Choosing a TRUE subwoofer

Discussion in 'Speakers' started by Bob_Collins, May 9, 2003.

  1. Bob_Collins

    Bob_Collins Extra

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    I am new to the whole subwoofer shopping experience, and trying to make heads or tails out of the current offerings, and am in need of some guidance from those who know more than I.

    I am of the opinion that a subwoofer should play down to 20 Hz. minimum, and actually should extend below that. If it cuts off at 25 Hz., or 30 Hz., I don’t want it, and in my opinion, it is not a true subwoofer. I am also of the opinion that the subwoofer should actually not be noticed so much (when playing music, anyway), but rather the lack of it should be noticed (playing music with the subwoofer engaged should sound good, true, and accurate (not boomy, or thumping), and then if the subwoofer were suddenly switched off, you should notice that it is missing). The subwoofer should not be the main, most noticeable piece in the system. It should enhance your other speakers, not overpower them.

    I have been running Klipsch Fortes for my main speakers for a number of years, and these are rated down to 32 Hz., (verified with test material, it rolls off SHARPLY at about 32 Hz.). I am now running the Fortes as my surround speakers with Klipsch Reference Series RF-7 speakers for the mains. These too, are rated down to 32 Hz., yet testing with the same material shows that the RF-7s actually extend down to at least 20 Hz., thus I am in need of a TRUE subwoofer (one that can extend below 20 Hz.) to get any improvement in bass extension over what I currently have.

    The wife unit will not permit me to play things “loud”, so I am not looking for quantity, but instead QUALITY of the bass. It should be accurate, clean (free of audible distortion and no muddiness), no overhang, or “blubbering” (when the signal stops, the woofer cone better stop), and deep (low extension below 20 Hz.).

    I have read the WSR Essential Subwoofer Buyer’s Guide, and while I agree with some of the things Mr. Hardesty (Dr. Boom) states, I know that MY ears are going to be the final judges, however I am hoping to help come up with a short list from recommendations here, and from reviews such as those published in magazines, or on the web.

    In theory, the “Feed Forward” system of operation should be best, as those items that can create errors are looked at and removed prior to the signal being fed to the woofer cone. “Servo Control” should be second best, because of the tight control they can offer to keep things clean and accurate, however they are still trying to correct an error that has already been output by the woofer into the room where it may be audible, if your ears are good/critical enough. (The Mirage BPS-210 used both technologies; however it appears to have been discontinued.)

    Based on the reviews I have read thus far, I am considering the following subwoofers as main candidates to give a listen to (retail prices listed).

    •Vandersteen V2W ($1295)
    •Bag End Infra 18 ($1770)
    •Mirage BPS-400 ($1300)
    •M&K MX-700 ($1399)
    •Paradigm Reference Servo-15 ($1500)
    •Velodyne HGS-12 II ($2199)

    The Velodyne is a pricy item, and to be honest I would prefer to go with the HGS-15 (minimum) or HGS-18, but not sure I can convince myself to spend the extra bucks for them. (I’m not sure I can convince myself to go the price of the HGS-12, unless it truly proves to be FAR superior to anything else I look at). As you can see from above, most of the subs listed are $1500 or under.

    The sub will be used for both movies and music (a good sub should be capable of doing either, equally well). This whole thing of being “musical” or “movie” oriented is in reality (I think), nothing more than the sub itself, putting emphasis in the area of the bass where most movie sound effects are occurring (35 Hz. and up), thus making it appear to be “better” for movies, because of a perceived emphasis (thump).

    I’m not stating the size of the room, because I am interested in QUALITY and not quantity (loudness), so I don’t feel the size of the room to be relevant at this time.

    I've heard good things about SVS but to be honest, I am not too keen on buying something "blind", which is what I would be doing if I went with SVS, or a DIY sub. To quote Billy Joel, “you can’t get the sound from a story in a magazine”.

    I know SVS is in Ohio (I am too), and maybe if I could audition them beforehand, I might be more inclined to be persuaded. It's just that in my mind, a sealed enclosure should be better, as there is no worry of any "port noise" to even remotely enter the sound that is being introduced into the room from the subwoofer.

    I am leaning in the direction of the sealed box units, due to their improved transient response, and less aggressive roll-off below their nominal cut-off frequency. Again, I’m talking theory here as expounded by Richard Hardesty, and I’m counting on knowledgeable folks from this site to set me straight, if I am mistaken.

    I was hoping to get some comments on the subwoofers I listed as possibilities (to reinforce their being on my list to audition, or rule them out completely), and to get some recommendations (brand, model, and price) of others I should check out.

    Remember, I am after QUALITY and not quantity. Most of what I have read in regards to the SVS and HSU subs seem to be more for those who want maximum output for the money, which is NOT what I am after. Again, maybe this is a misconception on my part, but most of the posts I have read and can remember for SVS, HSU, and Sunfire, have dealt with getting the highest SPL into the room, and not with getting the most accurate and deep bass output.

    The servo 15 was the top guy on my list not too long ago (until I read “The Essential Subwoofer Buyer’s Guide” special edition put out by WSR, which didn’t give it overall high marks in a few areas. I’ll have to be sure to audition it, as I have been told it will go well below 20, and is clean and not boomy. According to these same reviews, the output of the subwoofers I listed at 20 Hz. are:

    •Vandersteen V2W 94 dB (down 10 dB from 25 Hz.)
    •Bag End Infra 18 90 dB (down 12 dB from 25 Hz.)
    •Mirage BPS-400 Not stated (105 dB at 25 Hz.)
    •M&K MX-700 92 dB (down 8 dB from 25 Hz.)
    •Paradigm Reference Servo-15 96 dB (down 10 dB from 25 Hz.)
    •Velodyne HGS-12 90 dB (down 14 dB from 25 Hz.)

    The 2 highest output units (of the ones with an output listed at 20), are the Servo-15 and the Vandersteen, separated by only 2 dB. Again, remember, I am not after ultimate loudness of the bass, but rather a low, extended bass response that is clean (distortion free), not thumping or booming just for the sake of making things rattle.
     
  2. Philip Hamm

    Philip Hamm Lead Actor

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    I guess most of us have FALSE subwoofers. I feel so inadequate! [​IMG]
     
  3. Nick V

    Nick V Second Unit

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    I own the Mirage BPS-400, and if you are after absolute quality of bass for music especially, I don't know if you'd be all that happy with this sub. It is a GREAT sub for movies, but if it's lacking anywhere, it might be in accuracy for music. This might be due to my room's acoustics, but I'm going to be purchasing a BFD very soon, so I'll see if it performs any better after EQ'ing it.

    I think you'd be happier with the Paradigm Servo-15, but unfortunately those are the only two subs on your list that I've auditioned.

    Happy listening!!
     
  4. Bob_Collins

    Bob_Collins Extra

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    Thanks for the responses.

    When I say "TRUE" subwoofer, I am speaking of one capable of playing down to 20 Hz. and below. There are a lot of so called subs out there that are only rated down to in the 30 - 40 Hz. range, and I don't consider those to be real, true subwoofers.

    Nick, thanks for the input on the Mirage, and just what is a BFD? (Be kind, I'm a bit new, remember.) :)
     
  5. Lew Crippen

    Lew Crippen Executive Producer

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    You might want to contact Adire audio for a custom sub using their Tempest driver (or perhaps the Maelstrom driver).
     
  6. Adam_R

    Adam_R Second Unit

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    SVS. Real.
     
  7. Bry_DD

    Bry_DD Second Unit

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    Find someone with the SVS and audition. Also check out HSU VTF-3.
     
  8. Alex Prosak

    Alex Prosak Supporting Actor

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    I think the SVS subs are quite musical. A friend of mine runs one with his B&W N802s and I know he would agree. While they are also quite powerful, a properly calibrated sub should not stand out at all but supplement (as you noted). Many people here end up going with the SVS 25-31 or 20-39 subs which have a slightly higher tuning point and more output. I suggest you check out the SVS 16-46 (ports tuned to 16 Hz) in either the PCi or PC+ versions. The PC+ versions have three ports which allow for more tuning configurations (16- all open, 12-one port plugged, or 8 Hz-two ports plugged) [someone please correct me if I'm wrong] at a cost to the total output for plugging the ports. This sub is a major bottom feeder.

    Check audioenvy.com to see if there is anyone near you willing to provide an audition. Since your in OH, give them a call too.

    Alex
     
  9. Matt Gordon

    Matt Gordon Supporting Actor

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    BFD: Behringer Feedback Destroyer...

    A processor that allows you to shape the frequency curve of your system.
     
  10. Joseph_ P

    Joseph_ P Stunt Coordinator

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    i've got an SVS 16-46 cs+ and it does everything that you asked for in your post!. it goes lowwwwwwwwwww, the quality of the bass is outstanding and if a given source material
    asks for it ,it will give you GREAT quantity of bass also.
    SVS subs have made believers out of many people who were
    a little concerned about buying them without an audition.
    they can't all be wrong[​IMG] . just check out their b-stock
    subs on their website, you hardly ever see one there.
    good luck with your bass hunting.[​IMG]
     
  11. Michael R Price

    Michael R Price Screenwriter

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    How loud is "loud"? If it isn't so very loud, try an EQ'd dipole, maybe Linkwitz style folded baffle. Jack Gilvey uses that design with Adire drivers, I believe. (And he really knows what he's talking about.) The DIY businesses would be happy to make one for you.
     
  12. JamesDB

    JamesDB Stunt Coordinator

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    Hey Bob,

    I would also look into Mackie's HRS 120 12inch studio sub. extention flat to 21Hz, at 19 Hz -3db. Considered one of the best subs among recording industry and used by a lot of higher end studios. Its about 1250 MSRP I think and has both XLR balanced and RCA unbalanced circuits. THX PM3 certified too.

    I bought one a while ago after I had auditioned some of the subs you had mentioned. I have never looked back because its so musical and precise. Size wise its smaller than the SVSs, but bigger than the tiny Velodynes. Also built well... 94 pounds hahah.

    Its probably the best sub you can find for the money short of its 15 inch big brother.

    Here are some specs I got from the site. One more thing... Actually when I tested it, it went much deeper than 21hz. I have the 15hz cutoff switch in because it actually shook my livingroom pictures when I tested it with a sine wave disk and I figured my neighbors would not appreciate that.

    Sub is ruler flat +-1.5dB from 21-150Hz and –3dB at 19Hz.
    Max SPL: 117db @ 1m
    Subsonic Filter flat/15Hz, 18dB/octave filter
    Filter bypass In/full range (THX)
    Filter Select Variable/110Hz elliptical high cut
    Polarity 0°/180°
    Variable crossover 55Hz to 110Hz, 24dB/octave Linkwitz-Riley filter
    THX PM3 studio certified if you care about that
    0/+10db switch for recording THX and DTS tracks
    Signal pass through / pedal mute
    RFI protection
    Sensitivity at 7.5dBu/ 1m : 100dB SPL
    Distortion: 0.02%
    S/N ratio: 107dB at 350watts, 8 Ohms
    45 mm cone excursion / 4 inch voice coil
    2 12inch transducer (1 active down firing, 1 passive front firing)
    Weight: 94lbs

    Here’s the website
    http://mackie.com/record/hrs120/
    The owners manual has a lot more tech info
    You can also see a picture of its rear panel online
     
  13. Seth_L

    Seth_L Screenwriter

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  14. JeremyFr

    JeremyFr Supporting Actor

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    I would back up the recommendation for the Mackie, Mackie makes incredible products I used there 824 studio monitors to mix my CD on and those are some very impressive speakers. I've also used both there amps and some of there self powered product in Pro Sound application and they've never let me down and always been very impressive. I guess I also like the fact that if I could ever manage to break something they make I could drive 15 minutes from my house and walk through there front doors to have them fix it. Mackie has been a Pro Audio powerhouse for a while and there speakers became infinitely better when they bought Italian Speaker maker RCF. RCF Makes speakers that most other companys could only dream of making. We had 4 of there raw driver 18's at the club I worked at in Single loaded folded horn subwoofers. They were rated at 600 watts RMS a piece and over 3200 Watts peak power handling. They were amazing subs and we never had a problem. When we got them We wired them bridged mono to the largest Crest Amp available at that point the thing weighed over 250 lbs and fed off 220v 30 amp service. at any rate it was pushing a total of around 10,000 watts into these 4 18's and produced so much air pressure it through the needles off the records it was shear insanity[​IMG] hehe But yeah Mackie/RCF makes some great stuff.
     
  15. Kevin*Harley

    Kevin*Harley Stunt Coordinator

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    Bob,
    We have similar feelings toward the role a sub – “Silent partner” for music and “enforcer” for movies.

    The Velodyne HGS series had appeal to me for their size, clarity and output. I’ve had the HGS15 for the past 3 months and constantly amazed with its performance. I made the mistake of comparing the HGS12 and the HGS15 and found a night and day difference. Although it took me a month or two to find a great price, it was worth the effort and the extra money.
     
  16. JimmyK

    JimmyK Second Unit

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    Real Name:
    Jim
     
  17. Edward J M

    Edward J M Cinematographer

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    Bob:

    Do not dismiss vented subs strictly on the merits of "theory". Some of the most well regarded and critically acclaimed subs are vented.

    The best vented designs can have excellent transient response and low group delay numbers right down to the tune point. Adire Audio claims that a group delay of
     
  18. Lynn Little

    Lynn Little Stunt Coordinator

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    I'm the proud owner of twin SVS 16-46PC+s. NO port noise, even when I was using just one 16-46PC+. Extremely clean, extremely LOW bass, that can be played extremely loud, without audible distortion. The twins NEVER call attention to themselves in a bad way.

    Speaking of their "musicality", I recently added a Pioneer Elite VSX-45TX to my HT. With my previous receiver, they were OK, but they were a bit strong. Using the Auto-MCCAC feature of the 45TX, these subs are now great for music. Again, the twins NEVER call attention to themselves in a bad way.

    The twin 16-46PC+s sound so good with music, I might be selling my Rel Strata III (which works SUPERBLY with my Bryston 4B ST/Nautilus 804 combo). I never thought I'd be saying that...
     
  19. JamesHl

    JamesHl Supporting Actor

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    I just picked up my V2W in January to replace an anemic Mirage 8" sub (it was a full system overhaul). I have to say that the Vandersteen meets all my expectations, it is both accurate and powerful. I have yet to put it in a situation that has really stressed it (though I'm living in an apartment right now, and I don't want to get kicked out, so). Anyway, I can vouch for the quality of the V2W.
     
  20. Tom Vodhanel

    Tom Vodhanel Cinematographer

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    >>>I'm the proud owner of twin SVS 16-46PC+s. NO port noise, even when I was using just one 16-46PC+. Extremely clean, extremely LOW bass, that can be played extremely loud, without audible distortion. The twins NEVER call attention to themselves in a bad way.
     

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