New audio setup opinions

Hi, all,

I currently have a pair of M-AUDIO AV-40 bookshelf speakers on my PC. They have great sound quality,especially for music, but I would like a little more oomph for movies and games. I'm looking at the Polk PSW10 subwoofer ($100 at Amazon), which seems to be well-reviewed and is within my budget. I'm also considering the Polk CS10 center-channel speaker ($90 at Newegg) to help balance audio during games. Are those good options for the price? Will it be possible to integrate them with the AV-40's? I'd love any advice.
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  1. center channel speakers dont typically come with an amplifier.
    the subwoofer will come with an amp.

    sometimes you can find a subwoofer that has the option to output amplified channels as the secondary output.. as other subwoofer amps dont have any output at all.
    seems like it is getting harder and harder to find these amps with amplified outputs for other speakers.

    if you really want a center channel speaker, you would generally have two normal options.
    1. get a receiver that has the amp inside for all channels (except the subwoofer)
    2. get a plate amp, or some other external amplifier that plugs into the wall, and use it to power the center channel.

    option 1 seems to be stupid because your speakers already have an amp.
    option 2 appears to be the 'get only what you need' choice.. and this is how audio enthusiasts end up with spare speakers and amplifiers.
    you could probably just lay the amp down on the ground and call it done.
    no need to cut the center speaker to install the amp.
    and if the power is enough to run the center speaker at full volume.. then you will have an amp for a subwoofer in the future.

    the only complaint i see from you is, if you use the center channel with those speakers, most of the vocals and normal audio is going to be played from the center channel.. and not the av-40's.

    you also run into problems where the bass tries to go to the center speaker, not the left or right speaker, and not the subwoofer.
    if any of the front three speakers are chosen to accept that bass and the crossovers prevent the bass from being played, then the bass is lost and you go without hearing it.

    that is why most receivers have a bass-redirection circuit.
    if the front speakers or center speaker is too small to play the bass, it will get sent to the subwoofer.
    sometimes you can send the bass from the center speaker to the front left and right if they are bigger and can handle the bass.
    your soundcard would need to provide this option for analog output.

    just because you tell the soundcard you have a subwoofer connected.. that doesnt mean all of the bass will go to the subwoofer, since there is still bass that is supposed to go to each speaker.
    without the redirection circuit.. you might have a subwoofer sitting there that doesnt do much at all, except when there is bass intended for the LFE channel output.

    they used to make subwoofers that plug into the soundcard, and the subwoofer amp would have either amplified or preamp outputs that allow you to connect the midrange and tweeters to the output from the subwoofer.
    this would probably be your ideal choice.. two of them subwoofers, one for each av-40 speaker.. that way the bass that goes to these speakers that cannot be played by the small speaker will be played by the subwoofer.
    and the subwoofer will also provide a crossover for the bottom end of the midrange, so you dont get as much bass from the av-40's
    the crossover can be adjustable to help.

    here are two example of an amp without the crossover selection for the av-40 outputs (the full range goes to these speakers i am assuming)

    what you would do is, get a 3.5mm stereo to 3.5mm splitter (to seperate the left and right channels)
    then get a MONO 3.5mm to dual rca output adaptors (to plug in something for each rca input jack)
    then.. get a dual rca to single rca adaptor to plug into each rca output.
    that is all for one amp.

    when you are done, you will have a single rca connection from each subwoofer amp.. and each rca connection plugs into the left/right input of the av-40's

    with the amps wired up like this, they will be able to read the bass that goes to the av-40's and play it from the connected subwoofer.
    and this really is the better option.. because you would have to turn the rear speakers on to get the subwoofer output to work.
    once you turn the rear speakers on, you lose all of the audio effects ment for front stereo speakers.. meaning no more virtual surround + there will be audio sent to the rear channels and there is nothing connected to play the audio.
    you could potentially lose audio if you were originally using a virtual surround.

    soundcards dont give the option to turn on the center and subwoofer channels only.
    you get stereo (front left and right)
    quadrophonic (front left/right .. rear left/right)
    5.1 (front L/R .. rear L/R .. center .. subwoofer)

    maybe you find a subwoofer that has an amp with the rca outputs.
    i dont know about finding them new, unless you buy the amp and wire up your own subwoofer already in a box.

    the polk you suggested almost does it.. except there arent any low-level rca outputs.

    after scaveging i stopped after finding these two subs:

    these have the rca outputs.. and i would expect you need these to be turned down some to allow room for your av-40's to keep up.
    the 10 inch version goes down to 30hz
    the 12 inch version goes down to 25hz

    and one of these on each side should really be enough to fill up the room with stereo sound, and since you probably cant run these at full volume with the av-40's lower power output.. these things should last you a long time.

    i would totally go with the 12 inch versions to get the extra output at the lower end.
    nothing worse than hearing a bass effect and your subwoofer is playing the top half and refusing to play the bottom half.
    kinda like drawing a line across the screen and using your finger to make a wave that goes above and below the line.

    maybe you want the 10 inch version.. but there is only 25 watts difference.
    and for the extra $20 each.. the larger cones are going to support you better when you ask them to play lows.
    people have said in their reviews that the 12 inch version does play down to 25hz like description says, and that they have also played them lower.

    a huge problem with subs nowadays is that they wont play deep unless the volume is cranked up.
    if the size of the box and port is right, you can turn 'em down and still get the low bass extension.
    by having two of 'em.. you get a much better chance of hearing the lows without needing to turn up the volume.

    and since those av-40's run on 20 watts each.. you are going to need all of the output at low volume that you can get.
    because as i said, most subwoofers dont output anything with the volume turned down.. you listen for it and it simply isnt there.
    and that usually means the output is pretty low when you do turn up the volume.

    if you dont want to buy two of 'em because of a small budget.. then at least do yourself a favor and put the sub in the middle of each av-40
    because it will play both the right and left bass sounds, the sub really shouldnt be on one side or the other.

    the problem with one sub for both left and right.. well if it is playing only bass from the left.. and only bass from the right.. there will be times when it plays bass from both channels together, and it might prove to be louder at that time.

    if you could find some 5,6,8 inch subwoofers that are cheaper and have the rca outputs.. i would say go with those then.
    they wouldnt be subwoofers, but they would turn the av-40's into some 3-way setups.

    having two subs is only going to balloon the sound and offer stellar stereo effect.
    much of which dolby has used to build its empire.
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