SUBWOOFER REVIEWS

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Filed under
David Vaughn Posted: May 09, 2014 2 comments

SVS SB-2000 Subwoofer
Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value

SVS PB-2000 Subwoofer
Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $699, $799

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Room-friendly form factor (SB-2000)
Outstanding build quality
45-day in-home trial period
Minus
No built-in parametric equalizer
Best for moderately sized rooms

THE VERDICT
For rooms smaller than 3,000 cubic feet, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better bass value than what either of these subwoofers offers.

I've loved movies since I was a kid and have been interested in home theater for more than 20 years now. There are many reasons I prefer watching movies at home versus the local cinema: There's no texting or talking, for example, and I can pause the movie if I need a potty break. But the biggest reason I love watching at home is the sound. Don't get me wrong. It's not that the local theater sounds bad; it's just that my home theater sounds better overall, especially when it comes to bass.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Apr 18, 2014 0 comments

Aero 2 Speaker System
Performance
Build Quality
Value

Aero 9 Subwoofer
Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $2,446

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Flat BMR in lieu of tweeter
Clear sonic window into the midrange
Unusual dual-mono/bipole surrounds
Affordable price
Minus
Boxy vinyl-wrap enclosures

THE VERDICT
Cambridge Audio’s Aero reinvents the two-way loudspeaker in midrange-friendly fashion with excellent performance and value.

What if you needed two throats to speak? Sounds a bit cumbersome, right? But that’s how a two-way loudspeaker usually treats the human voice. Its drivers divide the midrange frequencies where the voice resides into two parts, sending higher frequencies to the tweeter and lower frequencies to the woofer. While the crossover varies from speaker to speaker, the frequencies that handle the voice usually get split right in the region where human ears are most sensitive to vocal timbre.

Of course, good speaker designers routinely surmount this obstacle to natural vocal sound, either by carefully tweaking their two-way designs or by going to three-way designs that dedicate a separate driver to midrange reproduction. But the three-way approach adds two more crossover sections, potentially leading to other troubled areas of reproduction.

Filed under
David Vaughn Posted: Mar 19, 2014 9 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $3,200

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Powerful, deep, and taut bass response
Outstanding build quality
Sealed push-pull design
Minus
No built-in parametric equalizer
Pricey

THE VERDICT
M&K Sound calls the X12 the subwoofer, and I can’t disagree with them. This is one of the best subwoofers I’ve ever heard in my room.

M&K Sound got started when Walter Becker of Steely Dan commissioned Ken Kreisel to design a studio reference subwoofer and monitoring system for the Pretzel Logic mixing sessions. Partnering with a high-end audio dealer, Jonas Miller, Kreisel developed a revolutionary subwoofer that led to the creation of M&K. As time passed, word of mouth spread throughout the music and movie industries, and M&K would go on to create systems for leading studios and in-home installations for producers, actors, and recording artists.

Filed under
Brent Butterworth Posted: Mar 07, 2014 1 comments
Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $1,999

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Décor-friendly form factor
Beautiful build quality
Surprisingly easy installation
Minus
Low output

THE VERDICT
The Habitat1 has a terrific industrial design that may work where a traditional sub won’t, but don’t expect miracles.

Almost every subwoofer on the market today is a boring, bulky black box, designed with hardly a thought about how the thing’s going to look in a living room. With its new Habitat1 subwoofer, REL joins the small group of manufacturers who’ve put serious thought into making their subwoofers blend in with room décor.

Filed under
Daniel Kumin Posted: Feb 21, 2014 1 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $1,500

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Powerful, deep bass from a compact 10-inch box Elegant visual design Flexible, fully implemented two-way crossover
Minus
Expensive

THE VERDICT
A small, or at least smaller, subwoofer that goes truly low, loud, and clean—and looks sharp doing it.

What can you say about a subwoofer? It goes this low, that loud. It has these jacks, knobs, and features and is yea big and costs yon dollars. And really, that’s about it; almost all other discussion is so much verbiage.

Response “flatness” from a speaker covering barely two octaves is of little consideration unless a sub is horribly peaky (a few are), especially since room effects invariably dwarf such variations anyway.

Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Oct 11, 2013 0 comments
Performance
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $1,700

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Stillbass anti-shake technology keeps vibration in the box and out of the wall
520-watt amplifier with DSP equalization
Outstanding build quality
Minus
Flangeless grille looks less than elegant
Output drops off fast below 30 Hz

THE VERDICT
A solid, albeit pricey, choice for an in-wall sub.

Sunfire is no stranger to the small-box, high-output subwoofer concept, dating all the way back to 1996 with company founder Bob Carver’s original True Subwoofer—an 11.5-inch cube with one active driver and one passive radiator powered by a (claimed) 2,700-watt internal amplifier.

Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Oct 11, 2013 0 comments

Performance
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $1,400

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Installer setup over IP
Options for wide, narrow, and frameless grilles
Six-band parametric EQ
Minus
Installation may be tricky for the uninitiated

THE VERDICT
Extensive tuning capabilities make for true high-end performance at an affordable price.

When it comes to architectural speakers, there are few companies I can think of that do things in a more focused, more insightful, and—most important when it comes to custom installations—more useful way than Triad. The company stands out in another way, too, in that most of Triad’s speakers are built to order in the U.S. (Portland, Oregon, to be specific) and are usually less than two weeks old by the time they arrive at the dealer’s warehouse door.

Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Oct 11, 2013 0 comments
Performance
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $1,150

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Totally invisible installation
Can be covered with paint, wallpaper, or select specialized wall treatments
Good value
250-watt amplifier with low-pass filter
Outstanding build quality
Minus
More involved installation due to drywall finishing
Soft bass compared with traditional subs

THE VERDICT
Not the first choice for sheer sonic impact, but if aesthetics absolutely demand that no subwoofer or grille be visible, the B30G will get the job done.

Stealth Acoustics’ B30G subwoofer system is unlike nearly any other you’ll ever hold in your hands—or install in your walls. While “invisible” speakers are not a new thing, they’re still uncommon or, for most people, totally unheard of. A speaker that’s an integral part of your wall, one that can be painted, covered with wallpaper, or even done up with special wall treatments is such a seductive idea that it’s a wonder it’s not wildly popular as an architectural speaker design.

Filed under
Brent Butterworth Posted: Apr 19, 2013 0 comments
Speakers are like karate. Subwoofers are like weightlifting. The quality of a speaker is determined by subtleties: well-chosen drivers, just-right crossover points and slopes, and a perfectly tuned, solidly constructed enclosure. The quality of a subwoofer is determined mostly by its muscle: the size of the enclosure, the displacement of its driver, and the power of its amplifier.
Michael Fremer Posted: Mar 05, 2013 0 comments

Venere 2.5 Speaker System
Performance
Build Quality
Value
 
REL T-7 Subwoofer
Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
Price: $5,493 At A Glance: Shapely Italian styling • Exceptional soundstaging • Surprisingly affordable

Could this sleek, lacquer-finished, curvaceous new Sonus faber Venere loudspeaker have originated anywhere other than in Italy? Well, no and yes. With its soothing, elegant curves and glossy finish, Venere whispers “Italy,” but the scant $2,498/pair price tag of this 43pound, 3.5-foot floorstander shouts “China.”

In fact, this new Sonus faber speaker is truly an international product. It was designed in-house at Sonus faber’s Arcugnano factory near Venice, Italy—a building as stylish as the designs emanating therefrom—using bespoke drivers designed by Sonus faber.

The midwoofer and woofer cone material is curv, a proprietary self-reinforcing 100-percent polypropylene composite manufactured by Germanybased Propex, while the dome tweeter is of silk over which is applied a multi-layered Sonus-spec’d coating manufactured by DKM in Germany. Final driver production is done in China.

Filed under
David Vaughn Posted: Jan 06, 2013 13 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $1,599 At A Glance: Outstanding value • Powerful deep bass response • Built-in parametric EQ

Since I was a little kid, I always loved going to the movie theater. I guess it started in 1977 when I watched Star Wars for the first time in Modesto, California (yeah, the place where George Lucas grew up—nice coincidence). Over the next 20 years, you’d find me at the theater at least once a week enjoying the latest blockbuster with a few friends and a bucket or two of good popcorn—the stuff that was popped in coconut oil, not the crap they sell today. Fast-forward to 1996 as I was walking through my local Circuit City and witnessed a demo of the Twister DVD on a 50-inch rear-projection television with a rudimentary surround system. Wow, was I sold in that instant! The next day, I dragged my wife to the store for the demo and informed her that we needed to start putting money away for a new TV and one of them fancy surround systems for our house.

Filed under
Kim Wilson Posted: Sep 25, 2012 0 comments

Performance
Build Quality
Value
Price: $699 At a Glance: Dedicated sub that extends dynamics and musicality of Sonos speakers • Easy setup and simple control via iOS and Android apps • Unique design and stunning high-gloss finish • One-button setup to the Sonos network

The latest addition to the Sonos family of products is the Sonos SUB, which is specifically designed to work with the company’s speakers—the Play:3 and Play:5. Either of these can be paired with another speaker of the same model to create a stereo pair for a wider soundfield.

Filed under
David Vaughn Posted: Aug 28, 2012 2 comments
Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
Price: $2,000 At a Glance: Extremely small form factor • Powerful, tight bass response • Impeccable build quality

Bob Carver is a legend in the A/V industry, and when he formed Sunfire in the 1990s, the company’s name became closely associated with subwoofers. In 1996, the Sunfire True Subwoofer, as it was marketed, was born, and it popularized what eventually became a whole new subcategory (so to speak) of the speaker industry. The 11.5-inch cube produced a copious amount of bass from a small enclosure by utilizing specially designed drive units and a patented Tracking Downconverter (TDC) amplifier that could dynamically adjust its power supply based on the incoming signals.

Filed under
Darryl Wilkinson Posted: May 24, 2012 3 comments

Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
Price: $12,000 as reviewed At A Glance: Industrial-grade actuators • Remarkably easy installation • Can be used for simple bass enhancement of music

There are, and have been, lots of movements in the world: political (the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street), social (abolition, women’s suffrage, and prohibition), artistic (Impressionism, Dadaism, and WTFism), and of course, bowel (but I digest…er, digress).

When it comes to subwoofers and speakers, air movement is of particular import. If you want loud, low bass, your woofers are going to have to compress a lot of air. For movies, it’s especially enjoyable when your subwoofer has enough spunk to cause the floor under your feet and the seat under your butt—and even your body’s chest cavity—to vibrate during those massive, over-the-top Hollywood explosions or through the low rumble of an earthquake. These are sensations that you feel more than hear.

Filed under
Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Mar 13, 2012 3 comments

Performance
Build Quality
Value
Price: $1,799 At A Glance: Front-firing active driver with down-firing passive radiator • Independent volume controls for simultaneous use of high- and low-level inputs

So, who the hell is REL Acoustics? That’s a question you might be asking yourself if your favorite places to shop for the latest in A/V gear happen to be Sears, RadioShack, or Big Jim’s Family Pawn & Gun Shop. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with those establishments (well, Big Jim’s might be a little iffy), but REL’s subwoofers are not a cash-and-carry kind of thing. As a matter of fact, REL—a British company that makes only subwoofers—claims its products “are not traditional subwoofers, but true sub-bass systems.” Starting with this slightly different concept of what a subwoofer should be, it’s no wonder that REL subs require a somewhat out-of-the-ordinary setup and that the company recommends parameter settings that are a bit unusual. As a result, REL subwoofers are found only at retailers that have silk-robed salespeople who have been trained by mystical, shoeless REL Zen Bass Masters to be highly skilled in the ancient acoustical arts of transducental bass reproduction.

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