I want to incorporate a sub in an old 2-channel music system, please advise.

B

BeeTee

Enthusiast
I have found myself listening to LPs and CDs recently after a long period of ignoring my music collections (most of which were in storage for years). My existing 2-channel set up is quite dated--a mid-90s NAD 713 AV receiver, an NAD CD player of more recent vintage, PSB bookshelf speakers circa 2005 and an 80's Harman Kardon T-45 turntable. The lack of bass has always been the most conspicuous shortcoming of this set-up and since i seem to have rediscovered the joys of listening to music, I want to add a subwoofer. My listening room is an open plan arrangement, the main listening area is about 12 feet square but there is no wall separating it from the next living space, so the room overall (which includes my kitchen) is roughly 12 x 30 feet, with hardwood floors. Music only, both pop and classical, I'm not seeking bone-rattling effects. I have been looking (online only) at the HSU ULS 15 MK2; also considering the (more expensive) SVS SB-3000 and the (less expensive) ELAC Sub3030. It's a bit frustrating not to be able to hear before ordering, but that seems to be what I'll end up doing. So, my first question: does the DSP sound adjustment software make a big difference? That's the attraction of the ELAC, and I gather there is something similar with the SVS, though it isn't clear to me what it does in the case of SVS. My second question: since a single subwoofer will be the only addition to my system in the immediate future, does the age of my other components create limitations that I should consider? The NAD receiver does have a mono sub out jack, though I'm not sure it has a setting to limit the bass to the bookshelf speakers when a subwoofer is attached, if that's important. Thanks in advance for any advice.
 
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NINaudio

NINaudio

Audioholic General
Elac are not known for their subs, I'd rule them out. Since your receiver does not have any sort of auto EQ, I'd probably go with the SVS as that will give you some parametric EQ functions from their app to help with room modes.
 
S

shadyJ

Speaker of the House
If the NAD receiver doesn't have a way to filter low-frequencies from the bookshelf speakers, it basically doesn't have bass management. You should look at something that filters out bass from the speakers.

As for the subs, they are all good models. I am sure that the Hsu and SVS subs are quite a bit more powerful than the Elac sub. The DSP software can make a difference kind of. The SVS has a parametric equalizer, and you can use that to tame room-induced response peaks. However, you need a way to measure your room to see what the peaks are to begin with. If you don't have a way to take acoustic measurements in your room, it's not that helpful. Outside of the parametric EQ, I don't think any of the other DSP features are that big of a deal.
 
2

2channel lover

Audioholic Field Marshall
Thanks for the responses. Would it make sense to buy something like this along with the sub? http://www.hsuresearch.com/products/high-pass-filter.html
The device could be the perfect thing you need...but from my experience...trying to incorporate vintage electronics with modern hifi is always tricky at best, very possible to spin your wheels (money and time) and not get the results you want.

My suggestion...bring the system up to date with a new AVR with bass management. Although you're not going to use the video capabilities but you could use it to access another source such as streaming music.
 
TLS Guy

TLS Guy

Audioholic Slumlord
Thanks for the responses. Would it make sense to buy something like this along with the sub? http://www.hsuresearch.com/products/high-pass-filter.html
You can not use that device with your receiver as it has no preouts. To use a sub with your receiver you would need a sub that has speaker level connections.

If you want a sub, then you need a more up to date receiver. Anything less than that will not work well.

If you are going to play a lot of vinyl, you will need something that has good bass management. Acoustic feedback from using subs when playing vinyl is a significant problem.

My next question is are you only listening in two channel? If so, then a nice vintage preamp and power amp would fit the bill and you could use that device you sighted.
 
lovinthehd

lovinthehd

Seriously, I have no life.
Was curious so looked at the manual (available at hifiengine.com). It does have a mono pre-out for a sub, but it indicates there are no filters on that pre-out.
 
B

BeeTee

Enthusiast
Yes, two channel (plus the sub) only.
I'm a little unclear on this. The NAD receiver does have a dedicated mono out that is specified as being for a subwoofer; has the standard changed such that the requirements of a modern subwoofer are different? It seems strange that they would have built in a sub out jack without some kind of bass management; was that common in the 90s?
 
lovinthehd

lovinthehd

Seriously, I have no life.
Yes, two channel (plus the sub) only.
I'm a little unclear on this. The NAD receiver does have a dedicated mono out that is specified as being for a subwoofer; has the standard changed such that the requirements of a modern subwoofer are different? It seems strange that they would have built in a sub out jack without some kind of bass management; was that common in the 90s?
No, many two channel integrated amps/receivers include no bass management, altho lately that has started to change, so you must supply your own. Some subs do have a high pass filter for speakers (sometimes thru the speaker level connections, sometimes thru rca jacks so you need to review the manual); bass management in avrs is normal, and many subs only provide a low pass filter instead of a crossover. Or provide your own with something like the Hsu unit you mention or another type of external unit.

ps Many two channel users just "blend" the sub using the LPF....
 
TLS Guy

TLS Guy

Audioholic Slumlord
Yes, two channel (plus the sub) only.
I'm a little unclear on this. The NAD receiver does have a dedicated mono out that is specified as being for a subwoofer; has the standard changed such that the requirements of a modern subwoofer are different? It seems strange that they would have built in a sub out jack without some kind of bass management; was that common in the 90s?
That unit of yours just has a full range mono output. That is quite clear in the specs. The current system of bass management was first proposed by THX in 1990. In 1994 the first laser discs came with 5.1, but bass management did not become common until 2000 with the advent of the DVD. Even then there was a lot of prologic garbage around. My father had a NAD unit in that era, and actually software got ahead of hardware. My father wanted to try the new systems and on a visit I rebuilt his NAD units to discrete channels and bass management. I stripped out the power amps, and really rebuilt the unit as a discrete 5.1 pre/pro. It actually served him until the hardware caught up and he bought an early Rotal 5.1 pre/pro.

Honestly those older receivers before discrete 5.1 are not really of any use in this era. It is not worth the time money and effort to try and adapt them to modern practice.

To do what you want you really need to put your funds to updating your electronics before proceeding further.
 
TLS Guy

TLS Guy

Audioholic Slumlord
That would work but only for one source. So you would have to connect that to the output of the source, and use a splitter at the source output with one set of cables going to the sub and the other set going to the high-pass filter which then goes to the receiver.
That would not work for his LPs
 
B

BeeTee

Enthusiast
ps Many two channel users just "blend" the sub using the LPF....
Is that scenario worth considering? I'd prefer to add the sub now, and upgrade the electronics later when finances permit, but I obviously don't want to invest in a subwoofer if it is likely to cause problems rather than enhance the music.
 
B

BeeTee

Enthusiast
PS: If the conclusion is that I need to replace the old NAD receiver before adding a sub, I'd be happy to be pointed toward some recommended alternatives. Though my current unit is 5-channels, I only expect to use two channels in any future system, so perhaps a stereo receiver or integrated amp would be the logical choice.
 
lovinthehd

lovinthehd

Seriously, I have no life.
Is that scenario worth considering? I'd prefer to add the sub now, and upgrade the electronics later when finances permit, but I obviously don't want to invest in a subwoofer if it is likely to cause problems rather than enhance the music.
If that's the only option and the sub is the priority, sure why not. May not be the best way to go but many do this regularly (altho many other units' sub pre-outs do have some sort of filter to limit content to the sub). Or you could get a sub with a crossover/dsp to help out, but those are generally limited in function even if you can find an appropriate sub with all your other criteria. If budget makes you choose now for a sub vs new receiver, personally I'd get the sub and save up for the receiver. There are some 2ch receivers/integrated amps with bass management and even digital/internet capabilities (and video too but doesn't sound like you're too interested in that). There are other routes for electronics than receivers/integrated amps. Another thought is to have your cake and eat it too by getting the sub and look on craigslist for a used non-hdmi avr with bass management. That shouldn't cost too much and I see them fairly regularly when checking craigslist.....
 
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KEW

KEW

Audioholic Overlord
I know where the other guys are going to take you and that is ultimately a better setup; however, to do it right, we are talking a new AVR which has good bass management with room EQ (figure around $700 for AVR with Audyssey XT32 and $650 for a sub ... with the recommendation that you get two-so about $1350 or $2000 total). This will be quite an impressive system for bass.
I will present a budget option that allows you to grow into the system they will recommend if you are not ready to invest that kind of coin up front!:

Budget sub with option to grow - for this, I would get a Dayton Audio SUB1200 ($150 shipped, link below). just plug it into your NAD's output. Specify your PSB speakers in SVS's Merlin tool (link below) and click on "view recommended settings" and you are interested in the "Low Pass Filter Frequency Setting (Hz)" value (I suspect it will be either 60Hz or 80Hz) under "Stereo Pre-amplifier or Receiver" use that setting for the crossover on the subwoofer back panel. Turn down the volume knob and start playing a favorite song with a good, active bass part. What has worked for me is gradually turn the volume of the sub up until you start to hear the bass coming from the sub - not when you detect added bass, but when you sense the bass is coming from the subwoofer (while you are close enough to adjust the volume). This has always gotten me close. From there you can go back to your listening position and tweak the level to get the balance between the sub and the bookshelf right.
Here is Jim Wilson's review of the SUB1200. It is not going to get any double takes around here, but for he money it is a great sub. What I mean by that is it is limited as far as how loud and how deep it will play, but it does not make any objectionable noises. What it does, it does well, the question is whether it does enough for your taste. It will definitely add some bass to your bookshelf speakers and generally surpass what the tower version of your bookshelf speakers could do.
It definitely will not pressurize your entire space (you have to combine the volume of all of the spaces open to your listening area, so we are talking more than the 12X12 space).
If you like this, but want a little more bass you can add a second one for another $150 and still have a total bill of $300!
The Dayton Audio SUB1200 has a well deserved reputation (see Wirecutter link below) for the price and between that and the fact it is often sold out (but not now), you could sell these for $100 each on Craigslist without much difficulty. IMHO, a $100 loss for the use of these two subs and the learning experience of how to use them and added bass for a few months is not a bad way to go and is likely to make you a more savvy buyer!
In the meantime, if you feel they did not cut it, you could take your time, add a suitable AVR, then later swap out the subs for better.
I have some very nice subs, but also continue to listen to a lot of music on a system with dual SUB1200's in a large room open to dining room, kitchen with vaulted ceiling and they do a great job for music with typical instruments. In room, I would expect it to produce decent bass output down to around 30Hz, not as impressive as 20Hz or 14Hz, but if you check this chart, you will see that very few instruments get below 30Hz! If you are a fan of DubStep and/or like the Club Sound (using synthesized very low bass), then ignore me because this sub won't cut it!
 
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TLS Guy

TLS Guy

Audioholic Slumlord
Is that scenario worth considering? I'd prefer to add the sub now, and upgrade the electronics later when finances permit, but I obviously don't want to invest in a subwoofer if it is likely to cause problems rather than enhance the music.
That is hard to tell. Do you know the model of your PSB speakers or know the specs of them.? I suspect you have PSB alpha speakers circa 2005, in which case this is the FR.



Normally if you do what you say, then you normally bring in a sub at a frequency of of F3 + 50%. So if those are your speakers, their F3 is 65 Hz and then you would shelve the sub in somewhere between 80 and 100 Hz, and then experiment from there. How even the response becomes is difficult to predict. It certainly could sound very good, but on the other hand it may not. There would be an element of luck involved.

Of course you would not gain any volume increase as your bookshelf speakers would remain limited by the excursion of the woofers as they are now. One of the benefits of a sub is that it off loads the woofers in your speakers, especially small ones as it markedly reduces driver excursion. With bass management and sub the auditory benefits of a sub and significantly greater then with larger speakers.

However if you plan on using a sub anyway, then if things do not work out, then you can upgrade your electronics.
 
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KEW

KEW

Audioholic Overlord
PS: If the conclusion is that I need to replace the old NAD receiver before adding a sub, I'd be happy to be pointed toward some recommended alternatives. Though my current unit is 5-channels, I only expect to use two channels in any future system, so perhaps a stereo receiver or integrated amp would be the logical choice.
Right now, this would be my recommendation for a receiver! If you click on "available from these sellers, you will see it selling for $700.
My reasoning is if you are going to spend the money for a new a receiver to support a sub, it should have a competent ability to tune the bass to reduce room modes and Audyssey XT32 combined with the $20 app (which allows more specific control of the AutoEQ system) is the least expensive of the ones that are able to properly address lower frequencies. It is a solid amp section and since you only plan to drive two speakers, the power supply will not be stressed, but I would still get this as cheap ($15) insurance. I run mine on low speed anytime the AVR is on and it keeps the temperature under control!
 
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B

BeeTee

Enthusiast
That is hard to tell. Do you know the model of your PSB speakers or know the specs of them.?
The speakers are PSB Image B-25. Specs say they go down to 45hz +/- 3db. The SVS tool suggests setting a crossover of 60hz in a non-bass managed system (and recommends their own 2000 and 3000 series subs).
 
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B

BeeTee

Enthusiast
Right now, this would be my recommendation for a receiver! If you click on "available from these sellers, you will see it selling for $700.
First off, thank you very much for your informative and useful suggestions, KEW! (Likewise to the other posters here as well, you are very helpful, much appreciated.)

I have a faintly embarrassing limitation to deal with if I replace the NAD receiver, based on space availability and commitment to a particular ensemble of living room furniture. To get to the point, I can't accommodate a unit that significantly exceeds 17" width or 12" depth. That Denon is more than 15" deep, so no can do on size grounds. This is a peculiar non-audio-centric limitation, but if anybody knows of good candidate units with relatively compact housings, please let me know.
 

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