Accurate bass in a large, open living room? - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 23 Old 06-19-2012, 11:13 AM - Thread Starter
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Last year we bought a new house, and our small apartment speakers (Acoustic Research HC6) just didn't cut it. I replaced the fronts with Energy RC-LCR's and mounted RC-8C's in the ceiling above the couch. Now it's time to retire the 8" sub and get something better.

Budget: I know the Outlaw LFM-1 EX can be had for around $600 shipped when it's on sale, so that seems like a good limit.

Size Requirements: Smaller is better, but I think we could squeeze in the LFM-1 EX or Hsu VTF-3 mk4. Placement might be an issue - the sub will have to go near the corner of the room, directly under a shelf (the shelf can slide up or down to accommodate). There is about 6' of space between each wall and the entertainment unit, which is floor-to-ceiling and sticks out 15" or so.

Room Dimensions: The TV room is 15x13x8 and completely open to the kitchen, which is 25x13x8 (approximately). There is a breakfast nook on the side, with total volume is 4-5000 cubic feet. There are two large openings to adjacent rooms, so it will always be unsealed.

Primary Uses: The vast majority of the time it will be used for movies/TV at moderate volume. I'm a game developer, so it will be used for game sessions from time to time. We don't currently use the system for music, but we might later (if I make it more convenient for my wife to stream music to the stereo).

Listening Habits: Like I said, for the most part it will be moderate volume, but I don't want to buy another subwoofer after this. In other words, I want the option of powerful bass if the mood strikes. Back when I had a big system in my car, I preferred sealed enclosures - I like accuracy and a flat response curve. I hate boomy subs. I would love to get a massive 15" that could go down to super low frequencies, but I don't think that's within my budget.

Appearance Requirements: Just a black box will be fine. Nothing fancy.

Timeframe: No time pressure.

So far I like the look of the LFM-1 EX, particularly when it's on sale. However, I'm also tempted by the Emotiva X-Ref 12 because it's sealed, but maybe that doesn't matter these days. The Hsu VTF-3 mk4 looks great too, but it doesn't seem to offer enough over the Outlaw to justify the price difference. I'm also worried about placement with the rear ports and side-firing speaker.

Advice?
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post #2 of 23 Old 06-19-2012, 11:18 AM - Thread Starter
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And because I'm guessing someone will suggest it: yes the Hsu ULS-15 looks perfect. I just don't know if I can justify the cost. smile.gif
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post #3 of 23 Old 06-19-2012, 12:05 PM
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The Outlaw may not go on sale that cheaply again. Outlaw has stated they are going to raise the sale price. Personally I would just go for the VTF3 or VTF15h. In that size room, you ought to consider the VTF15h.
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post #4 of 23 Old 06-19-2012, 12:52 PM
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Originally Posted by shadyJ View Post

The Outlaw may not go on sale that cheaply again. Outlaw has stated they are going to raise the sale price.

I missed that. When did they explain that? I wouldn't be surprised if the $552 shipped sale price from last summer was probably gone because of the sub's popularity. The most recent sale price was $599.

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post #5 of 23 Old 06-19-2012, 01:13 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by shadyJ View Post

In that size room, you ought to consider the VTF15h.

Is that because the VTF-3 will be underpowered for normal listening, or because it won't have the power for very loud sections at high volume? I'm just wondering if moving up to a 15 (and I think I would consider the ULS-15 first) is really only useful 1% of the time, but a 12 would be fine the other 99%.
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post #6 of 23 Old 06-19-2012, 01:27 PM
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Originally Posted by shadyJ View Post

The Outlaw may not go on sale that cheaply again. Outlaw has stated they are going to raise the sale price. Personally I would just go for the VTF3 or VTF15h. In that size room, you ought to consider the VTF15h.

The Outlaw rep was clear that we won't see the $549 delivered sale price on the EX any more, however, $600 should be their best price a couple times a year.

Since the OP says he wants to be able to crank it now and then, I would suggest the VTF-15H which is a bang-for-the-buck leader these days for a high output subwoofer. That way he can be sure the sub will always meet his needs in such a large space.
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post #7 of 23 Old 06-19-2012, 01:50 PM - Thread Starter
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The size of the VTF-15H is really pushing the WAF. smile.gif

Also considering the SVS SB12-NSD and Rumba 12. I realize they are probably underpowered by some standards, but I'm still questioning just how much bass I need.

I saw another thread where listeners couldn't tell the difference between sealed and ported in a blind test, so maybe that's not as big of a consideration as I think it is. I just know that for electronica with lots of bass, I usually prefer the quick attack and decay (if those are the right terms) of a sealed enclosure. I like the bass note to stop exactly when it's supposed to stop, with no boom.

EDIT: The Rumba 12 doesn't have a cover, which is a deal-breaker with kids in the house.
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post #8 of 23 Old 06-19-2012, 03:35 PM
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Most of us would agree in this forum that solid performance down to 20hz is an important factor for HT usage in your budget range. Given that and the size of your room space, the SB12 and Rumba 12 are not good choices. These 12" sealed subs just won't have the SPL. Your best bet is either the SVS PB12-NSD, HSU VTF-3 MK4, or Outlaw LFM-1 EX. They are all the same class of sub in performance, so maybe you might let the wife make the choice so she's more amenable once she sees the size of it wink.gif

Here are a couple of reviews with very extensive measurements in case that helps with your decision:

http://www.audioholics.com/reviews/speakers/subwoofers/lfm-1-ex-review
http://www.audioholics.com/reviews/speakers/subwoofers/pb12-nsd

Since you mentioned sealed subs in cars, I have a mid range SQ sub in my car, an Image Dynamics IDQ10 sealed in a small hatchback, and I don't feel like my Outlaw EX in my house is boomy in comparison. Certainly, a more expensive 15" sealed sub like the HSU ULS-15 (which you would want that size for the output for your space) would sound better, but these 12" ported subs sound very nice.

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post #9 of 23 Old 06-19-2012, 04:18 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by cel4145 View Post

Most of us would agree in this forum that solid performance down to 20hz is an important factor for HT usage in your budget range. Given that and the size of your room space, the SB12 and Rumba 12 are not good choices. These 12" sealed subs just won't have the SPL. Your best bet is either the SVS PB12-NSD, HSU VTF-3 MK4, or Outlaw LFM-1 EX. They are all the same class of sub in performance, so maybe you might let the wife make the choice so she's more amenable once she sees the size of it wink.gif
Here are a couple of reviews with very extensive measurements in case that helps with your decision:
http://www.audioholics.com/reviews/speakers/subwoofers/lfm-1-ex-review
http://www.audioholics.com/reviews/speakers/subwoofers/pb12-nsd
Since you mentioned sealed subs in cars, I have a mid range SQ sub in my car, an Image Dynamics IDQ10 sealed in a small hatchback, and I don't feel like my Outlaw EX in my house is boomy in comparison. Certainly, a more expensive 15" sealed sub like the HSU ULS-15 (which you would want that size for the output for your space) would sound better, but these 12" ported subs sound very nice.

Thanks for the feedback - your experience with sealed car subs is an especially helpful comparison. Everything sounds consistent with what I've been reading; the ported options will work well acoustically, but score lower in WAF. And the ULS-15 still looks like a great fit if it weren't for that pesky price tag. Maybe I could wait for one to show up in the classifieds. smile.gif
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post #10 of 23 Old 06-19-2012, 07:41 PM
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Is that because the VTF-3 will be underpowered for normal listening, or because it won't have the power for very loud sections at high volume? I'm just wondering if moving up to a 15 (and I think I would consider the ULS-15 first) is really only useful 1% of the time, but a 12 would be fine the other 99%.

It could be, depending on where you sit, that these 12" subs might be underpowered for normal listening due to your large space. If you sit in the middle or near the middle of the room, that might be a bass null, where you will hardly hear any bass at all, no matter how hard you crank the sub. Nulls happen in the middle of the room, and are not defeated until the entire open space is pressurized. The VTF15h stands a greater chance of pressurizing that space than the 12" subwoofers you are considering. This is especially true since you have only one placement option. It would be a PIA for you to get one of these 12"s and find out that it isn't even touching your listening position, and than having to pay a small fortune in shipping costs just to send it back. On the other hand, if you buy the VTF15h, and find it has way more output capability then you will ever need, well it doesn't hurt to have the extra headroom, plus if you are not using it very hard, that will increase its long-term reliability.

Btw, the ULS-15 will have similar output to the 12"s, not the high output of the VTF15h.
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post #11 of 23 Old 06-19-2012, 08:03 PM
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I'm surprised no one has mentioned yet, but in case you're not aware, a car interior creates gain in the pressure-mode at low frequencies. Unless EQ'd, a ported sub will likely rise and peak around tuning while a sealed sub's rolloff will match the gain at low freqs, creating an even response.

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post #12 of 23 Old 06-19-2012, 11:32 PM - Thread Starter
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Thanks for the feedback - I really appreciate it.

My wife and I grabbed the measuring tape and blocked out space for the various subs, and the bigger enclosures are just too big. The way our room is setup, a side-table sized sub would be too much.

So we're both willing to spend more on a smaller sub that can still fill the room. So far I'm thinking that means a sealed 15. From what I've read, the Rythmik F15 might fit the bill better than the ULS-15. Both are about as big as we could accommodate.

Alternatively we could get dual 12's in small enclosures, but I don't know if that will bring much to the table compared to a good 15.

ShadyJ, you mentioned the ULS might be to small. I wish I could demo one in my house. I might have to risk the return cost if the VTF-15 is too big (and it is).

Arande2, that's great info, and definitely not something I had thought of. I prioritize flat response,so it makes total sense. I should probably just stop comparing any home setup to my old car setup (that probably wasn't as good as I remember anyway).
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post #13 of 23 Old 06-20-2012, 12:15 AM
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nullspace: ouch. If you go with Rythmik, I would urge you to get the F15HP. Get that or the ULS. I think either will have more output then the regular F15, and you will need all the output you can afford. You might try one of these ED A5s-325 subs as well, they look like they could have a lot of output, and right now they have a nice introductory price. Also, I wouldn't count on room gain for a flat response in that room, it is just too big.
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post #14 of 23 Old 06-20-2012, 07:08 AM
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The only subs that ever made my 3500 cubic foot room feel like my car audio days are not the subs in the $1000 or less category. Including a pair of VTF-15H's I've played with in my room.

You need something in the caliber of JTR Speaker equipment to get there unless you are willing to use many multiple units of the cheaper subs. Your room is MUCH bigger than mine considering all the open airspace. It seems you are only considering small sealed subs and have an exceptionally limited placement option. (who knows how your seating area will sound with your sub in that single untested shelf position)

It effectively amounts to this. If you'd like to experience car audio levels of bass on occassion, but are restricted by the stated limitations of subwoofer cabinet size, subwoofer location, budget, and your fairly enormous room size - you have impossible goals. frown.gif

What car audio setup did you have?

I had a bunch of different stuff throughout the years, my favorite (even over a many other 8, 10, 12, and 15" name brand drivers) was a single Infinity Kappa Perfect 10.1 in a Infinity made and matching bandpass box in my Acura Integra hatchback. It was clean and pounded HARD for music! For whatever reason that box and my car was an excellent combination. I had a LOT of compliments on that particular setup and know I helped Harmon Kardon sell several additional Infinity Kappa perfect drivers after people auditioned my setup. My JTR Captivator Pro pair gets me to the same levels of bass that any car setup I ever owned was capable of. These subs are not anywhere near your budget, and nowhere near match your size constraints, but something along those lines, be it Seaton Sound, Elemental Design, or DIY, or just plain using lots of drivers --- that's what it's going to take get you were you'd like to occassionally play at the car audio levels of bass -- which subjectively to me means 125 to 130dB cleanly at the seating position.


If you drop the car audio levels of bass notion than most of these subs discussed in the thread so far will hopefully give you a pleasent experience in sound, (depending on how your room modes and nulls are in relation to your single allowed shelf location. --- But just bear in mind you won't encountere that raw shake your vision/walls/body experience like your car audio memories until you spend more money and allow for much bigger boxes in that size airspace.

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post #15 of 23 Old 06-20-2012, 07:27 AM
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If you can't fit a VTF-15H, then two of either the LFM-1 EX, VTF3.4, or the PB12 would be your best best for 5,000 cubic feet. Two SB12s won't have as much SPL as any one of those.

I also think you'd be fine with two of those.

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post #16 of 23 Old 06-20-2012, 08:33 AM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Archaea View Post

It effectively amounts to this. If you'd like to experience car audio levels of bass on occassion, but are restricted by the stated limitations of subwoofer cabinet size, subwoofer location, budget, and your fairly enormous room size - you have impossible goals. frown.gif

I totally get that. I am perfectly happy to do without those massive levels of bass. Realistically I don't think I'd ever use it except to prove that it worked. We just don't listen to anything that loud anymore!
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What car audio setup did you have?

I had (and this was quite a while ago) a Kicker Solobaric 15" with about 500W RMS powering it. Like I said, it probably didn't sound as good as I remember, but at the time it seemed to have amazing flat response and the ability to dig very deep.
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Design, or DIY, or just plain using lots of drivers --- that's what it's going to take get you were you'd like to occassionally play at the car audio levels of bass -- which subjectively to me means 125 to 130dB cleanly at the seating position.
If you drop the car audio levels of bass notion than most of these subs discussed in the thread so far will hopefully give you a pleasent experience in sound, (depending on how your room modes and nulls are in relation to your single allowed shelf location. --- But just bear in mind you won't encountere that raw shake your vision/walls/body experience like your car audio memories until you spend more money and allow for much bigger boxes in that size airspace.

Accuracy over output, at least for me! Shaking the room is fun, but I don't think there is any possibility I would ever use 125-130dB. I'm the guy who wears ear plugs to a concert (I had lots of hearing damage as a kid, so I'm very protective of my ears). I want clean sound, without distortion or boom, and I'm a happy guy.
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post #17 of 23 Old 06-20-2012, 08:35 AM - Thread Starter
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nullspace: ouch. If you go with Rythmik, I would urge you to get the F15HP. Get that or the ULS. I think either will have more output then the regular F15, and you will need all the output you can afford. You might try one of these ED A5s-325 subs as well, they look like they could have a lot of output, and right now they have a nice introductory price. Also, I wouldn't count on room gain for a flat response in that room, it is just too big.

If you think the ULS would be better, I'd probably choose that. The F15HP is another several hundred over the (already expensive, at least for me) F15. The ULS is about the same price (maybe $100 more), but I could swing that.
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If you can't fit a VTF-15H, then two of either the LFM-1 EX, VTF3.4, or the PB12 would be your best best for 5,000 cubic feet. Two SB12s won't have as much SPL as any one of those.
I also think you'd be fine with two of those.

I think even those are too big, unfortunately! I know, I'm really limiting my options. Oh well, at the end of the day they are still good options to have smile.gif
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post #19 of 23 Old 06-20-2012, 08:53 AM
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Then the SB12s are your best bet. If you can locate one of them directly next to the listening position, that will help.

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post #20 of 23 Old 06-20-2012, 09:27 AM - Thread Starter
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Then the SB12s are your best bet. If you can locate one of them directly next to the listening position, that will help.

They would have to go on either side of the TV, but that would be doable. It's an interesting option I hadn't considered yet. I didn't realize that dual SB12's would be the same price.

On a side note, will either of these options (single sealed 15 or dual sealed 12's) complete overpower my Energy RC-LCR's with RC-8C surrounds?
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post #21 of 23 Old 06-20-2012, 10:38 AM
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I didn't realize that dual SB12's would be the same price.
I thought you had already noticed that smile.gif
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On a side note, will either of these options (single sealed 15 or dual sealed 12's) complete overpower my Energy RC-LCR's with RC-8C surrounds?
Not at all. Just run your room correction software on your receiver, and it will determine the appropriate subwoofer channel level. Best practice is to set the gain (volume) on the sub amp such that the room correction software ends up with a channel level close to 0db. Ad just the gain and rerun until you get that. Then if you want a little more bass, bump up the channel level 2 or 3db.

Given that those subs might be strained a little to fill the room at very high volume, could be best to gain match them (set the gains the same) rather than level match them. Someone who understand the science behind that more can advise you better on that.

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post #22 of 23 Old 06-20-2012, 11:07 AM - Thread Starter
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So in comparing dual SB12's to a single ULS-15, what are the trade-offs? SB12's would provide more consistent output in the room (less dependent on listener position) while the ULS-15 would provide better response at lower frequencies?

Which would be more accurate? Does having two subs increase the perceived distortion or inaccuracy?
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post #23 of 23 Old 06-20-2012, 08:53 PM - Thread Starter
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After lots more reading and an email conversation with Rythmik, I've decided on a F15HP. Somehow my budget has doubled in the process, but something had to give. Like Archea said, I had impossible parameters.

Rythmik assures me the F15HP will be powerful enough for my room, and I like the idea of a single, sealed box. I do have a couple placement options with a single box that size - options I wouldn't necessarily have otherwise.

So we'll see! Thanks for the help everyone; I really do appreciate it. And if anyone thinks I'm making a huge mistake, feel free to chime in smile.gif
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