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How much to spend on a sub as % of speakers or total gear?


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Hey,

 

just wondering if theres a rough split or breakdown that people follow as a general rule in terms of how much to spend on a sub as a proportion of overall budget

 

ive read alot of people say that you yield better results spending more of your budget on speakers than on amplification, but i cant find much on the subject of subwoofers...

 

any thoughts/opinions much appreciated!

 

Im trying to get an idea of what is a good amount to spend on a subwoofer (for HT use primarily, maybe 70%HT/30% music) based on what ive spent so far on my system....

 

was thinking somewhere between $500-800... ($800 would be a bit less than half of what i spent on my speakers)

 

Figure i'll zero in on a budget, and then try to find something in that range with the right WAF... lol she has stressed that the decor demands glossy white cabinetry... which doesnt seem to be a very common colour choice in hifi gear ;)

 

Cheers,

 

Terry

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Hard question to answer. Might depend on how big your room is and how loud you want to play. There was a thread recently where a $400(?) Warfdale sub seemed fairly well regarded for music (which is a harder gig to pull off, output aside). And I saw a quite nice looking second hand B&W sub in the For Sales for $400. Myself I'm pretty finicky about sound quality for music and wouldnt want to match a $400 MRRP sub with a good $1600 bookshelf as I think music would suffer, but for movies I'm not too fussy and would probably be happy pairing a $400 sub with bookshelf speaker costing 10 times the price, so I wouldnt want to venture my personal percentage-wise breakdown. But for most people an indication might be looking at the price difference between say a 6 series B&W sub and their matching bookshelf speaker.

 

When you get to around $800 though you start to get within striking range of really very good diy subwoofers, the kind that would be at home in pretty high end audio setups and which would have enough output for most HT setups too. Something like the Rhythmiks that you often see mentioned. Theyre a relatively easy build too if you're that way inclined. If you never want to worry about the sub being the weakest link in your system I'm recommend the extra $300 and elbow grease. You can paint it glossy white too. Cheers

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I had a sub that was 1/5th the price of the value of my speakers, once I toyed around with positioning and floor coverings I sold the sub.  I do have floorstanders though.

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No formula. A sub along with good centre are probably the most important thing in a ht. a poor sub will ruin a 2ch system and music.

500-800 tough price point.800-1000 is prob more 1st rung of reasonae/good subs I'd buy. Think richter Thor where more bent on ht. or legend kurlette where more bent on 2ch music side. With some arm twisting get these in 800-1k range. Wouldn't spend less. Look second hand to save some bucks. The uk made bk subs good option too :)

Keep in mind things like subs are like speakers while electronics will come and go these will be around lot longer. They're not out of date with the next model release. My old richter sub I bought as first ht sub is still going strong now at my parents 15 years or so later ! Spend a tad more its worth it ! Subs bring a lot if wow factor :)

Edited by :) al
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I dont think there is a formula.

 

I will be using two Martin Logan Depth subwoofers which are a bit under $6K for both to match my $15k speakers.

 

The more important decision I believe is if you want to use them for music as well as Home Theatre.  The reason I chose the ML's was because they are reputedly the fasted sub-woofers on the market and I wanted something to keep pace with my fast speakers.  That they do but are probably overkill for Home Theatre where its more about adding oomph and scale to movies etc rather than being 'musical' and 'accurate'.  If HT is your primary focus then some cheaper subwoofers such as, for example, Subsonic would be cheaper and perhaps even better.  

 

Interestingly in my case the music I listen to rarely if ever has stuff low enough to exercise a subwoofer so its use is really for HT.  That being the case the ML's are probably overkill and some cheaper subwoofers may have been as good or better - but I do feel comfortable having subwoofers more in line with the speed of my speakers.

 

Basically stump is correct - its more about matching your speakers and if you want it for music and/or home theatre.

 

Thanks

Bill

Edited by bhobba
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Subs - one area where you DEFINITELY don't want to use a formula.

 

I'd suggest that you start with at least $800 or so. You can save a bit by buying second hand, but it really depends what you are choosing. There are many subs that sell for more second hand than much better subs new. Don't assume that second hand is always a good deal.

 

Some of the entry level subs sound very good indeed. Many of them differ from much more expensive subs in their finish and output level only. If you have a high end system, you may spend thousands but not get a better sounding sub - instead you get more output, a fancy finish and perhaps a more sophisticated EQ system.

 

So my advice is a bit different to what people expect. For those with an entry level system, I suggest spend at least $800 even if your mains cost less. If that's over-budget, then I'd say wait until you can afford it. If you have a high end system and a big budget I'd say don't spend any more than say a JL Audio Fathom. Instead, invest in room treatment and system calibration.

 

In the last 10 years the situation with subs has changed. $1k used to buy a rubbish sub, now it buys something very decent. Gone are the days of spending $5k to get something serious. The playing field has levelled and anyone with about $1k to spend on a sub plus some investment on EQ/treatment/calibration can get an exceptional result.

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Bill,

 

I do not understand the concept of a 'fast' sub. I will save you the boring electrical details but I simply do not understand the use of the term 'fast' in this context. My main problem with it is that in general we audiophiles chose some horrible terminology that actually further reinforces misunderstanding of what the reality is and this makes it far more difficult for new forum members to understand what the advice is that they're getting. It is nice to try to use 'lay terms' to describe an issue but I really think we are better off describing the realities. Fast is not a very descriptive word in this context if we as a group could avoid using it and other vague terms we'd all be a lot better off in terms of having common understanding by sharing the same vocabulary that is more clearly understood.

 

In response to the OP, I would not try to select equipment based on 'rules of thumb' as there are good and bad examples of every design technique in most price brackets (ie you could have a good or a bad horn shape, a good or bad transmission line speaker, a good or a bad valve amplifier etc etc). If someone says a seemingly clear piece of advice, for argument's sake they say 'I've had the best results with sealed subs'. So off you go and buy any sealed sub under your budget that meets the aesthetic requirements that allows you to bring it inside the house, you will likely get a very unpredictable result depending on the actual sub you select and the nature of the room that you use it in!

 

For example, depending on your room, in terms of acoustics alone you may be better off with a multiple smaller subs, one larger sub, sub in a corner, sub away from the corner etc. The best way to understand your room is to have some measurements of your room and try some of the possible variations and observe the changes this brings. This is obviously not practical on a low budget but it is the only way to get a predictable result because the acoustics of the room vary dramatically below ~200Hz from one room to the next.

 

My opinion is that an average sub that is set up well will probably out perform a good sub set up poorly.

 

I hope that I haven't confused you more with this :/

 

Chris

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Good answer Chris and quite well put. I personally don't have an issue with people using the term "fast" bass because it usually means "tight and accurate." It becomes a problem when people understand the term differently and a lot of mythology can come into it. It would be better if the term were ditched, but sometimes you have to pick your battles! I don't see it disappearing any time soon. PRAT is another matter. If anyone wants me out of a thread, all they have to do is say PRAT and I'm gone. I'm allergic to it. I might even run away screaming.

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I dont think there is a formula.

 

I will be using two Martin Logan Depth subwoofers which are a bit under $6K for both to match my $15k speakers.

 

The more important decision I believe is if you want to use them for music as well as Home Theatre.  The reason I chose the ML's was because they are reputedly the fasted sub-woofers on the market and I wanted something to keep pace with my fast speakers.  That they do but are probably overkill for Home Theatre where its more about adding oomph and scale to movies etc rather than being 'musical' and 'accurate'.  If HT is your primary focus then some cheaper subwoofers such as, for example, Subsonic would be cheaper and perhaps even better.  

 

Interestingly in my case the music I listen to rarely if ever has stuff low enough to exercise a subwoofer so its use is really for HT.  That being the case the ML's are probably overkill and some cheaper subwoofers may have been as good or better - but I do feel comfortable having subwoofers more in line with the speed of my speakers.

 

Basically stump is correct - its more about matching your speakers and if you want it for music and/or home theatre.

 

Thanks

Bill

 

I must admit Bill this one's confusing for me to comprehend. You are using an example way in excess of OP's budget (I figure your point is the ratio which is fair enough) then you say that you bought them for music but that your music is unlikely to utilise them, and they are really there for HT, then suggest they are overkill for that and cheaper ones might do?

 

Phew - so with OP having quoted a split of say 70% HT and 30% music, should he spend more or less than the $800 (50% of speaker cost) that he has asked us about?

 

I don't know the answer by the way

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I do not understand the concept of a 'fast' sub. I will save you the boring electrical details but I simply do not understand the use of the term 'fast' in this context. 

 

I thought it was fairly obvious but perhaps a poor choice of words - lower distortion might be better terminology.  Subs can boom and resonate so that when some low frequency stuff comes along the box resonates and adds extra stuff to it - ie coloration - that does not stop when the signal stops.  Now a fast sub takes extra measures to try and avoid that.  In particular for the Martin Logan it arranges 3 8 inch drivers in such a way with some evidently fancy digital processing so resonance cancellation occurs    I put my hand on it while it was playing and you can barely feel anything when some loud low frequency stuff comes along   The other thing it does is servo feedback on all the drivers to ensure linear tracking producing less distortion:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Subwoofer#Servo_subwoofers

 

I think there are many terms thrown about in Hi Fi that maybe could use other words that are better descriptive of what is really going on but to be honest I do not think 'fast' is really that bad in describing subwoofers.  If you do an internet search you will find its in fairly common use.  Sure some tech types point out its a bit silly really since low frequency sounds hardly happen with any actual speed but in describing how quickly it responds to changes without resonating it seems reasonable. 

 

The issue here is for explosions and stuff with HT is it really that important for it to accurately portray it or is a bit of resonance etc not really a problem?  I am not so sure it is so maybe a sub like the ML is overkill for that.

 

My answer was simply illustrative of the issues involved - not as a suggestion to the OP that that's what they should get.

 

Thanks

Bill 

Edited by bhobba
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I thought "fast" related to transient response and dynamics. 

 

I personally think that bang for buck with subs is relatively low.  I would lean towards a $2400 floorstander over $1600 speakers with an $800 sub.

 

Jeff

Edited by JeffK
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I thought "fast" related to transient response and dynamics. 

 

I personally think that bang for buck with subs is relatively low.  I would lean towards a $2400 floorstander over $1600 speakers with an $800 sub.

 

Jeff

 

 

That was my understanding of the word fast too. As Bill says a technical guy (like me) could try to baffle/impress you all with things like signal rise times and how the sub-bass waveform should be considered asymmetric and then continue to prattle on about the decay times being governed far more by room acoustics. But, in the end, Paul is right, I should pick my battles and using the word fast to describe subwoofer is not a battle I have the time/inclination to take on. I was caught at a weak moment and let my pragmatic engineer's passion for using technically correct vocabulary draw me into posting. I do not have any interest in (nor do I think this is the place for) a drawn out technical debate on the actual technical issues. What I really should have done is just simply ask Bill to explain/define his use of the word fast so that we're all on the same page. He's explained what he meant now and all is well :)

 

 

In terms of 2400 speakers vs 1600 speaker with 800 sub, the difference comes in the details of the room and goals/listening habits of the user. There is a place for both choices. If you want to watch movies or listen to electronic music with a lot of bass then the 1600+800 option may be better (especially so if you already own the 1600 speakers). If you listen to music predominantly then the perceived value of the subwoofer does decline I agree. This is brings me back to my original point that I do not agree with using a general rule of thumb to drive your component selections. 

 

Chris

Edited by hochopeper
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I thought "fast" related to transient response and dynamics. 

 

Unfortunately it cant refer to that except at a subjective level for subwoofers - certain well known mathematical theorems show low frequency stuff cannot change quickly - eg imagine some low frequency material suddenly comes to a stop then you find that generates a lot of high frequency stuff if you do a Fourier analysis.

 

When people say a subwoofer sounds fast to me it means it sounds free of resonances and distortion so that when say a kick drum is hit and stops that is what you hear rather than some resonances in the subwoffer after it stops - subjectively it sounds 'fast' - maybe another way of looking at it is the resonances decay quickly.  However I do agree 'fast' may not be the best description - low distortion would be more accurate.

 

Thanks

Bill

Edited by bhobba
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Thanks for all the responses guys!

 

To answer a few questions:

1. the speakers were recently purchased so not looking to change those (and i dont think i'd get much for them as they are customs :))

2. the sub would be primarily for HT (70%), looking for that nice rumbling in your chest effect, of course not at the expense of it being flabby or distorted. For music, not sure how i'd have it but either no sub or maybe have it on for electronic music only. Not sure, i'd have to test it out and see how it integrated.

3. the room its in is not ideal. Its a 10m x 5m rectangular open plan lounge/dining/kitchen. Essentially one big open space with wooden floors, double brick walls, and a concrete ceiling... the lounge section of this area is about 3m x 5m. If its any help i can draw it out to give you guys an idea of where the TV/lounge etc sits in relation to the rest of the room

 

So it looks like i will need to drop about $1k to get a decent sub? I dont mind spending around that mark if it is something i (hopefully) wont be trying to upgrade a year or 2 later!

 

Rocky, i'll look at SVS, my trawling thru the forums had this brand come up alot

 

The other brand which was intriguing was BK electric, from the UK. The monolith looked juicy....although i guess shipping might be prohibitively expensive!

 

I think i also saw an emotiva sub which came in around $1k delivered? Anyone had any experience with that?

 

Cheers,

 

Terry

Edited by tezzlacoil
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Hi Terry

 

In that case I would look at a subsonic XS-1 - I always thought they were remarkably like my old faithful Richter Evocator that was the bees knees many moons ago.  It really puts out a bucket load of bass - great for HT.

 

Thanks

Bill

Edited by bhobba
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