Review: Cadence CSX-12 Mark II Subwoofer

Held up against the $3,499 Velodyne DD-12+ and other high-end 12-inch subwoofers that populate the CEDIA Expo, the $399 Cadence CSX-12 Mark II seems incredibly affordable. In the context of (where you can easily pick up a 12-inch subwoofer for under $200), the CSX-12 Mark II looks rather pricey. Which perception is correct?

Although it may seem a little obvious to say it, all 12-inch subs are not created equal. Construction makes a big difference with subwoofers. An engineer designing an affordable main speaker can sometimes “get lucky” — i.e., find a combination of inexpensive drivers that works well together with a simple, low-cost crossover. But with subwoofers, there’s really no way to get lucky. To build a great sub, you need a sturdy cabinet, a stiff woofer cone, a strong woofer magnet and either a powerful amp or a big enclosure (or both). Careful tuning can make a difference, but it can’t turn a bunch of cheap parts into a powerhouse sub.

The CSX-12 Mark II suffers none of the maladies common to cheap subs, such as flimsy particleboard cabinets, feeble amplifiers and/or frail woofer cones. Its woofer has a thick treated-pulp (the speaker industry’s euphemism for “paper”) cone and a 90-ounce magnet. Its cabinet is built from 0.75-inch MDF — not exactly high-end material, but adequate if reasonably well-braced inside. Its internal amp rates at 225 watts RMS at 1 percent distortion, less than the 1,000-plus watts many digital amps offer, but enough to do the job. And its cabinet measures 18.25 x 17.75 x 20 inches, which is large for a 12-incher. In fact, it’s about the same size as the 15-inch sub I built for my 4-2-1 subwoofer shootout.

If you visit the Cadence Website to check out the CSX-12 Mark II, don’t get too excited by the “Linear Class A 450 watts dynamic power” description in the specs; it appears to be the work of a marketing guy’s overactive imagination. A Class A 225-watt RMS amp would be about the size of a window-mount air conditioner and would throw off enough heat to warm a bedroom in the middle of winter.

Surprisingly for a budget model, the CSX-12 Mark II isn’t even ugly — not by subwoofer standards, anyway. The industrial design is slick and the gloss-black front baffle looks handsome with its inset grille.