Subwoofers - Need and Setup

All I have to say about the whole subwoofer subject is this…

For those who have “tried” a sub or subs in their 2-ch system and didn’t like the results, they didn’t have them set up properly, period.

And I’ll say again… ALL loudspeakers, no matter their size or cost or bass extension, will benefit from a pair of properly set up subwoofers.


You sir are absolutely correct.


I know this is such a contentious topic among audiophiles, but I wholeheartedly agree.

To me it’s as simple as why vinyl is superior in a lot of good masters, it’s representing frequencies that are often missed, even if sonically we can’t hear them, just the air sound of the room adds a miraculous depth to a recording for those who can hear it.

It’s exactly the same for a sub, it’s representing a lower frequency range that almost every set of speakers is unable to achieve.

IF setup correctly, it WILL sound better.

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I tend to agree based on my hobbyist experience to date.

That said, I do not have any personal experience with “large” full-range speakers in my own personal space.

On the other hand, I believe it would be very rare for a room to be of proportion and treated such that augmented bass would not improve the smoothness and overall performance of a system due to the fact that the subwoofers can be placed to smooth out the bass room modes.


[PS: I suppose there would be no need for subwoofers with very capable speakers in a system with an effective room/speaker correction software in the mix.]

It is not the speakers which benefit from a subwoofer; it is the room.


I used to have the Marantz Ruby SA-KI and sold it to buy my PSA Directstream Dac. Great player very similar to the SA-10 minus the balanced out. I enjoyed the player and built in Dac but the Directstream sounds better to my ears.

Have not heard the Ruby SA-KI. I hope the $3000 price difference buys more than just balance output albeit balanced outputs make a significant difference. All SA-10 reviews state the balanced outputs offer significantly better sound quality.

All that said the main source of sound quality is the digital source. I listen to CDs & SACDs for serious listening. I use iTunes for background music. The difference between iTunes and CD is night & day.

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Paul McGowan turned me on to the benefits of subwoofers, more specifically a pair of subwoofers. He recommended 12" to 18" powered subs in order to obtain the bottom octave (20 Hz - 40Hz) of sound. I use 12" Pardigms with ARC (Anthem room correction). They utilize Paradigm drives and cabinets along side Anthem cross-overs, room correction and amps.

I had the opportunity to listen to my system for 2 weeks without subs, it sounded broken. My Paradigm Persona 3F speakers play down to 24 Hz (-6 dB). They play to 48 Hz at -2 dB for reference. I set my subs to 40 Hz and they make all the difference iny system.

Even if you could find a large full range speaker to play down to 20 Hz in your room, the distortion level from those bass drivers would be WAY higher than that of powered subs.


Very capable speakers are only part of the picture. You also need an amplifier capable to drive those very capable speakers down at those frequencies with authority.

I also agree that finely tuned subwoofers are always a compliment to the main speakers.


Are you sending a high-pass audio signal to your main speakers with the lowest octave being sent only to the subs?

Running my main speakers ‘full range’ which is down to around 40 Hz in my room.

Then how is there a difference in distortion?

Freeing the mains from producing some low frequencies could clear up the sound of the mains. But I do not understand how adding a sub alone decreases distortion.


The forementioned reference was made in regards to passive speakers playing flat down to 20 Hz and their level of distortion in the lowest octave. My speakers, for example, are approximately -3dB at 40 Hz and -10 dB at 20 Hz. They too suffer from higher distortion, at low frequencies, than active subs but they do so at significantly lower levels than speakers playing flat down to 20 Hz.

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On the subject of subwoofers meaning 2 or more. (I run two) the next best enhancement to your speakers and subs is a good crossover! The JL Audio CR1 is a game changer it’s that good and any other forum member who owns one will back up my statement!



You are correct the optimal way of integrating subs is either using the Vandersteen method or with using an active crossover like the ones sold by JL and Bryston to high pass but most people don’t want to go to take on the added expense of those methods. In addition there is the added time it takes to pick the correct crossover frequencies for both low and high pass and get things dialed in. I used a pair of Vandersteen 2WQ’s for over fifteen years and every time you change amps you have to go through the process of accurately identifying the input impedance of the and the working from there to get the correct filters. A couple of companies like Aesthetix have built the ability to set the high pass crossover frequency into their amps which is why they are so popular with Vandersteen owners. So additional filter parts needed.

Bryston and First Watt also sell similar products and I’m sure there are others.

So whatever distortion is there when the mains play low remains present, subs or not.


Good discussion regarding the pros and cons of active woofers/subwoofers. It may be worthwhile to split this off into a separate thread for future reference and discussion.
That said, having Genesis speakers with active woofers I can say there is merit in (1) active amplification of the lower frequencies, and (2) utilizing an active crossover as in the Genesis and Infinity speakers. Also, room integration and speaker placement is critical. There is significantly more to it than just adding a powered sub to the equation.

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I use an active crossover, combined with the subs’ built in capabilities (two 18" subs). I set them up with a combination of filter sweeps, a calibrated microphone and the crossover’s built in video display (routed to my TV), as well as fine tuning by ear.

I dislike the process but the results are worth it. And you need only do it once unless you make substantive changes.


Elk, Paul must have taught me wrong…

Paul in 2013

Paul in 2018