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Old 10-10-2013, 13:09   #1
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Subwoofer positioning

I hope this is a "Comms / AV" question and not an "Entertainment and Fun" question...

I'm thinking of upgrading the speakers in the saloon of my 12m sailing boat. The current 5" cheapo round automobile speakers are usually obscured by books. I want some little wall mounted speakers but I gather the bottom end on these things is lacking and the thing to do is add in a subwoofer, but not having experience in these things I don't know where best to position it.

I understand it does not need to be centrally positioned (just as well). But do these things need to be "exposed" or can I shove it away in a corner locker which has cushions on top? Pretty much the choices are under the saloon table, in the corner of the bookcase (at head height when sitting down) or in a corner locker (against a bulkhead and the hull but cusions on top of the locker).

What have people found works best?
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Old 10-10-2013, 13:58   #2
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Re: Subwoofer positioning

You can use some decent outdoor speakers on trunnions like Boston Acoustics or B & Os for this. How the sub-woofer will sound is not hard and fast, however. You'll have to play with it. The good news is that almost all 12 m saloons make great acoustical spaces and you won't need a lot of watts to blast out "Ride of the Valkyries" at a satisfactory volume.
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Old 10-10-2013, 14:09   #3
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Re: Subwoofer positioning

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Originally Posted by S/V Alchemy View Post
You can use some decent outdoor speakers on trunnions like Boston Acoustics or B & Os for this.
[...]
The good news is that almost all 12 m saloons make great acoustical spaces and you won't need a lot of watts to blast out "Ride of the Valkyries" at a satisfactory volume.
Weight's obviously an issue for mounting on trunnions but recommendations for anything that will give a good range without a subwoofer appreciated. Not so into Wagner and the Pärt is probably ok without subwoofer. It's the Hawkwind I'm mostly worried about
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Old 10-10-2013, 14:17   #4
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Re: Subwoofer positioning

You just need a good pair of small, hi-fi bookshelf speakers, on some kind of wall bracket. They'll be fine as long as you put them somewhere they don't get wet.

No need for a subwoofer in a space that size. I have a pair of ancient Realistic Minimus 7s, and the bass is just fine.

I used What Hi-fi to do a search :

Search | whathifi.com[101%20TO%20150]&solrsort=type%20asc&retain-filters=1
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Old 10-10-2013, 14:18   #5
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Re: Subwoofer positioning

The subwoofer needs to move air, so being obstructed by cushions or in a locker will reduce the effect. The position is not critical.

Improve the effect by using the stereo settings to not send bass frequencies to the speakers and use the subwoofer to provide those frequencies.

Here is my 2,500W system that includes a 400W subwoofer.
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Old 10-10-2013, 14:23   #6
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Re: Subwoofer positioning

A good pair of hi-fi speakers with a 10w amp will sound better than 2500W of car speakers.
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Old 10-10-2013, 22:43   #7
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Re: Subwoofer positioning

Quote:
Originally Posted by MarkSF View Post
I used What Hi-fi to do a search :

Search | whathifi.com[101%20TO%20150]&solrsort=type%20asc&retain-filters=1
That link is broken.

Here is the WHAT HI*FI site. What is the information that should be linked into this topic?


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A good pair of hi-fi speakers with a 10w amp will sound better than 2500W of car speakers.
The marine, automotive and HI-FI speakers I use on the three zones on my system all sound good and are all appropriate for each environment.

One zone is driven by the stereo head unit, that has 52W x 4 output. That zone sounds okay. It is typical to every other mobile stereo.

The other two zones are driven by amplifiers and the sound in those zones is clean over the entire range, from background music to ear bleeding volume.

This is the first system where I added a large amplifier just for the subwoofer. It makes a HUGE difference. The prior configuration on this boat had this sub driven by two bridged channels from a shared four channel amplifier. Now it has a dedicated 400W amplifier.

The sub frequencies are night and day from the prior to the current configuration. The sub frequencies sounds great and they feel great.

IMO, the subwoofer makes a huge difference to the sound quality. I recommend a large subwoofer and sub amplifier to be one part of a high-quality sound system. The other part should be a decent amplifier for the main speakers.

It has taken some effort to adjust the system for the crossover and the level settings, but now the sound is outstanding, at any volume level.
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Old 10-10-2013, 23:52   #8
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At the risk of getting lynched: avoid Bose. Overpriced. There's a reason why every salesman starts with the Bose speakers when they get you in the listening room. They all want to deliver the "for the same money you get something that sounds so much better; like this" line for whatever they're pimping that day.

A lot depends on the sound you like. If you like the bright sound, the Klipsch satellites are great, and decently priced. The B&W "bookshelf" offerings are a bit pricey, but definitely warm. I personally prefer the Energy "Take 5" units. They're mostly used for home theater surrounds, but are a great compromise and value. I have 6 of them in my home theater (although the previous incarnations) and they match very well with the B&W mains. I've replaced everything in the theater over the years but them, as I've never found anything better for any reasonable price.

As far as a subwoofer, they can easily be built in to furniture if you plan them to be. There are lots of sites that can explain more, and software to help with port design and such.

I'm not sure how well it would work in a boat, but this sub placement method for other rooms might work. First, you pick your primary listening position, where you want it to sound the best. We call it "the sweet spot" at our place, and it's a very popular chair (especially with the dog). Then you remove the chair from the room or otherwise clear that space. Put the sub in that spot and play your preferred demo music. You then crawl around near the floor and listen. When you find the spot where the sub sounds the best, that's where you put it.

Personally, I think you'll do just fine with a tubular car sub stashed somewhere. The shape of a salon, not to mention the placement of the speakers in one, is going to be so suboptimal for listening that it doesn't make sense to drop a ton of cash on high end audio equipment. Just make sure the receiver/amp has a programmable crossover frequency.

BTW, if you plan to mostly play MP3s or any other lossy compression files, go cheap. It's sad when people pay all kinds of money for high end stuff and then play crap source material on it. It's your money, but there's no reason to waste it.

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Old 11-10-2013, 02:33   #9
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Re: Subwoofer positioning

Personally i don't really like small satellites which work mid-top and trying to have the sub fill in, in my mind neither speaker is suited to creating a 400hz sound.

I am told that a 6.5in driver and tweeter combo pretty much covers everything and i can attest how good a couple of focal car speakers can sound without sub.
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Old 11-10-2013, 02:37   #10
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Re: Subwoofer positioning

Make sure you listen to a small speaker subwoofer combination for a reasonable time before you commit.
The base tends to be a just a single monotonous note. If you not used to good sound the presence of any bass sounds impressive it first but many people find it fatiguing over time.
Some deep base is nearly always good watching movies adding impact to explosions etc.

The best boat sound tends to achieved with some good quality hi fi speakers with a subwoofer added for movies.

True subwoofer sound is reasonably omnidirectional so the subwoofer has some freedom of placement but the speaker and port cannot be covered with cushions etc (although the enclosure can, in fact it will help). The "subwoofers" with very small satellite speakers are required to produce some mid level frequencies as well so placement ideally reasonably central is better, but in practice there is so many other comprises with these systems it is not too critical.

Don't be too swept up by the output power of amplifiers average listening levels are not much more than 1w even if you like loud music. The "power handling" rating of speakers is even more meaningless. In fact virtually all specification quoted by manufacturers have little bearing on the sound quality.

With a boat system you will have to make some compromises. Try and use your ears to judge what sound you like.
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Old 11-10-2013, 07:59   #11
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Re: Subwoofer positioning

Thanks all: some stuff to think about. I should have specified that I'm not looking at high end: It's not an ideal listening space and most of my music is compressed: generally 192 kbits/s mp3s, 320 kbits/s for the "good" stuff and a few lossless albums, but all played via a fusion ipod thingy.

The boat is not a stranger to heavy weather, so bulkhead mounted speakers need to be small and light as I don't want several kilos of speaker stressing the mountings in a big sea.

Hence concern that bass would be an issue and thinking of subwoofers which I have no previous experience of (my shore-based speakers are floor standing jobs). Problem is I don't know anyone with a similar boat and audio set up to mine to listen to before buying.

Sounds like a subwoofer won't be any good in a locker and may or may not work in my alternate locations, so perhaps I'll concentrate on finding speakers with a bigger range
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Old 11-10-2013, 08:00   #12
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Re: Subwoofer positioning

I used to maintain recording and broadcast studios, and I'm in the camp of most always preferring two (or 4) decent box speakers vs small satellite speakers plus a subwoofer.

reasons are:
- realistic sound; to me, a subwoofer system might sound impressive... but seldom realistic, therefore it becomes annoying in the long run... unless it has been carefully set up, positioned and tuned.
- space hog; a suitable subwoofer plus enclosure eats valuable space.... though maybe a 12m yacht provides more opportunities.
- it's important to put a subwoofer in a place that properly "excites" the space

I'm not a fan of the most common auto or "marine" speakers. (but I haven't heard many of the top-end makes/models). I much prefer small enclosed speakers (shout out for those old metal Minimus 7's - they were great... my pair got stolen ). I don't hate the small Bose speakers (151s), though i do think they're overpriced.

I worked on a catamaran this spring that had two commonly-sold marine box speakers in the saloon (I'll omit the name; I don't much like them) plus a 10" sub mounted in a roughly 16" square molded-in storage locker (not sealed, terrible damping) by the cabin door (usually open), all driven by a big Clarion amp. Problem was, the sub location was so poorly chosen that they could never get the sub to sound loud and thumpy enough for their taste, so they were blowing subs almost monthly.

To the OP - if you have the time, find a good stereo or automotive store that will work with you to assess the space, propose a solution, and will lend you speakers to try in the space before you commit. There's nothing like auditioning speakers in your own space.
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Old 11-10-2013, 08:09   #13
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Re: Subwoofer positioning

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I used to maintain recording and broadcast studios, and I'm in the camp of most always preferring two (or 4) decent box speakers vs small satellite speakers plus a subwoofer.
Agree: the subwoofer thing is alien to me, but my restriction is on weight for the speakers. Thin-ish bulkhead and my cabin gets tossed about a lot more than an expensive cat or motorboat. If I can find small speakers with a decent range that's my preference but I thought it was a vain hope. My issue with car speakers is simply that I don't want to cut that big a hole in the bulkhead. I already have (bad) car speakers but they're at one end of a bookshelf pointing aft. Not ideal as the bookshelf is usually full of books

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To the OP - if you have the time, find a good stereo or automotive store that will work with you to assess the space, propose a solution, and will lend you speakers to try in the space before you commit. There's nothing like auditioning speakers in your own space.
Again agree, but I can understand how "full service" places aren't going to appreciate me wasting their time only to spend less than $500 in total. Plus of course I only want to drill holes for the mountings once :-)
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Old 11-10-2013, 08:17   #14
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Re: Subwoofer positioning

Well, there's your limiting factor, then - $500 total won't buy you much in the way of speakers plus amps.

Still, I would ask for the loan of a demo pair of decent small box speakers, grab 20+ ft of #14 wire, and spend an afternoon with your favourite music, moving the speakers around in the saloon. Small box speakers give their best bass output when they're in, or close to a corner.
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Old 12-10-2013, 21:45   #15
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Re: Subwoofer positioning

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The subwoofer needs to move air, so being obstructed by cushions or in a locker will reduce the effect. The position is not critical.

Improve the effect by using the stereo settings to not send bass frequencies to the speakers and use the subwoofer to provide those frequencies.

Here is my 2,500W system that includes a 400W subwoofer.
FYI, the subwoofer needed to be removed temporarilly to permit running new cables through the cavity behind the subwoofer.

Today when using the boat w/o the subwoofer the sound system does not have any punch. The sound pressure level was a fraction of the complete system.

Time to finish that project and replace the subwoofer.
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