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bookshelf speakers + sub - how well does it work?

post #1 of 68
Thread Starter 
anyone here use smaller type speakers and a sub versus a pair of full range speakers? i've read that two way bookshelf speakers can image better than speakers with more drivers.

i am really enjoying the detail, clarity and imaging of my smaller speakers but they just can't go down low enough for reggae, dub, and other types of music that need some more punch. is it quite common to get a full sound via the route of bookshelf+sub?

can you still get a nice coherent sound?

and most importantly, how much $$$$$$$$$$$$$?
post #2 of 68
In my experience bookshelf speakers + sub will be more in your face whereas a full range floorstander will be more coherent.

If money permits go for the floorstanders. Better for music.
It's a real pain to get the sub to interact nicely with speakers.
post #3 of 68
Most subs come with an active crossover so you can get it to the point where your sub continues the low frequencies where the speakers cut off, usually somewhere in between 60 and 120 Hz. Sealed speakers also mate better with subs as the frequencies they produce are higher than their open air equivalent, that way the sub can handle most of the bass. Low frequencies travel quickly so directionality is not a concern, that's why you can put a sub anywhere in the room. Also I've never heard a speaker that has better bass than a sub with a dedicated amp, I'm sure they exist... but at what price?
post #4 of 68
Integrating the main speakers with the sub can be tricky. To do it properly, a Radio Shack SPL meter is highly recommended, together with bass warble tones, like those in Stereophile Test CD 2 or 3, or the AVIA Guide to Home Theater DVD.

To say the bass of the speakers and the sub have to overlap properly at the crossover frequency is insufficient, and can lead to bad calibration. If your sub or your speakers are not flat enough, you can end up with a "good" integration at the x-over frequency, but a very uneven balance between bass as a whole from the sub, and the rest of the spectrum the speakers are taking care of. The ideal is to make sure the average response of the sub from let's say 30Hz or 40Hz up to the xover frequency, is approximately equal to the average output of your speakers from the x-over frequency and up. If the sub and the speakers are flat enough, then that equality will automatically (in most cases) correspond to a good integration at the X-over freq. And you have to take into account the fact that the apparent variance of the sub's ouput will usually be quite high compared to the speaker's, because of room acoustic issues. Position of the sub to avoid room modes at the listening position as much as possible is critical to get a good response from it.

Also, if your receiver doesn't handle different x-over frequencies, then you can be somewhat limited. My receiver for instance, a Marantz SR-4000, relatively old now, has a fixed 120Hz x-over frequency when setting the speakers to small. That frequency is too high for my subwoofer, Paradigm PDR-12, despite the subwoofer specs (I've measured it and it rolls off too quickly above 80Hz, even at its highest xover setting of 150Hz). Also, that frequency is too high for my main speakers, Paradigm Titans. For my listening position they are flat enough down to 70Hz. If I set the speakers to small in the receiver, then there will be a low response (a hole of sound) between 80Hz where the sub starts rolling off, and 120Hz where the Titans would start kicking in. So to set them properly I either had to get a newer receiver with multiple crossover frequencies, or use an external crossover. I ended up doing the latter, getting Outlaw Audio's ICBM, and setting its x-over to 80Hz.

The result does sound great. In particular, I formerly had 2 subwoofers, the other being an Aperion Audio S-8APR. This one sounded great, in particular for the higher frequencies, fast and punchy, but I ended up returning it because of a minor transformer humming it had. Believe it or not, it hummed even with the switch turned off! The only way to remove the hum was to unplug it. Got a replacement and same thing, even with switch at off it hummed. Deal breaker after months of having used the unit. It just cost me the 10% re-stocking fee and shipping, kudos to their customer service, it is truly great. Now I'm down to just one sub. Will keep it this way at least for a while, since I'm concentrating on putting together a high-end headphone rig.
post #5 of 68

It depends

As far as I can tell if the speakers are designed to integrate with a sub they can do quite well.

For example, look at this review (in pdf).

Published reviews of tiny satellites (smaller than a shoebox) with sub combos often note a "hole" in the combined frequency response.
post #6 of 68
rsaavedr, that sounds like a ground loop hum problem. But I bet you already tried that out...So Aperion charges restocking fee? I didn't know that.

It's also important to keep the crossover point of the subwoofer really low so that the sound that the sub makes is as nondirectional as possible. That makes really small speakers a bad choice for this combo...but this is what all those HTiB sets sell
post #7 of 68
Originally posted by ooheadsoo
rsaavedr, that sounds like a ground loop hum problem. But I bet you already tried that out...So Aperion charges restocking fee? I didn't know that.
Nope, wasn't a ground loop. I exchanged several emails and phones calls with them to rule that out. Even with a 3-to-2 prong adapter (ground defeater), and having the sub disconnected from the receiver (e.g. no inputs), and having the switch of the sub set to off, and the tv cable disconnected, in all possible setups there was a humming from the transformer of that sub, while there wasn't at all from the Paradigm, or anywhere else in my rig for instance.

I also tried connecting the Aperion in several outlets at home, and at my work place, with the adapter and everything, same hum. It seems to be part of the design somehow, that "power" switch doesn't seem to really cut the power to the transformer but further down the circuit. I can't really tell, and they didn't tell me technical details about that, but I can't see any other explanation.

The hum was really minor, but this was the same issue I had with the transport noise of the Azur. I listen to music in very silent conditions, turning the air conditioning and the refrigerator off, actually also the kitchen light which hums very slightly. In those conditions I discovered the sub remained a source of hum, audible at several feet away, and with the switch turned off!

They charged me a restocking fee only because I had used the unit for almost nine months, way past the 30-day return period. The hum started to get more noticeable after about 6-7 months. And the replacement unit had it just the same. They offered the possibility of returning it after that long time with the 10% restocking fee if I wasn't happy with it. I wasn't planning to return it basically because I didn't think it was possible, but I wasn't happy with that hum, eventually decided to take their offer and returned it.

Sorry for the off-thread deviation, but a free bump, and some more feedback about the interesting things you learn when going the sub route.
post #8 of 68
Tomek. How big is your room? Many people do use a bookshelf speaker and sub combo rather than a floorstander for the exact reason you listed. Smaller speakers generally disappear better and for the money will give you an overall better speaker from midrange on up (since your money doesn't go towards getting that extra bass).

As others have said, integrating bookshelf speakers and a sub can be tricky and will require some work on your part but it can potentially be more rewarding that going with a floorstander since it'll likely give you a new host of problems to deal with.
post #9 of 68
Also the crossover in multiways speakers are harder to achieve properly, and most of the times you ended with a mess of freq, with bumps and humps, that is true that a sub is sometimes tricky to set, but once you set it up, man, that sounds good.....other "advantage" is that sometimes with subs you will go even lower that with a three ways speaker, not too many speakers are able to go near 30 - 20Hz, not even with 12" woofers.....
post #10 of 68
Thread Starter 
Ok gang, it sounds like you recommend it.

Aside from the initial setup, it doesn't seem like anyone has said 'no, it can never sound right.'

I don't these qualify as the 'tiny' satellites that would indeed have gaps between their lowest frequency and the sub crossover point.


i just wonder what effects their being double ported would have on their flatness.
post #11 of 68
I am very interested in the results as well. I am pairing a Velodyne sub with my Von Schweikert VR-1s to get the low frequencies. I love the VS, but the bottom is definitely lacking. Unfortunately, I just moved and all of my gear is still packed away and I probably won't get to set things up for a week or so.
post #12 of 68
Thread Starter 
be sure to write back on your impressions JMT. It won't be a while before I make my purchase.

i'm curious which subs people will recommend, as the 'musical' subs are more expensive and hard to find. i know for the money i paid for my smallish speakers in a hifi shop, i could have got some beastly 5 woofer speakers from a big box electronics shop.

i'm certainly not getting the kind of bass from my speakers that I'd get from some $2K polk audio speakers, but I don't ever remember the salesguy at Future Shop saying "Now check out the imaging on these!"


post #13 of 68
I have a pair of Axiom's M3ti, those have a 1" titanium tweeter, and a 6.5 aluminum cone woofer, the woofer roll off naturally, no crossover for it, it is a very good and modest design, the sound an imaging is superb, details gallore, and very musical IMO, and in may system, but the low end is deficient, so I just paired them with a nice Shiva Avatar (now Adire) 12" custom made power subwoofer, guys this small sytem really rocks, very nice bottom end, very musical and nice soundstage, they are placed in an small room also about 12' by 10' and about 6' appart one from the other....I like it very much, honestly....hope my new PPA with the diamond buffers and CD3000 will outperform it....
post #14 of 68
I'm using a pair of Von Schweikert VR-1 matched to their VR-S/1 sub. The integration seems to work out real well for me in my room. There hasn't been any real placement issues at all. I must also add that the VR-S/1 sub is very fast and musical; so that helps alot.

The sounds of the VR-1 seems to be very dependent on amp used. With my 300B amp, it's very laid back and intimate. Will see what happens when my AES six pac gets here.
post #15 of 68
My VR-1s are paired with a B&W ASW300 sub and it works very well, especially since my speakers are placed on my desk in a crappy dorm room with lousy acoustics. The bass is really thin in this room if they're played alone than compared to when I have them at home on speakers stands in a living room. The sub really fills up the gap nicely and makes it more musical and fun to listen to.
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