Subwoofer Reviews

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Larry Greenhill  |  Nov 30, 2017  |  9 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?
Jon Iverson  |  Oct 04, 2014  |  0 comments
I like big bass, but I cannot lie
Tubby thumpers need not apply
And when a speaker drops in with itty-bitty bass
It puts a frown upon my face
I get bummed . . .

—Sir BassaLot, first audiophile rapper, 1992

Some folks put a pair of bookshelf speakers on stands in their room and are happy as clams. I imagine that they imagine the missing bass and never give it another thought. Not me, and perhaps not you. Some of us want to hear it and feel it, just as we would real instruments. We want sex in the room.

Stephen Mejias  |  Apr 03, 2013  |  5 comments
In March 2008, when I bought my PSB Alpha B1 loudspeakers, I decided that I should also buy PSB's matching SubSeries 1 subwoofer (footnote 1). It seems odd to me now that I would have considered the $449 subwoofer a necessary complement to speakers that sold for $279/pair. What was I thinking? Was I rolling in money? Certainly not. Was I merely young and fancy free? Yes and no. Was I sex-starved? Quite possibly.
Larry Greenhill  |  Mar 20, 2013  |  2 comments
Subwoofer technology is moving fast, with automated room equalization and system integration now a reality. A wave of new products has appeared in the past five years, all using different approaches to solving the problems of optimizing subwoofer response in listening rooms.
Larry Greenhill  |  Feb 13, 2012  |  3 comments
Although many high-end audio products are described as revolutionary and as breakthroughs in design when new, most audiophile components now on the market have not changed our way of relating to such products in the way the iPad has done. Once in a while, a new audio product does move in that direction by enabling the audiophile to do install a product and optimize its performance in a different way.
Larry Greenhill  |  Apr 20, 2010  |  0 comments
It's been over two years since I reviewed a pair of JL Audio's Fathom f113 subwoofers. Kalman Rubinson and I both gave the f113 top marks for delivering clean, powerful bass in a wide variety of full-range systems. At the end of the review period, JL Audio's Carl Kennedy told me that they wouldn't send me another subwoofer for review until they had developed one that outperformed the Fathom f113 (footnote 1). To this day, the Fathom f113 tops the subwoofer category in Stereophile's "Recommended Components."
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  |  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).
Larry Greenhill  |  Aug 20, 2008  |  0 comments
With the popularity of home-theater systems, subwoofers have proliferated. Because multichannel AV receivers are designed to provide a properly filtered, line-level subwoofer, or low-frequency effects (LFE) signal, many subs no longer come with built-in high- and low-pass filters for insertion into two-channel audio systems. However, the PB13-Ultra subwoofer from SV Sound does include these, which is what piqued my interest in it. After Ed Mullen, SV Sound's director of sales, assured me that the PB13-Ultra was capable of reproducing solid 20Hz organ-pedal notes in my listening room, I asked for one to review.

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