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All Time Lows

The latest breed of subwoofers finds new ways to bring the bass indoors, outdoors, and in confined spaces.

A few months back, when I was speaking with manufacturers about the advances in home theater speaker design, Nick Berry, CEO of Origin Acoustics, offered, “Unlike electronics that go through exponential changes on a regular basis, loudspeakers are electromechanical devices restricted by the laws of physics. This means the advancements come in the form of nuance. New materials, suspension methodologies, motor refinements, and driver geometry are always being applied in a trial-and-error process.”

And although his statement was specifically about loudspeakers, the same can be said for subwoofers — manufacturers are constantly seeking ways to bring deeper lows to home theaters and music reproduction. The last quarter of the year, starting around CEDIA Expo, saw the debut of many new models — including those designed to answer specific needs such as outdoor audio or bringing bass to confined, multi-use rooms — that we wanted to shine a spotlight on some of the most recent additions to the subwoofer world.

The New Breed
Let’s begin with the more traditional models, starting with Berry’s Origin Acoustics. Their Deep Subwoofer collection, with the flagship SUBDD12EQ, features two active 12-inch woofers that are side mounted at a 90-degree angle to each other and driven by 1200 watts of power. The real power of the sub, however, comes in the ability to adjust the parameters from the listening position through a dedicated phone app — including the single-band parametric EQ, which allows for attenuation of the offensive resonance frequency that is often created by the sub’s position in the room in relation to the listening position. It also allows for adjustment of output level, crossover point, phase, and the auto-on feature. Finally, there is an auto-EQ function that aids in setting up the sub to function properly with the rest of the speakers in the system.

The new Defiance subwoofers from Paradigm Electronics also include app control and features the company’s Anthem Room Correction (ARC), which is controlled by the app and measures the space the sub is in, compares it to lab standard responses, and removes performance-robbing anomalies. The Defiance X version, which according to the company is the biggest sub made in North America (they come from Canada), features an ARC microphone for setup, and has what Paradigm calls “massive output” that is created due to the heavy-duty, internally braced cabinets, and Active Ridge Technology woofer surrounds.

Speaking of Canada, PSB Speakers recently debuted two new under $1000 subwoofers. The SubSeries 350 ($999 U.S. MSRP) and SubSeries 250 ($699 U.S. MSRP) are compact subs that are housed in gloss black, cubic cabinets with 12- and 10-inch drivers powered by Class D MOSFET amplifiers. That Class D MOSFET amp is a highlight of the SubSeries, with PSB claiming that is highly efficient and includes a very low power (<0.5W) standby mode, making the woofer instantly available when needed, but very low in power consumption.

The SubSeries 350 has a 12-inch woofer and is capable of 300 watts of continuous power and dynamic peaks of 900 watts. The SubSeries 250 has a 10-inch driver that is capable of 200 watts of continuous power and dynamic peaks of 600 watts.

The Revel by HARMAN Performa3 B110V2 and B112V2 subwoofers (10- and 12-inch, respectively) are highlighted by re-engineered drivers and amplifiers. Improvements to the drivers include a new fully-vented cast aluminum frame with more mass and higher heat conduction to assist in driver cooling; a long (50mm) two-layer copper coil wound on a high-temperature fiberglass former to help the voice coil withstand high temperatures; and a coated cellulose, pulp fiber-composite cone that combines reduced mass with improved rigidity. The revised amps feature greater control options, including crossover frequency, 0/180-degree phase switch, single-band parametric EQ, 2-position EQ performance (normal/extended), and EQ bypass controls.

The two new subs from Atlantic Technology demand attention — the SBT-500 (500 watts, 2×250 watt amps, two 10-inch woofers) and the SBT-1000 (1000 watts, 2×500 watt amps, two 12-inch woofers). Both models are housed in heavy-duty MDF cabinets with a high-gloss piano-black or satin finish and feature line and XLR inputs, 0/180-degree phase control, adjustable crossover, auto on/off, volume, bypass, and a DSP controlled EQ. The SBT-500 comes in with a U.S. MSRP of $1799, while the SBT-1000 comes in at $2499.

MSE Audio’s Phase Technology HV subwoofer line includes the HV101-LP, HV101-II (both $390), and HV121-II ($490), and features treated pulp drivers with high-excursion rubber surrounds; on-board DSP smart limiting; gain control; phase switch; variable crossover; L&R inputs; and a dedicated LFE input. Of particular note is the HV101-LP (the “LP” stands for “low profile”), as the sub is designed to be placed underneath couches, tables, and other furniture to hide it within a room. The HV subwoofer line also features a 40–250 Hz variable crossover with a 24 dB/Octave low pass + LFE and 150 watts of maximum power.

Deep Squeeze
Big sound doesn’t necessarily have to come from a big box, as is evidenced by the new breed of in-wall and compact subwoofers that debuted over the past few months, which are designed for use in small home theaters or in multi-use areas that need some solid low-end sounds.

On the compact front, there is the Wisdom Audio S10 subwoofer, which is designed to work with their new range of on-wall speaker models and features an ultra-compact design that is only 4.5 inches deep and can easily be hidden under sofas or cabinets. The sealed freestanding sub is convertible from upright to down-firing or up-firing installation. Two S10 subwoofers can be powered from a single Wisdom SW-1 DSP amplifier.

Heading into the wall is the BLACK SC-800 subwoofer, which manages to place an 8-inch injected polypropylene woofer and 10-inch passive radiator between the studs. The SC-800 is rated to handle 300 watts, and includes a paintable frame and grille to help it blend into any décor.

JBL Synthesis covers all the bases (basses?) with their SSW series subwoofer line that features one compact model (SSW-2) and two in-wall units (SSW-3 and SSW-4). The SSW-2 hangs its hat on its design, which features dual high-excursion 12-inch woofers with 4-inch voice coils and coated cellulose pulp fiber-composite cones that combine with oversized SBR rubber surrounds for greater excursion, enhanced moving-mass control, and improved longevity under high-stress usage. All of that — along with 1700 watts RMS power handling — is packed into a rectangular cabinet that can be oriented vertically or horizontally to fit into corners, or below projection screens and video displays.

The SSW-3 is a flush-mount passive subwoofer with dual high-excursion 10-inch woofers in an enclosure that is designed to be installed behind drywall and includes duplicate gold-plated, spring-loaded binding post speaker terminals on each end so it can be mounted at floor or ceiling level. According to JBL, a newly designed fully vented cast aluminum frame provides more mass for greater strength and higher heat conduction to assist in driver cooling. With 600 watts RMS power handling, the sub is designed to handle the full power output of a single channel from a JBL Synthesis SDA-4600 power amplifier.

If you are looking for an in-wall to install after the walls have been sealed, JBL offers the SSW-4, which is a self-contained passive subwoofer with integrated back-box that allows for easy retrofit installations without the need for installing a large enclosure behind the drywall. Its compact enclosure is designed to fit into standard 2×4 wall construction and includes both dog legs and rubber isolation screw mounts for direct attachment to traditional 16-inch on-center framing. The SSW-4 is driven by dual 8-inch front-firing, aluminum cone drivers mounted into a rigid baffle assembly that installs into the back-box enclosure.

Origin Acoustic’s new in-wall entry, the CSUB12 subwoofer, is a two-piece unit made of an enclosure and the woofer driver. The enclosure is an extruded aluminum cabinet that fits in a standard stud bay and is installed in advance of the drywall. Once the wall is finished, the 12-inch woofer is mounted inside the enclosure and finished off with a magnetically attached grille. The sub features 500 watts of power and can be used with Origin’s suite of DSP controls.

Klipsch hits new highs with their architectural subwoofers — one of their two new models is designed to be used in-ceiling (or in-floor if you so choose). The Professional Series PRO-800SW in-ceiling bandpass subwoofer features a flexible port tube that opens to a small 4.25-inch opening, matching the diameter of most recessed lights and minimizing its visual footprint in the room. It provides deep bass through its 8-inch long-throw Cerametallic woofer and its dual voice coil design. A 90-degree connector and dog legs on the port tube ceiling connector ensures secure, easy installations in small, tight spaces. For in-floor installation, a 4- x 10-inch floor vent kit accessory is sold separately.

The Klipsch in-wall option, the Professional Series PRO-1200SW, features a 12-inch woofer and is designed for easy integration into standard 16-inch OC stud bays. Bass is provided by a long-throw Cerametallic woofer with reverse rolled surround. Both Professional Series architectural subwoofer solutions feature MDF enclosures to ensure sound isolation from neighboring rooms and magnetic, paintable grilles.

The Great Outdoors
Once confined to four walls in darkened basements, subwoofers have expanded their dominance to include multi-purpose rooms and even backyards. This latest expansion was well on display at CEDIA Expo, with several new models longing to hide among the shrubs.

SpeakerCraft’s new Terrazza series offers integrators the option of placing the subwoofer above or below ground. For above ground, the 8-inch SpeakerCraft Hardscape subwoofer features an ultra-waterproof rotational molded polyethylene enclosure and a high excursion 8-inch DVC woofer with rubber surround. It fights the elements with a 1-meter burial-rated speaker wire, silicone-filled wire nuts, and a rust-resistant aluminum grille, and it fights potential theft with an eyelet fastening point.

Those willing to dig for deep bass can check out the SpeakerCraft Burial subwoofer, which features a low-noise ABS canopy/reflector with UV-resistant paint and a weatherproof rotational molded polyethylene enclosure. Like the Hardscape, it includes a high excursion 8-inch DVC woofer with rubber surround.

The Hardscape and Burial subwoofers both come paired with four Landscape Satellite Speakers to create a Terrazza Series Landscape System.

MSE Audio recently added to the outdoor subwoofer canon with the well-camouflaged Rockustics OneSub and DubSub units. The OneSub is a stand-alone, passive subwoofer requiring a sub amplifier with an active crossover, while the DubSub performs as a sub/sat system. Both are rock enclosures and designed to withstand rain, frost, snow, and ice. The OneSub features an 8-inch subwoofer, and the DubSub sports an 8-inch dual-voice coil sub. Both feature a 4-ohm impedance and a frequency response of 38 to 100 Hz.

Although it is part of a package, SnapAV’s Episode Terrain Landscape System includes an 8-inch burial subwoofer in addition to four 4-inch satellite speakers.

With so many subwoofer options now available, there seems to be a solution for nearly every challenge — both indoors and out.