SUBWOOFER REVIEWS

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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
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Value

SB12-NSD Subwoofer
Performance
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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.

Brent Butterworth  |  Jul 16, 2013  |  0 comments

On Monday, when I reviewed the NXG NX-BAS-500 subwoofer, I recallled a time 20+ years ago when the only companies that made really good subwoofers were M&K and Velodyne. The "K" in M&K stood for Kreisel-Ken Kreisel, to be specific.

Brent Butterworth  |  Jul 14, 2013  |  0 comments

I can remember when there were only two companies, M&K and Velodyne, that made good subwoofers. Thanks to the explosion in Chinese manufacturing, there are now so many companies making subwoofers-and so many making good ones-that it's impossible even to be aware of them all, much less have hands-on experience with all their products.

Mark Fleischmann  |  Jul 05, 2013  |  8 comments

Quintet Speakers
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SW-100 Subwoofer
Performance
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Price: $1,050 At A Glance: Molded reinforced polymer enclosure • Vertically expanded Tractrix horn • Conventional sub

Compact satellite/subwoofer sets are often affordable, mate well with budget receivers, allow more speaker-placement width than soundbars, lend themselves to wall mounting—and best of all, they don’t hog the room, even if you place them on stands (which would usually produce the best sonic results). What Justice Anthony Kennedy’s swing vote is to the Supreme Court, the spouse acceptance factor is to loudspeaker genres, and the elegant compactness of a sat/sub set just may be the tiebreaker, the factor that makes the difference between having or not having a surround system. Sat/sub sets continue to be the most underrated product category in home theater.

Darryl Wilkinson  |  Jul 05, 2013  |  2 comments

HD Speaker System
Performance
Build Quality
Value

Metro Subwoofer
Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
Price: $10,580 (standard finish, updated 3/10/15)
At A Glance: Folded-planar magnetic tweeters • Treble and bass trim switches • Biwire and biamp capable

Every company has its genesis story, be it the back of a napkin or something more grandiose. Apple, of course, is famous for starting out in Steve Jobs’s parents’ garage. Lutron’s backstory isn’t quite as well known, but its unassuming beginnings were in the bedroom founder Joel Spira and his wife intended to use as their first child’s nursery. (“Sorry, kid, you’ll have to sleep on the couch. Daddy’s got a solid-state dimmer to invent.”) Similar to Apple, Legacy Audio’s birthplace was in a garage; but this garage was far from Cupertino. Instead, it was located in the midst of the cornfield-filled upper Midwest where, according to Legacy, Bill Dudleston and “a stubborn Dutch craftsman,” Jacob Albright, built the company’s first speaker, the Legacy-1, in 1983. Thirty years later, though, what the heck does any of this have to do with Legacy Audio’s loudspeakers today? Really, who gives a flying flip about two dudes, a garage, cornfields, and some woodworking equipment? (Hmm…cornfields. Wasn’t there a movie about that? “If you build it, they will listen.”)

Mark Fleischmann  |  Jun 27, 2013  |  9 comments

Epic Midi 125 Speaker System
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Value
EP125 v3 Subwoofer
Performance
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Price: $1,786 (updated 1/28/15)
At A Glance: Distinctive cabinet shapes • Revealing voicing • Sold factory direct

Merriam-Webster.com defines a cabal as “the artifices and intrigues of a group of persons secretly united in a plot (as to overturn a government),” or “a group engaged in such artifices and intrigues.” For the past 30 years, Axiom Audio has been part of a Canadian cabal of loudspeaker manufacturers secretly united in a plot to overturn bad sound—ironically, with government support. The Ontario-based company is one of several brands that sprouted from Ottawa’s National Research Council facilities where Axiom founder and president Ian Colquhoun learned the art and science of speaker design under the legendary Dr. Floyd Toole.

Why do we say “secretly united”? Axiom is one of those well-kept secrets of the audio world, and that’s partly our fault. The company has been designing and manufacturing its products in Canada, right under our North American noses, yet this is the first review we’ve done on an Axiom product in about 20 years, despite the accolades the brand has attracted in the interim. So we’re playing catch-up with this review of Axiom’s Epic Midi 125 5.1-channel speaker package, which includes two monitors and a center in the front, dedicated diffuse surrounds, and a subwoofer. Let’s just say the secret is out.

Mark Fleischmann  |  Jun 21, 2013  |  0 comments

Tannoy Precision Speaker System
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Value

Tannoy TS2.12 Subwoofer
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Features
Build Quality
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Price: $4,414 At A Glance: Coaxial driver array • Pinpoint-precise imaging • Clean, wellmannered subwoofer

If you read a lot of British novels, eventually you’ll run across a reference to an announcement “on the Tannoy” in a train station or airport. In the U.K., the birthplace of Tannoy Ltd., the loudspeaker brand is a synonym for public-address system. No other speaker manufacturer in the world enjoys this distinction, though it comes at a price: The Tannoy people are constantly firing off letters to publications that make the mistake of using tannoy generically, without the proper cap-T to indicate its trademark status.

Trivia buffs may be surprised to discover that the firm was founded in 1926 as the Tulsemere Manufacturing Company in England. Not until 1932 did the brand name become Tannoy, an abbreviation for tantalum alloy, a material used in the electronic guts of its early products. Tannoy relocated its design and engineering center to Scotland about a half-century later, and for the past decade has been owned by the Denmark-based TC Group.

Mark Fleischmann  |  May 20, 2013  |  1 comments

V52 Speaker System
Performance
Build Quality
Value
Power FL-10 Subwoofer
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Features
Build Quality
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Price: $1,880 At A Glance: Innately musical monitors • Bipole/dipole surrounds • Powerful subwoofer

Phase Technology is one of the great American loudspeaker makers. The man behind that achievement was Bill Hecht, a genuine first-generation audio pioneer. This review can’t begin without noting his passing last fall at age 89, the end of a life devoted to bringing movies and music into both the public and private realms.

Hecht began his career as an expert in Cinemascope Stereophonic Sound, installing systems at New York’s Radio City Music Hall and other pleasure palaces. His company United Speaker Systems (USS) launched in 1955 as he hand-built speakers, including drive units, in his garage. USS got a boost when Avery Fisher offered a commission to build the first Fisher loudspeakers. Hecht earned several patents, most notably for developing the soft-dome tweeter. He also patented a self-damping woofer voice coil, a manufacturing process for flat piston drivers, silicon-injected drivers for resonance damping, and a basketless midrange/woofer mounting system.

Tom Norton  |  Apr 23, 2013  |  0 comments

KEF R900 Speaker System
Performance
Build Quality
Value
KEF R400b Subwoofer
Performance
Features
Build Quality
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Price: $9,400 At A Glance: Sweet, clean highs • Big, generous soundstage • Flawless fit and finish

If you’ve been passionate about audio for more than a few years, or can name five loudspeaker companies with names that don’t rhyme with rose and begin with a B, you’ve certainly heard of KEF. In the late 1980s, KEF introduced a new concentric driver that placed the tweeter in the throat of the midrange cone. Dubbed Uni-Q, the design has been continually refined for over 20 years and remains the centerpiece of most KEF loudspeakers.

KEF today is part of a Hong Kong conglomerate...

Brent Butterworth  |  Apr 19, 2013  |  1 comments
Speakers are like karate. Subwoofers are like weightlifting. The quality of a speaker is determined by subtleties: well-chosen drivers, just-right crossover points and slopes, and a perfectly tuned, solidly constructed enclosure. The quality of a subwoofer is determined mostly by its muscle: the size of the enclosure, the displacement of its driver, and the power of its amplifier.
Mark Fleischmann  |  Apr 19, 2013  |  1 comments

Minx S325v2 Speaker System
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Value
X300 Subwoofer
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Price: $1,449 At A Glance: Second-gen high-end compact satellites • Mix of flat and cone drivers • Incredible dispersion

Compact cube speakers are an intriguing subset of the satellite/subwoofer speaker genre. Though not invariably high performers, cubes have achieved iconic status, and some manufacturers have made a fortune marketing them to folks whose significant others look at the diminutive geometric forms and say, “Bingo. That’s what I want your speakers to look like. Now get those big tombstones out of our den.”

Cambridge Audio has tapped into the cube mystique with its Minx sat/sub sets. In fact, the Minx has done so well that it is now a separate division of the company. Part of the Minx suc- cess story is, believe it or not, performance. The first-generation Min 10 (single cube) and Min 20 (double cube) earned rave reviews all over the place, and the single- cube version found a coveted perch on our Top Picks list.

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