$200 for a 12” powered subwoofer? What's wrong with it? Well, basically nothing is wrong with it. The BIC America F12 is a veritable masterpiece of low cost engineering, materials and construction. How does it perform? We'll get to that in a few minutes. First some basic specs
The F12 sports a 12” driver with a molded synthetic cone that has a shiny aluminum colored finish and a class D plate amp that provides 150 watts into the driver's 8 ohm impedance. The 17” X 17” X 15” enclosure is finished in the typical black laminate with a black grille. The driver faces forward and the port faces to the rear just below the plate amp. The whole unit weighs 42 lbs. Claimed frequency response is 25 to 200 hz. Sensitivity is rated at 90 db.
The plate amp has all the normal features one would expect in most powered subwoofers. It has a line level LFE input as well speaker level inputs and outputs. It has auto on, level and crossover pots and a phase switch. All in all pretty mainstream.
My purpose in buying the unit was to upgrade the audio on my business computer. It is coupled with a pair of Tannoy Reveal monitors and a Teac stereo receiver. The source is a Sound Blaster X-Fi audio card feeding a small DAC through a Toslink connection. In a nutshell, it does the job quite nicely. My computer has better audio than most people's home stereo systems.
But to begin I installed it in my home theater so that I could compare it to my other two subwoofers – a DIY Ultimax 15” sealed sub with a 300 watt plate amp and an old B&W AS-6 12” ported sub that has been repaired with an aftermarket 250 watt plate amp.
To be honest, I'm fairly spoiled to have the Ultimax 15. It is absolutely superb sounding with everything I ask it to do. We need to understand that with the comparisons. The old B&W 12 is fairly strong but a little loose and thumpy in its sound presentation. I compared all three subs with the Hobbit Blu Ray and a selection of jazz and classical music DVD's.
My Ultimax 15 is strong down to 25 hz. It has a pronounced peak at 30hz and returns to the flat line right at 25 hz where it starts dropping off. The B&W and the BIC move that up about 5 hz. Both of them are strong to 30hz and start dropping off markedly below that. I wouldn't give either one of them a FR rating below 30 hz. However, that is enough to get the job done for most people.
The Ultimax is amazingly smooth, accurate and detailed with everything I reproduce with it. The B&W, which cost $500 back in the late 90's is somewhat of a thumper and loses definition below 35 hz. The BIC sounds significantly different from the B&W but not better or worse. I would say it is comparable to the B&W, a little tighter and more accurate in the lower registers but perhaps even a little thumpier. It doesn't perform like the better subwoofers as one would expect but, for its price, it is really pretty amazing. Remember it only cost $200 and that included shipping from the Amazon seller.
The BIC doesn't have the power or “displacement” to make a bass hungry A/V enthusiast jump for joy. It does have enough performance to support a pair of main speakers with true bass reproduction as long as the venue isn't way above typical in size for home audio. It can shake walls with LFE and it can play louder than I wanted to play it in my room. It is a good subwoofer and a truly amazing one when you consider its modest selling price.
Who should buy the BIC? Any budget conscious A/V enthusiast who has a reasonably sized listening room will certainly enjoy the true bass it can provide. Add it along with a pair of bookshelf speakers to your computer desk like I did and you will certainly spend more time listening while you operate the computer. Shouldn't every computer have a 12” subwoofer attached to it? Heck yes.