BG Radia BGX-4850 In-Wall Subwoofer System
It’s What You Don’t See
A bottle of vodka can’t make a speaker sound any better than it actually does. But it can make me think I sound better (smarter, and of course funnier). It might even make suggestible friends agree if you pass the bottle around the room. However, it still can’t change a subwoofer’s performance. Vodka, after all, isn’t a room treatment product—although enough (empty) bottles spread throughout the room might be just the thing.
I bring this up as a way of full disclosure. It’s become a tradition that Igor Levitsky, BG Radia’s VP of engineering and research, presents me with a bottle of Russian vodka the one or two times a year we have the chance to meet. (We have something of a Russian connection. I took Russian in college. He took college in Russia.) So when Igor came to my house to set up and tweak BG Radia’s BGX-4850 in-wall subwoofer system ($6,995 as tested), he did not disappoint. So now you know, and I can state categorically that neither the gifting nor the drinking had any influence on my ultimate impression of the system. Hopefully, this public airing will make Igor feel like he has to maintain the tradition.
When I first heard that Igor was working with Laurie Fincham (THX’s chief scientist and VP of research and development) on a project to develop the world’s first THX Ultra2–certified in-wall subwoofer, I thought maybe he’d been swigging from one of those vodka bottles that were meant for me. After all, THX Ultra2 certification is for products that are designed to be used in large home theater rooms, typically around 3,000 cubic feet with a viewing distance of approximately 12 feet. It’s tough enough to design a free- standing subwoofer for that kind of application. Coming up with an in-wall version that doesn’t require significant modifications to the wall—requiring 8-foot-tall back boxes or stud relocation, for example—seems like it would be darn near impossible.
Or so you might think. It turns out that, after a longer period of time than they originally anticipated, Messrs. Fincham and Levitsky have come up with just such a thing. Better than that, they’ve come up with an in-wall subwoofer that can hold its own against the best subwoofers of any configuration on the market. And they’ve done it in a form factor that’s surprisingly simple and amazingly easy to install, in either new or existing construction.
Dead on Arrival
BG Radia’s BGX-4850 system consists of four BGX-S12B subwoofer modules and a BGA-2104 subwoofer amplifier. Invariably, anyone who looks for the first time at the naked BGX-S12B modules before they’re hidden in the wall will experience a definite “What the…?” moment. The dark-gray modules look more like high-efficiency space heaters or some extremely bogus ionic air purifiers than they do subwoofers. Of course, unless you’re an uber-techie and decide to attach them to the wall sans covering (which, by the way, you could do, and they’ll work fabulously), your only chance to marvel at their unique design will be as you or your installer attaches them to the studs in the wall. Each module measures 14.5 inches wide by 26.75 inches high and is only 3.5 inches deep (more on this a bit later). This means they will easily fit in any standard 2-by-4 studded wall.
You’d expect to find a large single driver or, as is the case with some other in-wall subs, a powered driver paired with a passive radiator. Instead, each BGX-S12B module contains a dozen 4-inch “micro-precision” woofers—yes, 12 4-inch woofers, not four 12- inch woofers. Each one is sealed in its own individual chamber or pod. The pods are arranged in balanced pairs that fire in phase directly toward each other. Sound exits through a narrow channel that runs down the center of the module between the opposing drivers. BG claims that the 48 drivers included in the four modules have a total combined radiating area that’s equal to two 18-inch drivers. (My math says it’s actually about 20 percent more area than two 18-inch drivers, but I’ll take BG’s word for it.)