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Subwoofer Selection Criteria

watchnerd

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#1
I'm going to be subwoofer shopping, but the last time I bought a sub was circa 1999-2000. That was an era of 1 single subwoofer, pre-DSP, and the emphasis was mainly on low distortion at low frequencies, at high volume. Which meant the well-regarded subs were often big (12, 15, 18 inches).

Well, the world seems to have changed, now with an emphasis on multiple subs (and usually smaller), DSP EQ, and more knowledge about how distortion is perceived at lower frequency.

So in a modern, multi-sub, digital EQ context, what are the criteria for a good sub?
 
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#2
I think the criteria for a good sub experience is to have it properly integrated into your system with your main speakers. This can be attempted the old school way, with the sub crawl and fine tuning by ear - with varying levels of success, this is very difficult to do manually.

Let me suggest another tact - combining the sub with DSP. I have the new Martin Logan Dynamo 800x with built in DSP. Downloaded an app, ran a setup routine using my phone, and within minutes I have room nodes and lulls corrected for and bass dialed in for my listening position. My bass is tight, punchy, controlled, powerful and not bloated or boomy at all. It sounds just right. I'm sure it's not perfect but probably gets me 90% there with minimal fuss.

Introducing this or something like a miniDSP product (https://www.minidsp.com/) into a system can make a significant difference, especially with bass and sub integration.
So, my 2 cents is whatever sub(s) you go with, plan on DSP as part of the purchase and I think you will be very happy with the results.
Cheers!
 

soundwave76

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#3
DSP is a must nowadays in my opinion and experience! No more hassle with moving the sub around the room for trying to find the best spot etc. My Genelec DSP sub was calibrated in about one minute with a perfect result.
 

DonH56

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#5
Output level and linearity sufficient for your needs in a size and form factor suitable for your aesthetics with the features you want. There are so many choices these days it can be hard to choose. ;)

With all the various DSP schemes I do not place DSP ability in the sub very high on my list but YMMV. I do like subs that do not "ring" and muddy up transients so lean toward sealed and servo designs although a well-designed conventional sub with the right amplifier (easy these days) will probably sound the same. Ported subs tend to provide more tactile response at the cost of more ringing and larger cabinets; sealed maybe better time response (but not necessarily lower distortion; the opposite often happens as the ported sub often does not need to work as hard for the same SPL) and greater low-frequency extension since it rolls off slower than a ported design.

There are many parameters/variables (understatement)...

There are also a lot more subs to choose from these days. and a lot of comparison sites like the DataBass site.
 

watchnerd

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#6
I think the criteria for a good sub experience is to have it properly integrated into your system with your main speakers. This can be attempted the old school way, with the sub crawl and fine tuning by ear - with varying levels of success, this is very difficult to do manually.

Let me suggest another tact - combining the sub with DSP. I have the new Martin Logan Dynamo 800x with built in DSP. Downloaded an app, ran a setup routine using my phone, and within minutes I have room nodes and lulls corrected for and bass dialed in for my listening position. My bass is tight, punchy, controlled, powerful and not bloated or boomy at all. It sounds just right. I'm sure it's not perfect but probably gets me 90% there with minimal fuss.

Introducing this or something like a miniDSP product (https://www.minidsp.com/) into a system can make a significant difference, especially with bass and sub integration.
So, my 2 cents is whatever sub(s) you go with, plan on DSP as part of the purchase and I think you will be very happy with the results.
Cheers!
I've shied away from Mini DSP because it sort of kills the point of having my all-in-one-box Devialet Expert system, and I wouldn't have an easy way to apply it equally (without major PITA) to both vinyl and digital streaming.

But the Martin Logan Dynamo looks intriguing.

I'll admit, though....having owned ML electrostats for 10+ years, 2 different models, and now moved back to dynamic speakers, it would seem weird to go back to ML for a sub...to use with someone else's speakers. :)

Also how well does the ML auto EQ work if you have 2 subs?
 

watchnerd

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#7
Here is another possibly asinine question:

If my amp is rated for 400W/channel, would I be gimping the system if the subwoofer power rating is substantially less?

Of course speaker efficiencies factor in (84-86 dB for my mains), but it must matter at some level lest the mains have more headroom than the sub at higher volumes...
 
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#9
Here is another possibly asinine question:

If my amp is rated for 400W/channel, would I be gimping the system if the subwoofer power rating is substantially less?

Of course speaker efficiencies factor in (84-86 dB for my mains), but it must matter at some level lest the mains have more headroom than the sub at higher volumes...
These are good questions. That is quite a bit of power. Sounds like one of their higher models may be a better match, check out the 1100X and 1600X. And/or use two subs as you mention. Yes, the ARC system will manage multiple subs. I think one or more of these would be a good fit with your system.

Sounds like you have experience with ML. Obviously, the subs are not electrostatic and use traditional style drivers. Their sister company, Paradigm, also makes similar products with their Defiance line.
 

svart-hvitt

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#10
The more things change, the more they remain the same. Physics and psychscoustics don’t change.

Take a look at this paper from 1988:

http://www.aes.org/e-lib/browse.cfm?elib=5147

A couple quotes:

«Unfortunately the reproduction of environmental sounds, such as car noise, required limits close to the very difficult ones based on sine-wave perceptual limits».

«Overall distortion limits based on all the frequencies and levels surveyed resulted in the re- quirement that the second harmonic be less than 3%, the third harmonic be less than 1%, and the higher harmonics be less than 0.3-0.1%».

Ask your dealer if he can deliver something on these criteria...

I am not an optimist, 30 years later.

Another couple quotes:

«It is evidently believed in the loudspeaker industry that distortion in low-frequency drivers is not particularly important».

«It is hoped that this study will emphasize the importance of accurate reproduction in the frequency region below 40 Hz and convince manufacturers to improve their low-frequency performance characteristics».

Instead of dealing with the physics issues, it seems like people believe small boxes like Kii and Devialet Phantom have solved the physical problems described 30 years ago through DSP and computer power.

Are we easily deceived?
 

jtwrace

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#11
Tons of info and measurements here. The best bang for the buck is the still the Parts Express Ultimax 18 if you're willing to DIY a little. Ideally, for a multi-sub arrangement, you have 2 - 3 smaller ones that can play fairly high and one for the ULF such as the linked above while being reasonably priced. I'm seriously looking at the Rythmik FM-8 and one for ULF. When I had my other system, I used (2) Geddes and (2) 12" Rythmiks.
 

MZKM

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#12
For those in the US:

Rythmik
PowerSoundAudio
HSU
JTR
SVS

All sell subs that are good for the money (the higher end SVS ones have a digital display, room EQ, mobile app, etc., so drives down bang for buck if you don’t need it).

I wouldn’t get any sub from B&W, MartinLogan, KEF, etc. unless space constraints demanded it, their goal is spousal approval.

If sub-sonic is the goal, Rythmik is great, and they even partner with some speaker companies to bundle together (Ascend Acoustics and Wavecrest off the top of my head, and Salk even sells their DIY models (assembled), they use thicker cabinets and have custom finishes).

I would much rather not use the auto-EQ of the sub. If just using it for subwoofers, a regular MiniDSP 2x4 should be fine, but if using it with speakers, then the 2x4HD. The 2x4HD with mic is ~$295.
 

watchnerd

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#13
I wouldn’t get any sub from B&W, MartinLogan, KEF, etc. unless space constraints demanded it, their goal is spousal approval.
Well, I have that goal, too. My main system is in our living room, not a man cave / home theatre.
 

MZKM

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#14
Well, I have that goal, too. My main system is in our living room, not a man cave / home theatre.
Depends on your space then. I have a ported 12”, but luckily the best place for it is where it’s view is obstructed from many vantage points. A sealed 15” from Rythmik/HSU/PSA would likely work.

And hell, if you got time and money, a sealed 15” Rythmik from Salk where they’ll do whatever finish you want (it just will take many months).

When my dad wanted to upgrade his puny surrounds to regular sized ones (Fluance XLBP), we worried what my mother would think, but she didn’t even notice them until we pointed it out, and now you don’t even realize they are there, we easily get accustomed to objects we see all the time (if your street has telephone poles and lines run to the roofs of all the houses, try pay attention to that next time to drive on your street, it’s all right in your face but you forget all those wires in the air are there).
 

watchnerd

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#17
These are good questions. That is quite a bit of power. Sounds like one of their higher models may be a better match, check out the 1100X and 1600X. And/or use two subs as you mention. Yes, the ARC system will manage multiple subs. I think one or more of these would be a good fit with your system.

Sounds like you have experience with ML. Obviously, the subs are not electrostatic and use traditional style drivers. Their sister company, Paradigm, also makes similar products with their Defiance line.
Are you running the Dynamo woofer down or woofer horizontal?
 

andreasmaaan

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#20
Do you have some idea what your SPL requirements are?

And have you decided whether it’s important to you that the sub be sealed as opposed to ported?
 
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