Face Off: Sub-$1,000 Subwoofers What Do You Think?

What Do You Think?

I thought I was moving along rather smoothly and with little disruption in my writing flow . . . until I reached this point. The bottom line in any Face Off is always, "Which one would I buy?" Without trying to be politically correct, this is the toughest Face Off conclusion I've yet to write. The Cerwin-Vega CVT-300S far exceeded my expectations of how it would perform. Again, I would classify it as the most exciting woofer in the group. This is not to say that the sub is inaccurate by any means—it just adds a little extra to the bottom end. The M&K V-1250THX, on the other hand, is tough to beat when it comes to tight, rigid bass for music and cinema. It's also an exciting woofer at times—definitely capable of shaking your watch hands loose. The Velodyne CT-150 is a work of engineering, both cosmetically and physically. The integrity that has gone in to the build quality of this woofer is absolutely first-rate. On the performance end, I can't say enough good things about this sub in the cinema arena. The music was a bit disappointing, but nothing I couldn't work out in a couple of hours of placement testing. If I had to choose one woofer, I'd choose the Velodyne without reservation. If I had my druthers, however, I'd choose all three—using the M&K for the tight upper-bass region, the Velodyne for smoothing out the M&K, and the Cerwin-Vega for anchoring the low end. What the hell . . . this is Home Theater, right?—Clint Walker

Subwoofers can be one of the most important, most difficult, and most misunderstood aspects of home theater. After all, without that low-end rumble, your home theater becomes a home drive-in without all of your friends in the trunk. Trying to audition subs at your local A/V superchain is nearly impossible, considering that the size of the room and the location of each product in that room so drastically affect the output. Then again, you could buy a good, quality sub, connect it, and place it in the only location your spouse will let you, only to find the performance totally unsatisfactory. What do you do? Start with a report like this one and find a dealer who will let you audition subs yourself. In this case, we had two different contestants. I say two because I ranked the M&K and Velodyne extremely close, while the Cerwin-Vega was on a separate scorecard. The M&K and Velodyne performed well, with deep extension and good articulation. The Cerwin, however, produced the most prodigious bass, by far, of the three. There was so much bass, it sometimes sounded boomy and thick, but it was admittedly fun. The M&K and Velodyne subs are most likely more accurate and would play extremely well in any environment. If pressed, I might give a slight nudge to the M&K. Then again, if you're just looking for the biggest boom for the buck, the Cerwin-Vega is the way to go.—Mike Wood

I should probably tell you up front that I'm not really a big subwoofer guy. I obviously appreciate its role in soundtrack reproduction, but my taste in this genre of speaker definitely leans toward articulate and unobtrusive. Wall-rattling bass is fine in short bursts at the right moment (explosions, etc.), but you shouldn't feel your hair blowing every time someone sneezes onscreen. Also, sloppy, unfinished notes are never good with any type of speaker. That said, the Velodyne was my clear choice as a soundtrack subwoofer. It was punchy at times, subtle at times, and tight all the time. Its attack and decay were the best of the three. If you like the floor to rattle constantly, however, go with the Cerwin-Vega. It definitely had the biggest sound in the group. The M&K was a compromise on soundtracks—with more overall boom than the Velodyne and slightly better behavior than the Cerwin. I'd rarely use a subwoofer with music, but the M&K would be my choice in that department. I've always found their subs to have a musical quality to them, and this one was no exception.—Chris Lewis