SUBWOOFER REVIEWS

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Thomas J. Norton  |  Aug 22, 2018  |  1 comments

Adante AS-61 Speakers
Performance
Build Quality
Value

SUB3070 Subwoofer
Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $2,500/pair

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Detailed, clean highs
Superb vocal reproduction
Bloat-free bass
Minus
Relatively low sensitivity
Limited bass extension

THE VERDICT
Elac's step-up AS-61 standmounter gets most everything right. Combined with the company's well-matched SUB3070 subwoofer, it makes for a highly appealing, high-performance speaker package.

Germany-based ELAC was well known in the 1960s and 1970s for its automatic (Miracord) turntables. The company disappeared from North America in the ensuing decades while transitioning into a major European loudspeaker brand. A few years ago, it decided that the time was right to return to the U.S. market. To produce new designs for that move they lured veteran speaker designer Andrew Jones away from his extended gig at TAD/Pioneer. The ELAC Debut line (now in its second generation) came first and seriously shook up the budget speaker sector. That was followed not long after by the pricier, but hardly pricey, Uni-Fi series.

Mark Fleischmann  |  May 30, 2018  |  2 comments

Q Series Q350 Speaker System
Performance
Build Quality
Value

The Kube 12b Subwoofer
Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $3,150 as reviewed

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Atmos add-ons
Coincident Uni-Q drivers
Sub has three placement EQ modes
Minus
Grilles not included
Not as dressy as other KEF products

THE VERDICT
KEF’s Q series combined with its new Kube subwoofer line brings the trademark Uni-Q driver array and a potent bottom end to a lower price point, with reliable performance and an Atmos add-on option.

One of the headlines I considered for this review was “What Becomes a Legend Most.” It’s a poignant song from Lou Reed’s New Sensations. Before that, it was an advertising slogan that sold mink coats in ads featuring Judy Garland, Lauren Bacall, and Marlene Dietrich, among others. Somehow, it fits KEF, the British speaker manufacturer responsible for numerous driver-related innovations, including the Uni-Q coincident array. KEF’s Muon and Blade towers have the fragrance of luxury about them.

David Vaughn  |  May 10, 2018  |  21 comments

Monolith 15"
Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value

Monolith 12"
Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $800, $1,300

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Clean, copious, and articulate bass
Outstanding build quality
Five-year replacement warranty
Minus
No parametric equalizer
No app control
Extremely heavy

THE VERDICT
Entry into the crowded internet-direct subwoofer market is a bold move from Monoprice, but the performance of these subs will surely make some waves and breed some fierce competition.

Reproducing a movie soundtrack in a home environment isn’t an easy task. At your local cinema, the theater will hopefully have sound dampening so you don’t hear outside noise. And if you’re lucky, the system will be calibrated properly and provide enough headroom so there’s no clipping or distortion during the dynamic portions of the soundtrack.

Darryl Wilkinson  |  Apr 26, 2018  |  1 comments

In-Wall Speaker System
Performance
Build Quality
Value

SuperSub X Subwoofer
Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $7,250 as reviewed

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Rotatable pleated tweeter for horizontal orientation
2½-way design
High performance-to-cost ratio
Minus
Horizontal installation requires modification of wall stud

THE VERDICT
With the Invisa Signature Point Source in-wall speakers, GoldenEar Technology has introduced an in-wall speaker with a performance-to-price ratio that rivals in-room competitors.

Just as not everyone prefers to eat turkey on Thanksgiving, there are some people who don’t like to have tower speakers standing at attention (and drawing attention) in their family’s living room. At our family’s traditional Thanksgiving chow-down (at Christmas, we have a ho-ho-hoedown), we serve baked ham as an alternative to the delicious, funny-looking bird the rest of us enjoy. (Those who don’t like either choice get bread and water.)

David Vaughn  |  Apr 23, 2018  |  0 comments

Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $1,800

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Outstanding bass response
Onboard parametric EQ
Useful remote and smartphone app Uncommon form factor
Minus
Lacks auto-calibration
Uncommon form factor

THE VERDICT
If floor space is an issue but you still want subterranean bass response, the PC-4000 is the perfect choice.

SVS has been a staple in the home theater industry for 20 years now, and I’ve been a proud owner of one of the company’s PC-Ultra cylindrical subwoofers for the past 13-plus years. When I was introduced to the brand, I remember taking a lot of heat from my wife for putting a “scratching post” in our family room. When she heard it for the first time, though, she realized that no cat in its right mind would ever go near the beast!

Mark Fleischmann  |  Mar 27, 2018  |  0 comments

Reference Theater Pack
Performance
Build Quality
Value

R-8SWi Subwoofer
Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $999

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Klipsch’s classic horn-loaded sound at a budget price
Minus
Enclosure adds some coloration

THE VERDICT
This redesign of Klipsch’s bestselling sat/sub system makes some compromises from its predecessors—but still produces excellent sound.

Some people are just good at things. People like Rembrandt van Rijn, who could make a painted image gaze into your soul; or Meryl Streep, who can be Anna Wintour one moment and Julia Child the next; or Warren Buffett, who’s been known to make his shareholders a dollar or two; or Billie Holiday, who could sing like Louis Armstrong’s trumpet and fit a lifetime of hard loving into a single phrase.

Mark Fleischmann  |  Jan 17, 2018  |  0 comments

Demand Series D11 Speaker System
Performance
Build Quality
Value

SuperCube 6000 Subwoofer
Performance
Features
Build Quality
PRICE 3,196

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Appealing neutral voicing
Laterally offset tweeter
Active 8-inch sub integrated in center speaker
Minus
D11 top radiators complicate placement of Atmos add-ons

THE VERDICT
The Demand Series lives up to Definitive Technology’s pedigree with satisfying, well-balanced sound that offers loads of resolution.

Nature abhors a vacuum, but wasting cabinet real estate is standard operating procedure among loudspeaker designers. With the notable exception of Atmos-enabled speakers and the occasional tweeter pod, the top panel of most speakers is a blank nothing. But does it have to be that way? Definitive Technology answered no, in effect, with its original Studio Monitor Series of bookshelf/stand-mount speakers (circa 2012) and does so again in this new update, the Demand Series.

Daniel Kumin  |  Jan 03, 2018  |  0 comments

Sib Evo Dolby Atmos 5.1.2 Speaker System
Performance
Build Quality
Value

Cub Evo Subwoofer
Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $1,299

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Excellent sound quality
Great subwoofer/satellite integration
Plays louder, cleaner than some similarly sized systems
Atmos on board
Minus
Spring-loaded push connectors can be irritating
No prepackaged 5.1.4-channel option

THE VERDICT
A high-performing, moderately compact, one-carton speaker solution for serious home theater—with Atmos.

Focal, the French loudspeaker maker—the French loudspeaker maker (there are others, but really, name one)—is best known on these shores for the Utopia series of haute-highend ultra-towers, which, cresting at something like $185,000 for a pair, step well over what I think of as the Che Guevara line. (That’s the line across which, following the revolution, anyone owning a pair can count on a very long vacation at state expense in a re-education camp.)

Mark Fleischmann  |  Oct 19, 2017  |  3 comments

M16 Speaker System
Performance
Build Quality
Value

B10 Subwoofer
Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $4,050 as reviewed

AT A GLANCE
Plus
High transparency
Equalized subwoofer
Wall-hanging surrounds
Minus
Manual sub EQ requires expertise

THE VERDICT
Revel draws on Harman’s world-class engineering depth to produce immaculate high-end sound—this time, at an extremely reasonable price.

Audiophiles (myself included) often point out that high-end audio is stigmatized compared with other product categories. High-end cars, high-end wine, high-end watches: All attract aficionados who don’t mind paying a stiff premium to get the best of the best. And if an average onlooker ventures an opinion at all, it’s “nice watch!” But when a bleeding-edge speaker or amp takes the stage, the applause of the cognoscenti mixes with heckling from the peanut gallery. High-end audio has long been subject to that extra measure of skepticism.

Mark Fleischmann  |  Aug 03, 2017  |  4 comments

3000 5.1 Speaker System
Performance
Build Quality
Value

3070 Subwoofer
Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $900

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Sweet and smooth sats
Dual 6.5-inch sub
Minus
Deep sub juts out from wall

THE VERDICT
A sweet-sounding system, with a sub worthy of the satellites, the Q Acoustics 3000 is one of the best under-$1,000 5.1-channel setups I’ve heard.

Tube amps. Mono pressings. And now, 5.1? Has bedrock surround sound indeed joined the ranks of retro audio technologies? Surround receivers beyond the most entry level nearly always have more than five channels (though their uses vary), while Dolby Atmos and DTS:X have made seven (5.1.2) the new minimum system configuration. What happens when you go in the other direction? The flood of 5.1 speaker sets that I used to review in the late 20th and early 21st centuries has tapered to a trickle. I see fewer new ones at CES and CEDIA, and plain old stereo is dominant at the rest of the domestic and international audio shows. However, the British manufacturer Q Acoustics has been marketing 5.1-channel speaker sets since the company’s inception about a decade ago and continues to actively develop them. The brand’s latest entry is called the 3000 5.1 Home Theatre System.

Darryl Wilkinson  |  Jul 28, 2017  |  9 comments

Persona 3F Speaker System
Performance
Build Quality
Value

Persona SUB Subwoofer
Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $31,000 as reviewed

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Beryllium tweeter and midrange drivers
Hand-polished, high-gloss finish
Slender, curved cabinets
Minus
Expensive
Heavy

THE VERDICT
Paradigm set out to create the best, state-of-the-Paradigm-art speakers the company has ever produced, bringing together top-notch cabinet construction and finishing capabilities and advanced driver technologies in hopes of achieving something greater than the sum of its already great parts. They’ve succeeded.

Paradigm, the Canadian loudspeaker company founded in 1982, has a long and respectable history of building excellent-sounding, great-looking speakers at relatively affordable prices—not outrageously expensive but not stupidly cheap, either. Somewhere along the way, though, somebody at Paradigm accidentally said out loud at a company meeting: “What if cost were, well, not no object, but at least less of an object? What if we combined all our best technologies and maybe threw in a bit of new stuff, too? Just how awesome of a speaker could we make? We should try that someday.” And thus the company’s latest and greatest-ever series of speakers was born.

Darryl Wilkinson  |  Jul 05, 2017  |  1 comments

Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $4,500 (plus installation)

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Enclosure designed for walls with standard 2 x 4 construction
13.5-inch low-profile driver
1,000-watt external amp with Automatic Room Optimization
Minus
Retrofit install can be difficult
Expensive

THE VERDICT
This subwoofer system does the seemingly impossible in an impossibly seeming way by hiding an amazingly shallow, high-excursion 13.5-inch woofer, along with the 70-inch-tall cabinet it requires, inside a wall having standard 2 x 4 construction, with only a driver-hiding grille screen as evidence—and it does this surprising feat without causing excessive wall vibrations. Even better, it does all that while performing like a top-end in-room sub.

If I needed additional proof of how much Rob Sabin, our esteemed editor-in-chief (and part-time male stripper for the visually impaired) dislikes me, this would be it. He asks me the other day if I’d want to review another JL Audio subwoofer, one similar to the company’s ginormous Fathom f212, which I reviewed in 2012. I have fond memories of, bruises from, and a partial hernia caused by that 220-pound behemoth.

Daniel Kumin  |  Jun 16, 2017  |  0 comments

Signature S60 Speaker System
Performance
Build Quality
Value

PSW125 Subwoofer
Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $1,600 as reviewed

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Excellent range and tonal balance
Dramatic looks
Good blend from unusually low-profile center
Minus
Sub doesn’t add much to the towers alone

THE VERDICT
With the Signature Series, Polk successfully practices its long-held ethos of delivering high performance at affordable cost in a new, smartly designed lineup.

Of the three or four speaker brands that pumped the vast majority of air throughout the hi-fi boom of the 1970s, only one—Polk Audio—is still doing what they’ve always done (design and make loudspeakers), where they’ve always done it (more or less), and with very much the same ethos (value/performance, with value in italics). OK, so Polks, like virtually all other mass-market speakers sold in the U.S. are now actually manufactured overseas. But they’re still conceived here according to the old Polk standards—industrially designed in San Diego out of the corporate headquarters and engineered in Polk’s original hometown in greater Baltimore.

Daniel Kumin  |  May 18, 2017  |  0 comments

Pulse Soundbar
Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Pulse Sub
Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $1,598 as reviewed

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Excellent musical sound quality
Notable bass extension, with or without sub
Many streaming capabilities, including hi-res audio
Multiroom system architecture
Visually outstanding
Minus
Some level and dynamics limitations
Occasional cumbersome or inconsistent operation

THE VERDICT
Accurate, dynamic musical sound, lifelike stereo imaging, and remarkable bass extension and control—plus extensive multiroom streaming abilities—easily counterbalance the few ergonomic quirks of a lovely, ultra-compact design.

Don’t look now, but the soundbars are gaining on us. Hardcore home theater heads like you and me can scoff all we want, but consumer electronics’ all-inone answer to audio for video is getting better, smarter, bassier, and popular-er, by leaps and bounds. High-end-ier, too.

Al Griffin  |  Apr 12, 2017  |  2 comments

ElectroMotion ESL X Speaker System
Performance
Build Quality
Value

Dynamo 1500X Subwoofer
Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $11,395 as reviewed

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Excellent performance with music and movies
Perfect Bass Kit for sub eases setup
Compact electrostatic center speaker
Minus
Some timbral shift between center channel and towers
Towers and center require AC power

THE VERDICT
MartinLogan’s ESL X tower speakers deliver delicacy and detail—along with serious dynamics when paired with the Dynamo 1500X subwoofer. A new, more compact electrostatic center speaker sweetens the deal.

As a member of Generation X, I sometimes get paranoid about being target-marketed when I see a product name appended with an “X”—for instance, MartinLogan’s new ElectroMotion ESL X speaker. I, for one, would be an easy target: An eX-MartinLogan owner, I’m very familiar with the detailed, almost eerily present sound that the company’s hybrid electrostatic speakers deliver. Consider me a fan.

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