Made Major Upgrade at $0 Cost in 1 Minute

I’m working my way up in digital audio. A few posts here have helped me along. I have a challenging listening room with much glass and a concrete floor. I’ve worked on adding area rugs, pillows, speaker placement, etc. - but am not willing to make major changes such as drapes or full carpeting. There’s no place for panels, as all of the wall space is glass.

My room is big - 20ft by 40 ft - so I’m listening in a near field setup. I tend to listen at lower volumes, partly to keep my wife happy. My favorite music is jazz vocals.

I haven’t visited any audio stores or shows - I live in a smaller city - so I really don’t know what high end audio sounds like. I’m missing my hearing in high frequencies - sometime I can hear the hammer “clunk” hit a high piano note without hearing the note. Oh well, maybe for me a brighter sound is better.

I bought some Moondrop Blessing 2 IEM’s and heard some wonderful audio quality on Tidal. On my main system, there were some occasional percussion sounds that sounded lifelike - as if they were made right next to me. But overall my sound tended to be a bit muddied, and especially vocals - my favorite music - did not stand out. This seemed odd to me because reviews of my B&O “pencil” speakers said that they excel in vocals.

I’ve also worked on upgrades like a new DAC, LPS for my Node, new router and a fiber optic link. I just bought a UMIK 1 and plan to experiment with REW this winter.

‘Reading led me to the idea that maybe I had too much sub bass. I have 2 sealed subs - 15in and 12in. The volume on both were set at the 12:00 position. Putting my ear next to them led me to believe that the volume matched the rest of my system. As an experiment, I turned the big sub down to about the 10:30 position. The result was a Major, Unquestionable improvement overall in my sound quality. Vocals came out front, even at lower volumes. Muddiness disappeared. There was much more nuance and detail in individual notes. The music was much more interesting, engaging, and less tiring to listen to. I could hear new instruments in the background that I never heard before. I want to listen more often and longer. The improvement was much greater than any of the individual changes I mention above. Funny…it cost $0 and took less than 1 minute.

Thanks to everyone on this forum who has given me comments and advice. I’m working my way along. I don’t know if this recent upgrade will in the long run become “normal” for me, and I will eventually become less than happy with my sound quality. But for now, IT’S GREAT!!


It’s great that you’re experimenting, and finding ways to improve things. It’s very easy to turn a subwoofer up too much. Most systems I hear have way too much bass for my tastes, and a lot of the time the sub is crossed over at too high a frequency where it gets into the lower male vocal range and muddies things up. I get it...who doesn’t like good bass, but too much of a good thing isn’t so good. I suppose it always depends on your musical reference, and whether you want your system to sound like a dance hall or a concert hall.

I use my subs very literally as "sub" woofers to augment the main woofers, not as "featured" woofers, but everyone’s situation and preferences are different. I cross them over at the lowest frequency possible, and turn them up so that I barely notice they’re playing unless some bass heavy music is playing.

The sub should only make its presence known occasionally because most music, except for EDM,  doesn't go much below 40 hz.

Sounds like you haven’t put much effort into really dialing in your subs, which you’ve already found can make a huge difference in overall sound quality.  If you haven’t already, I’d highly recommend first using the “crawl method” to identify the best placement options for subs in your room (since you have two subs you’ll wanna identify two workable placement options using this method where the bass sounds best and put the subs in those positions)…

Then, with the subs in their optimal locations, I’d use these guidelines to fine tune the subs’ crossover, volume level, and phase settings…

If you got big gains by simply lowering the sub’s volume you’ve likely got lots more improvement to be had by following these other fairly simple steps.  Of course you can also buy something like a DSpeaker Anti-mode unit that can both integrate your subs and deal with frequencies up to 500Hz that might also be helpful in your particular room.  Here’s a used one at about half retail in case this sounds like an interesting option…

Hope this helps.

Thx for the comments! Everything is helpful.  Comments from this forum have gotten me to the place where I am now.

 I’ll keep working at it, as my next step is to experiment with REW.  Then maybe I’ll try some kind of bass management or DSP.  But I’ve noticed mixed conclusions from others, as some like it and others have tried it and gone back without it.

Given my room, I don’t know what is possible.  I have done extensive ‘sub crawling’ and speaker placement.  It’s hard for me to be confident that, ‘yes, that sounds better.’  I was pleasantly surprised that turning down the subs was a definite improvement.

in the meantime, I am enjoying the music!  I will keep working to make it better.  I’ve discovered some great new artists.

I have always said "I'm not a big bass guy".

So, interesting revelation for me was I have no trouble hearing the bass it was the  high frequencies that were missing. Consequentially the bass was making the higher frequencies even harder to hear so the sound was out of balance. 

Point is,  know your hearing capabilities before you blame the equipment, It all starts with your ears. I told this to the guy at Costco during a hearing test I have  probably listened to too many hours of loud music and at concerts.

He said (which I laughed at) - "Yeah but it was worth it" - Right on!


I’m missing my hearing in high frequencies - sometime I can hear the hammer “clunk” hit a high piano note without hearing the note. Oh well, maybe for me a brighter sound is better.

The highest possible frequency for a piano is under 5kHz. You must be able to hear this!

What do people feel about multiple suns ina system?  It seems like years ago the dogma was that one sub, properly positioned and dialed in, one was all one needed.  I believe the argument was that bass was defied being localized in a soundstage, relative to mid and treble.

  I listen to Classical, and my one sub, when I added it to my two channel system which already had floorstanders that went pretty low, really helped.  Although the sub is positioned behind and to the left of the left speaker, when the double basses play they emerge from the right side of the sound stage, as they should, and the low percussion from the other side.  I really don’t feel the need to add a second sub 

@mclinnguy Once my wife and I were listening to some music with piano in it. She is a professional musician. In one passage I heard some “taps” that were lower frequency. I asked her what instrument that was and she said those were piano high notes. This happens once in a while. It sounds similar to ringing a bell with your hand over it.

I don’t have a problem hearing bass notes.

Every now and then I run test tones to see how much lower my higher frequency senses have gotten- last I recall I was down to 14 kHz. 

if you are curious, and I am too to be honest :), run some test tones and see how high you can hear- if you have Roon just search "test tones", and a few different speaker test albums show up. 

@mclinnguy Oh, I’m afraid of what I might find out!

Just kidding…I don’t have Roon, but I’ll find a way to give it a try.

before there was such a thing called internet streaming I bought a Stereophile test CD with them on it as well. I still have it - it is dated 1990 :)


edit: this is it stereophile test cd

yes, but not my ears back then- you were talking about checking out REW with frequency/waterfall graphs/plots? Well back then those test tones were used with a db meter to check for nulls and peaks in order to balance the sound in a space. There are speaker phase tests, and soundstage placement tests, not just right and left but depth also, and some nice recorded tunes too. 

I use my subs very literally as "sub" woofers to augment the main woofers, not as "featured" woofers, but everyone’s situation and preferences are different. I cross them over at the lowest frequency possible, and turn them up so that I barely notice they’re playing unless some bass heavy music is playing.



Same.  Turned crossover down and then turned up sub volume/gain.  Big help when I had the sub hooked up.  

20x40 room is a beast of a room to deal with. I beg to wonder if your subs are capable of effectively pressurizing a room that big. I listen in low-level nearfield as well albeit in a much smaller space. I experimented with several small subs that were appropriate for the size of my room but never was satisfied with the results. When I upgraded to a Rel carbon special that I was when I realized what room pressurization, soundstage depth and overall ambience is all about. It was a complete game changer. That being said, if you’re not getting a “oh $h*t” difference when you turn your subs on you may need to revisit placement or replacement. On another note, your power amp is another major contributing factor to sublime low-level listening. A lot of amps need to be pushed to be appreciated. Using an amp that excels at low volume performance is an absolute must have. FWIW.

@jl1ny Good comments.  My 15in and 12in sealed subs are turned down now so I don’t notice them.  When I put my ear near them, I hear some output.  For music with lows like an organ I hear the sub bass. My speakers and subs are all powered, so I don’t have a separate amp. I never thought about some amps being better for low volume performance. Can subs pressurize a room at lower volumes?

I only have the Node N130 as an input, so I don’t have a preamp.  I have read that some say a preamp makes a big difference in supplying a better signal to the amps.

Right now, I don’t have a good way to listen on earphones.  I’m also thinking about room EQ.  So an RME Adi-2 DAC is in my sights as it has both EQ and a headphone amp.  The RME also has a setting for low volume listening which I may like.


just to clarify, subs should be felt not heard. With your sub on, from your listening position you shouldn’t hear music coming from the sub but you clearly detect a shift in the ambiance/sound pressure of the room. Music should sound heavier, more dimensional. That’s the best I can describe it. Everyone’s set up and room is unique so I can’t say if it’s achievable with your room/gear. I don’t see why not, but It takes a TON of trial and error. There’s a bunch of videos on YT regarding speaker & sub placement, not to mention a wealth of information here on Agon regarding subs. I had spend countless hours on speaker placement only to make the biggest improvement using a $15 laser pointer. Good luck.

@jl1ny Thanks again for your thoughts!  I don’t have remotes for the subs, but I could rig an extension cord to turn them on and off to make a more precise assessment of how to set the volume level.  I know it’s hard to describe in words what SQ should be like, but I think you’ve chosen words that help me “get it.”

I did the sub crawl when I placed them.  But having two of them made that a bit more difficult.  
Did you use the laser to aim the speakers towards you listening position?


I don’t want to sway out of my lane here as I’m no expert. I strongly suggest that you dig into some of the threads here on Agon about speaker placement and sub setups. There’s a vid on YT by “new record day” titled L.O.T.S. Which I found to be a superb tutorial for speaker placement. Another great resource is the Cardas speaker placement page. to answer your question, the laser measurement tool is fantastic for dialing in toe-in and achieving precision distances between your speakers and listening position…I’ve found that with nearfield, as little as a few inches fore or aft can make a significant difference. It’s a time consuming process, try to have fun with it.