You don't lack bass, you have too much treble

One of the biggest surprises in audio and acoustics is how damping a room with treatments makes small speakers sound so much bigger.  Yes, you get a broader, deeper soundstage but you also seem to get a lot more bass, more power, more extension!!

What's going on? 

What happened is your room was too bright.  The overall balance was too heavy on the mid and treble so as a result your systems balance was off.

For this reason I often suggest before A'goners start chasing bigger and bigger speakers, that  they think about the room first, add damping and diffusion and then go back to thinking about the bass.

Not saying you don't need a bigger speaker, but that some rooms may never have a big enough speaker in them due to the natural reflective properties.




+1 good post.

I have worked through a very complicated relationship with treble for nearly fifty years. While I knew the old adage of be careful when choosing speakers, too bright can sound like good detail. But struggled with it anyway.

Definitely it is easy to have a too bright room overwhelm the balance. Lots of speakers and components are also designed to be very detailed and start with too much energy in the high end compounding the problem.

One big problem is that many don't measure their system's response using pink noise and an inexpensive analyzer system like audiotools (free by the way) from their listening position.

Using a test CD like Stereophile's you can play back pink noise and look at your system's response.  The room has a major effect also.  If the response isn't flat from 20 hz to 20 khz, it will show the dips and hills.  You want to at least start with a completely flat response at all frequencies from 20 hz to 20 khz.

many manufactures try to fool listeners by either boosting bass response or lowering mid range response to give the illusion of great bass response.

I know many advocate subwoofers to be installed. However, in my opinion, if your system (speakers included) actually give you a flat bass response with the other frequencies, then your system does not really need subwoofers and is doing its job.

That's not to say it won't benefit from subwoofers or equalizers.  This is where room treatment comes in first, then equalizers (there are some really good ones out there), to either boost or cut certain frequencies.

Try it  Get a test CD with pink noise, and use the Audiotools app. There are others also.  But free is free.  See from your listening position what the response actually is.  You might be surprised.  

Too much bass?  Too little?  etc.  



@minorl I encourage you to step up your game a little. Gated and blended responses are far better than pink noise, which you get with Room EQ Wizard and a calibrated microphone or OmniMic. 

You'll get a far better idea of what you are hearing that way.

If you EQ your system flat to 20KHz with pink noise you will likely blow your tweeters. Pink noise has a natural roll off as the frequencies get higher.

I tend to agree, OP; your observation is valid. However, I face a dilemma in treating my room further due to WAF. Also, I had good reasons not to pursue the subwoofer route after multiple attempts. Instead, I opted for the EQ route with manual equal-loudness contour (ELC) control in the digital domain, and so far, it’s working well.

Good room acoustics is more important than equipment. Without controlling frequency response and reverb time, it sounds like the room, not your gear. The proper balance of absorption and diffusion is critical to hearing what's coming out of your speakers. 


Pink Noise has the same energy level at all frequencies. No roll off. That's what makes it useful. 

I use a SPL meter on a tripod, and

do not like pink noise.

I use 1/3 octave test tones, like found on Amazing Bytes CD. Last one sold, $9.99 was me, I snapped it up. Actually the one on discogs for $42. delivered is a good price, most often $75. + delivery.

I don’t use LP test records, something might be off, CD’s always sound the same.

After measuring and adjusting in some manner, still using test tones: then adjust to your preference by ear.

I might revise Erik's statement, also true: you might have too much midrange, too much presence, which can be appealing, especially vocals, but in the same way, lessens the balance of the bass, and in many cases, at our age of reduced sensitivity to highs, you might find yourself boosting the highs.

Eurythmics Sweet Dreams will help you with final highs adjustments after measurements.

Details by themselves alone unbalanced are a defect not a +...

This defect can come from the gear synergy or pieces but often  the first thing to look  at   and the last thing to look at is always acoustics and room acoustic to improve things ...

The OP is right as usual ....


Flat frequency response is indeed what you want for accurate reproduction. Music has a natural high end roll off, but if your speakers don't reproduce the entire spectrum, you will have an artificial rolloff. 

Most of the points made above are valid.

Check the response at the listening position first. @eric_squires had a good suggestion and the 1/3 test tones also.

I used pink noise because it was easy and encompassed the entire spectrum.  Flat is flat.  unless your measuring instruments roll off or boost frequencies, it is what you are seeing.

If you see any dips (I have a serious dip at 58 hz), or hills, there is your problem.

Is it a particular component in your system?  Speakers, source, pre-amp, amp? or the room?  But, doing this test, at least you can see if there is a problem.

If it shows too much bass because you have three million REL subwoofers, but you like how it sounds, then more power to you.

I want my system and room to give me as close to a flat response as possible.  That is how equipment is typically designed, unless the manufacturer is playing games.  

Flat first, then adjust as you like.

Heck, I've gone to some serious hi end dealers and listened to their top equipment and they were sitting there trying to sell my friends and I on how much bass response the speakers had.  "you can feel it in your chest" they would say.  And I, who played classical violin, sax, etc. would say, you know that is way too much bass.

This is very similar to younger people who are used to MP3 or compressed digital and think this is great.  it is all they ever heard and people told them it was good.  Too much bass is too much bass.  was it really recorded that way?


Anyway, just my thoughts.

My stance is different.


If you find your system sound bright, then bring up the bass by adding subwoofer or so.


After using two 18 inch, 15 inch, 12 inch subwoofers and mid woofers tandem, I found my system sound more balanced.



Being of advanced experience...   (I'm old OK)  a flat response being produced doesn't mean I'm experiencing a "balanced"  presentation.  Since I'm adjusting my listening experience to what sounds good to me a flat response as a baseline is where I would attempt to start but it's just that a starting point.  My biggest issue is the huge difference in recordings.  It's especially noticeable in the bass as it can go from "yeah that's it" to where did the bass go? to OMG that is way to much bottom end. 

The best I can hope for is most recordings sound pretty good without adjusting anything so a "flat response" is pretty much moot for actual listening.


To make a room sound less bright, are diffusers or absorbers, or both, suggested?  Thanks.  

Both. Absorption will reduce the brightness and diffusion will scatter the sound so room resonance frequencies are not emphasized. GIK has some nice slat diffusers in different absorption depths. 4" works well for most rooms. Most of their panels I've seen have both attributes. 

Better components ad infinitum will not beat a dedicated once for all acoustic room...

No speakers beat their room said some anonymus acoustician i forgot the name ...

It is incredible that so many people vouch for better gear design always, costlier upgrade, never for acoustics understanding and improvement perceived at most as secondary ...

Even miraculous Dr Choueiri filters can correct all stereo system which are all of them defective because of crosstalk, unbeknownst to most audiophiles,  but even dr. Choueiri need for the best optimized results a dedicated acoustic room and inner ears measures and HRTF tracking ... Psychoacoustics rule audio not mere gear design price...

Then asking for changing good speakers for costlier one is preposterous more than half the time and absolutely not comparable to acoustics improvement which can be and must be made ideally for the chosen speakers properties and type ...

I am not so sure I agree with the premise of the OP. entirely. No doubt the room is hugely important and intelligent use of treatments is paramount, but I dont hear room problems in terms of balance. Mids and highs do nothing to add to or detract from bass. 


You can modify the balance between frequencies by room modification easily ... I did it with a grid of tuned resonators...

And room acoustic is way more complex than buying a few panels ...


I usually ’go flat’ to start, then tweak above 6Khz to compensate for ears with aids.

Spouses’ ears are OK, so she informs when high hi’s are ’nuff. *G*

Bass is fine: 2 - 10" in 3way driver cabs, mids & tweets disconnected.
A single self-powered 8" in it’s own original cab.
When the Walsh get to harmonize, the upper bass/mid cones are equivalent to a 7" in surface area and make for a nice ’fill’ in the near ’back’ (Just don’t have the floor space for Everything front stage....).

If that ever becomes boring or seeming to be weak....which I can overdrive the space now....

2- 18"s. 1 - 12", and a 10" that has a mag structure as big as a 100’ spool of #12 speaker cable and weighs ’bout 30ish lbs. by itself....all of these desire a cab that I don’t have the room or the amps to do it all some form of injustice....

Oh, and there’s the 2 - 12" Utah’s with their matching expo horns that could punch through all that, even set up like a NY Ohm as they is...done for grins and a way to store them....

If the treble needs more than the pair of large Heil amts’ another pair. ;)

Yes, Erik....absolutely crazed. *L*

But....Not Insane.👍😎

@minorl And, what level of smoothing are you using? How many speaker systems actually produce sonically accurate bass down to 18 Hz at the listening position? I'll give you a hint. It has a diameter of three mm. There is no such thing as a system that could not benefit from subwoofers if you want a realistic presentation at volumes that will not damage your hearing.

I am a fanatic when it comes to measuring systems. I have been doing it since 1995. However, it helps a bunch if there is something you can do with the measurements, like use them to guide your use of equalization and adjustment of group delays, set up of subwoofers, etc. All this can be done digitally at very high resolution. These tools are so powerful I can make a middling system sound like one 10 times as expensive. There is no other way to integrate subwoofers correctly. Every other method is wishful thinking. Can you take the edge off a bad room? No, not completely as the reflections disturb the imaging. You have to manage the room with the appropriate methods or use speakers with tightly controlled dispersion.  Measure away and get yourself a full function digital preamp.

@erik_squires Give me a break. Treating a room makes speakers sound smaller not bigger. Subwoofers can make a system sound bigger if a two way crossover is used, much bigger. 

Treating a room makes speakers sound smaller not bigger.

Not if you do it right, no. 


Subwoofers can make a system sound bigger [...]

Yes, they can.

The point I was trying to make is that what we hear is relative, and the overall balance matters.  Yes, a subwoofer increases bass.  Reducing mid-treble reflections in a room has similar effects as adding more bass, with the added bonus of often improving imaging and reducing listener fatigue. 

As usual many half truth by our friend:

Treating a room makes speakers sound smaller not bigger.

This is completely false except for those who had no idea what they acoustically do ...Room acoustics by the way is not only the use of passive materials on a few panels.  More active devices can be used as resonators;  and yes even materials treatment and especially active treatment with among others devices as Helmholtz resonators can make the acoustic recorded translation of any album bigger and more holographic in your room new fine tuned acoustic space ...

Subwoofers can make a system sound bigger [...]

The op is right here then mijostyn too ... 😊

I am a fanatic when it comes to measuring systems

Go only measuring gear with your other gear/tools  and room  ad infinitum till perfection ...😁 For us any measures set must be coupled to hearing/brain  experiment biological controls too ,  save inner ears measures and HTRF  tracking measures  the most important one anyway with the room geometry and size and acoustic content  ...


So I’m listening to Jazz @ 65-70 dbs and a trumpet pops in @80-85 dbs and it makes my ears hurt. The same can be said for Saxophone, electric guitars and some female singers.  I currently have 6 absorption panels and furniture and CD racks for dispersion. Carpeted floor and a lot of soft things in my room.

I have tried 2 preamps(both tube hybrid), two sets of mono blocks (both sets are tube hybrid) and a Hegel H390 (that is on the warmer side) and I’m still getting that sharpness above @80dbs. My streamer is still the modded BS Node N130, going to the Denifrips Pontus ll and the speakers are still the KEF Reference 5’s.

Any thoughts?

@curiousjim You may have the speakers toed in too much. Many speakers are really designed for little to no toe-in, so the slightly off-axis response is a lot smoother.

Another thing to try is the floor behind and in the floor between speakers. Bare surfaces there can often result in a lot of hash. Also, most underestimate the benefit that treating the ceiling between speaker and listener.

Lastly, check the wall behind your head.  Try absorption or dispersion there as well.

Hi @erik_squires 

Thanks for the reply.

The speakers have maybe 1° of toe-in. I will make it zero.  The floor behind them is carpeted, but I will definitely try more absorption behind them. Behind me is almost no wall at al. There are two door size walkways and a pass through from the kitchen.

And,  I doubt very seriously that the wife will let me put any treatments on the ceiling, but I can always ask. 😁

Post removed 

Bribe her with a gift 2 days  before asking ...😁

And,  I doubt very seriously that the wife will let me put any treatments on the ceiling, but I can always ask. 😁


@curiousjim Perhaps you just don’t like those instruments which produce sound at those frequencies. It’s not your system. I don’t like trumpets live or recorded and if I built a system to make the trumpet tolerable to me, it would be a misrepresentation of what a trumpet sounds like, along with every other instrument or vocal. For some reason, there are frequencies that don’t appeal to me (live or recorded) and I don’t like song that include those frequencies or have alot of energy at those frequencies. Do you enjoy those instruments/vocal live?  Does the trumpet bother you if it is at 75 db?  

Beyond that I would look at different speakers or dampening in front of the tweeter.


@curiousjim Well those are the non-speaker reasons for what you are hearing.  The other possible reasons are amplifier distortion or the speaker is compressing. That is, for whatever reason you are reaching the limit of the driver motion, and that seems odd at such low volumes.


I don’t know how to answer your question.  It’s not just a trumpet. It’s anything from a Saxophone to Joni Mitchell’s voice to an electric guitar.

@curiousjim ...helps to have her out of town on a sea cruise with some of her old girlfriends for a couple of days, but still runs the rise of the "WTF!?" homecoming...*L*

I've had minor success, but one has to pick very carefully.... ;)

@asvjerry @mahgister 

Lord knows I’ve tried,  but when she came home after spending a couple of weeks with her sister and found some Maggie 3.7i’s in the family room, it was all over for me!


I’ve two different amps and two different preamps and it stays the same.  And this is the second pair of Reference 5’s (long story ) and the sound is just as sharp in the same areas and volumes. 🙁

@curiousjim So I’m listening to Jazz @ 65-70 dbs and a trumpet pops in @80-85 dbs and it makes my ears hurt.

Are the results the same whether you are streaming from a service/file using the Node or playing a CD? What are you using as connections to the Pontus, USB or SPDIF? Are you using any of the digital features of the Hegel?



I did take a look at the Stereophile measurements for your speakers. While Stereophile does not do compression measurements, they do show a pronounced hump in the presence area. A Schiit Loki may be just the thing for you.

The other thing I note is that off-axis the speakers have a lot more treble energy than mids.  Definitely a speaker worth treating the sides and first reflection points for, as well as moving away from side reflections.


I also have a sensitivity around those frequencies where trumpets, sax, and certain guitar notes sound annoyingly loud. Less toe in did make a big difference as does room treatment. That frequency is typically around 2-3k and unfortunately some speakers have a peak there. Some room measurements could help you find if that's the case. 


A 10db to 15db jump in that frequency range is pretty drastic.   What are you using as a source?


Currently I’m using a BS Node N130 with a linear power supply going to a Denifrips Pontus ll via USB.


I tried that two years and two preamps and two sets of amps and an integrated ago.  And of course I can’t remember, but it’s simple enough to try.

@curiousjim ....and no amount of potted palms for disguise or camo.....

Forecast: Immediate loud, followed by tense quiet accompanied by 'dry' spell....

Been lucky, not much of that in my local whether....;)

"...pass the Denifrips...thanx,,,,now, some of that dacBS for..."

"Later tonight on Cooking with the 'Phile's........."



I would be taking a hard look at those two openings and pass through to the kitchen. Do a test by covering them with plywood, heavy blakets/curtains etc. And see if it changes things. Other open areas to rooms can wreck havoc on acoustics. Especially if openings are close to  listening position.


Without bass, you're in a lot of treble.



Yeah, I’d say 60% of the back wall, 15% of the front wall is open to something. At least 50% of the right wall and 30% of the left wall are open as well, so I definitely have several gotcha’s to deal with.
For now, I have a portable divider covered with a quilt covering over half of the biggest opening between the family room and the living room. When we save up some money, that pass through is going to be filled in,