Muse Model 18 subwoofer Corey Greenberg
Alrightyou: up against the wall!
No, I'm not Daryl Gates. I was just telling the Muse Model 18 active subwoofer that its services weren't going to be needed for this review; I can't very well judge an amp from 75Hz up only, can I?
Aw, c'mon! It was sitting right there; I had to try it! As I said in my July turntable roundup, the Muse Model 18 subwoofer has been absolutely killer in my system, giving the Spica Angeluses bass and dynamic capability across the board they never dreamed of. Inside this huge black bass muh-cheen is a Muse 225W MOSFET amplifier driving twin slot-loaded 10" woofers below 75Hz; the promise of the Muse and the VTL Compact 160s was too great to ignore, so after I'd listened to the VTLs solo, I hooked up my preamp's outputs to the Muse and ran its high-pass line-level outputs to the VTLs/Spicas.
And The Gods Made Love.
It's all there. Once I had the Muse aligned spatially with the Spica Angeluses, it simply ceased to exist; the VTLs just suddenly had several octaves more bass, along with the extreme tightness and power of good solid-state. The upper-bass emphasis was reduced as well, though still marginally audible on some vocals. But the coolest thing was the transition point, where solid-state handed off the baton to the tubes: there wasn't any! I mean, I listened for that sucker, and I just couldn't pick it out. The tight, muscular bass just effortlessly moved up into the triode-clear upper-bass/midrange as if the two amps were simply one awesome, all-encompassing unit that had it all. The audio "holy grail" of a true hybrid was before me, and I was gulping its sweet nectar like a wild pig!
Relieved of the hassles of the sub-75Hz workload, the Compact 160s sailed through music even more dramatically. Yes, I realize that I'm not supposed to be able to aid and abet an amplifier under review by making its life easier with a monstrous powered subwoofer, but life's too short for supposed-to's; the name of the game here is Making The Musicians Jump Out Of Those Wooden Things With The Grille Cloths, and the VTL/Muse combo is a real winner. Here's a way to look at it: consider the VTL Compact 160/Muse Model 18 subwoofer combo a pair of tube amplifiers that will dramatically extend the bass and dynamic-range capabilities of almost any speaker on the market; at a combined price of $5500, less than either Stereophile's Class-Aranked Air Tight ATM-2 or Prodigy 150 OTL tube amps, I think this combo is a giant-killer.Corey Greenberg
Corey Greenberg returned to the Muse 18 in October 1991 (Vol.14 No.10):
Those of you who read my review of the VTL Compact 160 amplifier in the August 1991 issue already know how bad-ass I think the Muse Model 18 subwoofer is, and certainly Robert Harley's review of the Model 18 in July covered all the technical details and sonic strengths of this remarkable product. Muse's Kevin Halverson sent me an 18 in black so I could not only report on how well the Muse mates with speakers other than RH's reference Hales Signature Twos, but have a shipping box big enough to live in once I broke my lease by annoying nearby Robert Mueller Airport with Prof. Johnson's Astounding Sound Show.
Unlike any other subwoofer I've ever seen, the 18 has a control marked Delay that electrically "moves" the subwoofer back and forth a total of 7' to ensure proper phase integration with your main speakers. Kevin Sez that all you have to do to properly set the delay control is invert the polarity of one of your amp/speakers and, driving that channel only, feed the system a tone centered at the 18's crossover frequency; adjust the delay control for the greatest null at this frequency, and you're home free. Muse has a setup of relay-controlled phase inverters that requires two people to set up the 18, but I came up with another method.
I have an old Harman/Kardon cassette deck, one of those '70s rigs with microphone inputs as well as line-level inputs. I set a Sennheiser MD-421 mike at head level on my couch and snaked its cable over to the H/K deck, which sat upon the Muse. After switching the speaker cable of the righthand Spica Angelus to invert the polarity and shutting the left monoblock off, I fed the system a 75Hz tone (courtesy of a Potomac AG-51 signal generator, footnote 1) and adjusted the delay knob until the VU meter on the H/K showed the lowest signal in record/pause mode. I tried another mike, an omnidirectional EV-635A, and got the same null point. Simple, EZ, and convenient if you happen to have a signal generator (footnote 2) and a laughably old cassette deck lying around!
Of course, when I first set up the Muse, I just had to put it through its paces; out came all the audiophiliac organ records Tom Norton sent me for my re-education in the Arts, and of course I played the first track of Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon over and over again to hear those thundering heartbeats shake the house. MAN, does this baby woof! CA retailer Dave Green once told me, "Half the world's trying to find God; the other half's trying to find bass"; well, I've never gone looking for either (footnote 3), but after living with the Muse for two months, I'm hooked.
But to me, the LF extension isn't the coolest thing about the Model 18; with the exception of Dark Side of the Moon, I don't think I have a single record or CD that goes down that low. That's why the LF response of the Angelus, while admittedly not very deep, has always been perfectly adequate when listening at reasonable levels; but what if I want to listen to my music at unreasonable levels?! What if I want to put on the Red Hot Chili Peppers' Uplift Mofo Party Plan and jam along on my Strat with my 4-10 Bassman cranked to twelve? What if I want to slap Iggy & The Stooges' Raw Power on and run around the house like the Tasmanian Devil? WHAT IF I JUST WANNA GET LOOOOOOOOOOUUUUUUDDDDDD?!!!
Admit it; even though you're a card-carrying member of the ACLU (Audiophiles for Careful Listening U-betcha) and you're always mindful of disturbing your family with all those Italian words like "fortissimo," don't you secretly pray for those priceless moments when you have the whole house to yourself so you can crank up the Zep and do windmill power chords on a tennis racket? And isn't that the most fun you EVER have with your hi-fi? It sure is with me; hearing the back walls on a Chesky is cool man cool, but give me balls-to-the-wall jamming with The Who's Live At Leeds and I'm two steps from the Promised Land.
Unfortunately, the Spicas don't rock'n'roll. That's not to say that all audiophile speakers don't; Guy Lemcoe's Mirage M-3s seriously rock'n'roll! But those wimpy-ass French drivers in the Angelus weren't designed to kick butt, just work extremely well at reasonable levels, which they do brilliantly; I love the sound of the Angelus, and a year later it remains one of my favorite speakers at any price. But the good people at Spica don't want to KNOW from Corey Greenberg of Austin TX, the guy who keeps sending them all those blown woofers and tweeters and asking for those free replacements they were so foolish to offer such a speaker-sadist via their five-year warranty.
Well, John Bau needn't curse me anymore; the Muse Model 18 has given the Spicas dynamic capability they never dreamed of. Relieved of sub75Hz excursion, the 8" Audax woofers can play much louder and cleaner than before. I used to get an uneasy feeling every time I turned the volume past a certain point on my preamp; it wasn't just a few times I'd hear a POP, then either real dull-sounding speakers or what sounded like a couple of clock radios; Delbert McClinton's Live In Austin was my biggest woofer-killer, while Little Richard had the distinction of blowing the most tweeters. Well, no more. Since I hooked up the Model 18, I've been running my system louder than ever, and I haven't blown a single driver yet (knock on woodklonk klonk).
Like RH, I was real leery about running the entire audio signal through the active crossover inside the Muse; I'm very aware of the sonic degradation of most active crossovers, and, like RH, was fully prepared to forego the bass and dynamic improvements of the Model 18 if the crossover screwed with the high-pass audio fed to the main speakers. Unlike RH, I didn't hear any improvements in the image focus or soundstage width; this is most certainly due to our choice in preamps. RH's preferred ARC SP-11 is much happier driving the class-A buffered Muse crossover than it is his VTL 225 amplifiers, as the Muse presents nearly a purely resistive load which increases system bandwidth beyond that of the straight SP-11/VTL combo. My buffered preamp, with its PMI BUF-03AJ buffers on the outputs, has no such discrimination; it's quite happy driving any load I've thrown at it. Like Bob, I did hear a slight hardness to the overall sound with the Muse in the system, but it was very slight, and infinitesimal when compared to the sound of most line stages I've heard. I found the very small amount of hardness to be well worth the added bass extension (footnote 4) and dynamic leapfrogging the Model 18 brought to the table.
In all, I find the Muse Model 18 to be an amazing piece of gear; I've certainly become addicted to it, and it's been a tremendous help in judging the low bass of all the equipment that's come through these parts since I hooked it up. The incredible extension, cleanliness, and huge dynamic improvements the Model 18 makes to your speakers and your main amplifier are, to my ears, unprecedented in not only this price range, but any. Before I bought my Angeluses, my former main speakers were Spica TC-50s, so you know where my priorities were; I was more than willing to forego deep bass for the pleasures of 3-D midrange. But that era of weak-bass live and let live is OVER! Everything Bob said about the Muse Model 18 is true; this Muse subwoofer is a truly great product. Forget that old warhorse "highly recommended"; the Muse Model 18 is KICK-ASS!Corey Greenberg
Footnote 1: Muse measures every speaker they make a personality card for in order to determine the optimum crossover point. RH's Hales are crossed over at 52Hz, my Angeluses at 75Hz. I'd be very interested to hear the Model 18 mated with some of the better minimonitors like the Celestion SL700s; I bet that'd be a giant-killer.
Footnote 2: A CD player and a Test CD can serve as an admirable substitute, of course.John Atkinson
Footnote 3: I found God years ago in New York's Carnegie Deli while eating a hot pastrami sandwich the size of my head.
Footnote 4: After using the subwoofer for several weeks, I noticed a buzzing that emanated from the subwoofer cabinet. "#$%&!" I thought, "now I'll have to open this Woofasaurus Rex up and chase down the noise." But bracing the external heatsink fins with my hand reduced the buzzing, and retightening the hexbolts that held the amplifier to the rear panel totally eliminated it. I suspect that prolonged woofing slowly loosens these screws; owners of the Model 18 should therefore check them from time to time for tightness.