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Brent Butterworth

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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.

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Brent Butterworth Posted: Feb 24, 2014 2 comments
Five Subwoofer Masters Explain How They Work Their Magic

Subwoofer design has undergone a revolution. No, the physics of woofers, amplifiers, and enclosures haven’t changed. But new technologies have made it possible to push the bass-ic laws of nature to their limits, such that the best of today’s inexpensive subwoofers can outperform many of the top models from 15 or 20 years ago.

Affordable digital audio processing lets designers tune subwoofers in ways the engineers of the 1990s could only have imagined. High-efficiency amplifiers pound out powerful bass from boxes hardly bigger than a basketball. New speaker drivers use high-tech materials to produce sound levels that would have pushed older models way past the breaking point.

Since things are so different now, we thought this would be a great time to revisit some of the fundamentals of subwoofer design and examine how the old rules might have changed in the digital age.

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Brent Butterworth Posted: Feb 24, 2014 0 comments
Chris Hagen is acoustic systems development engineer for Velodyne, a company that, despite its recent forays into headphones, has been primarily a subwoofer specialist since its founding in 1983. Chris has also worked as an engineer for the consumer division of JBL, and for M&K Sound. Excerpts from this interview appear in the feature story “Subwoofers: The Guts and the Glory.”

S&V: What’s the most important in a subwoofer: the driver, the enclosure, or the amplifier?
CH: Being a system engineer, I believe all of it’s important. A poor-quality part in just one of the areas can mess up the whole product. For instance, no sub with a leaky enclosure is going to sound good no matter what amp or driver you use. Or if you tune the sub in an environment [room] that’s not appropriate to tune in, it’s going to sound bad regardless of the components you use.

S&V: Do you have a preference for ported, sealed, or passive-radiator subwoofers? How do the design decisions differ among those three?

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Brent Butterworth Posted: Feb 23, 2014 0 comments
Tom Vodhanel is president and founder of Power Sound Audio, an Ohio-based company that specializes in subwoofers and sells direct through its website. Tom is also known as the “V” in SVS, another company that started out as a subwoofer specialist, and which he co-founded. Excerpts from this interview appear in the feature story “Subwoofers: The Guts and the Glory.”

S&V: What’s the most important in a subwoofer: the driver, the enclosure or the amplifier?
TV: You hit the big three. You can optimize any of the two, but if the third one is off you’ve got a problem. They maximize the capabilities of each other. Now with DSP [digital signal processing] available in so many of the amplifiers, you get more wiggle room. You can adapt an amp to a smaller enclosure and have it still work really well, and DSP allows you to do that adaptation better and much quicker than you could with analog. But if you miss any of those three, a really good design can turn into an average design.

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Brent Butterworth Posted: Feb 23, 2014 0 comments
Ed Mullen so impressed everyone with his subwoofer smarts (and even temperament) as a participant on Internet audio forums that SVS—a company that has mostly specialized in subwoofers, but is now putting equal effort into speakers—hired him. He now enjoys a rep among home theater enthusiasts as one of the guys to call for advice about subs. Excerpts from this interview appear in the feature story “Subwoofers: The Guts and the Glory.”

S&V: What’s the most important aspect of a subwoofer: the driver, the enclosure, or the amplifier?
EM: SVS takes a holistic approach to sub design. It’s very possible to use high-quality components that don’t work well together, and the results will not be optimal. We look at the end-user application, then develop a list of components for that application. You’ve got to match enclosure size, the form factor, the amplifier power, and the driver itself...

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Brent Butterworth Posted: Feb 23, 2014 0 comments
Dr. Poh Hsu has a doctorate in civil engineering from MIT, but his passion for audio and experiments in subwoofer design led him to found his own speaker company in 1991. His subs quickly earned a reputation for high output, outstanding sound quality and great value, and he’s still at it today. Excerpts from this interview appear in the feature story “Subwoofers: The Guts and the Glory.”

S&V: What do you believe are the major determiners of subwoofer sound quality? Driver? Amp? Loading? Enclosure? DSP tuning? Etc.

PH: It is how they are all designed to work together synergistically. No one factor stands out.

S&V: What drives your decision to go with sealed, ported, or passive radiator loading in a particular sub? Is one or the other particularly suited for a certain environment...

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Brent Butterworth Posted: Feb 23, 2014 0 comments
Andrew Welker is a mainstay of the Canadian speaker engineering community, now heading up most of the design work for Axiom audio after a dozen years working on the Mirage and Energy brands at Audio Products International (since purchased by Klipsch and VOXX International).Excerpts from this interview appear in the feature story “Subwoofers: The Guts and the Glory.”

S&V: What’s the most important aspect of a subwoofer: the driver, the enclosure, or the amplifier?
AW: I don’t think there’s any one thing that makes a good subwoofer. A major determiner is that the design is balanced, so everything’s made to work together. To say the driver is most important, well, I can make a woofer that handles 1,000 watts all day long, but if I stick it in a cabinet that doesn’t load it properly, there’s no point in having that glorious woofer in the system.

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Brent Butterworth Posted: Jan 14, 2014 1 comments

Performance
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $3,999/pair

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Precise, lifelike imaging
Intimate vocal sound
Well-defined and satisfying bass
Minus
Midrange slightly constricted

THE VERDICT
One of the best sub-$5K speakers you can buy

Nobody wants to be stuck in the middle. Nobody wants the middle seat in the car or on the plane. Nobody wants to be the middle child, stuck between the more accomplished older sibling and the cuter baby. And hardly anyone wants “good for the money”; we want the best or the cheapest.

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Brent Butterworth Posted: Jan 10, 2014 Published: Jan 11, 2014 1 comments

While Infinity's been a successful brand in factory car audio for decades, Harman International's enthusiasm for the marque on home products has waxed and waned over the years. With the new Reference Series, Infinity's trying to re-establish its cred in the living room.

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Brent Butterworth Posted: Jan 10, 2014 Published: Jan 11, 2014 0 comments

When I tested one of JBL's original Studio Series speakers a few years ago, I liked the sound but never quite warmed up to the wacky look. JBL's new Studio 2 line, which the company displayed at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas during the CES show, has a much more refined look that's more consistent with the JBL image.

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