2012 Recommended Components Subwoofers

Subwoofers

A

B&W DB1: $4500
The DB1 is a powered subwoofer in a handsome sealed enclosure measuring 19.3" H by 18.1" W by 16.2" D and weighing 97 lbs. Its solid construction includes: two mechanically opposed 12" woofers separated by a partially open internal partition, 1"-thick walls of MDF with 3⁄4"-thick bracing panels to minimize vibrations, digital signal-processing circuits to run its menu-based control system, home automation capability, and a 1000W switching amplifier equalized to produce linear output. Also included are a calibration microphone, four connector cables, and a USB-connected soundcard for use with the DB1’s Room Acoustics Compensation program. Setup was quick and easy. Though it lacked the pitch definition of JL Audio’s Fathom f113, the DB1 blended seamlessly with LG’s Quad electrostatics, and produced powerful deep bass and impressive room lock. “The B&W DB1 proved to be a real pocket rocket,” he said. (Vol.35 No.2 Read Review Online)

JL Audio Fathom f212: $6200
The ruggedly built Fathom f212 is a powered, sealed-box sub with two 12" cone woofers. It measures 32" H by 15" W by 20" D, weighs 220 lbs, and has an effective cabinet volume of 574 cubic inches. Like the smaller Fathom f113, the f212 provides an automatic internal room optimizer for single-band adjustments, but lacks a high-pass filter. With its clean, well-defined low bass and outstanding three-dimensionality and soundstaging performance, the f212 delivered the full intensity and emotional impact of music, said LG. “The Fathom f212 has raised the performance quality of my audio system, and my enjoyment of it, to much higher levels,” he concluded. (Vol.33 No.4 Read Review Online)

JL Audio Fathom f113: $3900 ✩ $$$
The f113 is a small, sealed cube featuring a 13" drive-unit with a prominent OverRoll surround that permits huge cone excursions. All controls and connections for JL Audio’s Automatic Room Optimization are conveniently located across the front of the sub, beneath the removable grille. Setup was simple and sophisticated. “Small as it is,” said KR, “the f113 makes a powerful and musical contribution to the bottom end, even in the context of an already full-range system.” “Remarkably powerful and clean by any standards, it is all the more so considering its compact dimensions,” he sums up. When passing his system’s low-end signal to the f113 below 80Hz, KR also noted “a dramatic expansion of the entire soundstage.” Though installing two f113s in his system required more care and time than LG had anticipated, the improvements in soundstaging and deep-bass reproduction were worth the effort. “My entire system achieved its best performance to date,” he said, also noting that the JL Audio’s Automatic Room Optimization circuit enabled him to tune out an annoying 50Hz mode in his room acoustics. Price is for Gloss Black finish. Black Satin costs $3200. (Vol.29 No.11, Vol.30 Nos.5 & 9 Read Review Online)

Paradigm Reference SUB 15: $3199
The SUB 15 has a 15" drive-unit with a 76mm-diameter voice-coil, and is rated for bass extension down to 12Hz. Considerably more attractive than the austere Paradigm Reference Servo-15, the SUB 15 has outrigger feet, gracefully tapered side panels, and weighs 114 lbs. It accepts balanced and unbalanced RCA input signals, and offers a trigger input, adjustable low-pass filter, phase adjustment, and a USB port for control of its equalizer. Compared to the Servo-15, the SUB 15 produced a flatter, more extended bass response with a smoother upper end, allowing it to more readily “disappear” as a discrete sound source. “The SUB 15 offers all the powerful bass and extension needed for any music and, indeed, for home theater, unless you’re a bass maniac,” said Kal. (Vol.33 No.1 Read Review Online)

Velodyne Digital Drive DD-18+: $5999 ✩
The servo-driven DD-18 has a built-in spectrum analyzer and eight-band digital equalizer, which allow the sub’s performance to be optimized for its owner’s listening room, and is one of the most expensive subwoofers on the market. LG’s system gained tight, solid, bass reinforcement with “jaw-dropping increases in definition in the deepest notes.” The soundstage also gained width and depth, while spatial perspective was enhanced. LG: “The combination of its computer installation program and its first-rate servo-controlled drive-unit make it a true breakthrough for aftermarket subwoofers.” (Vol.27 No.6 Read Review Online)

B

Bryston 10B-SUB crossover: $3595 ✩
The 10B features three balanced configurations—stereo two-way, monophonic two-way, and monophonic three-way—and proved extraordinarily versatile in managing crossover slopes and frequencies. LG heard no electronic edginess and noted only the slightest loss in soundstage depth. “I found the 10B-SUB’s sound clear, transparent, and neutral—as good as I’ve ever heard from an outboard crossover.” (Vol.18 No.5, Vol.28 No.11 Read Review Online)

Editor’s Note: There are no Class C subwoofers listed.

D

NHT Super 8: $349
Physically and sonically a perfect match for NHT’s SuperZero 2.0 minimonitor, the gloss-black, sealed-box Super 8 measures 11" on each side and uses a single 8" long-throw paper-cone driver. It has a 110W class-D amplifier with a switching power supply and offers line- and speaker-level inputs, as well as an LFE input for connection to a sub output. The Super 8 blended seamlessly with the SuperZero 2.0 to dramatically improve bass impact and low-frequency extension without damaging the SuperZero’s extended highs, clean midrange, and excellent image focus, said SM. Package price for SuperZero 2.0 and Super 8 sub is $500. (Vol.34 No.10 Read Review Online)

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Comments
Martin Osborne's picture
Thanks Stereophile

I understand that this is part of 'what you do', but thanks for bringing this altogther in one place - a lot of work has gone into it and I for one appreciate it. 

 

 

JItterjaber's picture
indeed

Making your product recommendations available to the digital generation will certainly help more people see your publication.  Thanks for trying to keep current!

www.hifiqc.com

Ajani's picture
Excellent!

This is a really good move! I know a lot of online users have been hoping and waiting for the recommended components to be released on the website. 

smittyman's picture
Thanks for Adding This

I've always appreciated how much content Stereophile makes available on this site.  I also always figured that Recommended Components was something that was held off the website to give us some incentive to purchase the magazine in either paper or on line form so I was really pleased to see this added.

soulful.terrain's picture
Excellent

 

 This is great!  Thanks to all the staff for putting this valuable info together for us neophytes like myself. ;-)

Timbo in Oz's picture
Antennas

One of the problems of the 'buy it yourself' approach to audio a Magazine is stuck with is that the path of modifying upgrading used gear gets short shrift, let alone doing it yourself. Those parts of the high-end are off the radar here.

This partciularly applies to FM antennas. The best results from FM stereo can only result from pointing a directional antenna with gain at the desired station. One sure way to get such results is an external directional antenna up high. This ensures that the FM front end will be in (i) full limiting and (ii) that there is minimal multi-path on the signal.

Few indoor antennas are really good at either (i) or (ii), unless your lucky and close to a desired staion or two. Just one type is capable of doing both, but you can't buy one. This best indoor FM antenna is the wire rhombic with sides approaching 3 metres long (or exceeding). The gain is high because each element equals the desired wavelength and becasue it is also a highly directional antenna. The cost in money is very low, 14 to 20 meters of twin ribbon, some resistors and a balun to feed coax to your radio.

When made from 300 ohm twin ribbon (the same stuff used for T folded dipole antennas) it will have twice the already high gain. Don't worry you are most unlikely to overalaod your FM front-end.

You can hide it on a suitable room's ceiling or under a large rug. A suitable room is the largest one which has a long diagonal pointing in the right direction - ie at most of your desired stations. Note also that the acceptance angle of a rhombic can be adjusted in and out a couple of ways, see the article referenced below.

The article about them and how to make one was published in the now defunct magazine 'Audio' and is available at the Audio Asylum's FAQ section, near the bottom of the listings.

If you can drive a good tuner into full limiting with a strong low multipath signal and have even one station that broadcasts live acoustic simply miked concerts, you have a true high-end source.

Tim Bailey

 

 

 

JohnnyR's picture
BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

Cable reccomendations without a single measurement, just "oh it sounds just dandy" approach. How lame.This is useless.

Glotz's picture
Jokes on you...

This subjective review resource has around for decades, in print form.  You are the 4,895,235th 'listener' that thinks he knows more than these guys...

Bwahahahahahhaahhaahahhah!  Yeah, really.

Tim Lim's picture
Classes A, B, and C?

Dear Stereophile,

This report is indeed welcome but may I ask how are the different classes differentiated? What are the criteria for any model to be included in their respective class? I don't see this guide anywhere.

Regards,

Tim

earlnightshade's picture
Peachtree DAC•iT rating? K?

Total new guy here, but a quick question about the rating of the Peachtree Dac it.  To confirm I'm understanding correctly, is it considered so poor quality it gets a letter grade of "K"?  As in not even worthy of an "F"?

 

Thanks

smittyman's picture
"K" Means "Keep Your Eye On"

They haven't reviewed it yet.  It is not several grades below an F

nleksan's picture
No Grado's? REALLY???

Okay, so sound quality is as subjective as the music itself, I get that.

But seriously, you include the ATH-M50's and ATH-AD700's (good headphones, don't get me wrong), but not the SR225/SR325 from Grado?  What about the absolutely SUBLIME RS1i or its little-brother the RS2i?  The PS1000's?

I own all of the above, and for studio work I favor the RS1i's above anything else, especially Sennheiser, as monitors don't have to be PAINFULLY Flat to listen to, they just have to be accurate to the source while able to replicate other sources, which the RS1i's/RS2i's/PS1000's do with aplomb!  The dynamic design and solid-mahogany cups make the music sound much more "alive", and the editing/mixing sessions sound identical to the recording sessions; this is in contrast to many others that neuter the sound to the point that it just goes flat.

I realize I am here spouting off my opinion, but as I am pretty sure that's like 87% at least of the job description for being an "audiophile", so I'm okay with it ;)

I just hate to see TRULY deserving headphones get passed over because they don't have the same "prestige" as Bowers&Wilkins or the like, nor the brand recognition of Sennheiser (who are, by the way, on track to becoming the BOSE of the headphone world.... I'll give them 5 years).  I challenge anyone to spend ~20hrs with a pair of Grado SR325's (NOT the SR325i's, but the original Mahogany ones), the RS1i's/RS2i's, the PS1000's, or even the SR225's (again, NOT the SR225i's), a strong headphone amp (everyone has their favorites, but I find that these do best with a good amount of overhead), and the best source material you can get, ideally a very high-end system with DVD-Audio quality sound or better (don't even think about any kind of lossy compression, because you WILL hear every "off" sound).  Heck, I get fantastic results with simply plugging any of the aforementioned 'cans directly into the headphone port on my HT|Omega Claro Halo XT sound card in my very high end workstation/overclocking rig (who says you can't mix business and pleasure??)...
I will admit that every pair of Grado's that I've owned has needed some break-in time, with as little as 40 hours for some SR80i's to ~120hrs for the SR225/SR325 cans to really shine (RS1i's = 75-80hrs, RS2i's = 70-75hrs, PS1000's = 90hrs), but I do my "break-in" a bit differently than most: I set up everything through my computer, including DAC/amp/etc running off an M-Audio card, and I have a specific playlist I use for breaking them in that consists of 125-175x ~3:30 to ~11:15 long Audio Tracks (full, uncompressed recordings and masters; the 125 songs take up about 3.7GB of space! yes, about 30MB per track, at 192Khz/48bit "RAW") of varying types/genres set in "loop" for the first playthrough and then "looping random" after that, and the volume automatically adjusts based on elapsed time.  For those who wonder, I use: Sigur Ros, Pink Floyd, OK GO, Led Zeppelin, Bowie, Florence & the Machine, Grateful Dead, Incubus, Jay-Z, Jose Gonzalez, Pete Yorn, (recently added) Trent Reznor & Karen O's "Immigrant Song" cover from Girl w Dragon Tattoo, K'Naan, Manfred Mann, Beethoven, Mozart, Chopin, Metallica ("One"), Norman Greenbaum, Neil Young, Rolling Stones, Scala ("Blower's Daughter"), Shwayze, Sufjan Stevens, RUSH, Tegan&Sara, Tom Petty, The Roots, Them Crooked Vultures, and a bunch more; as you can see, it's a mix of male and female vocalists, every instrument under the sun, all types of music, and so forth (quite eclectic).  BUT IT WORKS!
I PROMISE YOU that if you properly break-in any pair of Grado's, they will become one of your favorite listening headphones, if not your number one.  Having tried everything from the bird-poop-looking iPod iEarbuds (kill me please) to most of the consumer-level stuff (Sony MDR's are Amazing for the price, Beats by Dre are absolute junk and I've left stuff in the porcelain chamber with more musicality than that overpriced BS), to headphones that cost more than many peoples' cars and proclaim to be "hand-assembled by a team of naked supermodels over the course of 123 days with all work done only under a half-crescent moon while Mars and Jupiter align, emparting magical sonic characteristics into the hand-carved African rare wood covers and plated with Rhinocerous poop, well known for its excellent bass enhancement"... Okay, that's a bit of an exaggeration, but not THAT much.  YET I KEEP COMING BACK TO THE GRADO'S!!!

JadenKrosis's picture
no Halide DAC HD?

This product recieved rave reviews in Stereophile. It scored well in comparisons and has even become JA`s go to device for USB audio playback.

Without going into too much detail of Micheal Lavorgnas` review I`m quite sure I`m safe to say he liked it very much also. 

Is it possible this product was overlooked amid all the shock and awe created by the Dragonfly?  (not that there`d be anything wrong with that, I want one too!!!)

John Atkinson's picture
Reviewed in August

Quote:
Is it possible this product was overlooked amid all the shock and awe created by the Dragonfly?

The Halide was reviewed in August 2012, after this "Recommended Components" was prepared. It will be included in the next update, due in April.

The Halide was also included in the Collector's Edition of Recommended Components, available from newsstands and form the shop on this site: http://ssl.blueearth.net/primedia/home.php

John Atkinson

Editor, Stereophile

JadenKrosis's picture
good deal

Thank you John and I look forwards to reading that April issue.

bmilwee's picture
Do your equipment ratings change over time?

In your October 2011 issue, the VPI classic 3 gets an A rating, but here it seems to have been demoted to a B.   Tthe Rega RP3 is class B here, but in the anniversary edition it gets a C rating.  Which is correct?

John Atkinson's picture
Re: Do your equipment ratings change over time?

Yes, sometimes as the result of further experience of the product or of competitive products, sometimes because the initial rating is provisional, for a product that is reviewed in the same issue as the updated list. But whenever a rating has changed, it is the most recent rating that reflects our current opinion of the product.

In the case of the VPI Classic 3, it has been reinstated in Class A in the listing that will appear in the April 2013 issue.

John Atkinson

Editor, Stereophile

shp's picture
Sound ratings for digital data connects

I have been a binge reader of stereophile ever since high school when my first job was in a high end stereo shop (Threshold amps, KEF 104.2's).  

My brother is an architect and my colleague an electrical engineer.  They both deride the idea that giant audiophile cables make a difference noting that the wire that delivers electricity to the house and through the walls is only this big.

Not having the budget to try an assortment of (sometimes very expensive) cables I've kept mine pretty modest.  But I will concede they can sound different.  

But I am a little confused that Stereophile has ratings for digital data connects without any measurements. 

Digital cables either deliver bit-perfect data streams or they don't. And their accuracy should be reported even if Stereophile also wants to report the sonic affect of any digital distortion.

If I spent a lot of money on a music server, DAC, amplification and speakers, the last thing I want is the cable altering the bits. 

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