I've been working on getting this subjective Captivator review done, and I think I covered just about everything I wanted to demo. Just for a recap, I'm running JBL E-80 L/R and EC-35 center, with (soon to be replaced) Polk R15 surrounds in a 5.1 system powered by a Pioneer VSX-1018AH-K receiver, so nothing too fancy. The Captivator is corner loaded, has the foam plug in for 15hz tuning, and is powered by a Behringer EP4000 in bridged mono mode.
I have no EQ until I can get my REW pc online again. I was a little concerned about the lack of HP filter until I saw Jeff's recommendation to gpmbc to not worry about it when only tossing 1200ish watts at it. I ran MCACC, set all speakers to small, and am running the sub at -6. This is actually pretty close to right according to the rat shack SPL meter, with the sub being 1db hot. I generally never listen above -25 on the receiver, so I'm not terribly concerned about damaging anything, even in movie scenes that are excessive.
Before I get to my analysis, I wanted to say that there doesn't seem to be any problem with voltage sent out by the receiver. I know some were curious if there would be enough current for the EP4000 to pick up the signal, and it seems plenty. I have experienced no problems to speak of using a basic male RCA to male XLR cable.
As for music, I picked some famous tracks and some that I've seen other AVS forum members commenting about. Starting out with classical, my notes are as follows:
Camille Saint-Saens "Maestoso Symphony No. 3 in C Minor, Op. 78"
- The organ depth had prodigious authority, just as intended. I've only heard better from real pipe organs, never another subwoofer.
The Japanese Drum Team "Bonten Wadaiko Drums"
- "Flowers" features an excellent workout, with tons of transients. All produced with no overhang, resonance, or boominess.
- "Samurai" has a strong, synth bassline that was kept completely separate from the cacophany of violent drumming. There was audible separation of the percussion impacts when slightly out of sync (per the recording). This is a good thing.
Respighi "Feste Romane"
- The tympanies throughout weren't as tight as I have come to expect. However, the organ in the final movement was solid.
Tchaikovsky "1812 Overture"
- My old band teacher in high school said that recordings of this could destroy subwoofers. Well, the cannon blasts in it did no such thing to the Captivator. It reminded me of the Master and Commander cannons - I'm pretty sure I could hear the distinct sound of each 18 pounder as it exited the cannon's barrel. Superb!
The Dave Brubeck Quartet "Time Out"
- "Blue Rondo A La Turk" displayed excellent high and mid bass guitar. The Captivator expertly defined the odd syncopations separating the alto sax, the bass guitar, and the drums. I couldn't stop thinking of the Pink Panther!
- "Three To Get Ready" showed me the Captivator was ready with authoritative drums and finger licking good double bass guitar. I could hear the vibration of nearly every string pluck. Insanely detailed.
The Chemical Brothers "Come With Us"
- "Denmark" showed me what the Captivator thought of a nonstop, transient bassline. Captivating.
- "Hoops" didn't sound like it was being played by a driveby ghetto blaster, but at some points was less than precise.
- "Come With Us" didn't give the sub a break, but it didn't sit on any of the notes.
Linkin Park "Reanimation"
- "Frgt/10" is rhythmically tense, but the Captivator remained honest to this hiphop track through the high, mid, and low bass it demonstrates.
Prodigy "Their Law: The Singles"
- "Girls" has a staccato high bass drum combined with the reverberating, garage-like bassline that seemed effortless.
- "Poison" made the neighbors across the street ask if they could join the party. Their text read, "Dood, you didn't invite us? WTF?"
- "Smack My Bitch Up" had no extra resonance, just ground pounding bass.
- "Out of Space" had the Captivator producing multiple frequencies at once, and it really shined in doing so! Great upper register dynamics synchronized with the reggae background theme digging deep.
Erykah Badu "Baduizm"
- This was the only demo where the Captivator sounded bloated. But, this recording is excessively hot in the lower octaves, so I'm willing to place blame elsewhere. Though I like the music, I've never heard this album sound "good." It always sounds overblown, like a potbellied tenor trying to sing a bass's lowest registers. Terrible. A better demo would be India Arie's "Acoustic Soul," but I no longer have that album.
I don't listen to much rock, aside from some folk stuff that really has no bass to speak of, so I can't offer much opinion there, other than that Sheryl Crow's "Riverwide" from "The Globe Session" album was full of punchy kick drum. Also, from an indie perspective, Maximum Balloon's self-titled album contains a track named "Absence of Light" that displayed great synth drum & bass with exquisite pitch definition.
As for home theater movie reproduction, I have a lot to say, but it can be summed up by one thing: the theater is in my basement, and during the pod emergence scene in "War of the Worlds," my bed on the 2nd floor felt like one of those vibrating mattresses you find in a no tell motel.
The "KungFu Panda" skidoosh scene was breathtaking. My pant legs felt like I was having the pinky trick applied!
I was a little less than impressed by the "LOTR - FOTR" opening scene where Sauron dies. I think perhaps the eD A2-300 had been reproducing this one quite well and my expectations were set too high. I dunno, I just always imagine this to be the ultimate in explosive bass and, well, it wasn't. Also, it may be that my discs only contain the DD 5.1 tracks, no DTS.
However, the "Master and Commander" DVD DTS track was shocking. I didn't understand why this is widely regarded as one of the best subwoofer demos out there until now. Yes, it was good with my previous sub, but it wasn't like this. There's just something about the reverb of those cannon blasts that now feels like it's tickling my entire central nervous system.
"Inception" exhibited zero problems for me. I didn't get any ugly noises out of the Captivator during the bathroom scene, nor when the van hits the water. Just excessive, pretty much overwhelming bass. I liked the movie, but the sound mix should have kept the dialog in line with the rumble stiltskin track.
"How to Train Your Dragon" was intense throughout, but, I dunno, maybe after reading all the commentary about it I was expecting more. The Captivator shook the walls without ever sounding boomy, but it just wasn't breathtaking like I expected. Oh, it was deep, and so often I couldn't hear the bass but could feel it. Perhaps I just needed to turn it up?
The cave scene in "Iron Man" was reasonably over the top, but I haven't yet watched "Iron Man 2." "WOTW" pod emergence was ridiculous as noted. "The Incredible Hulk" has its moments, especially like the sonic cannons, and was probably too much on a Thursday night at 1:30AM. Oh well! I haven't yet watched the infamous "Pulse" server room scene, but that may happen tonight.
I don't have "Pearl Harbor," but I have been watching "The Pacific," and through episode 5, it's been pretty good for the surround sound and LFE. I feel like the bass is mixed a little too hot in places, such as the intro. Perhaps that's just a failing of my system, particular to my room, the nuances of the Captivator, or a lack of EQ. As an aside, the Captivator's cabinet is not inert, and it vibrates a little, but there are no audible resonances or unusual sounds being produced, even with test tones at 10-19hz. Also of note is that I have experienced zero port chuffing.
All in all, I've been very happy. But, of course, what else would I say, right? The Captivator isn't perfect, but it has performed admirably so far. It plays deep with ease. It reaches significantly beyond my SPL needs, but it gives me room to grow, and I definitely wanted too much instead of too little. As they say, you can always dial it back. I think for the price I paid including the amp and shipping, I can't really imagine anything better for pure sound quality or volume - it does both with aplomb. JTR Speakers, well known in the pro audio world, has gotten it absolutely right for the HT crowd, too. I can't imagine a powered Captivator with EQ in the right room...wow! This actually has me _very_ curious to hear how the Orbit Shifter performs!