How much are we willing to miss?

December 2, 2022
 by Paul McGowan

There are very few systems that are truly full range. The shortcomings of rooms and speakers often preclude simple setups from delivering all there is on a disc.

Take Music Room Three at PS Audio. The spot in the room where the FR30s disappear and one finds themselves totally immersed in the music happens to also be one of the worst places for low bass. Move the speakers around to capture those incredible low notes the FR30s are capable of and some of the holographic magic is lost.

I for one am unwilling to forego even a smidge of holographic magic and near-perfect tonal balance to gain any of the missing low-end.

Should I just stick to music that hasn’t those lowest of notes? Or, should I stress over missing them?

For me, that question is instantly answered when I put on a track that moves the floor and puts a smile on my face as the system reproduces without hesitation the lowest of notes.

I have to have it all.

But, how to get there?

Simple. Supplement the main system with a subwoofer. Or, a pair of subwoofers.

In our case, all that is missing happens from 28Hz and below. A single REL Predator placed dead center on the rear wall does the trick nicely.

If your musical choices tend to lean towards chamber music or light jazz then none of this really matters.

It’s just good to know how much we’re willing to lose.

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46 comments on “How much are we willing to miss?”

  1. I’ve just done the same thing with a REL S/812 at the back of the room in a corner firing diagonally to the front left corner. It makes a difference to about a quarter of what I listen to at most, if played relatively loud, which is rare, and the sub output is set fairly low. Mainly it fills a hole in the mid-bass. My speakers are rated at -3dB at 32Hz, I doubt I would play anything below that, hence the choice of speakers, I hear the sub effect with jazz and crashing piano music.

    It came from a discussion with my main dealer and did a search and saw one on eBay. I’d have ignored it, but it turned out it was being sold by my second choice dealer on behalf of a client at about half price, almost new, it was worth a punt, as I would normally have had a home loan and bought a new one. The passive radiator was resonating badly because some of the screws had come loose. I took them all out and put them all back at the same high torque, as REL put them in very tight. The dealer said he had a similar problem with an S/5 at home.

  2. Finally!!
    I wasn’t going to say it again Paul…that you need an REL, or two, in MR3, & possibly also in MR2, but wait until you’ve got the aspen FR20’s properly dialled in there…OMG, look who I’m telling 😉

    **OFF TOPIC**
    Can you teach an old dinosaur new tricks?..’meh’…some you can & some you can’t.
    This old dinosaur just learned a new trick.
    My wife just received her new set of SONY – ‘WH-1000XM4’ wireless (I’m guessing ‘Bluetooth’) headphones & after dialling them in she set them to 360 & plonked them on my head…WOW!
    An amazing 360 degree ‘surround-stage’ from just two loudspeaker drivers up against my ears.
    Not exactly high-end, like a set of $3K ‘Audeze’, but pretty impressive for someone who’s not a cans man…um…let me rephrase that…from someone who’s not a headphone man.
    So, now I have experienced headphones that don’t put the whole band or orchestra deep inside the middle of my head; the music is in a very reasonable & convincing facsimile of ‘360 degree’ surround-sound…AMAZING!

    1. Yep – And THAT’S how it starts… just ordered the Sony MDR-Z1Rs. That’s pair # 9……

      When you yell down a rabbit hole wearing headphones – does it echo?

  3. If you are listening to a string quartet recording made in a large space you will need the sub for optimum results. The reason is to duplicate the “feel” of the large hall.

    I’m curious why you chose a REL designed for home theater.

  4. I’m glad you now have got it all Paul. The Enjoyment level of MR3 just went up! 😀

    I’m not sure what Predator you have, but if it is the newest one (1510) … how is it wired into the system?

    1. For the moment, it’s simply low-level connected to the preamp because it is physically so far removed from the speakers by nearly 35 feet (if you measure along the base of room). I may at some point high-level wire it for that last bit of disappearing act but honestly, at this point, it’s like it’s not in the room.

      1. Cool Paul. Why fix what’s not broke?

        When I looked at the new REL Predator, speaker level inputs weren’t an option?

        (You already know why I really asked 😉 )

        I’m just happy you found a setup that sonically pleases you.

  5. Rooms are so important to the real enjoyment of music from our systems.
    A high end system in a poor room lets us hear how bad music can sound.

    Give me a reasonable system in a great room any day.

    1. I can agree Richard, but How do you know when a high end system exceeds the room and you need to back down?

      Finding the ‘perfect system’ is relatively easy compared to finding the ‘perfect room’ that allows that ‘perfect equipment’ to shine.

      That’s brings us full circle. – Low end augmentation, reflection control, absorption, diffusion it’s no wonder everybody’s system sounds different. Every room is different in some way.

      In order for us to experience exactly what Paul describes in MR3 – we need an exact copy of MR3 from the floor “springiness” to the exact interior room dimensions – to the dimensions of the interior room to the building structure itself. We’ll have to assume the input power and grounding are equal. Once we have that, he’ll mess with us and on April 1st move back to MR2 🙂

  6. I was running a preamp, external crossover and 2 15 inch subs in the past. Once I added subs, there was no turning back. What I found from weeks of experimenting with my room via sub crawling etc. is 2 subs receiving a “summed signal” was much better than 1 sub, or stereo subs. I also could utilize the other 2 subs (I have 4 in my HT setup), but could never make 4 work.

    Fast forward to my decision to go a high end theater processor vs. preamps with HT bypass, and I’m now utilizing 4 subwoofers. The calibration software beautifully blends all the subs. I have a sense of evenness to the bass that I didn’t know was missing.

    I’m not saying everyone should run out and grab a HT processor for stereo. However, if I were going to convert my home theater to a dedicated 2 channel room, there would be some sort of calibration capabilities in the the picture. Ideally, it would be something that calibrates the whole system, but minimally sub(s) that have calibration software built into them. Like having subs in the first place… once you have and understand calibration, there is no going back. You can crawl all you want, put the sub in the listening chair, etc., but you will never be able to get the bass that precisely correct to the room.

  7. I agree rooms can be a challenge at specific low frequencies, and subs can make up the shortfall.

    I do have a dip at 30 Hz and missing sound on some pieces of music and circling subs.

    What I don’t get is why purchase a passive full range loudspeaker to only later add sub(s). And why introduce a whole new set of amplifiers that are class D that will have to be wired up properly.

    Note: My questions have been lingering in my head and then this thread popped up, I’m trying to understand this as I have zero sub experience.

    1. I have used subs, not used subs and still use one sub in my 2.1 audio system the supports my TV in our family room. I made a conscious effort to get true full range speakers ( Magico S7’s ). I drive them with lots of power ( 750 W / channel ). I have a large room ( 30′ x 28′ x 11′ ). I has a lot of architectural intricacies that allow me to use it as is ( I do have a rug on the hardwood floor in front of the speakers ).

      I do have the situation Paul describes. The really low bass ( around 20 Hz ) peaks well behind the sweet spot. However, I get really good bass in the sweet spot and I know from previous experience that the only place I have for sub(s) is next to the speakers and they do not work that well there.

      I suggest you go to the forums on this site and see if there is a thread ( or two ) on subs as well as go to other audio sites and see what they say about subs.

    2. When you walk or “crawl” the subs around the room, you realize that the bass is dramatically effected by the position of the sub within the room. I can all but guarantee that the optimal position for bass is not the same as optimal position for your main speakers, which generally want to be away more from the walls and out into the room. If the low bass of the speaker is part of the main speakers, you are in more of a trade off situation, as they are in the same cabinet. The subs allow for increased optimal positioning of each.

    3. I have gone round and round with sub(s) in my room.
      I ended up with a pair of them well elevated and in front of but below the drivers of the speakers and with lots of toe in.
      This seems to give me the cohesiveness of all the sound emanating from the main speakers, channel separation of low bass when it’s on the recording along with the bass extension down to the mid 20’s as that’s all the room can handle. No boom – no bloat – just good articulation at the listening position.

  8. Boy, do I miss going to audio salons. Best place to go when you need a shot of Bass. In reality, Paul is correct… 98% of my listening is either acoustic jazz, small classical groups, the blues, along with some classic rock. A single subwoofer tuned properly is all I need and i’ve already got it.

    Good luck to the rest of you. I’ll be happy by just continuing to listen to my music and enjoy what I’ve got. It’s my best road to happiness when it comes to enjoying the moment instead of making myself crazy. We each have our own needs, and in the immortal words of Yogi Berra… “When you come to a fork in the road, take it“.

          1. Oh Martin, Martin Martin…
            If you see a robbery at an apple play-store does that make you an i-witness?

            Tuning bass can be a beach, can’t beat two near field subs placed less than quarter wave from the sweet spot, one on each side.

  9. Paul, all the REL series have their wireless option. They claim zero loss, zero compression. Might be worth a try.

    Since my T9/i is placed at the front firing diagonally into the longest dimension of the room, I have easy hi or low level cable options. One of the most important components I’ve ever added – HT and 2 channel.

  10. I supplement my Maggies with a pair of small subs. The crossover is set pretty low…I think 70cps and the volume is as low as possible. For most stuff I don’t even need them. But when i do, I still want the Maggies to do a lot of the work. Simply….Maggie bass sounds better and truer than any sub.

    1. What model Magies? I have 3.6 R’s in my system and one Carver True Sub. Careful adjustments on this sub and I can’t hear it at all yet the Maggie low and midbass panels definitely sound better.

      1. Hi. I’ve had probably half a dozen over the years. I seem to be going backwards…I had 3s years ago and now have 1.6.
        If I thought I would never move again and had the proper room, I’d get 3.6s.

  11. A system without subs is like a concert without bass bins.
    An acoustic show is nice but it doesn’t satisfy that hungry audio sensor located somewhere in my chest.

    On the opposite side of the frequency scale, winter is here, a warm beanie/touque is a regular necessity as my hair no longer insulates my cranium as it once used to. One must worn in the vehicle and also in the work shop until it finally gets to temp by mid afternoon.
    So, would SOMEONE develop a head warming rig that either has the ear area cut out or made from a material that is still warm but does NOT act as a 10khz low pass filter?!? It is rather annoying.
    Can we not enjoy a warm melon AND crisp cymbals & defined hi-hats in the cold of winter?

  12. Sure it matters for chamber music. I have lots of SACD’s and CD’s with double bass. In fact I seek this music out because I love the double bass contribution to the music.
    Although my speakers go down to [email protected] -3dB, I have a single REL in the right corner to cover frequencies up to 40 Hz. Works great.

  13. With a large Orchestral and Pipe Organ music library (encompassing about 10% of listening sessions), I also have to have It All (subsonic <20hz bandwidth). It also seems to enhance the aliveness and realism of all my recorded acoustical music performances, even chamber, small ensemble and vocal music presentations!

    The 12" sub bass-reflex I have been using these past 15 years (Axiom) is very musical, articulate and accurate (-3db @18hz). If/when it breathes its last breath, something like the REL S/510 Will replace it!!

  14. Yes we want to miss as little as possible.

    But that one or two subs would solve that (to combine best main speaker position for imaging and best sub position for flat bass) is too superficial imo.


    Because this would only work if the main speaker is not! fullrange or, if at its close to perfect imaging position, would just have some stronger or weaker dips between 20 and at least 60 Hz and also be quite flat up to 100 Hz. Then the dips below say 50Hz could be filled with perfectly positioned subs and the FR would be great, as well as imaging.

    Unfortunately this is usually not the case for 3 reasons:

    – because at its perfect imaging position, especially a fullrange speaker will have serious peaks below 60Hz, which can’t be cured with subs (except to a degree if they are parametric EQ’able.

    – because usual full range speakers offer no adjustability of their bass level up to say 80Hz, especially not by explicit frequencies. So if there’s a peak somewhere in the bass at the main speakers’ best imaging position, there’s no help except with extensive bass traps.

    – because another main need to flatten (besides the sub region below 40Hz) would be at a frequency between 40-60Hz, which is not the region a sub is effective/punchy enough to equally fill what might be a dip of the main speakers at the desired position.

    So unfortunately if one doesn’t use a main fullrange speaker with widely adjustable bass and parametric EQ’able subs, then either just the bass region below 40Hz can be partly fixed with a sub (but also just if dips, not peaks are the problem)…or bigger compromises with imaging have to be made to get bass tonality more or less satisfying.

    For sure many owners of non adjustable fullrange speakers will be quite satisfied with their bass and imaging (with or without subs), but just unless they heard the bass of adjustable ones.

    All this is the reason why I’d never buy non adjustable fullrange speakers anymore unless I had a room (and money) with complete flexibility of positioning AND room tuning.

  15. Hi Paul. Great to hear the system is sounding better than ever. Curious. With all the top equipment in the room why did you choose the 1508 as apposed to something more refined like the S510 or S812 or better? A quality sub is something I will be looking for soon. Thanks

  16. In case nobody knows about this today:
    That WHERE you SIT is more important than where we place the subs.
    Move the chair a foot—- BIG changes.
    By far.

    1. Moving speakers AND sweet spot is always part of the whole task. None of them should be fixed in order to get the best result (but it certainly sometimes is due to living environment constraints).

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