Subwoofer Reviews

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Herb Reichert  |  Jul 05, 2024  |  19 comments
After lifelike timbres and speed-train momentum, how a loudspeaker projects its energy into my room is the main thing that determines how my sound system feels as I listen to it. When I review loudspeakers, I try to notice the unique tone and force of their "voice" as they speak into my room. Do they stand too close, stick out their chests, and brag loudly in third harmonics? Or do they have small voices that force me to lean in to make out what they're saying?

With a miniature box speaker like my reference Falcon Gold Badge LS3/5as or the similarly sized Harbeth P3ESR XDs, which I'm auditioning this month, I have to sit very close to experience any of their direct, "off-the-cone" energy. If my listening position gets too far away or the speakers are positioned too far apart or too far from the wall behind them, the sound thins and loses body.

I didn't need to sit close to those 1947 Altec A5 Voice of the Theatre horns I used to use.

Jason Victor Serinus  |  Nov 02, 2023  |  36 comments
Piece of cake, thought I. All I needed to do to review Wilson Audio Specialties' smallest active subwoofer, the LōKē ($8950 each in standard finish), was describe how low a pair goes in my room and how cleanly they woof.

As I was soon to learn, though, there was a lot more to reviewing LōKēs than that. Why? Because a pair of LōKē subwoofers does more than reinforce the already deep bass extension of the Wilson Alexia V loudspeakers with which they are now paired in my system. Therein lies the tale.

Herb Reichert  |  Jul 23, 2021  |  43 comments
My incommodious room favors small standmount and panel speakers that some audiophiles would say require a subwoofer.

But I was never inspired to try one until a new category of subwoofer appeared: the "micro" (aka soccer-ball) subwoofer. The minute I saw the little KEF KC62, a 10" cube, I imagined it could do 0–100Hz and back to zero in record time. I reported on the KEF microsub last month, in Gramophone Dreams #49.

Herb Reichert  |  May 18, 2021  |  12 comments
We have inherited an infinitely vast library of recorded musical art, the majority of which is well-recorded but has yet to be fully and completely reproduced. Countless times, I've played an album and thought, am I the first person ever to hear this recording sound this clear and microscopically detailed? Audiophiles understand that in order to be fully enjoyed, great recordings need the finest possible audio reproduction. Reciprocally, the finest audio systems are best enjoyed when playing great recordings. It's a horse and carriage thing.
Kalman Rubinson  |  Jul 28, 2020  |  62 comments
Some contentious issues will not be resolved in my lifetime: vinyl vs digital, tubes vs solid state, subjective vs objective, streaming vs physical media.

Also, subwoofers vs no subwoofers in a stereo music system.

Larry Greenhill  |  Aug 29, 2019  |  22 comments
SVS's recently introduced SB-3000 is a compact powered subwoofer that's $600 cheaper, a few cubic inches smaller, and 37lb lighter than the model it replaces, the SVS SB13-Ultra. Its amplifier is less powerful (800W vs 1000W), but its rated frequency response extends lower: a stygian 18Hz, compared to the SB13-Ultra's merely stentorian 20Hz.
J. Gordon Holt  |  Apr 11, 2019  |  First Published: Aug 01, 1999  |  14 comments
Which loudspeakers do audio professionals listen to? And why should we care? After all, it's not as if recording engineers are the kind of refined, sensitive, music-loving types who read Stereophile. As much as they may love music, many audio pros appear only to view the original sounds of musical instruments as raw materials to be creatively reshaped and manipulated. (Okay, there are exceptions. But recordists who care about the sounds of real instruments usually record them in real acoustic spaces rather than in studios, and use as little signal processing as they can get away with.)
Larry Greenhill  |  Jan 29, 2019  |  6 comments
In the late 1980s, when I began reviewing high-end subwoofers, they were big and heavy, difficult to move or find space for in a room. Their controls were always on an inconveniently positioned rear panel, and there were no built-in automatic room-optimization options or parametric equalizers. Velodyne's 105-lb, downfiring ULD-18 ($2570), ca 1989, was typical: Two people were needed to unpack and move it; it was powered by an outboard 400W amplifier, connected inconveniently with a speaker cable and an RCA-terminated interconnect for its servo control; and its controls were on the bottom of the cabinet. Changing its crossover frequency involved soldering new resistors onto a printed circuit board inside the amp.
Larry Greenhill  |  Nov 30, 2017  |  10 comments
This review began when I ran into Gary Yacoubian, president of SVS, in a crowded hallway at Las Vegas's Venetian Hotel, during the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show. He smiled and introduced himself. "Larry, I enjoyed your review of our SB13-Ultra. If you liked that subwoofer, we have something coming soon that should really interest you. I can't say anything more now."
Larry Greenhill  |  Nov 02, 2016  |  1 comments
It was all so familiar. In "Music in the Round" in the January 2016 issue, Kal Rubinson praised JL Audio's latest subwoofer, the Fathom f113v2. He raved about its amplifier's higher power over the original f113, its beefier 13" woofer, its improved, 18-band Digital Automatic Room Optimization (DARO), and its significantly improved deep-bass response in-room.

It was familiar because the same thing had happened when Kal reviewed the original Fathom f113 in his May 2007 column. As he would again nine years later, he'd extolled the sub's high power, small size, built-in single-band Automatic Room Optimization (ARO) software, and "remarkably powerful and clean" deep bass. Those were also my reactions to the Fathom f113.

Kalman Rubinson  |  Sep 01, 2016  |  4 comments
In January, I reviewed JL Audio's Fathom f113v2 subwoofer (footnote 1), which features, among other improvements over the original Fathom f113, a better multiband equalizer. The significance of this relates to the great influence exerted by room dimensions and acoustics on a loudspeaker's performance.

The matter of room acoustics itself relates to the Schroeder frequency: a transition point, usually between 200 and 300Hz above which a room will exhibit a high density of reflections that are analyzed statistically, and below which that room will display a limited number of discrete modal reflections. (Thus, it should not to be confused with the number of times that Beethoven's music appears in Charles Schulz's comic strip "Peanuts.")

Larry Greenhill  |  Feb 02, 2016  |  1 comments
Ten years ago, our family was joined by my son-in-law, who was raised in Dublin, and spent his university years in London. I was editing this review during a recent visit with our daughter and grandchildren, and Justin became interested in the fact that I was reviewing a subwoofer made by Tannoy. He reminded me that, in the UK and Ireland, Tannoy had long been a generic term for public-address systems, just as Hoover had come to describe any vacuum cleaner, regardless of manufacturer. Although Justin admitted that this usage was probably "old school," he teased me that I was reviewing a PA speaker for an audiophile magazine!
Kalman Rubinson  |  Dec 30, 2015  |  1 comments
In my last column, in the November 2015 issue, I talked about Marantz's AV8802A preamplifier-processor and two accessories: UpTone Audio's USB Regen, and a DIY battery supply for my DAC. This month's column is all about accessories, and for me that's unusual. Some items, like interconnects and speaker cables, are usually considered accessories because they're not fundamental components (eg, source, amplifier, speaker), even though they're essential to getting any sound at all.
Larry Greenhill  |  Feb 12, 2015  |  0 comments
Powerful, massive, and expensive, Revel's Ultima Rhythm2 subwoofer ($10,000) swept me off my feet when I first saw it in Harman International's suite at the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show. It outsizes, by 49 lbs and 2.6 cubic feet, Revel's previous flagship model, the Ultima Sub30, which I reviewed in the November 2004 issue. Its specs read like no other sub's: 196 lbs; 18" cast-frame woofer; dual 4" voice-coils; 4kW peak power from twin internal amplifiers that generate 1kW RMS; 115dB peak acoustic output; a fully configurable, high-resolution, 10-band parametric equalizer (PEQ); an internal crossover with high- and low-pass outputs; and PC-based setup via USB. The Rhythm2's patent-pending design is said to let just enough air move in and out of the cabinet to prevent any distortion-inducing pressure due to heating of the voice-coils. And its veneer, shape, beveled top edges, and bottom plinth exude the quality found in Revel's top-of-the-line floorstanding speaker, the Ultima Salon2, with which I was familiar.
Larry Greenhill  |  Jan 04, 2015  |  1 comments
As an audiophile, I've come to associate the size, weight, and price of a subwoofer as quick'n'dirty indicators of its quality. The subwoofers that have worked best in my large listening room—the Velodyne ULD-18 and DD-18+, Muse Model 18, REL Studio III, JL Audio Fathom f113, and Revel Sub30—each weigh more than 130 lbs and cost more than $2500. With some of my reference recordings, all of them have achieved what Robert Harley described in the April 1991 issue of Stereophile as the goals of a quality subwoofer: "seamless integration, quickness, no bloat, and unbelievable bass extension." Yet are back-busting weight, unmanageable size, and nosebleed cost essential to achieving those goals?

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