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Best value based sub?

2001 Views 10 Replies 7 Participants Last post by  unleashed
What do you guys consider some of the best value for your money in subs? A friend told me to look into HSU, which looks great. Any other recommendations?

If you need more details on my current configuration to answer please see the description of what I have now in this thread: http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showthread.php?t=785851

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depends on your version of "value"

For some that's $250 for some it's $1000 or less.

on the low end I like the mirage Omni and the BIC H-100
See my response in your other thread?

what is your listening preference (music/movies)?

You mentioned the room is 20x20, what is the ceiling height? Is this room open to other rooms in the house? i.e kitchen/breakfast nook?

What is your budget?

Just about every Internet Direct company has it's fans. You won't find too many complaints about anything from HSU, SVS, AV123, AXIOm, or ACI. Because of their ID business models, they are usually better than anything sold in a retail store at a comparable price because there is no middle man per se.
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Thanks for the responses. Here are more details per the questions above:

- Room more specifically is 18x18' with an 8' ceiling. One side wall is completely open, and that room this ajoins to even bigger (about 18x40 with 8' ceiling plus that room has an open wall as well).

- Regarding the room: Wall A is where the display is. Wall B is the side wall. Wall C is where I sit on a sofa that is basically up against that wall. And to my right is where Wall D would be, but it is an open room instead (step down).

- Currently my sub is located on the floor in the corner of Walls B/C. It is about 6 feet from where I sit and one the same axis as me (pretty much 6 feet straight to the side from my left ear).

- My current sub is a 10" woofer Atlantic Research sub that I got as part of a 5.1 package some 10 years ago. I used it in another house with a smaller room and just brought it with me when I moved years ago. I never really bothered with it much and figured it was "good enough" but recently I started thinking that I could likely do much better so now I am looking to replace it.

- I'm looking to spend UP TO about $750 give or take a bit. My definition of a "value sub" is one that is made by a small company with aggressive pricing that is known however to perform very well and hold its own with the higher price "big boys". As an example the research I've done into HSU seems to put them into this category.

- My listening preference is almost entirely movies. I do not music listening in this room whatsoever, except of course for the soundtracks that play during a movie.

Based on this - what subs do you guys think I should take a hard look at? If I go for a value sub in this range, do you think I'll really notice a substantial improvement over the sub I have now? In what ways may it be better?

Thanks for the tip about setting my speakers to Small. In a room like I've described with my existing speakers, what would you recommend as a cross over point to set my A/V receiver at - 80hz?

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I would think that any sub in the $750 range would outperform a 10" sub that came with a 10 year old 5.1 setup hands down in just about every category. As long as you go with one of the top brands like HSU, SVS, etc. you will be very pleased.
I think HSU offers exactly what you are looking for. You may want to contact them via email for a room specific recommendation, but the VTF3- MK3 @ $649 + $75 shipping would probably fit the bill. It offers variable tuning, and more output than their previous top model, the vTF3-MKII.

If you don't mind the look of the Cylinder subs, the SVS 25-31Pci, and SVS 20-39pci would fit your bill as well. Though they lack the variable tuning of the HSU subs. Variable tuning allows you to choose what type of frequency response you will have. The more you lower the tuning of the sub, the more you lower the volume. So the 25Hz tuned 25-31 will play the loudest, but the 16-46 will play lower. Myself, I'm not into the sub 20 Hz bass as much as others, I listen to more music (not pipe organ) than I do watch movies, so mid bass impact and smoothness is very important to me.

If you want to obsess like some of the other guys on this forum, you could wait for AV123's MFW-15 that comes out pretty soon. It will be $599 and was designed by Mark Seaton specifically for AV123, and should be a great product.

I have not heard that Atlantic research sub, so I cannot comment on what difference you will hear specifically. But I recently moved up from an SVS 10" to an SVS 12", and I posted my comments here:


Though you have to note that the PB10 is tuned lower than the 25-31Pci, so it may not be fair to compare their midbass impact I mention in my review.

Like I said in the other thread, I would start with the xover at 60Hz. Ideally, your xover should be one octave above the lower point of your mains. But you should seaon to taste.
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SVS has a B-stock section.. If you check it often, you can score a PB12 Plus/2 for right around your budget. That has my vote period for best subwoofer deal out there. Don't hesitate though, if you see one in their B-Stock, order it up, I have missed a couple of them through stupidity. It would fullfill all my sub dreams to score two of these from that section.
Best value? Internet direct brands typically give a better value/dollar ratio than buying from a retail location for obvious reasons. B-stock from an internet (e-tailer) is an even better value especially from HSU or SVS who both have stellar service after the sale. DIY may be the best value, but not an option for some people who would rather buy pre-built. (THIS IS NOT THE START OF A DIY VS PRE-BUILT ARGUMENT!!!!!)

Originally Posted by lovingdvd /forum/post/0

Thanks. What do receivers typically do when you set speakers as Large vs. Small? I assume this controls to what extent they pass low frequencies to those speakers, but I thought that is what the crossover control on the receiver is for? So I'm confused as to how one should be use Large/Small in conjunction with the cross over point.

I remember a few years ago when I last experimented with the sound and set everything up - I found it sounded best when I had the left/right and surrounds on Large. As you said, it sounded "fuller".

However this may be because my sub is a 10 year old leftover from an old 5.1 speaker set I used to us. Perhaps when I get a "real" sub in the room things will work better with everything set to Small? If you are interested details about my room and questions about my sub criteria / selection are here: http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showthread.php?t=785857


Sorry, but I copied this from your other thread, it's hard to post questions on 2 different threads.

The Small vs. Large is the Bass Management system on your receiver. It is the primary selection for how the bass frequencies below your crossover selection should be handled.

If you set your reasrs to small, then you will not have the option of sending the full frequency range to them, they will only get the signal above your crossover point. Well, it actually rolls off below the xover, but you usually won't be able to hear that part. That's a different topic.

The crossover selection is the point where you want the bass to roll off of the mains, and be directed to the subwoofer. Ideally, this exchange should occur with no sacrifice to sound quality. That is where phase adjustment, sub location, calibration come into play. Here is a good read for you that explains all of this (courtesy of Howard Roark on S&V forum):

First, let's start with why we need to adjust the settings on our subwoofers to get the best sound.


The purpose of a subwoofer is to fill in the bottom octaves below the capabilities of the mains speakers. There are many reasons to use a subwoofer to do this including, protect the main speakers, increase the maximum output of the system, take advantage of the acoustical benefits of sub placement versus the acoustical advantages of stereo speaker placements, extend the bass output below the limits of the main speakers, increase the maximum bass SPL by using a dedicated driver, and other such reasons.

In an perfect world, the subwoofer should blend with the main speakers the same way the tweeter should blend with the midrange speaker(s). Afterall, we don't sit around adjusting the level of the tweeter until it stands out in the sound so we can all marvel at how great the tweeter sounds. What we want is the tweeter to seamlessly blend with the midrange so that we cannot tell where the mindrange stops and the tweeter starts.

So, most subwoofers provide methods for calibrating their output in order to tune them to blend perfectly with the main speakers. These controls often include a level control, a crossover frequency control and a phase switch. Some better subs replace the phase switch with a variable phase dial which allows the infinite tuning of the phase from 0° to 180° (in phase with input to out of phase with input, respectively).


People have asked what the sound should be like when a subwoofer is perfectly calibrated versus when it is not. If everything were ideal, the subwoofer won't stand out from the other speakers. In fact, the sound of the music (or movie) should be natural, balanced, and full. When the content asked for it, the bass should be strong, and when not asked the bass should go away. One should never walk into a room with a subwoofer playing with a system and immediately notice the power of the subwoofer. Instead, it should appear that the main speakers are clean, loud, dynamic, and as strong in the bass as the music (or movie) suggests.


The three controls are pretty simple to understand. The Gain/Volume control simple boosts or cuts the loudness of the subwoofer. The crossover control shouldn't be used. The phase control shifts the phase of the signal prior to amplifying it and sending to the sub driver.


To adjust the level, one simply measures the level of the main speakers and adjust the level of the subwoofer until it is the same as the main speakers. This can be done in many ways, but the simplist is to use the test tones built into your receiver/preamp and an SPL meter set to C-Weighting. With the meter placed, or held, about where the ideal listening position is (at ear level) the test tones will move from speaker to speaker then to the subwoofer then back to the speakers and continue in a loop. Every speaker's level control should be adjusted until they are all producing the same SPL as per the SPL meter. Then that same level should be used as the reference for the subwoofer's level. Ultimately, if the main speakers are producing 70dB SPL, then the subwoofer should also be producing 70dB SPL. There are other methods for measuring the level with are more accurate, but this is the basic concept.

Better Methods for adjusting the level -

- Play a test DVD and follow the instruction accompanying the audio test tones.

- Use a spectrum analyzer, pink noise, and a calibrated mic to measure the actual frequency response and adjust the level so the low bass (below 50Hz) is the same SPL as the upper bass (above 130Hz).

- Play test tones and measure the levels with an SPL meter and write down the level of each test tone and adjust the subwoofer until the average level of the test tones it is producing are about the same as the tones produced on the main stereo speakers.


If you are using the crossover built into the receiver/preamp, then you really shouldn't need to use the crossover on the subwoofer. If the subwoofer allows you to disable the corssover, then that would be the best thing to do. There are special cases where the use of the sub's crossover can make a positive difference, but generally it should be turned off. If the subwoofer doesn't have a switch to turn it off, then adjusting the frequency to the highest setting is the way to go most of the time.

Once you disable the crossover on the sub, the crossover on the receiver/preamp needs to be adjusted. Most people, including myself, recommend you set the crossover to the frequency exactly double the lowest rated frequency of the main speakers. So, if the main speakers are rated to operate from 30Hz to 20,000Hz, then set the crossover to 60Hz. Now, if your speakers are rated to only 100Hz, it is a bad idea to set the crossover at 200Hz (it may not be an option). In these cases, set the crossover frequency at least 25% higher than the rated low frequency limit. So, for a speaker rated to 110Hz, set the crossover to 138Hz, or the nearest frequency.

If you want to get hardcore about it, measure the actual frequency response of the speakers in your room and set the crossover to the frequency about twice the -10dB SPL level of the speakers. So, if you can measure the speaker to have a -10dB point of about 45Hz, set the crossover to 90Hz, or so. For front speakers (Left, Center, and Right) I try to keep the crossover frequency below 100Hz if at all possible. With stereo music having the subwoofer operating much higher than 80Hz will make it hard to blend with the main speakers, so that is something to consider.

These frequencies are only guidelines to ensure the smoothest transition from the subwoofer to the main speakers as well as provide the most protection for the main speakers which increases their maximum output. It may be necessary to change the crossover frequency from the recommended frequencies based on the unpredicable realities of the room acoustics and real world performance of the speakers. However, after calibrating the phase, it needs to be recalibrated if the crossover frequency is changed.


This is the tricky one to adjust and get right. If the sub only has a switch to reverse the polarity, then it is easier to get the most correct - two choices are always the easiest to choose between. If the sub has a continuously variable phase control, then it can get tricky. I will get into these in more detail later, but for now know that the ideal setting will provide the flattest frequency response at the crossover frequency where the sound is transitioning between the sub and the main speakers. There are several methods to tune the phase including:

Easiest, Most accurate, Requiring the most Test Gear:

- Use a real time spectrum analyzer like TrueRTA and a calibrated microphone to measure the frequency response in real time using a pink noise test tone with the Receiver/Preamp in stereo mode with Main speakers set to Small and the subwoofer set to On.

- Flip the phase switch back and forth to see which provides the flattest response at the crossover range.

- Slowly turn the phase dial until the flattest response is measured.

Effective, Requiring Less Gear, Time Consuming:

- Set the Receiver/Preamp to Stereo, Main speakers set to small, Subwoofer set to on, play test tones from Real Traps or other Sine wave tones and measure the SPL of those tones (potentially write them down or use a spreadsheet to char them).

- Adjust the phase until the levels at the crossover frequency are the same as at least an octave above and below the crossover frequency.

Effective, Requires Less Gear, Faster:

- Set the Receiver/Preamp to Stereo, Main speakers set to small, and subwoofer set to on, play the sine wave frequency sweeps provided at Marchand Electronics. Choose the sweep tone named for the frequency the crossover is set to.

- With the SPL meter held at ear level at the ideal listening position, note the SPL Level at the bottom of the sweep and at the top of the sweep. Then adjust the phase so the meter moves the least as the frequency changes. Ideally, the SPL Meter will read the exact same SPL level regardless of the sweeping frequency.

Less effective, but much better than nothing:

- Set the Receiver Preamp to Stereo, Main speakers set to small, & subwoofer set to On, play a sine wave tone one octave lower than the crossover frequency (1/2 the frequency). Use the SPL meter at the listening position and note the SPL level.

- Next play a sine wave test tone one octave higher than the crossover frequency (double the frequency) and note the level with the SPL meter. It should be close to the same level as the previous measurement.

- Then, play a test tone at the same frequency as the crossover frequency and adjust the phase until the SPL level is the same as the other two measurements.

- The problem with this method is that test tone levels are greatly affected by room acoustics and it is entirely possible that one of the three frequencies will be the same as a standing wave which will thow off the measurement by as much as 12dB SPL.
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Thanks for the great information. Yes I have to assume that the bass with be hugely improved by replacing this fairly generic sub I have now. I'm just so curious as to HOW it will improve. I guess it will be tighter, less directional, "smoother" if there is such a thing with bass, etc.

Regarding the recommendation for the VTF-3 MK3 - I see they recommend it for "large" rooms. Is this because I must take into consideration the adjoining room and so effectively it is all one big room? Seems logic. However I will be sitting just 6 feet from the sub, so I don't know if this has any bearing.

BTW I think my old sub is Atlantic Technology, not Atlantic Research, in case that rings any bells.

Originally Posted by lovingdvd /forum/post/0

- I'm looking to spend UP TO about $750 give or take a bit.

Then you've chosen a wrong name for this thread.

$750 will buy you a very, very good sub, not a "value" based one.
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