Face Off: Sub-$1,000 Subwoofers
Last month's Home Theater featured an in-depth look at subwoofers. I hope that you were left with a feeling of understanding rather than confusion. If I hit my mark, you should not only be a more-knowledgeable consumer, but you should enjoy the inner workings of your theater more.
Have You Ever Wondered . . . ?
Before I begin the report, let me give you some insight into the process behind a Home Theater Face Off. First, we compile a list of products in a certain category that we'd like to compare directly with one another. Then, we pick up the phone and call the corresponding manufacturers to explain our objective and request their gear. This is typically followed by a long pause, then they reluctantly ask the inevitable question, "Who else is participating?" More often than not, we don't even get halfway through the list of prospective participants before we hear, "No, we don't have anything available at this time," or some other politically correct withdrawal.
I'm giving you this insight because of the scores of e-mails and letters I receive asking why we didn't review such and such in one of our Face Offs. I feel it's imperative you understand that any manufacturer who has the guts to send us a product for a Face Off is worthy of an audition.
My father once told me never to put my name on anything that wasn't my absolute best effort. Never have I recognized the need for this attitude more than in the consumer electronics industry as a whole. The race to introduce "better" technologies is being run by the manufacturers themselves, regardless of the demands of the consumer. It's then fueled by marketing hype to generate excitement in the marketplace. The means by which these better technologies are achieved are more than questionable. Often times, the end result is a product that's underengineered and overdeveloped, so it rarely even ships. If it does, the quality is usually substandard.
I cannot stress enough the importance of quality construction when it comes to choosing your subwoofer or speakers. A manufacturer can have the perfect design, the best amplifier, and an excellent transducer; however, if the enclosure is of poor quality, the end result will be equal to the company's overall effort. So, when you're out shopping for a sub, "kicking the tires" and perhaps even doing a "drop test" (when the sales associate isn't looking) are highly recommended and can save you time during the audition process.
By the way, as you build your dream theater, don't tell your friends or significant other that you're shopping. Tell them you're auditioning prospective components. Shopping is something you do for food. This, on the other hand, is a process. (OK, enough with the political statements.)
I sent up a smoke signal to the home theater community that I was in search of subwoofers under $1,000. Rather than put any limitations on the type or size of the subwoofer, I opted to let the manufacturers decide for themselves what to send. In other words, if they only offer a 10-inch sub for under a grand, then they'd better be pretty darn confident that the sub can hold its ground against a 15-incher, should one arrive. Not surprisingly, no 10-inch subs showed up at the lab. However, I did receive three eager participants: the Velodyne CT-150, the Cerwin-Vega CVT-300S, and the M&K V-1250THX. Each subwoofer is unique in its own right, and I can't even begin to describe how excited I was to match them up against one another.