Getting that Rumble in the sofa and the thump in the chest - Bass in your HT system

As those who have been following this blog  will know... I had a new Home Theatre Den created late last year, and have stocked it with a 11 channel HT system, and have since gone through three sets of main speakers, and five subs...

After many years of playing with HT, I figured that I can do a pretty decent job of creating that ambiance, tweaking the speaker levels, delays, placements etc to create an immersive experience for the ultimate home cinema enjoyment.
My bearbug has always been the bass.

The Holy Grail has always been that thump in the chest (mid bass 50-250Hz), and the rumble in the sofa / floor (low bass < 40Hz). I first heard the ultimate bass experience at the bass guru's home, it was a truly visceral experience...

But it was a bit too much for me to be honest, as I am truly conscious of presbycusis and noise induced deafness. I then visited the homes of others and found that in modest setups, they had this magic combination of rumble and thump. I was truly envious...

So began my quest, with many switches, trials etc, but in the course of my experiments, I began to fear the worse as I discovered more about my HT den, which I had carefully planned, thinking that I could then get this much lusted after rumble and thump.

I found that my sitting position was closed to a room null point, where the bass simply disappeared and in my mickey mouse place, I had very little options of moving my sitting position. I could move a foot or so back and forth, that's it and it was hardly helpful.

Using the tried and tested methods of crawling helped just a tad, but essentially it dawned on me that I may not get that feeling I so sought after, despite spending a considerable amount. It may not be the equipment, but just my room and my sitting position. This is indeed depressing news.

Now, two recent developments plus an ongoing one certainly helped.

Firstly, the advent of XT 32, which I already had in the older 4311 certainly helped. But in the new place, Audyssey alone just could not give me what I wanted.

Then I finally got down to using the feature which I had neglected initially: Sub HT EQ. Which essentially is a feature of some higher end AV Amps, that allows the AV Amp / processor to calibrate TWO subs Separately at one time.

I also learnt a lot more about bass, the different kinds of bass, and I attribute this to the kindness of a few people here, who have been patiently answering my questions, and helping me measure.

Now the key developments in the past few weeks that might finally give me some hope:

The mid bass solution:

Two companies, with similar ideas, but vastly different price ranges.

Firstly the Hsu MBM is a cost effective solution, relative to the latter, with a four times price difference.

But the idea was to boost the mid bass, with a second unit, rather than make one sub cover all the frequencies. Furthermore, it could then allow my subs to be placed in less than ideal positions, which would be more WAF or home friendly so my place does not turn into a HT studio.

The MBM (around $700 shipped from USA), and currently sited behind and to the right of my seat, with the levels tuned slightly higher than what Audyssey set, and a Xover of 120 hz, provided a rather nice, seamless integration into my system, adding weight, slam and even making stereo music sound good.

The hard work is how to make it seamless without overcooking the bass and just making it into a one note boom box. This will take some work but the rewards are worth it.

The second solution is more costly, but having heard the results, it's an awesome solution. The main issue - cost. It's much more expensive, yet the sound is clearly superb for HT. The Ken Kreisel DXD 808 or DXD 2012 is a very well constructed sub, with the ability to hit hard, fast and deep. A real game changer, in a way that rival how SVS first wowed us more than 10 years ago. If it was cheaper, I suspect it can be the top selling sub around. As it is, the main factor hampering massive sales is the price.

So the decision will be to see if I can save and use a cheaper solution, or go for broke and get the best sound and finally get both thump and rumble....

I have been advised to run in my main speakers first, and the rest of my new kit, then see how I go. That's good advice.

Then decide on either of the two... choices indeed...

In the course of this series of experiments, I certainly acquired much valuable info on bass, placement and tuning... but I am a novice in this area compared to the bass gurus...

The journey continues and I hope to see daylight sometime. Getting the thump and rumble will be a really solid Christmas present.

EDIT 05 01 2013:

Through the generosity of a friend, I managed to try the 12" MBM and I felt the pace and timing wouldn't be too far off the 13" F113.

I chose the MBM because there are many adjustments for using the right crossover. It involved a lot of trial and errors but it worked.

After the initial Audyssey XT 32 calibration, I then tweaked the levels on each sub manually, and came up with a level for each and the final sum volume which gave sufficient thump and rumble without attraction attention to either one.

The addition of the trio of the MBM, Sub Eq and XT 32 suddenly made my room sound awesome...

What I did:
Place my F 113 on the bay window, which is also a solid concrete thing, covered with a layer of wood that also has rockwool inside. The cone is slightly tilted towards me, about 1 foot from the rear wall and side window.
I then did the ARO on the F 113 - a awesome display of sub power by the way... it could make my front door open...

Then I placed the MBM behind and to the left of my seat, between the Eames chair and the other seat, but not touching the seats, and with half the legs on carpet to prevent the sub moving.

Then I re-did the Audyssey, for 2 subs, and after it was complete, I found the bass a little polite, so I tweaked the settings, increased the volume on the MBM by 3.5 notches on the channel level, and upped the bass on the F 113 by 2 notches.

Then I played some bass heavy movies and the results was rather remarkable. I had depth from the F 113, and presumably since it was free from having to do mid bass, it actually seemed more agile and tighter. The MBM then covered the 50Hz and up to about 130Hz on the dial. And I have tactile bass, which was IMO, enough, even though I could dial in more, I felt that that level I had was enough. Certainly nothing close to Jason's awesome air shifting stuff, but it felt right.

I quickly called my friend who lent me his MBM, and we tried it. I didn't say much but waited for his comments. He was very impressed with the results too, and actually in my hall, the bass could breath more than his apartment room.

But the biggest surprise, was in the stereo music demo. I had initially posted that in my null zone, the 804D were a little disappointing, but suddenly, the music came back! And it was tight. With both subs, and Audyssey, it felt very musical!

The last time, with my other subs, it was fine for HT, with the booms and all, but the bass was flabby on music. Now it was musical and we even preferred it to using my Musical Fidelity Amp in stereo mode!

Of course when I listened at the dining table, in stereo, the bass from the 804D was quite good even though it wasn't run in yet.

I can't move anything around too much. The dining table is well, for dining so unless I grow money on trees and buy a bigger home, sadly that will stay...

I can see that if my entire hall became my listening room, the sounds and the option of moving my chair back a metre or two, will open up my bass more..

As it is, the MBM seems to be a very interesting option.

This was unlike my previous effort with the F 113 alone, where I could hear or locate where the F 113 was. It seems the Sub EQ was able to appreciate that one sub could go much lower...

I tried it with HT, and the results were very satisfying, some may turn up the subs more, but I do want to preserve my hearing... the system can hit 100 db for explosions... not something I want to do all the time, even when the volume for voices was around 70-80db.

With music it was very interesting, since I could use the subs without much detriment. Since I had little mid bass in my null zone listening position, the MBM restored this, and again the integration was quite seamless.

I didn't go for the Ken Kreisel subs in my home, since they cost a lot more and I was already satisfied with what I had. My neighbours might have words with me if I increase the bass anymore too...

I have no financial interest or other interests in any of the items / events I write about.

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