Sub-woofers and musicality

I asked this on reddit and have been lambasted as an idiot for thinking this is a thing, though some have confirmed it is ‘something’ in that it is more about tuning and room treatment than the sub itself.

but I wonder…how much does the material and quality of said material that the driver is made of, to the designs and styles of the different subs-woofers out there to the impact the amp can have vs. passive and powered, etc.

while it is not as noticeable with speakers as it is headphones, I don’t see why a sub-woofer could not have a potential house sound or that there could be an inherent sound profile associated with combinations of materials and designs themselves.

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I think that everything matters, for sure. In the world of subwoofers, the enclosure matters so so much it gets a lot of attention, as well as the space it is in. The frequency range is so small and in such a spot that some of the normal factors that we’d talk about in amp/chain also matter less.

All that said, in terms of the brands and successful subwoofer designs in the market - I do think the amp matters because they’re frequently using DSP/equalization to maximize things beyond the physics.

So, I think that there is so much “other stuff” in play that the subwoofer driver probably gets less attention compared to a lot of the other parts of our hobby. As a weirdo that used to obsess over Thiele-Small Parameters and model designs for way too long, that makes me a little sad.

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I am just beginning to peek into the world of hi fi stereo (as opposed to headphones) and haven’t listened to a lot of systems.

However, I am picking up my first system tomorrow. I found a guy locally on Craigslist who cleans up and resells older and used stereo equipment. We corresponded back and forth quite a lot before he made his recommendations.

Interestingly, in the course of asking after the kind of sound I wanted, and the room I am setting up in, and so forth, he recommended I go with the smallest sub he currently has. He offered to sell me one of the larger, more powerful units, but since I was after clean sound for music, he recommended the smaller one. It was more “musical”, where as most of his bigger subs were “typical subwoofer cubes” made for home theater applications, where he says they make a nice big boom, but are kind of one-note-wonders by comparison.

Also nice enough fellow that if I find I am dissatisfied with the bass response once it’s all set up in my room, I can bring it back and exchange it for a bigger unit of equal value, or use its value as direct credit if I want to trade up, so he’s not exactly making the recommendation just to offload the small sub.

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How much? Everything.
What the design and purpose is for the sub we are looking.
Just by looking at different drivers and used materials, you can kinda tell what the “purpose” of that driver is.

It’s probably more of a question how it performs in the end with the audio its playing.
Like a boomy box (one note) or fully integrated smoothness with all the notes.

With subwoofers, you get some quite complex enclosure designs:

  • Reflex, like a traditional speaker with a port/tube. Better efficiency and wider band, not all that directional though.
    With vents, you can stick various densities of foam into them to tune them to your room :wink:

  • Sealed, the driver acts against a sealed volume. This can lead to “boom”-issues when music and resonance of the sub combine, and these typically require more power. Can do lower notes with better accuracy though.

  • Bandpass, is a combination of the two above. The driver sits fully inside the box, with one side sealed and the other chamber ported. More efficient than sealed, very limited frequency band though.

The only bit of advice I can give is don’t go on Reddit…


but how else will I make you laugh and chuckle?

besides, I need my cute aminal pictures! :smiley:

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the bandpass sounds interesting. when you say limited frequency range though…how limited are we talking? could you tune more subs to compensate and fill what the others aren’t doing?

In relative terms, it is narrow. Depending on quality, 80 Hz bandwidth.
Reflex Subs in the same price range (both for PA-applications) can do 200Hz bandwidth.

The category of subs I forgot are Horns, which I have never seen in the wild. No idea how these behave.

My Tannoy Definition is finally in the room today & all hooked up. Tomorrow I start getting it dialed in. I didn’t know it was going to be so huge though. My bed room doubles as the catch all room so for now, like my XT8F towers, it’s really in the middle of the room. No choice until I can get a bunch of other furniture, guitar cases & boxes of pictures & stuff out of the room. Honestly though, the XT8F towers sound great. All the clutter makes for fantastic diffuse room treatment & the bed & carpeting make a good bass trap.


So this sub has no gain adjustment so pretty easy to set up. Balanced input & output. I programmed 50hz HP @24db/octave to my mains & 50hz LP @24db/octave to the sub. To do that isn’t hard once you figure out the menu. Phase seems fine, & I have the EQ disabled.

There is only 1 disappointment with this expensive sub. No remote, or phone app to control it. What it does have is 3 programable presets for which I use as 3 differnt volume levels for the sub. -0db, -6db, & -12db. At moderate volume level, 50%, with the sub at -0db, it doesn’t load the room from the listening position, but has enough output you can feel it is there. Whats problematic is on the opposite end of the room, & in the direction of the rest of the house which is on pillar & beam, the bass is exponentially more powerful, vibrating the floor, walls, & windows, but the listening room is slab. So most of the time, I’m listening at between 20% to 30% volume & the sub at -12db, if other people are in the house, when watching movies or listening to music.
I should clarify, I keep my analog preamp(s) volume set as a constant. So, when I say “volume”, I mean that of my tablet, with Amazon Video/Music.


I have had a basic Sony 10" sub in the home theater system for quite a while now. But that one is more the big thumper type for movies and whatnot. It’s not overly musical, though I can tune it and make it sound pretty darned good.

This little REL TZero Mkiii, however, is a completely different animal, and is an absolute musical marvel. It’s a beautiful thing, sporting a deep black lacquer finish, nicely done closed box, and an overall build quality that really stands out. The long-throw, down-firing aluminum driver is driven by a very nice 100-watt class D amp and delivers a very natural, organic sound. The use case is my modest desktop system. I am feeding it via the sub out on the DA-9 amp to the low-level input on the sub. I have read that using the high-level input via the provided Neutric Speakon cable is even better, but with the sub out on the DA-9, I don’t feel it’s needed. I may try it one day just to see what that is like.

Point is this a high-quality piece that has made an incredible difference in how my speaker setup delivers music. I think if I just slapped the 10" Sony on there, it would have been fine, but not nearly as good as this REL. The REL is MUCH more musical. I don’t think I can listen to this system without it anymore.


I need to look up the definition of what a long throw sub is…but down firing into the floor is ironic as that is not far to throw something, LoLoL!


A little bit of irony there, to be sure! My interpretation of long-throw is the driver’s ability to travel a bit further from peak-to-peak without unwanted oscilatoin or noise to deliver a clean, accurate low end. THe fact that it is only 6.5 inches almost seems irrelevant and in fact makes it integrate in a seamless and synergetic fashion with the Triangles and the rest of the system.

And here’s the thing… It isn’t on the floor. I have it up, completely isolated on a file cabinet next to the desk. It’s remarkable how you can make this thing disappear and become a transparent part of the transducer pool. I love it.


what isolates it on the cabinet?
how high is it’s placement?

The sub is nearly at speaker level and to the listeners left. The box sits on 4 sturdy, milled 2 inch aluminum legs with nice rubber feet. The file cabinet that the sub sits on is a solid wood piece that has no physical connection to the desk or the components on it, so you don’t feel the floor or the desk vibrate. And yet, the piece delivers powerful low end and incredible depth to the entire sound field. But sonically, you don’t detect that the sub is on the left; it literally disappears. This was my goal and am blessed that it worked out so nicely.

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You are right. Could say “It’s not always the size of the woofer” that always counts.
I had 6.5" little Genelec subwoofer with TV usage from 30 - 90 Hz (-6 dB) with only 50 W amp.
I have to say i was surprised how it performed for something that little. Well it integrates flawlessly with speakers and make some thumps also.
It’s for desk solutions but worked nicely with daily TV usage. Just to bring that low little bit more (had smaller speaker back then).


Precisely. The idea was to do exactly this - just bring more authority to the low end without the heavy thump and add more depth and texture to the overall presentation. It was a calculated risk on my part because even though I was fairly confident I didn’t really know what the outcome was going to be. Add the fact that this little guy isn’t cheap, and well, there you go! The result actually exceeded my expectation.


I use dual cambridge audio minx201 subs on my desk. 6 1/2 and 8" subs dont necessarily dig the deepest, but can be very musical compared to cheaper 10"+ models.


I am actually quite interested in the entire Minx platform!