|Originally posted by BaddaBob|
I'm looking at upgrading my current two channel system so I can enjoy the wonderful worlds of SACD and DVD-A. I like movies, but my main thing is audio. I don't get any great thrill from super-low bass, and would rather not lay out the extra bucks for a sub-woofer. I'm looking at a Denon AVR-3803 receiver and I am wondering is there some way I can get away without having a sub-woofer? I'd rather just channel that sub stuff down the drain instead of over-stressing speakers that are not designed for it. I am seeing this as being more and more of an issue with the DVD movies coming out these days - I've heard of people blowing speakers on movies like Saving Private Ryan.
Any advice for this multichannel newbie?
The two-channel rationale for going with a subwoofer applies to multichannel as well. Using a subwoofer relieves the speakers and the amplifier from having to handle the demanding low frequencies, which in turn noticeably improves the midrange coherency from your other speakers. A lot of home theatre buffs are drawn to subs by the explosions and sound effects, and that leads to a lot of derision on the part of people who are primarily music driven. But, that's disingenuous because there are plenty of arguments in favor of using a subwoofer with music-only systems as well. On my system, the biggest single improvement with a subwoofer was with acoustic music. Having the full range sound available gives an entirely different take on realism.
The simplest way to "drain" out the bass is to simply set all of your speakers to small, set the crossover point to about 60 Hz, direct the LFE output towards the subwoofer channel, and simply not plug a subwoofer to the receiver. Your speakers should easily handle that kind of playback.
However, keep in mind that with SACD and DVD-A, you rely entirely on the bass management functions with the DVD player itself, because those high res formats can only be output through the analog outputs. Your receiver directly feeds the 6-channel analog input directly into the amplifier section with no bass management. In general, the bass management with DVD players is nowhere near as flexible as what you get with a receiver like the 3803. Depending on the player that you use, you might not have any bass management options at all, or it forces you to crossover at 80 Hz, which can make the music sound almost anemic.
The other reason to go with a subwoofer is because the main speakers are not always positioned where you get the most even sounding bass. Having that placement flexibility allows you to find the spot in the room where the bass is tight and not boomy. An outboard self-powered subwoofer also gives you the option of using a parametric equalizer to correct for room-induced bass problems (and most rooms create problems in the low frequencies). An EQ allows you to adjust the bass response so that it's as even as possible, and this benefits music the most. So, it's not entirely about the loud effects and houseshaking sensations.