Bass rant

Does anyone else surmise that the minions weaned on exaggerated THX sound in sticky floored cineplex's, sold on window-shaking subwoofers in their motor vehicles, and subjected to hearing loss in loud stadium concerts - might have trouble understanding what constitutes an accurate bass guitar tone/timbre/volume? I read post after post on this and other forums of those decrying their systems lack of bass. While I grew up listening to a lot of live music in nightclubs and stadiums from Bobby Short at The Carlyle, to Yo Yo Ma and The Silk Road Ensemble, to John Fogerty at The Greek Theater, I believe I can differentiate the realism of an upright bass and one unnaturally amped (acoustic or electric), and yet I cannot understand all the bleeding over of the home theater systems exaggerated bass sound into many dedicated audiophile sound systems. Please educate me.
Caffeine will do that. But really, you make salient points. In regards to simple hearing loss it of course affects bass perception. And with such db levels reached now in so many varied venues it is a wonder so many can hear anything at all. My rant is watching a car with an overly loud system rattling my door panels park, driver exit, open a back door and pull a small child from a car seat. So your child will be deaf at age 5? Good plan.
Indeed it is the first thing people look at on a speaker specification - deeper the better no matter how bad it sounds. Good accurate tight bass response with low distortion is like an ultra expensive finely aged french wine - most people would not even appreciate it and nearly all will go for the "Babycham" bass response. So what's new...yawn.
All good points above, and sure 80% of all the msuic is in the midrange, but I am often shocked that many very expensive speakers can't produce all the music on the recordings. I also happen to like extended treble, but without sufficient bass output that doesn't always work out so well. Give me natural extended bass please.
Byegolly - I am with you 100%. I've been to quite a few club rock shows and the mixing (with the bass often being too loud) always left something to be desired. But that is apparently what is desirable since stereo equipment should reproduce the live event. And the plucked cellos/basses in many recordings sound much more vivid than live classical concerts. There is something strange going on in cultural terms with the reproduction of bass.
Different strokes for different folks.If everybody was the same,it would be a pretty boring world.If someone likes something you don't,it doesn't make them wrong or less informed.Folks like what they like and that's all that should matter.Everyone is entitled to their opinion and others should respect that fact.With the thousands of products available on the market today,everyone can find something that suits them.No,I am not a wall shaking basshead but I have no problem with someone who likes it.Just a thought.Enjoy what you like.
It might be the quality of the reproduction too. A mediocre amp might not drive a speaker well enough to get the slam or physicality at moderate volumes. I agree though, there are a lot of people who seem to equate 'Boomba Boomba' with good bass, and this is certainly not the case.

'Boomba Boomba' by the way, is a highly technical term.
When my son was thinking of becoming a stereo salesman he was given a book/manual from the 1960's or 50's which had a section that said:

When someone says the speaker/system/ has to much bass
you replay: Too much bass. No such thing
Fun thread. I have two JL Audio F110 subs on the way here now. Bass is fun. Heh Heh.
i'm guilty! Guilty of at one time transposing enormity for quality. No longer though. I';ve also sought out those squeakers which had the lowest numbers and suspect many have, whether they admit it or not. I feel audio maturity takes time.

Present circumstances dictate to me or for me, more bass prominence is a good thing, though not to the point where it obscures anything above it... been there & done that too! And liked it! Until I heard it differently. Differently and improved.

Perhaps it is a matter of hearing ability, knowledge, preffs and experiences... all together which ultimately places one onto what I hope now for myself is a more mature method of replaying music. Now a days, balance is the more important item, yet again, a degree or three more bass info works for me and that's a huge step upwards from my just 4 years ago position on the matter... as I don't articulate the areas below 50Hz or so too well, I do enjoy feeling them.... especially with films.

In fact way, way more with films than with musical pieces. Apart from the virtual sonic candy mixed into a great multi ch soundtrack, I do dig that swelling up bottom end when it comes, every time!
The problem is subwoofers are a total design compromise need to be small for waf and cost, thus need large excurtion and massive power this greatly reduces transent responce and bass details. Needs boundery reinforcment to generate bass, again bass qualitys effected since best spot for subwoofer to generate low freqincy might not be the best sounding spot or best integration. Andmany loudspeakers today are using such weak motor transducers no wonder bass is droning booming dull delayed etc. With bass go big, large drivers, low excursions, hi-eff. Thus massive. If you cheat physics you get a conventional subwoofer and thus subwoofer sound to bass.
With bass go big, large drivers, low excursions, hi-eff. Thus massive. If you cheat physics you get a conventional subwoofer and thus subwoofer sound to bass.

Exactly large 12"+ drivers in a massive box is the way to go or else it is just BEP Boom Boom Pow...
The laws of physics are strictly enforced. I tried every short cut that was offered before I ultimately wound up with 15 woofers in 5 cubic foot ported enclosures. This approach has provided me with a very realistic bass that reaches all the way down to 50 hz. before it rolls off rather steeply.

The reason I am willing to accept a lower limit of 50 hz. has to do with trading quantity for quality.
I used to have Dodge RAM3500 with subwoofer mounted under the right rear seat. It was lots of fun especially for the females sitting on that thing turned up rockin' high:-)
As I have said many times before, once home theater became popular, the emphasis in audio shifted from music to sound effects. Doesn't that explain what's going on?

Marakanetz - If you had used your Stereophile test CD, you could have determined the ladies' resonant frequency. Would've been interesting to find out if they are all tuned to the same pitch.
I use 18in aura sound in big sub its good. Or 31.5in in our KCS subbass system. Or I use 4-15in per horn 8 total for hi-eff mid bass or 4-18in in dual giant bass horns. Nothing I heard is close to the bass quality provided by the massive 31.5in fostex or multiple bass horns. No free lunch. To me many audio complants are from folks expecting too much from wee little kit. They do all they can system wise but when it comes down to it in loudspeakers size maters. And shopping for loudspeakers based on low end responce is missing the point. You want a good sounding loudspeaker deep subsonic bass has effect on over all performance but its not that large compared to other aspects of loudspeaker design. And very costly to do right. Many times my monster bass systems reviel subway noise truck or bus motors as well as pressure produced by venue and instruments. When using such for TV viewing they seem to never filter true subsonics on TV, CNC always sounds like a UPS truck pulling into my driveway. Even my dogs bark thinking such. But on pipe organ, live music,pop rock etc the impact and pressure will raise the hairs on your body. I feel some of the excitment of hearing live music is the pressure of venue as much as the musical notes.
In my experience bass from small woofers, like what you find in most stand-mount two-ways, never sounds realistic. It doesn't matter how low the speaker goes, if there isn't enough surface area moving you won't get that rich and visceral sound of an upright bass or percussion instrument. For me at least I think this inherent compromise in many modern speaker designs leads to a nagging dissatisfaction with the lower frequencies.

At some point I suppose I'll just have to pony up and buy a speaker featuring big transducers and big cabinet volume.
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Ethanh - You won't have to pony up much because older designs that feature the design characteristics you outline are not much in demand. I used an old pair of JBL L-200 speakers as my woofer section. These can be found for $1000 to $1200 per pair and are the basis for a great system. If you do your homework and find some good horns with compression drivers for the top, you will be most of the way there. Look into it.
Elizabeth, I mostly agree with you. I do listen to news and sports on the car radio though.
I think it is important to draw a distinction between three different categories of people who "decry their system's lack of bass," and to resist the temptation to lump them together.

One would be the kind of person who has a high quality system, who typically listens to high quality recordings, and who might be an Audiogon member. In that case, typically the complaint is well justified -- having a system that can reproduce deep bass accurately, especially at high volume levels (when called for by the recording) usually comes at a considerable cost, in terms of money, size, practicality, saf (spouse acceptance factor), and sometimes accuracy in other parts of the spectrum.

A second category would be home theatre enthusiasts, who want to duplicate movie sound effects as closely as possible to what they hear in a movie theatre.

The third (and I think the most common) category would be those who listen to music on low-fi or mid-fi systems, or in automobiles with absurd subwoofer arrangements. In my experience and that of several friends who have very high quality audio systems, that type of person, upon hearing a high quality system that can cleanly reproduce bass which is both deeper and louder than anything they have ever previously heard, will invariably immediately ask "where's the bass?"

The reason being, of course, that what they are accustomed to hearing is over-emphasized mid-bass (with non-existent deep bass, or deep bass with very highly levels of harmonic distortion), and their knowledge of the sound of live music, especially unamplified music, is limited or non-existent.

-- Al
My tolerance levels are "very low" for poorly reproduced's right up there with my tolerance level for sibilance.

And they all think I'm the nut.

>>It's obvious a lot of you have never heard a well put together car system<<

I know I haven't.

Built a tri-amped, line array for a yacht that ended up pretty good after some compromises for salt water/UV.
I haven't heard a good car system either, although I'm sure there most be some?

I think "Audyssey" has a car acoustic correction unit on the market?....I know I like what mine does for my bass in my home system.

Liz, I have done somework in theaters. Some older ones replaced nice altec or jbl systems for modern. The bass horns where removed now you have standard sytle pro subwoofers in most. These are run so hard most are in a constant state of damage. So your mostly listening to 1/2 blown woofers in many theaters. A few I know of have time frames for bass driver replacement in the 2 month range. Look for a THX or other claiming higher quality you will find better loudspeaker systems in these. Funny the old bass horns I pulled from theaters have drivers near 20-30-40 years old work fine the new stuff find cooked voice coils or cones shreaded. After months.
I pulled from theaters have drivers near 20-30-40 years old work fine the new stuff find cooked voice coils or cones shreaded

I am not surprised - woofer construction quality is appalling today.
I would have to disagree about woofer quality. Just for prosound most cheap out. Using the cheap drivers cost less when replaced, the standard bass cubes are cheaper than horns. Back in the day theaters used some of the better transducers available, today they mostly buy cheap. Still my favorite woofers are all new or modern designs. But not cheap for such. You need to use more power in non horns drivers can take a beating since so pushed and of cheap build. Thus the dammage.
Back in the day theaters used some of the better transducers available, today they mostly buy cheap

That was my point - $50 Made in China low quality wins everytime versus $1000 hand made and high quality from a boutique manufacturer for pro soudn applications...
Plasma and LCD have been out for a while and LED is just LCD on high-contrast steroids, so people are looking for the next sensation. There are non-brick and mortar sub companies out there on the Net are building earth shaking bass to fill the attention void. The folks who buy these units typically are car audio junkies, who use their HT for watching movies. They're not audiophiles and don't care to be. They want bass and the more they can get the better.

I recently purchased two Rythmik Audio F-15 subs for my HT. They are audiophile subs I've set-up for dual use. I purchased two in order to fill 5760 cu. ft. of space, prevent distortion issues and fill the space. I set them to one level for movies and another for music. I'm still searching for the perfect music combination, but I'm very close. As it stands today, the bass I'm getting is allowing my midrange and tweeter to shine like never before. I've got Hales C-5's and with the subs set to the correct level they're sounding more like Vandersteen 5A's. It's a nice addition to my system.
I like bass in Movies, I love the impact. I agree with Elizabeth on theaters though. I hate the way they have the sound configured, sometimes it literally hurts my ears, that's why I like home theater better than movie theater many times.

That said, when I watch a movie, I do have the LFE turned up on the soundtrack. "BOOOOM"!! cool.

On music, I like it to integrate better. I have a Rel B-1 and the volume on the high level (music) connects is only turned up to 4(out of about 25-30) and it's crossed over at 39. Still adds bottom end, but not realistic.

If I use the AppleTV through the reciever (turning off the preamp and using the HT Passthrough) it sound really bloated and kind of slow.
It speaks to our modern business plan. Nobody is trying to make a better mousetrap. The focus is on making a better selling mousetrap. The American consumer has conditioned American manufacturers to believe that they needn't make it better --- all they have to do is convince us that they made it better.

And among our population there is little ability to evaluate quality. Our mentality is first and foremost quantitative. A woofer is better than no woofer and a cheaper woofer is better than an expensive one. You can get twenty cheap ones for what a good one will set you back.
I'd love to have a separate HT room.
Failing that, my good 2.1 setup does double duty.
I don't mess with any settings. When listening to music, either XM or CD, there is a wide variation in bass quality and quantity.
How loud I listen also makes a difference. Louder is usually better and when cranked up and I go to another room, it sounds like a band is in-house.

If I started changing settings....depending....I'm sure I'd drive myself nuts.
I keep my x-over to about 40hz for my panels. I went thru a couple weeks of listen/change until I settled on the current settings.

Want to read some weird stuff about bass? Go to the Car Audio sites! That'll knock your socks off.