SUBWOOFER REVIEWS

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Dennis Burger  |  Dec 03, 2013  |  0 comments

MASS 5.1 Speaker System
Performance
Build Quality
Value
MASS W200 Subwoofer
Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $1,299

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Unique design
Beautiful imaging
Surprising dynamic capability
Minus
Tight binding posts won’t accommodate some connectors
Horizontal Centre speaker best used upright

THE VERDICT
Big, bold, bombastic sound from a relatively small and quite affordable package

I love double irony, that wonderfully weird phenomenon whereby a seeming incongruity loops right back around and becomes all too apt. Take the guy who names his Chihuahua Killer, for example, which seems like fun and giggles at first glance, until the little bugger tries to eat the face right off of your skull for want of a Snausage. Take also Monitor Audio’s compact MASS (spelled just like that, in all capital letters), a 5.1-channel home theater speaker system that continues the company’s trend of delivering complete home theater speaker systems in increasingly small, though typically traditionally shaped, packages. (Search the monitoraudiousa.com domain for the word diminutive, and you’ll see what I mean.) At first glance, you can’t help but think that whoever decided to hang such a MASSive moniker on a delicately tapered, lantern-like satellite speaker this small certainly had some chutzpah. And lifting one of the dainty 3.64-pound satellites does nothing to abate that initial urge to chuckle, no matter how solidly built and sturdy it may be.

Mark Fleischmann  |  Nov 21, 2013  |  0 comments

Nucleus Micro SE Speak
Performance
Build Quality
Value
TR-1D Subwoofer
Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $1,614

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Highly compact steel sphere enclosures
Transparent sound quality
Big soundstage with no restrictive sweet spot
Minus
On-wall or near-wall placement well advised
Tricky subwoofer mating
Likes a lot of power

THE VERDICT
A sub/sat system whose great strengths are its midrange clarity, wide dispersion, and décor-friendly form factor.

The interaction between speaker manufacturers and the public they serve has changed markedly since the days when I was a longhaired college kid buying my first speakers. Back then, design ideas flowed in one direction, from the top down, from the drawing board to the sales floor—and if you bought a speaker, you nearly always bought a box speaker. Now speaker-design imperatives flow in both directions. With a greater variety of beckoning form factors, speaker buyers influence the design process simply by choosing the products that fit into our lives.

Mark Fleischmann  |  Nov 08, 2013  |  7 comments

SS-NA5ES Speaker System
Performance
Build Quality
Value

SA-NA9ES Subwoofer
Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $19,000

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Scandinavian birch
enclosures
Triple tweeter array
Warm and fatigue-free
Minus
Not exactly cheap

THE VERDICT
A pricey speaker system that offers an edge to those who want the very best.

Sony has always had a sense of its own destiny that transcends any one of its multifaceted operations. To gamers, it is the guardian of the PlayStation franchise. Moviegoers know it as the owner of Sony Pictures, while music lovers know it as the home of Dylan, Springsteen, and Adele. Tech historians recall how Sony’s small transistor radios and Walkman cassette player, respectively from the 1950s and ’70s, paved the way for the iPod in the ’00s. Cutting-edge computer audiophiles are excited about the potential of Sony’s DSD file format to transform the nascent world of high-resolution music downloads.

Darryl Wilkinson  |  Oct 24, 2013  |  3 comments

Triton Seven Speaker System
Performance
Build Quality
Value

ForceField 5 Subwoofer
Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE 3,594

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Deep bass extension from dual passive radiators Remarkably full midrange Rearward rake with non-parallel front and rear baffles
Minus
You’ll need to find a new home for your current speakers

THE VERDICT
The Triton Sevens provide rock-solid high-end performance for a mid-fi price.

It begins with a fairy tale (of sorts). Once upon a time (say, around 2013), a little company named GoldenEar made three bears—no, sorry, three tower speakers. The first speaker was tall and big with a deep, deep voice. But it was too big and too expensive for a hungry little girl roaming the forest—no, I mean, for some of the people shopping through a forest of tower speakers at the A/V store. The second tower was shorter and a bit smaller. Its voice was deep, too, but not quite as much as the papa tower’s voice. Sadly, it was also too big to fit comfortably in some people’s rooms, and still too big for some of their budgets. Then GoldenEar made a third tower speaker, even shorter and less expensive, and this speaker was… Well, that’s what we’re here to find out, isn’t it?

Tom Norton  |  Oct 16, 2013  |  3 comments

Monitor 11 Speaker System
Performance
Build Quality
Value

Monitor SUB 12 Subwoofer
Performance
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $3,895 (updated 3/10/15)

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Crisp, powerful bass
Superior speaker-to-speaker timbre match
Excellent value
Minus
Slightly tipped-up highs

THE VERDICT
An immensely satisfying speaker system with both music and movies.

Canadian speaker manufacturer Paradigm makes a bewildering variety of loudspeakers. Its offerings top out at around $9,000 for a two-channel pair of Signature S8s—remarkably sensible considering the recent and alarming inflation in high-end audio prices. But while the speakers that make up the Paradigm’s Monitor Series 7, latest version of the company’s long-lived, bread-and-butter line, are far less expensive, they’re anything but an afterthought.

Darryl Wilkinson  |  Oct 11, 2013  |  0 comments

Performance
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $1,400

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Installer setup over IP
Options for wide, narrow, and frameless grilles
Six-band parametric EQ
Minus
Installation may be tricky for the uninitiated

THE VERDICT
Extensive tuning capabilities make for true high-end performance at an affordable price.

When it comes to architectural speakers, there are few companies I can think of that do things in a more focused, more insightful, and—most important when it comes to custom installations—more useful way than Triad. The company stands out in another way, too, in that most of Triad’s speakers are built to order in the U.S. (Portland, Oregon, to be specific) and are usually less than two weeks old by the time they arrive at the dealer’s warehouse door.

Darryl Wilkinson  |  Oct 11, 2013  |  0 comments
Performance
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $1,700

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Stillbass anti-shake technology keeps vibration in the box and out of the wall
520-watt amplifier with DSP equalization
Outstanding build quality
Minus
Flangeless grille looks less than elegant
Output drops off fast below 30 Hz

THE VERDICT
A solid, albeit pricey, choice for an in-wall sub.

Sunfire is no stranger to the small-box, high-output subwoofer concept, dating all the way back to 1996 with company founder Bob Carver’s original True Subwoofer—an 11.5-inch cube with one active driver and one passive radiator powered by a (claimed) 2,700-watt internal amplifier.

Darryl Wilkinson  |  Oct 11, 2013  |  0 comments
Performance
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $1,150

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Totally invisible installation
Can be covered with paint, wallpaper, or select specialized wall treatments
Good value
250-watt amplifier with low-pass filter
Outstanding build quality
Minus
More involved installation due to drywall finishing
Soft bass compared with traditional subs

THE VERDICT
Not the first choice for sheer sonic impact, but if aesthetics absolutely demand that no subwoofer or grille be visible, the B30G will get the job done.

Stealth Acoustics’ B30G subwoofer system is unlike nearly any other you’ll ever hold in your hands—or install in your walls. While “invisible” speakers are not a new thing, they’re still uncommon or, for most people, totally unheard of. A speaker that’s an integral part of your wall, one that can be painted, covered with wallpaper, or even done up with special wall treatments is such a seductive idea that it’s a wonder it’s not wildly popular as an architectural speaker design.

Brent Butterworth  |  Aug 31, 2013  |  0 comments

Televisions, receivers, and speakers are important to the home theater experience, but the subwoofer is the only component that regularly gets pushed to its limits — or beyond. The laws of physics dictate that producing clean, powerful, deep bass requires drivers that displace lots of air, and amps powerful enough to push them.

Brent Butterworth  |  Aug 31, 2013  |  0 comments

When it released its Digital Drive subwoofers back in the mid-2000s, Velodyne got the jump on all of its competitors. The Digital Drive circuitry and software let you tweak a sub’s sound — manually or automatically — to perfection, and also provided several preset EQ modes to suit different types
of material.

Brent Butterworth  |  Aug 31, 2013  |  1 comments

The cylindrical design of SVS’s PC12-NSD may appear eccentric, but it’s purely functional. The tube-shaped material makes it easy for SVS to create a good, stiff enclosure at low cost. It also minimizes the amount of floor space the sub occupies. While the 3-foot-high PC12-NSD is undeniably tall, its 16.6-inch-diameter form uses only a small amount of floor space.

Brent Butterworth  |  Aug 31, 2013  |  1 comments

The Power Sound Audio XV15’s sole concession to design is that, besides the stock satin-black finish, you can get the sub in your choice of five wood finishes for an extra $150. Otherwise, it’s a big, ugly box, standing 23 inches high and weighing 75 pounds. It packs a 15-inch woofer — the biggest of any sub in this test — powered by a BASH amp rated at 500 watts RMS, 1,000 watts peak.

Brent Butterworth  |  Aug 31, 2013  |  0 comments

A home theater enthusiast might look at Paradigm’s 13-inch-high Monitor SUB 10 and ask, “Why would I buy that when I can get a 15-inch sub for the same price?” Well, you wouldn’t buy it. Paradigm builds the SUB 10 for design-oriented buyers who want decent bass but don’t want a subwoofer that takes up a lot of floor space.

Brent Butterworth  |  Aug 31, 2013  |  0 comments

NHT was the first speaker company I ever wrote about, way back in 1989. The company has changed hands several times since then, but its current product offerings are strikingly similar to the originals. It still focuses on compact, well-engineered speakers with gloss-black finishes.

Mark Fleischmann  |  Jul 26, 2013  |  1 comments

Ultra Speaker System
Performance
Build Quality
Value

SB12-NSD Subwoofer
Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
Price: $3,348 At A Glance: Distinctive enclosure shapes • Strong build quality • Satisfying, balanced sound

The debut of the SVS Ultra speaker line prompts me to reconsider a question that’s been lurking at the back of my mind for years: Is SVS one of the great American speaker brands?

As a company founded in Ohio and initially operated out of a garage, SVS has all the right narrative elements of a great speaker brand. The company has built a reputation for making brilliantly unorthodox subwoofers and pretty good speakers—versus the scads of respectable brands that put most of their brilliance into speakers and treat subs as an afterthought. In the past few years, the story has added a few new chapters, with new heavy-hitter personnel in management and product design and a manufacturing move from Ohio to (where else?) China.

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