One could argue that it’s silly to make a subwoofer look nice. Most subs get shoved into out-of-the-way places where even the most exotic wenge veneer, doused in seven coats of hand-rubbed lacquer and applied to gracefully arcing side panels, won’t really look any better than the cheapest black vinyl wrap glued over a plain rectangular box.
Those who find ugliness a virtue in subwoofers will love SVS’ new $769 PB12-NSD, which is about as plain as subwoofers get.
Romantics see Italy as a place of rich history and sophisticated culture. Not me. As a non-romantic, I can think of Italy only as the birthplace of the Fiat 128 that often left me walking instead of driving, and the location of a honeymoon in which I fought frenzied traffic and struggled to find a decent meal.
Televisions, receivers, and speakers are important to the home theater experience, but the subwoofer is the only component that regularly gets pushed to its limits — or beyond. The laws of physics dictate that producing clean, powerful, deep bass requires drivers that displace lots of air, and amps powerful enough to push them.
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.
I can tell you in one paragraph how to set up a pair of small speakers, but I could write a book about setting up subwoofers. It’s the most challenging aspect of home audio because the resonances in a room tend to stress certain bass frequencies and strangle others.
The Power Sound Audio XV15’s sole concession to design is that, besides the stock satin-black finish, you can get the sub in your choice of five wood finishes for an extra $150. Otherwise, it’s a big, ugly box, standing 23 inches high and weighing 75 pounds. It packs a 15-inch woofer — the biggest of any sub in this test — powered by a BASH amp rated at 500 watts RMS, 1,000 watts peak.
Over the course of this past week, our reviewers Brent Butterworth and Michael Trei examined six current subwoofer offerings, ranging from the simple to the feature packed, from Monoprice's $84 MSUB-A122 to Wisdom Audio's genre-defying $4,000 SCS, with entries from sub mainstays Velodyne, Cadence, SVS, and Sunfire along the way.
Audiophiles know Sonus Faber as the creator of beautiful speakers handcrafted in Italy. The very name is Latin for “artisanal sound.” But as anyone who has ever visited Whole Foods Market knows, “artisanal” usually means “expensive” — and indeed, Sonus Faber speakers have always been expensive. Until now.
From an audio standpoint, the CEDIA Expo used to be little more than a showcase for in-wall speakers and other products built mainly for multiroom systems and custom home theaters. But with the decline in home sales over the last few years, the custom market isn't so hot anymore.
For subwoofer designers, the laws of physics boil down to: Small box, low cost, high output — pick any two. You can always shrink the enclosure, but to get decent output from it, you’ll need a high-powered amp and a beefy driver. And if you shrink the box way down, as Sunfire did with its new Atmos subwoofer, you’ll need to go even more extreme.
Calling a product “the best X ever” is a foolish mistake for a reviewer to make — but it’s a mistake I’ve made on more than one occasion. There was that projector that looked really great but was completely outclassed by a less-expensive model just one month later.
Check it out: 12-inch driver, 150-watt amp, and a really nice-looking curved enclosure, all for a mere $84.10 (plus $9.72 shipping and handling). If you asked me how inexpensively someone could sell a 12-inch subwoofer—and I’m talking everyday prices, not blowouts on eBay or Amazon — I’d have probably guessed $200, and that would be for something really ugly and cheap-looking.
I would never do what SVS did with its new subwoofer, the SB13-Plus. The company originally sent me a review sample last fall, but despite the fact that it sounded (and measured) great, SVS asked me to hold the review while its engineers tweaked the sub’s Sledge STA-1000D amplifier. It took months for the new amplifier to arrive.