I have always had an interest in acquiring bass shakers due to their ability to allow the user to feel bass without having massive subs and for the additive tactile experience. However, I have hesitated due to uncertainty regarding which ones to choose, their potential value, and whether I would enjoy the experience. Recently, I managed to secure a decent deal on a pair of Dayton Audio BST-300EX, which has allowed me to take the jump.
TL;DR: The Dayton Audio BST-300EX bass shaker is the newest bass shaker from Dayton Audio that shares the same design as the Dayton Audio BST-1. With specifications like a power handling capability of 300 watts, 4 ohm impedance, and a usable frequency response range spanning 10-200Hz, the BST-300EX delivers reliable and powerful performance. They are not the smallest bass shakers with dimensions of 7.25″ (18.4cm) by 7.25″ (18.4cm) by 2.5″ (6.35cm) and a weight of 3.75lbs (1.7kg), and will need equalization with a resonance around 31Hz. While it may not be the most powerful tactile transducer out there, its reasonable price combined with its performance makes it an excellent choice for adding tactile bass to your home theater.
The Dayton Audio BST-300EX is a bass shaker designed to produce tactile sensations through low-frequency vibrations. It shares the design of the Dayton Audio BST-1, essentially a speaker motor in a housing without the cone. The vibrating center mass generates vibrations at the specified frequency, causing the attached object to shake at the same frequency. These bass shakers are commonly affixed to furniture, platforms, or objects that can readily transmit vibrations.
They work alongside subwoofers to enhance the bass experience, providing a more tactile feel. Achieving this sensation would otherwise demand numerous large subwoofers.
The BST-300EX is essentially a larger version of the Dayton Audio BST-1. It is built to manage more power, comes in a larger size, but retains the same basic design. The increased size and greater power handling capabilities should enable it to vibrate larger masses and dig deeper with greater intensity. This upgrade is also expected to help dissipate more heat, addressing an issue that was prevalent in earlier versions.
Interestingly, in an interview, a Dayton representative mentioned that the BST-300EX was intentionally designed to be mountable on riser platforms to create vibrations throughout the entire platform, a feat the smaller BST-1 could not achieve without multiple units. Also, the representative said that they can vibrate a 90lb concrete block. Considering this, having one shaker per seat might be excessive in my case, but more bass is always welcome.
- Power Handling: 300 Watts
- Impedance: 4 ohms
- Specified frequency response: 12-200 Hz
- 4″ voice coil
- Terminal type: Spring loaded hole
- 35mm max travel of magnetic puck
- Size: 7.25″ (18.4cm) X 7.25″ (18.4cm) x 2.5″ (6.35cm)
- Weight: 3.75 lbs. (1.7 kg)
- 5 year warranty
Price of BST-300EX Bass Shaker
As of writing this article, the Dayton Audio BST-300EX is currently on sale for $90 USD, down from its regular price of $150. For the most up-to-date pricing information, please refer to the card provided below:
The BST-300EX has four holes in each corner for mounting, making installation simple and efficient. It is best to attach them to a strong, flat part of your chair. Also, pick a spot where your furniture does not rattle often because these shakers can make any rattling more noticeable
- Hole Distance (corner to corner): 6-11/16″
- Hole Distance (side to side): 4-11/16″
Using two wood screws, I attached the bass shakers to the chairs backs due to the limited mounting options under the seat and limited wood space on the back. Despite my initial concerns about strength, they have held up well so far. I will monitor them over the next few months, just in case the wood screws loosen. I would advise mounting them as solid as you can.
Whether placing them on a platform or connecting to furniture itself, it is wise to firmly connect the shakers to what they are mounted on to ensure proper energy transfer. If you are not using a platform and have fewer than one shaker per seat, be sure to connect the individual pieces of furniture together to make one larger mass that will vibrate together.
Based on my testing, I suggest using a minimum of a 100 watt amp to provide some extra capacity for letting the BST-300EX flex its muscles at lower frequencies. However, I would recommend the full 300 watts if placing them on a platform, as there is a lot more mass to move.
For my initial tests, I used my Yamaha PX5 amplifier, the same one planned for our upcoming DIY subwoofers. Stay tuned for further updates in the coming months.
The PX5, capable of delivering 800 watts at 4 ohms per channel, proved a bit excessive for this task. Nonetheless, it allowed me to test the shakers without worrying if any effects were due to the amplifier rather than the shakers. With the built in power limiter, I was able to test the bass shakers’ output which impressed me right away, even with the 50 watt limiter on. It transformed my chair into a massage chair. Cranking them to 300 watts amplified the experience to a point where I worried about the chair’s durability – these shakers are powerful. I did bottom out the shaker at 300 watts with an extreme test, but under normal usage I never came close to getting anywhere near it.
I felt the bass down to 10Hz, though it faded quickly after 20Hz. Although the fading could be due to routing through my receiver with Audyssey turned on, coupled with their resonant frequency centered around 30Hz. EQ adjustments could likely fine-tune these aspects, so I was not too concerned. I was happy that I was able to get usable output to 10Hz.
From my PX5 tests, I concluded that a 50 watt per channel amp sufficed for my preferences; the full 300 watts was not necessary.
Initially, I tried the Dayton Audio BSA-200, designed for bass shakers, with a 110W RMS rating at 2 ohms (around 50W at 4 ohms). It featured a remote for seat-side volume adjustments, useful for content with varying bass. However, connecting the amp was disappointing; it struggled to supply adequate power to the shakers. Although I was aware that the amp might be undersized, I still wanted to test it out since it could be a power solution that many would consider. I do not recommend using this amp for these shakers as it will struggle to supply enough power in the 10-20Hz region.
I managed to find a used ART SLA-1 100W amp locally for around $100. It can produce 130W at 4 ohms with both channels driven. Once set up and briefly tested, this amp effectively powered the shakers with usable output at 10Hz.
Now time for EQ.
For my crossover settings, I found that 60Hz was the limit as any higher I started to hear where they were located which was distracting. However, they are rated up to 200Hz and still sounded good through the full range so if you wanted to go higher you could. The exact crossover setting will be a personal preference and I advise you to try out different crossovers and roll off curves.
My Crossover Settings:
- Crossover: 60hz @ 24db/octave
- Cutoff: 10hz @ 48db/octave
Like other bass shakers, these also require EQ adjustments, best achieved using an external DSP such as the MiniDSP 2x4HD. Equalizing bass shakers differs from speakers, as a significant portion of the energy/sound generated is directed towards vibrating the chair rather than producing audible sound. While the vibrating chair does generate a little bit of sound, it does not mirror the sensation experienced when seated, and therefore we need to measure them differently.
The simplest way of EQing bass shakers is to play bass sweeps like the one here, or to use the signal generator in REW to adjust the EQ filters until all frequencies feel the same and do not produce noise.
A more advanced way to EQ is to measure the actual amount of vibration that the shaker produces through the chair by using an accelerometer, like the one built into cellphones. Then convert those measurements to a response curve, and then use the auto EQ function in REW to create the filters. Then as a final step, run a bass sweep to make fine-tune adjustments. I will dive deeper on this method in a follow up article, but if you are eager to give it a shot yourself, I utilized this app, specifically the spectrum graph.
The Dayton BST-300EX responds well to equalization and I was able to get an equal feeling from 10-60Hz with no problem. It has a resonant frequency at about 31Hz, which does need a lot of EQ.
Final EQ Filters:
Keep in mind that the filters will vary for each user due to the furniture they are attached to, which will influence how vibrations are experienced through it.
After around two hours of measurements, I noticed that the BST-300EX remained relatively cool. Following testing and EQ adjustments, it was warmer than the room temperature but not warm enough to cause worry. The larger design and larger heat fins seem to effectively disperse heat, offering little reason for concern about overheating while enjoying content. It is worth noting that this might differ if you are providing the full 300 watts, but with the 110 watts I was using, overheating was not an issue.
For delay I used the process that Roland describes in his article “Integrating Bass Shakers into Your Home Theatre.” I measured how far my nearest sub is to my listening position, which was 3ft (1m), converted that to milliseconds, and that was my starting point. Next, I put on some repeating bass music and the opening scene to John Wick 4 to fine-tune the delay. I ended up staying with the 1 millisecond delay as it was close enough that I could not tell if it was off.
Adjusting volume for bass shakers can be challenging because not all content treats bass equally, especially bass under 30Hz. While watching various material on different devices, it became evident that using one demo video to set the gain was not enough. Some content barely activated the shakers, while others were so intense they pulled you out of the movie – finding a balance was tough.
Dealing with less active content is simple – raise the shakers’ gain. However, this could lead to the shaker or amp reaching their limits with louder content and run the risk of distorting or being too intense.
To address this, we can leverage the compressor tool found in certain DSPs like the MiniDSP 2×4 HD. This tool works by reducing gain output when the audio signal reaches a specific level (threshold). By using the compressor, you achieve a dual effect: lowering the shakers’ highest output and subsequently raising the input level to offset this reduction. This process allows the bass shakers to engage at lower input levels without becoming overbearing at higher levels.
The optimal solution is a balance of reducing the dynamic range and increasing overall gain without losing detail and impact of the shakers.
My compressor settings:
Ratio: I discovered, through experimentation, that a ratio of 2 struck the right balance. This ratio effectively reduced the dynamic range to enable a high enough gain increase. This ensured that lower bass content could activate the shakers, while also retaining enough dynamic range to feel natural and uncompressed. Increasing the ratio further resulted in excessive compression of the dynamic range, while going lower restricted the potential for lifting input gain.
Threshold Value: To determine the threshold value, initially adjust the bass shaker gain without involving the compressor. Utilize content showcasing their maximum potential, including demos and impactful movies, adjusted to preferred listening volume. Multiply the highest observed output level by the ratio, in my case it was a value of 2. This calculation determines the threshold. For instance, if the highest output was -20dB, doubling it results in a threshold of -40dB.
Attack and Release Time: For attack and release time, the only adjustment I made was to increase the attack time which determines how quickly the input gain is reduced by the ratio value. The release time does the opposite; it determines how quickly the output volume is returned to match the input volume when sound drops below the threshold value. I found that slightly increasing the attack time sounded a bit more natural, but I have to do more testing on this to be sure.
For more information on attack and release time, see the Wikipedia article “Dynamic Range Compression.”
With the method described above, I managed to adjust the bass shakers so that they now fit perfectly with whatever I am watching. There might be some more tweaks I can do later, but for now, things are working well.
Opening Scene of John Wick 4: This scene provides a fantastic tactile experience, especially when John Wick is throwing punches amidst a monologue. It will make it feel like John Wick is punching you.
John Wick 4 (in its entirety): Honestly, the entire movie was a bit much to watch with the shakers as it can get fatiguing. That being said, it is an awesome movie to show off bass shakers, as every action sequence is infused with deep thuds and gunshots and constant deep bass notes that will keep your shakers going.
Amaze Dolby Demo: This is the go-to for demos to test out the impact bass shakers have. Dolby added a ton of bass for this one. This demo made me smile ear to ear the first time I played it with the shakers. Instructions on how to download can be found here.
Edge of Tomorrow Intro: Reviewers commonly use the movie’s intro to evaluate bass performance, as it includes bass notes that extend all the way down to 5 Hz! Careful with this one, as it can fry any speaker that is not crossover over properly.
In my first experience with tactile bass at home, I can say that it added another dimension to my theater. It has allowed me to replicate what I have been experiencing in Dolby Cinemas at home in regards to tactile response.
The perception of bass in the room became more encompassing and profound. For instance, in the opening scene of John Wick where he is punching the board, the entire room felt like it was vibrating, yet without the shakers, it clearly was not. It created more immersion to everything I watched.
Although the Dayton Audio BST-300EX is not the most powerful bass shaker out there, it is more than sufficient for a single seat and two should be enough for risers or platforms. I never noticed any strain or distortion in the shaker when supplying it with 130W. They provided good clean tactile bass that was responsive to the changes in the content.
If you are thinking about using bass shakers, they can definitely make your home theater experience better. Considering their cost, the Dayton Audio BST-300EX provides excellent value and definitely gets the recommendation from us.