Budget bookshelf system for acoustic bass

Need help deciding on a speaker system. I listen to mostly acoustic Jazz and am looking for a system that accurately reproduces the lush harmonics of the string bass and the clean timbres of brass and cimbles. Problem is it needs to be a bookshelf system and my budget is around $600 - 800. Do folks think I need a subwoofer or will a monitor with good response down to 40 or 45 hz suffice for the string bass? Obviousky if I go with a sub there wilk be some loss of coherence and I don't want a thumper to shake the room with HT special effects.

My system is a Linn Classic, Music Halll MMF-5 TT with Goldring 1012GX cartrige and Bellari VP129 pre-amp.

I'm thinking of three very different aproaches. 1) Magnepan MC-1 with a sub like the PSB SubSeries 5i or the Infinity PS10. 2) A budget monitor like the NHT SB3, PSB B25 or Infinity Primus 150. 3) One of the above monitors above with one of the above subs

Any suggestions? Thanks, PDenni
There's no such thing as a monitor that goes down to 40 Hz. Speakers that size start tailing off somewhere in the 70s. My suggestion would be a small monitor like the PSB Alpha or Paradigm Titan, along with as good a sub in the same line as you can afford.
That is tuff unfortinally you need mass to move air that is really the bottom line. Now without getting into acoustics to much monitors and wall speaker usually don't have much bass because of the size and the fact that if you add bass the speaker becomes more bassey without accurate bass and just sounds worse. If you add a sub you have the problem of the sub not amplifying the same as the speaker and the bass getting heavy at some volumes and light at others. But you will need a sub and that is a expensive speaker.

Vanderssteen has solved this by using a crossover on your pre amp out to cut the bass form the mains and send it to the sub. they also connect the sub to the speaker out so it gets amped the same. You can pick up a 2w pretty cheep 500 or so and add that the trouble is there is a little set up involved. Not sure if other subs do this.

Hope this helps, also placement will effect your bass allot try to keep the speakers away from walls and out of a cabinet.
Well, it partly depends on what you consider a monitor. If you're talking about the really small monitors with a 4-5 inch mid-woofer, then 40Hz is really not an option. If you get up to 6-8 inch woofers you might find something that goes there but it will of course be in a larger cabinet. You do need to be a little more careful in making a selection because integrating a larger woofer like that with a tweeter requires a good tweeter that can cross lower since mid-woofers of that size have a little harder time reaching up into the upper midrange cleanly.

As far as the instrument itself, the 'typical' bass has a lowest frequency of about 42Hz (open E). There are of course exceptions with specific instruments that have lower fundamentals. Much of the sound is harmonics though, so even if you can't get quite that low you may be satisfied with the sound.

One thought that comes to mind is the B&W 602's. They get down to about 50Hz and can be found for $600. The 603's got a rather nice write-up in Stereophile recently but of course only you can decide if they are your cup of tea.

You should definitely play with placement. In general, most speakers will gain bass by being placed on a bookshelf or close to a wall. Unfortunately, this increased bass is often somewhat peaky and can be a bit muddy. Depends to some degree on the speaker and the crossover design. In the "old" days, speakers were often designed without baffle step and so their frequency response actually dropped off quicker than "spec" if you moved them out into space. Manufacturers now do a better job of designing with the specific goal to be flatter in the bass region even in free space. Move them around until you get what you like.
I forgot about these: any of the Audio Note speakers (type K, J, and E) are wonderful and excel at things like acoustic bass. In fact, the J and E types can be run without subs; the type E can run to mid 20s and is very efficient.

The Type E speakers range in price (new) from 3500 to ...well, a damned lot of money. A used pair is the way to go. They are hardly "bookshelf" speakers, though, as they are fairly large box speakers and a two way design with a 8" woofer and a dome tweeter.

I have owned the K and the J and listened to the E extensively. They are all wonderfully "musical" and should be on the short list of anybody looking for a quality speaker.
08-05-05: Pabelson
"There's no such thing as a monitor that goes down to 40 Hz."

Actually you are mistaken. The Totem Mani-2 extends below 40Hz and is a Monitor.

Let me rephrase that. It takes heroic meaures to pull it off, and such measures are not found in the $600-800 price range. I'll stick to my recommendation of a small monitor and a sub. Otherwise, you're likely to hear that bass fade out as it runs down a descending scale.

Let me comment on one other point from another post:

the 'typical' bass has a lowest frequency of about 42Hz

If I recall, that's the low end of an electric bass, but full-size acoustic basses go down into the low 30s or high 20s, I believe. You don't need a speaker that goes that low, necessarily. But one that claims to roll off at 50 Hz (and probably really rolls off a good deal higher than that--bass claims for speakers are notoriously unreliable) may not cut it for you.

A lot depends on your room and your set-up, however, and that probably goes double for bass issues. Whatever way you go, be absolutely sure to try it out at home with full return privileges. The best we can give you is general guidelines, and a speaker that couldn't cut it in your living room might be all you need in a bedroom.
I like the Vandersteen 2W suggestion. It's reputed to be very discreet and musical.

Your Classik won't drive Totems and certainly not the Mani-2's, which do indeed have great bass for any speaker and amazing bass for monitors.

I don't believe the B&Ws' efficiency is optimum for the Classik either, although Gmueller's placement advice is certainly worth taking IME. My dad recently passed on a pair of 602's in favour of the Triangle Titus ES, for use with his Classik.

( For more reading on placement try the FAQ at AA. Scroll down to "Speaker Positioning". Nothing directly on bookshelf placement, unfortunately.) http://www.AudioAsylum.com/scripts/d.pl?audio/faq.html

String bass goes very low--that's why they call it double bass. The Mani-2's can do it, I've heard them, but they need first class (expensive, clean, high-watt) amplification. Monitor speakers need to be extraordinarily well designed to put out real low bass. The Mani-2 has a second woofer inside the box. Transmission lines can work well to get low notes from a small cone, but there are not too many of these made for a bookshelf.Your best bet may indeed be a good sub, but remember matching a sub to monitors seamlessly is hard.

If you could go for small floorstanders, I'd suggest the Meadowlark Kestrel Hot Rod, used. Meadowlark did make a transmission line monitor, the Vireo, but I've never heard it.

If I were in your shoes I would take low-frequency output if I could get it, but before everything I would look for speed and accuracy. These make rhythm, and a nice bass line, easy to follow.
Thanks for all your responses. As per Gmeuller I am really loking at monitors with 6.5" drivers not mini monitors. Cabinets in this range, either sealed or front ported are small enough for my bookshelves.

Also, I'm a bit confused about frequency response. I suppose there must be quite a difference between specs, measured response and room response. For instance the NHT SB3 is quoted to go down to 39hz and was measured at -3db at 40hz by Stereophile. The PSB B25 is quoted to go down to 45hz and measured about -5db at 40hz by Stereophile. Would Pabelson argue that -3 to 5- dB will be perceived as a major dorp off and that the response needs to be near flat at the desired frequency?
Thanks much, PDenni
And another thing I was wondering - The Classik is rated at 75 watts into 4 ohms. I know small sealed enclosures are less effeicient than larger ported enclsures but I don't play music loud. What kind of sensitivity would a speaker need to acheive modest volumes in a medium sized room with the Classik?
Thanks again, PDenni
The Classik is rated at 75W into 4 ohms and half that into 8 ohms. Linn doesn't make a point of mentioning that, perhaps because all their speakers are 4 ohm rated. But a great many good speakers are rated at 8.

35 watts into 8 ohms is not a bad figure really if the amp is high-current, but you need a lot of juice for the kind of bass you would like. ( Especially if you're driving a monitor, because the cabinet's volume plays a big role in reinforcing low-frequency output. ) In your case I would want a speaker with at least an 89 dB/watt efficiency rating.

About ratings, though: there are specs, and then there is the real world. Room factors are generally compensated out ( or eliminated, as in an anechoic setting ) when specs are derived, in an attempt to give figures which can be compared across different models. However we then have to use the unit in an actual room, and each room has its own characteristics. Every room , depending on its size, shape and decoration, will cancel or reinforce different parts of the audio spectrum. These cancellations and reinforcements will vary again according to where you place the speaker in the room. ( C heck out the info I linked in my post above. )

Practically speaking ( ouch ), a speaker with measured frequency response of say -3 dB at 50 Hz may actually start to drop off noticeably below middle C, at 250 Hz, when it is played in a system. The bass notes may well be there, but at very low volume.

Linn deal with this by proposing extra amplification and active crossovers. This kind of setup can produce surprisingly loud, clean bass from a smaller speaker but clearly the additional gear is costly.

An efficient, solidly-built monitor with a simple crossover using high-quality parts, with your amp and for the price you want to pay... will take a little finding and may still not give you all you want, but careful placement will certainly help.

My musician brother has Paradigm Titans--inexpensive small monitors. One of his sons plays double bass and when he wants to learn a bass line he twists up the bass control on the HK505 integrated. This is fine for the purpose but musicians are rarely audiophiles. Perhaps I should mention that the apparent bass output of the Titans is boosted by having one of them on the floor against the wall...
Peter (I presume):

A speaker that really is 3-5 dB down at 40 Hz is going to give you very good bass performance. That's not the point. Speaker measurements depend very much on who's doing the measuring and how they're doing it. Manufacturers will always try to put their products in the best light. John Atkinson's measurements tend to be pretty generous, as well. If you look at the NRC measurements at http://www.soundstage.com, you'll see they're a bit more conservative. Tom Nousaine's measurements in Sound & Vision are even more conservative. None of them are wrong. But none of them really tell you what you will hear in your room. (And, obviously, they aren't comparable.)

I'm not anti-measurement, far from it. I'm just saying that what you want to know can't be known based on the information you have. What you want to know is, will I miss the bass with these monitors? And the only way to know that is to try one or two out.
Full size acoustic 4 string basses share the same low/open E string primary with that of full size electric basses (a bit higher than 41 HZ).

A full size 5 string bass (low/open string tuned to B) goes down to 31-32 Hz.

Other bass designs exist (a sub/concert bass to name one), but I doubt they come up often.
This is easy.

For a bass loving, acoustic music fan on a budget I highly recommend the Nola Minis, around $700 and a wonderful speaker. If you must have a sub you can always add a used Alon Centris or a Nola Thunderbolt to the system, but with the Minis (formerly called Lil' Rascals) you won't miss much without the sub.

They're in a whole 'nother league compared to small boxes from PSB, NHT, Paradigm et al.

Lot's of good responses and choices here. I pointed out the B&W's because of the recent good write-up, meets the price point, gets pretty close to the frequency response goal and has sufficient sensitivity for the Linn. (Published sensitivity for the B&W is 90dB, same as the Triangle Titus-ES.)

I have absolutely no axe to grind on behalf of the B&W. (I run Vandersteens in my main system.) I heard them briefly and they are not unworthy of consideration at this price point IMO. In fact, I thought bass dynamics to be one of their strengths. That said, I think all of the choices pointed out here are good. Try and listen to a few of them and maybe some others, if you can, to see if the bass is satisfying. If not, then you may want to go with a sub and some truly small monitors.

As several have pointed out, the Linn has relatively low power output. Sensitivity is a spec to be looked at more closely in your case, although some mfrs seem to cheat a little on that number. Probably depends on the measurement technique.

Enjoy the hunting . . . .