Bass- at what frequency does it change from sounding like a string to just a low tone?

I have two subs and speakers I like. I have little experience  comparing them to anything  else. As the frequency of a given note goes lower, at some point in my system it stops sounding like an instrument making the sound and instead it just sounds like the sound. I’m not crazy about this, but maybe that’s how it is for everyone?


My room has a slanted wall of windows in front of the speakers, closer to one than the other. Beside that is a rounded wall of windows. The view is wonderful--no chance of drapes. The ceiling is quite high, vaulted, octagonal, with long beams breaking up the surface. Three open areas are contiguous. There is only one wall to place a system and the speakers can’t be more than 18" from the wall to the back of them. The subs can only be next to the mains. There is no sidewall and only a partial wall behind one main. The other is next to a staircase. The wall behind the two mains is composed of different material. The other walls are veneered plywood.

We do have carpeting and the lower part of the windows are obscured at random with furniture, etc.

Despite all that, there’s really good off-axis sound, the speakers and subs disappear, and I’m generally happy with my system, which is a big step up from what I had before.

It’s an amazing home in a beautiful spot, no matter how anything sounds.


Here’s my take:

I interpret this as "lower midrange issues" at frequencies that are cirtical to your listening. The lower mid is difficult to get "right" in that we are asking the speaker to be both agile (detail) and powerful (moving lots of air) at the same time. At these frequencies controlling the cone movement during long(er) excursions is no easy task. Frequency response is measured at the factory at 1 watt @ 1 meter, which is at a very low STATIC volume level. Now, introduce dynamic elements into the equation and you may find that as speaker that measured -6 db at 48Hz is far below that mark when high energy is sent to the driver. It may fall well behind the other midrange frequencies and sound "anemic". I call this "pinching the midrange" whereby the bandwidth changes relative to speaker output. When powered subs are added to the system, they are happy filling in those deficient frequencies abandoned by the midrange and can become quite dominant. This produces sonic "warts" that will not only bring attention to the subs, but the subs are not as good as the mains in producing detail in those areas.

I did a quick search for your speakers and appears that ATC makes some pretty nice stuff. The spec you mentioned of -6db @48Hz is interesting in that -3db is a typical published spec. -3db represents the point where HALF of the energy is gone (it would take twice the power, or twice as many speakers to flatten it out). That’s pretty significant. -6db is 3 db below that point, so your missing half again as much sound at that frequency. Not seeing a graph, I can only speculate at this, but it appears that you COULD have compromised lower midrange at 100Hz, or even higher. That being said, it’s not a matter of what frequency instruments change from music to sound, but rather your speaker’s ability to produce BOTH detail and acoustical energy at those frequencies. This task, then, is handed over to the subs (and, depending on the sub) may, or may not do a good job of sending the signal out into the listening room in good shape. The room could be a factor here as well.

I’d try turning off the subs and listening to your mains full range at moderate volume levels to see if the lower midrange musical detail, body and richness are there. If so, it’s a matter of dialing in the sound of the subs for best sound quality (probably subs set lower than you have them set currently). If these sonic elements are missing, you may want to do some speaker shopping.

@m669326 To answer your question, any frequency. When you listen just the bass, it most likely not going to sound natural. For example a double bass can go as low as 31hz(E1), or 5 string guitar. Almost every instrument has overtones that make is sound like it is intended to sound, natural and realistic. The same concept applies to sub and speaker integration. In a well integrated sub should give intention to self. 

I believe the correct question and answer is at what frequency is it NO LONGER a musical note produced by an instrument (Not synthesized). I must bring up my own speaker design as an example of what should be heard. I can clearly get down to somewhere around 45 to 50 Hz without any indication of straining on my 20 year old design using 8 drivers. I do own a sub of my own design but it delivers ONLY the nonsense that the Movie makers like to promote and I seldom even turn on the amp for the sub. All instruments capable of producing such lows have their own unique tonal qualities and resonances. You shouldn't even have to pick out just one instrument. If I were forced to choose one and only one It would be the Chinese drums and even then I have found only one sample that even comes close to qualifying for the title of best/lowest bass. I would suggest that if your speakers aren't producing that beautify unique sound of an actual instrument then there is a serious deficiency in your system at some point.