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30Hz-capable subwoofer for small / medium rooms

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30Hz-capable subwoofer for small / medium rooms

Postby Bob Moose » Thu Jan 12, 2012 5:58 pm

Hello,

I am trying to find a live subwoofer that reproduces frequencies down to 30Hz correctly. Maximum SPL pressure is not really important, but it's for live concerts in small or medium rooms so I guess most "studio" or "hi-fi" subwoofers would not be heard, right?

Does this kind of speaker exist?
Most live subs I found do not go as low as 30Hz from the specifications, that said maybe it does not mean anything, as few manufacturers give the amplitude at which the bandwidth was measured (and even fewer give the curve, or the measure conditions like anechoic room or not, etc).

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-j
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Re: 30Hz-capable subwoofer for small / medium rooms

Postby ian_gibbs » Thu Jan 12, 2012 7:27 pm

Most people in the live world view that sort of frequency as sub, or infra bass and so is often ignored. The only systems that I know of that can do that sort of reproduction are big, big boxes, think d&b B2 or J-infra (both over 100kg) so probably not suitable for your application.

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Re: 30Hz-capable subwoofer for small / medium rooms

Postby christianmurphy » Thu Jan 12, 2012 7:46 pm

Why do you need that sort of low frequency extension in a small room!? Although the funktion one infrabass goes low. Couple that with the infrahorn extension and you'll get an extra 12dB at 33 hz. Some serious bass! Still why you would want that in a small room I do not know...
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Re: 30Hz-capable subwoofer for small / medium rooms

Postby Bob Moose » Thu Jan 12, 2012 10:21 pm

Ok, I understand this is confusing...
Maybe I misunderstood the common purpose of subwoofers in live: are they here to extend the bandwidth to lower frequencies, or just for playing the usual low range (say 80Hz) much louder? Maybe I don't need a subwoofer!

I am looking for speakers with very low frequencies only because some instruments or sounds I use require it (piano, synthetic bass, electronics, etc), definitely not for getting a huge bass level.

When playing bass keyboard in my "home studio" for example, I think the bass range of the monitors is too limited (Yamaha MSP-5: the amplitude decreases a lot below 50Hz; 30Hz frequencies are barely audible, with lots of distorsion anyway). As a result, the bottom octave sounds less powerful than the next octave. But for 300 euros I could add a small monitor subwoofer like the Tannoy TS series or the M-Audio SBX10 and the problem would be solved.
Of course, in studio the overall level is way quieter than on stage -- but we are listening to very low frequencies in a small room :)

Back to live concerts, I don't need, nor want to have a huge sound level in the low frequencies, but I want these frequencies to be heard. I don't play loud, especially in small rooms. If there are some acoustic instruments, we prefer not amplifying them (except the ones that are really too quiet compared to others). The PA system or other amplifiers are matched to this acoustic level, that we consider as the reference level. So depending on the instruments, amplification can vary a lot, but from my experience the loudest are the drums.
I play occasionally on big stages, in loud contexts, but in this case I use the local PA system of course.

Between the studio speakers that cannot be heard in live and the 100kg live subwoofers that are too big, loud and expensive, isn't there a practical solution for getting low- or medium-level 30-18000Hz bandwidth in live?

Or, finally, maybe I don't need a subwoofer but wide-band speakers that go very low, like the Turbosound Milan M15. These speakers have a frequency range of 36-17000Hz +/-3dB. Does it mean you can use them without a sub in medium rooms, while they require a sub in bigger rooms or at higher level?

-j
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Re: 30Hz-capable subwoofer for small / medium rooms

Postby christianmurphy » Thu Jan 12, 2012 11:31 pm

Bob Moose wrote:Ok, I understand this is confusing...
Maybe I misunderstood the common purpose of subwoofers in live: are they here to extend the bandwidth to lower frequencies, or just for playing the usual low range (say 80Hz) much louder? Maybe I don't need a subwoofer!

Both! Really they sort of interlink, and answers your question about 'hearing' the much lower frequencies. 30hz is pretty low, and the lower you get, the harder it is to reproduce that frequency, needing more power. For this reason, generally speakers designed for this use, are loud. I think what makes it clearest is a subwoofer will cover a range generally from 100hz down, depending on how you like your crossover set and how it works with your main monitors. So you're covering everywhere between 30 and 100hz. So having all that power, needed to kick out the lower end, is also going to be giving you high SPLs across the frequency range that the sub is playing at. So pretty much when you wanna really be feeling that 30hz range, everything else has to be pretty loud, or it would sound pretty unbalanced.

My guess is you're mistaking the level of your sub-bass in general (around 90 downwards), for really low 30hz. Smaller, less powerful speakers will drop off more dramatically the lower you go. Sound guys get plenty of bass without getting super low woofers. As far as home studio set ups go, bringing subwoofers in can sometimes make problems worst, and the best solution is a bigger set of main monitors. Set up correctly with a good sounding room subs can work fine, just aren't as easy to set up in home studios as you might think (they might sound great but in a studio environment great doesn't always mean fit for purpose). Where as with live sound, you're looking to get a good sound there and then, not to make it suitable for various playback devices, so a sub is definitely a better idea to get that low end.

So what kind of music is being played/what instruments?
How loud do you want it/what sort of audience size?
What gear do you have at the moment that isn't doing the job?
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Re: 30Hz-capable subwoofer for small / medium rooms

Postby dmills » Fri Jan 13, 2012 2:01 am

I would bet that most small home studio subs actually have very little real output at 30Hz, they will be mostly harmonic distortion by the time they get down there (And very few small rooms will do anything reasonable with what energy there is).

Even with a big rig, most things do not actually benefit from anything below 50Hz or so, it just turns to mud, especially in a small room where it will get very uneven.
You can do infra bass in a big room, but it really will not work in a small one, and to actually get it to sound good will need everything to be running at some significant level anyway just so you can get it up above threshold.

Even stringed instruments with fundamentals down there, actually radiate very little of them, it is mostly harmonics.

I used to routinely run a medium size rig (20 boxes of Alpha E), that bottomed out fairly sharply at ~40Hz or so, nobody ever complained of insufficient bass. Yea there were subs available, I never bought any, it would have been overkill for anything except drum and bass, and if those silly buggers want to play they can bring their own rig.

Regards, Dan.
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Re: 30Hz-capable subwoofer for small / medium rooms

Postby Bob Moose » Sun Jan 15, 2012 8:31 pm

Thanks for sharing your experience.

I agree with all this. Moreover, if we stay in a decent budget and weight range, even the subwoofers that go down to 30Hz have a lot more energy at 60-80Hz, so it would require a careful equalization for getting a balanced frequency response, and I'm not sure it is possible in practice.

In live, I play the keyboard (piano, Rhodes, bass keyboard, electronic sounds). With a friend who plays the drums or hand percussion, we formed a minimal 'rythm section band' that plays with various other musicians, in many music styles: jazz, rock, latin, reggae, funk, folk, classical, traditional world music, avant-garde, etc. We play in small or medium rooms, usually 30-70 people in the audience, perhaps 150 maximum. Most acoustic instruments are not amplified, and the guitar / bass guitar players bring their amplifier. So we use the PA system only for some acoustic instruments that really need it and for the keyboard. The overall level is as quiet as possible, which depends on the loudest acoustic instrument.

When there is no bass player I play the bass part on keyboard. Most of the time I can use the Rhodes sound itself, but sometimes I prefer a synthetic bass. This is why I am looking for a PA system that goes low enough. When playing a walking bass or funk bass part with a drummer, you do need to have a solid bass sound (not particularly loud, but very clear, even when playing the lowest notes).
The Hammond organ players have the same problem. The Hammond bass sound contains few harmonics, and is hence not very big-sounding in the lowest register, but you can still hear it. This is exactly what I need. According to Hugh's review in SOS, the new Leslie speaker goes down to 40Hz (from specifications), which is not surprising.

Currently I have two old powered speakers with 8' woofers. They do not produce any sound below 70-80Hz, and the high frequencies are attenuated a lot. Great "medium" speakers, they are perfect for Wurlitzer piano or similar instruments; but for bass keyboard or sounds that require a clear top-end (even the acoustic piano) they are not adapted. They sound bass-light when playing bass keyboard with a drummer, and raising the level does not change anything. With acoustic piano, if there is a bass player and drums, it's ok; but for solo piano the top end is too muffled.
I need something with a wider bandwidth and a more neutral sound.

I guess a good solution would be 2 very good powered speakers, like the FBT ProMaxx 14A or the Turbosound M15.

Alternatively, for a similar carrying weight (or even lighter in some cases) there are some compact 2.1 PA systems, like the HK Lucas Smart or the Barth Acoustic Xtra-Compact. But I'm afraid they are not loud enough for playing bass with a drummer. Moreover I find the crossover frequency too high (about 150Hz).

More powerful 2.1 systems are usually a lot heavier than the M15 solution, and cost more.

This is why I currently prefer the 2-speaker solution. Am I missing something?

Regards
-j
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Re: 30Hz-capable subwoofer for small / medium rooms

Postby Bob Bickerton » Sun Jan 15, 2012 9:40 pm

Could you split the bass keyboard part to a bass amp combo? Markbass would be wonderful.

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Re: 30Hz-capable subwoofer for small / medium rooms

Postby Bob Moose » Sun Jan 15, 2012 10:14 pm

Bob Bickerton wrote:Could you split the bass keyboard part to a bass amp combo? Markbass would be wonderful.

Good suggestion, actually I thought about adding a bass amplifier too, but I'm not sure about versatility. For a Rhodes or synthetic bass sound, it would be fine. If I played only Rhodes or bass keyboard I would probably have a single bass amplifier that has enough high frequencies.

But for acoustic piano, wide-bandwidth electronics or other stereo sounds, can you use such a bass amplifier as a kind of "subwoofer"? I'm afraid it sounds too coloured for this application, but I never tried. Which speakers would you use in addition to the bass amplifier? Something like 5' ~ 10' powered speakers?

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Re: 30Hz-capable subwoofer for small / medium rooms

Postby Bob Bickerton » Mon Jan 16, 2012 12:03 am

Keyboard splits is not an area I know much about, it was just a suggestion.

I was thinking along the lines of being able to send ONLY the bass patch to the bass amp from a split or dedicated keyboard, the piano sounds to your usual setup.

So not really suggesting you crossover the bass amp with something else, so wouldn't work with your Rhodes.

Really just a thought that others may wish to comment on.

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Re: 30Hz-capable subwoofer for small / medium rooms

Postby dmills » Mon Jan 16, 2012 5:55 am

I still very much doubt that you need to go below 40Hz or so, but yea 8 inch drivers (unless massively horn loaded will not cut it).

I would be looking at maybe a PS8 or PS10 rig with its sub, or its near equivalent from turbo, D&B, Meyer, L'Acoustics or whoever. Not particularly small and NOT cheap, but smaller and cheaper then S2/B2/whatever.

Most of that punch in the chest from a bass drum is actually up above 100Hz by the way, in a small room situation there really is not that much down below 50Hz that matters. Most of the smaller 'subs' if fed real sub bass will just distort and radiate harmonics even if the original sub bass was clean.

I heard a K&F rig that did the sub plus small satellite thing and actually managed to sound coherent, might be worth looking into, but again, stupid money.

Regards, Dan.
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Re: 30Hz-capable subwoofer for small / medium rooms

Postby James Perrett » Mon Jan 16, 2012 11:40 am

I think that you're looking at paper specs too much. For acoustic rehearsals our bass player uses one of my dB Technologies Basic 100's which is a 10" + horn PA speaker. It goes lower than his bass amp to my ears and there's no problem with low notes.

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Re: 30Hz-capable subwoofer for small / medium rooms

Postby Bob Moose » Mon Jan 16, 2012 11:26 pm

Bob Bickerton wrote:Keyboard splits is not an area I know much about, it was just a suggestion.

I was thinking along the lines of being able to send ONLY the bass patch to the bass amp from a split or dedicated keyboard, the piano sounds to your usual setup.

OK, I understand, actually I am not a regular keyboard split user myself. Maybe I should, but I always have the same problem: the split point is never correct for me in live, I always want to cross it :D I even programmed a dynamic split system (with automatically moving split point), but it only works when playing two monophonic lines.

I should investigate splits more though, because I would not want to bring 2 keyboards in live. When using a bass sound and a piano sound for bass and for chords/solos, your suggestion of using a dedicated bass amplifier for the bass part makes a lot of sense.

Currently I crossfade both sounds (or more) on a range of about one octave, so that it sounds like one single instrument, but yes it requires a regular, wide-band speaker.
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Re: 30Hz-capable subwoofer for small / medium rooms

Postby Bob Moose » Mon Jan 16, 2012 11:41 pm

dmills wrote:I still very much doubt that you need to go below 40Hz or so, but yea 8 inch drivers (unless massively horn loaded will not cut it).

I would be looking at maybe a PS8 or PS10 rig with its sub, or its near equivalent from turbo, D&B, Meyer, L'Acoustics or whoever. Not particularly small and NOT cheap, but smaller and cheaper then S2/B2/whatever.

Most of that punch in the chest from a bass drum is actually up above 100Hz by the way, in a small room situation there really is not that much down below 50Hz that matters. Most of the smaller 'subs' if fed real sub bass will just distort and radiate harmonics even if the original sub bass was clean.

I heard a K&F rig that did the sub plus small satellite thing and actually managed to sound coherent, might be worth looking into, but again, stupid money.

Regards, Dan.

Thanks for these suggestions Dan
I will investigate these speakers, though I'm afraid they are out of budget (I have worked with Meyer speaker several times and I know they are quite expensive).

Given what you said, I'm not really sure if I need a subwoofer for this application. I'm afraid it will sound too boomy, with two much 80Hz bass. The particular Meyer subwoofer I used in live was really good, but its price is over twice my total budget!

-j
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Re: 30Hz-capable subwoofer for small / medium rooms

Postby Bob Moose » Mon Jan 16, 2012 11:49 pm

James Perrett wrote:I think that you're looking at paper specs too much.
Well, not exactly, but actually I do not really have the choice. Unfortunately I cannot test all these speakers easily here. So besides web reviews and specifications I do not have much information. But I know specifications are not really relevant, because
1) they usually don't give any details about how the figures were measured
2) values can be cheated
3) some important features like phase response are usually not precised
4) many devices with poor specifications actually sound very good

Same for web reviews: only a few ones are really trustable, but they do not replace practical listening.

This is why I'm asking actually.

For acoustic rehearsals our bass player uses one of my dB Technologies Basic 100's which is a 10" + horn PA speaker. It goes lower than his bass amp to my ears and there's no problem with low notes.
Interesting.
So maybe even two 15' speakers are overkill for me and 10-12' would be fairly sufficient (I still need two speakers, for other reasons). This can reduce budget and weight a lot!

-j

James. [/quote]
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