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Recovering from bad audio investments

Trollhammerx

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I love good audio, but I’ve made some poor investment choices.

I got the itch when I was 16 or 17 (I’m currently 45). It was a few friends that sunk big money into their car audio systems. My eyeballs would shake and I could experience the tactile kickdrum in a way that’s still indescribable. These weren’t mega bass machines, but in the environment of a car, I was experiencing my favorite songs in a way that's hard to describe, but wonderful, and I continue to chase it.

When I turned 18, I got a credit card and took my 1996 Chevy S-10 to the local car audio shop and had them build me an enclosure that took the entire extended cab area with 3 12 inch subs (I believe they were MTX powered by a 700W Soundstream amp). I got some relatively good separates (tweeter mounted near dash, woofer in the door).

I was so excited to pick up my car when the work was completed. It looked so good. I turned it on and put a Type O Negative cd into the Alpine.

It sounded horrible. I probably spent $2500 on the custom work and it was terrible. Even when the subs were really low, it sounded ******. After a few days, I asked if I could exchange the subs or do anything. They removed the custom enclosure and gave me a 10” sub in small box. It was okay, but nothing like what I had experienced in my friends car that got me hooked. I was also unwilling to spend any more money chasing that dragon. In hindsight, I'm pretty sure the shop had no idea what they were doing and the enclosure they built was the wrong internal volume for the subs.

Fast forward to my 40s. I can afford good sound now. I want that chest thump. But car audio seems too difficult with all the integrated electronics in my Ford Flex (that, and the stock system is decent). In 2017 I decided I wanted a home theater system with big chest thumping bass. I found 2 SVS PB12-NSD’s for 500 bucks each on Black Friday and got them. Got a Denon X3300 and 5 KEF Q100s (I seriously focus on bang for the buck). Got a projector and I knew I was gonna be in audio heaven.

Nope. I think it was the room. I tried moving subs everywhere. Got REQ and tried my best to get those subs going, and it was “okay”, but nothing like what I really wanted. So a few months later I found a deal on Klipsch RP280F (huge towers) and a RP450C (huge center). I just knew those speakers will give me that tactile sensation when I crank it. Nope. They are beautiful to look at, but they sound like shit in the two rooms I’ve set them up in. (and now that I’ve spent time in ASR, it’s clearly that center's horizontal dispersion). I then built two Ultimax 18 subwoofers in sealed enclosures and got a behringer 6000W amp. Tried running just the 18s, with a minidsp, I could get those real low notes, but the mid pass punch was non existent. I tried all 4 subs I had (2 PB12NSDs and 2 UM18s) and while the bass was okay, the system just didn’t sound very good to my ears.

This year, I set up the KEF Q100s and the SVS PB12NSDs with a new Onkyo receiver upstairs, in my living room (the other setup is in the basement “theater”). For the first time, I really loved how the system sounded. The living room is a much more acoustically friendly space. I just added 4 SVS Prime Elevations overhead and it’s pretty amazing (missing the chest thump, but thats okay…. It sounds good overall).

I really want to fix that basement theater. It’s a 120” screen with a terrible sound system. I feel like I’ve spent alot of money in my life on equipment but I want to be very smart about the next purchase.

I want a movie theater that can double as a live music venue. I want chest slam like I felt in the car when I was 16, but also high quality cinema sound where the voices are clear and distinct. This is my gear list (from everything I’ve read, I imagine the big Klipsch center channel is causing me big issues)

2 Klipsch RP280fs towers
1 Klipsch RP450c center
2 Klipsch R41m surround
2 Sony SSCSE overhead (wall mounted as top middles)
Epson 5040UB
120" Silver Ticket Screen
Denon X3300H (7 channels)
2 Dayton 18" Ultimax Subs in sealed kit
Beringer NX6000-D amp for subs

The basement rec room is roughly 17’ W by 24’ L, open to a long hallway and staircase (I can close the upstairs door). Main couch is roughly 14’ from a 120” screen.

I also have 8 acoustic panels and DIY bass traps installed in the corners. Hard drywall ceiling and hardwood floors, with a thick rug covering a significant portion of the floor.

Please suggest an upgrade path. Should I upgrade LCR first? I have a budget of around $2000 right now. Anything above, I would need to save and wait. Which I wouldn’t mind doing if it could provide me the experience that I really want. All help and suggestions are appreciated.
 

Jim Shaw

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I suggest you subscribe to Audioholics on YT. :)
 

amicusterrae

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It sounds like you want more bass than anything else:) Maybe the boxes you have those big Dayton drivers in aren't large enough or optimized. I would think in the size room that two large subs like that would give you some decent chest feel. Maybe you just need two more of them! In all seriousness four matched subs in that size room, located symmetrically, should be great, and I would expect that they don't need to have 18in woofers. Personally, I think it is very difficult to match the performance of what the internet direct companies like SVS and Monoprice are offering with DIY. Back in the day, custom boxes in cars made sense for bassheads, but I've heard similar results in cars as to what you described, and I would never go with a custom sub enclosure from a local shop. Not when you can get optimized, relatively affordable factory loaded enclosures from a JL Audio, for example.

You might consider something other than the conventional tall skinny towers and a horizontal center. Something with larger drivers and boxes, like pro venue speakers or pro style in walls designed for large cinemas. I'll share one experience. An old friend installs massive systems in mega church auditoriums. The size and number of subs they install under the stage was an eye opener to me, with many kilowatts of amplification. Anyway, he had a small theater room at home and installed as many in-wall large woofer professional speakers as he could fit vertically on the sides of the screen, with numerous subs under a two-plane wood box floor riser he had two couches on. I don't remember if he had a perforated screen with more speakers behind it, or a row in the wall aat the bottom of the screen. Anyway, I watched The Hurt Locker there, and I could feel a breeze on my face during the hovering helicopter scene. I doubt the system would have been right for music, but it was unbelievably entertaining for movies. His goal was to move air, and it was mission accomplished:)
 

Chrispy

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Are your 18" subs right up against the back of your seat? That might help with tactile sensation. Maybe tactile transducers mounted in your risers and/or seating....maybe just more subs....

ps could just be your expectations of a room in a home to act like a vehicle's cabin....
 

JayGilb

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As @amicusterrae mentioned, maybe pro-audio is the way to go. JBL has a few models of both passive and powered dual 15" speakers that could
part your hair at a few meters, combined with your 18" subs, that maybe what you are looking for.
 

RayDunzl

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I should think that if you want "chest thump" the rest of it is gonna be rather loud if balanced.

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kemmler3D

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My guess is you want >100dB SPL between 50-100hz to really feel the bass. In a car this is pretty easy to achieve, you also experience more pressurization than anything since it's a small space. On paper the 18" ultimaxes are also more than capable of this, looks like they can do up to 118dB or so in-room, so the question is whether you are actually getting the best from the subs or not.

Most likely the lack of chest thump is due to room interactions... bass is notoriously difficult to get even SPL throughout the room. You will want to tackle that with placement, lots of measuring, DSP, and possibly 2 more subs.

As for the overall sound quality, you can probably get pretty far with DSP on the mains as well. My advice would be to look at swapping the receiver for one that has Dirac or Trinnov or something?
 

Sancus

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Have you measured anything? Check how much compression exists at 100hz and below and what SPLs the system can actually hit and you'll have your answer.

2 sealed subs, even if large, doesn't sound like enough to me for a space that size.

I wouldn't combine ported and sealed subs either, there's too much chance of phase and decay mismatches. Are you using Multi-Sub Optimizer to calculate the right settings on the Minidsp? If not, you'll want to learn about that.
 

Galliardist

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A bit of guesswork. It seems like these Klipsch speakers have the same issue as quite a few others - a high quoted sensitivity, but low impedence and other issues in the bass making them hard to drive. The AVR may not be putting out enough power to drive the thump you want from them. Even the Behringer might not be getting the subs going as you want, though it should.

So, is this setup? My immediate reaction is to start in stereo. Unplug everything except the two front speakers, set up the AVR accordingly, no EQ, move the front speakers into the room a bit, play a track that is guaranteed to give you the chest thump if it's there (IIRC there is a thread for them somewhere on here) and turn it up loud. No luck, move the speakers around and see if you can get it (if there is guidance in the manual for the speakers on placement, follow that). No thump, we're looking at changing something. The thump comes from around 80-100Hz (sometimes a little higher) so in theory you don't need subs to do that.

If you do get the thump, you'll probably also have ear splitting treble if these Klipsch speakers are as I remember the type. So now EQ them, then slowly add the surround speakers, making sure you get the thump back at each stage. What I would do next is bring down the subs from the living room and add those in, again maintaining the thump: crossover low, so the main speakers are still doing most of the work at that frequency. If you're lucky, things could pan out.

No luck? Post some measurements, or start looking for more neutral replacement fronts that can move more air in that region, Or go to a Klipsch dealer and see if they can get the thump for you in their listening room (proof of concept) and seek further advice.

The thump should be in reserve for occasionally playing loud. Too much and you may risk your hearing. Also

Basements are notorious. Hang curtains or fabrics on walls, etc.

If you have a narrow stairway up you may also need a door at the bottom of the stairs rather than the top.
 

quattro98

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The chest thump is probably not going to be there with an accurate system. You could leave room modes around 50-200 Hz untreated. Second order harmonic distortion of 20-50 Hz bass can also contribute. Most likely, the initial car experience you remember had a massive mid-bass peak & distortion. You might be able to EQ your existing system to recreate that.
 

Sokel

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The chest thump is probably not going to be there with an accurate system.
How so?
I have heard a lot of accurate nice systems and the thumb is there,even with no subs.
We're talking big speakers though,like mains monitors.
 

quattro98

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How so?
I have heard a lot of accurate nice systems and the thumb is there,even with no subs.
We're talking big speakers though,like mains monitors.
I should be more clear, there is a tactile component to bass, but the chest thump I associate with car audio from 30 years ago is probably a distinct entity.
 

Sokel

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I should be more clear, there is a tactile component to bass, but the chest thump I associate with car audio from 30 years ago is probably a distinct entity.
Ok,I get it.
The thing your talking about is not the traditional chess thump you get from a generous mid-bass (that's where that is) is an overall undefined pressure.
Hard pass to that.
 

restorer-john

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Find a few pairs of vintage JBL Century L100s and stack them.

They were all about chest thump.
 

Elder

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Not much is going to vibrate your intestines like a car packed full of high excursion subwoofers in ported enclosures. I don't think that "body" feeling is just raw SPL. In a car the vibrations are basically coupled to everything you touch (seat, floor etc) so the vibrations are just transmitted straight into your body. High bass SPL in a home enviroment is pretty simple, but as you have discovered just doesn't give that same tactile feeling.

Only time I've felt bass like this outside of a car was standing right in front of an enormous horn loaded subwoofer stack that was using 8x18" drivers.

I have always wanted to experiment with nearfield subwoofers for home theater/home music systems. Like extremely nearfield, with the subwoofer/s right up against you. Not sure if there is even a way to measure "tactile" punch (maybe with an accelerometer lol) but there seems to be plenty of people sharing their subjective successes with nearfield type subwoofer setups.
 

GD Fan

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Looks like the OP is LG (long gone), but I very much remember the car audio systems of the era that he's attempting to replicate. They were pure sh!t, and intentionally so. Completely out of balance with absurdly overemphasized bass causing all number of resonances, buzzing and rattling from the poor vehicles in which they were installed.

My recommendation would be to reset expectations to something that actually sounds good. Something with proper balance. Leave juvenile mispursuits behind.
 
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