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Wasted Money on New Amp? (1 Viewer)

Ron Duca

Stunt Coordinator
Joined
Dec 29, 1999
Messages
76
I've read numerous threads regarding SMALL vs LARGE speaker settings and have never seen anyone question the use of a multi-channel amp using the SMALL settings.

Here is my pertinent equipment:

Anthem MCA 50 Amp (180x5)
Yamaha RX-V995 Receiver (used as pre/pro)
Paradigm Monitor 9 mains
Paradigm CC-350 center
Paradigm Mini-Monitor rears
Paradigm PW-2200 subwoofer
Sony CD Player
Toshiba DVD Player


I listen to music in two channel and find that for my system, setting my L&R mains to SMALL makes them sound rather "thin". Using the LARGE setting makes them sound "fuller", especially in the low end. So I prefer the LARGE setting, at least for music.

However, the majority of members here recommend setting all speakers to SMALL. Even if I can blend in my sub to make things sound good, aren't I wasting the power of my amplifier by not letting it pump out the lower end sounds through my mains, which is what it excels in? Do any other amp users wonder about this in their setups?


Ron
 

Miles Abbey

Agent
Joined
Mar 18, 2002
Messages
47
Ron,
I've been wondering the same thing. I have my fronts and rears set as large, but my center on small. What is the advantage of setting everything to small? Especially when you have a capable set of fronts? I would love to hear an expert explain this ;)
Miles
 

Miles Abbey

Agent
Joined
Mar 18, 2002
Messages
47
I forgot to mention I have a similar setup:

Yamaha RXV-995
Rotel 993 external amp running center and fronts 200w/channel

boston acoustics vrm90s fronts
boston acoustics vrmc center
boston dxpro rears
 

John Garcia

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One key here is what your crossover point is. IIRC, 90Hz is common for Yamaha, which will not allow your 9s to utilize most of their midrange. Setting them to large, allows the internal crossovers to do their job and let the speakers sound the way they were designed to.

I am using Minis as my mains, set to small, and I think they sound very good. Even the Minis sound better set to large, as I get much more midrange for music, so I frequently switch my system to Mains=large, sub=yes for music. I get overlap, but I don't mind.

I'm not familiar with the Yamaha, but if you have a sorce direct or analog direct/bypass, I would use that for music. This should bypass the internal crossover and run the mains as large regardless of your configuration (I'm not sure if this is true for Yamaha or not). What you might lose is your sub output, as some receivers do.

I agree that floorstanders normally sound better set to large, which is why I don't buy floorstanders. If you are going to set them to small, then just get SMALL speakers. In a 2ch only system, I would definitely go with floorstanders and set them to large, likely with no sub.

Setting them to small does not "waste" the amps power. Rather, that power is now there in reserve for dynamic peaks and clean, healthy playback (not to mention volume). Better to have more than enough than not enough.
 

brucek

Second Unit
Joined
Dec 29, 1998
Messages
335
Ron,

The first reason we use the small setting is that there are not many mains speakers that can realistically produce the 20Hz to 80Hz portion of the spectrum for which subwoofers are designed. If you actually had mains speakers that could output the levels required for this low end job, it would be asking a lot of your multichannel amps resources. By passing these duties off to a subwoofer, you have freed your multichannel amp to do a better job as John said in his post.

But this is a minor consideration compared to the real reason you don't use the large setting for multichannel. Bass frequencies are the most problematic because of room resonances that are set up between parallel surfaces (walls, ceilings, floors).These axial modes create standing waves that cause cancellations at various locations in the room, so careful speaker placement and equalization is essential at these frequencies.

When you feed a full range signal to five speakers in a room you are in for some serious cancellation problems. Each speaker acoustically couples to the room resonaces differently. It's just about impossible to create good bass in this situation. This is why bass management exists. We use a processor to separate all the low frequency information from all five channels and send it to one speaker that can be located for the optimum signal in the room and then equalization becomes possible with this single channel. Since frequencies below 80Hz aren't localizable, it allows a lot of flexibility of location for the sub.

If you're having trouble with your system sounding "thin" when set to small, then the problem lies with either the sub being "challenged", which would not be the situation in your case, given your equipment list. Or, you haven't set your system up properly - i.e. sub location or equalization or system levels. It can also be attributed sometimes to incorrect crossover frequency - it's nice if you're able to adjust it.........

brucek
 

Dustin B

Senior HTF Member
Joined
Mar 10, 2001
Messages
3,126
Here is a thread reply taken from AVS posted by Brian Florian. I think it contains a lot of great info related to your question.

Oh dear...how to begin?

I was asked by a college to pop over here and provide some feedback as this is a topic I have been very deep on for some time.

Yet I hesitate. I don't know if the forum is the right medium and what I have to say is for many unpleasant, and for others will mean the realisation that they have been living a sonic lie.

Still, for what its worth...

I started by reading the soundstage article, and liked a lot of what Mr. Blackburn had to say, especially as it relates to crossovers and the need for each complement (main speaker and sub) to competently reach across the crossover point. Such is the source of linearity if the crossover itself is strict in its curves (though I should note that certian cross-overs, such as THX's, actually count on the speaker exhibiting a natural roll-off at or near the crossover). I also liked that he calls the bluff on the non sub subs (or as I like to call them: bass modules).

I'm a little tickled that he opens the piece with a rather definitive "disclaimer" of sorts. I guess he must have known his conclusions were easily questioned.

But alas, the essay totally falls apart at the very notion that there are "home theater" subs and their are "music" subs. I am diametrically oppose to this point of view. Is Mr. Blackburn crazy? Not likely. So why does he find some subs better for one or the other? He doesn't. What most likely is the reality is that he categorizes "good" subs as "music" subs, and acecpts others as "home theater" subs. I don't care where you heard it, it is just wrong to suggest that a system should apply a boost of any kind in the 40-80Hz region when watching a movie. For crying out loud, 99% of the movies I watch contain substantial music. Music! Does no one see the fallacy of the argument?

Lets go back to the source for a moment: The motion picture soundtrack. The sound artist/engineer assembles (or I like to use the word crafts) the soundtrack on a dubbing stage which is calibrated to the same rules as the commercial theater where the work will first be appreciated. These rules, trust me, result in a sound far more linear than you can ever hope to get in your home (no matter what you've spent on hardware) unless you have some of the gems that cinema hardware include. Dolby's staple cinema Dolby Digital decoder (CP500) has separate 1/3 octave 27 band eqs for the front channels, full octave 12 band eqs for each surround channel, and a digital parametric eq for the LFE channel/sub. The rules for set up are: each channel (including the LFE/sub within its band) gets an ISO 2969 response. That is, flat up to 2 kHz and then rolled off at 3 dB per octave (which in the large room yields a perceived flat response). Quick side bar: this is the very reason for THX's 'Re-Eq' feature. Point is: there is no boost/dip or anything else done to the 40-80Hz range. Why the hell should we or our subs do anything of the sort? Yes there are subwoofers on the market which offer a 'switch' to insert a boost but this is just plain wrong. If you like it (and I think Mr. Blackburn does) that is your prerogative, it is your right, it is your taste. But please don't pass your preference as some definition of 'proper' home theater sound.

Next I read the article on home theater subs. Unlike the one at soundstage, I found less of value. Again to suggest that a boost is (quote) "needed" in the 40-80Hz range is an ugly ugly statement. Although I intend to research it further, I'm hard pressed to recall a receiver or processor which does what Mr. Blackburn suggest: Forces a high-pass to the mains when the LFE channel is turned on. Heck, I'm hard pressed to think of a unit which has a magical "on/off" switch for the LFE channel. If yours has one, or behaves as Mr. Blackburn suggests, it simply means it's bass management is pretty piss-poor. Write to me and we'll find you a model that behaves a little better.

Suggesting that you get 6 subwoofers is a dramatic misalocation of funds. Sure it would be cool. The lads at Widescreen Review do it, but everything in their main system is by any definition excessive (which has often puzzled me: wouldn't I rather know how a DVD is going to look or sound on a real world system? Whatever...).

Since we're rolling on the subject, I'll touch on the issue of setting speakers as 'large' vs.'small'. When you boil it down, there are really only two ways to get it "right", if your definition of "right" is faithfulness to the signal, which in the context of subs, means linear response (or as linear as possible) within the band in question. You can either (A) set all speakers to large or (B) set all speakers to small. Don't worry, I'll explain why any combination in between is costing you sonic truth.

Lets go over the first option: set all speakers to 'Large' and have a single subwoofer for the LFE channel. Any processor I've seen simply requires you to say "yes, I have a sub" and it will send the LFE channel to the sub-out jack (incidentally, if you say "no sub", a responsible decoder should send the LFE data to the main left and right, but we're assuming a subwoofer for this discussion). This is actually a pretty cool setup because it 'emulates' the set-up in a cinema: In commercial Dolby Digital there is no bass management. One could further argue that in the cinema, the main channels naturally have a low end rolloff somewhere under 40Hz just because that's how low the stage speakers go. In Mr. Blackburn's defence, the idea of a sub for every channel is in essence the same thing, only you are spending unheard of money to extend the response of each speaker down to 20Hz. Nothing wrong with wanting linear response down to the nether regions for each channel but there is a better way to do it (we'll talk about how latter). Short of the 'sub for every channel' route, this set up is next to impossible to balance. For one, every channel must be able to 'handle' a full range signal without risk of physical damage, thought they may not actually voice the nether regions. Such speakers are not so hard to find. What is impossible is getting a similar low end response from all 5 speakers. With any conventional choice of loudspeaker model, the centre will always exhibit less low end extension than the mains, the surrounds probably even less. So you get a real unbalanced sound system with "good" low end response from the mains, "poor" extension from the centre/surrounds, and "great" extension from the sub/LFE.

People's first instinct is to set their centre and/or surrounds as 'small'. Good move but not a complete solution. Unless you have one of a hand-full of exotic decoders, the bass from the centre/surrounds will get sent to the subwoofer. Now you end up with centre and surrounds having dramatically better bass than the main left and right. And if you try to tell me that your mains are as good or very close to yours sub's extension, then you are either deceiving yourself or you bought a really lousy sub which is not a good complement for the rest of your system.

Having said that, people then turn to see if their processor/decoder will let them at least "copy" bass from the main left and right to the sub. Many will let you do this and it sure sounds like a plan: now all speakers have the same low end extension as all the bass is coming from the sub. Not so fast: You have asked your system to send bass from the main channels to two transducers: the main speaker and the subwoofer. This is going to net you a 3dB in room gain that you don't want, within the band which both the sub and main speaker are voicing. Just as an example, if your crossover is nominally 80Hz and your mains are good to 35Hz (lets be generous), by copying bass from mains to sub, the region of 35-80Hz will be in-room 3dB too high. You cannot adjust for it: If you lower the sub level, you lower the bass from the other channels (remember we've set centre and surrounds to 'small').

So now we've come full circle. We set the mains to small and voila: All speakers are set to small, the sub is voicing all bass, each channel is in a practical sense getting identical low end extension.

There are two gut or knee-jerk reactions to this: First, people with tower or floor standing speakers feel they are in some arbitrary way "wasting" their speaker if they set it to small. This is so unfortunate and so far from the truth. As noted by Mr. Blackburn, a speaker should have linear response below the nominal crossover point anyway for certain crossover designs, which in the case of an 80Hz point means being good to at least 40. You are NOT "wasting" a speaker by setting it to 'small'. The second reaction by many many people is that they "prefer" the sound, especially music, when they set their speakers to large. Here is where I start to really upset some people. You don't prefer your mains set to large. What you prefer is not hearing your subwoofer. In other words, you did not buy a good enough subwoofer. Dare I say it: You bought one that is not "musical" enough for your taste. Maybe its one of those oddities which provide the absurd boost on the 40-80Hz region, I don't know. But if you have a "good" sub, you would prefer setting your speakers (no matter their physical size) to small.

Just a couple weeks ago, on this very forum, we had a guy who was in the process of buying speakers and actually had a set in his home but hadn't finalized the deal. He liked music with the floor standing mains set to 'large' and was looking for advice on spending a little extra on even bigger mains with the intention of leaving them as 'large' for music and home theater. He took my suggestion of spending the extra money instead on a better subwoofer and was elated with the results: He kept the first pair of floor standing speakers and is running them as 'small'. The sub is so good that he likes his music with it even better than the mains alone running large.

So, rather than going through the expense and complexity of 5 + 1 subwoofers, simply get a really good, linear, honest subwoofer. If that's not enough power or output, daisy chain a second one and stack it on top the first one.

My mind is a little blown now from trying to impart so much so quickly, and I'm definitely suffering from a coffee deficiency at this point. This is infinitely interesting stuff and I invite feedback but for now, I've GOT to get to Starbucks.

Cheers and above all, happy listening!

------------------
Brian Florian
Editor, Canada
 

Miles Abbey

Agent
Joined
Mar 18, 2002
Messages
47
Wow, I can't get to my receiver fast enough to change every thing to small!! I was playing with this yesterday and found when everything was set to small the sub sounded a little boomy. I have Boston Acoustics vrm90's as fronts, boston vrmc as center, and boston dx pros as rears, and boston pv800 sub. I guess my sub isn't musical enough? If not, do you have any suggestions? Oh my poor wife... What is she going to say when I tell her my sub isn't good enough... God love her:)
Thanks,
Miles
 

Mark Austin

Supporting Actor
Joined
Dec 28, 1999
Messages
639
Several speaker manufacturers are starting to deonounce the "small" setting mainly for 2 channel music listening, but some even for HT puposes. Adjustable crossover points make a difference to a degree, but I too have noticed that when set to small the sound is thin no matter where the crossover is set. Quality sub? Yep, I've got a quality sub.
For movies I still go with small all the way around. For music I go with large.
The second reaction by many many people is that they "prefer" the sound, especially music, when they set their speakers to large. Here is where I start to really upset some people. You don't prefer your mains set to large. What you prefer is not hearing your subwoofer. In other words, you did not buy a good enough subwoofer.
You're reaching a conclusion that is a total assumption, and not based on my reality, but on what you think to be the case. I stongly disagree, as would a growing number of speaker manufacturers/distributors.
If you have the time give the guys as Sumiko a call, you can find their number at www.sumikoaudio.com .(their server seemed to be down when I just checked, check back later) They are the US distributors for Sonus faber and Vienna Acoustics.
The guys there are always willing to share a wealth of information. The last B&W rep I spoke to was also of the same opinion about "large" for music in all instances.
 

Michael R Price

Screenwriter
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Jul 22, 2001
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1,591
Well wait a minute. Any respectable sub should be better than your mains at producing bass. If it is, then why does it sound worse when it produces bass instead of your mains? Something's wrong.
 

Mark Austin

Supporting Actor
Joined
Dec 28, 1999
Messages
639
Well wait a minute. Any respectable sub should be better than your mains at producing bass. If it is, then why does it sound worse when it produces bass instead of your mains? Something's wrong.
Integration? It's difficult to describe for me. What I notice is a lossof soundsatge width and depth, loss of imaging precision. I have heard it described as "add on bass". For music I set the mains to large, and still use a sub, it just integrates better with the natural fall off of frequencey response of the speaker, as opposed to the cutoff slope used by bass management. Why? I have no idea.

To each his own I guess. What I don't understand is the desire, or the need for conformity on the issue to the point of people actually becoming "upset"?
 

Drew Bethel

Screenwriter
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>>>> As noted by Mr. Blackburn, a speaker should have linear response below the nominal crossover point anyway for certain crossover designs, which in the case of an 80Hz point means being good to at least 40.
 

Mark Austin

Supporting Actor
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Dec 28, 1999
Messages
639
As noted by Mr. Blackburn, a speaker should have linear response below the nominal crossover point anyway for certain crossover designs, which in the case of an 80Hz point means being good to at least 40
Wouldn't that be completely dependent on the slope of the crossover?
 

John Garcia

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Wouldn't that be completely dependent on the slope of the crossover?
Yes, but he is saying that at least one octave below the crossover point should be covered as cleanly as possible by the main speaker, regardless of where the crossover point is. If the speaker rolls off before one octave below, then there is a "gap" or a weak point where the speaker rolls off. I agree with this completely, and I don't think many people understand this concept. (The only reason I come close to understanding it is because I did a lot of research on it while I was buidling my own crossovers for my DIY speakers) I noticed that I have never seen a receiver manufacturer publish the slope used for the x-over, but I am guessing it is not something as steep as 24 or 18dB/octave. 3dB or 6dB is more probable.
 

Stephen Houdek

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S
Gee, another AVS forum snob......What a surprise. His opinion is all that is relevant. I don't even like the tone of that little ditty.:thumbsdown:
 

brucek

Second Unit
Joined
Dec 29, 1998
Messages
335
John,
I noticed that I have never seen a receiver manufacturer publish the slope used for the x-over, but I am guessing it is not something as steep as 24 or 18dB/octave. 3dB or 6dB is more probable.
I think most manufacturers do indeed post this information in their specifications. My processor uses the very typical 2nd order HPF (12db/octave) and 4th order LPF (24dB/octave). This is fairly standard.. :)
brucek
 

Andrew Pratt

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Dec 8, 1998
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Although I tend to agree with his comments one thing he didn't point out was that even "good" subs can sound boomy/bloated if not placed properly. If care is taken to properly place the sub (and equilize it for room nulls and peaks) subs should (and do) do a better job of producing the frequencies from 20 to 80 better then most tower speakers. Of course there are exceptions but if you aren't happy with your mains as small try moving the sub until you get a smoother freq response (running SPL sweeps is a good start)
 

Drew Bethel

Screenwriter
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Nov 22, 1999
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>>>>There are plenty of good bookshelf speakers that cover low enough, with the appropriate crossover on the receiver.
 

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