The apartment dweller’s journey through hi-fi system compilation is a well-trodden path. She starts with a pair of 2-way standmount loudspeakers because: 1) they’re the most affordable entry-point into a range she likes the sound of; 2) they won’t physically dominate the living space in which they will be placed and besides, 3) a nice pair of stands could even make the new loudspeakers look positively stylish; as a bonus 4) a standmount’s smaller box is easier to store.
Speakers sorted, she turns her attention to the amplifier. Which one? There is a dizzying array from which to choose. She’ll (hopefully) choose something with enough power on tap to get listening levels up to a decent level without the whole hi-fi system sounding too strained. She even might get one with an inbuilt DAC for connection to her TV’s TOSLINK output. An Android TV/streamer already takes care of Spotify, Tidal, Plex, Deezer, Netflix and Hulu.
A few months of listening go by and our apartment dweller very much likes what she hears, both with music and movies. Now she wants more. But more of what? A move to an outboard DAC might bring a slight uptick in resolution and dynamics but that’d be small potatoes compared to a whole new amplifier, right? Quite possibly.
Even more impactful would be a change to the room/speaker interface. Steady on, now. There’s no way our apartment dweller would hang acoustic panels on the walls – a multitude of drilled holes would put her rental deposit in jeopardy.
How about a shift to floorstanding loudspeakers for deeper bass reach? After all, their footprint would be no larger than standmounts + speaker stands and she would hear more of what’s in each recording. Here be monsters. Lower bass reach from floorstanders, whilst sounding good on paper, could trigger room modes and create standing waves. Should that occur, how might our apartment dweller adjust the bass output of her new speaker? Or even move its bass portion to a more acoustically agreeable location in her room? The answer: she cannot.
The answer for this 2-way standmount owner might not lie in floorstanders but in the addition of a subwoofer where full adjustability comes baked into the design. Her amplifier’s pre-amp outputs would get her up and running with augmentation mode: slowly bringing the bass up from below to roll in where her standmount rolls off. Failing that, she could try the high-level speaker connections offered by some subwoofer models.
Later, she might consider an amplifier with a low-passed subwoofer output that also high-pass filters the loudspeaker outputs – they’re not as costly as you might think – or she might try the high/low-pass split offered by the subwoofer’s own internal circuitry. Now the standmount’s mid/bass driver isn’t tasked with anything below 80Hz. Hello, greater midrange clarity and ease. With a high-pass filter in play on a 2-way standmount, a subwoofer’s addition is about far more than getting mo’ better bass; and more audibly impactful than upgrading the upstream DAC.
🎥 Camera: Olaf von Voss
🎬 Editor: John Darko
🕺🏻 Motion GFX: John Darko
💰 Ad segment: Jana Dagdagan
Further information: GoldenEar
👂🏻 Bass for beginners podcast:
🎵 Song IDs? Playlists of all music heard in this video – and other videos – can be found on my PATREON: https://www.patreon.com/johndarko