Is Sub Gain Set&Forget Across Music Genres a Fallacy?

I have a single subwoofer in each of my 3 installations.  Two Rels (S/5 and R-328), and a Sunfire (SDS8).  L/R's are Spendor D7, D1, and SA1, respectively.

Try as I might, I cannot ever seem to arrive at one sub gain setting (to say nothing of crossover setting, but let's leave that alone for now) that works ideally or even sufficiently for all of the music that I listen to (blues, jazz, rock, classic rock, southern rock, country, some pop).

Maybe I'm naive and the answer is simple - of course dummy, why would you think there'd be a single setting that would work for everything?  

It'll sound perfect for certain songs/genres (majority), but then I today listen to Jimmy "Duck" Holmes new blues album "Cypress Grove" (really good), which has a TON of bass (and really good recurring bass on certain tracks - probably a pretty good album for sub setup) and I find I need to dial everything way back.

So if I say, okay, this Cypress Grove album is my baseline for setting up my sub, then it'll probably come up wanting on other stuff, ugh.  I am going to get some GIK room treatment monster bass traps to go on the front wall, so I know that will help.

As I said, maybe the simple answer is, YES, there is no such thing as set and forget for subwoofers across music genres.

PIA to keep changing the gain during a listening session but appears that is way it has to be if I don't want to just ignore the non-ideal-ness of the bass with single setting (not my style).....    If that's wrong, LMK what the magic secret is!  

I anticipate some will say multiple subs is the only way to cure this.  Perhaps, but not an option at present time for me.  Looking to keep this discussion to single sub if possible, as I know it could easily morph to a swarm discussion quickly. 

If sub swarm is the only answer, however, I suppose I could accept that.  But if room treatment and careful setup can get there, that's preferable.  Maybe set/forget not even possible with swarm - kinda seems like this could be an issue that more subs don't necessarily fix? 
There are a few subwoofers that offer multiple equalization, gain, etc. settings that can be saved to memory presets.
I believe SVS Ultra offers three presets with their version of digital signal processing DSP.
Velodyne DD Plus offers an extensive version of remote controlled auto and manual DSP with six factory or customizable presets. A Sweep Tone CD that provides and in room response of your main speakers and the sub/s from 200Hz.

DSP and equalization can vary greatly from auto only setup to auto-manual discreet multi frequency band multi parameter adjustments. 

If your shopping read their manuals first.
You already have the answer. Take any two subs and move them to the third system creating a three sub system. When you see how much better that works and want to try and blame it on the room, or the system, or anything other than the fact its the multiple subs, move them all to the next system. And the next. However many moves it takes to finally sink in that yes indeed DBA is the way.

Then once you figure this out realize there's a reason for the old Loudness switch. Volume affects subjective bass perception, big time. Because of this there is no one magic level that will ever be perfect for all volume levels. So make your sub level adjustments very slight, very carefully, and very gradually.

Go and listen. You will see.
Thanks m-db and millercarbon for the suggestions, and to those who have messaged me.  Wasn’t aware of sub presets like that. 

“You already know the answer” — that’s what I was afraid of. The thought of lugging heavy subs up/down stairs and hookup and dialing in is gonna take some time to build up to but agree probably necessary if I’m serious about making this better.
I use 2 Rythmik subs with a DSpeaker S2 for room correction on the subs and run my speakers full range. I have gotten the response to within 2 db’s from 20-200hz. Was up to -13 when I started. Still different recordings have different amounts of bass. My solution was to run the RCA signal thru an old Adcom preamp I had around, inserted before the DSpeaker, as recommended by them. Now with the remote on the Adcom I can easily adjust the sub level from my seat. Usually only takes one push on the remote to lower volume on some albums. Never have had to raise it. I doubt I am degrading the signal much if at all by doing this. Of course you would have to use the RCA inputs on your Rel’s instead of high level ones or I believe there is an RCA to high level adapter available. The DSpeaker was huge tho in improving the sound in my rather small room. A cheap Schiit pre would work.
Is it "wrong" when one recording has a lot of bass content and another has very little?  If your subs are working correctly, they are just letting you know what's there in the music.  If it seems like too much bass because the last recording you listened to was "just right", it's not the subwoofer that's the issue. 

I have 4 subs in my system.  While I tinker with them a little from time to time, yes, they are for the most part "set it and forget it". 

Sometimes the bass is startling.  Sometimes I wonder where it went.  It's not because the subwoofers aren't dialed in.
bg: fair point. 

I didn’t say anything was wrong with the recordings. Maybe I didn’t explain the situation well enough. The most annoying situation for me is I think I have it all dialed in, sounds great on everything I listen to, and then a guest comes and requests something where the bass is so overwhelming it needs to be dialed back - kinda embarrassing. 

But I guess the comparable is a system with full range speakers and no subwoofers. Assuming no tone controls on the preamp or integrated, this is a no adjustment setup across music genres or songs. Simple, easy. The owner never has to worry whether the settings are optimal.

I was just wondering if it is even possible to reach that level of simplicity and ease with one (ideally for me) or more subs after the initial calibration (Set and forget and still optimal). Or whether there will always be some tweaking needed. 

Sounds like you are very close to the set and forget. 

Maybe subwoofers are so specialized compared to full range speakers and the sound improvements subs offer are so notable that any inconvenience involved in slight adjustments are well worth it if sound quality is more impressive than simplicity?

Maybe I really do just need a second one; dang I didn’t want to go there and not sure how I’ll make that fly when better half already frustrated with how much (junk - her words) is cluttering the living room.
drumnman2: interesting comments on room correction and preamp adjustment.
My lone experience with room correction was with Audyssey (basic version) for my home theater setup and I was quite underwhelmed with the results. But probably that is comparatively a fairly primitive program
I have four subs in my livingroom,three of them are tucked behind furniture out of sight.What you're hearing on top of the excessive bass in certain recordings are standing waves and room modes.Even two subs,some unobtrusive bass traps in the corners,and maybe trying a dsp unit will go a long way to smooth and control.
There are some long threads here about how and why it works already:-)Since you already have the subs think about picking up a spool of wire and experimenting sometime.Also a cheap hand cart to save your back on those stairs.

Thanks. Yeah I knew there were multi-sub threads and that they were passionate : )

My quick 2 minute search of site for sub single gain setting across music genres didn’t turn up anything on point but I guess it’s all related and I didn’t search exhaustively
I don't run REW (more because it would expose things I would OCD on rather than enjoying music) but I just got a Rythmik sub this weekend. I set it up according to the included sheet and set the GAIN at 0 and its pretty close to perfect on EVERYTHING to my ears.

I was just wondering if it is even possible to reach that level of simplicity and ease with one (ideally for me) or more subs after the initial calibration
@kren0006   Of course is possible! The sub settings have nothing whatsoever to do with musical genres!  In fact there's not even a way to design a speaker to favor a certain genre either (and the idea that speakers do that is a myth, although one of the biggest myths in audio).
Hey!  Reason for optimism!  Thanks atmasphere!  I need some work on placement, calibration, and room treatment but I'll keep trying to get there with one sub for now.

The first room treatment overture did not go over too well...."they look like office cubicle walls" was the response I got from her....

Gotta wait a couple months and then try to strike again.  It's all good though -
After dialing in the powered subs on my Spatial X3s, I haven't touched a thing. Tight, tuneful and room filling bass is what I get. Sure, some recordings have more, some less. But it's never boomy or out of control. I just live with what's on the recording. Once you find a speaker (or sub) that does a good job with bass, most recordings are pretty happy with one setting.


     I also utilize 4 subs in a DBA/swarm configuration, with a pair of Magnepan 3.7i speakers run full range. I use my system for both stereo music and 5.4 HT surround sound audio and it performs extremely well on both as ’set and forget’ with a crossover setting of 40 Hz and a volume level of a touch under 50%.
     I know for certain, through prior and extensive personal experience, that it’s virtually impossible to attain an in-room bass performance quality level anywhere near the extremely high level that a 4-sub DBA system produces from utilizing only a single sub. However, utilizing 2 subs results in a significant performance improvement than a single sub, especially at a single designated listening position, and using 3 subs can sometimes even perform close to the optimal level of 4 subs in some rooms.
     From my perspective, I don’t consider this a matter of opinion but rather a matter of physics and room acoustics that has been proven and verified sufficiently, utilizing the empirical scientific method, to currently be qualified as an accepted fact.
     If you’re adamant on using only a single sub, I think your best solution is to first locate it optimally in the room using the ’sub crawl method’ to avoid obvious standing waves at your listening seat, then run any room correction program the sub has. The final steps would consist of listening to as many different musical genres and tracks as feasible while making adjustments to the crossover frequency and level controls until each track sounds best to you. If you record both settings on enough tracks and genres and weight the genres you listen to the most more heavily, you should be able to plot and determine a useful average weighted setting for each control.
     Of course, this won’t be ideal and is a bit of a compromise but it should be a serviceable solution until you’re ready to join the big leagues of in-room bass performance and utilize 3-4 subs in your systems.
     You should also be aware, however, that even 2 subs will provide an obviously noticeable improvement over a single sub. Also, the 2nd sub doesn’t need to be identical, the same quality, size or even the same rated bass extension as the other sub to provide significantly better overall bass response than just a single sub.

Best wishes,
I use 4 subs. When I first tuned them, I used my 3-5 references  (jazz, classical and voice dominated music) to set them. I was very happy as it provided me a lot of bass without any boom. As I expanded my listening further away from "reference" recordings into other genres (pop), I had to dial it back a little bit more to accommodate their recording biases. (Not sure if the engineer intended or contemplated subs in the playback. Urban legend has it that some pop was EQed for car radios).That said, I just found another reference recording that was super everywhere but with a huge bass (but clean) presence. I've concluded that the sound engineer intended that bass but underestimated its effect. I just enjoy it as artistic expression.

Nothing wrong with your system. There is a huge amount of variation in how recordings are mixed and mastered.  Multiple subs and room treatment will only help if you have low end booming issues.  I have multiple subs in my system and constantly have to change the gain balance between the subs and the mains to compensate for the those differences.  

The gain on some and maybe all of SVS subs can be controlled remotely with the SVS app from your phone. Another option would be to insert a DSP between your preamp and amp and then you could control the gain of either your sub or mains remotely with a laptop. Assuming you have a laptop, a miniDSP could be a good way to go. I believe they are rather economical and rather unobtrusive so your wife probably wouldn’t even know it was there.

Hello kren0006,

      I could be wrong but I don't think many individuals find the idea of constantly adjusting their sub's level and xover settings, to optimize the  bass by track, acceptable or even feasible. I know I wouldn't.
     I believe most would find setting both controls to a weighted average settings, based on data of your own preferences, or a (Goldilocks) happy medium to be much more acceptable and convenient method.  Unless you have OCD, I'd suggest this method as the best solution for most but, of course, not necessarily for you.  
     I also suggest the best way to achieve this optimum 'happy medium' is with at least 2 subs rather than 1 since 2 usually performs around twice as well as 1 both scientifically and subjectively. You're likely to perceive the bass as smoother, faster, more detailed, more powerful and dynamic as well as better integrated with your main speakers and more natural.
     The reason 2 subs produces more powerful and dynamic bass than a single sub is capable of, and why it may prove especially beneficial in your case, is that bass is cumulative in a room and 2 subs are capable of producing about twice as much high quality bass since there are double the number of subs and each sub is operating well below and within its limits.
     I think you'll also find 2 subs as being more efficient and flexible in easily producing more bass, or more powerful bass dynamics, in your room when each specific recording calls for it or demands it.

Best wishes,
Thanks to all for the replies.  I agree that constant adjustment just isn't practical.  What inevitably happens is I set it to sound good with the most bass-heavy music.  That probably necessarily undertunes it for less bass-heavy music, but so be it.

Probably my next set of speakers will hopefully be full range.   First world problems ....
Hello kren0006,

    Unfortunately, full range speakers are not a guarantee, no matter their quality level or price, of obtaining good bass response where it counts- at your designated listening position.  
     This is primarily due to the fact that midrange and treble frequency sound waves behave very differently from bass frequency sound waves in a typical domestic sized room.  Deep bass frequency sound waves below about 80 Hz are very long, omnidirectional and humans are very poor at localizing them (determining specifically where the sound is coming from).  Midrange and treble frequencies are much shorter, are highly directional and humans are very adept at localizing them. 
      For example, a 20 Hz deep bass tone has a physical full cycle sound wave that is 56 feet long and omnidirectional while a 20,000 Hz very high treble tone has a physical full cycle sound wave that is a fraction of an inch long and highly directional.  
      My main point being that you'll probably position a pair of full range speakers in your room, and in relation to your listening seat, to optimize the midrange/treble and stereo imaging performance as most people do. 
     This is fine except you basically have to accept whatever bass response results exist since you can't simultaneously optimize the bass performance at your listening seat by independently positioning the bass drivers (woofers) that are usually permanently attached to the same full range speakers.  Adding a pair of good quality subs that are independently positioned in your room, and in relation to your listening seat, allows one to also optimize the bass whether they're utilizing full range tower type or smaller bookshelf speakers on stands.

noble100 +1
Don't underestimate feeling, especially regarding bass, in music. I thought there was a finding that we felt quicker than we heard. Eg. That our hairs stood up BEFORE we heard (thru our brains) a loud explosion.
Hello derekw_hwaii,

     I haven't heard that but it seems right to me.  I've always thought and felt that the most obvious telltale characteristic that you're listening to reproduced music on a home system, rather than the real thing being played live, is the power, impact, weight and dynamics of the lowest 2 octaves of deep bass, about 16-32 Hz, that is felt as well as heard.  
     This all makes sense to me since the bass is the hardest thing to get sounding and feeling right in almost any domestic sized room using typical mass market stereo components and conventional system configurations. 
     Of course, there are other telltale signs that distinguish recorded music playback from the real live thing, such as the seemingly unlimited dynamic range of instruments and the human voice at higher frequencies, but these are easier to get sounding and feeling right in a domestic sized room using good quality stereo components and conventional system configurations.
     However, I believe high quality bass reproduction requires a minimum of 2 good quality subs in the room that are properly positioned and configured.  I also still believe that 3-4 subs, properly positioned and configured, are required to optimize the bass performance in virtually any room.

Hi Tim. PMed you since I'm tardy in my repy and we may be getting off topic. 

Hi Derek,

     I read your PM, thank you.  I PMed you my response.