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Bookshelf Speakers w/o a sub - Can it work?

 

New member
Username: Daves666

Post Number: 1
Registered: Oct-04
Hi:

I recently had the depressing experience of hearing music I know on a decent system and it made me hate my current stereo [don't ask]. In the last week, I've been researching new speaker/reciever options and I had a few questions:

1. Anybody out there get decent results with Bookshelf speakers without using a sub? All the glowing reviews of the Ascend CBM-170, Athena AS-B2, Axiom M3Ti,etc seem to assume that you'll need one. Is there some kind of middleground between bookshelf and floorstanders?

2. Can you get a decent Sub for around $100?

3. I could get a pair of Athena AS-F2s for less than $400 but I'm concerned about the bulk. What do you think about this option?

4. Any receiver recommendations for 100% music applications in any of the above configurations [don't even own a TV]? Seems like I should be able to save $ if I'm not interested in HT. What is the difference between a receiver and an amplifier?

This is all maddening and exciting at the same time. I appreciate any advice you might have for me.
 

Silver Member
Username: Rh1

Post Number: 205
Registered: Jun-04
Dave...bookshelf speakers tend to have audio ranges that do not extend below say 60 mhz as an example, whereas subs pick up the frequencies down to 20 mhz typically. Therefore, for the most part, you will loss parts of the music that you are listening too regardless of what type of music it is. A sub is a huge benefit when dealing with bookshelf speakers. The Athena's you mention are a good bang for the buck product. If you give us a range on what you would like to spend that will help in giving opinions.

Subs for less than $100 can be achieved at the sacrifice of quality obviously. However, I would suggest that you try to purchase a used sub if $100 is all you want to spend. In fact I have a Energy ES8 sub that is not exactly an award winner but you can find them on Ebay for about $75-100 used. It would be better than not having one at all.

I would suggest you try Wharfedale Diamond 8.2 speakers, they have received numerous rave reviews by consumers and magazine the like. I actually have a pair of 8.1's (predecessor to the 8.2) and they are quite nice. You can find new 8.2's on Ebay for approximately $280, given this price they are a steal of a bargain. They will also outperform the Athena's hands down. The only drawback to them is that they are relatively inefficient (not a bad thing) so they will require a strong amp source.

A receiver contains a tuner, pre-amp, and amp all in one. An amp, is just that, an amp.
 

Silver Member
Username: Rh1

Post Number: 206
Registered: Jun-04
here's a search i did on the Diamond 8.2's, actually one store has them for $199 (oh my)

http://www1.shopping.com/xGS-Wharfedale_Diamond_8.2~NS-1~linkin_id-3058241
 

Silver Member
Username: Rh1

Post Number: 207
Registered: Jun-04
You could also get the Diamond 9.1's which have replaced the 8 series...What Hi-Fi Magazine has given both of these 5 of 5 stars in reviews...the 9.1's actually have a full review in the October 2004 issue on newstands now...I think they will retail for around $400-500
 

Bronze Member
Username: Sinkdrain

Post Number: 17
Registered: Aug-04
I have nice Athena AS B2 bookshelfs with a horrid 50Watt yamaha sub. The Athenas provide a tight powerful bass on their own. However, even my bargain buy sub improves the experience. This is especially evident while watching movies. My sub is not fast or tight but I still prefer it on.
 

J. Vigne
Unregistered guest


If your system will be used for music only you may not need a sub. It will depend on what type of music you listen to, how loudly you listen and the size of your room. In a small room a sub can cause more problems than it solves.
A reasonable cutoff frequency for small speakers is 45-50Hz. This is within the range of most instruments on most music. (Most rock has little of anything beneath 60 Hz and hardly ever any real content beneath 40Hz.) So a small bookshelf can handle the response needed for rock, folk and a fair amount of classical. What it can't do is play those frequencies at loud volumes for an extended period. That will overtax the system and burn out components.
If your listening tastes are such that there is very little information beneath 50Hz I would start with a decent bookshelf if that suits your space requirements. Keep in mind that when a speaker can't do a low frequency (say 30Hz) it will play the next octave up (60Hz) and you will hear the sound of bass. This is called doubling and occurs in all speakers. Most people have no real idea what 60Hz sounds like and assume it to be much deeper than it actually is so you often feel more than enough bass if you can go to 50Hz or so.
Subs are good for video use but sometimes overrated for music use where they can stand out as "more bass" than is needed. Think about what types of music you listen to and how loudly you play your music and consider the size of your room. You may find a small speaker is suited to your situation.
The advantage of a small speaker is their ability to "disappear" sonically from your room. This a quality that is much harder to achieve with larger speakers.
You might want to read some of the input on this thread:

https://www.ecoustics.com/electronics/forum/home-audio/92590.html

read somewhat before these dates and after. Several of us use small speakers and if you will examine some of the most recent posts you will find a way of maximizing the sound from small speakers.



 

J. Vigne
Unregistered guest


If you need help with various terms you hear used about audio try this thread:


https://www.ecoustics.com/electronics/forum/home-audio/67821.html




 

New member
Username: Daves666

Post Number: 2
Registered: Oct-04
Thanks so much to everyone so far for the info - I have a lot to learn but I thought this forum would be a gem!

Listened to the Athena AS-F2s today - I liked them but they didn't blow me away.

Vols: Amazon has the Diamond 8.2s for $200/pair [no tax, free shipping]. They also have the Diamond 8.3s for the same price. I'm assuming the 8.3s will have similar sound but better bass, right? Seems like an amazing deal...

What do people think about the 8.2s [at this price] VS other highly rated speakers in this caegory [Axiom, Ascend, Energy, Athena]?

Thanks again!
 

Silver Member
Username: Edison

Glendale, CA US

Post Number: 551
Registered: Dec-03
Dave,

If you want to get good sounds at home, you need a good amp and a CD player. I would buy used at www.audiogon.com to get better sound for the buck.

You can also ask for advices on the forum.
Don't get caught up with incessant upgrade bug - get it right the first time.

You should be able to put together a pretty good system for under $2000.

NAD is a good company offering good quality at a reasonable price.

NAD 541 CD player is pretty good.

NAD 320bee integrated amp is ok too.

Try to have a listen - hopefully a NAD dealer is near you.

I am bringing this up 'coz you need to get the whole system to compliment each other - in order to end up with good sound - not just an ok speaker.

You have to mate them well to end up with a satisfying sound. I would spend some on cables as well - www.accessories4less.com has Ixos gamma cables - both RCA and speaker cables that are good deals (wait for their sales to get good deals)

Among the speakers you mentioned, I like Ascend. If you shop for used on audiogon, you might want to go with Green Mountain Europa for more money.

Good luck in finding good music at home.

Go slow and ask questions on CD players, amps, cables, etc.

WWW.audiogon.com is a good place for info as well as this sight.
 

Silver Member
Username: Rh1

Post Number: 210
Registered: Jun-04
James...he is looking to spend $400, not $2000

Dave...You are right, the 8.3's are floorstanders and they will provide a considerable amount of bass compared to the 8.2's...I have the 8.3's and without the sub they still sound great...I don't think you can find a better speaker for this price, wonderful for music and equally as good for home theater...take a ride to your nearest book store and check outthe October issue of What Hi-Fi magazine, they give the 8.2's a rating of 4 out of 5 stars and the 8.3's received 5 out of 5 stars. If you can live with floorstanders I would highly recommend going this route if you have decided against purchasing a sub.

What source are you using?
 

Silver Member
Username: Rh1

Post Number: 211
Registered: Jun-04
Just a footnote, for $400 I don't think you will be "blown away" by any speaker. However, I feel you can get a good sound at this price. The Athena's are not bad at all for their price, unfortunately you can't listen to the Wharfedale before you buy in most of the country. I only know of dealers in Massachusetts that have them on the floor since the U.S distributor of these speakers is located in Mass.
 

Bronze Member
Username: Jamesp

Mansfield , TX USA

Post Number: 60
Registered: Apr-04
Dave. Parts Express sells a Dayton subwoofer for $124. The guys in Home Theater Forum rave about it for the price.

http://www.partsexpress.com/pe/pshowdetl.cfm?&DID=7&Partnumber=300-632
 

JamesCB
Unregistered guest
What is really important is:

Location. Location. Location.

With proper placement and attention to room reflections and acoustics, bookshelf speakers can perform quite surprsingly well.

With that, my brand name suggestion is Phase Technology (www.phasetech.com). If you can find a dealer in your area, I promise you would be pleasantly surprised. An underdog of the speaker market, Phase Tech speakers are incredibly detailed without being bright or harsh. This company has a 45 year history in the speaker business. The President and CEO, Bill Hecht, invented and holds the patent for the soft-dome tweeter along with a few other revolutionary designs.

Their bookshelves fall well within your $400 budget.

James
 

Silver Member
Username: Ghiacabriolet

NC

Post Number: 414
Registered: Apr-04
Dave,

I will share a recent discovery I had using bookshelf speakers and how the placement affected them.

First, a brief overview of my equipment. I have a surround system with Monitor Audio GR10 (bookshelf) fronts matched with a REL subwoofer. I have a second, stereo only, system with B&W CDM NT bookshelf speakers. My personal preference for speakers is the MA over B&W. But, that's not important in this discussion.

What is important is my second system does not have a sub. At first, I had the speakers on stands and was quite pleased with the listening experience. On another forum thread, Rick Barnes suggested placing the speakers on the floor, and tilting them back by placing a 1" wood block underneath the front. This placement is explained in part as follows (see http://mapleshade.com - go to speaker stands - for more details):

Mounting the woofer close to the floor eliminates the sound-thinning mid/upper bass suckout caused by high-mounted woofers (the famous Allison effect)--and provides a 3 db acoustic boundary reinforcement from the lowest bass upwards.

I tried this trick with both the MA and B&W and the result is pretty astonishing. A further tweak of this placement, suggested by Jan Vigne, involves placing the speakers on their sides on the floor with the tweeters on the outside edges. I tried this too and preferred the sound with this placement. But, both positions, provided an incredible boost of the low end and also provided a richer sound in the mid and high ranges too.

I will be tweaking this further by using 3" maple blocks to set the speakers on and using cones to get the tilt effect and to provide isolation to reduce some of the boominess (what? boominess with out a sub? impossible). But, it's an inexpensive trick and you may not miss a sub at all.

The suggestion to check Audiogon for used equipment is a good one. You can get more bang for your buck.
 

New member
Username: Daves666

Post Number: 3
Registered: Oct-04
Just wanted to say thanks again for all the valuable advice. I feel like I've learned more about audio in the last week than in the last 10 years!

Still slightly overwhelmed by the seemingly endless sea of worthwhile products, and I think my approach will be to take a step back and do more research before an impulsive purchase.

Stereophille and What Hi-Fi have been recommended - any other good sources of audio info out there that's not overly technical?

Cheers!
 

New member
Username: Kano

Post Number: 8
Registered: Oct-04
There's a growing trend towards including powered subwoofers in floor standing speakers. If space is a limitation you may want to go this way... But consider also that this trend may drive down the price of bookshelf speakers and subwoofers to the point where you can get better quality components for cheaper on places like Audiogon versus spending upwards of $1000 on some decent floorstanders.
 

Silver Member
Username: Rh1

Post Number: 219
Registered: Jun-04
dave...the absolute sound and hi-fi choice are also good magazines to seek info
 

Silver Member
Username: Rh1

Post Number: 220
Registered: Jun-04
dave..what receiver and/or amp are you using?
 

New member
Username: Daves666

Post Number: 4
Registered: Oct-04
Vols:

You're amazing! I'm using a very old Pioneer SX 255 [don't laugh - I know it will need to be replaced].

I want to wait to see more reviews of the Wharfedale 9-series. I looked today in 4 magazine stores for the Nov What Hi-Fi review and nobody had it. Has anybody seen it online anywhere?
 

Silver Member
Username: Hawk

Highlands Ranch, CO USA

Post Number: 617
Registered: Dec-03
Dave:

I am sure you are overwhelmed by all of the advice you have gotten. However, it all seems pretty murky as we don't know what you have to spend--that is going to make a difference.

However, a few thoughts. First, you can do very well with a pair of Ascend CBM-170s or the Wharfdale Diamond 8.3s. For the money, both of these are superb products. Another good choice is the NHT SB-3, which can be had for about $470/pair. It is a little more refined sounding than either the Ascend or Wharfdale speakers, but goes very low in the bass since it is an acoustically sealed speaker (-3 db at 38 hz, accoreding to the manufacturer). IMO, none of these speakers needs a subwoofer to produce good bass in a normal sized room and with adequate power. Second, good stereo receivers are hard to find these days. Most of what is out there is pure junk--little better than a boom box. Again, I don't know what you have in mind for a budget, but the only good brands out there for a stereo receiver are NAD (the C740, I think), Rotel (the RX-1052), and someday we have been promised a great one from Outlaw Audio, which makes some very fine gear (the RR-2150). Outlaw announced this product almost a year ago, and it is rather surprising that it has not arrived yet, but they keep insisting it will come soon. Check it out at www.outlawaudio.com.

Finally, most people who want good two channel sound go for an integrated amp these days as there are so few good receivers out there. Excellent budget integrated amps are available from NAD, Cambridge Audio, and Rotel, many listing under $500. If your budget is particularly tight, you can get the NAD C320bee integrated amp for about $325 and it is better sounding than many receivers costing 3 to 4 times as much--it is perhaps the finest value in audio today.

I hope this is of some help to you. Good luck!
 

Silver Member
Username: Rh1

Post Number: 243
Registered: Jun-04
Dave...Thanks for the kind words, I am also relatively new to this Hi-Fi world and I was/am extremely greatful for those who responded to my questions in the beginning stages. The only places I have found What Hi-Fi Magazine is Borders and Barnes and Noble, I know that you can subscribe on their website http://www.whathifi.com/

If you are unable to find it locally this may be the only option you have, unfortunately this magazine is a bit hard to find as in the U.S since it is a Brithish magazine. I live in a big city so I guess that is the advantage I have.

I think that the Wharfedale Diamond 9.1 have only been reviewed by this magazine as of yet. I would imagine others will follow, but these spoeakers are brand new to the market so it may take a bit of time before you see a review elsewhere.

Also, Hawk is absolutely right in the previous post in regards to NAD products. Here are a couple of websites for you to checkout
www.yawaonline.com
www.saturdayaudio.com
www.northhamptonaudio.com
 

Silver Member
Username: Rh1

Post Number: 244
Registered: Jun-04
Hawk...It's great to see your back, I respect your comments immensely. I have read many of your posts even though I have not discussed anything in particular with you. I have learned some very valuable information from you and just wanted to say thanks :-)
 

New member
Username: Daves666

Post Number: 5
Registered: Oct-04
Hawk:

Thanks for the info - great post. All your suggestions are within my budget [meagre!]. What do you think of the Nad C320bee VS the Cambridge Audio Azur series? Do both of these have enough power to drive "inefficient" speakers?

I'm assuming that an "Integrated Amplifier" can replace a receiver in a system without needing additional components [beyond CD player]. Is this right?
 

Silver Member
Username: Rh1

Post Number: 270
Registered: Jun-04
They have plenty of power Dave

The Wharfedales I have are 86 db as I mentioned earlier, I use a Kenwood Sovereign receiver at 110 x 5 All channels driven. I never turn my music up past -20 db as it is quite loud at that level. Whether the receiver I have actually puts out 110 watts is not certain, and I could care less since it's plenty to drive my system. I would imagine this receiver is close if not spot on with the power since I hooked up an Acurus 100 x 3 to my front speakers and funny enough my receiver seemed louder.
 

Silver Member
Username: Rh1

Post Number: 271
Registered: Jun-04
you are correct in your assumption as well
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