How important is the LFE channel for a 2.1 system? - AVS Forum | Home Theater Discussions And Reviews
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post #1 of 25 Old 11-22-2019, 11:59 AM - Thread Starter
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How important is the LFE track on a 2.1 system?

Hello, all.
I'm trying to simplify my setup and go the 2.1 route (miniDSP + stereo amp), mainly because my room is very small and the phantom center works great for me. I also don't care for surrounds.
As it's well known, according to Dolby guidelines 5.1 tracks lose the LFE channel when downmixed to stereo, and the only way to avoid this is by letting an AVR/multich processor handle the downmixing (by telling it you don't have a sub), which puts the LFE on the mains.

SO, the question is: how essential is the LFE track in a bass-managed stereo system (aka 2.1)?

I'm concerned of losing much dynamics and audio info if I don't let an AVR to the downmix. Some say the LFE is just a louder "copy" of the bass info from the other channels, but isn't this "louder copy" necessary to achieve the dynamics intended by the director/artist

Blu-Rays and (sometimes) Netflix have dedicated 2.0 tracks, which presumably contains all the info, but many files come only with 5.1 tracks.

Filters like AC3filter can mix the LFE channel in mains, but I mostly use my smarttv's internal player, so I don't want to rely on a PC.

Thanks and sorry for my English!

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post #2 of 25 Old 11-22-2019, 12:05 PM
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I'd say it's very important. Bass is the foundation for music and movie sound. Even when playing something that isn't that challenging, it adds a weight and presence to the sound that's hard to get any other way.

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post #3 of 25 Old 11-22-2019, 12:06 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Rolls-Royce View Post
I'd say it's very important. Bass is the foundation for music and movie sound. Even when playing something that isn't that challenging, it adds a weight and presence to the sound that's hard to get any other way.
Of course, but doesn't the stereo tracks already carry bass info? Or are you saying that the additional bass info on the LFE channel, which is boosted by +10db, is essential?

If that's the case, an AVR or processor would be mandatory for a good 2.1 movie system
Thanks
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post #4 of 25 Old 11-22-2019, 12:17 PM
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Originally Posted by FlavioWolff View Post
Of course, but doesn't the stereo tracks already carry bass info? Or are you saying that the additional bass info on the LFE channel, which is boosted by +10db, is essential?

If that's the case, an AVR or processor would be mandatory for a good 2.1 movie system
Thanks
It's not all about just LFE, which mostly figures into movie playback. With bass management, a sub can relieve your mains and amp from the production of the lowest frequencies, which can eat up a lot of amplifier power and restrict dynamics. It also helps to fill out the lower midrange as well.

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post #5 of 25 Old 11-22-2019, 12:22 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Rolls-Royce View Post
It's not all about just LFE, which mostly figures into movie playback. With bass management, a sub can relieve your mains and amp from the production of the lowest frequencies, which can eat up a lot of amplifier power and restrict dynamics. It also helps to fill out the lower midrange as well.
My system is bass managed. I wanted to ditch the AVR and use only a stereo amp (bass managed with a minidsp). The question is about the importance of the lfe track, not about the importance of bass management
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post #6 of 25 Old 11-22-2019, 12:27 PM
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Does it sound good?
If it does then you are fine.
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post #7 of 25 Old 11-22-2019, 12:51 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Leeliemix View Post
Does it sound good?
If it does then you are fine.
I'd like some objective theory. If "does it sound good" answered everything, there wouldn't be any reason to ask almost anything around here. Listening pleasure, at least in my case, comes from knowing that I'm doing things objectivelly "right" first, and then adjusting. Guidelines and objective science are important.

Of course stereo without the LFE track will sound "fine", but without theory and the experience of others, I would keep wondering whether an AVR on the chain would sound better.
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post #8 of 25 Old 11-22-2019, 12:57 PM
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LFE is utilized in movies and shows only. It is not part of music playback. That is just bass.
If you do not want it during movies, turn it off in your AVR.
You can also turn off all bass management by your AVR and just do it from the controls on the sub. Essentially leaving LFE out.
Many brands also have a reduction feature for apartment dwellers where overuse or just use of LFE will make you the most hated person in the building. You do not want to be the most hated person anywhere…
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post #9 of 25 Old 11-22-2019, 01:07 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FlavioWolff View Post
I'd like some objective theory. If "does it sound good" answered everything, there wouldn't be any reason to ask almost anything around here. Listening pleasure, at least in my case, comes from knowing that I'm doing things objectivelly "right" first, and then adjusting. Guidelines and objective science are important.

If you take listening pleasure in knowing that it is objectively “right”, then you are listening with your brain and not your ears, meaning that if it sounds right is the only factor that matters since it would just be you “thinking” or knowing that is sounds right.

So does your mind allow it to sound right? If so, then you are all good

Leave it at 8 ohms and call it a day :)
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post #10 of 25 Old 11-22-2019, 01:46 PM
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I guess it depends on what you listen to. If you want it to sound like you're listening to a live band (with actual instruments), the LFE channel (and really the sub itself -if you have decent full range speakers) is irrelevant.

If you listen to EDM, you'll probably appreciate a bit of room shake from the sub bass that wouldn't be realistic in a live music setting.

For HT, I think LFE is crucial for immersiveness. Even at lower apartment volumes, I feel it still adds weight to scenes as the director intended.

At least that's my 2 cents...if it's worth that 😁

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post #11 of 25 Old 11-22-2019, 01:49 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FlavioWolff View Post
I'd like some objective theory. If "does it sound good" answered everything, there wouldn't be any reason to ask almost anything around here. Listening pleasure, at least in my case, comes from knowing that I'm doing things objectivelly "right" first, and then adjusting. Guidelines and objective science are important.



Of course stereo without the LFE track will sound "fine", but without theory and the experience of others, I would keep wondering whether an AVR on the chain would sound better.


Ill be more specific on the sounding good, does it sound even (balanced) or lean? Probably not bass heavy since you wonder if you are missing out on something. I assume your setup with minidsp is good so you might be able to hear if something sounds a bit off.
I do understand wanting the theory and hopefully someone knows exactly how your gear handles things vs most (if not all) AVRs

Better sound with an AVR in the chain probably greatly depends on the AVR itself, how they handle the downmixing might vary.

A while back while waiting for an amplifier i used an old 2ch amp and ran stereo for tv watching with a processor doing the downmixing and it sounded very good
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post #12 of 25 Old 11-22-2019, 02:36 PM
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Does your sub have line level in/outputs?
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post #13 of 25 Old 11-22-2019, 02:54 PM
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You can set most home greater equipment to output summed 2.0 which is a full range signal. That said I’d be shocked if any modern receivers “throw away” the LFE audio when set to run without a sub. That was the case 20 years ago but I play blu rays in stereo and there’s plenty of bass.
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post #14 of 25 Old 11-22-2019, 07:30 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by qirex View Post
You can set most home greater equipment to output summed 2.0 which is a full range signal. That said I’d be shocked if any modern receivers “throw away” the LFE audio when set to run without a sub. That was the case 20 years ago but I play blu rays in stereo and there’s plenty of bass.
Receivers don't throw the LFE away when downmixing. That's what I stated on the original post...
Any other downmixer following dolby's current standards do, though. So, if you don't have a receiver (or multi-ch processor), you lose the LFE channel. It happens if you connect your TV to a stereo amp, for example.

Check this in-depth discussion: https://www.avsforum.com/forum/91-au...o-downmix.html
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post #15 of 25 Old 11-22-2019, 10:03 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FlavioWolff View Post
Receivers don't throw the LFE away when downmixing. That's what I stated on the original post...
Any other downmixer following dolby's current standards do, though. So, if you don't have a receiver (or multi-ch processor), you lose the LFE channel. It happens if you connect your TV to a stereo amp, for example.

Check this in-depth discussion: https://www.avsforum.com/forum/91-au...o-downmix.html
That thread is six years old referencing an 8 year older white paper but almost I’m curious to hook up my blu ray player via optical to see what happens (I have a 2 channel receiver with HDMI). With the popularity of non-receiver solutions like soundbars that almost all take optical and many of which include subwoofers (such as they are called with their plastic cabinets and 6” drivers) it seems crazy that this would still be the case. That’s more work than just sending summed 2.0 all the time.

This thread is reminding me that I feel like the market is screaming for a HDMI audio endpoint with high quality DAC and configurable output that costs less than an A.V. pre/pro. There’s niche solutions like the miniDSP nanoAVR but configuring their stuff is way past the patience level of your average person who just wants to connect their tv to a nice existing stereo system without making any sacrifices.
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post #16 of 25 Old 11-22-2019, 10:15 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by qirex View Post
Quote:
Originally Posted by FlavioWolff View Post
Receivers don't throw the LFE away when downmixing. That's what I stated on the original post...
Any other downmixer following dolby's current standards do, though. So, if you don't have a receiver (or multi-ch processor), you lose the LFE channel. It happens if you connect your TV to a stereo amp, for example.

Check this in-depth discussion: https://www.avsforum.com/forum/91-au...o-downmix.html
That thread is six years old referencing an 8 year older white paper but almost I’️m curious to hook up my blu ray player via optical to see what happens (I have a 2 channel receiver with HDMI). With the popularity of non-receiver solutions like soundbars that almost all take optical and many of which include subwoofers (such as they are called with their plastic cabinets and 6â€Â drivers) it seems crazy that this would still be the case. That’️s more work than just sending summed 2.0 all the time.

This thread is reminding me that I feel like the market is screaming for a HDMI audio endpoint with high quality DAC and configurable output that costs less than an A.V. pre/pro. There’️s niche solutions like the miniDSP nanoAVR but configuring their stuff is way past the patience level of your average person who just wants to connect their tv to a nice existing stereo system without making any sacrifices.
I don’t think anything has changed, really. Soundbars are still niche. I myself have never seen anybody using one in person. Even rich people with big TVs still use their TVs internal speakers (at least here in Brazil). That paper was made to avoid sending that +10db bass info to that kind of speakers.

In fact, I have a feeling that more people used HT systems back in 1990-2000s than now. TVs were bulky and ugly, so a nice speaker system complemented them. Now it’s all the opposite.
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post #17 of 25 Old 11-24-2019, 08:05 AM
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Soundbars are a niche market? (guffaw) Not here in North America. Most stores carry several brands/models, including the “everyday shopper” stores like Target and Walmart.

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post #18 of 25 Old 11-24-2019, 08:21 AM
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Soundbars are very common here in Norway also.
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post #19 of 25 Old 11-24-2019, 08:30 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FlavioWolff View Post
Hello, all.
I'm trying to simplify my setup and go the 2.1 route (miniDSP + stereo amp), mainly because my room is very small and the phantom center works great for me. I also don't care for surrounds.
As it's well known, according to Dolby guidelines 5.1 tracks lose the LFE channel when downmixed to stereo.................................

Thanks and sorry for my English!
I looked at this about a year ago as a mid-fi - hi-fi newbie wanting to have great movie and 2 channel audio experience. My thread below. My conclusion was definitely not use an integrated amp for movies and my experience since then with the system in my sig has supported that conclusion. For a great movie experience in 2.1 or any number of channels keep an updated AVR that does all the Dolby Digital, etc. down-mixing, LFE, bass management. @sivadselim seems to be an authority on LFE and audio protocols for movies in general. It's not as straight forward as one might believe.

My system sounds incredible for movies in only 2.2 and consistently throws phantom surround from the sides and back when watching movies.

https://www.avsforum.com/forum/91-au...mplifiers.html
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post #20 of 25 Old 11-24-2019, 10:40 AM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Matthew Pool View Post
I looked at this about a year ago as a mid-fi - hi-fi newbie wanting to have great movie and 2 channel audio experience. My thread below. My conclusion was definitely not use an integrated amp for movies and my experience since then with the system in my sig has supported that conclusion. For a great movie experience in 2.1 or any number of channels keep an updated AVR that does all the Dolby Digital, etc. down-mixing, LFE, bass management. @sivadselim seems to be an authority on LFE and audio protocols for movies in general. It's not as straight forward as one might believe.

My system sounds incredible for movies in only 2.2 and consistently throws phantom surround from the sides and back when watching movies.

https://www.avsforum.com/forum/91-au...mplifiers.html
Thank you. Your thread was very helpful.

Considering that I want to keep my Dirac Live processing for both movies and music, I'm thinking about the following setup in my case:

Smart TV -> Pre/Pro (set to stereo and NO sub, so the lfe gets mixed to the r/l output) -> MiniDSP DDRC-24 with bass management (80hz crossover for example) -> sub / power amp-speakers

So, theoretically my minidsp will route all the LFE (at least the 0-80hz portion of it, which is probably all of it) to the sub (along with the regular bass from the other channels), and I will have proper 2.1 with dirac live and LFE.
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post #21 of 25 Old 11-24-2019, 10:50 AM
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Originally Posted by FlavioWolff View Post
Thank you. Your thread was very helpful.

Considering that I want to keep my Dirac Live processing for both movies and music, I'm thinking about the following setup in my case:

Smart TV -> Pre/Pro (set to stereo and NO sub, so the lfe gets mixed to the r/l output) -> MiniDSP DDRC-24 with bass management (80hz crossover for example) -> sub / power amp-speakers

So, theoretically my minidsp will route all the LFE (at least the 0-80hz portion of it, which is probably all of it) to the sub (along with the regular bass from the other channels), and I will have proper 2.1 with dirac live and LFE.
Funny thing is I've been looking to get Dirac into my 2 channel audio because it has such excellent reviews. That's probably on hold now due to an upcoming move where I'll be busy for some time and I REALLY like my A2080 and YPAO with RSC for 2 channel anyway. I don't think you'll get the same movie quality experience as with a good AVR in the signal path.

Would an Arcam or NAD AVR interest you? Then you'd have it all in one box... Dirac Live plus simplified Dirac calibration and tweaking, Dolby, etc. down-mixing, LFE, bass management... I would strongly suggest that path!

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post #22 of 25 Old 11-24-2019, 11:01 AM - Thread Starter
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Funny thing is I've been looking to get Dirac into my 2 channel audio because it has such excellent reviews. That's probably on hold now due to an upcoming move where I'll be busy for some time and I REALLY like my A2080 and YPAO with RSC for 2 channel anyway. I don't think you'll get the same movie quality experience as with a good AVR in the signal path.

Would an Arcam or NAD AVR interest you? Then you'd have it all in one box... Dirac Live plus simplified Dirac calibration and tweaking, Dolby, etc. down-mixing, LFE, bass management... I would strongly suggest that path!
1 - get Dirac when you can. It's a whole new level, at least when compared to the Audyssey XT32 I had for years.
2 - the pre/pro will act as the AVR (it's an AVR without amps). I need separates because the chain must go through the minidsp before the amplification stage (AVRs don't accept tape loops like integrated amps )

As of now, I'm using an onkyo nr5008 with audyssey xt32 for movies and the minidsp with dirac for music (by connecting the music source to the minidsp and the minidsp to the onkyo's multi channel inputs - little complicated but works).

Yesterday, I briefly tested the system I outlined on the post above, but with the Onkyo in the chain instead of the pre/pro (wasting it's beefy amps) and a simple chinese $30 power amp at the end of the chain. I've put a Harman target curve on the Dirac and set the crossover to 60hz. I set the onkyo to "no subwoofer" and no everything, so the minidsp + dirac processed a full stereo signal with LFE. Result was very good, but I tested at low levels.

MiniDSP allows you to toggle dirac on and off with a single button, so I clearly heard how Dirac puts the dialogue dead on the center (probably by fixing my room's reflections and such).

Again, sorry for my English!
As we have similar setups, I would be glad to keep in touch with you. My current speakers are a pair of Totem Rainmakers and a Sunfire HRS-12 sub (can't fit two at the moment)

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post #23 of 25 Old 11-24-2019, 11:17 AM
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sivadselim seems to be an authority on LFE and audio protocols for movies in general.

No. I learned most of it all, here, from more knowledgeable members.
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post #24 of 25 Old 11-24-2019, 03:30 PM
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Originally Posted by FlavioWolff View Post
How important is the LFE track on a 2.1 system?

So, obviously, reproducing the LFE channel properly is ideal but you CAN have a very satisfactory 2.0 with sub setup that discards the LFE channel. I have seen many examples, here, where people have a 2-channel setup, both with and without subwoofer(s), and they didn't even realize that their LFE channel was missing.

Ultimately, you have to decide if it is important enough to you and if so, make certain you build your setup accordingly.
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post #25 of 25 Old 11-26-2019, 09:24 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FlavioWolff View Post
As it's well known, according to Dolby guidelines 5.1 tracks lose the LFE channel when downmixed to stereo, and the only way to avoid this is by letting an AVR/multich processor handle the downmixing (by telling it you don't have a sub), which puts the LFE on the mains.
I am using a left/right downmix out of an Emotiva UMC-200 AV processor to drive stereo shakers in a driving seat for my son's iRacing rig (left/right needed to get proper left/right track shaking cues). The Emotiva also has the sub enabled at the same time. The downmix-driven shakers work well, so it seems to have bull bass/LFE effects. Obviously the shakers working isn't proof that it has full LFE, but if I had to guess, I would think it did get full LFE. I don't know anything about the Dolby guideline reported, just passing along what I've experienced from the downmix.

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Hello, all.
I'm trying to simplify my setup and go the 2.1 route (miniDSP + stereo amp), mainly because my room is very small and the phantom center works great for me. I also don't care for surrounds.
I'm in the minority here, but my experience with mixing DSP with 2 channel has not been favorable. I used DSP to tune my sub in my 2-channel (music only) system and could not get the sub to blend perfectly with the mains. I used the Velodyne SMS-1, which is a standalone parametric sub DSP eq that can be used with any sub. The SMS-1 is basically "REW in a box" with included mic and monitor output so you can graphically tune the sub exactly. I was never happy with the sound using the DSP for sub tuning -- it just never felt integrated with the mains even though I tuned it with graphs to be perfectly integrated and tried many variations. I don't know if it was a tiny delay added with the DSP or just the byproduct of digital manipulation degrading the sound, but I couldn't get the sub to sound good or integrated. I switched to just driving the sub with the speaker-level outputs and tuning it with the sub's built-in crossover and that infinitely simpler setup sounded MUCH better than DSP. DSP has gazillion times more controls than the sub crossover controls, but it just didn't sound good no matter how perfect I made the graphs. I think what I experienced on the DSP sub is the same as many experience with "pure direct" versus DSP for stereo (e.g. pure direct often sounds better even though DSP is tuned and should sound better if DSP didn't 2-channel harm fidelity).

Mine was a "music only" scenario, not for movies, but I'm not sure it matters if you have full LFE into the stereo signal. If I were you, I would definitely try running it as 2.0 and drive the sub off with the speaker-level inputs (tuning with just the sub's built-in crossover controls) to see how that sounds. Sometimes less is more. In my book, avoiding DSP when you can is always more. For full 7.1 movies, I love DSP. For 2-channel, not so much (or really at all).

Last edited by pjp; 11-26-2019 at 11:10 AM.
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