Sonance SUB 12-500 In-Wall Subwoofer System
Beaucoup Bass in a Box
Some days it’s just better not to defy the laws of physics or other important aspects of the universe. Gravity, the speed of light in a vacuum (but not in a Dyson), entropy, and Murphy’s Law are all there for good reasons. As my mother used to say (calmly petting the Schrödinger cat in her lap), “Pick another parallel universe out of the infinity of multiverses if you don’t like it here.”
When it comes to subwoofers, many speaker engineers and home theater owners would like to telecommute to one of the other multiverses in which subwoofers the size of a squirrel’s head produce bass down to 5 hertz at levels loud enough to drown out a Boeing 787 (which, along with pigs, actually fly in that world). Unfortunately, if anyone has gone through the event horizon that separates our universe from all those not-our-universes, they’ve never come back—evidently, those subwoofers are just too freakin’ awesome. For the rest of us, the traditional laws of physics still apply, especially with regards to much-loved yet much-hated subwoofers. We love the bass, but we hate the space they take up.
You don’t need quantum mechanics to explain that low, loud bass requires moving air—lots of air—in a very controlled manner. (Insert obligatory fart joke here.) One of the simplest methods of producing copious amounts of bass involves a largish driver mounted in a largish box. In recent years, various techniques and engineering chicanery have enabled manufacturers to start selling smaller and smaller but still powerful subwoofers to a grateful listening public. But since we haven’t yet reached squirrel-head dimensions, floor space still has to be cleared for a traditional in-room subwoofer. That’s where custom install—with the likes of the people at Sonance on the horse—comes riding in to save the day, taking that largish driver and largish box and hiding them in your wall so you get lots of bass without losing any floor space.
When an engineer designs an in-wall subwoofer, he must choose between two things: the relative freedom of design that comes with building a product meant to be installed in new construction before the walls are finished; or the more constraining requirements of developing a setup that can be retrofitted into an existing home. For the Cinema SUB 12-500, Sonance decided to go the “I like the legroom in first class” route and build a sub with a back box that’s as tall as I am (approximately 5 feet, 10 inches)—but narrow and shallow enough to fit in a standard 2-by-4 stud wall. This design gives the box 1.2 cubic feet of internal volume; but, obviously, it means this is not a retro-friendly product.
The Cinema SUB 12-500 comes in three pieces: the back box, the subwoofer driver, and the outboard 457-watt SUB 12-500D amp. (The amp cranks out 754 watts if you decide to go all out and use two SUB 12-500 woofer/box combos with the one amp.) It’s sold this way so that an installer can install one (or more) back boxes before the walls are closed without worrying about having an amplifier and subwoofer driver lying around—either on the job site or in the stockroom.
The sub’s back-box enclosure isn’t pretty. Of course, it’s not supposed to be pretty because you’re going to sheet-rock over the thing. But it’s well designed and built. It’s made from 0.5-inch MDF front and back panels with 1-inch side, top, and bottom panels. To further stiffen the box and keep vibrations from transferring to the wall, the inside of the box features two extrudedaluminum vertical braces with multi-layer mass-damping material on the inside of the front and back panels. Because they had a bunch of it lying around, Sonance threw in some long-strand fiberglass material as well. (Actually, they put it in there for internal damping to help dissipate standing waves.) Steel mounting rails on the outside of the box extend all the way from the top to the bottom. Essentially, once this sucker is installed, it ain’t moving. On top of the box are two sets of positive and negative speaker terminals that you can use simultaneously to maximize signal transfer.
The SUB 12-500 woofer is a 12-inch laminated flat-surface driver that sandwiches aramid fiber paper between two layers of carbon fiber material. It attaches to a 4-inch voice coil and a pole piece that’s held in place by dual spiders that help maximize the linear movement. A 100-ounce neodymium magnet puts that big voice coil in motion (1.5 inches of peak-to-peak travel).