Small Speakers + Sub v Floorstanders

Rob Sinden

Distinguished Member
AVForums Sponsor
The traditional approach to great sound will have you believe big floor standing speakers will give the best sound. I disagree. Here is why………

The weakest link in a good audio system is the way the room changes the sound of your speakers, and the problems are most obvious in the low frequencies. Imagine you have a system that sounds superb in your room and then you move to a house with a very different sized room. Now you will have far too much or far too little bass.

With big floorstanders and traditional electronics, there is nothing you can do to adjust the level of bass required for your room. You will either have too much or too little unless you are incredibly lucky.

When a sub is used you have a volume control to perfectly match the amount of bass required in your room. Another issue that a sub can fix is cancellations that mean certain low frequencies will be totally missing in your listening room. Moving a speaker or you seat a little won’t fix the problem. When a sub is reproducing the bass, you can move it around the room to fix this issue.

40 years ago I was a hifi enthusiast who believed big speakers were the road to great audio. I opened a hifi shop in my 20’s with 3 different dem rooms. Big speakers didn’t work in the two small ones and didn’t have enough output to fill the big room.

I have installed systems in a thousand rooms, and I know that putting the best traditional hifi equipment in the best listening room cannot create an accurate system. The use of sub woofers can transform the biggest issue in most room, the huge peaks and troughs in the bass.

This isn’t an approach the HiFi trade recommends as big speakers are easier and far more profitable to sell but done right, it delivers measurable and audibly better sound.
 

Baron Mole

Active Member
The use of sub woofers can transform the biggest issue in most room, the huge peaks and troughs in the bass.
Yes it's the addition of the sub that's key. Even my big old KEF104/2s benefit from a sub. I've got MA Silver 200s and 50s in my AV setup with the W-12 sub. All crossovers set to 80Hz. Apart from the higher SPL and power handling of the 200s, I can swap between the 200s and 50s for the fronts with very little difference.
 

Paul7777x

Distinguished Member
I wholeheartedly agree. Subs make real bass where even relatively expensive floorstanders struggle.

But real bass always excites nodes, however good the sub may be, or any speaker for that matter.

Without room correction a sub can be horrible.

Thankfully lots of subs are being designed now with correction software inbuilt. Something of a boon.

Although personally I’ll stay with RP, or if necessary ARC or Dirac.

A properly integrated sub makes a huge difference, even with music you may think doesn’t need one.

In my case Baroque chamber music, as lightweight as it gets, but the sub adds mass where it’s needed and if only a little is needed it is worth the price and fiddling of a decent subwoofer.

And, for nearly all other music (and tv series and films naturally), I consider a sub essential.
 

Baron Mole

Active Member
At the risk of being boring here's my perspective. When I began my interest in 1969 (eek! am I that old? :() the received wisdom was that big 3 way floorstanders with the biggest woofer possible was the way to go. I don't remember even being aware of issues like phase for example. Things began to develop and I lusted after transmission line designs like TDL and Cambridge R50s. I certainly wasn't aware of subs for decades.

Technology and knowledge have come a long way in 50 years. I'm as guilty as the next person in trying to hang on to out of date information and attitudes - although I try to recognise when I'm doing this.

3 way designs are much less prevalent at affordable price levels now . 2 way designs now go up to quite evelated price levels. Why?

I'd suggest that better knowledge has led to the realisation that designing a good 2 way crossover is difficult and expensive - never mind a 3 way. Advances in technology mean that what used to be a midrange speaker can now be a midbass speaker.

Subs have come of age and can offer speed and agility that was unthinkable a few decades ago. Add in DSP in subs and the advance of room correction like Dirac and RP and I think we've never had it so good to use a tired cliche.

So to summarise - the new 3 way is a 2 way speaker (stand or floorstanding - I don't care) plus a sub.

And room correction isn't just the icing on the cake - it makes the cake taste much better !
 
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steve sph

Well-known Member
I don't think there's any decisive answer here - I've had floorstanders work well with a sub, (subs), in some rooms but found that a half decent pair of standmounts work well in others - there's just too many variables at play to say one-size-fits-all.
For what it's worth, (and this may be purely my experience), floorstanders for larger rooms where placement issues aren't as much a factor tend to work better, whilst standmounts can be more forgiving for small rooms.
And as previously mentioned, good EQ is a must for any set-up - I know that humble Audyssey isn't perfect and has it's share of naysayers, but I've always found it not far off using a Umik and test tones for sub calibration accuracy.
 

Paul7777x

Distinguished Member
Another thing to consider is the fact that stands are ugly. Even the most unobtrusive stands are a bit of an eyesore to some people.

Most definitely me. Hate the things.

Floorstanders have the benefit of being non stand using 👍

And as has been said a pair of small floorstanders and subs is perfectly doable.
 

DT79

Well-known Member
Another thing to consider is the fact that stands are ugly. Even the most unobtrusive stands are a bit of an eyesore to some people.

Most definitely me. Hate the things.

Floorstanders have the benefit of being non stand using 👍

And as has been said a pair of small floorstanders and subs is perfectly doable.
That’s the first thing you’ve ever said that I’ve disagreed with. That’s it, you’re cancelled.
 

steve sph

Well-known Member
That’s the first thing you’ve ever said that I’ve disagreed with. That’s it, you’re cancelled.
I used to like him too, but this is a step too far.
My Special Forties look splendid with Dynaudio Stand 6's - a stand so sexy even the wife would good atop 'em.
Actually that's going a bit too far - in fact I'm not sure they could handle the weight, unless I melted the lead shot into something resembling a traffic bollard.
 

Paul7777x

Distinguished Member
I used to like him too, but this is a step too far.
My Special Forties look splendid with Dynaudio Stand 6's - a stand so sexy even the wife would good atop 'em.
Actually that's going a bit too far - in fact I'm not sure they could handle the weight, unless I melted the lead shot into something resembling a traffic bollard.

That made me belly laugh sir.

I really hope your wife is not partial to a regular scan of AVF 😂
 

steve sph

Well-known Member
That made me belly laugh sir.

I really hope your wife is not partial to a regular scan of AVF 😂
Mercifully she's not into A/V - it took her six months to notice a new telly, and that was only because 'it's a bugger to dust behind'.
Which may give you some idea how often she does the dusting.
She's always moaning about me spending too much time on this forum - 'why can't you just be into porn like a normal man...?'
 

Baron Mole

Active Member
Old bore here again !

I don't think there's any decisive answer here
I agree. I am generalising - every person, room, musical taste etc. is a one off. However the point I'm trying to make (not very well) is that use of the right sub will give the ability to hear the bottom octave or two in a way that floorstanders can't. Yes I'm generalising again.

To illustrate let's assume that a flat frequency response is desireable 20Hz to 20kHz. Let's use as an example

Revel Concerta2 F35 Gloss Black Floorstanding Speakers (Pair) - Floorstanding Speakers - AV Online - UK Home Cinema and Hifi Specialists
because the following useful piece of spec is provided

Low Frequency Extension55Hz, 46Hz, 35Hz (-3 dB, -6 dB, -10 dB)

So to make the figures easier let's assume the roll off starts at 60Hz so by 35Hz the response is 10dB down. This is at least 12dB/octave so being generous 12dB down at 30Hz and I would expect the natural rate of roll off to become steeper with decreasing frequency. So let's be generous and stick with our 12dB/octave slope, so 15Hz is now 24dB down in relation to frequencies above 60Hz.

Bottom C on a piano is 16.35Hz. Is being 24dB down at this frequency hifi ?

Yes there are all sorts of other issues involved like room gain etc. however a proper sub, whilst it will never be flat - no speakers are- gives the chance of the bottom 2 octaves being heard at the "correct" weight. Because that's what it's designed to do.
 
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Baron Mole

Active Member
Another thing to consider is the fact that stands are ugly.
Ooh! Stand Wars - I'll take a ring side seat please :clap: bring it on !
 

rccarguy2

Member
There's too much variables

Room size, and shape, open or closed
Location of listening position
Position of speakers and sub
Furniture and position
Surfaces, carpet, glass, tile
Music style
Any room treatements, bass traps etc
Running speakers full range, or filtered, and if so what crossover seting
Floorstander or standmount, frequency response of speakers
Running direct no tone controls, or with room EQ and if room EQ, speakers only, sub only or both?
Accuracy of room EQ, and any custom filters applied
Volume of sub relative to speakers
Ported or sealed speakers
Ported or sealed subwoofer
One subwoofer or two
Placement of subwoofer(s)
Any settings on sub ie phase on one and second one. Volume of subs relative to mains. Crossover point of subs, and slope.
User preference, thin sounding, clean, or bassy?
Amplifier power
Speaker impedance down low, and interaction with amp (ie does amp struggle)


Personally I prefer good quality floorstanders for music and movies system. I use both standmount and floorstanders in my systems, just depends on usage..for desk system obviously standmounts.
For 2ch music I prefer subwoofer off with floorstanders running full range.
For AV I prefer subwoofer on, with using bass managment

My main system has speakers that go down to 36hz +/- 2dB
 

Baron Mole

Active Member
There's too much variables

Room size, and shape, open or closed
Location of listening position
Position of speakers and sub
Furniture and position
Surfaces, carpet, glass, tile
Music style
Any room treatements, bass traps etc
Running speakers full range, or filtered, and if so what crossover seting
Floorstander or standmount, frequency response of speakers
Running direct no tone controls, or with room EQ and if room EQ, speakers only, sub only or both?
Accuracy of room EQ, and any custom filters applied
Volume of sub relative to speakers
Ported or sealed speakers
Ported or sealed subwoofer
One subwoofer or two
Placement of subwoofer(s)
Any settings on sub ie phase on one and second one. Volume of subs relative to mains. Crossover point of subs, and slope.
User preference, thin sounding, clean, or bassy?
Amplifier power
Speaker impedance down low, and interaction with amp (ie does amp struggle)
All true and that's even before budget is included.

The reality is that "rules" can only be generalisations, which then have to be related to the individual's situation and requirements and a balance struck. It is certainly not simple or easy and this is why forums like this are so useful, providing access to people with real knowledge and experience without a financial axe to grind.
 

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