"Musical" subwoofers? Advice please on comparing JL subs

I'm ready to be taught and I'm ready to be schooled. I've never owned a subwoofer and I'm not so hot with the physics of acoustics. I've had my eye on two 10" JL Audio subwoofers, the e110 ($1600) and the f110v2 ($3500). I hope this is a simple question: will the f110v2 be more "musical" than the e110?

Perhaps unnecessary details: I'm leaning into small bookshelf speakers, mini monitors with limited bass, for near-field listening in a small room. I don't want to rock the casbah and rattle the windows; I want to enhance the frequency range from roughly 28hZ to perhaps 90 or 100hZ: the lower notes of the piano, cello, bassoon, double bass, etc. I think I'm asking: will one of those subwoofers produce a more "musical" timbre in that range? Is spending the extra $2000 worth it in terms of acoustic warmth and pleasure? More generally, are some subs more musical than others? Or is that range just too low for the human ear to discern critically? 

I know there are a lot of variables and perhaps my question can't be answered in isolation. If it helps, let's put to the side topics such as room treatments, DSP and DARO, debates about multiple subs, debates about using subwoofers at all, and the difficulties of integration. Let's assume a fast main speaker with limited bass. I'm not going to put a 12" sub in the room. While I'm not going to put four subs in the small room, I would strongly consider putting in two, and it would of course be much more economical to put in two e110s. This, though, would only lead to the same question now doubled: would two f110v2 subs sound more musical than two e110s? Also, I'm sure there are other fine subs out there but I'm not looking for recommendations; if it helps to extrapolate, consider the REL S/510 and T/5i. 

I realize that I may be wildly off with all this, and I know that the best way to find out is to try them out. I'm not at that point yet. I'm simply curious about the "musicality" of different subwoofers. 

I published a blog with a lot of background information on how to get subs to sound right. If you don’t have a lot of experience, go with the JL Audio, the automatic calibration is priceless.

Thanks, Erik. I'm going to give your blog a real read. It sounds like you're advocating for the Fathom with DARO. Yes, I've read it's very effective. (Priceless but pricey?) 
You know it is blasphemy to say, but I have a couple of SVS subs, one next to each speaker, and I have once before written that for some reason I have not had the problems others have making them sound right to my ears.  When it comes down to the bottom line, they basically have three dials.  One for phase, which I always keep on full. And the other two for gain (volume) and low pass. 

My writing this before elicited a response by someone that I probably do not know what a properly set up sub sounds like.  Well it sounds good to me, just lucky I guess.

Let's not overcomplicate the issue, there are three dials.
In good humor coming back at you Erik, do you need someone to instruct you on how to set the tone controls on your Luxman?  Which I wish I could have purchased with the deal you secured.
Northman, here is my $.02:

Four E110’s, intelligently positioned, will have about twice the inherent in-room smoothness (and correspondingly better tonality) compared with two F110v2’s.  I can explain why if you’d like. Tonality in the bass region is a function of the in-room frequency response. And "smooth bass" is "fast bass", because it is the room-induced peaks which decay more slowly and sound boomy and degrade clarity and tonality in the bass region.

Another advantage of having four subwoofers instead of two is that the (improved) frequency response holds up well throughout the room. When the frequency response is similar throughout the room, any EQing you do will be beneficial throughout the room as well, instead of improving the response in the "sweet spot" but making it worse elsewhere. So if you have multiple listeners, nobody gets cheated with a good distributed multi-sub system.

Even three subwoofers intelligently distributed is imo a worthwhile improvement over two. Or to get the best balance between bass quality and number of "footprints" occupied by speakers in your room, maybe use four subs with two of them doing double-duty as speaker stands, though that might not be practical if the heavy-cone JL Audio subs would vibrate your main speakers.

In general I have a great deal of respect for Erik’s opinions. Note that his objection to a distributed multiple subwoofer system is based not on the technique lacking in merit, but rather on his negative feelings towards people who have advocated it. I appreciate the fact that he makes that distinction clear in his blog post.

The $3500 you are planning to spend on one sub alone will buy you four subs that will together far outperform anything you can get from any one sub at any price. Sorry the other boob got here first. Really. Because you want to do this right you need to learn a little acoustics if you want to understand, and the stuff above is simply out of date bad physics and bad audio. 

Do a search for distributed bass array, DBA or Swarm subwoofer system. There's three main reasons why multiple subs works far better than one: physics, acoustics, and psycho-acoustics. 

The physics is that low bass waves are 40, 50, 60 feet. Much longer than any room in a house. Because of this it really does not matter what sub is used, the waves are all going to hit a wall and double back long before even one wave is complete. Smaller rooms are actually worse than bigger ones. But even a really big room is small relative to these long wave lengths. Because of this no matter where you put a sub the wave always winds up reflecting back and either canceling or reinforcing itself. This is all pure physics, nothing you can do about it, impossible to solve with any DSP, EQ, or sub technology. 

The acoustics part is that because of this you are going to hear lumpy crappy bass from one sub. People will tell you to equalize it. Don't. The only way to EQ bass smooth at the place where you listen is to have it be even worse everywhere else.  

One thing makes for bad muddy bass is the bass energy in the room excites all the walls into vibrating and this takes time to dissipate and die down. The whole time this is happening its muddying the bass. EQ only makes this worse by turning up the bass. That is why people recommending EQ are always also recommending tube traps. First they have you spend money to make the bass worse, then they want you to spend even more money to fix the problem they created. Beautiful. But the website is very pretty. So it must be right. Right? 

The psycho-acoustics part is we aren't able to localize really low bass. Below about 80 Hz its all about volume not location. We get all our location cues from midrange and treble. Very low bass we cannot even hear at all at less than one full cycle.  

Understand all three of these and you can see why multiple subs is the answer. Multiple subs means multiple locations means lots of small lumps and dips that all together add up to smooth even deep and powerful bass. Not needing EQ means not adding more energy than is needed means not exciting the room means the bass will be clean and clear and articulate- without tube traps. 

You can still do that stuff if you want but with four subs it will be fine-tuning, and extremely fine tuning at that. All the EQ I need is on my Dayton sub amps. Total cost for a Swarm or any four subs will be around or under your $3500. Of course you can get four of those and it will be even better.

Skip the blather. Do a search. Study the system. Notice a lot of people simply cannot get their minds around the ideas. Notice how extremely happy and impressed are those who do, and who actually have one. https://systems.audiogon.com/systems/8367 Read Duke, Tim, and me. Skip the other one. Hopelessly lost. Does have a lot of pretty pictures though, I'll give him that.
Unless you listen in an anechoic chamber, one of any quality won’t cut it.
Room nodes.
Might as well stick to headphones
Get as many as you have room and funds for, up to 4. Mismatch OK.
You been schooled.
You know it is blasphemy to say, but I have a couple of SVS subs, one next to each speaker, and I have once before written that for some reason I have not had the problems others have making them sound right to my ears.

Not blasphemy to me, but not the path I’d recommend everyone try first.

The problems that you run into getting very deep bass is that too much is up to chance and circumstance. Open floor plans, good speaker/listener position, and otherwise naturally good acoustics contribute.

I will say though that I’ve heard many subs be configured so they are inoffensive, without being fantastic. I fell into this trap myself for a while I was satisfied with what I had and thought it was the best I could do without brand shuffling.

Which one are you? I don’t know. You could have gotten super lucky, you might have settled. Lets be grateful for these lucky situations when they happen.

Question ,I am employing the swarm in my new room you chimed in on from my post, and I have also in home theatre.When running the longer length of cabling to get to the furthest subs are you experiencing timing issues? please elaborate on this ?
No timing issues. Impossible to have timing issues with a sub. Simply cannot happen. 

Let me clarify that. Its impossible to have timing issues if you mean in the sense its so critically important to midrange and treble, in particular with imaging. Higher frequencies are short waves and this resolution is where we get a lot of our sense of location. Absolutely critical. Difference of as little as 1/8" in speaker location can be heard. 

Low bass however is very long wave. Feet not inches. Forty to sixty feet. Also research has shown that at low bass frequencies we need a full wave to even register the sound. Cannot hear less than a full wave! Well, a full wave at 40 Hz is 1/40th of a second. In that time the wave can travel clear across the room and back. So how are we gonna know where it came from? How is timing going to even be an issue? Its not. Can't be! 

Yes I know you will hear again and again how important timing is. Just remember the physics and smile and learn something about how often people repeat stuff without ever thinking things through.  

Seemingly contrary to the above you will probably notice the bass from your swarm is even more 3D and seems at times to be very clearly localized. Mine sure is. But this is because we get our localization cues from higher frequencies, which when the bass is clean like this they are heard more clearly as well. But this can be proven to have nothing to do with the subs by the simple test of wiring them all mono. Bass will be just as perfect mono or stereo. Because when it comes to low bass there is no stereo. How could there be? There's those long waves again. Physics!
I appreciate all the advice. Perhaps I should have made it clear, though: I'm not putting four subwoofers into a 10'x11' room. (Oh, wait. I did make that clear.) And as much as I appreciate the advice, I'm not asking about subwoofer integration.

I don't mean to be rude but my original question remains and I'd rather not see this thread launch itself into the swarm stratosphere. I grant that four subs are better but I'm not doing that in this tiny room. We can blame my wife if we want. If it makes people feel better, I'll ask it about two subs: would TWO e110s sound any different than TWO f110v2? The difference in cost is $4,000. Would the higher-end subs sound better? Or can we simply not hear a difference between subwoofers? (Also, people talk about speed; if the stand-mounts are fast, do I need a fast sub?)

Almost forgot. There is one sense in which timing matters. Because the benefit of DBA is multiple locations creates multiple smooth small modes. Moving subs around moves the modes around. But the modes can also be moved around by changing the timing or phase of the signal. Simplest way is to reverse phase. Some amps like Dayton let you adjust phase. Phase and timing are different aspects of the same thing.  

But again, we are talking phase changes of a very low frequency. 20Hz is 1/20th of a second. Many orders of magnitude longer than the time it takes electricity to travel an extra few feet down a wire. So timing is moot in that sense too.
Northman, given your situation, I’d suggest the sub that has the most powerful EQ. That would be the F110.

I apologize for volunteering subwoofer-related information that you did not ask for. I misunderstood what you were open to:

"I’m ready to be taught and I’m ready to be schooled. I’ve never owned a subwoofer and I’m not so hot with the physics of acoustics."

in phase and in time matters at all frequencies, if we are talking optimization. how perfect do you want it? mostly this matters as a result of how dynamic we expect to run our systems. at low SPL’s no doubt time is less an issue since the negative effects are minimal. but at warp 11 when the music is borderline falling apart; time and phase issues makes it all a mess.

i have twin tower speakers; one tower is a 86" tall, 750 pound stack of 4 15" active subwoofers, high passed at 40hz. the other tower is an 82" inch tall 750 pound passive tower. exactly aligning these 2 towers equa-distant to the listening position makes a musical difference.

the idea is you want a perfectly timed wave launch from all the drivers if you can do it.

btw; the sound is really fine when the 2 towers are not perfectly aligned, but better when they are aligned. this is an analog approach to subwoofer set-up and time alignment. so i would not argue with anyone who said that time alignment of subs was not important. these type things don’t matter the same to everyone, nor should they.

how perfect do you want things to sound?

i have a separate room with a Home Theater. with an LFE channel. the idea is the same, but the approach and solution is different. in this case i will be using a minidsp with 3 Funk Audio 18.0 subs (i don't have room for '4') arrayed around the room then this total result will be one channel into a Trinnov Altitude 16 processor. part of my set-up will be using a mic to adjust the delay to get all the subs exactly time aligned to my MLP (main listening position). then tune the 3 subs for best room response.

so when all hell is breaking loose, it will be more satisfyingly breaking loose and the truth of the recorded event will be fully enjoyed. many people don’t really care about that. i’m not ’many people’.
Thanks, all. Duke, you are a true gentleman and a source of terrific information out here. 
In my opinion the e110 has the potential to be more musical because of its true 2 way crossover capabilities, but would probably be more difficult to set-up which may negate that potential.

Are you using separates or an integrated amp?
@audiorusty, thanks. I have separates. I plan on using a CR1 outboard crossover, primarily for the high-pass crossover; it should help with integration (and, I hope, free up the mains) but I doubt it's going to take the place of DARO or other integration methods. 
The most advanced by a long shot and Best Buy 
SVS 3000 db tons of awards and 2 for under $2k delivered 
45day trial even free return shipping if not thrilled 
5 year Transferrable warranty  with great sub app .
I owned several Rel ,JL audio none in the $1500 each range can  touch it ,and because of the Dual voice coil ,even at lower volume defined bass, honest bsss to 18 HZ.
The JL audio E110 will be fine. Don’t let anyone tell you different. The high pass crossover in then works well if you have separates (the sub goes between your pre amp and amp). 

 I would go with two smaller subs over one larger more expensive subs. 1 sub is hard to work with. 
I have two e112s in my system. I use the high pass crossovers. Best system change I ever made and it got me off the marry-go-round. The only down side to the duel subs with high pass is all the extra wires. Is what it is. 
I demoed the e110 and e112 back to back. The e112 is a better sub. It just goes lower and has more dynamics. The smaller sub is not “faster” or more “musical” or any other nonsense like that. Bigger is better, just means the driver moves less. 
The fathom line is a lot more money. They are what $4k each now? and you would still need a crossover IMO. 
Once again, thank you all. I know I'm asking questions that are a bit "sideway" and I appreciate the thoughtfulness of the answers. @james633, yes, I do plan on getting two and, frankly, two fathoms would cost a heck of a lot. I think they're about $3500 now. The DARO does sound very effective, though.

Again, thanks to this board. I always learn so much out here. 
Either JL would be overpowering in your room, especially two.
The most musical subs I have owned are the RELT9is, easy to integrate as well. I was skeptical but people who love them are right. The bass has a fast, high quality sound, the cabinets are heavy and do not resonate or color the midrange.
I have owned JLs in the past and after years of integration they never sounded as good as the RELs did after two weeks. Just make sure to keep them 12" from wall surfaces and follow their break in procedure.
Keep a log book of the no. of clicks on the controls too as you adjust level and crossover as they settle in. 
Go with the F110, one will be fine. I have a single F110 in a smallish listening room and it's more than enough bass. I know you said you wanted to set aside DARO but let me tell you that the room correction in the F110 is one of the primary reasons why it will work better for your specific listening space because it will correct any nulls or room nodes you might hear in the sweet spot, which IMO is all you should care about. Of course, you'll hear a lot of tubbiness if you get up and walk around the room, but in all seriousness, who cares what it sounds like outside the listening space? Once you run the auto-calibration off the F110 with the mic in the listening spot, the bass will sound perfect. Trust me, I've done it over a dozen times after changing listening rooms and room configurations. The F110 does a fantastic job of EQing the room from the listening space. I don't have the acoustic theories that a lot of other people rely on, but I agree with @jetter in the sense that people overcomplicate this subject a lot. What I do have is actual experience setting up the F110 in several different rooms and I can definitely vouch for its attributes. In fact, I've finally upgraded my stand-mount speakers because, for the longest time, I wanted speakers that could complement the performance of the F110. 

Now let me answer the original question you asked, which is which sub would be more "musical," the E110 or the F110. I think that boils down to how you define "musical." Let me just establish that I consider the description musical to be the opposite of, say, clinical. When I hear the word musical, people are often using it to contrast it with a sound that's fast, dry, grippy and detailed. Some people don't like those characteristics in gear but I quite like it. And it's actually what I like most about the F110. It's a very fast, grippy sub, but at the same time, it will convey warmth and musicality IF it's inherent in the recording. For example, one of the great recordings for showing off the F110 is an album by Brian Bromberg called Wood. Bromberg plays an 18th-century double bass but he uses a lot of very percussive fingering and plucking techniques that saturate the soundstage with minute transient detail, all of which is picked up marvelously by the F110. But, at the same time, because of the bass he's playing with, there's a tremendous amount of warmth to go along with it, which the F110 also conveys exceptionally. Another recording where the F110 plays very warm and musical is Schubert, Die Nacht played by Anja Lechner and Pablo Márquez. So, basically, I'm saying that the F110 will be warm and musical if it's inherent in the source material. But if you asked me to describe the sub as "musical," I wouldn't use that word because it's a very fast, grippy and detailed sub, which IMO is just what you want in a sub. 

Finally, I will also highly recommend an active crossover. I saw you mentioned the CR-1, which is the one that I also have my eye on. But before pulling the trigger on it, I tried a much cheaper active crossover, the MiniDSP.  In a previous post, @erik_squires and others were very helpful in explaining to me the effects of driving too low frequencies to the 7" woofer on my stand-mounts. I've since incorporated the MiniDSP to roll off the frequencies below 90hz from the stand-mounts so the JL is handling all of those and the results have been very satisfactory. The amp is working more efficiently for frequencies above 90hz and the overall tonal quality of the soundstage is more finely detailed.

So definitely go with the F110, one will be fine. And definitely use an active crossover. I hope this answers your question. 
Hi Northman, the F110s with the CR 1 crossover will be phenomenal. There are several issues you should be aware of.
As Duke noted, the bass response will vary throughout the room quite dramatically. The easy but expensive way to deal with this is to use 4 subs, otherwise you have to be careful how you set the room up. To start position all your speakers equidistant from the listening position. The best is to put the subs perhaps 3 feet apart against the wall in the center flanked buy the main speakers all on the radius of a circle with the center at the listening position. Hopefully, this will automatically phase the speakers. 
Now, the big problem is that if the listening position is at a "Null" point in the room DARO is going to try to correct this. If the null is bad enough DARO will clip the subwoofer amps. The way to deal with this is to move the listening position forwards or backwards to a point in the room where the bass is loudest. It may only take a couple of feet to do this! The way you tell is play a 50 Hz test tone and walk back and forth along the center radius. You will hear very obvious changes in the loudness of the tone. Mark the floor where it is loudest. If you do not trust your ears you can use a sound pressure meter. Given the circumstances of your room you may not be able to place the listening position at the peak but at least you can avoid the null taking some of the stress off the subs. After this run Daro. With the subs in the center do not be afraid of running the crossover up as high as 125 Hz. If you are using mini monitors like LS3 5As you drop the distortion of the little woofer quite dramatically. 

Please tell us how you make out!!
Strongly suggest Vandersteen Model 3 Subs if you want the most musical result.  I did that with my Apogee Scintillas, One Ohm and its a marvelous solution.  Got his best High Pass Crossover.  Talk to John Rutan an Audio Connection, he knows his stuff, and is a very knowledgeable Vandersteen dealer.
We were selling jl for years we really would not  recomend the brand huge issues with reliability 

Performance was good the paradigm subs wew bettet

Now we are importing a line of fantastic british sube mj acoustics

These are extremely musical subs with dual crossovers allowing for similtanous usaage for both theater and music

Dave and troy
Audiointellect nj
Us importer mj acoustics

Hey @diamonddupree

How do you feel about the dynamic range of your system now that the high pass filter is in?  Have your worries been addressed?

Very happy with the Rel S/510. Mainly listen to music. I have two of them. IMO the JL is better for Cinema.
@erik_squires yes, definitely. I don’t hear the amp straining at higher decibels anymore. I think a combination of the 7” drivers not having to go so low and the extra headroom from the amp not having to drive as low cleaned up the distortion. Very happy with the results. Thanks for all your recommendations. Definitely helped a lot!
You are welcome, @diamonddupree

Yeah, you probably cut the power the amps make, and speakers try to play, by 70%.  It is going to be very very hard for you to switch to a floor standing speaker now. :)



The F110 does a fantastic job of EQing the room from the listening space.

<< sigh >> yeah. I sigh because I love the results of the JL auto-calibration/correction system, but the price premium is a big step up. Still, much cheaper than switching to floor-standing speakers which won’t integrate with the room as well.

I recommend JL Audio subs a lot, but with fear about the cost, but there’s a reason for it.

If you are either very experienced with room measurements or have another way to achieve room calibration like through an ARC equipped miniDSP or Anthem pre/integrated you can achieve very similar results with far less expensive subs from Hsu or SVS.

Hi Northman,

Your assumptions are correct. The CR-1 will help make integration of the sub to your system much easier and the D.A.R.O. will make integration with your room much easier.

As Eric says, there are other options out there that I believe will give you the same results as the JL Audio components but save you somewhere between $7500 to $8000. There would be a little more work required on your part but not a lot.

@northman Nothing to add to DBA concept, particularly for larger rooms, when you want more than a "sweet spot".
I would not discount DSP, though, particularly in a smaller, regular room, and also in particular with speakers minimizing room interaction (like dipoles with cardioid radiation patterns or smaller monitors like the ones you use/intend to use). Underlying arguments have all been made (wave length fitting in a room, spatial cues from higher frequency/shorter wave length spectrum).
After a lot of trying, incl. e.g. Velodyne DD subwoofers with integrated room correction,  DSpeaker products have done the trick for me.
You could combine - for a small room - two 12" sealed Rythmiks (http://www.rythmikaudio.com/L12.html) with a DSpeaker Dualcore (Stereophile Class A recommendation, http://www.dspeaker.com/en/products/20-dual-core.shtml) from Underwood HiFi, plus a good low-noise power supply from Underwood or iFi, and around $2,000 you would achieve superb low frequency extension with all the qualities you are looking for in your room (and much bigger, more irregular rooms, if desired at a later time).
No association/financial interest. Just a happy listener.
Happy Holidays!
It's hard for me to exaggerate how much all this helps me and how much I appreciate it. In this case I don't feel discouraged by the differing opinions, as I know there are many paths to a good result and each post is thoughtful and informed. For example, I know that Eric is correct: a CR1 + F110 would cost close to $7,000 new, and if I were "very experienced" or had calibration tools, I could achieve similar results for much less money. (I'm not and I don't, but I also don't have the big bucks to throw around.) 

Let me say that I appreciate the recommendations about different subwoofer brands. I've heard great things about REL, Rhythmik, Hsu, and others. And @bailyhill, I have huge respect for Vandersteen and John Rutan. I seriously thought about the Treos before making the decision to try near-field. 

@mijostyn, that's an excellent description of the process. I've read many explanations of sub placement with the Fathoms but yours was particularly helpful. Placing the subwoofer *before* the DARO sounds exactly right. I am worried about the phase alignment but your recommendations are very helpful. And YES about the crossover point for mini monitors.

@diamonddupree, hey now! I didn't mean to suggest that DARO doesn't interest me, just that I wanted to clear away as much as possible to get to my underlying question about "musicality" in subs-- and thus special thanks to you for taking that question on. What you write is exactly what I was curious about. I've just added "Wood" to my Qobuz list. Also, I'm not sure if your name is a reference to that band beyond description, but if so, right on, brother.

@audiotroy, I have to say that I find it off-putting when a dealer disparages a line he doesn't carry. I also think that, when you're presenting yourself as a professional selling specialized audio equipment, you might want to take the time to spell and punctuate. I genuinely mean that for your own good, as your words make an impression. 

Thanks again, everyone. I feel like I have a MUCH better sense of how to think about all this.

I forgot to add to my post, as some have recommended SVS is good, using an SB1000 myself for 2 channel and dual PB1000's for HT.
There’s no such thing as a "musical" or ("non-musical") sub. It either extends to a certain range at a certain decibel level within an acceptable range or it doesn’t. Don’t get caught up in the JL "musical" hype.

Some of the others are right about multiple subwoofers. You can read all about the reasons and placement in Harman’s white paper. To skip all the technical info just go to Conclusions to get optimum general placement for two or four subwoofers, although it’s also advantageous to understand why you place them at certain wave length distances, but the Conclusions will get you close. And although it doesn’t include all subwoofers, you can go to Data-Bass to get tested specifications on subwoofers.
Q: How many audiophiles does it take to screw in a lightbulb?
A: What kind of light fixture is it and how is it wired? Is the bulb dimmable? A watt is a watt but some watts are brighter than others. Before you change that lightbulb, have you considered room treatments? And so on...

I'm goofing around and I really do appreciate all the different opinions. (By the way, I have no idea if JL claims its subwoofers are musical; that was my word, not theirs.) 

So here's a question that should have an actual answer: at what hz point does the average human ear start to discern music, timbre, nuance? Is the lowest note on a piano, at roughly 28hz, just a low rumble of vibration, the same on a Steinway Grand as on a cheap cottage piano? And if that's the case, at what point on the keyboard can most people start to detect a note with resonance and beauty? By the way, I do understand and accept the physics behind multiple subs--no argument there at all. 
Well, first let's throw away the words that don't have a definitive definition, like music, timbre and beauty. Everything we hear is just a set of frequencies. How we interpret them is another thing. One person's "music" is another person's "noise". One person's "brassy" is another person's "strident". One person's "nuance" is another person's "out of tune". And resonance is something that depends on your particular speaker or instrument's natural frequency of vibration. You either hear a frequency or you don't.

The human ear hears above 20Hz. So it hears as well as feels the piano's 28Hz. It generally feels mostly in the 50-100Hz area, however this depends on the individual and things like their chest cavity and even body fat levels. 

As to the Steinway versus the cheap piano, yes, they're both 'A' notes at 28 Hz. The fundamental frequency is the same because they're tuned the same. Given equal hammer strikes, it's everything after the vibration is created that makes the difference (enclosure physics, harmonics, scale length, microphone placement, etc.).

I know that doesn't answer your question, but I'm not sure there is an answer to your question, as most of it pertains to individual perception. Once you get past output level capabilities, the room actually has more to do with bass frequencies and how they're perceived. That's why understanding wave lengths in relation to subwoofer placement is useful.

And BTW, there is no such thing as a subwoofer with faster or slower bass. That's another common myth. Bass waves are already slow enough for any woofer to handle them.
I truly appreciate the answer but I ain't never going to "throw away .. music, beauty, and timbre." That's like saying that a poem is just organized words which are just signifiers operating arbitrarily in a system of differences. Sure, right, but we can still *experience* beauty in the arrangement of those words, and to give up on that is to live in a mechanistic world without, well, art. And that's no world I want to live in. (And contra many posts out here, beauty may be "culturally constructed" and contingent, but it's not nearly as subjective as people think.) 

Sigh. I feel like there must be an answer to my question, but maybe I'm wrong. We are drawn to speakers because they reproduce a range of frequencies in ways that are pleasing to us. They sound warm or inviting or thrilling or holographic or punchy or big or assertive or magical or whatever. It seems to me that subwoofers either do that or they don't; or it seems to me that there must be an hZ point at which we can begin to discern the sound we're looking for. If subwoofers don't reproduce an appealing image at, say, 80hZ-100hZ, then there's nothing for us to hear, only feel. But at some point up the frequency range we must be able to identify the signature, the sound, that we like. No?

So here's a question that should have an actual answer: at what hz point does the average human ear start to discern music, timbre, nuance?
Interesting question. In my opinion a single note is not music. To me music is a series of notes and rhythms structured together usually in some type of pattern. This can happen anywhere in the audible spectrum, so music would be all frequencies. Nuance probably is more open to interpretation. I feel nuance is more of a function of dynamics and is mostly affected by room acoustics including ambient noise, so in this case it also would fall anywhere in the audible spectrum. Timbre is one of the things that allows us to differentiate between instruments and I believe it is due to emphasis or de-emphasis of certain frequencies in the harmonic structure created by the vibration of the material that the instrument is made of so technically these also would cover the entire audible spectrum.  Now having said that, I believe that it is the higher frequencies that give us most of the cues that we use to help us specify what we hear. At what frequency does that start? I don’t know, but my guess would be at the point where we can start to localize where the sound is coming from. For discussions sake I will take that a step further and say most of the information we use to determine timbre and other aspects of sound happen between 400 Hz and 4k Hz. Frequencies below that, in my opinion, creates warmth and the sense of power and frequencies above create the sense of greater detail.

Back to your original post. 

if I were "very experienced" or had calibration tools, I could achieve similar results for much less money. (I'm not and I don't, but I also don't have the big bucks to throw around.)

Experience of course comes from doing, that is the same boat for all of us, but there are guys that have posted in this thread that can help you get started and send you down the correct path. As for calibration tools, this mic https://www.minidsp.com/products/acoustic-measurement/umik-1, REW (a free download) and a computer, and you should be good to go.

Nothing to be a feared of, we are here to help.

I have two F110v2 and the CR-1. The e series came out after I bought them and I always had the same question. What makes the fathom so much more than the e series. I guess the DARO is the answer. Subs won’t do you much good if not calibrated properly. I used to have one F112 and the acoustic designer (acoustic frontiers) I was working with felt the DARO was a big upgrade over the v1 so that’s when i traded for the two 110v2. I was never confident in my ability to properly use the CR1 so I had him professionally calibrate. My opinion would be that if you are comfortable with calibrating the e series that should meet your needs. Adding the CR1 would be a big plus. If not, I would go for the more expensive fathom series since much easier to calibrate with DARO.
Merry Christmas Eve!
I have been following this thread closely.


I appreciate your question line, thoughtful responses, and how you reel people back on target.  I too am looking for a new pair of 'musical' subs.
I own a pair of REL Carbon Limiteds in my other system,  I love them. smooth and integrate well.  I want this level of performance and better.
My RELs's live in an easy room.  Big with open length, high ceiling, wood floors with wool rug.  I run Longbow wireless and use both a high level input form my mono amplifiers and a .1LFE input from a second AVR hooked up to a soundbar for TV.  It works flawlessly.  I get stereo music subs for music and augment the TV soundbar when watching.  Each are independently adjustable for level (not crossover) but the LFE .1 signal is of course managed within the AVR. 

Now I want to equal or best this level of subwoofer in my new reference system downstairs.  

First, a few comments on comments:

Speaker Placements and subwoofer locations:  I appreciate all the advice on where to position them, how to move them around the room and evaluate the sound and how 4 or more sound fantastic.  I make few 
compromises on equipment, but my room is my room.  I already gave the larger section of the bsmt to the model railroad, and the stereo area is what it is.  I can not move my couch back another inch.  It is 12 feet from the wall, with great space to the sides.  My speaker location has been optimized for this area.  I have treated the wall behind my head. I have a great spot for two subs, each located just inside of the stereo speakers and in line front to back.  My speakers are only 2 feet off the wall and image wonderfully.  So I think many people (most?) have to put things where the work, and repeated advice to cary my subs around is not practical unless I start digging a new foundation for basement expansion. (hmmm..bigger train layout?).

Musical or not?:  Please.  Musical means something to any audiophile and it can be individual.  But obviously we mean integrates well with a two channel system vs 'amazing slam' for AV soundtracks.  Inane to argue this point.  Bad bass is bad.  It has 'overhang' or is 'bloaty' or sounds 'slow'.  These are not physics terms.  so don't tear at them.  If you want to make a car bounce that is not 'musical' Does not have anything to do with the speed of a sound wave or the length.

Integration:  to me it means more than just getting the subs to match with the music.  They must support the music, and all its staging and imaging.  I have heard nice sounding subs in expensive systems.  When turned off, I can hear the soundstage widen and things sparkle more.
So the subs must integrate and support, and it is the quality of the crossover, the blending, And? perhaps the lack of EQ going on here.

External Crossovers:  I do have experience with smaller speakers and less powerful amplifiers.  And EQing the main channels to relieve bass information where a speaker can not handle it can certainly help. And it does relieve the amplifier of effort.  But this does not apply to all systems. My floor standing YG Hailey's have 10" subs in separate sealed cabinets.  My Audionet Amps never strain for power.  I run them full level with no EQ and always will.  YG quote's 20hz reach on the low end, but they still (to me) need a sub system to support the foundation of the music.  Stereo subs (to me) always enhance everything.  They just need to be integrated with great crossover and level adjustments.  When people hear my system they ask if the subs are on.  I then turn them off and they say 'oh wow they do add...'.  I know some guru's advocate crossing over the mains as well (Vandersteen?). But to me this adds another box and stuff and I do not believe all speakers and amps need it.

Remote control of Sub functions:  This is a feature I wish my REL Carbon Limited's had.  I find some tracks need a bit more, and some tracks definitely have too much bass in the mix.  My buddy has seen my arse too many times as I reach behind the REL subs, try to remember in mirror image which is level, and try to adjust with a specific number of indent clicks to equally adjust both subs.  Then later I put them back where they usually live.  The top two REL subs do have this remote control.  It should be on the Carbon Limiteds and the new Carbon Specials.  If I buy a pair I am sure the feature will be on the next year's model!
Many other companies do have remote control, usually through a phone app,  this would be a great thing, even if I only use it occasionally on individual tracks.

REL quality:  It is great.  I do not care if their value line is designed my another parent company. I wish every company was individually owned by its original guru. But alas this is not the way of the world. YG's founder and designer has sold the company.  Good for him.  Did it make me pause before purchase? Yes, for a minute. But his departure does not lessen the quality or performance of my speakers one bit. The fit finish and build quality of my Carbon Limited's is amazing.  Anyone can find an excuse to not purchase high end things.  

High Level Inputs; (REL, MJ, others?)  sounds better.  I have tried and evaluated vs low level preamp inputs.  Gotta have it.

Stereo vs one:  sounds better (looks cool also :).  Sure bass is relatively non directional.  Try this.  Go in any room with one sub.  Close your eyes and listen,  Can you locate the sub?  I can.  If only room for one so be it.  But we do have two stereo main speakers... and there is stereo information in bass information (not talking about LFE or .1 here).  Stereo subs SUPPORT the soundstage and imaging.  Not sure if Swarmy subs do this all over the room or not.  Seems dubious.

MJ Acoustics:  Looks interesting.  Uses High Level inputs like REL and has remote app control. 100% sourced and built in England (I hope that does not offend anyone). They are purists and as such to NOT offer EQ circuitry. 

EQ of bass:  this is the big decision for me.  My basement room seems to get a boom on heavy mixed bass tracks.  Do I have an issue with specific frequency?  I need to find out.  Everyone says 'Treat the room, treat the room'.  I am very nice to my room actually.  Ha.
Seriously, I have just received my microphone with usb input from Parts Express and need to download software and run tests.  Should I use REW?  I also have located test tracks on Roon so that is my project.

But about EQ:  sure it may help integrate the sub in rooms that need it.
I will hear back all rooms need it.  But EQ of anything comes at a cost.
Without getting into the argument of how tone controls affect sound quality, suffice it to say some of us are purists, and choose not to "mess with the signal" in any way that we do not need.  Don't blast this please. Or my KS cables :).

So if I could have it all, I would want a fast articulate (is that musical?),  pair of subs that I know where they are going to sit already, with remote control of Filter and Level, and ?  the OPTION to use EQ or not, if assured it gets completely out of the way when not desired.  That is probably a big 'if'.  they must have a quality filter that starts low (20 HZ not 35Hz).

Measure the Room:  I am taking this advise, because a lot flows from finding out if I have a boom at a certain Hz level.  If I do, can I trap it out?
I don't think I have the room, as from what I read I need sizable space behind a trap to effectively eliminate the standing waves or whatever causes the boom or bloat.  But if care this much I certainly need to at least measure the room.  Other wise I should just buy the JL Audio Fathoms, run the auto EQ and call it a day.  But many experienced listeners do not recommend the JL over REL, MJ Acoustics and others.
The microphone costs $85 and the software is free, so why not?

I have what I consider a dream system, and want my subs to match.
I wish I could compare several pairs, but that is either not possible or what a pain.  I am tired of lugging subs up and down stairs as well!

Sorry for my long reply!  I am as yet still undecided on what to purchase but taking my time.  For now the Carbon Limiteds do sound wonderful, with occasional need for level adjustment.  But they are gong back upstairs!

Merry Christmas!  Ken
I have both REL (pair) and JL.  Hands down, the REL.   They integrates better with the system and simply disappear. You need to understand the difference in philosophy for the two companies.  A month or two ago, TAS had an article that did just that.
Hi jaulbrich,
Thanks or reply.  I searched TAS and only found accolades on many subs...can you point me to your referenced article?
Merry Christmas, Ken
I agree with what has been posted in this thread, more subs is better, a lot better.   I am currently running three subs as that is what fits my 10,000 cubic foot room the best.   Each new sub added very noticeable improvement in smoothing things out, eliminating boomy spots, and making the bass very musical.   I also do not feel that in my case I need a 4th sub as my two main speakers are the very large Byston Model T signatures which each has triple 8 inch woofers, so the main speakers alone have 6 woofer drivers.   I installed an Axiom Audio EP800V4 at the left side position which is their monster dual 12 inch driver sub which stands around 48 inches tall, to the rear I installed an Axiom Audio EP500v4 which is basically a single 12 inch driver version of the EP800, and to the right side I put in a Bryston Model T sub which is a triple 8 inch driver, 48 inch tall sub; the same exact drivers as used in the Model T main speakers.   All of the subs are perfectly matched as Axiom Audio builds all of Brystons speakers and subs, even the amps are the same.

Axiom V4 sub amps all use the fully adjustable phasing controls which are a must.  Once I have my subs placed in the sweet spot of where they work best for the room, I get down on the floor next to the sub and slowly rotate the phasing control until I hear the best in phase presentation of the music content.   Its very evident, the bass signals just stop fighting each other and suddenly become one harmonious signal with maximum smoothed amplitude.   And it doesn't matter where you are in the room, the bass is the same.  It only takes 30 seconds to phase the speaker and once set, you just forget about it.

OP, if you have not purchased any speakers as of this moment, I'd suggest that you look at Axiom Audio and for your room size I would consider their EP500.   It's a little larger than your 10 inch JL's, but its a very musical sub.   If you can afford them, the Bryston Model T subs are fabulous with triple 8 inch drivers and I have this one crossed so that it covers the upper most range of bass into the very low end of mid's; they are expensive!  Like around $6K each.
But if you have a budget of $3500, I'd get three EP500's and place one on each side of the room and one to the rear.  Then phase them for the room and you will have some fabulous lower end music which will not be muddy at all!    Another important area to keep in your planning is the amps in the subs themselves.   Most all of the amps out there are class D amps with switching power supplies.  The switching supplies have very little capacitive reserve so if you are playing content with a lot of bass, they will top out easily and not give you what you want.  If you have a class D amp with a large capacity Linear power supply with a lot of capacitance, there is a ton of head room to let the drivers hit their capabilities without running out of steam; that was another reason I went with Axiom subs, they have massive linear power supplies (you'd expect that with anything coming from Bryston).  If you end up with just one sub, you will have a muddy swamp no matter how much you try to move the thing around and play with EQ or whatever else.  It just won't work out well.   I might also add that the real wood veneer Black Ash is stunning!  It's a nice satin raised grain finish which is just gorgeous.  My two main Bryston Model T's are in satin Santose Rosewood which too is the most beautiful speaker I have seen; but the Black Ash is just as nice in a different way.
If you are adding a powered subwoofer, you have just added a big messy tone control. Like it or not.  The idea of signal purity has gone right out the window. 


Merry Christmas
I suspect that the OP is planning on buying a powered sub.  I believe all JL subs have built in amps.
Wow--such incredibly thoughtful responses. I simply love that there are so many approaches to finding the right sound (for each room and listener). And, yes, I’m looking at powered subs.

@fastfreight, that’s a mighty, mighty post. You should be the OP here as both you and your system are so deliberate! Your post gave me a lot to think about.

@slimpikins5, your post has also opened my thinking (and I’ve been wanting to hear those Bryston speakers).

I don’t mean to hijack my own thread but after reading these posts I’m now curious about sub integration software. Is there something out there that is known for being effective and relatively simple? I’m not gifted with the science of it but I’m probably more competent than I sound in this thread. A quick glance suggests that many people have used the XTZ Room Analyzer. Any thoughts? I know there’s free software floating around; I just want something that is straightforward to use. 

Part of my thinking is that the Fathom has the DARO system that is well liked, so if I don’t get the Fathom it might be good to have another method for setting up the room dynamics as much as possible. I also think it might be fun for me to learn more about the way that sound works. I wouldn’t have to skip the graphs in the online reviews and jump straight to the conclusions! If the software is effective, I could buy two subs--JL e110, REL, Axiom, etc--for the price of one Fathom AND the mic/software. Can I really put TWO subs in a 10’ x 11’ room?

I’m not trying to complicate things here! It’s fun for me to think about these projects.