Recommended Components Fall 2022 Edition Subwoofers & Crossovers

Subwoofers & Crossovers

A

JL Audio CR-1: $3500 ★
The CR-1 crossover has continuously variable high- and low-pass filters built around two banks of precision Linkwitz-Riley filters that can be set for 12 or 24dB/octave via. Front panel switch. Upon encountering the CR-1, LG "wondered where it had been all [his] life;" he's been using it ever since. "It's beautifully made, sonically transparent, performs a critical role in the optimal setup of subwoofers, and has ergonomic bypass and mute functions that let you immediately hear the sonic improvements of good bass management." (Vol.39 No.11 WWW)

JL Audio Fathom f110v2-GLOSS: $4000
This relatively small—16" × 13" × 17"—impeccably finished, powered, sealed-box subwoofer uses a 10" cone woofer and a 1.1kW class-D amplifier. The low-pass filter's turnover frequency can be set between 30Hz and 130Hz with 12dB or 24dB/octave slopes. There is no high-pass filter, but the latest, multiband version of JL's Digital Automatic Room Optimization (D.A.R.O.) processor is included (a microphone is supplied), which KR found impressively useful. Driving multiple JL subs from the LFE output of his multichannel server, KR perceived more solidity and definition in the pedal tones with an organ recording and an expanded dynamic scale. For listening in stereo, where an LFE output was not available, KR used JL Audio's CR-1 Active Subwoofer Crossover and decided that its bass management was subjectively more satisfying than simply having a subwoofer playing the LFE channel on multichannel music recordings. "The JL f110v2 is a mighty mite of a sub, conceding little to its larger brothers," he concluded. (Vol.43 No.8 WWW)

MartinLogan BalancedForce 212: $4499.99/each ★
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 140lb 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 . . . 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)

SVS SB-3000: $1099.99 in Black Ash finish; $1199.99 in Piano Gloss Black finish
The new SB-3000 is 37lb lighter, a few cubic inches smaller, and $600 cheaper than the model it replaces in the SVS line—the SB13-Ultra—and while its built-in class-D amp is also slightly less powerful (800W vs 1000W), the new model is specified to reach even lower, extending to 18Hz instead of "just" 20Hz. The SB-3000's newly designed 13" driver sports an aluminum cone and boasts a new 2" split voice-coil. Wireless (Bluetooth) control of the subwoofer is made possible via SVS's smartphone app, which LG describes as "user-friendly"; wireless connection to one's music system requires the addition of the SVS SoundPath Wireless Audio Adapter Kit ($119.99). LG noted that the SB-3000 was "quicker to set up" than another recent sub and praised its bass performance for being "massive, powerful, and weighty" while preserving subtle details. His conclusion: "an outstanding choice for small to moderate-sized rooms." (Vol.42 No.9 WWW)

SVS SB16-Ultra: $2299.99 ★
Just as a big dog needs a big leash, a big woofer cone needs a big voice-coil, if only to prevent the cone from flexing and the coil from shifting in its gap. So in designing their SB16-Ultra powered subwoofer, SVS equipped its 16" driver with an 8" edge-wound voice-coil—a coil so wide that it runs outside the driver's four big toroidal magnets. Indeed, SVS says that the SB16-Ultra's voice-coil is, to date, the largest used in a commercial subwoofer. (The driver as a whole weighs 63.9lb, almost precisely the average birth weight of a Holstein calf.) Joining all that bigness is a 1500W class-D amplifier, a computerized bass-management system that, like the SB16-Ultra's basic controls, is operated from a Bluetooth-friendly smartphone app, and an "uncluttered" rear panel that, according to reviewer LG, includes both unbalanced (RCA) and balanced (XLR) inputs and outputs. LG was also impressed by the 122lb SB16-Ultra's relative ease of installation, praising in particular its "smart" packaging, its four-page quick-start manual—and Merlin, SVS's online setup guide, which offers loudspeaker-specific recommendations for filter settings and the like. LG wrote that, after optimizing its setup, "it was clear that a single SB16-Ultra could produce more than enough bass extension and slam in my large listening room." (Vol.40 No.12 WWW)

B

JL Audio E-Sub e110: $2100 in Gloss, $1900 in Ash ★
One step down from JL Audio's Fathom series is the Florida company's E-Sub line, the entry-level model of which is the e110 in black ash finish. (Add $200 for gloss black.) The self-powered (specced at 1200W RMS) e110 sports a 10" driver and pairs of RCA inputs and outputs. With the sub's crossover engaged, the output jacks provide a 24dB/octave, Linkwitz-Riley–filtered high-pass signal; when the crossover is defeated, they provide a buffered version of the same signal that appears on the e110's input jacks. Controls include level, filter defeat, filter frequency, polarity, and variable phase; the e110's specified frequency response is 25116Hz, ±1.5dB (3dB at 23Hz). KR, who relied on Audyssey and Dirac Live software for EQ chores, found that, in his room, "useful response was maintained to below 15Hz. Pretty impressive for a pair of 10" drivers!" And although, as KR observed, "two 10" subs couldn't 'load' the room" as his larger subs did, the E-Subs offered "deep, powerful bass." (Vol.39 No.9 WWW)

KEF KC62: $1499.99
This minuscule—10" × 10" × 10"—powered subwoofer weighs 30.9lb and uses KEF's unique force-canceling, bipolar Uni-Core drive-unit, which has two opposed 6.5" diaphragms with concentrically sleeved voice-coils sharing a common magnetic pole-piece. The aluminum enclosure acts as the heatsink for the internal amplification and the KC62 includes line-level (RCA) and speaker-level inputs (Phoenix connector) and a variable (40Hz–120Hz) high-pass–filtered line-level (RCA) output. There are five DSP room-placement profiles: Room (for positioning away from walls); Wall (for next to a wall but not in a corner); Corner; Cabinet (near a corner, inside a cabinet); and Apartment (which reduces the level of the KC62's lowest frequencies). With Falcon's "Gold Badge" LS3/5as, HR noted that after some experimentation with settings and placement, as well as extending the minimonitors' low frequencies, the KC62 improved the speakers' midrange presence and spaciousness in ways that made it easier for him to look into the sound-space and stay focused on performances. "Instruments and voices sounded bigger, more physical, and easier to 'see' with the KC62 engaged." He also achieved excellent results with Magnepan .7s and KEF LS50s and concluded that the KC62 "took an already great speaker and made it greater. Isn't that what a subwoofer is supposed to do?" Class rating reflects limited output power. (Vol.44 No.6 WWW)

MartinLogan Dynamo 800X: $899.99/each for sub $$$; SWT-X adds $199.99 ★
In 2018, MartinLogan introduced optional wireless connections for their subwoofers: a move that eliminated the need for typically long, costly interconnect runs. Soon thereafter, Larry Greenhill borrowed the next-to-smallest model in the company's new subwoofer line, the Dynamo 800X ($799.95 without wireless connectivity, $999.90 with). Boasting a 10" polypropylene woofer and a built-in, 300W, class-D amplifier, the roughly cubical (13.7") Dynamo 800X weighs 30lb, and its removable feet can be arranged to accommodate front- or downfiring installations. Comparing wired vs wireless connection, LG could hear "no differences in levels of background noise or bass power, or in pace, rhythm, pitch definition, solidity, or tightness"—nor did he experience any dropouts. In LG's experience, the Dynamo 800X is outperformed by other subs in terms of bass extension, bass dynamics, and even pitch definition, but those alternatives are all considerably larger/heavier and more expensive, leaving the Dynamo 800X a comparably high-value recommendation. (Vol.42 No.2 WWW)

SVS 3000 Micro: $899.99
At 10.9" × 11.7" × 10.7" and weighing in at 26.7lb the 3000 Micro is similar in size and weight to the KEF KC62. It features two opposing 8" aluminum-cone drivers equipped with dual-ferrite magnets and powered by a 800W Sledge STA-800D2 class-D power amplifier. A Bluetooth smartphone app (Apple iOS and Android) and a control panel on the subwoofer's side plate both allow volume, low-pass frequency (30–200Hz), phase (in single-degree increments), polarity, room-gain compensation, and crossover slope (6, 12, 18, or 24dB/octave) to be adjusted. There is also a DSP-powered parametric equalizer, which allows users to create and save as many as three custom EQ settings. With the Falcon Gold Badge speakers, HR set the 3000 Micro's low-pass filter to 68Hz and the level to –29dB, at which point "bass-register piano notes snapped into full-textured focus. . . . [M]y system's octave-to-octave tonal balance seemed ideal. Bass and lower midrange exhibited a satisfyingly pure harmonic structure. Plus, all the bass sounds appeared to be coming from the LS3/5a's, not the sub." HR found that in his relatively small room, "the SVS's dual 8" cones projected their energy with more ease and flow than the 6.5" KEF KC62 cones had." However, he felt that more expensive KEF KC62s had better pitch definition, pace, and timing than the 3000 Micro. "The KEF's tone seemed slightly more correct, and it danced with slightly greater precision," he wrote, adding "but it was close." HR also had successes integrating the SVS subwoofer with Harbeth M30.2s and Magnepan .7s, concluding that "everything about my first SVS subwoofer experience pointed to a manufacturer that specializes in 'well and thoroughly conceived' subwoofer experiences." (Vol.44 No.8 WWW)

COMMENTS
Auditor's picture

The text under the J. Sikora Initial is the same as under the J. Sikora Reference, which is obviously a mistake.

John Atkinson's picture
Auditor wrote:
The text under the J. Sikora Initial is the same as under the J. Sikora Reference, which is obviously a mistake.

Fixed. Thank you.

John Atkinson
Technical Editor, Stereophile

lesmarshall's picture

I was very surprised to read that the Benchmark DAC 3 is no longer a Recommended Component . In the earlier 2022 edition of Recommend Components , it was an A+ component . Your stated reason for the deletion was because it was not auditioned in a long while . Well why not audition it then ? Also, why is an audition necessary ? It measured as one of the best DACs ever . Why would its measurements change simply because you have not auditioned it recently ? I understand its your policy , but it seems rather unfair to Benchmark that you no longer recommend it for that reason . I believe a much fairer policy would be that a highly rated component should only fall off the recommended list if it is auditioned periodically and you determine that its current level of recommendation is no longer justified based on the factors that you use to include a component of the recommended list .

JRT's picture

Les, toward some light hearted amusement, consider a reductio ad absurdum.

The quoted material below was excerpted from the first version (published 01 May 1963) of Stereophile's recommended components, just the A,B,C rated amplifiers and preamplifiers:

Quote:

Preamplifier-Control Units
A: Marantz 7, McIntosh C-20
B, C: Dynaco PAS-2

Power Amplifiers
A: Marantz 8B, McIntosh MC-60 (footnote 5), Marantz 9A (footnote 5)
B, C: Dynaco Stereo 70

Footnote 5: mono amplifier.

Reductio ad Absurdum... Should the old gear listed above continue as currently recommended gear, or is it best left in its original context in the circa 1963 article? ...and why or why not? ...and is it a much too different set of cases for comparison? ...why? Would that old gear be good fodder for a listing of recommended vintage gear, and is that good subject matter for the current Stereophile readership? These are mostly rhetorical questions, but not all.

JRT's picture

Would you also include the essentially similar PAS-3, and then also the PAS-3X with updated tone controls, and then maybe also Frank van Alstine's improved Super PAS Three, etc.? The original short-list can grow large.

https://www.stereophile.com/content/recommended-components-1-0

https://www.stereophile.com/tubepreamps/1088vana/index.html

georgehifi's picture

It would be nice if the "title" of the piece recommended was clickable, so one could easily then read the full review of all these thousands of "recommended components" instead of searching like a ???

Just a thought??

Cheers George

liquidsun's picture

I must say I'm surprised to see Perlistens into Restricted Extreme LF category as I thought they were full range speakers.

Kal Rubinson's picture

For most, they will be full range but, as you can see from JA's Fig. 4, the FR is rolling off smoothly below 100HZ such that it will easily mate with a complementary subwoofer. I believe that was Perlisten's intent. That said, unless you are assessing the sound of low, low organ pedal tones, explosions or thunder, the bass from the s7t is clean, powerful and musically satisfying.

Robin Landseadel's picture

There's a lot of Dance Pop/Techno music that gives the lowest octave a workout. Managed to blow out the small bass driver from a Paradigm bookshelf speaker with a Sarah McLaughlan track---"I Love You" from the album "Surfacing"---a quiet ballad with a synth bottom without overtones, so there's pure, deep bass. Another good example would be the work of Bill Laswell, a producer/bass player.

Kal Rubinson's picture

OK but how is this relevant? On the one hand, I am not surprised that one can blow out the small bass driver in a bookshelf speaker. On the other, I doubt if it would do that to the Perlisten.

Robin Landseadel's picture

Blowing out the driver of a Paradigm Atom might not be meaningful save that I blew it out with a track that is low in level and undynamic. More to the point, it sounds like the speakers in question could use a sub. Of course, you pointed out that the speakers in question are designed to integrate well with subs. My Infinity 250 speakers, small floor-standing speakers, also requires a sub for deep bass.

What is meaningful is that there is more to the bottom octave than organ pedals and explosions. Lots of modern productions take advantage of digital recording/playback's ability to record/reproduce the lowest octaves of sound.

Kal Rubinson's picture

Yes, there is a lot more to the bottom end than I cared to mention but the distinction between the small Paradigm Atom and the s7t is that the former needs a sub (or a LP filter) merely to survive wide-band signals while the latter does not.

Did you read my comments about the Garage Door test? I doubt that either your Paradigm or your Infinity could compete with the Perlisten, with or without a sub.

Robin Landseadel's picture

Doubtless. My point was more about program material and really deep bass. In any case, my Infinity Primus 250s are aided by my Sonance Son of Sub. As the system is in a small room, it's probably as much bass as the room can take.

Anton's picture

I like to hit this issue and pretend all my Hi Fi gear is gone and I have to start over with my budget and this list.

Glotz's picture

Droooooool.. and I'm done FOREVER.

Soulution, MBL... heaven.

KEFLS50W's picture

It will be interesting to see if Stereophile catches up to the focus on active, integrated designs. The relevance of separates seems to be waning in comparison to these sexy and modern designs (many of which are good value to boot) from KEF, B&W, Q Acoustic, ATC, Dali, and others. LS50WII for example gives me access to high quality, high current class a/b amplification I would not have been able to afford with separates. On another note, why are REL subs not listed - they would floor the competition listed in terms of sonics and build quality. Sorry but SVS is a home theater product and KEF KC62 is for kids.

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