Attack of the Megasub

While on a swing through Vancouver this week to check out the vintage audio scene, I stopped by to say hi to the guys at Vancouver Audio Speaker Clinic, an old-school speaker repair shop of the type I haven’t seen since I was a kid in the 1970s trying to resurrect the shredded speakers from my Fender Twin Reverb after a full-volume jam on Black Sabbath’s “Iron Man.” While I was there watching the crew repair everything from ancient JBLs to nearly new B&Ws, I noticed a truly frightening sight: the biggest subwoofer I have ever actually laid my eyes on.

Sure, there are larger subs, like a 34-inch car woofer made by Audiobahn. And I remember seeing a bass guitar cabinet with a 36-inch driver in an old issue of Guitar Player. But this was the first time I’ve seen a sub this big in an actual enclosure that anyone with a pickup truck, a strong back and $1,200 Canadian can buy today.

Shop owner Dave Lee explained that he builds the monster subs for nightclubs who want to play big-bass dance music really frigging loud. The 27-inch cone is actually a passive radiator hand built by the Speaker Clinic crew. The active drivers, completely concealed inside the 10-cubic-foot bandpass cabinet, are dual JBL 18-inchers.

It’s a passive design so you need an amp to go with it. “You’ll need something with considerable horsepower, 400 to 600 watts. And not necessarily a digital amp, because you need something that has some reserve in the power supply. But for $1,200 I’ll throw in a power amp.”

To my surprise, the megasub doesn’t play down to, say, 10 Hz; Lee says it’s -3 dB at 35 Hz and -10 dB at 20 Hz. Why not deeper? “The customers think it sounds better this way. We’ve tuned it for -3 dB at 24 Hz, but the very slight improvement on the low end is counteracted by what one lady called ‘lifelessness’ at 80 Hz. Everybody else agreed but was less … articulate in their description.”

A factory-fresh new model with beefed-up drivers for professional use runs $2,150. Still, that’s a relatively small sum for a subwoofer that is absolutely, positively guaranteed to be bigger than your neighbor’s.