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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I am looking for information that would help me with purchasing a subwoofer for playing classical music.

I have been listening to 90% classical music for a couple of years now. I finally got myself a nice system (Chord Mscaller with TT2) to listen to classical music by headphones, which I really love. I then decided to get high efficiency single driver speakers to use with my system - Omega tower alnico speakers with a frequency range of 40-20kHz. They sound fantastic, but there is a sudden low frequency drop off. I cannot hear the lowest notes at times with classical music, and the ‘heavy feeling‘ of some music is lost. I added an old subwoofer to the system, and it helped a lot, although it gets a bit muddy. I figure a good sub would help much better.

Louis Chochos, the owner and maker of speakers at Omega, makes a sub, and it apparently has great synergy with his speakers, as one would expect. It is specifically made for music, not movies. It is fast and musical. The problem is that the frequency range is 28-160Hz (DeepHemp 8 Subwoofer), and so I fear that the lowest notes may still be missed. Other subs that are powered, musical, and fast seem to have a low frequency of 20Hz. One even goes down to 18Hz.

I figure that going with the Omega sub would be best, except for the 28Hz cut off. Do you happen to know if that would be sufficient for listening to classical music, or would another sub be more suitable. Is the latter, any suggestions?

Thanks in advance,

Fed
 

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For what it's worth, the lowest note on a double bass is around 41 Hz. The contrabassoon gets down to around 32 Hz. A huge 16 ft stopped pipe organ goes down to around 16 Hz - below audibility but you sure can feel it. If you ever hear a fine orchestra in a good hall you will be struck how light the bass is compared to the way a lot of us listen at home. I use two 12 inch subs that really pack a wallop in organ music and especially on bass drum transients. A sub that goes to 28 would be excellent, really.
 

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There are a few newer (post-2010) orchestral recordings which get down in the 30Hz territory, things like Aaron Copland's "Fanfare for the Common Man" with drums as big as a car. Last year I bought myself an REL powered (150w) subwoofer, flat to 15Hz, and have been discovering all sorts of material that exercises it. You FEEL rather than hear these notes. It literally rattles the pictures on my wall, and my throw rug in the music room has to be adjusted every couple of days.

What I did not expect was how much more transparent it made my main speakers, now that they're crossed over at about 60Hz.
 

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I am looking for information that would help me with purchasing a subwoofer for playing classical music.

I have been listening to 90% classical music for a couple of years now. I finally got myself a nice system (Chord Mscaller with TT2) to listen to classical music by headphones, which I really love. I then decided to get high efficiency single driver speakers to use with my system - Omega tower alnico speakers with a frequency range of 40-20kHz. They sound fantastic, but there is a sudden low frequency drop off. I cannot hear the lowest notes at times with classical music, and the ‘heavy feeling‘ of some music is lost. I added an old subwoofer to the system, and it helped a lot, although it gets a bit muddy. I figure a good sub would help much better.

Louis Chochos, the owner and maker of speakers at Omega, makes a sub, and it apparently has great synergy with his speakers, as one would expect. It is specifically made for music, not movies. It is fast and musical. The problem is that the frequency range is 28-160Hz (DeepHemp 8 Subwoofer), and so I fear that the lowest notes may still be missed. Other subs that are powered, musical, and fast seem to have a low frequency of 20Hz. One even goes down to 18Hz.

I figure that going with the Omega sub would be best, except for the 28Hz cut off. Do you happen to know if that would be sufficient for listening to classical music, or would another sub be more suitable. Is the latter, any suggestions?

Thanks in advance,

Fed
Single driver point source speakers can be wonderful for classical music -- think classic Tannoys.

The "heavy feeling" isn't there because these speakers only have a 6 inch driver, so they can't move much air. The lack of pressure is probably the problem, rather than volume dropping off for the bass frequencies -- the speakers may be well balanced. If you can get a frequency response curve at the listening position that would be helpful.

My first suggestion to you is that you change your listening position so that you're closer to the speakers -- that could sort things out perfectly. And they are ported, so make sure that they are a good distance from the wall behind them. Try the speaker in different positions from the rear and side walls, and try different listening positions - start by placing yourself so that you form an equilateral triangle with the speakers, with your ears at the same level as the driver. Make sure that there's plenty of absorptive material in the room -- books, rugs, curtains. These things can make a huge difference.

If you do want to explore a sub, you should certainly try the Omega one first because the major problems with using subs are frequency loss at the crossover, and timing the subwoofer output so that it sounds seamless rather than splashy -- presumably the guys at Omega have thought about this and dealt with it. My own feeling is that the sub route shouldn't be even thought about unless you listen to organ music.

But at the end of the day, the speakers may be too small for your tastes and your requirement vis-a-vis room and seating. Sorry.
 

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A huge 16 ft stopped pipe organ goes down to around 16 Hz - below audibility but you sure can feel it.
I'm going to be pedantic and say a 16 foot stop "only" goes down to 32 Hz, you need a 32 foot stop to reach the 16 Hz (a more space-economical combination stop of 16 and 10 2/3 will do the trick as well).
Audible only for whales and elephants, but sure you can feel the vibrations.
 

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I'm going to be pedantic and say a 16 foot stop "only" goes down to 32 Hz, you need a 32 foot stop to reach the 16 Hz (a more space-economical combination stop of 16 and 10 2/3 will do the trick as well).
Audible only for whales and elephants, but sure you can feel the vibrations.
There are exactly TWO organs in the world that have 64-foot stops, with an 8Hz fundamental. One is the Midmer-Losh organ at the Atlantic City Convention Center. The other is the Pogson organ in the Sydney Opera Hall.

The John Wanamaker organ in Philadelphia was for years the largest on the planet.
 

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Besides the low frequencies you are missing, the other thing good subs will add to your system, is, improving the soundstage size and openness,

There is a lot of ambient information in those very low frequencies, especially in classical recordings recorded in concert halls. This is noticeable even when there isn't a lot of audible low frequencies in the music itself.
 
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For what it's worth, the lowest note on a double bass is around 41 Hz. The contrabassoon gets down to around 32 Hz. A huge 16 ft stopped pipe organ goes down to around 16 Hz - below audibility but you sure can feel it. If you ever hear a fine orchestra in a good hall you will be struck how light the bass is compared to the way a lot of us listen at home. I use two 12 inch subs that really pack a wallop in organ music and especially on bass drum transients. A sub that goes to 28 would be excellent, really.
There's a standard double bass, and one with a C-extension lengthening and lowering the E string. Or the 5 string bass they prefer in Europe.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
If you can get a frequency response curve at the listening position that would be helpful.
Would you let me know how I would go about doing that? Sounds like a good idea.

My first suggestion to you is that you change your listening position so that you're closer to the speakers -- that could sort things out perfectly.
I already tried all sorts of positioning. My main listening is in the bedroom, and positioning is limited. Thankfully, it works out well. They really do sound great, they just drop off at the low end in certain recordings. But transparency is fantastic, and I get great imaging.

My own feeling is that the sub route shouldn't be even thought about unless you listen to organ music.
Even though my speakers only go to 40Hz? True, I can hear all the low notes, but the cheap sub I have does fill the low notes out nicely.

I should also mention that my cheap sub has a hum that is a bit annoying when no music is being played. Do all powered subs have a hum of some sort?
 

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Most recordings are cut for the low frequencies. This one is not:

César Franck: Organ Works

Jean Guillou
van-den-Heuvel-organ in St. Eustache, Paris



If you can get the original release at Dorian Records, go for it.

For instance, Choral No. 1 E major ends with E in the pedal at 32 ft. About 16 Hz x 5/4 = 20 Hz.

Be careful with the volume control. The recording is from the category "either you have really good speakers or you had bad ones."
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Most recordings are cut for the low frequencies. This one is not:

César Franck: Organ Works

Jean Guillou
van-den-Heuvel-organ in St. Eustache, Paris



If you can get the original release at Dorian Records, go for it.

For instance, Choral No. 1 E major ends with E in the pedal at 32 ft. About 16 Hz x 5/4 = 20 Hz.

Be careful with the volume control. The recording is from the category "either you have really good speakers or you had bad ones."
That is quite low indeed. I don’t listen to organ music, however, unless it is in choral Music.
 

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If you do explore subwoofers let me tell you a trick I invented. Attach the sub to the system and turn off the amp to the main speakers. Play some music. There will be low frequencies coming through the sub. Ask yourself: does it sound like music, or does it sound like grunting? If the latter, don’t buy the sub.

I have a sub in a system containing electrostatics, but I couldn’t find an affordable sealed sub which sounded good. I have a pair of passive dipole subs. I bought it because I do listen to organ music - my other systems are very satisfactory for other types of music. But none of them have the presence of the electrostatics - because the electrostatics move a lot of air. That presence is to do with sound pressure, not low frequency.

Another think to explore, paradoxically, is to add supertweeters. They can make the sound more transparent and analytic sounding, and so give the illusion of better low frequency response. If you can try supertweeters on a sale or return basis, it could be an interesting experiment.

All these things are hard to integrate, and I still think you’d be mad to change the point source sound. Better to get bigger speakers!

Oh another thing, if you explore these things, my experience is that it takes some time to really see what the effect of adding a new component is. At first everything sounds new and exciting, and it’s easy to convince yourself you've made a good decision, when in fact you have made a change for the worse. You absolutely cannot decide these things on the basis of a shop demo, or a short home demo. You need at least a week of a lot of listening.
 

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Most recordings are cut for the low frequencies. This one is not:

César Franck: Organ Works

Jean Guillou
van-den-Heuvel-organ in St. Eustache, Paris



If you can get the original release at Dorian Records, go for it.

For instance, Choral No. 1 E major ends with E in the pedal at 32 ft. About 16 Hz x 5/4 = 20 Hz.

Be careful with the volume control. The recording is from the category "either you have really good speakers or you had bad ones."
It's (still?) available as a cheap Brilliant Classics twofer - but no matter how great the recording is, Guillou would be my last choice in Franck.
 

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I'm going to be pedantic and say a 16 foot stop "only" goes down to 32 Hz, you need a 32 foot stop to reach the 16 Hz (a more space-economical combination stop of 16 and 10 2/3 will do the trick as well).
Audible only for whales and elephants, but sure you can feel the vibrations.
Stopped, open, tapered -- won't be the first time I've gotten it all twisted.
The pipe length is also affected by the kind of pipe: open, stopped, or tapered. In the lowest note of a 32' open pipe, the pipe really is 32' long. A stopped pipe produces the same pitch as an open pipe when it is half the length of an open pipe. The lowest note of a stopped 32' stop is really only 16' long.
 

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No offense (really!), but I think you're being a little OCD about this. Although you can achieve a good effect by wiring up a five-pound sledge to a swing arm to bang against the bottom of your listening chair rhythmically.. :)
 

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Be careful with the volume control. The recording is from the category "either you have really good speakers or you had bad ones."
This is the same organ, and the same organist, as this famed pipe organ production:


I'm finding the Franck recording to be a bit wobbly in the low end however. Plenty of volume, but tubby. Artificially boosted.
 

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There is a lot of ambient information in those very low frequencies, especially in classical recordings recorded in concert halls. This is noticeable even when there isn't a lot of audible low frequencies in the music itself.
Interesting side note:
I read somewhere, once, that unfiltered outdoor recordings have a sub-sonic component below human hearing, i.e. under 20Hz. Nobody is quite sure the origin of this infrasonic noise. There are no elephants, blue whales or volcanos in most locations.
 

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If you do explore subwoofers let me tell you a trick I invented. Attach the sub to the system and turn off the amp to the main speakers. Play some music. There will be low frequencies coming through the sub. Ask yourself: does it sound like music, or does it sound like grunting? If the latter, don’t buy the sub.
Did you patent your invention? :giggle: Listening to a subwoofer in isolation is ALWAYS going to sound somewhat "like grunting" because the frequencies are limited to under 60Hz or under 100Hz. The ear hears spatial clues and timbre variations in the overtones way above that range, so all you hear from a sub are low indistinct fundamentals. In fact, a subwoofer that sounded "musical" all by itself is probably not crossed over at a proper frequency to avoid interfering with your main speakers.

I have a system containing electrostatics ... Another thing to explore, paradoxically, is to add supertweeters.
With electrostats this is not unreasonable. Some of the larger panels are pretty depressed in the higher frequencies.
 

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Did you patent your invention? :giggle: Listening to a subwoofer in isolation is ALWAYS going to sound somewhat "like grunting" because the frequencies are limited to under 60Hz or under 100Hz. The ear hears spatial clues and timbre variations in the overtones way above that range, so all you hear from a sub are low indistinct fundamentals. In fact, a subwoofer that sounded "musical" all by itself is probably not crossed over at a proper frequency to avoid interfering with your main speakers.
I wasn’t suggesting that you should hear melodies through the sub!

The thing that stops a good sub from being “grunting” is that a good sub captures the partials, the overtones. A bad sub just doesn’t, like a bad pair of main speakers misses timbre, and a bad amp doesn’t resolve timbre details well. This is, of course, partly a question of the sub’s amplification - the chip amps used in sealed subs may just be poor amps!
 
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