Do I need a sub?

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Glenwood, Jan 9, 2003.

  1. Glenwood

    Glenwood Auditioning

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    I recently upgraded my audio system to a home theater. I am using my B&W 801's for the front speakers, set to large. Since these babies can pump out deep bass, I asked my dealer if I really needed to get a subwoofer. He most emphatically said yes, saying something about music vs. sound effects, etc. Trusting his judgment (I've been a steady customer for years), I bought the Velodyne HGS-12 he recommended. I set up the sub along the back wall of my room, forming a "sub triangle" with the 801's. Now, the test...

    I popped my "Godzilla 2000" DVD into the player and fast-forwarded to the first "foot stomping" scene and, sure enough, the whole room shook with each step. I was immersed in bass. The thing I noticed, though, was that the 801's held their own against the Velodyne. They seemed to capture every deep note. This got me to thinking that my dealer may have pulled a fast one, suckering me into buying something I didn't really need. There is plenty of bass with the sub turned off, although it emanates from the front of the room, not all around.

    Did my dealer sucker me, or is there a valid reason to use the sub? Is a sub always necessary, even with large front speakers?
     
  2. Reginald Trent

    Reginald Trent Screenwriter

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    Do you need a sub?

    Only you can answer that, but perhaps this will help. Are you concerned about the quality of bass? Because even though your main produce bass is it at the same quality level of a SVS or the Velo?

    BTW I suggest playing Saving Private Ryan and the opening sequence of Titan A.E. without the sub. Then play in with it, if you hear no difference then you probably need a SVS or no sub at all. Those two movies will definately give your main speakers and/or sub a workout.
     
  3. Travis G

    Travis G Stunt Coordinator

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    No Glenwood. It depends on the type of program material that you are playing. Music generally has little energy below 40 Hz or so (subwoofer range). There are some exceptions with electronic music, large organs, and the 1812 overtures cannons.

    However, special effects in movies frequently have ALOT of energy way down low and few full range speakers are truly capable of subwoofer performance. Hell, few "subwoofers" are truly capable of subwoofer performance.

    For movies you may choose to set the L/R speakers to small and relieve them of producing the lowest frequencies and therefore lowering distortion. For music you will get better stereo imaging if you set the L/R speakers to large.

    Travis
     
  4. Steve_Ma

    Steve_Ma Second Unit

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    Travis, I respectfully disagree with you when it comes to music. I believe there is more deep bass in our everyday music than most people realize. We just don't often have the time and environments to hear good reproductions. Kick/bass drums routinly go below 30hz, and I'm hard pressed to think of a drummer that doesn't use at least one kick drum and many have a double setup. Bass guitars will also go below 40hz without a problem.

    It's definately a matter of preference, but if it were me, I'd get the sub. Certainly for the LFE ch in movies, but I'd probably also use it to compliment the mains for music as well (yes, even with the 801s). I would probably cross it over pretty low (60hz?), but a real nice sub will still handle the low stuff better, while freeing up the mains for better mid-bass and upper range material.

    --Steve
     
  5. Marc H

    Marc H Second Unit

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    There is still a valid case for using a powered subwoofer even with towers that have deep extension. The concept of digital surround allows for discrete reproduction of all the channels seperately and when ever the channels are combined, like adding the LFE to the left and right speakers, there is a sonic compromise. The left and right speakers are now taxed with the LFE information as well as the normal left and right bass information. It wasn't a big deal up until a couple of years ago when the movies really started to take advantage of the capabilities of the LFE track. Often now movies like Lord of the Rings, Monsters Inc. and Star Wars Attack of the Clones use extremely low frequency and very loud LFE effects that can really put a load on the amplifiers in a home theatre receiver with the LFE routed to the main speakers. A self powered subwoofer can do a much better job of capturing the depths and power in the LFE track as well as relieving the amplifiers in the receiver of that heavy workload. Should bring more clarity to the bass in the left and right channels too.
     
  6. Travis G

    Travis G Stunt Coordinator

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  7. Michael R Price

    Michael R Price Screenwriter

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    The B&W 801s probably have plenty of bass to play music if you can get a good room response out of them, but a subwoofer is definitely worthwhile for the big movie effects, and to clean up the 801s' sound when you play really loud. Problem is, the HGS-12 probably doesn't have much more output than the 801s do, and so it isn't bringing you the improvement you could expect from a larger subwoofer... especially at the lowest frequencies. I don't know what I should be recommending... do you think the HGS-12 has brought a worthwhile improvement for its price? Can you tolerate a large box or tube in your room?
     
  8. Glenwood

    Glenwood Auditioning

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    Thanks for all the great input, guys. I think the sub definitely adds more bass and makes it feel more uniform. I just wonder what my neighbors think, especially during the pod race on "The Phantom Menace"! I guess I'll keep it.
     
  9. Glenwood

    Glenwood Auditioning

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    You bring up an interesting point, Michael. The 801's and HGS-12 seem to go about as deep. I could probably fit an HGS-15 into my room. Do you think that would be a worthwhile improvement? Do you have any other recommendations?
     
  10. Steve_Ma

    Steve_Ma Second Unit

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    Travis,
    I think you got me on the bass drum example (he says wiping the blood off his nose) :b
    I came across the below link while looking around. It's alittle old, but pretty interesting. http://www.stereophile.com/showarchives.cgi?26:2
    On the other hand (if you trust any of that data), there's still plenty of other common instruments that extend below 40hz (and even 30hz) so I don't need to abandon my point alltogether.
    --Steve
     
  11. Michael R Price

    Michael R Price Screenwriter

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    Glenwood, I was thinking of a large vented sub such as an SVS... or a custom built job. IMO, you should match the 801s with a subwoofer that really outperforms them bass-wise and maintains really good sound quality. (A $600 SVS has similar clean low-bass output capability to the HGS-15... and you can do better than that for not much more money). I would personally suggest saving up a lot of money and eventually getting a custom Tumult based sub, or maybe an IB if that's at all possible. (I started recommending SVS, but considering you "might" be able to fit an HGS-15...) Those would extend to somewhere between 16-20Hz and have a really absurd clean output potential... something like that correctly positioned and set up would give your system bass that does the big B&W's justice. Just my train of thought here, I would prefer going "over the top" with this, given the rest of your system. [​IMG]
     
  12. Travis G

    Travis G Stunt Coordinator

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    Steve,
    Absolutely not! If you want the deeper bass, go for it. You're talking to a guy who destroyed his first DIY sub with the 1812 Overture. [​IMG]
    It all depends on your musical preferences. All that I'm saying is that the minimum low frequency extension for good music reproduction is ~ 40 Hz IMHO. For movies it's about an octave lower.
    BTW I looked it up, and the lowest notes on a bass guitar are ~ 35 Hz. Bass drums fundamentals are ~ 42 Hz.
    Travis
     
  13. Myron

    Myron Agent

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    Travis,
    As you said it depends upon the type of music, but Organs, especially pipe organs go down to 20-25hz as do Grand Pianos. So if you limit your bass to minimum of 40hz, you're losing the pedals of an Organ. And that's a serious impediment to the enjoyment of Organ music.

    And other type of instruments also go down below 30hz, including several of the deeper brasses.

    That's why most of the spec's for high quality speakers to be full range go to 20hz as a minimum.
     

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