Why no sub for critical listening?

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Ellen, Dec 18, 2001.

  1. Ellen

    Ellen Stunt Coordinator

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    I've seen post after post indicating that anyone interested in critical listening in a music system would not use a subwoofer. What I haven't seen is a credible explanation on why this would be so. I'm having trouble understanding why a well designed subwoofer properly placed in the listening room and carefully integrated with the high frequency speakers would cause a system to be less suitable for listening, critical or otherwise. Any of you care to expound on this?
    And please, let's not turn this into a slug-fest. I am genuinely interested in why people say this.
     
  2. Howard_S

    Howard_S Supporting Actor

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    I am no expert but I turn my sub off for music nonetheless.

    I think that most people think you should not use a sub for critical listening is because even the best sub will probably be slower than ideal in its bass response. Maybe I don't have the best sub in the world but I think that allowing my speakers to do the work results in the most neutral and natural sound. If you have a great set of speakers I see no reason why you would want to use a sub unless you really want more bass.

    One other reason is that when listening to music most people believe that the less circuitry the sound has to go through the better. As I said I think it has to do with the sound being more neutral and natural when a sub is not used.
     
  3. Steve_Ma

    Steve_Ma Second Unit

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    Great question!

    I tend to disagree. I am not exatly an "audiophile," but I like my music a great deal. I have found that without using a sub, my main speakers lose some midrange and upper end clarity. I think complex bass is simply too difficult for my main speakers to accurately reproduce. The mids/highs suffer as a result. With the sub engaged, the sound is more enveloping and the total range seems improved.

    That being said: Placement and tweaking are somewhat frustrating and it seems like an ongoing process. It's not as simple as a two ch, full range speaker setup. Bad sub placement and poor calibration will really hurt a good recording. Still, even with these issues, I prefer a seperate sub. Maybe if I had a nice set of nautilus speakers......LOL

    --Steve
     
  4. Joe Casey

    Joe Casey Stunt Coordinator

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    I'd have to disagree also. I have a dedicated 2-channel system and I use a pair of Vandersteen 2Wq's. It's all in the integration of the speaker/sub/room. Also, IMO, its a way of biamping, so in effect you are relieving the main amps of thier very-low frequency duties which has a positive effect on mid and high-frequency reproduction (i.e. adding subs is not all about bass!).
     
  5. Lewis Besze

    Lewis Besze Producer

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    Yes I agree with the above two posts as well.
    The no sub for critical listening myth is another "tell the tale" of the "audiophiles" club,with no "sound"[pun intented]explanation.[​IMG]
     
  6. Howard_S

    Howard_S Supporting Actor

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    Chalk it up to personal preference. [​IMG]
    I still think that if you got the speakers it would be a waste to use a sub.
    One other thing I don't like about using the sub is that I have my sub tuned for HT and it's usually a bit much for my music tastes and a hassle to change settings.
     
  7. Charles J P

    Charles J P Cinematographer

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    I agree. Some of the most critical people here and the longest standing members will tell you that the "no sub" argument is a myth perpetuated by either a) audiophile snobs who want to force you into an argument that you must not use the sub, but you need the deep bass, therefor, you must buy $8000 mains. or b) people with slow, distorted, inaccurate subs that really do sound better when their turned off. I personally use an SVS 16-46, and I do not turn it off for music, even though my mains extend pretty low.
     
  8. Steve_Ma

    Steve_Ma Second Unit

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    Howard,
    While I prefer a sub for audio, you have a point. I just posted on this the other day. My setup is calibrated nicely for HT, and is solid for Music, but the final tweaking for (what I consider to be) really good audio is a hassel. I believe my setup is capable of more, but it seems like the DSP modes and CH settings make calibration for both worlds difficult.
    http://www.hometheaterforum.com/htfo...threadid=32584
    --S
     
  9. Jerome Grate

    Jerome Grate Cinematographer

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    I'm not a snob, (I only play one on t.v.[​IMG] ) but personal preference is the key here. As you know all music is subjective for the individual. I listen both ways, good ole fashion jazz gets the treatment with out the sub, good dance music or top r & b gets the sub treatment. I have to admit Jazz and some Classical get the critical listening thing. I like to lower the lights, sit in the kings chair and escape. During that time the sub becomes a great distraction especially for one who's a bass head. Now I use the Pioneer 414 to play my CDs, it's no CD transport but I think it's not to bad.
    Cleaning the family/HT room get's the R & B or the many rock, or pop 80s stuff with the sub on as well as family members who just want to sit and jam.
     
  10. Phil A

    Phil A Producer

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    It is not necessarily true that use of a sub is not good for critical listening. The problem is that for HT the sub is used for the ".1" channel and that the crossover in the receiver/preamp, even if it is adjustable from 80HZ may not be optimal to match your main speakers and your room. Bass frequencies sum, so if one were to crossover a sub for music the ideal spot would generally be just below where your mains drop off. Obviously, different speakers will have different results and even the same speakers in different rooms can have different results. REL subwoofers (www.rel.net) offer a solution to this problem. They have the usual RCA level input for HT and then another connection from your amp to your sub. When one has the ability to turn off the sub crossover in the preamp/receiver the REL has a second crossover setting that one would set to match your mains.
     
  11. MikeH1

    MikeH1 Screenwriter

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    I have gone without using my sub for a while when listening to music and I sure do miss it. Mine is a Mirage BPS-150i and is great for music. Clean, fast and accurate. Adds a nice depth. For movies though it lacks. Thats to bad but at the same time its not for an SVS will be adorning my room sometime in the future.
     
  12. ThomasW

    ThomasW Cinematographer

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    Ellen

    Long ago (20-30yrs) subs got a bad rap from the golden eared set because it was quite difficult get one that worked properly. Poor transient response, improperly choosen XO points/slopes, drivers that lacked adequate excursion, improperly design enclosures, etc, all contributed to the problem. That stigma is still in place with certain myopic listeners.

    With the significant advances in driver design, materials, construction techniques, XO and amplifiers; it's folly to think that there are any major issues with subs that haven't been solved.

    But as with all things audio, people become political, align themselves to a particular ideology, and are unable to rationally look at the options.

    Personally I've been using purpose built, critically designed and engineered subs since the mid 1970's, and can't imagine life without them
     
  13. Ray R

    Ray R Stunt Coordinator

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    Wasn't it the prologic crowd that pushed the idea of a seperate sub? I don't think this product catagory has matured yet. Personlly I think some of the speaker manufacturers have just slapped together a design so they can sell one more speaker component. Companies like SVS are leading the pack and I would imagine that in a few years SVS will have much more company at the 110+ dB level.

    So to get back on topic, music with no sub you are probably missing some of the music. Go see a live performance of your favorite type of music and feel what you are missing. Music with a sub and your probably driving yourself nuts trying to integrate and tweak it.

    I'll keep tweaking my sub for the next few years, buy a new sub with several generations of improvements and then laugh my ass off thinking about how we had to pick between the lessor of two evils.
     
  14. Miles_W

    Miles_W Second Unit

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    For me I think it depends on the kind of music I am listening to... My speakers are bass shy under 70hz, and still I more often than not do not employ a sub...

    Miles
     
  15. BruceD

    BruceD Screenwriter

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    I agree with everyone who uses a sub for 2-channel critical listening. I do.

    As I have stated in many threads before, my system started as a combo HT/2-channel system and still is to my delight.

    The critical issues are typically room modes (boominess) and crossover frequencies. When these are tackled and tamed, it's simply amazing how good bass in music provides a fundamental foundation and increases realism of the musical experience.

    Many speakers, even towers like mine with good low frequency response (32Hz) will benefit from a crossover (high quality xover like Marchand) to a sub (@60Hz) with decreased IM (Intermodulation) distortion.

    IM goes up when the woofer tries to output bass, mid-bass, and mid-range simultaneously from the same cone.

    Many, including me, find increased clarity from the mains after crossing over to a sub. This equates to double benefits:

    1) Cleaner, clearer, and better defined bass

    2) Cleaner and clearer mids

    BruceD
     
  16. ThomasW

    ThomasW Cinematographer

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  17. Bryan Acevedo

    Bryan Acevedo Second Unit

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    I agree that not using a sub for music as a rule is silly.
    How can someone think that a 20Hz signal that is part of the original recording is not important? If it is there, then it should be played. And no tower speaker can do a 20 hz signal justice that a properly setup and calibrated sub can do. And if you relieve your main amp (and speakers) of trying to produce low bass, the entire signal cleans up. The best system in my opinion would be to have a separate amp for each driver in a speaker, calibrated to producing it's frequencies the best that it can. (Oh wait, isn't there is such a system by Meridian? [​IMG] ) Why would a sub be any different?
    I think you hit it on the head when you say it is a preference, and some people just don't like bass (even if it is accurate). And some probably just haven't heard a good sub that is properly calibrated and set up, so they think all subs sounds like that, so subs + music = bad.
    Bryan
     
  18. JerryW

    JerryW Supporting Actor

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    Just try and listen to good pipe organ music without a capable sub, you'll be quite disappointed (especially if you listen to the same piece on a system with a nice sub/subs) ... even powered towers come up lacking in that dept.
    Bottom line, for some types of music nothing beats dedicated subwoofage.
     
  19. Ellen

    Ellen Stunt Coordinator

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    Thanks for all of the replies. From what you are all saying, it seems that the only reason a subwoofer would hamper critical listening in a music (or any other) system is either a poor sub or improper set up.
     

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