2016 Recommended Components Subwoofers

Subwoofers & Crossovers

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 WWW)

JL Audio Fathom f113v2: $4500
Descended from the JL Audio Fathom f113—a Class A subwoofer in previous editions of "Recommended Components"—the recent f113v2 is a compact subwoofer with a single 13.5" driver and an internal amplifier boasting 3000W RMS (compared with the f113's 2500W). Other refinements include the rerouting of audio signals away from the v2's control panel and, perhaps most notably, an upgrade from the original's Automatic Room Optimization (ARO) to JL Audio's new Digital Automatic Room Optimization (DARO, a name that caught us totally off guard). In contrast to ARO's single filter, DARO provides 18 bands of (cut-only) correction. According to KR, who declared DARO easier to operate than ARO, "the v2's improvement over the v1 was the complete disappearance, from my conscious awareness, of the subwoofer's existence." KR's conclusion: "JL Audio's Fathom f113v2 is everything good from the Fathom f113 and more." (Vol.39 No.1 WWW)

MartinLogan BalancedForce 212: $3995
The two 12" aluminum-cone woofers of the 212 are mounted on opposite sides of their enclosure and operated in opposition to one another—an approach for which MartinLogan has coined the term BalancedForce. Power comes courtesy an internal pair of 850W class-D MOSFET amplifiers, themselves addressed with a choice of balanced and unbalanced connectors for left-channel, right-channel, and LFE (low-frequency effects) operation. Controls include continuously variable knobs for level, low-pass filter (30–80Hz), and phase (0–270°), plus an On/Off switch with a third choice for power-saving Auto mode, which detects an incoming signal and powers up the system accordingly. JI used two 140-lb BalancedForce 212s with his own MartinLogan Prodigy loudspeakers, and was impressed with the results—especially with the newly remastered Led Zep catalog: "Kick drum and bass were tuneful and heavy .ˇ.ˇ. yet there was no sense of bloat or bass 'effect,' and the tonal balance from top to bottom just felt right and real." The only performance negative: the audible clacking of the system in Auto mode. Perfect Bass Kit costs $100. (Vol.37 No.10 WWW)

Revel Ultima Rhythm2: $10,000
How does one approach a subwoofer that weighs just under 200 lbs, has an 18" cast-frame woofer with dual 4" voice coils, is driven by an internal pair of 1000W class-D amplifiers, and outsizes, by nearly 3 cubic feet, its manufacturer's previous flagship model? With the utmost respect—as did LG when he closed in on the stygian, stentorian, and altogether big Revel sub. His opinion: "The Revel Ultima Rhythm2's musicality and power are exceptional, with a unique ability to deliver a powerful performance in a large listening room. Its deep bass has tremendous weight and slam, yet can turn on a dime." LG also praised the Revel's brace of manual user controls and the woofer's user-installable automatic Low Frequency Optimization (LFO) program, but chafed slightly at having to download the software, the user manual, and the associated test signals: "For this nosebleed price, one could argue that Revel should include a printed LFO instruction manual, a USB cable, and an iTestMic, if not an individual optimization by [the designer]." (Vol.38 No.2 WWW)

Velodyne DD-18+: $5799 ★
The DD-18+ is a powered, sealed-box subwoofer; its 18" forward-firing driver has a fiberglass Rohacell-laminate cone, a 3" voice-coil, and a 39.7-lb magnet. Compared to the original DD-18, the 18+ is 6.5" deeper, 19 lbs heavier, has 28% more internal volume, uses a more efficient amplifier, and features strongly tapered side panels. In addition, the DD-18+'s equalization software provides automated room compensation and controls drive-unit distortion using a servo-loop accelerometer. Despite a daunting number of features, controls, and options, setup was simple. The DD-18+ played the deepest bass passages with minimal distortion, low coloration, and outstanding pitch definition, said LG. "Solid Class A," he concluded. (original version, Vol.27 No.6 WWW; Vol.36 No.3 WWW)

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 WWW)

SVS SB13-Ultra: $1599.99 $$$
Weighing less than 100 lbs—a noteworthy accomplishment for a good subwoofer, per LG—the sealed-box SB13-Ultra is a compact (17.4") cube containing a 13.5" ferrite-magnet driver and a 1000W Sledge class-D amplifier. The SB13-Ultra lacks a remote control, offering instead a single-knob Integrated Function Controller next to its small LCD screen and balanced (XLR) and unbalanced (RCA) inputs and outputs. SV Sound offers, on their website, an automated setup advisor (called Merlin) that LG found helpful in integrating the sub with his Quad ESK-989 electrostatic panels. His verdict: "The combination of Quad ESL-989s and SVS SB13-Ultra rendered clean, dense, fast response for many different instruments, including kick and bass drum, synthesizer, and or timpani." LG concluded: "In its price range, it's the best subwoofer I've heard." The SB13-Ultra is sold direct from the Girard, Ohio, factory with a 45-day home-trial period and a money-back guarantee. (Vol.38 No.1 WWW)

C

Tannoy TS2.12: $921 $$$
With a double-layer (50mm thick) MDF cabinet, two opposed 12" drive-units (one active, the other passive), an internal 500W class-D amplifier, and a bypassable, three-position low-pass filter with a continuously variable phase control, the TS2.12 offers a lot for its three-figure price. Moreover, as LG discovered, the Tannoy's small size (17.2" H by 16.75" W by 14.75" D) and reasonable weight (40 lbs) make it easier than some to schlep around the listening room. With the Tannoy supplementing his Quad ESL-989 electrostats, LG was "delighted by the deep-bass response" while playing some favorite pipe-organ recordings, and he enjoyed the "authority, solidity, and clear pitch definition that I didn't hear from my Quads alone." But other recently reviewed—and more expensive—subs "went substantially deeper in the bass" than the TS2.12, the extension of which in LG's room tended to roll off below 40Hz. (Vol.39 No.2 WWW)

D

PSB SubSeries 125: $449
The SubSeries 125 (originally called SubSeries 1) is a front-ported, bass-reflex design with an 8" polypropylene-cone driver and a 110W, class-A/B BASH power amplifier. It has a claimed frequency range of 36–150Hz, measures 13.25" H by 9.625" W by 14.5" D, weighs 23 lbs, and has a black vinyl finish. There are front-panel Volume and Crossover controls and a rear-panel Phase switch. Setup was simple. With the SubSeries 1 in his system, SM noted a wider, deeper soundstage and tight, musical bass. As SM's review went to press, PSB announced a replacement for the SubSeries 1: The SubSeries 125 shares its predecessor's simple look and controls, but has a more powerful (125W) amplifier; the price remains the same. (Vol.36 No.4 WWW)

PSB SubSeries 100: $249
Designed to complement PSB's Alpha PS1 powered desktop loudspeakers, the SubSeries 100 miniature subwoofer measures just 63/8" W by 63/8" H by 77/8" D, and has an attractive high-gloss black finish. The sealed-box sub includes a 50W class-D amplifier and a 51/4" drive-unit designed to maximize bass extension while minimizing distortion. Volume, Crossover, and Phase controls, along with a single pair of RCA inputs, are provided on the tidy rear panel. Setup was simple; the sub partnered seamlessly with SM's Alpha PS1s, showing no evidence whatsoever of discontinuities between the high and low frequencies. In addition to clean, well-extended bass, the SubSeries 100 provided improved senses of timing and touch, better image focus, deeper silences, and more dramatic climaxes, said SM. Can be purchased with PSB's Alpha PS1 loudspeakers, as the Alpha 1-100 system, for $499.99—a savings of $50. (Vol.37 No.3 WWW)

Deletions
JL Audio Fathom f212 replaced by new model; Paradigm Reference SUB 15 no longer available.



COMMENTS
Staxguy's picture

Class A

Audeze LCD-X: Why would you consider the Audeze LCD-X over the Audeze LCD-3? The Audeze LCD-3, though veiled, "digital" (too few bits of detail), and non-liquid, at least presents music as beautiful.

Not only this, but it (3) is a personal luxury product, with a gorgeous headband, ear-pads, and wood ear-cups.

There also is the issue of it (3) having phenomenal bass, on the non-Fazor version.

The LCD-X? It sounds like absolutely nothing. By nothing, one means about $600.

Audender Flow

Giving that you are Stereophile, this would be great in the Class C department. It has DSD, etc. and decent specs, but no balanced out, so no headphone enthusiast would consider using it.

Chord Mojo: A great DAC/amp. Great that you have it in Class A.

Sennheiser 650/600: certainly very comfortable, but no match for the 580. ;) While neither sounds like shit (the 600 is more natural), they lack any detail and air, although their true comfort makes them fantastic computer speakers. Still, Class C.

HiFiMan 400i: Shouldn't it be the HE-6? Where is the HE 1000? This is Class A guys.

Sennheiser IE 800: Where is this? Perhaps more detailed and fast than the HD-800 and only $1000. ($800 US). Obviously, no imaging like the HD. What an amazing headphone, the HD 800.

Omissions: Shouldn't the class A be the Stax 009 and perhaps some excessive (read: expensive) headphone amplifiers? Om.

Class B

Apogee Groove. Ok. Great. A pro-audio device.

Audeze EL-8: What? Ok. This one sounds like shit. Ok, have only heard the closed. Great cheap price ($699) and design job by BMW, but terrible sound an not even a part of the LCD-2. What a looser.

Audioquest Nighthawlk: Huh? Wah.

B&W P3: Why the P3 and not the P5 or P7? Isn't the quality of the P3 pathetic? Sound, gentlemen, sound.

CEEntrence DACPort: Ok. Great device. How about more CEntrance. Great specs.!

Master & Dynamic MD40: Is this a poor men's clothing magazine?

PSB M4U: Shouldn't this be Class E?

Class C:

Audioengine D3: for $149 a great made device with great components. However, the sound is worse than the stock Intel audio chip you'll have in your PC. Does have less hum and noise than an-in PC chip, though.

Overall: Where are the audiophile components?

Sorry to be a party-pooper.

dalethorn's picture

Mostly agree. Headphones don't seem as accurately covered here as the big stuff. Maybe the headphones and other portable gear should be covered entirely by Innerfidelity, in Stereophile Recommended Components.

Glotz's picture

Naw, just haughty, arrogant and disrespectful.

They reviewed various products for the magazine, and this is the list they came up with. The classes are explained in full, in relation to the other products's performance that have made the list. Older products, sometimes equally capable as current products listed, are removed due to age. Lastly, most reviewers have their own benchmarks and their own opinions about component performance, hence their choice of placement in the classes.

You can disagree all you want man, just do it with a modicum of respect. If you want to start your own magazine, go for it dude.

K.Reid's picture

Glad to see this mighty monitor included in Class A restricted low frequency. Very well deserved and impeccably engineered at a fair price. Most importantly it sounds great. An excellent effort by the folks at Technics. It's obvious they care about and love music by making a product like this.

low2midhifi's picture

I read JA's assessment of the Arcam A19 regarding its ability to handle low impedance, high volume listening.

I wanted to add my own, perhaps less scientific assessment of the Arcam A18 predecessor model.

I have my Arcam A18 integrated connected to Canton Ergo 32DC speakers whose impedance range is listed as 4...8 Ohm, 87 dB by the manufacturer. The owner's manual for my speakers, of about year 2000 vintage, states that the speakers can be "unhesitatingly operated with any standard amplifier" (with some small qualifications later in the manual).

Stereophile's tests of other Canton speakers show that the speakers tend to operate more towards the 4, rather than the 8 Ohm range of input impedance.

I have used my Canton speakers with my demo model Arcam A18 for several years now. I am not a loud volume listener, but I like room filling sound. For a benchmark of my listening, I will say that audio show rooms, for example, are, for the most part, way too loud.

I did a test this morning. On the integrated's volume range of 1 to 99, I did some listening around 38 on the volume scale. I listened to a Chandos recording of Bryden Thomson's LSO recording of Vaughn Willams's 8th Symphony and assorted string works (Chandos 8828, a great audiophile recording still in circulation). This volume is adequate to fill the room amply with sound. Vaughn Williams works will require a bit more gas-pedal than other orchestral works.

Then, for some higher octane listening, but with the volume set at the same 38 position, I did another test. I listened to the great recording of Don Juan, with the Cleveland Orchestra, and the late great Lorin Maazel (CBS Masterworks MDK 44909). If I had finicky neighbors adjacent to my listening room for this session, they might have complained over the volume in some sections of this work.

After listening to these CD tracks, I put my hand over the unobstructed top ventilation grate on the Arcam A18. After feeling the heat, which was almost imperceptible, I then put my hand to my cheek. After 5 seconds the heat from my cheek was noticeably warmer.

I'd guess that John's assessment would apply particularly--without mentioning brands--to low efficiency low impedance speakers, of the 84-85 dB and/or 4 Ohms nominal varieties. But for my speakers the Arcam never seems over-taxed, and certainly never clips with the music and volume settings that I employ.

If you are a moderate-to-room filling volume listener, have stand-mount speakers of 87-88 dB, and 8 Ohm nominal impedance, and love peerless sound, I'd say buy the Arcam A19 without hesitation. I'm not a dealer or a professional, but that's my assessment. A reader wrote in the Stereophile review of the A19 that he found the A19 to be a big improvement from the A18. My dealer says that if you have an A18, you can probably live with it without going to the A19.

Other publications, that score products in their reviews, show the Arcam A18/A19 models garnering the highest scores of the Arcam integrated amp line-up.

Those are my two cents on the Arcam A19.

makarisma's picture

What about products from companies such as T+A, YBA, Linn, McIntosh, etc., all of which also have outstanding models in the listed catagories?

pablolie's picture

based on the reviews, it seems to defy logic you give the Benchmark AHB2 a class A rating, and the NAD M22 a class B. to quote your own review, the AHB2 "failed to be as lively or exciting as the NAD". oddly enough, the word "loss" is not mentioned anywhere in the M22's review, so it surprises me it shows up in the recommended equipment guide.

sharethemusic's picture

i am the proud owner of raven audio amplification. "THE RAVEN" a 3oob tube based integrated amplifier. There can be no better amplification in the world. You see right thru the music. Your are drawn into it. All the details of the recording are there.Is there colorization by the tubes? Not sure.i can only tell you the music sounds exactly as intended and as natural and neutral as can be.it is rated at 15 watts per channel..Some may not understand. Raven audios 10 watts,is another tube companies 40 watts and solid states 80 watts. It is in the power supply and voltage regulation that all the power of god on earth is unleashed. the power is more than enough to fill my 20x 20 room with blasting clear,warm glorious sound. i have owned mcintosh,krell ,NAD AND MARK LEVINSON. There really isnt anything but maybe my old mac that sounds even close to the raven. andy rothman sharethemusic@aol.com

Ladokguy1's picture

I know Art Dudley has used Auditorium cables as a reference for several years, any reason they are not listed in Recommended Components?

AndySingh's picture

Hello

I went to my local store - Overture Audio, and auditioned the GoldenEar Aon 2 and Dynaudio Emit M10.

Listening to the M10's, I am surprised they (or other Dynaudio products) have never been reviewed on your site.

Is there a Dynaudio review on the horizon?

Glideyork's picture

Hi,

I bought the Dynaudio m20 few weeks ago. I'm not really expert, but I think my amp (yamaha r-n500) is not enough powerful for these speakers. If you make some emit reviews, could you give us some advices about the good amps to associate with :/

Thanks for all the other really interesting articles.

AndySingh's picture

Speaking to Northwoods AV of Grand Rapids, MI, I was told that Yamaha Aventage 750/760 would be a good choice for 4 ohm speakers such as Dynaudio Emit M20.

The dealer claimed he was running Magnepans off of these. For a stereo setup, this receiver would do, however they probably only support 4 ohm impedance for front left and right.

The power output would not be a concern for a stereo setup.

gasolin's picture

I use the Marantz PM8005 and that is the smallest amp i would recommend for the Dynaudio emit m10's

z24069's picture

There are some fine choices on the Transports, Digital Processors, Preamp and Amp listings. I am puzzled however at the total lack of mention of any Esoteric Audio product. They are current products well known for their performance and musicality. What criteria being utilized could yield a recommended components lists where at least one of their products (or more) would not make it into the results?

Waves200's picture

Oh to live in a country with a reasonable rate of exchange! Our local Velodyne distributors have the DD+ 15-inch sub listed at the equivalent of almost $2000 more than the listed RRP is in the US. By the time that customs and excise is added to the cost, and the retailers have added their markup, you would be paying almost as much for the 15 inch model as you would for a new family car!