across the frequency spectrum, particularly in the midrange, which loses much of its air and space; this, regardless of the settings on the sub.

So, the sub is only used for movie watching as a dedicated .1 channel or for listening to music recorded in 5.1.

If you are anything like me, you will try it in order to satisfy yourself one way or the other; in my experience at least, I am now happy that my speakers are designed well enough to sound the best they can without the addition of a traditional sub; the WB Torus, on the other hand, is apparently a different beast altogether...but as I can't afford and don't have the space for one, the point is somewhat moot!

Good luck, whatever you decide.

Ian

I've used REL sub-systems in the past to positive effect, but as Ian F rightly says; integration is all, and it can be difficult or impossible to achieve. A sub can 'add' and it can 'subtract'. One ideally needs to suck it and see - and you can.

It can be quite remarkable how a sub apparently improves the perception of air and space around something like a solo acoustic guitar. The theory goes that a non-full range loudspeaker system cannot reproduce a chunk of the recorded 'acoustic', be it natural or artificial.

But a sub not integrating well can slug the rhythmic drive (PRaT) of a system. A full-range pair of loudspeakers is a better (and neater) solution.

Good luck.

John.

 

 

 

As  a sub fan I agree with John that the greatest and (to me) least expected benefit is the improved communication of the acoustic space that the music is set in. This negates the argument that there is no useful information below x hertz. 

My Velodyne sub setup program allows me to monitor live frequency  response in my room and there is a real benefit down to 25hz. Below that it gets a bit messy and I found it best to roll it off from there.

I once auditioned a pair of Wilson Benesch ACT floor standing speakers on the end of a Naim CDX2/XPS2, 282/Supercap/250.  The system sounded clean, clear, flat and lifeless.  Then the dealer inserted a Wilson Benesch Torus in between the ACT speakers, tuned it in for phase and cut-over frequency, before we sat down for another listen.

This time, the tonal character of the system sounded just the same (i.e. no more bass), except for one important difference; music had life, vitality and emotional engagement.  In the end, I could not see how we would put up with such a large black cylinder in the middle of our living room, so we didn't go down that path.  However, it did demonstrate just how beneficial a well integrated and fast sub can be.  If done well. 

A well known Hifi reviewer in the USA had the same beneficial experience when combining the WB Torus with an early pair of ferociously expensive Magico stand mounted speakers (they were about $35k if memory serves).  As J.N. has already said, it can also make the system sound awful if not integrated well.

Hope this helps, FT

As J.N. & FT have pointed out, subs can do surprising and quite unexpected things to sound quality, if they're properly integrated. Unless you're very lucky, you can eventually achieve this by many hours of careful listening and fine-tuning, but the best way is to use good room-correction software, such as the latest version of Audyssey, or Dirac. As Pev mentions, Velodyne has its own inbuilt system that also works well, and many other subwoofer manufacturers incorporate similar systems nowadays.

I too have a velodyne black sub that is far too shiny and potentially scratched but it is a wonderful addition to the ovators. When I switch it off is when I can really tell the difference as that's when the sound loses its fullness and soundstage ...

Thanks for the responses. I’ve connected the nSUB now to the spare out and set to 40Hz. Now of course this was free - albeit the calories and time - and I’m pretty sure there’s more ‘presence’. Early time though.

i think I may need to experiment how far up to push the sub in frequency. I’m sure once this is done I’ll have the impact of energy rock requires.

This is true... however the AES have done some interesting research here.. from a musical point of view you don’t need these low frequencies, as your brain reconstructs the frequencies in real complex tonal structures, however, there are other aspects of musical appreciation, and one is through tactile response of vibrations... and the feel of low frequency air movement and the feel of the floor or chair moving... and here unless you have a bass shaker you will need speakers or subs to relay this .. and you will probably need to replay quite loud. Bass shakers are increasingly common in upmarket audio systems in cars, and now I understand even yachts....

Integration of sub and main speakers was mentioned above as important so certainly experiment with  sub cut off and level.  If you struggle to integrate but you like the extension a sub provides I would recommend looking at a sub that can utilize a high level input (vs coax from pre-amp).  REL is an example I use in this way to add some seamless extension.  Have fun!

Foreign Scott posted:

Integration of sub and main speakers was mentioned above as important so certainly experiment with  sub cut off and level.  If you struggle to integrate but you like the extension a sub provides I would recommend looking at a sub that can utilize a high level input (vs coax from pre-amp).  REL is an example I use in this way to add some seamless extension.  Have fun!

I’ve found a slight improvement by using the high level connection on my N-Sub, but was actually going to suggest that if you’re struggling to integrate it, the low level input might be better - but only because it gives you the option of applying DSP to the sub signal without affecting the signal to the main speakers. 

I have a pair of Burmester B10 speakers which I use as desktop speakers.  The frequency response is 50 Hz to 24 Khz.  I added a JL subwoofer because I felt the speakers were a little lean on the low end.  Big difference, not only in bass, but in the overall sound.  Seems that everything has opened up.  Of course, it could also be that the speakers are breaking in, or a combination of both.

Adam Zielinski posted:

Typically bass in rock bands will go down as low as around 30 Hz. Low B string on a 5-string bass is 32 Hz in a standard tuning. Add to that that some bands de-tune and you are easily below 30. Bass sub-harmonics go below 20 Hz too

In your experience Adam, how often is a 5-string bass used in rock recording? Then there's the 6-string bass. I know John Lennon used one on "Helter Skelter". I always assumed this was because he could play it with the same familiarity as a standard guitar, rather than for sub-harmonics.

joerand posted:
Adam Zielinski posted:

Typically bass in rock bands will go down as low as around 30 Hz. Low B string on a 5-string bass is 32 Hz in a standard tuning. Add to that that some bands de-tune and you are easily below 30. Bass sub-harmonics go below 20 Hz too

In your experience Adam, how often is a 5-string bass used in rock recording? Then there's the 6-string bass. I know John Lennon used one on "Helter Skelter". I always assumed this was because he could play it with the same familiarity as a standard guitar, rather than for sub-harmonics.

Nowadays - vey often. I’d say you are as likely to find a 4-string bass as a 5-string one on stage these days.

6 string bass is actually the same as a 5 string, but with a higher string added.

A bit of theory:

4 string bass, standard tuning is: E A D G (E being the lowest string, at 41 Hz.

5-string adds a string below a 4-string bass, so its tuned as: B  E A D G.

6-string adds a string below and above a 4-string bass: B E A D G C

 

docmark posted:

I have a pair of Burmester B10 speakers which I use as desktop speakers.  The frequency response is 50 Hz to 24 Khz.  I added a JL subwoofer because I felt the speakers were a little lean on the low end.  Big difference, not only in bass, but in the overall sound.  Seems that everything has opened up.  Of course, it could also be that the speakers are breaking in, or a combination of both.

Same for me it made a huge difference....i think in medium to small rooms small speakers with a good well tuned sub or two is unbeatable. .. but you need a very good sub...

Just put my REL Strata 5 back into service connected via HL. Have not spent enough time integrating it yet but amazed how good it sounds with the ATC 40’s.

I didn’t think the ATC’s wrre lacking in bottom end but the sub certainly adds to the enjoyment.

Foxman50 posted:

I didn’t think the ATC’s wrre lacking in bottom end but the sub certainly adds to the enjoyment.

Not surprising since the SCM 40 are rated to 48 Hz (-6 dB). In fact, a sub ought to integrate quite well with the 40; less overlap on the bottom end than typical floor standers that go deeper.

SCM 40s don't do lower bass very well (to my ears) at higher SPLs,  probably as noted due to the 48 Hz rating.  A REL sub with HL connection filled in the bottom end and was a nice addition in my system, but going active with a digital crossover and (second) DAC into the sub has completely transformed the speakers - getting the lower bass off the main speakers and onto the sub is key and makes a big difference.  Getting a much cleaner midrange as well with this setup, even at normal SPLs. I listen mostly to classical, and it is quite a revelation how much bass now comes through, even at low volume levels.

Well ATC have a specific subwoofer, the C1, for their consumer hifi range (somewhat more affordable than their professional subwoofer crates) and has settings for their hifi speakers from SCM7 to SCM40. They recommend the initial setting for the sub filter with the SCM40  at 48Hz and SCM19 at 54Hz.

The C1 is specified  to 20Hz at -6dB

 

johnG posted:

SCM 40s don't do lower bass very well (to my ears) at higher SPLs,  probably as noted due to the 48 Hz rating.  A REL sub with HL connection filled in the bottom end and was a nice addition in my system, but going active with a digital crossover and (second) DAC into the sub has completely transformed the speakers - getting the lower bass off the main speakers and onto the sub is key and makes a big difference.  Getting a much cleaner midrange as well with this setup, even at normal SPLs. I listen mostly to classical, and it is quite a revelation how much bass now comes through, even at low volume levels.

John, can you elaborate on your active digital crossover on the 40’s. how is this done?

I am using a Motu 8D as the digital XO front-end, so the setup is: - HQPlayer on Win10 laptop --> USB in Motu 8D --> AES digital stereo (high-pass) out to (main) DAC & SPDIF digital mono (low-pass) out --> Naim DAC --> single channel analogue out to the low-level input on a REL T9i sub.

Using the built-in EQ in the Motu 8D to crossover the mains with the sub at around 120 Hz.  The EQ XOs are not very steep and only down 20 dB or so but quite sufficient for ‘proof of concept ’ .  The next step will be to create digital XOs with Acourate to use with HQP and multichannel USB input to the 8D. This is a brief overview, if you would like more details of the full implementation please feel free to pm me (see profile).

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Alan McGovern
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