Tag Archives: subwoofers

Asheville, Walnut Cove, Biltmore Forrest and Western North Carolina’s Audio and Home Theater specialists present Cane Creek AV and Paul McGowan – PS Audio, Intl.

I totally agree with this one and this is the way I’ve been doing subwoofers for the last 35 years.

It might seem obvious

In yesterday’s post on subwoofers, I cautioned about the use of series crossovers: one low pass filter in the receiver feeding another in the subwoofer.

What I did not address is the age-old advice from speaker and receiver manufacturers to lessen the demands on the main loudspeakers by means of adding a high pass filter—rolling off the bass of the main speakers.

It might seem obvious that lessening the demands of the main speaker to produce bass, by offloading that task to the subwoofer, would be beneficial.

I would argue against this practice.

If our goal in adding a subwoofer is to enhance the bass reproduction of the main speaker, then reducing the main speaker’s bass output runs counter to our mission.

Trust the designer of your main speaker. If they had thought it sounded cleaner with less bottom end then that’s what they should have built.

Well-designed full-range speakers should shine on their own.

Adding a subwoofer is the icing on the cake.

Asheville, Walnut Cove, Biltmore Forrest and Western North Carolina’s Audio and Home Theater specialists present Cane Creek AV and Paul McGowan – PS Audio, Intl.

This pretty much isnt applicable for Audiophiles, as I’ve only ever used preamps with at least two sets of outputs and subwoofers with their own amplifiers, but for those with AVR’s, applicable.

Double duty

For those that have receivers or integrateds with dedicated RCA subwoofer outputs, this post may have some interest.

For the most part, a dedicated subwoofer output on a receiver or integrated exists because of old-school habits. Long ago, at the beginning of the subwoofer era, there were no built-in crossovers. Subs came in two flavors: an unpowered or powered woofer in a box. If the first the user had to supply a power amplifier and if the latter, a crossover to remove the high frequencies from the receiver.

Over time, subwoofer manufacturers moved away from these crude versions to more sophisticated ones with built-in crossovers and amps making unnecessary the dedicated subwoofer outputs.

The problem with this feature overlap between receivers and subwoofers is the confusion it causes.

Without prior knowledge, what user wouldn’t use the dedicated subwoofer output to feed their sub?

The issue, of course, is having two crossovers: one in the receiver and the second in the subwoofer. Double-duty crossovers make for a less-than-desirable outcome.

If you do have a dedicated subwoofer output check with your instruction manual to see if you can disable it or instead, use a Y-connector on the receiver’s main RCA outputs.

Of course, if your subwoofer allows, the best connection possible is from the amplifier’s speaker outputs.

It’s all in the connection.

Asheville, Walnut Cove, Biltmore Forrest and Western North Carolina’s Audio and Home Theater specialists present Cane Creek AV and Paul McGowan – PS Audio, Intl.

Paul’s finally lost it

We could all see it coming. A screw loose here, a rattle in the old brain cage, a distant look in my eyes.

Yup. Lost it.

When Octave Record’s executive producer, Jessica Carson, and I were plotting out some new releases one of the ones I was most excited about will be the first in a new series called The Art of HiFi.

The first release will be all about bass. And oh my, this is a must have for anyone that likes bass. Like me.

Once decided I knew it was time to add subwoofers in the Octave mixroom. There is some seriously low frequency material recorded at DSD256 and I don’t want to miss one Hertz of it.

The FR30s we use for monitors have amazing bass extending into the mid-20Hz region but, for those of you that know me, that’s just not the proverbial DC to light I am looking for.

To properly mix this new release I need subs that are not worried about the room and loaf along producing subsonic with ease. And, they have to be sonically invisible.

A tall order.

After hearing Darren Myer’s dual nearfield 18″ sealed woofers I was smitten. I went to our guru, Chris Brunhaver, and asked what he would recommend.

The look on Chris’ face was confusing. It was either one of pure evil or glee. I couldn’t tell which.

Chris insisted I go all out. Dual 21″ low distortion pro subs housed in slender cabinets that are nearly my height—each cabinet weighing in at 150 pounds without the woofer (and the woofer’s just about 80 pounds itself).

These beasts will sit directly across from the mix table where I sit, one pointed right at each ear.

Nearfield subwoofers are not bothered by the room. Once tuned via DSP and powered by a 1,200 watt amplifier, these bad boys will sonically disappear, and it will appear as if the FR30s just got an extra octave of lower bass response well below the limits of human hearing but not the limits of human feeling—gut thumping.

Yup, I’ve lost it.

I couldn’t be more excited. I made a short little video showing the cabinets just before we finished them.

You can watch it here.

Asheville, Walnut Cove, Biltmore Forrest and Western North Carolina’s Audio and Home Theater specialists present Cane Creek AV and Paul McGowan – PS Audio, Intl

Swimming upstream

There are a number of old sayings about the futility of swimming upstream or battling rising tides.

It’s better to work with something than fight against it.

Like one’s stereo room.

Our rooms can be our friends and partners or they can be a constant headache.

Which is one reason I prefer diffusers over absorbers, subwoofers placed in areas of the room different than the main loudspeakers, and moving one’s listening chair to the perfect place.

Whenever you’re in the setup mode don’t forget to work with the room rather than against it.

Partners make life better.

Asheville, Walnut Cove, Biltmore Forrest and Western North Carolina’s Audio and Home Theater specialists present Cane Creek AV and Paul McGowan – PS Audio, Intl.

How to PO your spouse in one easy lesson

How’s that headline for clickbait? Not too bad, eh? 🙂

But, I am serious.

A week or so ago I visited engineer Darren Myer’s house. Darren’s home is an audiophile’s temple. In one room is a beautiful pair of Wilsons and in the main living room a gorgeous white pair of PS Audio FR30s.

Both rooms are sonic stunners.

So, I am sitting in the Wilson room and Darren puts on a classic Reference Recording of Felix Hell at the pipe organ. Suddenly, as Hell’s feet dance upon the instrument’s pedals I find myself in the hall where it was recorded and there’s so much perfect sounding bass from those massive pipes that I am stunned.

“Wilson’s don’t have that kind of bass,” say I.

“I know, right?” He grins.

“What the hell?”

Darren tells me to turn around. Behind the couch I am sitting on, not more than a foot from my head, are pointed at me two of the biggest badass subwoofers I have ever seen. 18″ Eminence low distortion, high excursion, beauties and each with its own Stellar M1200 monoblock power amplifier feeding them.

Nearfield subwoofers. Subs not impacted by the room because they are not “in the room” but rather you are in the subwoofer.

I am certain this sounds insane. It is insane but it works. Properly set up you don’t even know there’s a subwoofer present. I didn’t.

Those Wilsons just had bass.

The damned subwoofers were inches from my head and I didn’t even know they were there.

Now, that’s magic and much for this poor head of mine to digest.

We shall be exploring this subject a great deal more.

Asheville, Walnut Cove, Biltmore Forrest and Western North Carolina’s Audio and Home Theater specialists present Cane Creek AV and Paul McGowan – PS Audio, Intl.

Rolling the dice

A truly full-range loudspeaker is a rare bird. There simply aren’t that many speaker models on the market that cover 20Hz to 20kHz.

But here’s the thing. Even if they were a common occurrence, few among us would be able to enjoy their low frequency contributions.

The problem of course is our old friend the room.

Rooms and low bass are not good bedmates.

The chances of producing a 20Hz note from where your speakers are placed and hearing it at your listening position are about as good as rolling snake eyes.

Where we place our main speakers for best imaging and tonal balance is not likely to be where it is best for bass reproduction.

Which is why, of course, we often turn to a pair of separate woofer boxes called subwoofers.

We can place the subs where in the room they work to support low frequencies without compromising where our main speakers sound best.

Subwoofers are like loaded dice. They guarantee we win.

Asheville, Walnut Cove, Biltmore Forrest and Western North Carolina’s Audio and Home Theater specialists present Cane Creek AV and Paul McGowan – PS Audio, Intl.

Little speakers and big rooms

There seems a common misconception that big rooms need big loudspeakers.

The truth can be very different.

Aesthetically there’s no doubt a small pair of stand-mounted bookshelf speakers may not fit a large room’s vibe, but from a sonic standpoint, it really shouldn’t matter.

The size of woofer and box determines the speaker’s low end, not how loudly it plays in a room.

A 6.5″ woofer married to a 1″ tweeter in a small box plays at about the same loudness as the same driver complement in a floor-standing enclosure. The floor stander has more internal volume from which the woofer can relax more and go deeper, but chances are good it won’t play any louder.

One benefit of a bigger box is room for more drivers. It’s much easier to build a 3-way or 4-way speaker when you have the available real estate.

And its shape and size may be more aesthetically pleasing in a large room.

If you’re not too concerned with the look, then a small speaker in a big room works just fine.

(And there’s always the possibility of sneaking a couple of subwoofers in the room to augment the smaller woofer)

Asheville, Walnut Cove, Biltmore Forrest and Western North Carolina’s Audio and Home Theater specialists present Cane Creek AV and Paul McGowan – PS Audio, Intl.

Can work either way..

Subwoofer connections

For more than three decades I have strongly advocated the high-level connection of subwoofers—where we connect the output of the power amplifier to the input of the subwoofer.

What amazes me is that still to this day, that viewpoint is considered radical.

The vast majority of subwoofer manufacturers would have you connecting their subwoofers through low-level inputs as supplied by your preamplifier. Their reasoning is simple. The output of a preamplifier is cleaner and more direct than what happens after a power amplifier has processed it.

My good friend, John Hunter of REL subs is one of the few subwoofer manufacturers agreeing with me.

And here’s the thing. The majority of subwoofer manufacturers are correct. There’s no argument that the output of the preamplifier is cleaner, purer, and more direct than the output of a power amplifier.

So why the debate?

Because they are missing the point. Subwoofers should not stand out in the system. The whole point of a subwoofer is to augment the performance of the main loudspeakers. We don’t want to hear the subwoofer. We want to pretend as if it were a perfect appendage to the main speakers. To make that happen we need to do whatever we can to get closer to matching the sound of the main speakers—a perfect pairing.

We want the characteristics of the power amp to color the output of our subwoofer in an effort to more closely integrate it.

Hope that helps.

Asheville, Walnut Cove, Biltmore Forrest and Western North Carolina’s Audio and Home Theater specialists present Cane Creek AV and Paul McGowan – PS Audio, Intl.

I’ve owned just about them all, including horn loudspeakers, Quad 57 electrostat’s, Eminent Technologies planar magnetic hybrids and dynamic speakers,. At the present time, I use a pair of Daedalus Ulysses speakers in my all music system and a pair of custom Horn speakers for my Home Theater system, which I designed the cabinet for and had built locally. They are excellent and feature a Great Plains Audio Altec 604e driver and their crossover, which has upgraded parts. Both systems have two subwoofers and are incredible sounding and that’s not just my opinion.

I’ve also tried all sorts of different tube and solid state amps, both separates and integrated amps. However, I haven’t yet tried omni directional loudspeakers, so  maybe changes aren’t over yet.

Pigeonholed

One of my readers reminded me that I don’t like either electrostat’s or vacuum tube output stages.

Funny thing is, it isn’t true.

There was a period in my life where all I listened to was through electrostatic loudspeaker powered by vacuum tubes.

I moved away from electrostat’s because I missed dynamics.

I moved away from vacuum tube output stages because I missed the control afforded by high damping factor amps.

But just because I moved on doesn’t mean that at the time I wasn’t in love with what I had.

In each phase of our development, we define ourselves by where we are in time.

And then that changes.

It’s the tradeoffs in life that define where we are at the moment.

Asheville, Walnut Cove, Biltmore Forrest and Western North Carolina’s Audio and Home Theater specialists present Cane Creek AV and Paul McGowan – PS Audio, Intl.

Subwoofer history

In one of my Ask Paul video questions, I was asked how far back subwoofers go in 2-channel audio. The community member had only become aware of subs as they related to home theater.

Of course, many readers of Paul’s Post know subs date back much further than home theater.

From Wikipedia: In September 1964, Raymon Dones received the first patent for a subwoofer specifically designed to augment the low-frequency range of modern stereo systems (US patent 3150739). Able to reproduce distortion-free low frequencies down to 15 Hz, a specific objective of Dones’s invention was to provide portable sound enclosures capable of high fidelity reproduction of low-frequency sound waves without giving an audible indication of the direction from which they emanated. Dones’s loudspeaker was marketed in the US under the trade name “The Octavium” from the early 1960s to the mid-1970s. The Octavium was utilized by several recording artists of that era, most notably the Grateful Dead.

Two years later, in 1966, my former partner in Genesis Technologies and the co-founder of Infinity, Arnie Nudell, along with his airline pilot friend, Carry Christie, launched the second and perhaps most important subwoofer of its time, the Infinity Servo woofer, based on an 18″ Cerwin Vega driver.

My experience with a subwoofer began a few years later when I was first introduced to a true high-end audio system. There, in the living room of local audiophile Norm Little, was serial numbers 1 and 2 of aerospace engineer Eugene J. “Gene” Czerwinski’s creation, a pair of 18″ Cerwin-Vega subwoofers capable of producing 130 dB at 30 Hz, an astonishing level during its time (or any time).

I suppose I have never gotten over the experience of hearing for the first time, all there is in the recordings, including subsonics.

Until you hear it all, you’re not going to know what true high-end audio really is.