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  • SOTA Speakers With Subwoofer Towers

    You've seen them, mega buck state of the art speakers by MBL, Von Schweikert, Gryphon, Genesis and various others with four towers - high frequency, midrange and woofers all slamming the room for a huge lifelike musical experience. We've seen more and more of these configurations over the years so they must be working and equally as important, selling.

    Expensive for certain but can also be exciting and immersive as a SOTA speaker should be.

    My experience with these speakers has been that the huge woofer towers "can" bring a very realistic presentation to the soundstage by flushing out and filling the room with that last bit of controlled bass.

    So my question is, do you believe one can one achieve a fair percentage of these SOTA speakers by adding more bass foundation to a lower price speaker?

    Lets say you have a $50,000 to $100,000 speaker system that is quite robust on it's own, can you achieve near the performance of a SOTA $250,000 four tower speaker by adding that last layer of foundation. With, dare I say it, subwoofers?

    If you bought two high quality subwoofers for very little money compared to your $50,000 to $100,000 speaker will you screw up the sound or make it better?


  • #2
    Wilson, Vandersteen, Magico and YG to name a few offer sub-bass augmentation for their top models and the ones I've heard have succeeded. I was initially skeptical about adding subs to the already very fine bass on the Vandy Model 7, but it did bring something to the table. its sorta like adding a super tweeter that extends the treble beyond the audible range, in a very fine system they seem to add that certain something you never knew was missing until it's there.

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    • #3
      I had never been a believer in sub systems. My experience over the past year and half has been that the technology has improved to the extent that I can say I had been missing much over the years with my reluctance to augment with a sub. With systems that are multi- tower- you are probably looking at 6 figures minimum for a commercial product to get what is possible. I like audio but at that price I don't like it that much.

      Today's excellent quality subs offer a good alternative. Not just for the lower octave but for solidifying imaging and cleaning the upper registers up as well. Cheap poorly constructed models need not apply.

      Caveat though, for me I have only been able to do this with a 1st order crossover for my amp built-in and modified. All the commercial crossovers I have tried ( some good ones too) add a haze or artifacts that are unacceptable to me with high resolution stats.
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      • #4
        I think I have improved the presentation of my old Avantgarde Duo by adding a pair of 15" subs- not uber subs, either. (Rythmik, using built in plate amp). I cross them over very low at 50hz with a steep slope -24 db/octave. My goal is to blend into the integrated woofers in the Avantgardes. They do that- they aren't noticeable. This also enables me to keep the Avantgarde woofers tuned more closely to the sound of the mid-horn, so i have greater cohesiveness in the transition between the mid horn and the upper bass being played by dynamic woofers. It works. Would a better subwoofer system work better? Maybe, but at that point, I think I'd just revisit the entire speaker system, rather than go crazy on state of the art woofers.
        With the old Quad ESLs back in play in another room, I have no temptation to play with the devil again. Years ago, I tried in vain to supplement them with woofers and super tweeters. Now, after a fresh restoration, they are playing without any additional speakers and sound great. Their limitations are far outweighed by what they do so well-- wonderful musical engagement. I had some visitors here yesterday, and after we played the main system for several hours, both wanted to hear the Quads. I think they liked them just as much as the main system, for different reasons. Moral of story: none.

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        • #5
          One of the advantages of large dipole designs like Genesis for example (aside from excellent dynamics, scale and impact) is less room interaction caused by the figure 8 dispersion pattern as you don't have the problem of floor and ceiling bounce. I know Paul McGowan uses quite minimal room treatments in his listening room with the IRS-V's.

          Solid, accurate bass foundations help the mids and highs, whereas some ported speakers suffer from bloat which causes smearing of the mids & highs, leading to listener fatigue and reduced image focus. I feel like my Magico S5 Mk2's which use 2 x 10" bass drivers don't need subs, as they already couple well to my medium size listening room. My friend who owns S7's was running a pair of Wilson Benesch Torus subs for a while & the sound was fuller and more effortless to my ears. But my friend has since re-positioned his speakers, bringing them further out in the room and now prefers the sound sans subs.

          I think subwoofers have their place. Pairing small-medium size floorstanders with high end subs can certainly propel a speaker's performance into bigger dollar territory. That said some subs are easier to integrate than others, but all take some time and effort. But returning to your question, if I owned a pair of Magico M3's ($75k) + had enough change for a pair of Q Sub 15's ($44k), that would be a great combo no doubt, but how far would it take me? Would that combo be nipping at the heels of the new M6 ($172k)? JV called it about right in his review of the M3's -

          The fact that the M3 uses three 7" woofers, rather than the three 10-inchers found in the M Pro, makes for a slight difference in power-range fullness and low-bass extension (the M3 is said to play on its own into the upper 30s) vis-à-vis the Pro, though the difference is surprisingly small and can be completely eliminated by adding a pair of $22k QSub 15s or $12k JL Audio Gothams to the package, crossed over around 45-55Hz. (For all sorts of reasons, I’m all in favor of using really good subwoofers, like the Magico Qs or the JL Audio Gothams, with full-range loudspeakers.) With the QSubs in and Soulution electronics driving the entire she-bang and TARA labs Zero & Omega Evolution SP audio cables hooking it all up, I would be hard pressed to say that I heard a substantial difference between the M3s and the M Pros on a powerful, deep-reaching pop cut like “I’m the Man to Be” from El Vy’s Return to the Moon. No, you don’t get all the midbass slam you may be used to from a ported loudspeaker, but you will still get goosebump-raising power, sub-20Hz extension, lifelike tone color unobscured by port resonance, and the peerless bass-range clarity of a sealed box.
          So no I don't think really good subs will quite take you into SOTA $250k speaker territory, but they can deliver a visceral experience raising the loudspeaker's performance up significantly. But if you take a speaker like the Magico S7 or M Pro which already has 3 x 10" bass drivers, I would look to invest in better speakers in lieu of high end subs. My 2 cents.
          Last edited by Bodhi; 09-09-2017, 03:12 PM. Reason: correction
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          • #6
            Originally posted by Greg Beron View Post
            You've seen them, mega buck state of the art speakers by MBL, Von Schweikert, Gryphon, Genesis and various others with four towers - high frequency, midrange and woofers all slamming the room for a huge lifelike musical experience. We've seen more and more of these configurations over the years so they must be working and equally as important, selling.

            Expensive for certain but can also be exciting and immersive as a SOTA speaker should be.

            My experience with these speakers has been that the huge woofer towers "can" bring a very realistic presentation to the soundstage by flushing out and filling the room with that last bit of controlled bass.

            So my question is, do you believe one can one achieve a fair percentage of these SOTA speakers by adding more bass foundation to a lower price speaker?

            Lets say you have a $50,000 to $100,000 speaker system that is quite robust on it's own, can you achieve near the performance of a SOTA $250,000 four tower speaker by adding that last layer of foundation. With, dare I say it, subwoofers?

            If you bought two high quality subwoofers for very little money compared to your $50,000 to $100,000 speaker will you screw up the sound or make it better?
            I think it is possible to get there. Next time you are in town swapping decks or doing an upgrade, carve out an hour or so to stop by. It takes a good bit of work but it is possible to get satisfactory results near or close to those setups (depending on the observer's opinion of course).

            Dre
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            • Greg Beron
              Greg Beron commented
              Editing a comment
              Hey Andre, will probably take you up on that next visit.

          • #7
            By adding the 2 JL Audio subs and the CR-1 crossover, this is the best sound that I have ever had in the studio. Separate subs (at least 2) can take a great system and send it into the stratosphere.... especially if the main monitors are of excellent quality on their own merit.

            Comment


            • #8
              Originally posted by Bruce B View Post
              By adding the 2 JL Audio subs and the CR-1 crossover, this is the best sound that I have ever had in the studio. Separate subs (at least 2) can take a great system and send it into the stratosphere.... especially if the main monitors are of excellent quality on their own merit.
              When you look at those big 4 tower speakers with 2 sub towers, what's the sonic difference in adding 2 JL Audio Subs?
              Sure any purist would argue the speaker designer made the sub towers in alignment with the rest of the drivers but seems like you are paying $$$$ bigtime for that in a $200,000+++ speaker system. These new subs are very adjustable and I bet can be integrated pretty well.

              My thoughts were like Bruce and Andre, bet you can get some great sound for much less do ray me.

              Comment


              • #9
                Originally posted by Greg Beron View Post
                You've seen them, mega buck state of the art speakers by MBL, Von Schweikert, Gryphon, Genesis and various others with four towers - high frequency, midrange and woofers all slamming the room for a huge lifelike musical experience. We've seen more and more of these configurations over the years so they must be working and equally as important, selling.

                Expensive for certain but can also be exciting and immersive as a SOTA speaker should be.

                My experience with these speakers has been that the huge woofer towers "can" bring a very realistic presentation to the soundstage by flushing out and filling the room with that last bit of controlled bass.

                So my question is, do you believe one can one achieve a fair percentage of these SOTA speakers by adding more bass foundation to a lower price speaker?

                Lets say you have a $50,000 to $100,000 speaker system that is quite robust on it's own, can you achieve near the performance of a SOTA $250,000 four tower speaker by adding that last layer of foundation. With, dare I say it, subwoofers?

                If you bought two high quality subwoofers for very little money compared to your $50,000 to $100,000 speaker will you screw up the sound or make it better?
                Forget about the $$$ it's quality not quantity, it might be a question of personal tastes but my own experiences with two of the 4 tower speakers you mention are opposite of your assumptions, not only that they wont integrate properly the bass is anything but natural. Yes, you can enhance the sound of a quality speaker with subs when you know what you're doing but it's a lot easier to screw it up! As an analog person I only care for efficient passive subs using a quality analog crossover, I can't listen to any of the active subs I've come across including and specially JLA's that are quite popular here. But YMMV.

                david
                Last edited by david k; 09-11-2017, 09:10 AM.
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                • #10
                  Lots of good observations. I think in part but not all the way. One thing a sub won't do move the volume of air of a speaker with big woofer towers like the older Infinity speakers or say the YG Sonya XV.

                  But perhaps it might be of use to first define subwoofer vs. woofer. For instance, the guys at REL only consider below 40 Hz as being subwoofer territory. Others like the JLs can crossover higher. So I guess at what frequency does the sub xover at?

                  Then I assume we are simply talking dynamic speaker with dynamic subs. It's seems that mating electrostats--like the old CLSs--with subs is an exercise in futility.

                  Then there's there's of us who don't have the room.

                  What about subs and main speaker from same company as opposed to subs and main speaker from different manufacturers? I think here one my run into issues of different colorations and finding the right crossover point, slope, etc.

                  Are we talking one vs. two subs? Or even like Sumiko did one time stacking three REL subs per channel with the SF Strads.

                  I've found mixed results with subs. Sometimes better, sometimes worse. Sometimes it's the integration when doing separate subs (though the Revel sub that Kevin designed looked to have extraordinary flexibility for integration into the main speaker system.) Sometimes the sub just muddies the sound. Exacerbating room issues? Xover? Powered vs. unpowered? But that sub can as KCIN mentioned add foundation to the music and solidity to images (though I'm not sure about cleaning the upper octaves as much as it is changing the ear's focus to the lower frequencies). Not to mention the sense of recording space if it exists on the recording.

                  But the biggest thing is that using a separate sub can allow the speaker designer to get the rest of the speaker right. How many times did we hear ages ago that if someone buys an expensive speaker, they should get the lowest bass too.
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                  • Bodhi
                    Bodhi commented
                    Editing a comment
                    Good observations Myles. If I were going to go down the road of adding a sub, I would add a pair of subs instead of one. And if we're talking about some of the best subs like the JL Audio Gotham V2, you're getting into some serious numbers ($30k for a pair). I agree that even with the Gotham's generous DSP-controlled automatic room-correction with 18 band EQ, adding a pair of subs could exacerbate any existing room issues.

                    From my experience & listening to friends who have used subs, you ideally want a medium-large or large size room with good acoustics to get the full benefit of the bass slam, ambient space and stage size good subs can provide. And I agree it makes more sense pairing dynamics subs with dynamic speakers. The best subs like Magico or JL Audio shouldn't have obvious colorations of their own, hence their shouldn't be any tonal imbalance. Though some subs may be easier to integrate than others. The Q Sub for example require a supporting cast (laptop, microphone, measurement software etc), whereas the Gotham is a lot more user-friendly, with on-board controls as I mentioned.

                    Personally I would only buy very good subs of the likes of those mentioned, and for that coin I would rather invest in a better pair of speakers. Though if I one day setup a dedicated, treated listening room for shared 2-channel music/HT use with a projector & roll-down screen, I would seriously consider them. Then again, I could always simply upgrade to a future version of the Magico S7 with M Pods and call it a day .
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