Subwoofer Reviews

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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.
Robert Harley, Corey Greenberg, Larry Greenhill, Thomas J. Norton  |  Nov 02, 2011  |  First Published: Jul 01, 1991  |  0 comments
I should begin this review by confessing that I've never been a fan of subwoofers. Most subwoofer systems I've heard have been plagued by a familiar litany of sonic horrors: poor integration between subwoofer and main speakers, boom, bloat, tubbiness, slowness, excessive LF output, and an overall presentation that constantly reminds the listener he is hearing a big cone moving. To me, subwoofers often sound detached from the music, providing an accompanying thump that bears little relationship to the sound from the main speakers. Rather than revealing the music's harmonic underpinnings, subwoofers often obscure them in a thick morass of featureless boom. In addition, adding a subwoofer often destroys the qualities of the main speakers that made you buy them in the first place—just to name a few of my observations (footnote 1).

Other than that, I like subwoofers.

Kalman Rubinson  |  Nov 26, 2006  |  0 comments
I've been tweaking my weekend multichannel system for years, but with my city system I've kinda faked it. I now realize that I listen more actively to the weekend system, and not only because that's when I have the time for it—the sound of that system is simply more engaging and psychologically immersive. So, with the growth of my library of SACD and DVD-Audio recordings to almost half the size of my CD collection, I told my wife that it was time to transform of "our" city stereo rig into a full-blown multichannel system.
Kalman Rubinson  |  May 27, 2007  |  0 comments
Good things come in threes, they say. Well, three-channel power amps suit me just fine. My main component rack is at the back of the room, so I split power duties between a two-channel amp under the rack to drive my rear-channel B&W 804S speakers and, way at the front, either three monoblocks or a three-channel amp for the front three B&W 802Ds. I do this to ensure that the timbre of the front three channels is consistent. The outstanding performance of the Simaudio Moon W-8 dual-mono power amp (Stereophile, March 2006) almost tempted me to go with a stereo amp and a monoblock, but voicing and balancing a multichannel system with equanimity makes me want as much simplicity as possible. I guess manufacturers and users see it the same way; many new three-channel amps are coming on the market.
Kalman Rubinson  |  Sep 29, 2009  |  1 comments
We all recognize that the Super Audio Compact Disc, despite being an almost ideal format for high-resolution audio, has not replaced the "Red Book" CD. However, Sam Tellig's comments in the June and July issues of Stereophile, and Steve Guttenberg's "As We See It" in July, unleashed e-mails urging me to champion multichannel sound (don't I do this already?) and smite the unbelievers (not a chance).
Kalman Rubinson  |  Feb 02, 2010  |  First Published: Jan 02, 2010  |  0 comments
It seems only yesterday, but it's been 10 years since I began using the original Paradigm Reference Servo-15 subwoofer in my system. It was good then, and it still is, although a lot around it has changed. At first, I hooked it up via Paradigm's X-35 crossover, then via a Technics SH-AC500D surround processor, and finally to the subwoofer/LFE outputs of the various preamplifier-processors and A/V receivers I've used. Y'see, the Servo-15 is just a powered sub. It has an amp and a level control, but no crossover, no channel mixing, and no phase control. Just plug in the signal and it plays it. Along came in-room response correction from Audyssey, Anthem, Velodyne, etc., and the Servo-15 became an even better sub. For music, it entirely satisfies my needs.
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.
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.")

J. Gordon Holt  |  Sep 14, 2012  |  First Published: Apr 01, 1988  |  0 comments
I was so impressed by the Nelson-Reed 8-04/B loudspeaker's low-end range that I seriously doubted the add-on subwoofers could add enough of significance to be cost-effective.

I was wrong.

Two of the subwoofers were provided, along with the necessary electronic crossover unit. Each 1204 unit contains four 12" woofers in a very solid sealed enclosure, with two facing to the front and two facing the rear. The electronic crossover has three controls, besides the AC power switch: a hardwire (footnote 1) bypass switch, a stereo/mono switch, and a subwoofer level control. In the stereo mode, the low frequencies are kept separate, left from right; in mono mode, they are blended together for feeding to a single subwoofer. I will not resurrect the question of whether or not it is important to maintain stereo separation into the LF range, except to echo N-R's observation that there is no LF separation on analog discs to begin with; the lows are mixed together, to limit vertical excursions of the cutting stylus that could cause it to rise above the disc surface or, worse, dig into the aluminum base of the master disc.

Corey Greenberg  |  Jan 30, 1995  |  First Published: Jan 30, 1994  |  0 comments
What makes someone a good hi-fi reviewer? A fine critical sensibility? A good technical background? Ears? Eyes? Nose? Throat? So many different people are reviewing audio gear these days that it's downright impossible to characterize a good reviewer. But I do know that Beavis and Butt-head would make killer hi-fi reviewers!
Larry Greenhill  |  Nov 10, 2003  |  First Published: Aug 01, 1999  |  0 comments
Émile Durkheim (1858-1917) once wrote, "The less limited one feels, the more intolerable all limitation appears" (footnote 1). Although directed at the paradoxical observation that suicide rates are higher in newly prosperous countries than in those mired in poverty, his comment applies equally well to subwoofers.
Wes Phillips  |  Nov 10, 2003  |  First Published: Jul 01, 1998  |  0 comments
From The Audio Catechism:
Q: What is a subwoofer?
A: A large, ugly device that must be placed in the most inconvenient location in the listening room—for instance, in front of the only door.
Q: What is the purpose of the subwoofer?
A: To produce prodigious amounts of low-frequency sound and to glorify its owner, who can rest safe in the knowledge that his is the biggest.
Larry Greenhill  |  Oct 26, 2004  |  First Published: Oct 01, 2004  |  1 comments
Makers of powered subwoofers fall into two camps: those that fit a high-powered amplifier and a single, large woofer into a relatively small, unobtrusive enclosure; and those that build two or more 10" woofers and an amp of moderate power into a larger, heavier enclosure.
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  |  Dec 12, 2004  |  First Published: Nov 12, 2004  |  0 comments
It didn't seem like such a big deal. After all, when designer Kevin Voecks added a passive radiator to the bottom of Revel Loudspeakers' powerful Ultima Sub 15 subwoofer, no one expected that the resulting 6dB increase in bass output below 35Hz would be so audible. However, Revel's sophisticated double-blind listening tests (described in my review of their flagship Ultima Salon full-range loudspeaker in the March 1999 Stereophile, revealed that a big change had occurred. With now twice the radiating surface, the modified Sub 15 produced significantly deeper, more powerful bass.

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