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Is a cheap subwoofer worthwhile? (1 Viewer)

Michael R Price

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Is it worthwhile to spend money on a subwoofer that isn't any better than your mains in terms of bass performance?

I went with tower speakers in order to avoid the cost of a subwoofer for music. I don't regret my decision because they cost me no more than a similar small speaker. However, I am thinking more and more that I may have to get a sub sooner than I thought. The main reason for this is room response problems. I can understand why someone would add on a cheap subwoofer for a little extra thump in movies, but what about music? (2 channel only system as of yet.) Is this really worth it?

My tower mains have excellent bass. However, my main channel positioning isn't very flexible at all since this is all in my bedroom and I do have to live in it... I think that I may end up shortly with a subwoofer that strangely enough, can't produce as much clean bass as my mains can. But if I can put it in a corner for a flatter response... and take the load off my mains to make their sound cleaner... does that make it worthwhile to buy an already obsolete product?

Food for thought. I really appreciate your opinions.
 

Dustin B

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What price range do you consider cheap? What brand and model are your mains? What kinds of music do you listen to/ listen to the most?

Need that information before I could form an opinion.
 

Michael R Price

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Dustin, I have Kit281s and the subwoofer I had in mind would be a 4ft^3 DIY box with a Blueprint 1201 or used SVS driver and 80-150watts of cheap power, costing me maybe $150-250. And I listen to lots of music (all sorts of stuff), mainly rock though. Mostly at 70-80dB average but sometimes pretty loud.

My room is 15x11ft and the response at my listening position is pretty bad, even after rearranging to improve it. I have a 15dB dip at 60Hz. And I have very little leeway in speaker positioning. It's a pain to push the speakers across the floor to get them out of the way (as I did for awhile when experimenting with placement).

I actually meant to keep my actual system information out of the initial question to see if anyone had a more 'fundamental' opinion about this. I'm sure a few other people with different systems have a similar quandary as I do. Thanks for the help.
 

Dustin B

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The 281 are supposed to have exceptional bass response. But if you can't get that because of your room then a seperate sub may be the answer. I was concerned you'd be thinking about adding something like that Sony sub to a set of Paradigm Monitor series or something like that.

But given what you have, and what you propose to build I wouldn't hesitate. A nice low Q sealed or an EBS ported alignment using 1201 or original SVS driver would make for an excellent sub that will hopefully solve your room response problems.
 

Michael R Price

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Jul 22, 2001
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Thanks Dustin. I have a 1/3 octave measurment but it's not very good, hopefully I can borrow my friend's SPL meter again and do a more comprehensive 1/12-octave measurement so I know what I'm dealing with.

Does anyone know how to design an active notch filter (such as one in an equalizer, to boost or cut a certain frequency by a finite amount)? Or a software package that can help me with this? I've seen how to make a filter to completely cancel out one frequency, but not make a notch. I heard it used 3 opamps but I'm otherwise in the dark. (I was planning on messing with some active crossover/equalization)
 

James Bergeron

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I'll chime in by saying a sub in a 2 channel system can be good but will never be great. Your always adding delays and such since it is another speaker/amp combo.

On the other hand if your losing 15db there is some serious room problems.

I have tiny Paradigm Atoms that sound Excellent for 2 channel as how I have them placed really give a great sense of depth.
 

Michael R Price

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Robert, I bought an 8 year old Audiosource Amp One off Ebay for about $180. It's 80 watts, pretty basic stereo amp and it has volume controls (don't need a preamp). Sounds pretty good but it's definitely not the best choice. Especially considering my towers are 4 ohm and drop to 2.8~3 ohm in the bass region. With 4 ohm towers you definitely want a separate amp or a strong receiver, but for my budget that was not an option. I figured if I spent an extra $200 on speakers it would make a much bigger difference than $200 on an amp.

James, what do you mean by 'delays'?

My system already has great depth. It's just that my 2 possible arrangements (and the slight tweaks I have tried making to them) create significant bass nulls around 40 and 60Hz, which are terrible places for nulls. And (unavoidably) at higher levels the bass starts to compress a bit, and this messes up the rest of the sound.

Once I went crazy with placement and found the best spot for bass response. I was jammed into a corner with the speakers in the strangest places. Sure, I had great bass but the rest of the sound was messed up and there's no way I could live with such an arrangement.
 

James Bergeron

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Micheal: All electronics have delays with signals and when you introduce more cabling and amplifiers and speakers you are going to introduce delays. In others words your sub may be putting out the note a fraction of a second later than it was suppose to come out.

I'll admit this is largely unnoticeable but you will never see a true audiophile with a subwoofer as it will introduce these problems.
 

Neil Joseph

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I would not buy a "cheap" subwoofer if your mains handle the bass for music well. A cheap sub would only muddy-up the already good sound. I think where a subwoofer will really help you is with home theatre (movie watching) because there is often a lot of bass material under 25Hz that your main speakers will not pick up. If you don't want to spend a lot of money on a sub then perhaps you could make a great sub for the price of a cheap store-made sub. Check the DIY/Advanced area for more info on this.
 

John Desmond

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""""Micheal: All electronics have delays with signals and when you introduce more cabling and amplifiers and speakers you are going to introduce delays. In others words your sub may be putting out the note a fraction of a second later than it was suppose to come out.

I'll admit this is largely unnoticeable but you will never see a true audiophile with a subwoofer as it will introduce these problems""""

James, I beg to differ with you on this. After over 20 years of working in and being passionate about high-end audio I find great satisfaction in my two-channel rig that uses a pair of ACI Titan II subs. I am most certainly a "true audiophile" and these subs integrate perfectly in my room. BTW, room placement is a FAR bigger issue than the millionth of a second delay caused by cabling etc.
 

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