Subwoofer Shootout - Looking for Something Small, Musical, and <$600

  • Thread starter seagullplayer77
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S

seagullplayer77

Audiophyte
First-time poster here, so if I'm doing anything incorrectly please let me know.

I recently upgraded from my no-name soundbar to a "real" sound system - a pair of Focal Aria 906 bookshelf speakers powered by a Yamaha A-S501 amp. Shortly after hooking everything up, I A/B'd my new setup with my old soundbar-subwoofer combination. On the first CD I listened to, I was dismayed to find that I liked the soundbar better, although in retrospect I think that was largely because that's what my ears were used to. After breaking in my speakers and messing around with placement, I did some more listening and quickly realized that my new setup was vastly superior to my old one, except perhaps with regards to bass.

After some more A/B comparisons, I came to the conclusion that while I was getting more bass out of the soundbar-subwoofer bundle than I was out of my bookshelf speakers, that additional bass wasn't worth much since it was just sort of "there." It was louder but poorly-defined, whereas the bass produced by the Focals was crisp, clean, and very musical - I just wish there was a tiny bit more of it.

I've decided to upgrade my system with a subwoofer and would like to solicit some opinions. This would be almost exclusively for music (mainly classical and some jazz/folk/acoustic) and not home theater, so I've been looking mainly at sealed cabinets. My listening area is about 16' x 20' and opens up into a 13' x 8' kitchen and an 8' x 7' dining room. One of the biggest challenges is placement; if the woofer is wired, there is precisely one location I can put it and something footprint of around 14" x 14" (ideally less) is a must. If I go wireless (which I'd like to avoid), I have two additional locations I can use and size is not an issue.

The models I have in mind are:

10" Driver
- Martin Logan Dynamo 700w (11.7" W x 12.3" D) - $300 Refurbished
- Elac Debut 2.0 3010 (13.5" W x 13.5" D) - $450 New

12" Driver

- SVS SB-1000 (13" W x 14.6" D) - $500 New
- Rythmik L12 (14" W x 15.5" D) - $560 New

I'm fully aware that I'm not comparing apples to oranges here and that the 12" woofers will go a few Hz lower and be louder, but I'm not looking for earth-shattering bass; I just want the best, most musical subwoofer that will fit in the limited space I have available.

Performance-wise, I'm most drawn to the Rythmik L12, but in a wired configuration it wouldn't fit well (it would stick out into a doorway). As I mentioned above, wireless would open up some additional placement options, but it seems like most wireless kits are prone to interference and since I live in an apartment building, there are plenty of wireless routers, cordless phones, and microwaves that could cause problems.

Size-wise, the Martin Logan is the most attractive option, and I could make the footprint even smaller by switching to a downward firing configuration. It's hard to argue with the price and while I don't plan on using the built-in wireless feature, it certainly adds flexibility if I ever needed to use it. The Elac is also intriguing, but it isn't that much smaller than the SVS or the Rythmik and I suspect the latter two are better speakers.

To be honest, I'm leaning towards the ML; it seems like the best fit for my current situation and I figure I can always upgrade when I get a bigger apartment or a house. But if it isn't going to sound good, I'd prefer to get something else.

I'd love to hear your opinions on the models I've listed above, as well as any others that fit my parameters that I may have missed. Thanks in advance for the help!
 
Pogre

Pogre

Audioholic Warlord
The ML seems like a decent deal but you have a much larger space than I think a single 10" can handle. A sub "sees" all of the space open to it and attempts to pressurize your room. Even a single 12" will struggle with such a large space. I don't say that in the interest of volume, boom and rattle so much as a larger sub will play much cleaner and with less distortion if it's not struggling to fill your room.

I think you might have a couple of misconceptions, such as sealed being better or "more musical" and that's just not the case. A well built ported sub will sound just as good and musical as a sealed sub. That being said, you do mention size and that's where sealed beats out ported hands down. If you have the room I would almost always recommend going with ported.
 
afterlife2

afterlife2

Audioholic Spartan
My vote goes to the SVS SB or PB. If you search in this forum there are various reviews. I've heard good things about the L12 as well, but never heard one. Dayton 1200 is a budget sub, but very musical and highly praised and I can attest to that notion. I'd recommend two since they are so cheap and around $300 shipped.
 
S

seagullplayer77

Audiophyte
My vote goes to the SVS SB or PB. If you search in this forum there are various reviews. I've heard good things about the L12 as well, but never heard one. Dayton 1200 is a budget sub, but very musical and highly praised and I can attest to that notion. I'd recommend two since they are so cheap and around $300 shipped.
The price is certainly right, but since it has a ~16" x 18" footprint, it's really too big. Unless I went wireless, I wouldn't have room for one of these, and certainly not two.
 
S

seagullplayer77

Audiophyte
Thanks for the recommendation. I had looked at some Hsu Research subs and ruled them out because while they were attractive in terms of performance and price, they were also a little too big. I would have to go wireless if I wanted to use the VTF-1, which I believe is the smallest sub they sell.
 
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afterlife2

afterlife2

Audioholic Spartan
The price is certainly right, but since it has a ~16" x 18" footprint, it's really too big. Unless I went wireless, I wouldn't have room for one of these, and certainly not two.
Or you can try this one. I know forum member jgarcia really liked this flat sub:
Non wireless version. Reviews say it's musical.
 
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KEW

KEW

Audioholic Overlord
Or you can try this one. I know forum member jgarcia really liked this flat sub:
Non wireless version. Reviews say it's musical.
This may be the ticket if you have room under your chair/sofa or behind some of your furnishings. Using more than one and having them closer to you (like under/behind your chair) will help get more impact despite not properly pressurizing your room.
 
K

kini

Audioholic
First-time poster here, so if I'm doing anything incorrectly please let me know.

I recently upgraded from my no-name soundbar to a "real" sound system - a pair of Focal Aria 906 bookshelf speakers powered by a Yamaha A-S501 amp. Shortly after hooking everything up, I A/B'd my new setup with my old soundbar-subwoofer combination. On the first CD I listened to, I was dismayed to find that I liked the soundbar better, although in retrospect I think that was largely because that's what my ears were used to. After breaking in my speakers and messing around with placement, I did some more listening and quickly realized that my new setup was vastly superior to my old one, except perhaps with regards to bass.

After some more A/B comparisons, I came to the conclusion that while I was getting more bass out of the soundbar-subwoofer bundle than I was out of my bookshelf speakers, that additional bass wasn't worth much since it was just sort of "there." It was louder but poorly-defined, whereas the bass produced by the Focals was crisp, clean, and very musical - I just wish there was a tiny bit more of it.

I've decided to upgrade my system with a subwoofer and would like to solicit some opinions. This would be almost exclusively for music (mainly classical and some jazz/folk/acoustic) and not home theater, so I've been looking mainly at sealed cabinets. My listening area is about 16' x 20' and opens up into a 13' x 8' kitchen and an 8' x 7' dining room. One of the biggest challenges is placement; if the woofer is wired, there is precisely one location I can put it and something footprint of around 14" x 14" (ideally less) is a must. If I go wireless (which I'd like to avoid), I have two additional locations I can use and size is not an issue.

The models I have in mind are:

10" Driver
- Martin Logan Dynamo 700w (11.7" W x 12.3" D) - $300 Refurbished
- Elac Debut 2.0 3010 (13.5" W x 13.5" D) - $450 New

12" Driver

- SVS SB-1000 (13" W x 14.6" D) - $500 New
- Rythmik L12 (14" W x 15.5" D) - $560 New

I'm fully aware that I'm not comparing apples to oranges here and that the 12" woofers will go a few Hz lower and be louder, but I'm not looking for earth-shattering bass; I just want the best, most musical subwoofer that will fit in the limited space I have available.

Performance-wise, I'm most drawn to the Rythmik L12, but in a wired configuration it wouldn't fit well (it would stick out into a doorway). As I mentioned above, wireless would open up some additional placement options, but it seems like most wireless kits are prone to interference and since I live in an apartment building, there are plenty of wireless routers, cordless phones, and microwaves that could cause problems.

Size-wise, the Martin Logan is the most attractive option, and I could make the footprint even smaller by switching to a downward firing configuration. It's hard to argue with the price and while I don't plan on using the built-in wireless feature, it certainly adds flexibility if I ever needed to use it. The Elac is also intriguing, but it isn't that much smaller than the SVS or the Rythmik and I suspect the latter two are better speakers.

To be honest, I'm leaning towards the ML; it seems like the best fit for my current situation and I figure I can always upgrade when I get a bigger apartment or a house. But if it isn't going to sound good, I'd prefer to get something else.

I'd love to hear your opinions on the models I've listed above, as well as any others that fit my parameters that I may have missed. Thanks in advance for the help!
Since this is entirely for music most of which the bass is above 30hz, you don't need to fill the entire space. Just the distance between you and the sub. You'll be able to hear and possibly feel some bass even with one small(ish) sealed sub. I have a polk 8" sub in a 2600 cubic foot room it's perfectly fine for music in that space.

My recommendation would be to try the SB1000 since it fits in your predefined location and it comes with shipping both ways included and a 45 day trial period.

Just be aware that the one area you have for placement may not be the best spot and you might end up with a wireless kit anyway.
 
S

seagullplayer77

Audiophyte
Thanks for the insight and recommendations. I ended up ordering the Rythmik L12. It was discounted $30 for the holidays, which was too good a deal to pass up.

When I get it setup, I'll try to post a review.
 
Truthslayer

Truthslayer

Full Audioholic
Thanks for the insight and recommendations. I ended up ordering the Rythmik L12. It was discounted $30 for the holidays, which was too good a deal to pass up.

When I get it setup, I'll try to post a review.
Congrats ! Let us know for sure, but I think you will be very happy with your choice.
 

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