Test Report: Hsu Research VTF-15H Subwoofer

I have a confession to make: I've been a woofer wuss for most of my career as an audio journalist. When I started 21 years ago, there weren't many good subwoofers, and the little ones were usually less bad than the big ones, so I stuck mostly with smaller subs for my personal systems. But the shoot-out of state-of-the-art 12-inch subwoofers I conducted for S+V back in 2009 showed me what a great experience a large, high-end sub could deliver. Thanks to improvements in driver design, cabinet construction and amplifier technology, today's supersubs can deliver sound quality even the fussiest audiophile can love.

There's only one catch: Supersubs cost big bucks. Even the most affordable model from my shoot-out, the SVSound PB-12 Plus, costs $1,349, and that's for a 12-incher.

The new Hsu Research VTF-15H may have the same disruptive effect on the supersub market that the Eee PC netbook had on the laptop market. The VTF-15H is a big, muscular subwoofer with a 15-inch driver and a high-efficiency BASH amplifier rated at 350 watts continuous and 1,400 watts peak power. The stiff, heavy enclosure contributes to a back-busting weight of 118 pounds. And the VTF-15H offers more tweaking possibilities than almost any other subwoofer I've encountered.

Now, what would you pay for a sub like this? $2,000? Way over. $1,500? Still too high. Try $879 in matte black or $999 in rosenut woodgrain finish.

What's the catch? Actually there are two. First, shipping and handling on this behemoth is $139. Second, you have to unpack and position the beast yourself. Fortunately, the VTF-15H's patent-pending "integrated flare triangular ports" provide not only claimed acoustical advantages but a useful handhold for lifting the sub.

While I have seen some less-expensive 15-inch subs, most cut corners with a flimsy driver cone, a rickety enclosure or a feeble amplifier. Although it may seem counterintuitive, I've found in the past that a cheap 15-incher sometimes distorts far more than a comparable smaller subwoofer. With that broad expanse of unsupported cone diaphragm, you need a stiff, high-quality, and relatively expensive cone material to keep distortion to a minimum.