Speakers for acoustic bass

Hi all, I’m new. I’m considering upgrading my speakers or adding a sub so I can hear all the detail at good volume in the double bass I regularly listen to as a jazz fan.

I’ve been looking at floorstanders and started looking at their specs and it seems to me none of them fit the bill as they all have huge volume roll off by the time they get to the frequent of the lowest double bass note - around 30hz. That’s completely unacceptable for my purposes. So i figure I need a sub. Am I wrong? Please note that my goal is to hear this lowest note and all others very clearly.

Am I off bass?? Any advice??

My system is,
Source is either talk electronics tt1se with talk zephyr c200 carteidge running through some new rega phknostage or a cxn
Amp is naim nait xs2
Current speakers are psb image b25

I’m out, I’ll sub you in.

I’ve never found it really important to hear the very lowest notes on a bass in order for it to sound realistic or enjoyable. So long as you hear the higher harmonics the very low notes don’t seem lacking. You’ll never get the full feel of a set at the Village Vanguard but you can still get a good impression of it. My suggestion would be to improve your sources in order to get closer to the recording. If you go for more illustrious speakers you may simply show up shortcomings at the front end. The best way is probably to improve both source and speakers.

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I get a decent level of Bass and I listen to a lot of Jazz… One of the reasons I opted for the Sonus Faber speakers is their well known affinity for acoustic instruments…

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I’m with @hungryhalibut IMO you are better off improving source & AMP first, speakers will reproduce the signal they recieve

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Forget a sub for accurate reproduction of the acoustic double bass. They can work pretty well for rock and symphonic but if you are used to hearing live jazz and even playing it, then you are unlikely to be satisfied.

When considering speakers, don’t just look at their specifications but also consider how the bass will be reproduced in your room and how well your amp can drive them.

With the double bass, moreover, you don’t just want bass extension but also articualrcy and the ability to capture the tone and textures of the instrument.

Everyone here is giving very good advice, but in my opinion without taking into account what you are actually looking for regarding the bottom notes of the double bass.

I’d take your time on this one and listen around until you get a good idea of which speakers you actually like in dealer demos and then hone it down with home demos if possible.

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But I just spent a lot of money on the amp!

I know my speakers are good value for money but the naim amp must be pretty bad value for money if you think I should upgrade that first???

Hey thanks for the response. That is an interesting point re the harmonics but the reason I bought the naim amp was precisely because when I auditioned it against a rega amp (can’t remember exactly what), and not with my speakers or source, the naim allowed me to hear the actual fundamental frequencies of the bass (lowest note I’m not sure) compared to the rega which distinguished very well between the strings primarily because there was not much of the fundamental behind it. I liked being able to hear what was actually being played.

In terms of the sources, um not sure. My primary listening is vinyl, and my turntable and cartridge sound pretty good to me. Have you heard them? I’m not an expert but I did a lot of research before buying and from what I gathered I’d have to spend quite a bit for a noticeably better upgrade. Like maybe 2500 pounds.

The cxn I auditioned next to something cheaper from demon and something far far more expensive from naim. The naim was better but not massively, both were massively better than the denon. For most of the music I listen to I would prefer my vinyl source to what I remember to the naim streamer.

And by far the majority of people on audio forums from my research would suggest spending half or more of your budget in speakers.

Ow tell me I’m wrong :slightly_smiling_face:

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Me too, I think a change of turntable arm and cartridge will bring out so much more than your current one. What you have would work well in a budget system but you’re a bit above that with your other components. Like Ivor Tiefenbrun 0f Linn famously said put your source first, rubbish in rubbish out so to speak. A good turntable will amaze you.

What speaker cables do you have?

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Hey thanks for that. Was hoping to buy second hand so auditioning isn’t so easy but will see what I can do. One other thing I was worried about if I got a sub is potentially having half of the double bass notes coming through the sub and the other half through my other speakers, potentially with quite different sonic qualities.

Do you know of any speakers that go low, or any way to boost the 30-40 hz range given most speakers seem to roll off from 40?

it does not just apply to NAIM all HIFI speakers will only reproduce the source

there is a brilliant set up by Jason (NAIM staff) on u tube showing how when you change the source, inc PSU chnage the AMP

I honestly think/predict if you add a sub to your current system all you will get is a load of room shaking noise which might sound very impressive but will never be heard from a double bass in your listening room (both my wife and myself as bassists). The problem is that an accurate/complete flow of the sound contained in the vinyl won’t get as far as the cartridge fly leads let alone the amp or speakers. In order for that to happen you need very good engineering as far as the cartridge, if that engineering isn’t great then noise and vibrations will hide the sound.

This is the order in which you should think about upgrading a HiFi
Turntable - Tonearm - Cartridge - Amp/pre then power - finally speakers

If you really want those subsonics then just look for the biggest bass drivers you can find but I guarantee you that it will sound bad

Unless you’re in a long room or are prepared to put in a lot of treatment, the roll off might be doing you a favour.

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Most speakers will go much lower than the specs, but won’t be as loud as the bump at 80Hz.
A decent source that handles well the lowest octave with a decent amp into average speakers that are well set up and positioned should be fine.
Although speakers that have a more gentle roll off instead of a shelf drop is preferable. Saying that, my little Pure digital radio does a great job with acoustic double bass and piano.

I’ve not heard that turntable but based on its specification and price it looks to be on a par with a Rega Planar 2. Sticking with Rega comparisons I’d say that a 6 or 8 would be far more appropriate. As vinyl is your main source, the 8 is the one I’d go for. It’s what I use with my Supernait 3 and it’s really excellent. The 10 would be even better of course.

As to speakers, they are the slaves to what goes before them. Yours are quite basic and I’d certainly be looking for something better, but I don’t know the US market at all. That said, Devore and Shahinian are highly regarded and their smaller models may match your Nait well. I wouldn’t spend more on speakers than on your amplifier - so with a Rega 8 and cartridge you could be looking around 33/33/33 in terms of financial split. If anything, push up the source and bring down the speakers.

As Mike says above, there is far more to realistic rendition of acoustic bass than sheer extension. There are so many nuances in the bass, and a better turntable will allow you to hear these and get drawn into the performance to an extent where hearing the very lowest notes shouldn’t really matter.

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To accurately produce the lowest fundamental frequencies you first have to understand the acoustics/resonances of your room…

Get a copy of REW and a calibrated instrumentation mic (e.g. the miniDSP umik-2) and analyse the room. I can help with understanding the graphs produced. If you don’t do this, then for the lowest notes, you’re shooting at a hidden target, at night, and with your eyes closed - you will have no idea what the result is going to be.

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That, surely, isn’t entirely true. It can’t, of course, (or shouldn’t, anyway) produce anything that is not in the source. But many speakers cannot produce all that is in the source. That is the nature of the beast. Most preamps and amps can produce perfectly good signals at both high and low frequencies, but not many speakers produce the very low frequencies, and many have some problems with the very high frequencies.

I think that the OP could do well to listen to some of the ATC speakers, amongst others. From what I read on these fora, Focal are worth a listen, as well as Titan, but the ATC speakers that I have heard have always impressed.

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And, if I may, there are loads of videos and comprehensive tutorials available on the internet.

But, of course, one needs to understand/know the basics :

  • direct sound
  • reflected sound
  • reverberation time
  • speed of sound
  • frequency
  • wave length
  • peaks, nulls
  • etc.

Very basic stuff in fact.

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Thanks, I might try listening to different turntables, but even if I got an upgrade it won’t help me find the low note on the bass, and articulate it well, if I don’t have speakers that can reach that low without dropping off a lot in volume or becoming distorted. Any advice for that?

Thanks Colin. I had considered that all of those things you listed first were relatively speaking an upgrade compared to where I am at with my speakers, but clearly everyone hear thinks my speakers are great. Who would have thought when I spent fifteen times as much on my amp, and four times as much on my turntable. Do you have a recommendation for a cartridge? That seems like the easiest non speaker upgrade. And given I just bought the amp I don’t intend to replace that anytime soon.

Thanks elfer, and sorry everyone that I haven’t made it clear who I was responding to, I thought it would say due to me clicking reply under someone’s post.

Elfer, what do you mean by the roll of doing me a favour? My room certainly isn’t long.