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Question on subwoofers big company vs small companies

bdvan

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I am not a serious audiophile, just like to hear good music. One thing I have noticed is the subwoofer market is there plenty of small companies the ones general public has never heard of unless they frequent forums such has avsforums or audscience etc. 11 years ago I purchased one such subwoofer for my HT setup after perusing dozens of hours of subwoofer forum on avsforums. I was thrilled to deal directly with the owner/builder (admittedly a bass enthusiast but not an engineer) peppering with dozen questions and getting them answered. I paid $900 in 2013 on my purchase of my subwoofer and in todays price its like spending $1100 or $1200. Also, the company I purchased the subwoofer now is a significant player among the small companies with over dozen plus products.

On the other hand I have been perusing more of measurement based forums vs. owners subthreads in the past when I made my subwoofer purchase. This has made be understand in general speaker designs from big companies (KEF, Revel, Harmon etc.) have research teams working to figure out a design for few years before bringing them into market and publishing white papers (I have a read some from KEF).

I believe these big companies put similar approach for their subwoofer designs as I have seen on some pictures on eBay and tear downs on the web shows much complex build integration to meet the design specifications and result. I have opened my 11 year old sub a few times to change failed amps and noticed its pretty much plywood or MDF box with some batted synthetic insulation.

My question for expert audiophiles here:

1. What makes subwoofers design/build so unique that it affords smaller companies to compete well in the market?

2. Are there any merits buying a subwoofer from big companies with 6"-10" of driver and years of design behind them vs. buying from small companies some offering 12" to 15" drivers in a big box?
 

voodooless

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Are there any merits buying a subwoofer from big companies with 6"-10" of driver and years of design behind them vs. buying from small companies some offering 12" to 15" drivers in a big box?
Last time I checked, company size doesn’t say anything about the breakability of physics ;)

Subwoofers are a numbers game: displacement is king. The more air you can move the better. Smaller woofer cannot compete with large subs in terms of sheer output.

If you don’t need so much output, compromises can be made.
 

kemmler3D

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1. What makes subwoofers design/build so unique that it affords smaller companies to compete well in the market?
Like Voodooless said, subwoofers are simpler devices. The main thing is you don't have to worry about diffraction or beaming with subs, so usually your only task is to optimize SPL / frequency response. This makes it easier for small firms to compete since the need for fancy simulations and measurements is less.
2. Are there any merits buying a subwoofer from big companies with 6"-10" of driver and years of design behind them vs. buying from small companies some offering 12" to 15" drivers in a big box?
I would say look at the sub's output and your budget, and then consider whether you trust the brand for service / warranty, and decide that way. There's no inherent benefit to going with a big name vs. small company in this situation.
 

DVDdoug

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Bigger companies may have better test equipment and maybe even access to an anechoic chamber. The can also better-afford to tweak a design, or scrap it and start over. They can also design their own drivers and manufacture them themselves, or farm-out the manufacturing, or ask a driver manufacturer to tweak their design.

But for a couple of decades, the Thiele-Small research has been available, and the software & computers to take advantage of it has been cheaply available. It's a lot easier to optimize a design and/or predict performance before you build it.

publishing white papers (I have a read some from KEF).
A lot of that CAN be "marketing". There's really not much other reason for a for-profit company to publish & share their research.

I believe these big companies put similar approach for their subwoofer designs as I have seen on some pictures on eBay and tear downs on the web shows much complex build integration to meet the design specifications and result. I have opened my 11 year old sub a few times to change failed amps and noticed its pretty much plywood or MDF box with some batted synthetic insulation.
There are LOTS of compromises & design choices and a "basic box", either ported or sealed, seems to be the most common solution.

1. What makes subwoofers design/build so unique that it affords smaller companies to compete well in the market?
It's not hard to build a speaker... I've done some DIY builds. In business, you say there are "low barriers to entry". The restaurant or hair-cutting business are also low-barrier, but there are a lot more potential customers. Automobile, airplane, or cell phone manufacturing is a high-barrier business. I wouldn't try to start an operating system or AI company...
 
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bdvan

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Last time I checked, company size doesn’t say anything about the breakability of physics ;)

Subwoofers are a numbers game: displacement is king. The more air you can move the better. Smaller woofer cannot compete with large subs in terms of sheer output.

If you don’t need so much output, compromises can be made.
I want to pair my Revel M106 with a subwoofer. Does my 15 inch down firing PSA sub with BASH 500W amp will be better than these revel 10 inch subwoofer?
 

radix

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@voodooless has a subwoofer comparison spreadsheet. It might be TMI for you, but you can see if the ones you are looking at have been reviewed.


I like subs that have a phone app. The most complex thing about a sub is integrating it with your speakers. you need to tweek the volume and phase and cutoff while measuring, and the app makes it much easier. SVS and Arendal have nice apps, I'm sure there's others. An app aside, Rhythmik and JTR Speakers have very nice subs too.

Or you need a system that can do it for you like DIRAC or ARC Genesis or Audyssey or YPAO, depending on your preamp and hardware. Or use a measurement mic and REW to generate filters for Wiim or Roon etc. As you appear to be doing this for HT, your receiver likely has it's own room correction software that will mostly do the right thing for the sub.

The main thing with a sub is to pick how low you want to go and if for music or HT. HT often wants lower and louder frequencies for those explosions and such. Ported generally go lower and louder at less cost, but with a bigger box than the sealed. If you get multiple subs, get them all ported or all sealed. once you know how low and how loud, you can use something like the spreadsheet to see what models will do that.
 

voodooless

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I want to pair my Revel M106 with a subwoofer. Does my 15 inch down firing PSA sub with BASH 500W amp will be better than these revel 10 inch subwoofer?
Off.. those are two totally different products. A sealed 10” vs a big ported 15” woofer. The bigger one will go deeper, will go louder, most likely have less distortion. The 10” Revel might sound tighter because it’s closed, but that’s not a given especially if room correction is involved.

I think the first thing to figure out is what kind of sub you really need. For a small room and music the 10” Revel may just be the right thing. In a big room and for movies, the 15” is probably a better choice.
 
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Chrispy

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Does my 15 inch down firing PSA sub with BASH 500W amp will be better than these revel 10 inch subwoofer?
The pairing is largely how well you can integrate, rather than brand having any meaning. The wattage is relatively meaningless without more information, too. The sub specialists have been generally leading the way compared to large speaker brands. I'd think your PSA is just fine, no need to change.
 

radix

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Duke

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What makes subwoofers design/build so unique that it affords smaller companies to compete well in the market?

I'm a small company that makes subwoofers. Subwoofer design is not difficult, as accurate modelling software is readily available for sealed and vented enclosures.

I do not enjoy the economies of scale that a large manufacturer would have, so in order to be price-competitive I sell direct and build-to-order.

Imo what might theoretically make a small manufacturer competitive is if they have a better idea than the bigger companies and/or offer a particularly high-value product, or if their product fills an unfilled niche.

Ime if you're looking for deepest-loudest-bass-from-smallest-possible-box, that's something a big manufacturer is more likely to offer because they can have custom woofers and/or custom amps made that are not available off-the-shelf to their competitors.
 

rynberg

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It's not necessarily big vs small, it's internet direct vs retail channel. A retail channel sub has to be marked up at least 40% for the manufacturer to make the same revenue as an internet direct manufacturer. On top of that, an internet direct can more easily choose to make slightly lower profit margin as they aren't having to show profit to some VP in a corner office. One of the reasons I went with Rythmik is because the overall performance is unmatched by retail channel products anywhere near the price.
 

benanders

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Another factor to consider (for reasons of simplicity / automation) is pairing a sub(s) with mains from a manufacturer producing both.
It’s surely no guarantee, but seems probable that a manufacturer’s products would be more straightforward to match in-room.
My subs must handle up to ~100Hz for the monitors I have. Being able to use subs designed by the same company doesn’t guarantee I have the best of all possible matches, but for me the result is plenty close enough, and unsurprisingly, integration was not a challenge.
 

Chrispy

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It's not necessarily big vs small, it's internet direct vs retail channel. A retail channel sub has to be marked up at least 40% for the manufacturer to make the same revenue as an internet direct manufacturer. On top of that, an internet direct can more easily choose to make slightly lower profit margin as they aren't having to show profit to some VP in a corner office. One of the reasons I went with Rythmik is because the overall performance is unmatched by retail channel products anywhere near the price.
It's not just secondary seller costs but also transportation. Rythmik I don't find a particularly great value myself, tho.
 

Chrispy

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Another factor to consider (for reasons of simplicity / automation) is pairing a sub(s) with mains from a manufacturer producing both.
It’s surely no guarantee, but seems probable that a manufacturer’s products would be more straightforward to match in-room.
My subs must handle up to ~100Hz for the monitors I have. Being able to use subs designed by the same company doesn’t guarantee I have the best of all possible matches, but for me the result is plenty close enough, and unsurprisingly, integration was not a challenge.
The matching isn't particularly between aspects of a sub with the speaker, more the gear/expertise to integrate them well (brands alone don't do that)
 

phoenixdogfan

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Subwoofers are easy to design. Peter Aczel once wrote that any C+ student of filter theory could easily do it. What's necessary is to figure out the variables: How big you want the box to be, whether you want it vented or sealed, how quickly you want the woofer to stop after signal stops (the "Q"), how big the driver(s) need to be, their excursion, how deep you want play, how loud, and at what distortion level, etc.

All of that can be entered into software these days that will tell you the exact performance characteristics of the sub you will make, and if you know some of the variables but not others, the programs will solve for those unknown variables. Those resources are accessible to DIYers, and if they know a little, they can definitely "roll their own" with excellent results.

What you pay for when you buy ready made are features (like EQ/DSP via phone), convenience, quality of materials, workmanship, documented and tested performance (hopefully), and a company that stands behind its products (again, hopefully).
 
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Chrispy

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Been a lot of diy guys tired of waiting for the major speaker brands to provide a good sub.....that's where a good chunk of the sub specialists came from.....
 

benanders

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The matching isn't particularly between aspects of a sub with the speaker, more the gear/expertise to integrate them well (brands alone don't do that)
I do not find reason to agree with that, since yours reads like a stance of driver/frequency tuning/overall behavior of subs being equitable enough among manufacturers to have negligible effect on user integration with a given set of mains.
The more of that a manufacturer does, the (potentially) easier a match might be made by user implementation. Like I said initially: surely no guarantee, so unless you have broad evidence to the contrary: why post to split hairs, eh? ;)
 

Alice of Old Vincennes

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I can find no technical or subjective reviews of Revel subwoofers. I suspect distortion is extremely low. I despise rumbling shaking subs. I prefer a clean slam. My Rhythmic and Infinity subs do not meet my preferences. I don’t know what sub would satisfy me.
 

benanders

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I can find no technical or subjective reviews of Revel subwoofers. I suspect distortion is extremely low. I despise rumbling shaking subs. I prefer a clean slam. My Rhythmic and Infinity subs do not meet my preferences. I don’t know what sub would satisfy me.

For me it came by elevating the subs 45 cm above the floor. I suspect it’s due to size and preconceptions about the wavelengths that keep discussion of vertical plane location of subs to a minimum here and elsewhere. Always more about the horizontal plane. I get it - most of us tend to live where we listen!
 
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