Is the SUB really an inferior product?


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I got completely roasted today on another forum for suggesting the SONOS SUB.
The sentiment on there was that it was part of a pretty package but that it isn't capable of serious performance with such small drivers for a living room and that it didn't even hit the marketed 25Hz (does it matter)?

I am not an audio gear-head so bear with me, what should my reply have been?

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There is no arguing with the gear heads; I know because I was one once. Just trust your ears and enjoy the music.

If it is of any use: I was convinced for a long time that Subs are only meant for movies and not music because they don't integrate well with the main speakers. I changed my mind after seeing how well the Sub integrated with both a play 1 pair and a Connect Amp driving third party bookshelf speakers.

The same gear heads will say the same thing about the play 1. Again, there is nothing to be gained in arguing with them, but I believe that a 1 pair + Sub is as good as many audiophile grade set ups out there. And I have heard/owned/used a few of those over more than a decade.
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That's what I have: SUB + SoundBar + 2x Play:1 and I love the soundstage, power and sound.

I didn't get it. I thought maybe I didn't know any better.
And the answer to the driver size argument is that Sub performance is down to how much air it can move while reproducing low frequency music. That is a function of driver size, number of drivers moving air, the extent they can move back and forth, and the design of the box in which they are placed. Driver size matters, but it is the combination of factors that delivers outcomes.

But as I said, the proof of the pudding is in the eating; if it sounds good, it is. Nothing else matters in these very subjective assessments, IMO.
SUB will go to 25Hz. It might be pushing it to ask for 20Hz.

Simplistic gear head comparisons with conventional subwoofers might overlook the clever internal acoustic engineering. Don't judge a SUB by its size.
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They were telling me it doesn't even get to 25Hz (which is what the specs sheet reads).
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I've observed general disdain for Sonos products on Hi-Fi / 'Audiophile' forums. My own view is that much of it is uninformed twaddle, and could be demonstrated as such in a blind test. For many of the correspondents in question it would be the first time they'd actually heard a Sonos system anyway :)

Since acquiring my Sonos equipment I've done far more actual listening to music, and that music sounds just great. I find the listening more enjoyable than the worrying about Hi-Fi equipment, but maybe that's just me!
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I have the 5.1 setup. My own opinion is that the playbar and the play 1s produce good sound (not great). The sub is great. It is easily the most impressive part of the 5.1 package in my opinion. It shakes my walls with no distortion at all.
5.1 is a poor environment to assess the capabilities of the 1 units because of how thin surround content is when compared to 2 channel stereo music. But it does what it needs to there, which isn't much to start with. The play bar/base is as much about looks and no clutter as it is about sound quality. It is the Sub that is the anchor of what is otherwise a compromised set up compared to a multi speaker equipped 5.1 set up for TV; but the benefit of the compromise is much less clutter.
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That's what I have: SUB + SoundBar + 2x Play:1 and I love the soundstage, power and sound.

I didn't get it. I thought maybe I didn't know any better.

The Sub hits 25 Hz. I measured it using a utility on my phone.

This is a similar argument to what you will hear when you get into a Apple V/s Android argument. I am guessing that they all are major Android fans too? Maybe like tweaking and tuning a bit much, as opposed to the walled garden approach that Sonos and Apple take in their products. In any case the Sonos Sub cannot be used with other products and no other sub would be able to produce the kind of sound in a Sonos environment like the Sub does purely because they cannot be tuned with TruePlay. The advantages the Sub has in a Sonos environment are not available in most other products either. No body vibration, easily turned off in the app, can be moved and setup in 15 mins, Trueplay to tune sound to ambiance.

Check out my comments on the Sub here:
https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/customer-reviews/R1FIV7YM4NPKHP/ref=cm_cr_getr_d_rvw_ttl?ie=UTF8&ASIN=B01IOECP6A

I am also curious - what sounds are available in the 20-25 Hz range? Deeper booms? And how often do music recordings and movies hit that range? Again going by the 80/20 rule - most recordings don't go that deep. And audiophiles always make claims but can never prove things technically; the ear is a delicate organ. I bet some can't hear below 25 Hz. :D

You could also argue that subs that hit below 25 Hz will still suffer from some distortion so they have to go below - maybe 15 Hz to be able to produce distortion free sound. But that would affect rattle and shake of the body. So now its now opening a pandora's box of multiple factors.

As for me, I sit back and enjoy the music and movies on my Sub.
The fundamental things about audiophiles are tinkering, equipment obsession and elitism. Sonos fails on all three counts by leaving no scope for any of these three to flourish, never mind that it sounds as good as most audiophile kit, because that alone isn't the core of the hobby.

This is a similar argument to what you will hear when you get into a Apple V/s Android argument. I am guessing that they all are major Android fans too? Maybe like tweaking and tuning a bit much, as opposed to the walled garden approach that Sonos and Apple take in their products.


I actually think the opposite is true. Above all, many audiophiles are gear snobs and, with that, goes brand snobbery.

It's not so much that most of them want to tinker, but more that they place personal value on high-end (and usually, expensive) brands as well as exotic specifications and technologies which are heavily marketed by the high-end brands ("magical" and "revolutionary" anyone?). They eschew less expensive brands and more mundane technologies which are basically as good or, in many cases, better.

Cheers,

Keith
The SUB does go down pretty low. If there's a valid criticism it's that it goes up too high.

A Sub in a traditional hifi setup is designed to complement quite high-end speakers which normally have a pretty good bass response themselves. The Sub is there to fill in the low end that the normal speakers cannot reach.

In a Sonos setup, you could be paring the SUB with anything from a Play:1 to a Connect:Amp connected to some high-end speakers. The nice thing is Sonos largely handles this automatically (at least within the Play:1/3/5 range) and adjusts the crossover accordingly.

But if you are using the SUB with Play:1's the crossover will be relatively high, much higher than it would be with many old-school hifi setups. The Play:1 is a fantastic speaker for it's size but it's not going to give you the same bass response as a high-end floor-standing speaker setup (and expecting it to is ridiculous). That's where the SUB comes in, as it provides a pretty seamless transition from where the Play:1 (or 3 or 5) starts to lose capability.

The downside of that is that, in such a setup, you will have a relatively high crossover point. in other words, the SUB will be producing some of the lower-midrange notes.

Why is this a downside? Because bass notes are pretty non-directional to human ears, and the lower they are the less directionality we can detect. This is why you can get away with a single sub in a stereo setup. In a situation where the SUB is playing notes that would conventionally be played by one of the stereo speakers, it is potentially an issue as these frequencies are more "positional". In some cases you might find you can hear sounds obviously coming from the SUB rather than being more vaguely placed in the room.

Having said that, to my ears the Play:1s plus SUB sound better than my old Kef Speaker/M&K Sub setup. And it also required almost zero tweaking compared to my old setup where I was always questioning whether I had the crossover set appropriately. IMO one of the benefits of the SUB is it seems to provide a matched, seamless crossover with Sonos speakers, which I could never achieve on my old hifi setup.

Cheers,

Keith
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I have the 5.1 and playing music through it the Sub is very capable and worth adding imho.
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Sonos makes a GREAT sub that can be easily hidden, no wires, and puts out decent, solid bass. Can you do better? Sure. Hell yes. But in the realm of audiophile there's diminishing returns. I've listened to $100k speakers that sounded astounding, but not $100k worth of astounding.

Sonos is like an Audi. Maybe it's not as razzle dazzle as a Bently, but it punches way above its weight class for the cost.

Best part of the Sonos sub? It's exterior housing doesn't rattle. I work in a studio with B&W and NHT gear, at high levels all those subwoofers made the floor resonate - even with spikes to isolate them.

The downside of that is that, in such a setup, you will have a relatively high crossover point. in other words, the SUB will be producing some of the lower-midrange notes.

Why is this a downside? Because bass notes are pretty non-directional to human ears, and the lower they are the less directionality we can detect. This is why you can get away with a single sub in a stereo setup. In a situation where the SUB is playing notes that would conventionally be played by one of the stereo speakers, it is potentially an issue as these frequencies are more "positional". In some cases you might find you can hear sounds obviously coming from the SUB rather than being more vaguely placed in the room.


Which is why notwithstanding what Sonos say about placing the Sub anywhere in the room, for music play best results with it are obtained when it is placed in the plane of the 1 pair, as close to the centre between them as possible. For TV applications, placement isn't very important, I suspect.

The Audi/Bentley comment is interesting: I'd would take an Audi for the Sonos price point equivalent very happily. The Bentley is to make a statement about who you are and the company you keep and less about driving pleasure.
I work in a studio with B&W and NHT gear, at high levels all those subwoofers made the floor resonate - even with spikes to isolate them.

Interesting that you mention NHT. A great speaker company, founded by Ken Kantor, who got his advanced degree in psychoacoustics, IIRC, from MIT. A real engineer who knew audio design inside and out, and taught engineering at MIT, as well.

He used to participate in an audiophile forum i was on; the same know-nothing types mentioned by the OP would go against him all the time. They are relentless, most of them with sales backgrounds, with zero technical knowledge.

Ken used to say there was absolutely no technical reason that any home speaker should sell for more than about $2K per pair, but the nuts would go on and on about how much "better" absurdly overpriced speakers from the likes of Wilson Audio sounded. Nonsense. Ken finally stopped participating, sadly, driven away in exasperation. Too bad, he had so much knowledge to share with those willing to listen.
the same know-nothing types mentioned by the OP would go against him all the time. They are relentless, most of them with sales backgrounds, with zero technical knowledge.

Does not technical knowledge beyond just the superficial come in the way of being an audiophile?!
In a situation where the SUB is playing notes that would conventionally be played by one of the stereo speakers, it is potentially an issue as these frequencies are more "positional". In some cases you might find you can hear sounds obviously coming from the SUB rather than being more vaguely placed in the room.
Interesting... So would a better approach be a pair of Play5s + a single sub, or stick with Play1s and a sub for each channel? I'm assuming that some of the sounds in question would come from the centre if using a pair of Play1s and a single sub.
IMO, there won't be much of a difference between the 5 pair + Sub v 1 pair + Sub on the low frequency side because both pairs will shed low frequencies to the Sub. And with the Sub placed in the centre, I also don't see that some consequent LF in the region of 80hz plus which is the LF range that can be localised by ears as coming from the Sub in centre will make a difference to sound quality - in any case a lot of the sound in well recorded stereo music is anchored in the areas around the centre of the resultant sound stage. It is only the recordings from the early days of stereo that have a sharp break between left and right channels that often then leaves an unnatural sounding hole in the centre.

But that is also the reason why having the Sonos Sub "anywhere in the room" doesn't work well for music.

That said I know there are enthusiasts that promote a two smaller Subs configuration as opposed to one large one; I haven't heard any to opine. And in the case of Sonos, it isn't possible since that isn't a supported configuration.
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Kudos for Sonos getting 25Hz out of such a small cabinet. Of course 25Hz doesn't really mean much without some reference to the volume level in dB of the rest of the subs range. Sonos doesn't publish that AFAIK.

Brent Butterworth measured the sub to CEA-2010 standards. What he found was quite interesting. The -3dB point was measured at 34dB, and at anything below 31.5dB the sub produced no measurable output at all. That chimes in with the way ported subs work, and particularly ones with very long ports. Their roll off is very steep. LINK: https://www.soundandvision.com/content/review-sonos-sub-page-2

Does any of this make this a bad sub? No, not at all.

Much of what we think of as low bass isn't anything of the sort. Anything much lower than 30Hz and you're starting to feel it rather than hear it.

One thing puzzles me though. There's a great fuss made about the fact that the cabinet doesn't buzz or rattle even at high volumes. Much of this is put down to the driver configuration; them facing each other. I've been using, selling and installing subs for the better part of the last two decades. I can't recall ever having that problem with conventional subs. Maybe this is an issue with budget subs? I haven't heard it because I haven't sold anything much cheaper than £250 for the entry-level Tannoy, KEF and Monitor Audio subs.

Will £700 buy a better sub than the Sonos? Yes. And will that alternative work with all the Sonos gear? No, of course it won't. Nor will the Sonos sub work with conventional stereo or home cinema gear. Its apples and pears.
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We had a inexpensive rattly sub for a temporary setup, a 20 pound bag of lead shotgun pellets calmed it down.

I have a nice Infinity TSS-4000 setup with the 7000 sub in my main listening area, much larger speakers than Sonos but the best crossover freq from my testing is still 120 Hz.

I have a lot of low frequency signal on a some of what I listen to as I use a DBX Subharmonic Synthesizer and the difference with the big sub is very noticeable if the source has content in the enhancement frequency window.
And in the case of Sonos, it isn't possible since that isn't a supported configuration.
Which is, putiing aside subjective views, probably the important bit 😉
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I have a nice Infinity TSS-4000 setup with the 7000 sub in my main listening area, much larger speakers than Sonos but the best crossover freq from my testing is still 120 Hz. That's what they're rated to. They're column speakers with 3.5" drivers, so 120Hz isn't a surprise and it's how the system has been designed. The guys at Infinity knew what they were doing. :)

I have a lot of low frequency signal on a some of what I listen to as I use a DBX Subharmonic Synthesizer and the difference with the big sub is very noticeable if the source has content in the enhancement frequency window.Even that only goes down to 26Hz which is still within the 20Hz-20kHz window for most electronics.

Within naturally produced music (as opposed to electronically sourced) the lowest note comes from a 32ft organ pipe and produces 16Hz. Most gear isn't going to be able to reproduce that, so we'll hear the 32kHz harmonic but not the fundamental.

The Low Frequency Effects channel (LFE) of a movie has an audio range from 3Hz to 120Hz. There are only a few films that get down to the lower end of that range. Black Hawk Down is pretty famous for it. Dare Devil has some stuff happening at 16-17Hz and I think some of the Matrix films dipped low too. Most people aren't aware there's adio that low because their systems have protection circuits to prevent such low frequency energy wrecking the sub.
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I have two of the Sonos subs and I think for the price, they are very good.