What should I be looking for in a subwoofer?

Discussion in 'Speakers & Subwoofers' started by Michael G Jones, Jun 3, 2003.

  1. Michael G Jones

    Michael G Jones Stunt Coordinator

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    Price range from $150 to $1000. Some w/more available ports than others.
    The last one I looked at was at Best Buy, Yamaha & Sony approx $200.

    What options/features should I be considering?
     
  2. ChadLB

    ChadLB Screenwriter

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    Like many have suggested before with that price range I would look into HSU vt-2/vt3 or any SVS. You can always email SVS with what you listen to/room size etc and they will recommend a sub for your taste.
    Yes both companies are online but they offer 30(HSU) or 45(SVS) day return no questions asked.....
     
  3. Kyle Richardson

    Kyle Richardson Screenwriter

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    There arent too many "features" that make one subwoofer better than another since they all have about the same features (crossover, phase adjustments, etc). What sets a good subwoofer apart from one that is lacking is usually the driver, enclosure size/type, and amplifier.

    The best thing to do is to take in some CD's/DVD's that you are familiar with and take a listen. It is also interesting to take a SPL meter (if you own one) and a CD with some test tones to see what kind of extension each of the subs have. The salesman will probably hate you, but at least you will be buying a sub based upon your listening sessiona and knowledge and not solely his sales pitch.
     
  4. Carleton

    Carleton Auditioning

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    Things to look for: frequency extension, i.e., human hearing roughly covers 20hz (low, tactile bass that you feel as much as hear) to 20,000hz (high pitched treble sounds). Subs are rated by manufacturers for their low frequency extension, i.e. how far down the range towards the 20hz "floor" does a subwoofer produce audible, or tactile, bass without excessive distortion (ie unwanted noises not in the original recording). The name of the game is "how low can my sub play without distortion in my price range."

    Second main factor, how accurate is the sub,ie does it properly reproduce low frequency information, most importantly musical instruments like a bass guitar. Does the sub produce tuneful bass that allows you to distinguish the bass note played, or does it all sound like the same tone (what is known as "one-note bass"). Take some jazz or acoustic rock with bass instruments to audition some subs at a specialty retailer (stay away from BB, since for the most part their speaker selections are "sub"par).

    Third thing, how fast is the sub. This often has to do with how much power the amp has, because power most directly affects the ability to push the driver quickly, then recover for another drive. If the sub is slow, as many cheap subs tends to be, then the bass will seem to lag behind the beat of the music, like someone tapping their foot out of rhythm with the music.

    That being said, common advice on this site will be to go for an online sub company like svs (svsubwoofers.com) or hsu (hsuresearch.com).
    In your budget, these two companies will put you in a subwoofer that makes any brick and mortar sub commonly available for up to $1000.00 look like a bad value.

    I personally have had great subs from Boston ACoustics, available at Tweeter, or HiFiBuys, brick and mortar retailers.
    More recently, I upgraded at Tweeter from the excellent BA Pv800 (12" driver, 300 RMS amp, $700.00) which rated at 26hz -3dB, to an REL Storm III, on closeout at $1099.00, retail at $1799.00. The Storm is very clean and musical, with great weight and authority. The Boston had better slam, by far, but was a bit less musical with less composure during loud bass effects.

    Frankly, based on my research, for the money, an SVS or Hsu will destroy either of these subs for movie effects, and will get you most of the way towards musicality (i.e. fast, tuneful, no boom or overhang) at a fraction of the REL's steep price. This opinion is based on tons of research and reading, and only a bit of personal time spent with my friend's new box svs, the PB-1 (retail $599 plus $40 ish shipping). We ran the Matrix demo scenes and some LOTR:FOTR last night at loudish levels in my friend's medium sized room and the PB-1 just cranked out low, clean bass with no audible distortion, or port chuffing.
    At this point, I am waiting to move before I upgrade, or add, an SVS PB+2 to my system for LFE. I will probably trade in the REL for an upgrade towards my five main speakers.

    Bottom Line, definitely spend upwards of $500 on your sub, and don't do anything until you have checked out svs and/or hsu (I really recommend SVS) because you won't beat the value of the SVS or Hsu.

    So, if your like me, you might be asking "what's the catch, if SVS is as great as everyone says, why would I buy anything else?" Well, SVS takes the good old fashioned approach to bass, large enclosures for their subs, meaning their subs are larger than average in the retail market for the $500-$1000 price range. Some people can't afford to disrupt their decor due to spouse acceptance factors. Also, SVS uses durable, utilitarian finishes on the vast majority of their subs, which some people like, and some people find lacking in comparison to much more expensive specialty brands that decorate the sub in pretty wood finishes (like REL for instance). On the other hand, SVS has some subs, at the top of their line, which have pretty exterior finishes, but are still very large. Also, Hsu is remodeling some of their relatively medium sized box subs like the VTF-2 and VTF-3 with pretty wood finishes, and jacking the price up to compensate, but they are due to be released in the next several months I believe. Thus, that is the "catch," with great performance at value pricing, you get a large subwoofer that, depending on your tastes, isn't the prettiest girl at the dance. Again, I wouldn't disuade you from purchasing an SVS based on looks alone, even if you don't favor the looks. Many people find the SVS subs to be attractive.

    Now, for $2500-$4000, you might!!! find a sub that competes with the performance of the SVS 20-39 PC+, but has a prettier exterior, and/or a smaller enclosure (size), but you will pay literally thousands more for the privilege. Truthfully, there aren't many subs below $3000 that can compete with the quality of the sound of an SVS, based on all the research I've done.

    Hope this helps.
     
  5. Steve Carlo

    Steve Carlo Stunt Coordinator

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    I've not heard the SVS or Hue's...but I have heard the velodyne 8" ($300). I liked it so much I bought it. The other main one I listened to was the velodyne 10" which was around 500 but to me didn't seem to offer anything more. Also given the size of my room the 8" is perfect.
     
  6. Michael G Jones

    Michael G Jones Stunt Coordinator

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    SVS & HSU look like either could do the job.

    What about any Canadian dealers/suppliers?
     
  7. Lew Crippen

    Lew Crippen Executive Producer

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    You might also want to check out the Adire Rava at $400 and Dharman at $600.

    In beta (to good reviews) is the Rocket UFW-10, which will be $500. I have not yet heard this sub, but I’ll have a chance at the end of this month. Rocket has also announced a 12” sub with a larger amp, but it is not yet available.
     
  8. JohnKim

    JohnKim Extra

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    vmps subs (esp the larger) and the aci subs (force and titan) are excellent
     
  9. LanceJ

    LanceJ Producer

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    One subwoofer "feature" I personally don't need is for it to be able to damage a room's building materials. [​IMG]

    Loud bass is one thing, GOOD bass is another.

    Anyway......

    Sealed subs usually produce tighter, smoother bass than bass reflex (ported) types. Some sloppily designed bass reflexes do lots of booming and one-note thumping but little else, so listen carefully while auditioning. If the sub is for movies only, I listen less critically--reproducing an explosion "accurately" is not very critical to me since I'm more worried about the movie's story.

    And if undecided between, say, a 10" subwoofer and a 12" model, go for the larger one. Some extra capacity never hurts.

    LJ
     
  10. ChrisWiggles

    ChrisWiggles Producer

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    Oh god. Here we go AGAIN. I'm not even gonna entertain that.

    Just get an SVS and don't crap yourself. They are that good. Micheal, it's direct from Ron and Tom at SVS, so there are no dealers. You just gotta have a little faith in owners' reviews, such as myself. A little pricey shipping into canada, so since you get such a great deal on Canadian brands like Paradigm, I also recommend you check out the PW2200 at a local dealer, or perhaps also the servo 15, although that may be a bit overbudget. Still, it's gonna be damn hard to equal an SVS in terms of quality bass(and lots of it) and value. The digms are still pretty impressive.
     
  11. LanceJ

    LanceJ Producer

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    When I said some ported speakers sound bad, I wasn't making a backhanded or snide remark about a particular manufacturer--I was stating a personal observation, one many other people have heard for themselves.

    I grew up during the bass-reflex vs. acoustic-suspension (sealed) speaker wars in the 70s & early 80s. And again due to many personal experiences, sealed enclosures almost always sound tighter and smoother than an equivalent ported system--these are inherent qualities of a sealed system. BUT, if the sub designer has incorporated EQ circuitry into his ported design, then most of this comparison is null & void. But sealed speakers are pretty hard to find the last decade so it is hard to make good comparisons like us old people used to do. [​IMG]

    Bass reflexes can have audible problems with port/woofer/enclosure interactions if they aren't carefully designed.

    And unless an EQ system is used, a sealed system using the same size woofer and same sized enclosure will go lower. Sealed enclosures don't have the sudden low frequency cutoff that a bass reflex does. This happens when the frequency of the port's output is 180 degrees out of phase with the woofer's output: the result is basically zero output at that frequency and below it. And these frequencies (if present in the recording) below this point are usually distorted. AND the woofer itself can become unstable at this time, i.e. the cone experiences over excursion and can possibly damage itself. But a simple cut-off filter can prevent this. This is partly why older receivers have "subsonic" filters, usually used when listening to a turntable.

    Sealed enclosures don't have a sharp bass cutoff--they keep going lower until the woofer cone can't move itself adequately against the air trapped in the cabinet. A graph would show it's bass response curve slowly & smoothly dipping downwards, where a ported box would just suddenly take a nose-dive. And sealed boxes don't have problems with port noise ("chuffing") like a bass-reflex might have.

    But ported types do usually have a punchier sound, which is good for rock/pop music. And sealed types usually produce more subtle, quieter bass. Hence the reason for the "West Coast" & "East Coast" sounds mentioned in old audio magazines: on the West coast you had JBL, Cerwin-Vega, etc. (ported) and on the East coast you had Acoustic Research, Advent, Boston Acoustics, etc. (sealed). Whatever sound you like....you like.

    But bass-reflex and sealed speakers definitely sound different to me.

    LJ
     

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