Emotiva BasX S8 initial reactions
My birthday present from my lovely wife came a little early this year, and there aren't a lot of reviews for this out there, so I thought I'd share my initial reactions.
First, background. My setup for this is not HT, but music-only 2.1. This is my study, which is not a large room (about 11' by 9' when you count the bookcases), hardwood floors, vaulted ceiling. The mains are Ascend Acoustics Sierra-1 NrTs. Really, I'm not that much of a basshead so I don't usually go for subs for straight music. The Sierras actually go pretty low for bookshelves, but I've been listening to more electronica and even some hip hop lately, so I wanted a little extra low-end bump. And with a small room and only $200 bucks spent (I assume), why not give it a whirl?
It's slightly larger than I expected from the pictures on the Emotiva site, but I guess that's not too big a surprise since there's nothing else in the pictures for reference. It feels very beefy, cabinet is very solid. My amp has a sub out but no bass management, so the mains still run full-range and I can't tweak the crossover from the amp. Some playing around suggests it's crossed at 90, which is a little higher than I'd like, but not a huge problem since I can mess with that on the sub itself. I don't have a lot of placement options given the room size and existing furniture, but after some messing around with settings and moving it around a little (too close to the wall was bad), I feel like I got it dialed in. I ended up crossing it over at 75Hz--got a little too peaky at 80 with both the Sierras and the S8 together. Volume knob just under 50%.
But really, who cares? How does it sound, right?
I didn't expect a lot, given its size and price tag. But actually, it's pretty impressive. It's surprisingly quick and musical for a ported sub, handles transients better than I expected. It doesn't do a lot for my classical music since I don't care for organs so it's not asked to do much there, and even most of the rock I listen to is not really super-bassy. However, in the spots where there is some good deep bass (e.g., the opening heartbeat on Dark Side of the Moon), its really nice to have the S8 doing the heavy lifting, and it answers the call impressively.
But really, it's the low synth that motivated me to get it. One of my favorite test tracks for bass is Yello's "Indigo Bay" which really pushes the low frequencies. I don't normally listen at anything close to reference level but hey, new toy, let's hit it. I pushed the volume knob higher and the S8 never complained. Underworld's "Little Speaker"? No sweat. Crystal Method's "The American Way"? Nice and punchy. All the crazy stuff Shpongle does? Heard stuff I've never heard before, sounds terrific.
The only place I really have issues is with the Tron: Legacy soundtrack, but I'm not sure it's really the S8. I'm not an expert on audio physics but I think there might be a room mode or something at right around 30Hz. The really sustained notes at around that frequency start to sound funny—it's like energy isn't dissipating right and kind of builds in a way that sounds off. I'll have to move the sub around a little to see if maybe placement can solve this one. If not, well, then that's a strike against.
On placement, it's ported, of course, and the port moves a lot of air when it's pushed—much more than I expected. (My HT sub is sealed.) I have the sub only a few inches from the wall, but the port doesn't face the wall, it's parallel to it. Facing the wall was a boomy mess and also I could hear it huffing. It's not like this is news to anyone but just a note that even an 8" sub can have port issues.
Anyway, I'll have to get more time on it with more different music before I'm totally sold, but so far my initial take is that it's a thumbs up.
Definitely much more punch and clarity than other $200 subs I've heard (e.g., BIC, Yamaha, Polk, Klipsch—the usual Best Buy kind of stuff). To be honest, I'm pretty sure it's better than my current HT sub, a ~15-year-old PSB SubSonic5 (which really isn't big enough for my living room anyway). Just gives me an excuse to upgrade there—I'm thinking Hsu VTF-2.5 or Rythmik LV12R if can get WAF for something that big. Maybe Christmas.
Study: Schiit Bifrost Multibit -> Yamaha A-S500 -> Ascend Acoustics Sierra-1 NrT/Emotiva S8
Living Room HT: Oppo BDP-83 -> Denon 3808i -> PSB Image 4T/8C/S50/SubSonic5
Office: Schiit Modi 2 Uber -> NAD C740 -> Ascend Acoustics Sierra-1
Bedroom: Onkyo TX-8050 -> PSB Image 1B/Yamaha YST-SW215