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mattratcathat

Newbie with 26 questions

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Hello. I'm new to all of this. If I'm violating rules or have posted under the wrong section please let me know. 

A friend of a friend recently decided to get married and move into her place. He decided to sell some of his man cave stuff. None of it was ever really upper end to begin with but I guess at least decent for the average consumer. 

It was

Dell Optiplex PC with i5 2400 @ 3.1Ghz with GeForce 750 ti graphics card.

LG SJ9 sound bar

Vizio E70u-D3 display

PS3

I've always been a fan of big bass in movies. I don't care about rattling the trunk of my car. But I love to feel it when watching a movie.

When I got it all home and set up to say I was disappointed in the sound bar would be an understatement. Sure it was clean and crisp sound but the bass left so much to be desired. The first thing I did was download a test file for 5.1.2 from Dolby. Absolutely no sound from sub. I was confused. I know I had head the sub before but now nothing. I went to YouTube and watched a 5.1 test. Still nothing from sub. In that video I noticed her say "LFE channel". This was a brand new term for me. So I started Googling it. Since then I've looked for setting and so forth and still coming up empty handed.

Last night after stumbling across this site (Good stuff. I like the idea of finding the best scenes for bass and going straight to them.) I had the idea of just slowly building my own system. (That's where you guys come in) My first thought was that since my GPU has 2 HDMI ports I could start with receiver, amp (needed now?) and sub and leave the other stuff in place until I added other speakers. 

I'm not really looking to rattle my neighbors windows but if they heard it every now and then it wouldn't bother me. 

The thought of a wireless sub has my attention. Do I really need to stay away from it? As far a the sub goes I'm not really willing to give up quality for this convince. Possibly with the rear speakers later but not the sub.

Do need to ditch the graphics card and get a sound card? Possible I can run both and let each handle it's own stuff?

What are some terms I need to be looking at when considering the sub, receiver and amp? Reccomndations?

Any clues on no LFE sound on other stuff?

Please let me know if I have broken the rules here or posted in the wrong section. 

 

Edited by mattratcathat

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Hmm.  Lots of questions here.  For the time being, you could try some basic troubleshooting for the "sub".  Play some bass heavy music and put your ear right up to the sub.  Does it make any sound then?  Subs typically don't just handle the "LFE" channel, especially on a soundbar system.  If the sub doesn't make sound with just music, then try to figure out why it isn't working.  If it does make sound, then it's likely that there is a configuration problem on the PC that is preventing the soundbar from receiving a full 5.1/7.1/Atmos signal including the LFE  channel.  Do you hear sound from the soundbar when the Atmos test file tests the "surround" or "overhead" channels?

With that said, a soundbar micro size "sub" is not going to deliver much bass.  Note I put "sub" in quotes because the sub included in that soundbar hardly qualifies as such.  Some people around here, myself included, use mid-range drivers that are larger than what's in that "sub".  Furthermore, chances are that it's not just "sub bass" frequencies (e.g., below 100 Hz) that are being diverted to that unit because the soundbar uses drivers that are very tiny.

I don't recommend trying to use the soundbar with a separate external sub.  Even if it can be made to work, the soundbar is probably specifically designed to be used with its included "sub" and may need the unit to handle frequencies that are higher than a true sub in a higher performing system would typically handle.  As such, you'll likely leave a lot of performance on the table doing this.

For a more capable system with serious sub capability, plan on obtaining at a minimum: an A/V receiver (AVR) and front left/right speakers.  Decent speakers will probably do more than the soundbar with its sub can do.  Once the speakers are squared away, then go for the sub(s).  (Multiples are usually better.)  A center and/or one or more surround speakers is also highly recommended, but you can live without them when you're just getting started..  You may or may not need amps for the subs and/or speakers, depending on what kind of subs you buy or build.  Most commercial subs and some speakers have the amp built-in.

Do you consider yourself to be DIY friendly?  If you are willing to build your own speakers and subs, you can achieve much more performance for the dollar, albeit at the "cost" of your own labor.

I'd argue that the speaker selection is probably the most important choice you make for a system.  Most "good" subs offer suitable sound quality within their capability, and if you want more bass than your subs are capable of, you can just add more of them.  The same is not true for speakers which must be replaced if you want better quality or more output.

I consider the bass range to be everything below 250 Hz, even though subs are typically only used below 100 Hz.  In my experience, speakers contribute a lot to both the bass sound and tactile feel.  Weak speakers can really hold back a capable sub system.  Sadly, I don't think most consumer speakers are really any good.  The vast majority these days are just too small and inefficient.  By inefficient, I mean that they don't produce much SPL even with a lot of amp power.  Often their spectrum is tilted to the top to make them sound "detailed" (but not accurate) and louder than they should, at the expense of good bass impact.  Very few speakers have a truly neutral spectrum, which IMO offers the best in terms of both detail and impact.  Even the vast majority of "high end" speakers are far from neutral.  As such, it's important to realize that many speakers that cost only a few hundred dollars can sound just as good or better than speakers costing thousands.  Many people like using pro-style speakers for movies, even speakers designed for specifically cinema.  In a home where you are sitting a lot closer, these will likely deliver plenty of powerful sound without any need for external amps.  You can also find a lot of DIY designs that look and perform much like (if not better than) cinema speakers.

One last point.  If your speaker shopping leads you to choose something that is either inefficient (needs lots of power to play as loud as you want) or is self-powered (particularly common among some pro-style speakers), you'll need an AVR with pre-amp outputs.  These AVRs are a lot more expensive than the lower end models, unfortunately, but it's better to buy what you need the first time.  For that matter, if you are serious about using an external amplification (either separate amps or built-in to the speakers), you may consider shopping for an A/V processor instead of a receiver.  A processor has only pre-outs and no amps built-in, so it can't power speakers directly, but it uses less power and runs cooler as well as being more likely to offer high quality XLR outputs, for example.

Anyway, this should give you some things to think about.  Note that this forum is pretty strongly focused on subs and doesn't get a lot of traffic.  You can get a lot more input if you post on a place like AVSForum.  It's a pretty big place, and I think it has a dedicated newbie forum.  However, if you are seriously interested in going the DIY route, I recommend putting your first post in their DIY forum instead of the regular newbie forum.  There're lots of people there that'd be happy to assist, err indoctrinate you into this hobby and can walk you through designing a very capable system including subs that can deliver everything you crave and more.  It's not about "rattling your trunk" or deafening yourself, either.  Quality reproduction of sound takes a lot of horsepower, so to speak, but if done well, the results are astounding and incomparable to what you're probably used to at a typical cinema or home system.

Good luck!

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SME, Many thanks for the info. As far as being DYI capable goes...yes. While reading here initially I came across some stuff about  building your own and had a fleeting thought that it wouldn't be a bad idea. My problem is knowledge. But I guess that'll come with time. I'm going to research that idea before pulling the trigger on buying anything yet.

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If you are capable and willing to invest the time to research and build, DIY is a great idea.  Definitely check out the DIY section on AVSForum as lots of people document their efforts there.  Some useful info to have is what kind of space you are working with, what your listening preferences are, and what your budget is.  Being new to this, you probably have little idea of what a capable system can do.  I recommend aiming well above the capability you think you'll need, for two reasons:

First of all, systems often sound "too loud" simply because they are being pushed too close to their limits.  It's usually a good idea to have a bit more capability than you actually use so you avoid even approaching those limits, where things can begin to sound harsh.  Second, once you experience the sound from a clean system with the volume turned up more, you may find you like turning it up higher than you thought you would.

When choosing speakers for playing movies, a common guideline is to choose something that can play at cinema reference level with ease.  Even though you probably won't play that high in practice (in part because cinema reference is actually a lot louder in a home than in a theater), the extra headroom will still be beneficial if you decide to use some kind of EQ (including room EQ) or for supporting boosted bass levels in general.  Most speakers run out of gas in the bass before the mids and highs, and it's the bass that tends to be the most demanding part of the soundtrack.  For example, I typically listen around 5 dB below reference, but the bass response of my speakers and subs is boosted more than enough to make up the difference.

Anyway, good luck on AVSForum, and feel free to ask more questions here.  You'll probably get more responses though if they have to do with subs.  ;)

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