Another post to AVS.


I once visited a home with a tiny, heavily-furnished room where I could clearly hear a person playing the piano.
I was completely mistaken about the piano. A pair of ESL57s had been inserted somehow at random and sounded utterly convincing.
The limited number of other electrostatics I have heard since then have not made convincing music.
All draw attention to themselves in one way or another. Boom tizz-tizz. Boom tizz-tizz.

Claiming that only small subwoofer cones work is to ignore physics.
They are also horribly uneconomic to make their area larger by using a greater quantity.
You can make no useful sound with a postcard until you stick lots of them on a large board.
Only then can you move enough air to become convincing at lower frequencies.
A postcard needs an excursion of several yards to produce low notes.
Even if it were remotely possible the sound would be horrendous and it would take literally ages to move that far!
We just don't have that much time for that much excursion every time we need to hear something h_a_a_a_p_p_p_e_n_n....

A large set of 15" or 18" cones can reproduce convincing bass without any visible movement.
So they need no time [AT ALL] to get to that nowhere fast. Dynamics and VLF to die for!
Hit a large sheet of metal with a hammer and it shows no excursion either.
Hit a shipping container with a even larger hammer and it shows no excursion.
Yet both sound strangely convincing. Don't they? I wonder why?
Ear defenders may be considered important for this thought experiment.
Though closed back headphones will do at a pinch.

The problem with audio reproduction is the desperate [almost completely futile] attempt to match reality at all frequencies.
And, to do so in a realistic manner where the dynamics are also reproduced accurately.
Nobody suggests anyone sits and "enjoys" a steady 120dB. Pardon?
But surely it is a useful momentary target if accurate [real to life] reproduction is the goal?
I'd love to see your 10" cones matching that little waif on the marching band, bass drum!
Now that would be something else and would probably require excessive intoxicants to become remotely convincing. Hic!

Back to the OP: Learn to adjust your subwoofer down in volume to match your speakers.
Hopefully there will not be a huge frequency gap between them.
Move the subwoofer around the room to minimize those nasty unnatural booms made by the room.
Well away from the walls and corners [and you] is often best but not usually the loudest.
Loud is only for teenage parties because they have absolutely nothing useful to say to each other.

Learn to differentiate between miserably poor upper bass humps and better quality bass from your better subwoofer.
Then just keep adding to the quantity and quality of your subwoofers until you grow old and opinionated.
Keep turning them all down until you can no longer hear the subwoofers but only the [more realistic] music.
At some point on your very long journey you will learn to grow very afraid of that little girl walloping that bass drum.
She was your terrifying first step and your final goal on your exhausting journey towards musical realism.
Your constant reality check, if you like.

BTW: Some really big, ugly blokes can pound on the bass drum too.
But you'll have to wait for completely new technology to get even close to that "alternative" reality.
But above all: Remember that 10" woofers are only for 10" drums.



An ode to real bass:


When I first discovered subwoofers I could not believe my ears.
The authority they brought to all music was stunning.

Each improvement in subwoofer quality should be clearly heard as moving closer to reality.
Those who cling to bookshelf speakers without using a subwoofer obviously haven't listened to real music.
I am not talking about film bass here but the bass which supports music as a solid foundation.
Bass provides the scaffolding from which the higher notes are hung,
And delicately arranged and endlessly re-arranged.
Without the foundation and scaffolding it all collapses into a mere jangle-jingle.  

The subwoofer must be well integrated with the speakers and the room.
Ideally this requires something like REW to at least find a nice balance.
The ears are easily fooled and highly susceptible to suggestion.
How many of us have listened to a whole piece without realizing something wasn't even turned on?

As subwoofer quality and cone area increase so the cone excursion falls.
You can pump bass artificially hard.
Or you can waft it effortlessly into terrifying being.
I prefer the latter.
There is no substitute for sheer cone area moving a couple of thou' at 120dB!

There are no small elephants which can bellow over 7 miles from the herd. 
Nor small double basses. Nor 10" fog horns.
No bijou whale which can circle the entire globe with his gigantic acoustic power.
A contra-bass anything does not come in a shiny, veneered, shoe box.

A large drum or instrument sounding board produces infrasonics. [Sub 20Hz]
Which small subwoofers have never felt let alone tried to reproduce with authority.
You may never have heard the great organ pipes inter-playing at the very limits of human perception.
The composers obviously felt it necessary to achieve that precise effect by writing down all the pedal notes.
They could only have understood them from listening to real cathedral organs with 32' ranks.
You certainly won't hear anything like this very strange reality [at home] until you have acres of bass cone area.

Our world abounds in natural infrasonics.
They can be felt and heard in any large space:
Supermarket, concert hall, factory or train station.
Try standing in a corner of one of these great spaces.
If you can stand the crushing acoustic pressure!
Bass instruments have inspired man to march to war, or to dance wildly.
They have moved and terrified him with large drums and bigger horns for countless millennia!
We have a species memory for bass written into our genes.

When did you last stand in dumbstruck awe as a mere slip of girl beats the hell out of the bass drum as the band passes in step?
Did you not flinch at that raw power in your chest and stomach and paralyzed mind?
And you still think you can listen to realistic music through a 10" speaker?