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post #1 of 14 Old 09-19-2018, 04:41 AM - Thread Starter
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The Definitive Word on Distortion Vs. Xmax

Supposedly there are drivers out there with let's say, 54mm xmax (high power car subs). And then there are other drivers of the same size with 5mm xmax. Now, we know that the 54mm driver is going to perform better at 50mm xmax than the 5mm driver regardless, because the 5mm driver will either be 1000% THD or DEAD at that point.

However, the 54mm driver will tend to have a much heavier cone assembly, a different supension linearity, magnet force curve, higher inductance, higher power compression.

If you pitted one $800 54mm driver running at 30mm to 10 $30 drivers running at 3mm, is one clearly going to be better?

But let's even the field a bit. Let's say you're pitting a single 12" driver rated for 1750rms with 34mm xmax (Fi Q) against TWO 12s rated for 700w each with 14mm xmax (Dayton Reference). The sensitivities are relatively comparable, the prices are reasonably comparable.

I can see why you'd choose two Daytons, because you could improve the quality of bass by exciting the room from 2 points instead of 1. But what if you just stacked them and put them in the same spot?

With 1 Fi running at 20mm, would 2 Daytons at 10mm sound better?
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post #2 of 14 Old 09-19-2018, 05:01 AM
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I tried looking, earlier this week or possibly last week @BassThatHz posted on this very subject. I’m sure he’d be happy to chime in.

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post #3 of 14 Old 09-20-2018, 08:27 PM
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Vastly more cone area generally wins every time.

It gets much harder to decide when the "total cone area" is not overly high in either pair-comparison.

Generally, more expensive drivers will have much lower mechanical noise for at least 70% of their xmech, where as cheaper subs will have higher distortion and exhibit earlier signs of stress...

It's pretty clear that a B&C 18 will out-class a PA-460, if you ignore the price tags...

But if you pit 5 $90 460's against 1 $500 B&C 21, the 460's would likely box-model a bit better on an equal-value scale (don't quote me on that.)

A RE-12 will do better than a UM-12 or a whatever 12, mostly because the excessive xmech and power-handling will help you overcome the already limited cone-area of a single sub. You can sustain higher SPL's without worrying about bottoming out. It still won't be overly loud though.

Double the cone area nets you 3db more efficiency, which allows you to reduce the excursion by 40% while maintaining the same SPL and input power. Which will greatly reduce the stress and distortion, making it sound more effortless.

If you spread the cones out you'll only gain 1.5db instead of 3db but you'll have smoother bass throughout the room (or hopefully at the seats.)

Obviously with 2 cones you can also double the power and gain another 3db, but then you'll re-introduce the same distortion and stress levels as with one sub.

It takes a lot of displacement to play low frequencies, which means either lots of xmax or lots of cone area.
There is no other way (other than 10 rotary subs or 100 3hz tapped horn's )
[and since xmax = more heat and distortion, that path is a horrible solution to the problem. But yes: some amount of xmax will be required, of course...]

Mid-bass is almost entirely limited by sensitivity, power handling(applied power) and cone area.
40mm's of excursion won't help you get louder mid-bass if the coil is on fire after 5mm's from lack of sensitivity and no impedance peak between 50-200hz.
8 RE-18's won't have the same mid-bass as 8 B&C 18's or even 8 PA-460's for that matter...

Long story short and in-summary:
use lots of car subs for 1-40hz and lots of PA subs for 50-300hz.
(and lots of amps to push your lots of subs.)
The more, the better...
There is no other way!!!

Always box-model it!!!!!!! (it won't bite or probe you like aliens will ) and it is usually not-far wrong (and it works for any quantity of subs!!!) and is free.

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A bad pilot hits the mountain at Mach 4 thinking the whole time that he couldn't "possibly" have been flying inverted with afterburners on, and that: pull-up/empty/stall/tilt warnings are total-nonsense...

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post #4 of 14 Old 09-20-2018, 09:18 PM
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As far as drivers...

There are of course pinnacle drivers in every diameter or category.

An RF-19 or SAB-24 is damn-good: period!

An LMS-18 or RE-18 is no slouch either.
Neither is a B&C 21/18 for mid-bass (or even a bit of lows, for that matter...)

On the cheaper-end, the UM's HO's PA's and FI IB-18's are good for what you pay as well.

Is a UM-18 as good as a LMS or RF? Hell no!
Is a PA-460 as good as a B&C 18? Hell no!
But when used in multiples, if space is of no concern, it can close that gap... if not exceed it on an equal-value scale.

That said: You can only get "so loud" or "so good" for a given amount of "space" or "money". There are limits...
i.e. Loud and/or Good generally takes LOTS of space AND money.

There is no magical wand to "get the cake" and "eat it too" with no space or money being consumed in the process.

It's gonna be big and low WAF and expensive. That's just the physics of it.

This isn't Star Trek where the spaceships are built without the use of any money... us Neanderthal's ain't that advanced (yet )

We are an oil/war/000's in the account society, not a resources-based/because it's the smart/good thing to do society.

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post #5 of 14 Old 09-20-2018, 10:02 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TheCrypt View Post
With 1 Fi running at 20mm, would 2 Daytons at 10mm sound better?
Show me the Klippels or the distortion measurements.

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post #6 of 14 Old 09-21-2018, 06:01 AM
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I say it all depends on the listener. I prefer my high x-max drivers sound over my multiple low x-max drivers which actually could play louder. Two 54mm drivers vs 12 20mm drivers, all 18s. The 12 18s could play at least 15 dB louder throughout the midbass but I would never play it that loud. At the same levels I prefer the two 54mm drivers. All rooms and listeners will vary. The best thing you could do is try it out. You can also start reading on people's opinion and see if someone has the same tastes as you from their experiences and than maybe duplicate that.

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post #7 of 14 Old 09-21-2018, 07:45 AM
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Interesting conversation,

It reminds me of a battle on another forum about 6 years ago. The subject was vertical line arrays and the woofers/mids/tweeters that feed them. The uninformed claimed that a bunch of inexpensive drivers will sound like a bunch of inexpensive drivers but just more of them. The driver in question was the Vifa TC9 which is a 3.5" driver full range that runs around $11 each. One guy took 25 of them, arrayed vertically about 8 feet tall and with heavy DSP and a CNC'd aluminum bezel--built a pair of the things. In total, he ran 50 drivers and took extensive measurements of the results. The distortion was very low, the SPL was respectible (for us "normals") and it worked very, very well! The distortion of those drivers when driven at less than a watt each was great as you would expect at such low power points. Mid-bass was amazing since you have two 8 foot columns to physically throw a line of pressure at you from the cranium to the tips of your toes. The DSP did it's job dealing with the chaos and both towers are corner loaded. It took him 2 years go build/tune and although "audiophiles" would not believe it, the distortion, FR, phase and polars proved otherwise.

I built a pair of 3-way line arrays (three times!) They use very basic 5" woofers in a sealed box with 1" voice coils, tiny neo magnets and stamped steel frames along with santropene surrounds--cone is paper with a poly coating and they vent through the fabric dustcap for cooling. I call them "mouth breathers" for front cooling which is nice when using sealed boxes. Built the boxes to match the Vas and when using 12 of them, I hit 10% over Xmax at 400 watts at 8Hz and they roll off at -3dB at 85Hz. Yes, they will acoustically roll off at the crossover point for the subs. This way I can use a PA amp that crosses them electrically at 80Hz or use any amp and run them full range and still roll in the subs at 80 to 100Hz and get decent response.

Initial testing with my "cheap as chips" 5" woofers? Well, they MSRP out at a staggering $18 each but thanks to China cornering the neodymium market in 2011--I got them close out at $2.50 each or $60 for a box of 24 in bulk. In a sealed box at Vas and crossed to subs at 80Hz they sounded clean up to 10 watts and decent enough to 16 watts but power compression started to show up at 20 watts each. They would ring but pipe dope and zip ties cured that quickly (go ugly early) Running 12 woofers per side, heavily stuffed and stiff sealed box and a pair of them I got 116dB at 200 watts per side in my garage at an 11 foot MLP. At that point, I was unable to have golden ears...more like ringing ears so I claimed that would work. The subs are dual 15's tuned to 24Hz in a push-pull slot loaded box at 2.2 to 1 compression with 7.5mm Xmax drivers so a pair of them would be 4 fifteen inch drivers. Each sub models out to 116dB (sealed) or 118dB (ported) and when corner loaded in the garage, it will shake the house, shake the neighbors house 30 meters away and attract the attention of law enforcement--I called it good (for now!)

Because I'm an idiot, I had to test those woofers at max so clipped my PA amp (hard) running them full range with the 1812 Overture with cannon fire that goes down to 8Hz. At 400 watts each side, I would say they really didn't like that but did not fail so I set the limiters to 200 watts which they can hammer away without too much distortion drama when crossed at 80Hz. The 21 three inch mids and 48 ten millimeter dome tweeters had an easy life and would burn the drums before ever showing signs of distress. The mids are at 16 ohms nominal so at max, they might get 3 to 4 watts of power worst case scenario each and 48 tweeters crossing at 6KHz even with +6dB of boost at 15KHz have never compressed, distorted or shown any sign of distress no matter what.

I am biased and after hundreds of hours of building/rebuilding over 18 months--my opinion does not matter. So, I enlisted the help of a drummer buddy of mine, a few other people and so on to evaluate my efforts. Basically, they loved the huge sound of them (arrays do that) and commented on the effortless bass response (drummer) and they can get to ear ringing levels without ever sounding harsh, distorted--just clarity that says that way until your ears give up. They also liked that they had great treble response over a block away and those things sure can "throw"!

They are "garage speakers" in that the point of them is to have a few beers, kick back and enjoy the sounds. 2 beers in, you don't notice the issues at 2 to 6KHz and the more beers you have, the better they sound! Although I tried, I have not blown up any of the 162 drivers or subs although 2 hours of Intersteller's no time for caution gave them a run. Switched out the PA amp for a 150 watt X 2 studio amp running full range and did notice a few things. Running at around 60 watt peaks per side, maybe a bump of +3dB at 63Hz with the subs on, I noticed very obvious chest slam at 11 feet. If I stood on top of the subs inline with the woofer lines--there was incredible chest slam over my entire body--the teenagers love to do that. Luckily, because they are line arrays the volume for mids/highs is slightly lower at 1 foot than they are at 11 feet so no hearing damage. No "horn burn" and so on... it feels like being inside a car getting physically pounded or getting near subwoofer stacks at concerts when the 12 five inch woofers starting to stroke. Yeah, I like to appeal to my inner 12 year old at time to time. For now, I just use the studio amp running full range to keep the dust off the two dozen 5" woofers The PPSL subs kick in at 80Hz with the arrays doing acoustic roll off to match. It does sound a little different and feels different running the sealed boxes full range VS electronically filtering them at 80Hz. I like the energy field effect so run them that way.

For me, I'd much rather have multiples of drivers with lower Xmax and higher efficiency than a few drivers with low efficiency and high Xmax. Is it "the wall of sound" that I like? The energy field of 8 feet of woofers/subwoofers provide or purely psycho-acoustics because my eyes see it so my brain accepts it? I dunno, since they are garage/party speakers on a cement floor--I can't get all audiophile/OCD about them because they can never sound perfect because of their location.

In my house, I use Fusion 10 as left/right and an 88 Special center channel along with three 15" subs--I can get chest slam and my sound stage sounds larger than they should but... not as big as the garage arrays! This is a good or bad thing, the accuracy of the HT system is nice and line arrays give a larger than life sound which probably would not be a good thing for movies and sound effects. Two different systems, two different system designs, two different locations and they don't play well together.

Although I don't have 29 subwoofers like BTH, I do understand the draw! Technically, with 24 five inch woofers running full range and 4 fifteen inch subs that would be "28 subs"! I do want to build a Quadhorn (22Hz knee tapped horn) for the garage because I always wanted a horn sub so that would make 29 "subs" as a perfect BTH wanna-be...technically....if you hold your mouth right.

As BTH put so well, the downside of low Xmax drivers is you do give up something--space, weight, complexity and many, many drivers to get there. You do gain massive efficiency from using such light weight mass drivers in multiples to really drive distortion down even if they are not the greatest things. No worries with 1" voice coil 5" woofers with 3mm of Xmax for inductance--they don't have much because they have tiny coils to start! No worries about power compression when you run 24 of the things either. The wimpy 85dB 1w/1m and 20 watts of power handling become 96dB 1w/1m and 240 watts (thermal) of power handling then you double them up by running a pair. Technically, that would be 99dB 1w/1m and 480 watts of power handling--PA territory so I can't and don't complain. I can run my studio amp to clipping at around 150 watts per side and the speakers don't give up...my amp will and my ears will force me out of the garage first.

Part of me wants to go all BTH and purchase sixteen 12" woofers and make 8 foot columns of woofers--one each side to match the arrays. I could put the two subs in the back or sides of the garage to improve sound quality the sub boxes would be lashed to the arrays for safety and stability of the 100 pound 6 foot plus arrays to protect the children (they are attached to the walls with cables) Those JBL 12's are tempting to do just that. Eight of them per side would give me efficiency ratings of around 95dB 1w/1m to "match" the arrays but my wife would divorce me and the jury would agree. Never have a sub box that doubles as a coffin--the natural limit.

Realistically (because we have to go there on occasion) a single Quadhorn 22Hz tapped horn will give me 118 to 120dB on paper and when coupled with an additional two subs that punch 118dB each in a garage--that will work even in party mode. In the real world, my garage has issues structurally with the system at full chat so if/when I add a tapped horn--I'll need to fix a few things and stiffen my garage door etc. to not make a howling mess of structural complaints. My living room wall that is shared with the garage will need some green glue and additional drywall once I add the tapped horn and so on. Is the juice worth the squeeze?

As a cop out, get the driver's distortion charts at what power levels--determine your SPL needs and calculate multiples of each type of driver. As with BTH, he can hit 1% distortion at 150dB in the bass region and at that point--it don't matter anymore. Running 16 of those PA460's in towers floor to ceiling most likely never leaves a person wanting and in my pathetic opinion, I don't think "upgrading" the drivers to Neo B&C drivers would make any difference. When you are down into fractions of percent in bass, when the SPL is so high your ears go into survival mode--not accuracy mode so at a real, hard limit. I can't turn my house or garage into a bunker so my real limit is much lower although entertaining to ponder. At this point, I'm considered the villiage idiot with the garage system so I'll wear that crown proudly. My inner BTH bass head will just have to suffer.
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post #8 of 14 Old 09-21-2018, 02:42 PM
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In my view these last 2 posts from 18hurts and mktheater say a lot of the "truth" of it.

Distortion is nasty. Have 1 or 2 or 4 crap drivers pushed hard it will sound just like that.

Have 1 or 2 or 4 high end drivers in a good application it sounds great. Get a bunch of most any driver and use them gently and far from their rated capability and it sounds great.

Distortion is to be avoided of course but those 2 posts imo say a lot. There are many ways to achieve greatness and no one way is best.

Space considerations will always balance against capability i.e. if you don't mind 30 drivers in the room you can achieve something quite similar to say 4 high end drivers capable of being pushed closer to their limits.

Imo the only real difference is if one wants a lot of feel more drivers ime is the way to achieve it. So in some ways a giant array could well be preferable...but space considerations are quite relevant to the equation too.
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post #9 of 14 Old 09-21-2018, 05:49 PM - Thread Starter
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I generally agree with most of what has been said here.

After reading through this thread and all of your thoughts I went and reviewed llkka's subwoofer tests (including SVS, B&W, the LMS-5400) to see how output and distortion relate across different enclosure types and subwoofer drivers. I found that generally, higher quality drivers can go louder, but actual distortion for a given SPL was pretty similar across the board with the exception of the LMS-5400 which could go 6-8dB louder before distortion went crazy (VERY significant) compared to other drivers. Ports also tended to get a lot more clean level out of a driver vs. sealed, as you would expect.

It indeed looks like minimum excursion is the ideal unless you happen to have the LMS series. And that begs the question - are there other drivers that match the LMS in linearity?

Overall, it looks like we've got our answer. Cone area is king. Get that excursion DOWN if you want to be drawn into another dimension - a dimension of sound.
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post #10 of 14 Old 09-21-2018, 05:55 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MKtheater View Post
I say it all depends on the listener. I prefer my high x-max drivers sound [...] Two 54mm drivers vs 12 20mm drivers, all 18s.
This is really interesting. My question is WHY? Have you accounted for all variables, like do you have a separate DSP channel for every driver for maximum sound field control and are the 20mm drivers in similar enclosures, phase-matched and EQ-matched to the 54mm? Do you have measurements that may indicate what's going on?

If you listen to the 54mm driver by itself vs a 20mm driver by itself, what's the difference? Very curious to know.
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post #11 of 14 Old 09-21-2018, 06:24 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MKtheater View Post
I prefer my high x-max drivers sound over my multiple low x-max drivers which actually could play louder. Two 54mm drivers vs 12 20mm drivers, all 18s. The 12 18s could play at least 15 dB louder throughout the midbass but I would never play it that loud. At the same levels I prefer the two 54mm drivers.
Well I'm glad you still like those because over the last 15 years you have been changing your subwoofers faster than some people change their underwear.

Don't you run the RE-18's IB though? vs whatever you were doing with the 12 others?
The RE's are pretty much optimized for IB...
The other drivers, perhaps not so much...

The only regret I have is with TC going bankrupt before I could buy more of their drivers, and what happens when you over-excurt them.
I would have liked to keep all my subwoofers the same.

IMO the SAB-24 is the best driver I own, having used them side-by-side in comparably sized boxes.
Lots of excursion and cone-area. 52mm one-way x 24 radial inches.

Now I'm stuck either buying 50 SAB-24's or switching to SI-24's, or just completely giving up all hope for consistent/unified drivers in terms of predictable linearity/phase. It's not looking promising in this regard, let me tell ya...
Oh well, is what it is I suppose...

The crappiest driver I own (IMO) is the Mal-X 21's with the XBL^2 motors. Horrible efficiency and linearity.
The LMS-18's and SAB-24, or even my UM-15's run circles around them!!!
Thank god nobody else can buy those anymore, because those too are bankruptcied drivers.
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post #12 of 14 Old 09-21-2018, 07:03 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 18Hurts View Post
Part of me wants to go all BTH and purchase sixteen 12" woofers and make 8 foot columns of woofers--one each side to match the arrays.

Realistically (because we have to go there on occasion) a single Quadhorn 22Hz tapped horn will give me 118 to 120dB
Well you already know what I think...
I think you should build both.

For the ~$85 x 16 that I paid for the PA-460's, it has all the mid-bass that one should never have.
It can easily drowned out SEOS's or any other hopes for Hi-Fi or ear blood with simply "too much" mid-bass.
When activated hotly, I can't even hear the mid-bass from the rest of the gear... not even the 24....
It's a truly improper amount of bass. Exactly as premeditated!

Now I just need 50 24's, or something...

The dangerous part is that I just opened my first Stock trading account today...
I'm not entirely sure if that is a good or a bad thing just yet... If it goes well, this could be the end of my hearing. (Whatever little of it remains... )

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post #13 of 14 Old 09-21-2018, 09:35 PM
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I would probably own the LMS-5400 if they still existed. After owning the RE-xxx 18 and many other cheaper drivers my next upgrade is more XXX-18s if I can find them or the 24. I run my two 18s ported tuned to 10hz in a massive wall. I had 8 Fi-Ib3 and 8 SI ht-18 in there as well. Both the Fi and the SI would have more midbass if I ever played over 130 dB. The two 18s can give me 125 dB of midbass and much more down low being ported. They all were awesome but as stated you can do it in different ways. I just like how violent the ported IB sounds and it is amazing I can match 8 SI with just two 18s. I mean I ran both 12 dB hot from reference and a house curve. Nobody can tell I only have two drivers now. I still have that wall of sound. As for line arrays, I love them and my favorite. I am working on building slightly bigger ones to compare to a dual 12 array design. I can say the Dayton Pa 12 has been the clearest center I have owned for vocals. I really like it, I have even owned the eminence Kappalite 3012HO.

I have measured and tried so many subs over the years, speakers, amps, and processors included. I use very little EQ unless the design was built for it.

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post #14 of 14 Old 09-22-2018, 07:28 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BassThatHz View Post
Well you already know what I think...
I think you should build both.
True,

My garage build does not have to deal with WAF, no worries about size (for the most part) and the demands for ultimate sound quality is tamed because it's a garage. I can throw away money faster than a politician after election season and it will never sound perfect. My only demand is it has to be different, designs off the beaten path--oddities normally not seen in the home. The QuadHorn is a given, a tapped horn for dummies. A 19x19 inch box with 8 foot sides, take a 2.25" hunk of wood across the front and slide the inner leaf panel and ease it up until the height/angle of the board end is even from the top and side to side--single fold 22Hz tapped horn--done!

Is it just me, am I just an odd duck but when I see a very tall stack of woofers or subs--I think transmission line or back loaded horn. Eight JBLs, a single "leaf" or fold and a bunch of stuffing with the mouth venting straight up. So BTH, have you ever considered designing transmission lines, back loaded horns, tapped pipes etc. to take advantage of those 8 foot columns? You have said you really like the sound of your tapped horn so does that apply to transmission lines, back loaded horns etc?

My greatest fear is Parts Express has a close out sale on 10" woofers with a steep discount on a purchase of 12 or more. Hmmm, a simple 12" X 96" bezel doubled up to 1.5" thick and a pair of the bezels would be one sheet of plywood! As a DIY'er, I collect old pillows and a stuffed T-line would prevent bugs and critters that roam into my garage from making a winter home. I seal up my ported PPSL subs every winter for this reason--I designed them to be sealed or ported for that reason. A stuffed T-line removes the winter maintenance aspect of the build.

So BTH, would the juice be worth the squeeze to make tranmission line/back loaded horns or tapped pipe style columns for mid/sub bass? Eventually Parts Express will blow out crates of 10" woofers that will work down to 25Hz in columns and I won't be able to stop myself. Just wondering if you've ever dipped your toes in the more obscure loading of woofers, any advice?
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