Velodyne CHT-10 Subwoofer
It's funny when I think back now about how long I resisted getting a cell phone. Maybe it had something to do with living in Los Angeles and watching people in their spotless, scratch-free SUVs: latte in one hand, cell phone in the other, chattering away to someone they want us to think is their agent but is more likely their dog's therapist—or no one at all. Now that I have one, though, I don't know how I lived without it. The same
is true for me and subwoofers. I can't quite say I couldn't live without one, at least for music. But, once I got into this business, it didn't take me long to realize that (much like cell phones) it isn't subs themselves that are the problem—it's how some people use them.
Take the CHT-10 ($499) from sub specialist Velodyne, for example. With a 10-inch driver and a 150-watt amp, this isn't the kind of sub that'll strip paint off the walls with boomy, monotone SPL. This sub rumbles when it needs to but also maintains a musicality that doesn't preclude it from two-channel use. The back panel tells you that flexibility is a priority. One of the first things I look for is either a crossover-bypass switch or a bypass input. The CHT-10 handles this critical function with a switch, which helps you avoid cascading crossovers now that fewer receivers and preamps seem to allow you to defeat their crossovers. Higher-end Velodynes have adjustable high-pass filters, but the CHT-10's is fixed at 85 hertz (with a 6-decibel-per-octave slope). More importantly, the low-pass filter is adjustable from 40 to 120 Hz (with a 12-dB/octave slope). There's also adjustable controls for gain and phase (0 or 180 degrees), a pair of line-level inputs and outputs, and two pairs of speaker-level inputs and outputs. The CHT-10 also offers signal-sensing auto-on circuitry, but you can bypass it.
First up on the demo docket were some torture tests using PMI's 5.1 Audio Toolkit test disc/setup tool and the Stereophile discs. The CHT-10 was solid with test tones down to the 30- to 35-Hz region, which is around the bottom end of its frequency response. Composure in this range is critical for a sub at any price, and you never know what you're going to get with a less-expensive model. With the CHT-10, Velodyne again shows their experience with sub building, as distortion was limited and the output levels remained strong in the deep frequencies.
Next, I switched over to two-channel music, using the CHT-10 with the Canton M 80 DCs (primarily set to small so that I could focus on the sub). I was quickly impressed by this sub's musicality, considering its modest sticker price. Getting subs to perform adequately with movie soundtracks isn't much of a challenge. However, getting subs to perform adequately, let alone admirably, with music is another matter altogether—especially less-expensive models. The CHT-10's performance with Pink Floyd's “Another Brick in the Wall” off of the second Burmester collection tipped me off that this sub is quick and clean, with a good, strong cone that resists distortion but retains dexterity. As I rotated between the Canton woofers alone, the Canton woofers and the CHT-10, and the CHT-10 alone, I found that there were times when I preferred the CHT-10 by itself—and that's saying something for me. I almost always lean toward using the woofers in a well-designed tower for music and only using a sub if I have to; here, though, that wasn't always the case.
Naturally, when I switched over to soundtracks, I hit the CHT-10 with the standard battery of explosions, thunderclaps, and other big boomers. I got exactly what I expected: controlled, well-defined rumble that may not shake your pant legs but will certainly provide ample impact (especially in a smaller room), with an accuracy that doesn't remind you that you're listening to a subwoofer. It was the CHT-10's agility with musical soundtracks, though, that impressed me even more. Take the intoxicating drums during Jen and Shu Lien's first battle in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. The CHT-10 hit these beats with a natural attack and decay and a tonality that you can't always expect from a sub at this price. It displayed virtually none of the dragging effect and slowness that can plague cheaper subs, and it avoided mushiness or boominess with considerable success.
The bottom line is that the CHT-10 is a good, solid sub at a good, solid price. With all of the questionable subs that come with cheaper systems these days, it's refreshing to see one that performs beyond its sticker price. At $499, the CHT-10 is also a good contender for being a second sub in a larger system. As for me, my formerly spotty relationship with subwoofers just keeps getting better. It may not be moving at the speed of my affair with my cell phone. After all, I still can't use a subwoofer to bet the seventh race at Santa Anita while standing on top of a mountain 100 miles from nowhere. But, when it comes to adding a more-physical dimension to what you listen to—especially with movies—accept no substitute.
• Musicality and composure that you don't expect at this price
• Crossover-bypass switch