Review: Kreisel Sound DXD-12012 subwoofer

On Monday, when I reviewed the NXG NX-BAS-500 subwoofer, I recallled a time 20+ years ago when the only companies that made really good subwoofers were M&K and Velodyne. The "K" in M&K stood for Kreisel-Ken Kreisel, to be specific. Kreisel was the chief engineer behind a line of speakers that were as popular in home theaters as they were in professional studios. When I worked at Dolby Laboratories in the early 2000s, I'd guess at least half of the company's dozens of labs, studios, and theaters used M&Ks.

Kreisel recently resurfaced with a small line of speakers wearing the Kreisel Sound brand. It includes main and surround speakers for home theaters, and, of course, two subwoofers: the DXD-12012 and the DXD-808. Both employ the push-pull design that made M&K's subs so effective. There are two drivers, one mounted on the side baffle firing outward, and one mounted at the bottom of the enclosure, firing into the box. Seems like an illogical arrangement, but this arrangement substantially reduces 2nd-order harmonic distortion. (For more on harmonic distortion, read this highly accessible and entertaining primer.)

However, Kreisel has dreamed up a new name for this configuration: BALANCED 3D HIGH VELOCITY PUSH-PULL-PULSAR DEEP BASS PRESSURE WAVEFRONT Technology™. Obviously, Kreisel is better at engineering than at marketing. A real marketing pro would have ended that phrase with three exclamation points.

The DXD-12012 is basically an updated version of M&Ks MX-350 subwoofer. The original had a front-firing driver; the new one has a side-firing driver. The original had a 350-watt Class AB amplifier. The new one has two high-efficiency Class D (switching) amplifiers rated at 375 watts RMS each. For whatever reason-thicker cabinet walls and/or heavier driver magnets, probably-the new one's 43% heavier.

The DXD-12012 is also more attractive. Granted, that's not hard; the classic M&Ks rank among the ugliest speakers in the history of home theater. The DXD-12012 has beautiful gloss black sides with a flush-mounted grille for the side-mounted driver, and a nice faux-leather embossed vinyl wrap covering the rest of it. How important is it that a subwoofer look good? That's a question every man must answer for himself. (I say "man" because every woman I know would roll her eyes at that question.) The cabinets are designed so they can easily be stacked; the subs are sold singly or in pairs or quads for the truly dedicated (and rich) basshead.

Time to find out if Kreisel's kreation can stand up to the monster subs of the 2010s.

Performance

After reading my review of the NXG NX-BAS-500, a friend commented that I seem a little burned out on reviewing subwoofers. Not at all. But I am a little burned out on people's expectations of subwoofers. Go onto any online forum and you'll see guys sweating the decision between two excellent subwoofers, fretting over an extra 1 or 2 Hz of measured bass extension, or an extra 1 or 2 dB of output at 20 Hz. Sometimes I wish I could just call them up and say, "Dude-either one will be great. You probably wouldn't notice an appreciable difference between them, and even if you do, it's a total crapshoot as to which one you'd prefer."

That might not be the case with the DXD-12012, though. The DXD-12012 is one of those very rare subs that has a real sonic character of its own. There's a subtlety to the sound that I'm just not used to hearing.

When I played the classic "Brontosaurus Stampede" chapter from the King Kong Blu-ray, I thought, "I could ask nothing more from a subwoofer." The footfalls of the brontos felt like frigging earthquakes (and I live in L.A. so I know what one feels like). Yet I could hear the  detail in each step; they sounded like crunches and stomps instead of thuds. I felt a thrilling shake in my seat plus I heard every last little detail in the bass. That doesn't happen often. The phrase Geoff Morrison used to describe one of the products in our upcoming $800 subwoofer shootout seems to fit the DXD-12012 perfectly: "It sounds like a speaker, not a subwoofer."

Another home theater fave, Final Destination 2 (currently available on DVD for $4 on Amazon, so get it) confirmed my first impression. The terrifying pileup that begins the movie sounded extra-terrifying through the DXD-12012; the buildup was as intense as always but the climax was even more climactic as I could hear the microdynamics or inner detail or [insert overused audiophile phrase here] of the impacts of logs slamming into cars, trucks slamming into cars, cars slamming into gas tanks, and a motorcycle slamming into its dismounted rider. The crash simply felt more real through the DXD-12012.

Of course, I had to trot out my old standby, Star Wars II: Attack of the Clones, for its awesome opening scene. Regular S&V readers know I've heard this scene hundreds of times, but this might have been the best I've heard it. Certainly one of the top three. I got an intense shake-almost like a massage chair-as the silvery yacht passed overhead, then a powerful, quick gut punch during the explosion right after the ship lands. I'm used to hearing this scene with power or definition; the DXD-12012 delivers both.

I'm not going to comment much on the DXD-12012's performance with rock and hip-hop, except to say again that it gave me everything I could want: the punch in the kick drums, the pop in the bass lines, and the raw power in the deep bass.

What excited me more was when I played material that demanded more finesse-like the fast-pumping, hard-grooving lines of Michael Henderson, the bassist Miles Davis notoriously "stole" from Stevie Wonder in 1970. The DXD-12012 nailed Henderson, capturing the subtleties of his plucking and the growl of his bass amp. (This was back in the day when they often recorded bass guitar using an amp and a microphone instead of going through a direct box into the mixing board.) My two favorite Henderson recordings-"Right Off" from Miles' A Tribute to Jack Johnson and "What I Say" from Live/Evil-took on new life because I got a better sense of Henderson's groove and agility.

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