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Sub Woofer monitoring systems for organ music.

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Sub Woofer monitoring systems for organ music.

Postby Arpangel » Sat Oct 19, 2019 1:00 pm

I've been using my ageing KEF transmission line monitors for awhile now, and for most things they're fine. However, I've been expanding my organ music colkection and I'm looking at may be making a few recordings of my own music using a local pipe organ.
What I'm finding with my current monitoring set-up is a roll off in the very deep bass,
I've always been put off by using sub-woofers in the past, as IMO they can upset the whole balance of the sound if they aren't designed right.
What I'm looking for is an "integrated" system, that's designed to work with a sub, I haven't a clue where to start looking, or, even if this is the right way to go, or if I'd be better off buying a more suitable set of monitors that don't need a sub.
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Re: Sub Woofer monitoring systems for organ music.

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Sat Oct 19, 2019 1:31 pm

You're opening a substantial can of worms here, Tony.

Firstly, you're never going to get an even, balanced low bass response in a room unless you invest seriously in effective bass trapping... and that's bulky, potentially expensive, and rarely domestically acceptable. But without it you'll always have a collection of weak (or even missing) and boomy bass pedal notes and you'll never be satisfied! Been there, got the t-shirt... ;-)

If you have a room which will support a reasonably decent bass response, then you can either go down the sat/sub route or larger full-range monitor speakers. There are pros and cons to both, and the choice will come down to space, domestic acceptability, and budget.

But the golden rule for subwoofers is don't buy cheap, and never buy anything designed for home cinema!

The fundamental requirement for a music-system subwoofer is that it has to have incredibly low distortion because if it doesn't, the harmonic distortion will trample all over your satellite speakers' midrange, degrading their perceived performance quite significantly -- essentially adding a veil across the vocals and other midrange sources!

But ultra-low distortion in a bass driver is difficult to achieve and thus pretty expensive. Don't be surprised when a single subwoofer costs more than a good pair of satellite speakers!

Subwoofer systems designed for home cinema tend to be optimised to handle loud explosions well, and as a result they tend to be monotonic -- so resonant that they really just produce one note! Not much good for a nice Bach pedal line!

And finally, assuming you have a well sorted room and a decent subwoofer, you have to take great care over the physical positioning of the sub and its acoustical alignment. These are fiddly adjustments but not particularly difficult assuming the sub (or your monitor controller) have suitable facilities to adjust the crossover (or low-pass) filtering, level, and phase/time delay. Some simple acoustic measurement tools and your ears will get the job done easily enough.

As for suitable systems, it really is all about your budget and any requirements for size of speakers etc. Blue Sky do a range of models engineered from the ground up as 2.1 systems. All the usual high quality studio monitor manufacturers do dedicated subwoofers for their systems -- ATC, Focal, Genelec, Neumann, PMC, Unity Audio etc etc. Most offer big ugly cubic subwoofer boxes, but some are a little more inventive -- I quite like the PMC TLE subs which are aesthetically more pleasing to my eye, for example.

The new bass unit that matches the three smaller Genelec One monitors is an truly ingenious design that also doubles as a speaker stand... but make sure you're sitting down when you see the price! :-)
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Re: Sub Woofer monitoring systems for organ music.

Postby Arpangel » Sat Oct 19, 2019 3:09 pm

Thanks for that Hugh, I take on board your comments about room and position etc. As usual, it's a domestic compromise, not a dedicated space.
I have heard the Blue Sky Systems, Mike Skeet actually bought one over to my place, and we tried it in my room, some organ recordings he made in St Albans Cathedral, it sounded very good indeed, I could have lived with it and been very happy.
But that's the only system I've heard. Mike had a pair of ATC SCM20 monitors and an ATC sub, I never really appreciated that, maybe it wasn't adjusted properly, and Mikes room was very small.
If I'm going to go down this path it's going to be a significant investment, but I think it'll be worth it, I need to draw up a short list, for serious audition, and, in my room, that's not negotiable.
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Re: Sub Woofer monitoring systems for organ music.

Postby John Willett » Sat Oct 19, 2019 5:13 pm

Tony,

Give me a shout ands I'll bring my new ME-Geithain RL934K over so you can hear them.

These will be OK in a domestic situation - have a cardioid bass response and don't throw bass out of the rear, so will not muddy the sound in the room. They also are flat down to 30Hz which should be fine for your organ pieces.

But, as you said, you really need to hear any monitor in your own room to find out how they work, so I am happy to bring them over to your place - no problem.
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Re: Sub Woofer monitoring systems for organ music.

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Sat Oct 19, 2019 8:30 pm

John Willett wrote:Tony,I'll bring my new ME-Geithain RL934K over so you can hear them.

Just for the avoidance of any doubt, or more complaints... John Willett is the UK distributor of Geithain loudspeakers...

:silent:
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Re: Sub Woofer monitoring systems for organ music.

Postby Arpangel » Sun Oct 20, 2019 8:43 am

Hugh Robjohns wrote:
John Willett wrote:Tony,I'll bring my new ME-Geithain RL934K over so you can hear them.

Just for the avoidance of any doubt, or more complaints... John Willett is the UK distributor of Geithain loudspeakers...

:silent:

They've got to be worth a listen though! :)

My instinct is to go for a sub system I think, I've only heard what I want to hear so far, from subs. They seem to produce the very low end pedal requencues that I need, much better than an integrated speaker system.
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Re: Sub Woofer monitoring systems for organ music.

Postby Trevor Johnson » Sun Oct 20, 2019 8:09 pm

Unfortunately, what you want is almost certainly impossible to deliver. I would go for the 'full spectrum speakers' rather than a sub-woofer.

So what do I know? Well I was just talking this evening to my old organ teacher, (taught by 'Mr Trevor' (C. H. Trevor), and friend of Germani, Rubenstein, Horowitz), as was I!

The only authentic organ reproduction on speakers, I have ever heard, was on Tannoy Westminster speakers, completey rebuilt, on the Tannoy stand at Harrogate, in 1983, driven by two monoblock Harmon Cardon Citation 13 amps, running through the HC pre-amp from a modified Ferrograph 1/4 inch, running at 30 ips. In a very large, but accoustically wonderful, space.

For recording, which I also do, mic placement is the absolute key. A pair of omni NT55s will be so much better than exotic omnis in the wrong place. And the 'sweet spot' may be quite small and well defined.

Anyway, just my two pennyworth!!
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Re: Sub Woofer monitoring systems for organ music.

Postby Studio Support Gnome » Sun Oct 20, 2019 8:18 pm

Arpangel wrote:But that's the only system I've heard. Mike had a pair of ATC SCM20 monitors and an ATC sub, I never really appreciated that, maybe it wasn't adjusted properly, .

if an ATC 2.1 system doesn't do it for you... there's no hope for you....

even I generally like ATC stuff ....

you could always try a set of SP Acoustics SP1

if you don't hear what you want through them, it isn't in the recording.

of course you'll need a decent size room, and effective treatment to get the best from them....


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Re: Sub Woofer monitoring systems for organ music.

Postby James Perrett » Sun Oct 20, 2019 9:04 pm

Trevor Johnson wrote:The only authentic organ reproduction on speakers, I have ever heard, was on Tannoy Westminster speakers, completey rebuilt, on the Tannoy stand at Harrogate, in 1983, driven by two monoblock Harmon Cardon Citation 13 amps, running through the HC pre-amp from a modified Ferrograph 1/4 inch, running at 30 ips. In a very large, but accoustically wonderful, space.

A pair of those will set you back £32k - possibly the most expensive product the Behringer group make these days? The spec says that they're no more than 6dB down at 18Hz.
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Re: Sub Woofer monitoring systems for organ music.

Postby Arpangel » Mon Oct 21, 2019 10:30 am

Once again, thanks for your replies, but I get the feeling that this one, as usual, is going to get firmly swept under the carpet, again.
I'll just recap, my "studio" is to all intents and purposes a domestic living room that my other half like to use sometimes, to read, and watch telly in, my studio area is one end of the room, with a huge sofa in front of it, which doesn't bother me as it's behind my back when I'm monitoring. But any acoustic treatment is out, it's not a "bad" room anyway, it's quite dead, owing to lots of soft furnishings, especially in corners, but whatever, it's not getting changed. It's a big-ish room, 25X15ft.
I also have a preference for one box speaker systems, but.......I can only base my opinion on what I've heard, my friend bought a Blue Sky Media System down here and it sounded exactly the way I wanted it to, it was satellite speakers and a sub. We played a recording of the organ and choir of St Albans cathedral, it was a very good recording made by my friend, and the full weight of the organ came across very realistically. The neighbours thought we had an organ in the house! and our house is detached!!
Regarding ATC systems, I love their speakers, but all I can say about my friends sub set-up was that the room was way too small, and it wasn't adjusted properly. I'm my experience you need a large space for bass sounds to really develope, although I'm aware that that rule "in some circumstances" may not apply.
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Re: Sub Woofer monitoring systems for organ music.

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Mon Oct 21, 2019 11:00 am

Arpangel wrote:I can only base my opinion on what I've heard, my friend bought a Blue Sky Media System down here and it sounded exactly the way I wanted it to, it was satellite speakers and a sub.

As I said earlier, there are pros and cons to both approaches.

The sat/sub solution has the benefit that the sub can be located for optimal sound distribution in the room without messing up the stereo imaging of the sat speakers. With all-in-one boxes, your options for placement of the bass drivers in relation to the room boundaries is more restricted, and that can sometimes become an issue.

But, there is a lot more scope for mis-aligning a sat/sub system, and many have subs that really don't perform that well in a quality music application...

H
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Re: Sub Woofer monitoring systems for organ music.

Postby Arpangel » Mon Oct 21, 2019 11:12 am

Hugh Robjohns wrote:But, there is a lot more scope for mis-aligning a sat/sub system, and many have subs that really don't perform that well in a quality music application...

H

Yes, but plans are in the making, for an organ only system, so as long as it sounds OK for that I'm not really worried about using it as a general monitoring system.
I've just had a word with my partner,, we've got a tower on the top of our house, we've just cleared it out, it's not really doing anything, so it's a vacant space. I may move my music studio up there, and have the organ system in the bigger, living room.
I'm looking forward to composing in the tower, with a lightning conductor outside the window!
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Re: Sub Woofer monitoring systems for organ music.

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Mon Oct 21, 2019 11:18 am

Arpangel wrote:...plans are in the making, for an organ only system, so as long as it sounds OK for that I'm not really worried about using it as a general monitoring system.

This doesn't really make any sense... either a replay system is accurate or it isn't. Either it can play different bass notes or it can't. Either the mid-range detail is clear or it is masked by LF distortions...

At the end of the day, you just need to find the best system you can for the available budget, being aware of the pros and cons of each approach to optimise the best compromise.
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Re: Sub Woofer monitoring systems for organ music.

Postby Arpangel » Mon Oct 21, 2019 12:00 pm

Hugh Robjohns wrote:
Arpangel wrote:...plans are in the making, for an organ only system, so as long as it sounds OK for that I'm not really worried about using it as a general monitoring system.

This doesn't really make any sense... either a replay system is accurate or it isn't. Either it can play different bass notes or it can't. Either the mid-range detail is clear or it is masked by LF distortions...

At the end of the day, you just need to find the best system you can for the available budget, being aware of the pros and cons of each approach to optimise the best compromise.

Remember the basement issue? It didn't work out, so this is yet another opportunity to move and have a seperate dedicated control room. I'm not going to have space to optimally place a sub if I get one, and my studio gear, so a move has to be made, space is there now so...
The Blue Sky stuff isn't top draw I know, and I'm going to listen to a few others, but why not get it if it sounds good to me?
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Re: Sub Woofer monitoring systems for organ music.

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Mon Oct 21, 2019 12:18 pm

I think you misunderstood my point.

I don't support the popular idea that different speakers systems are better for different kinds of music. I see it suggested quite often that a particular monitor speaker is great for rock, but not for classical, or vice versa...

Your comment about wanting a system that sounded good only for organ music struck that same chord -- and it's patently nonsense, of course. Either a monitoring system is accurate -- in which case it will handle everything equally well -- or it's not... in which case why waste money on it? Sooner or later you will want to listen to something other than a pipe organ, and any flaws of failings that may not have previously been obvious will then cause enormous frustration and disappointment.

The only specific requirement organ music imposes is an extended LF response -- that bottom octave or two really is important. And to achieve that you're either looking at physically very large stereo speakers, or a sat/sub system, with the latter often being the more practical solution in a domestic setting. However, the room acoustics will remain the dominant factor in achieving a satisfactory performance regardless of how much is spent on the speaker system.

I have no problem at all with the BlueSky stuff -- much of it has impressed me greatly. Their products cover a wide price range and the quality of each system seems to be very good for the price -- and you can't say fairer than that. Other systems are available...
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Re: Sub Woofer monitoring systems for organ music.

Postby Arpangel » Mon Oct 21, 2019 12:27 pm

As I said, I am going to listen to other things, but the reason nothing ever gets done about this is that it's really difficult getting to hear stuff in my own room, and I'm not going to buy anything unless I can do that. My current Quad KEF system was free, so even if sounded crap I wouldn't have lost anything, but the thought of spending a few grand on something, listening to it at a dealer, and buying on spec, fills me with horror. I'm somehow going to have to get an agreement from a sympathetic dealer, it's also made worse by living in the sticks.
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Re: Sub Woofer monitoring systems for organ music.

Postby John Willett » Mon Oct 21, 2019 1:05 pm

Arpangel wrote:Once again, thanks for your replies, but I get the feeling that this one, as usual, is going to get firmly swept under the carpet, again.
I'll just recap, my "studio" is to all intents and purposes a domestic living room that my other half like to use sometimes, to read, and watch telly in, my studio area is one end of the room, with a huge sofa in front of it, which doesn't bother me as it's behind my back when I'm monitoring. But any acoustic treatment is out, it's not a "bad" room anyway, it's quite dead, owing to lots of soft furnishings, especially in corners, but whatever, it's not getting changed. It's a big-ish room, 25X15ft.
I also have a preference for one box speaker systems, but.......I can only base my opinion on what I've heard, my friend bought a Blue Sky Media System down here and it sounded exactly the way I wanted it to, it was satellite speakers and a sub. We played a recording of the organ and choir of St Albans cathedral, it was a very good recording made by my friend, and the full weight of the organ came across very realistically. The neighbours thought we had an organ in the house! and our house is detached!!
Regarding ATC systems, I love their speakers, but all I can say about my friends sub set-up was that the room was way too small, and it wasn't adjusted properly. I'm my experience you need a large space for bass sounds to really develope, although I'm aware that that rule "in some circumstances" may not apply.

The reason I suggested listening to monitors with a cardioid bass as these do not need so much room treatment when used in a not so perfect room. :thumbup:

But, as I always say, with any potential monitor, you need to listen in your own room first to see if they work for you. :thumbup:
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Re: Sub Woofer monitoring systems for organ music.

Postby Arpangel » Mon Oct 21, 2019 1:29 pm

John Willett wrote:
Arpangel wrote:Once again, thanks for your replies, but I get the feeling that this one, as usual, is going to get firmly swept under the carpet, again.
I'll just recap, my "studio" is to all intents and purposes a domestic living room that my other half like to use sometimes, to read, and watch telly in, my studio area is one end of the room, with a huge sofa in front of it, which doesn't bother me as it's behind my back when I'm monitoring. But any acoustic treatment is out, it's not a "bad" room anyway, it's quite dead, owing to lots of soft furnishings, especially in corners, but whatever, it's not getting changed. It's a big-ish room, 25X15ft.
I also have a preference for one box speaker systems, but.......I can only base my opinion on what I've heard, my friend bought a Blue Sky Media System down here and it sounded exactly the way I wanted it to, it was satellite speakers and a sub. We played a recording of the organ and choir of St Albans cathedral, it was a very good recording made by my friend, and the full weight of the organ came across very realistically. The neighbours thought we had an organ in the house! and our house is detached!!
Regarding ATC systems, I love their speakers, but all I can say about my friends sub set-up was that the room was way too small, and it wasn't adjusted properly. I'm my experience you need a large space for bass sounds to really develope, although I'm aware that that rule "in some circumstances" may not apply.

The reason I suggested listening to monitors with a cardioid bass as these do not need so much room treatment when used in a not so perfect room. :thumbup:

But, as I always say, with any potential monitor, you need to listen in your own room first to see if they work for you. :thumbup:

John, I'll take you up on that offer when we get London sorted out.
But ideally I need to listen to them in Kent if the first audition sounds favourable!
This isn't going to be easy, people are of the opinion that for organ music a cardioid speaker isn't ideal, as the sound from organ pipes comes from all directions.
I forgot to say, I remember now, when Mike brought down his BlueSky system he set-up 5.1 surround, and that's why it sounded very realistic.
I've also had a recommendation for the Barefoot M27's, although I'm very wary of these, apparently they go down to 35 Hz but that's not enough, I need at least 32, preferably 16Hz.
I'm using Hauptwerk virtual pipe organ, and recommendations for speakers for that suggest 32Hz as a bare minimum requirement.
My budget is OK, around the price of a Barefoot M27, or a bit more if suitable.
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Re: Sub Woofer monitoring systems for organ music.

Postby The Red Bladder » Mon Oct 21, 2019 1:30 pm

Hugh Robjohns wrote: either a replay system is accurate or it isn't. Either it can play different bass notes or it can't. Either the mid-range detail is clear or it is masked by LF distortions...

THIS! - and with knobs on!

Here are some facts about speaker systems and hearing in general and in no special order -

We can hear frequencies down to about 2Hz but below c.a. 30Hz we progressively do this with our balance organs which are also in the ear. Exciting the balance organs triggers a whole range of emotional responses.

The best mid-range clarity and response times are achieved (logically) by relatively small speaker drivers. Small drivers are poor at reproducing bass and for this reason, anything below about 100Hz is best handed over to a third driver designed for bass.

Bass sounds are most effectively and uniformly reproduced from one position in a room. Where that position is best tested before any trapping is installed and in an empty room. That way you get to find where the greatest problems will occur.

Bass trapping is always required if a uniform bass is to be achieved in any listening environment. We have about 15m or 16m of bass trapping set into the corners of our post-prod and projection room. The measured effect has been to smoothen out the bass by about 20dB and in some spots in the room, there was no bass audible whatsoever prior to the installation of bass traps (tested at 10Hz and 20Hz using R&S test rig).

The best traps are the ones you build yourself. Nearly all those foam wedge things, yes, even the expensive ones, are not that great. Cardboard filled with acoustic Rockwool and covered with some attractive soft material works far, far better (and cheaper!) than those foam things, most of which are made from the wrong type of foam anyway!

Thin wall-mounted bass traps are less effective than something set into all the corners of a room. Some wall-mounted units seem to do nothing at all! They still cost money though!

If you use those less than good foam wege things, you will still have to spend about £50 per meter, so our room would have cost £800 for a less than satisfactory installation.

If you have just one sub, you will still need a controller if the sub does not have one built-in. Sometimes it is just easier cheaper and better to have two subs side-by-side!

P.S. Here's a really useful little sig-gen on-line to make those up-front tests - https://www.szynalski.com/tone-generator/
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Re: Sub Woofer monitoring systems for organ music.

Postby John Willett » Mon Oct 21, 2019 1:39 pm

Arpangel wrote:John, I'll take you up on that offer when we get London sorted out.
But ideally I need to listen to them in Kent if the first audition sounds favourable!
This isn't going to be easy, people are of the opinion that for organ music a cardioid speaker isn't ideal, as the sound from organ pipes comes from all directions.
I forgot to say, I remember now, when Mike brought down his BlueSky system he set-up 5.1 surround, and that's why it sounded very realistic.
I've also had a recommendation for the Barefoot M27's, although I'm very wary of these, apparently they go down to 35 Hz but that's not enough, I need at least 32, preferably 16Hz.
I'm using Hauptwerk virtual pipe organ, and recommendations for speakers for that suggest 32Hz as a bare minimum requirement.
My budget is OK, around the price of a Barefoot M27, or a bit more if suitable.

Kent is no problem when you are ready.

But although the organ goes in all directions in the original space, when you play it back in the room, which is a very much smaller space, bass frequencies in normal loudspeakers will reflect from the rear wall and will then add/subtract from the main sound going forward and will cause cancelletions or boosts depending on frequency which will muddy the sound.

The 934 goes down to 30Hz, by the way.

But you have to try and see, whatever you eventually choose. Happy to help.
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