Feb 2019: Recent update regarding speakers. Gone from traditional U-frame baffle to ladder frame to 'Scaffold Frame' ! Not to everyone's taste, admittedly, but after going baffle-less as an experiment. I was so shocked by the
result, there is no going back! Please click here to see loudspeaker history.
The metal scaffold transfers much less energy into the old wooden ladder frame which I was always struggling with. Careful isolation was needed for the full range units. With this new design, the weight of the magnets (heaviest part) is now supported by a simple cable which provides the best isolation. Construction is also very simple.
I am using a quad array of PRV 5MR450-NDY 'full range' (rolls off 150Hz) drivers partnered with a pair of reversed Dayton UM18 woofers (updated from 15"). Reversing the woofers simply makes construction easier.
The 18's allow me to play at greater volume without frying coils.
I swapped over from the Alpair FR used in the U-frame mainly because the PRV's have a rigid surround and only extend to 150Hz meaning they dont flap about trying to reproduce the lower frequencies. They also go much louder than the delicate Alpairs, are more efficient & dynamic.
The 18" AE (Acoustic Elegance) Dipole woofers have been replaced by the Dayton 15" 390s and now UM18's. These have much heavier fiberglass cones and a more powerful motor. Arranged in series, they give more depth and slam, take more watts and yield higher SPL's without complaining. They generally take more abuse and dont bottom out as easily as the AE's. I found I get REAL bass with heavier inefficient woofers vs lighter more efficient designs.
In this F.A.S.T. configuration
(FullRange Assisted Subwoofer Technology) there is no crossover to sap
efficiency and resolution. The FR connects direct to the main amp &
handles from 250Hz up to 16k.
Dispensing with the baffle has resulted in a clearer more open sound. I guess the baffle was contributing to some muddying. Also imaging has improved, and the bass couples better with the room creating fewer modes. As as a result I was able to push the speakers back closer to the rear wall.
I have found the UM18's need no eq to compensate for for bass baffle losses. This was a surprise to me as these units seem to deliver bass down to 20hz with amazing slam!
The disadvantage of using inefficient woofers is they need a lot of power, but watts come cheap with the Behringer NX6000D's. The built in Digital Signal Processor makes setting the crossover point a breeze & also iron out room modes.
A pair of Behringer NX6000D's power the 18" woofers. This is primarily PA concert venue Class D full range amp. Not sure what it sounds like full range, but from 20 - 300Hz & it sounds great! Delivers effortless distortion free power, control & resolution..........everything you want in a sub amp.
The DSP section just plugs into a laptop via USB & uses software available from the Behringer site. All relevant parameters can be adjusted in real time from your listening position. The crossover page allows seamless integration with the full range unit. There is a choice of 4 variable slopes, plus crossover point & gain. There is also an 8 filter Parametric EQ page to set compensation for room modes & baffle deficiencies.
This amp has the added feature of a user replaceable input cap which acts as a selectable high pass filter stopping unecessary low frequencies (already handled by the woofer) from reaching the Full Range driver. This has a dramatic effect of cleaning up the sound, I think mainly because the amp isn't having to work so hard reproducing the lower frequencies.
One the back are outputs linked directly to the volume control to drive the sub amp.
Chord Qutest / Fanless PC is the latest upgrade. Much easier to setup & control from phone via wifi.
The Qutest unit is bullet-proof playing all formats reliably. This is a mains operated unit, but I have found benefits running from a battery pack and also using an isolation platform. Sound really on a par or better than vinyl, so this has become my main go-to for playing music.
I would describe the sound from this system as dynamic, musical, but full of detail. Also unforgiving of poor recordings..........
The small PRV cones are very light & fast, especially with percussive instruments. They produce an incredible amount of treble.....hard to believe there isnt a tweeter in the system. If I listen to a tweetered system now, it sounds disjointed!
The twin PRV's have improved efficiency, dynamics, image focus and detail. Also seem smoother.
The woofers driven by the Behringers integrate seamlessly with the PRVs. They go floor-shakingly deep when the signal is present but there is no boom from room resonances such is the control from the PEQ. For serious bass I believe the woofer needs to be actively driven with PEQ. Control of the room modes is a necessity.
I can play a wide range of music on this system from softer accoustic jazz material to pumped up Level 42 playing at realistic levels. Modern electronic music which I was never too keen on makes sense now that I can hear/feel that bottom octave. Kraftwerk, Depeche mode never sounded so good not to mention the more modern Junior Boys and London Grammar. The system delivers it all in a musical, fatigue-free fashion.