James PowerPipe 1000

Most movie fans agree that earthshaking bass is an essential part of the home theater experience. They also agree that the presence of one or more high-powered subwoofers required to create it can cause severe fluctuations in domestic tranquility.

James Loudspeaker has come up with a unique solution it claims is capable of filling a room with the low-frequency reinforcement most users want without the visual and spatial intrusion of huge cabinets. The Fairfield, CA–based company's PowerPipe 1000 subwoofer solves the problem by remaining out of sight in a basement, attic, closet or cabinet and delivering the bass into the theater room via a flexible port.

It's "big bass without the big box," according to speaker designer and company founder Jeff Coombs. Derived from the company's acclaimed EMB ("energy multiplied bandpass") 1000, the PowerPipe features the same 10" internal driver, but has a 4" diameter flexible port attached to the front of the cabinet, replacing the EMB's passive radiator. For attic, basement, or closet installation, the "business end" of the port tube terminates in a 9" trim ring for flush mounting in sheetrock. The result looks very much "like a Halo recessed light without a light bulb," according to Coombs. For use in a cabinet, the PowerPipe can be terminated with a 2.5" x 14" rectangular toe-kick flare port.

The flexible tube allows positioning the cabinet up to 90 degrees off the plane of the wall, solving most installation headaches without impinging upon low-end performance. James has further simplified the installation procedure by moving the EMB 1000's internal amplifier to an outboard unit for the PowerPipe, thereby reducing the cabinet's volume and weight. A pair of 2" x 30" rubber straps are included with each PowerPipe kit for attic or basement installation—the straps attach to the cabinet and to a pair of attic or floor joists. This arrangement provides acoustic isolation for the subwoofer and prevents the PowerPipe from setting house framing directly in motion. "There are other products on the market designed to do that," Coombs joked.

The accompanying outboard amplifier is a rack-mountable monophonic "digital hybrid" rated at 500W. It includes all the features that appear on the back panel of an EMB 1000—line level inputs on RCA jacks, 0–180 phase switch, low pass filter, 40Hz–120Hz variable crossover, level control, single sensing on/off switch, and power switch. Price on the whole kit—subwoofer, flexible port with circular or rectangular trim piece (purchasers must specify which), mounting straps, and amplifier—is $2195.

James Loudspeaker is also exploring the outer limits of high-performance low bass with a limited-edition subwoofer to be called the "EMB 4000 Signature." With four 10" drivers—again, of the same type used in the EMB 1000—the 4000's power plant will be a single amplifier with tremendous dynamics, "like a turbo-charged 1000," Coombs mentioned. Slated for delivery later this summer, the EMB 4000 will sell for approximately $6000.