I received the very first Funk Audio 18.1 sub. I got it even before Nathan had created documentation for it. It is their latest 18" model powered sub with a large port. It will run you roughly $2000, depending on what you want and the finish that you select.
I would like to start by introducing my stereo system and my room, because it is impossible to judge a subwoofer in isolation. If you want to skip this introduction and just get my impressions of the sub, skip down below to the FUNK AUDIO 18.1 section.
My room is big and open. The dimensions are generally 15 feet wide by 26 feet long but the room then tapers toward the door further increasing the length and volume. Additionally, there are very large openings in the wall on one side to allow access to the kitchen area. This room is prone to echo, and my wife is resistant to room treatments. However, I have added pads and carpet to the laminate floors and turned the speaker to direct lengthwise down the room in order to reduce the slap echo. The ceilings are vaulted and range from 8 feet to 12.5 feet. The sofa (primary listening position) is approximately 13 feet from the TV and front speakers.
My system consists of: the 800W self-powered Funk Audio 18.1 sub (subject of this review), Aerial Acoustics Model 8 powered by Musical Fidelity A3 CR (100Wx2), ERA Design 5 LCR (center) powered by Marantz MA700 (200W+ monoblock), ERA Design 4 surrounds powered by a Yamaha RX-A3000 AVR (140Wx2), DSpeaker Antimode 8033S, and Sony BDP-S570 (acting as a transport). Note that ERA Design is voiced by Michael Kelly of Aerial Acoustics; so, all the speakers blend together nicely, even though the Aerial Acoustics are far superior to the ERA products. I listen to theater sound about 70% of the time and music for 30% of the time.
The Aerial Acoustic Model 8 speakers in Santos Rosewood are beautiful speakers. The Aerial Acoustics are famous for their beautiful cabinetry. They have been very positively reviewed by a number of critics: http://www.stereophile.com/floorloud...639/index.html
. It was also well reviewed for AVS, but I lost that link. These are excellent speakers and the human ear hasn't changed since 1998. What sounded good then will sound good now. There are few things that keep this speaker from perfection. Compared to he best speakers, the Model 8 has a very slight increase in mid-bass, slightly warm sound, and is ridiculously insensitive (86 dB/2.83 V/m on-axis). I listen to all music genres, but particularly rock and vocal jazz. So, even the imperfections of these speakers actually work well towards my favorite types of music. More mid-bass in my rock music? I'm ok with that. My vocal jazz a little smoother? Sure, bring it on. Again, as far as I'm concerned, these are subtle colorations rather than gross errors that I can't live with. These speakers also have a nice soundstage, and can generate the bass. According to the specs, the Model 8 produces 28 Hz with -2 dB and 23 Hz at -6 dB and does so musically. I think the in-room measurements are even better. I have heard many explosions and gun fire, and these speakers do a good job of reproducing the sound accurately. I am going into this much detail, because the Model 8 will be the reference for improvement or degradation of the bass in my system. Unfortunately, I do not have any other superior quality subs in my home to do a comparison test. I also do not have a powerful enough amp to do the Model 8's justice. An amp that has 200Wx2 at 8 ohm and more wattage at lower ohms would be desirable; more power would be even better with the Model 8's. However, the need for a more powerful amp for the Model 8's will be alleviated now that I have a powered sub handling most of the lower frequencies.
This decision to purchase the DSpeaker Antimode 8033S came after reading this thread: http://www.hometheatershack.com/foru...de-8033-a.html
. I doubt that I could get as good results as the author of REW, even with unlimited time (due to lack of training/experience and measuring equipment [I have a RS meter; he has a calibrated mic and laptop with REW]); yet, the 8033S gave similar results to what he achieved in 3 hours within 2 minutes. Yes, please! On top of that, the device received the Golden Ear Award 2010, acclaim from numerous critics (Stereophile, AVS Forum, etc.), and the recommendation of Nathan Funk. The 8033S equalizes both amplitude and time domain responses, unlike the common parametric or graphic equalizer.
My wife extremely limits my ability to achieve the best sound. The location of the sub is chosen by my wife rather than where it sounds best. Passive room correction devices are not allowed by the wife for the most part. Fortunately, the bass frequency region can be the most difficult to control passively, but can be improved electronically with devices such as the 8033S. My wife will probably never even notice this tiny box on my equipment rack (nor dream that it could be so expensive).
In evaluating this sub for the purposes of this review, I listened to these CDs (among others): Telarc Digital recording of Michael Murray playing Bach (Toccata & Fugue in D minor) at the First Congressional Church in LA (32-foot pitch); 24-bit, 96 KHz Metallica (The Black Album); Rush (Exit Stage Left); 24 bit and DVD-A 5.1 surround sound Porcupine Tree (Stupid Dream); Dream Theater (Live at Budokan); and Slipknot (Slipknot). I also listened to soundtracks; in particular, I heard the sonic cannons on Hulk; the drums and cannon fire on Master and Command: The Far Side of the World; the first Iron Man through his escape in the prototype armor; and scenes from Jurassic Park 3.
FUNK AUDIO 18.1
I paid the initial down payment with my order on February 14 and the remainder when it was ready to ship on April 24. DHL picked up the sub on April 26, and I received the sub at my home in North Carolina on April 30. So, a total of 76 days after the order was placed. I received some of the documentation on the sub on May 12.
The sub arrived undamaged. It was very well packaged. Its cardboard box had all the right labels, including "Minimum Two-Person Lift," "Do Not Drop," and "This Side Up." Inside there was thin paneling wood over foam. The sub was protected with stretch plastic over more foam. I did not see any evidence of mishandling of the package like tears in the cardboard or compressions. The sub seemed to arrive as shipped. Kudos for the packaging, and the selection of the shipping service that did their part quickly and well. Total gross weight was 130 pounds. See the pictures below.
First, I will compare the Funk Audio 18.1 aesthetically to the Aerial Acoustics. The short of it is that the sub loses like virtually every other speaker.
Regarding the sub, upon close inspection, you can see where the veneer meets veneer along the edges and half way into the front face (center) where the cone is located if you look very closely. It is only a hairline and not readily apparent except by close inspection. However, you can't see that on the Aerials at all, which has neither sharp edges nor any half-n-half veneers that I can see. At least the sub has no sharp corners to injure a clumsy person walking by. All corners on the sub have been rounded. The veneer is not smooth. There are several places where it feels like gouge marks, but are just deep recesses in the grain. It is finished and these imperfections are not readily apparent from a distance. Additionally, there were places in the veneer which were white. Perhaps, the knotholes of the wood? Regardless, I didn't like that. I would have rather them be stained some color, and will take care of that myself with a furniture pen. I just expected that I wouldn't need to do such a thing. I was informed after the sub's arrival that this veneer was graded A, which was the reason I got a good price on it. Grades AA and AAA would have been improvements in the veneer quality. One hole where the grill was meant to be fastened split and broke the veneer. I was really disappointed to see that! (Nathan sent me some lacquer to help doctor that boo-boo.) The knuckle-wrap test indicated a solid build but not quite as solid as the Model 8's. The badge on the sub was very thick and pale yellow, as compared to the Aerial's thin gold-colored brass. Again, the Aerial's badging looked more distinguished. (This badge does not come at all on the standard model 18.1 sub.) The sub's grill is of heavy ply board scaffolding. (This particular grill will no longer be offered for the 18.1 sub.) The Aerial's grill uses different angles depending on the side and is much lighter (not sure what material it's made of). The Aerial's grill looks better. Overall, while the cabinetry of the sub is good, it is not up to par to Aerial Acoustics.
Nathan and I went through the trouble of establishing the color with mailed samples, and the wood-type of my Model 8s was also determined. However, the sub did not match the color. My wife likes the color of the Aerials more than the sub. Both finishes look very nice, but having seen them both at different light levels, I like the color of the Aerials a little more too. The Aerials have a red-orange stain which hides some of the wood grain, but this satin finish gives a vibrant, rich color to contrast against our dark wood floors. The grain is much more prominent in the sub, but the sub is all browns and somewhat dark overall with all the grain.
I'm no house decorator, but my wife had her objections. My wife is right in that the speakers would look more like a set if their color matched. Apparently, Nathan did not understand that I wanted the Santos Rosewood stained with the appropriate stain selected from the samples he had sent me. Ironically, the link he emailed me on March 17 and the picture he sent to me over the internet on March 27 looked like a perfect match in both grain and color to the Aerials. Perhaps, my monitor's colors are off. I have noticed with my picture taking and examining the results on the computer monitor that lighting has a huge effect on the color that the camera "sees," as displayed by my monitor. It could have been this anomaly that caused the confusion. Regardless of the reason, the pictures appeared redder on my computer monitor than the color of the sub. I had thought Nathan had successfully matched both grain (wood-type) and color when he had not. So, the lesson learned is if color matching is important, be sure that Nathan understands your need!
The aesthetics and cabinetry may not have been quite that of the Aerial Acoustics, but very few speakers are. *Still, the sub is both beautiful and impressive looking.* The Santos Rosewood looks very nice, particularly at a distance. The massive 18" cone looks very intimidating, as does the large port underneath and the much- too-big-for-my-wife's-desires box. (It's 20.5" wide x 24" deep x 27" tall.) I would expect it to be capable of putting out a lot of volume. My wife said she will be suing me for loss of hearing in her and our son. However, I believe I satisfied her that the sub was perfectly blended to the rest of the frequencies. ...The loudness is controlled by the same remote volume as always. Yep, "intimidating" was the word I wanted to use!
The sub looked good enough to me that my wife's grill is overruled. No grill on the big sub, please. My ignorance cost me. I think the grill cost an extra $40 - that's 2 or 3 CDs which I could be enjoying. But what really hurt was the marred finish on the front of the new sub.
Good thing I made that decision, because when I removed the grill after taking pictures, I discovered that the plastic knob had broken off in the hole! I have to give the big F to that grill quality. I have taken the grills on and off the Aerials (and other speakers) numerous times without breaking things. Inspecting the plastic where it broke, it seems very thin and relatively soft and pliable. I am not at all surprised that it broke. Nathan says that the grill I received will no longer be offered. So, no one will be faced with this problem again. He also offered to repair it and pay half the shipping costs or give me store credit. I was pleased with the store credit he offered, because I expect to give him more business in the future.
Considering all this, I rate the visual appeal and craftsmanship of the product sent to me as B+. Without the grill, it looks great as I hope the pictures below reveal. If Nathan had used his best veneer (AAA) and I did not order the grill (so no chance of dings around the holes there), I would probably have rated it an A-. No speaker that is not at least as good as my Aerial Acoustics Model 8’s will get an A from me, which mean few speakers get an A. For an A+, the speaker has to be better than the Aerials. Very, very few speakers would get that rating from me. One of the few speakers that I feel betters Aerial Acoustics' cabinetry is the Focal Grande Utopia-EM, which is absolute art!
I think Nathan could probably do an A job, but you need to have money and good communication. I was on a strict budget and wanted most of my money spent to get great sound rather than great looks. If you want great looks, be sure to tell Nathan that you want no corners, no edges, no visible veneer seams, the best of his best grade veneer of whichever type you choose, and stained color matching (if needed). Make it clear you want his best cosmetic work and are willing to pay for it. For me, my sub sounds so good I have trouble seeing it, if you can understand that.
See the pictures below, which include a picture of the interior bracing, flawed veneer, and broken plastic grill piece.
The wife allowed me basically one location, near a corner. The sub is 10’9” from my usual listening position. It is facing my listening position, which makes it cattycorner to the wall. It’s 43-54" from the rear wall and 10-22" from the side wall. This is shown in a picture below.
I first set up the 8033S with the sub and then I set up the system with the AVR. During the initial setup using the 8033S, the windows rattled. I then ran the Yamaha room setup procedure.
One setting on the sub seems to be the level, which I ended up setting at -2 where line hum is almost imperceptible unless very close to the cone. I set the DSP program on 2 (+3 dB bass reinforcement) and raised the level to the sub from the AVR to +0.5 dB (as part of the AVR auto-setup). I chose 0 rather 180 degree phase adjustment on the 8033S. The sound was very clear; so, it is not out of phase.
I was able to get the 8033S to do its job correctly only when I set the sub level at -1.25. Then I was able to use the DSP program of flat (program 1). However, there was an uadible hum from the sub when you were near it, and I did not like that. I expected not to require DSP, parametric equalization, or any such thing after the 8033S was setup; however, that was not typically the case. Usually, the bass was soft to my ears and to my RS signal meter (after considering web published correction factors). That was disappointing.
Still, my system could use a good DSP eq job that the Yamaha does not provide. As I am very picky, that will be a somewhat costly venture. Still, I was able to achieve a reasonably flat bass response and blending with the Aerials, except for a big loss at 40 Hz for some reason. When I want to impress with bass or want more bass power, all I have to do is set the DSP program to 3 or 4.
I noticed two things about the amp. During extended periods of silence, there is a quick series of very low volume clicks that actually resemble a crackle. This occurs when the amp can't decide whether to enter into power saver mode (supposedly due to a low level of signal from the 8033S that I leave on). Nathan says that this will not damage the sub in anyway. The amp gets hot. It gets as hot as my Stax Class-A headphone amp, even though Nathan says it is a Class-D amp. Still, Nathan says it is OK to leave the sub and 8033S on all the time, except when away on vacation. Of course, it certainly wouldn't hurt anything to turn the sub off at night either.
I do find it troubling that this amp gets hot. I have had JL Audio and Alpine D-class amps in my car audio system and have never had any problem with them getting hot. I hope that this amp will reliably do its job for 10 years of continuous on-time. I actually hope that Nathan can find a better amp for this sub and give me an upgrade price.
There was no documentation with the sub. It's their brand new model, and apparently it was shipped before documentation was ready.
*Now, the most important question:* will the Nathan Audio 18.1 handle the bass (<80 Hz) better than the Model 8's (one 18" vs two 10.7" woofers). The sub is a brand new model vs floor standers that have won acclaim for their bass (particularly considering their size). Obviously, I thought the sub would be better else I would not have bought it. I was expecting that a big forward facing cone like those at clubs would provide a bass that could be felt.
One cool thing that Nathan does is he breaks in his products prior to shipment. He told me that his products were immediately ready for critical listening upon receipt.
Well, my expectations were met, the sub handled bass better than the Model 8's. I never felt that the sub degraded the sound. It mixed in perfectly with the Aerials. I think that 8033S did a wonderful job of making this happen, in combination with the Yamaha AVR DSP and sub amp DSP. The sub was able to keep up. When compared to the Model 8's, that's an indication of the sub's accuracy and "speed" rather than just brute force for theater. Comparing the musicality of the sub to the Aerials without the sub, I would say the sub was just as good, but it was better for dynamics, volume, and low frequency grunt! This was particularly apparent on some parts of videos. The Aerials did a good job with bass in my room, but the sub does a better job. The improvement was clearly discernible every time prominent low bass was present.
The sub did not subtract from my listening pleasure when listening to music either. The sub seemed to be able to handle the organ music effortlessly at comfortable listening levels, where 100W/channel simply wasn't enough for the Aerials. When the audio required great volume at 30 Hz or less this sub really impressed me! The Aerials could do that to a certain extent, but I am convinced they could not do it as well as this huge sub even with 500W per channel.
Although my room is big and I listen to the music and movies loud (but not deafeningly loud), this sub never seemed to be challenged! I am impressed. Disclaimer: If the sub is further from you than my placement (10'9") or you prefer overpowering, body moving bass (rather than accurate, balanced frequency response), then your opinion may differ from mine.
I also heard the Model 8's doing better than ever before, because the 100W per channel was powering only 80 Hz and above. That's what I was hoping for!
There is no cabinet vibration that I can feel at moderately loud levels of organ music. The cone was certainly moving, but the cabinet wasn't. That's good. I value that more than a knuckle wrap test! There was no port noise either.
I am very impressed with the sonics of this sub. It achieved exactly what I want from a sub. I don’t want accented bass. I want accurate sound. This sub provides accurate bass at a loudness and duration that won't cause hearing damage - and may could do so at a level that would endanger my hearing. In other words, it accuracy (speed, tone, dynamics) are acceptable, as is its output without cycling off due to overheating. In fact, it never seems challenged by my demands.
I am going to give its sonics an A+. This rating is not based strictly on output, of course, which would be wrong. Not everyone lives in a room large enough for the Funk Audio 18.3, for instance. Instead, output is considered, but predominantly it is accuracy of the bass sound reproduction (20-80 Hz) which I am listening for. However, I am not a sub connoisseur; this is my first sub. I have attended a number of live concerts (rock, classical, country, and other genres) over the years, and have listened to some fine stereo systems in my day. Perhaps, I am being overly generous in my rating, but when I have no complaints concerning the sonic quality, then I feel an A+ is appropriate. As it is my review, this is my current opinion. Good job, Nathan!
Do I think that two 15” drivers and 2500 W of power would do a better job? I have no idea. I don’t have a Seaton Submersive HP to compare with it! Regardless of how it sounds vs the Seaton (I’d love to be able to evaluate the matchup), I was able to afford the 18.1 + 8033S for the price of a Subermersive HP. I would be extremely surprised if the Seaton Submersive HP can beat that combo. In fact, I will be surprised if I find anything that betters the Funk Audio 18.1 at a price I can afford new or used. I’m not a bass head; accurate reproduction is what I’m after. With the Funk Audio 18.1, I’m satisfied with the bass in my system right now. My next upgrade will be my center channel. It’s nice, but the Porcupine Tree DVD-A demonstrates that it needs to be much better…
According to Nathan Funk: “For example the average speakers have a parts and materials cost of ~20% of the retail price, internet direct can be as high as 40%, if you have ever looked at Salk Sound, they even advertize that some of their products are up to 40% cost. In the case of your subwoofer, the 18.1, the parts and materials were 55% of the sale price.” END QUOTE. As far as I am concerned, I feel like I got my money’s worth. That’s why I will be knocking on Nathan’s door again, the next time I need a sub. Thanks goes to Warpdrv for advising me to talk to Nathan. Other subs considered during my shopping included the Seaton Submersive HP, SVS PB 13-Ultra, Rythmik Audio FV15HP, and JL Audio Fathom F113 (used).
I went to my local boutique shop and entered their $150,000 theater, where two JL Audio F113's provide the bass. After audition and visual inspection, I rate the JL Audio has a C- cosmetically. This sub comes with a gloss finish (cheap, soft, crap), functional but unattractive grill, and is the size of a miniature end table (very small, 19.5 x 16.5 x 19.75"). It looked more like a professional model than a consumer model meant to meet with the spouse's approval. One F113 takes up half the space volume of the Funk Audio 18.1 (which my wife would approve of). I was AMAZED at the amount of bass these small boxes produced and the quality of that bass. On the other hand, I was wondering if a single Funk Audio 18.1 would not compare favorably with two F113's. As I could not audition two in my home and compare with the Funk Audio, I can't say for sure. The F113 is rated for 18 Hz at -3 dB. The 18.1 has its amp filtered at 18.5 HZ (the tuning frequency of the port), but Nathan says that in-room frequency response should be lower. From my short audition, I would give two JL Audio F113's an A+ for sound, but this is a tentative grade as I was unable to fully evaluate the subs in my own system. As the boutique shop would charge me $8200 for them, I'm not even interested. I don't think the F113 compares at all to Nathan Audio in value. In my brief audition, I thought the F113 gave a lot of bass, deep bass, and was also good with transients; however, the Metallica's bass and drums on the 18.1 setup in my home seemed even more realistic to me. The big drums seemed punchier and more aggressive. Still, take these impressions with a huge grain of salt as the only real comparison would be with each sub properly setup in the same room using the same musical system.
SUGGESTIONS FOR NATHAN
I would suggest that Nathan include with each sub purchase the following. I would like a 15-foot RCA-to-XLR wire and a power wire with his sub shipments. The "batteries included" label is always nice. Functional (but low quality) wire can be purchased for less than $25. He could offer it free (part of the package deal) or for a nominal charge. Those people interested in better wire could then obtain it at their leisure. I would also like documentation, with some initial hints on sub setup, what the selections on the amp do, and the specifications and warranty for the product. I would suggest getting some competent help to speed orders along and prevent you from working yourself to death!
Amplifier Features and specs;
PFC (power factor correction) switching power supply
Zero latency double precision DSP
High output current capability 35amps max
Frequency response 5-45khz -3db
S/N 100 db (unbalanced); 98 db (balanced)
slew rate 30V/us
Damping factor 20-200hz >1000
800 watts @1%THD
Driver features and specs;
1.65" max p-p Excursion
over 1" linear p-p Excursion
High force compact Neodymium Motor
4" Voice coil diameter
1200 watts AES power handling
Aluminum demodulating ring
High efficiency 98db/1watt
Cast aluminum frame
Enclosure features and specs;
Baltic birch ply construction
1.5" thick front baffle
Low turbulence slot port
18.5 Hz tuning
Response to 15 Hz
1; No EQ, natural response of driver and enclosure, designed to match room giant in small/average rooms, maximum overall output capability.
2; +3db low shelf for larger rooms
3; +6db low shelf for Large rooms
4; +8db low shelf for anechoic flat response to 16hz
I've received no performance stats from Nathan, but here's a comparison:
Me: So, I have the following information: "For your size of room I would highly recommend the Passive radiator design, with the sealed you likely would not have enough output below 15hz to matter anyway, so it is little to sacrifice for the increased overall output, FYI this design with the 800 watt amplifier, has near equal +/-1db maximum output as the TC Sounds LMS5400 in the 18.0 from ~18hz and up, which is also +/- 1db to our TSAD18 in the 18.0 in that range. Also this passive radiator design is "overdamped" which means/gives it nearly the same overall response curve and sound quality as a sealed, but simply has more output, down to tuning." And: "Sound quality [of the 18.1] is near identical [to the passive radiator design]" and "Output [of 18.1] is 1-2db higher 15-30hz and has ~1hz lower extension [than the passive radiator design]." So, comparing the 18.1 to the LMS 5400 18.0 or TSAD 18.0, I gather that the new 18.1 has equivalent sound quality, has equivalent output at 18 Hz or higher, and a little more output at 18-30 Hz?
Nathan's reply: That is all correct, for the comparison.