Unbaffled – A Tale of Three

In this installment of Unbaffled, I test three different dipole low-frequency configurations.

Up first is a 4 x 15″ driver configuration.  The woofers are value priced models from Goldwood.  You can see something on the cones – that is silicon that I added to them in order to lower the resonance frequency from 30 Hz down to 24 Hz.  (As a side note, I would recommend using a black silicon instead of clear.  The clear silicon doesn’t have a very attractive appearance.)

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I also built an H-dipole recommended by Linkwitz.  This was really easy to build, OK to move, and much stiffer than the 81″ tall panel version above.

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Finally, six of the 12″ carver hex woofers from the original Carver Amazing loudspeaker.  Notice that half of the drivers are reversed – and connected electrically out-of-phase – so that some of the even order non-linearities would cancel out.  The drivers are connected 3 in series / 2 groups in parallel.  The panel is about 15″ wide at the bottom as I was not able to find the 24″ wide board that I used to make the 4 x 15″ dipoles.

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Here are some measurements adjusted to be equal in output.  All measurements are smoothed by 1/24th octave filtering to help reduce the noise from the wind.

  • Green = H-dipole response measured with the ground plane method at 2 meters.
  • Blue = the 4×15″ dipole panel with the microphone at 1 meter, 41″ off the ground (which is the center of the 4 drivers).  The level is reduced by -3 dB relative to the H-dipole.
  • Red = the 6×12″ dipole panel with the microphone at 1 meter, 41″ off the ground.

I was surprised at how close the H-dipole configuration behaved compared to the panel.  I was expecting the H-dipole to show more peaks and dips and otherwise be a poorer performer.  Not so!  In fact, I like the fact that the H-dipole forms a naturally well braced cabinet.  The two panel designs both bend like a reed in the wind and flop around at low frequencies (4 Hz is especially violent).

Comparison_NoEQNext up are some distortion plots.  An important caveat is in order here – the wind and automotive traffic were rather problematic during testing.  The plots are in the same order as introduced above.  The H-dipole plot was the least windy and shows the best results.

Dipole_4x15_distortionH_dipole_distortionDipole_6x12_distortionAnother note is in order… the 6 x 12″ dipole panel was damaged because it fell over and cracked.  Moreover, I had to swap out two of the drivers as they now buzzed.  (I had just enough spares.)  You can see that the panel isn’t quite straight at the top.  The  whole thing fell apart when I finally removed the drivers for the next prototype.

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Unbaffled – NOS Carver Drivers

I have been purchasing used Carver amazing drivers for some time.  Today I put my collection of original hex cone drivers to the test in a full six driver dipole configuration.  The drivers are connected in two sets of three wired in series, the two sets then wired in parallel.  Each driver has a DCR of 3.5 ohms, so the net impedance is a reasonable 5.3 ohms.

2016-03-05 6x12 2mGPTest configuration is a ground plane measurement at 2 meters.  I also did a similar measurement with the 4×15″ driver dipole panel I built with Goldwood drivers.

Compare_0dBWI know what you are thinking, these are the same speaker measured twice.  Nope!  I have added some silicon to the cones of the 15″ drivers to decrease their resonance to 24 Hz / raise their Qts to about 3.5.  They are very close in specs to the original Carver drivers at 24 Hz / Qts = 3.0.  Note the baffles are even different – the baffle is 24″ wide for the 4×15 and 15″ wide for the 6×12 – so maybe that compensates a little for the small difference in Qts.

2016-03-05 4x15 close micClose_mic_15For reference, consider a close mic measurement of one of the 15″ drivers (blue) compared to the array 2 meter ground plane measurement (green).  You can see that the dipole bass cancelation is -15 dB at 24 Hz.  You can also see multiple dips at 35, 57, 121, and 141 Hz.  I had the speakers facing into the garage, so I am wondering if these dips were due to the finite baffle, or a garage Helmholtz resonance.

So another test I tried was to put the 6×12″ on its side and compare to the standing array.

2016-03-05 6x12 on side

A little bit of gain, but otherwise the same response.


New Sub – The Crown is Back

In my previous installment I compared the results of equalization with the SVS AS-EQ1 vs. my Onkyo TX-NR545 receiver.  The SVS AS-EQ1 notched the resonance peak at 40 Hz.  However, it did not do anything to extend the response below 40 Hz.  Bass equalization algorithms like Audessey have to work with a lot of different subwoofers with varying capabilities.  So it isn’t a surprise to me that the algorithm does not attempt to extend the bass – it would be easy to damage lesser subwoofers.

How to fix that?  I know that the 18″ driver can handle a lot more – equalization is part of my design approach.  The Crown XTi-1002 showed up today – back from repair.  One of the nice features of this Crown is it includes a built-in digital processor complete with parametric equalization, crossovers, shelving circuits, and a limiter.

Step 1: Turn off all equalization (SVS AS-EQ1, Onkyo TX-NR545).

Step 2: Experiment with shelving circuits.  The goal is to extend the bass from 67 Hz to around 35 Hz.  I used two shelving circuits centered at 45 Hz.  The adds +6 dB to the low frequencies, the second -6 dB to the high frequencies.

2x shelving

Step 3: Looking at the result suggests that too much attenuation is being applied to the second shelving circuit.  Eliminate the second shelving circuit, leaving just +6 dB on the low-frequencies.  Shown in red, the peak is very symmetric.

1x shelving

Step 4: Notch out the room’s resonance peak at 43 Hz.  The notch is set to -10.5 dB with a Q = 5.7.  Result show in light green – nice isn’t it!

1x shelf with notch

Step 5: Re-run the autoeq function of the SVS AS-EQ1 and compare to my handy-work.  Light green is my shelf + notch, blue is the new equalization result.  Pretty sweet!



  • Subwoofer is in the left corner.
  • Onkyo receiver equalization is OFF.
  • All measurements are at my primary listening position.
  • SVS Audessey calibration performed with 5 measurement positions centered around the primary listening position.  One measurement at head level, the other 4 within 18″ of this position to the front, left, and right.
  • The room has 3 bass traps, one each of the available corners (other corner is a set of stairs).  All 3 traps are 2′ x 4′ and set diagonally in each corner.

Home Theater Left Home Theater Front

New Sub – Onkyo Calibration OFF

I had been doing some experimentation with the subwoofer’s electrical polarity and obtaining results that didn’t seem to make sense.  Reversing the polarity was giving better results.  So I decided to investigate the impact of the Onkyo TX-NR545 calibration.

Onkyo EQ On and Off

The green curve is the baseline.  Notice how nice and flat the bass is from 40 – 80 Hz.  This is the result of inserting the SVS AS-EQ1 into the subwoofer audio loop. This unit employs Audyssey auto-correction algorithms in the bass region.  I’ve always been impressed with the AS-EQ1 – some of the best subwoofer $$$ I ever spent.

The blue curve is with the Onkyo’s equivalent auto-correction applied.  What???  Yes, I double checked this several times.  The dip at 100 Hz is being created by the equalization!  I even downloaded the latest firmware, and same result.  Pretty subpar.  So I turned off the Onkyo equalization :-(

P.S. These measurements were with bass traps in the corners of the room.

New Sub – Now with Bass Traps

Did I mention the game room I’m using for the home theater has a lot resonances?  The formula for determining resonances in your listening room is to divide the dimensions into 50% of the speed of sound.  Sound travels around 343 m/s… temperature and humidity factor into the exact number.  That translates to 1125 ft/s, and half that is 563 ft/s.  The game room’s dimensions are

  1. 17′ –> 33.0 Hz
  2. 14′ 6″ –> 38.8 Hz
  3. 10′ –> 56.2 Hz

The L-shaped sectional couch in the game room seems to have damped the 33 Hz resonance and its multiples quite a bit.  That leaves 40 Hz as the strongest resonance.

Although resonances can be dealt with electronically via equalization, they also can be eliminated by application of damping material.  The usual place to start is with “bass traps” in the corners.  A typical bass trap is 2-6″ of high density fiberglass with usual dimensions of 2′ x 4′.  I purchased a pair from GIK acoustics along with a 40 Hz tuned membrane bass absorber.

First up is the resonance absorber.  It is 2′ x 2′ x 10″.  I tried multiple positions and measured very little impact.  I finally got desperate and put the bass absorber right on top of the subwoofer.  Here is the measurement of before and after at my main listening position.

Bass Resonator Above Sub

Blue is before, light green is after.  So first thing is the absorption at 40 Hz is very small.  I was afraid that this would be the case.  Specifically, that a large number of the absorbers would be required to achieve any effect.

Next up are the bass traps.  The units I purchased are the usual 2′ x 4′ and 4″ thick.  They not entirely composed of absorbing fiber.  An air gap is on the back side which improves the quantity of absorption.  I also ordered the membrane option which adds a reflective membrane to the face of the bass trap.  This reflects frequencies above 400 Hz so that the bass trap doesn’t absorb them.  Here’s the measurement with a single bass trap located in the corner above the subwoofer (red) and the bass traps doubled up in the corner (green).

Bass Trap Above Sub

Wait, they don’t seem to absorb 40 Hz at all, how can these be called bass traps?  These results are consistent with the advertised absorption characteristics of this type of absorber.  Yeah, they don’t absorb deep bass.  The peak at 43 Hz will have to be handled with electronic filters.

New Sub – Reciprocity Test

A technique recommended for finding your optimum subwoofer position is to place the subwoofer in your primary listening position and go around the room and listen to various candidate subwoofer locations.  Today I did such a test.  Instead of listening, I used a microphone, of course.

Reciprocity Test

The three curves above are smoothed with a 1/12 octave filter.  The green curve is the raw sub measurement.  It is obtained by placing the microphone very close to the driver cone so as to swamp out the influences of the room.  The red curve is the left corner of the listening room, and the blue curve is the right corner (where the subwoofer was located in all previous tests).  The left corner is next to a couch, while the right corner is open to the room.

Which to pick?  A subwoofer in each location would be ideal.  The peaks / dips would partially cancel.  In the end, I selected the left corner.  It is smoother above 100 Hz where the subwoofer needs to integrate with the main speakers.

How well did the reciprocity hold up?  I moved the subwoofer from my primary listening position and into the corner.  (Pause, catch breath, this thing is HEAVY.)  The big dip at 70 Hz has filled in nicely, while the response above 150 Hz is rougher.  Acceptable.

Reciprocity Test After

New Sub – In the Game Room

New Sub to the Right

Sub to the right, hiding underneath the table.  Crown XLS1500 sitting on top.

Now comes the moment of truth.  What does my technological terror sound like?  Well, listening was short lived.  The Crown XLS Xi1002 kicked the bucket some time during Tron.

BnC Corner

I did manage to do some testing before the amp died.  The green curve represents the average of 6 measurements about the game room couch at ear level.  The dark blue curve is the close mic’ed response shifted to match the general characteristics of the average measurement.  The red is the difference of these two.

The obvious is the broad peak F1 centered at 40 Hz.  This is a very pronounced room resonance with a long decay corresponding to the room dimension of 14′.  Very unpleasant.  (The room also has a dimension of 17′ on the long size, but it opens to a stair well and a bathroom, so no mode observed at 33 Hz…)  There is a smaller resonance H2 at 80 Hz, and a possible dip H3 at 120 Hz.  The next trend – and this is a good thing – is the gain of +9 dB / octave below 50 Hz.  This partly counteracts the 12 dB/octave roll-off of the sub below 67 Hz.  Over-all this is a very extended in-room bass response.

I purchased a new amplifier – a Crown XLS1500 on sale at Guitar Center.   Ran the AutoEQ feature of my Onkyo receiver.  The AutoEQ algorithm plays a series of noise bursts, equalizing between bursts.  You could hear it extend the final half-octave as it iterated and optimized its filters.  I’ll have to take measurements later.

Next I played a couple of flicks – Tron, Operation Swordfish, House of Flying Daggers, and Pearl Harbor.  The scene in HoFD with the drums is just amazing.  Tight.  The aircraft roars in PH are clear, no excessive rumble.  Quite a bit of cone motion during the various explosions.  The gun fire is somewhat muted in the sound track, so doesn’t have quite the impact it could.

New Sub – The B&C 18″

Next up is the B&C.  Start with the frequency response, measured with the mic close, with pink noise, and averaging 1000 times.  The Velodyne and PVR responses are shown for reference.  Can you tell which is the PVR and which is the B&C?  I double checked my notes, so not sure why these look the same, other than I must have over-wrote the PVR data :-(

BNC Response

Now for the good stuff, the distortion measurements.  These were difficult due to the high output and the driver.

  • 35 Hz, 17″, 2.83 vRMS –> 2.7%
  • 35 Hz, 39″, 5.9 vRMS –> 4.2%
  • 35 Hz, 79″, 12.9 vRMS –> 8.1%
  • 35 Hz, 79″, 22.5 vRMS –> 11.7% at an estimated 3.6 mm peak displacement
  • 49 Hz, 39″, 2.83 vRMS –> 1.1%
  • 49 Hz, 79″, 5.92 vRMS –> 1.5%
  • 49 Hz, 79″ + reduced mic gain by -6 dB, 12.9 vRMS –> 2.93% at an estimated 1.9 mm peak displacement
  • 67 Hz, 79″ –> 0.56%
  • 67 Hz, 79″ + reduced mic gain by -6 dB, 5.95 vRMS –> 1.3% at an estimated 0.95 mm of displacement

Why the additional measurement at 49 Hz?  I have a theory as to why the distortion measurements are much higher at 35 Hz than 49 Hz.  First, the displacement isn’t higher vs. the drive voltage for the two frequencies.  This is because below the box tuned resonance of 67 Hz displacement flattens out.  Not the same for output.  Consider this picture of distortion vs. transfer function:

BnC 35 Hz dist

Notice the gain at 60 Hz is almost 12 dB (4x) higher than at 35 Hz.  That is, when taking a measurement at 35 Hz, the second harmonic is getting amplified !!!  The same thing does not happen at 67 Hz.

BnC 67 Hz dist

New Sub – Measuring the PVR 18″

Next up for testing is the PVR Audio 18SW2000 in a 3 cu.ft. (net) enclosure.

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First up is the frequency response measurement.  Performed with the mic close-up, using pink noise averaged 1000 times.  Red curve is the Velodyne for reference.

PVR Response4

The Velodyne subs have a built-in amplifier.  To match up with the PVR I carefully recorded the gain settings on the microphone.  I dialed in the PVR at +6 dB higher than the Velodyne to account for the fact I have two of the Velodynes and I am looking for a net improvement over the pair.

THD test results – not an improvement !

  • 35 Hz, 17″, 2.83 vRMS = 1.6 watts into 5 ohms –> 4.5%
  • 35 Hz, 39″, 5.92 vRMS = 7.0 watts into 5 ohms –> 7.4%
  • 35 Hz, 79″, 12.93 vRMS = 33.4 watts into 5 ohms –> 16.6%
  • 67 Hz, 17″ –> 2.0%
  • 67 Hz, 39″ –> 2.0%
  • 67 Hz, 79″ –> 3.9%

New Sub – Establishing a Baseline

My current home theatre setup uses a pair of Velodyne MiniVee 10″ sealed subwoofers.  So the first step is to take some measurements of the Velodynes as a performance baseline, that way I know I am getting an upgrade.

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Took one of the two subs out of the system for testing.  Testing starts with a close mic frequency response test.  Method was pink noise, averaged 1000 times.  A lot of averaging was required to counter the sounds of cars passing out on the road.

Velodyne Response

Next I wanted to test the distortion at a couple of frequencies.  I picked 35 Hz and 67 Hz as two frequencies easily within the capabilities of the sub.  My current microphone pre-amp doesn’t have a low-enough gain setting for testing at large signal levels, so I had to carefully manage the signal level.  The first measurement is at a distance of 17″ with the microphone on the ground, making it a ground plane measurement.  The signal level is increased +6 dB, and the distance doubled to compensate.  Then repeated again.  The results:

  • 35 Hz, 17″ –> 3.5% THD
  • 35 Hz, 39.4″ –> 8.1% THD
  • 35 Hz, 78.8″ –> 15% THD
  • 67 Hz, 39.4″ –> 1.0% THD
  • 67 Hz, 17″ –> 1.0% THD
  • 67 Hz, 78.8″ –> 1.0% THD

The SPL guesstimate is 90-91 dB @ 2 meter ground plane for the 78.8″ test cases (equivalent to 90-91 dB at 1 meter in half-space).  Obviously very nice results at 67 Hz, the Velodyne isn’t sweating at all.  The 35 Hz is a challenge.