Here is the scoring summary with the Home Theater score and Music score, respectively shown as (HT-M).
Prices and whether the items are available Internet Direct or from a store are now included. Keep in mind that ID pricing will usually be firm, or slightly discounted, where some BM products will see substantial discounts. BM = Brick and Mortar. ID = Internet Direct. ID/SI = shipping included.
Elemental Designs A7-900 ($2200 ID/SI): 116 points (63-53)
Epik Conquest ($1599 ID): 112 points (60-52)
SVS PB13-Ultra ($1499 ID): 109 points (57-52)
Epik Castle ($999 ID): 109 points (59-50)
AV123 MFW-15 Duals: 109 points (56-53) (note, duals were tested as duals are offered as a package)
Creative Sounds Dual SDX-15 driver + Behringer EP-2500 Amp + Behringer DEQ2496 ($1630 ID): 105 points (57-48)
JL Audio Fathom 113 ($3500 BM): 103 points (53-50)
AV123 MFW-15 ($599 ID): 103 points (53-50)
Def Tech Trinity ($3000 BM): 102 points (54-48)
Velodyne DD-18 ($5000 BM): 100 points (50-50)
ACI Maestro ($2400 ID): 97 points (47-50)
eD A5-350 ($715 ID/SI): 96 points (50-46)
JL Audio Fathom 112 ($2600 BM): 95 points (45-50)
Hsu VTF-3 HO + Turbo ($999 ID): 94 points (47-47)
Hsu VTF-3 HO w/o Turbo ($899 ID): 92 points (45-47)
Hsu VTF-3 Mark III + Turbo ($799 ID): 92 points (45-47)
VMPS VSS ($1650 BM and ID): 92 points (45-47)
Epik Valor ($549 ID): 91 points (44-47)
Hsu VTF-3 Mark III w/o Turbo ($699 ID): 91 points (45-46)
SVS PB12-Ultra: 90 points (47-43)
Axiom EP-500 ($1230 ID/SI): 90 points (43-47)
Hsu VTF-2 Mark III + Turbo ($599 ID): 88 points (42-46)
SVS PB12-Plus/2 ($1299 ID): 87 points (47-40)
SVS PB12-NSD ($599 ID): 86 points (43-43)
Hsu VTF-2 Mark III w/o Turbo ($499 ID): 86 points (40-46)
Rocket UFW-12 ($999 ID): 85 points (provisional) (35-50)
Elemental Designs A2-300 ($350 ID/SI): 83 points (44-39)
SVS PB10-NSD ($429 ID): 83 points (43-40)
Dana Audio 600 ($869 ID): 83 points (36-47)
Rocket X-Sub ($199 ID): 78 points (34-44)
BIC H-100 ($229 eBay): 78 points (40-38)
Rocket Tyke: 60 points (If you care, PM me ...
Pending subwoofers ...
VMPS VSS Powered sub - Early March, 2008
AV123 BMF ... Not sure of date
Epik Knight ... Not sure of Date
*: The Hsu MBM-12 has been tried with several subwoofers here. We found it to be a good room solution, for times when the best placement with a subwoofer for the deep stuff did not necessarily give the best performance in the 50-80 Hz area. We could not come up with a consistent way of scoring it with the other subs, including the VTF-3 HO. Instead, it is suggested to be look at as a possible enchancement to any subwoofer package.
All listening us done under blind conditions. The panel of listeners include several very experienced audiophiles, some of whom also design and build high end pro audio speakers. The subwoofers were each placed in the identical room position, and eq'ed to have a fairly flat (3 dB window) response curve from 18 Hz and up, when the subwoofer was able to go that "low".
Measuring procedures: All measurements are taken at 2 meters/GP from the front baffle of a subwoofer. In the case of a ported sub, the microphone is placed so it is 2 meters from the center of the driver(s) and port. The posted measured results are max "clean" 20 Hz output and the average from 20 to 63 Hz. If it seemed like the amp was the limiting factor in output, "AL" is added to the 20 Hz SPL.
The purpose of this information is to help people to quickly look at a variety of subwoofers and get a pair of scores, some performance numbers, and some listening tests describing the characteristics of each subwoofer. Hopefully, this will provide some assistance when researching for a subwoofer purchase. There will be times that a lower rated sub will work better for someone than a higher rated sub. For example, size, or output, in a lower rated sub may make a difference. Listening preferences may also make a difference. If slam is valued over extension, some subs excel at the 30-60 Hz slam. For others, extension will be the most important issue.
1. Elemental Designs A7-900.
Listening results: This subwoofer has almost no weaknesses. It presents everything from the deepest pipe organ and movie bass spectaculars to a hard driving bass guitar with an effortless quality that is the best we have heard to date. On the WOTW machines emerge scene, there was nothing but waves of bass that one felt rolling through the room. The standard Steely Dan 2AN disc was tight, tuneful, and the 18 Hz bass present in this disc was easily felt, yet the upper bass regions were agile.
Measured results ... 20 Hz: 113.5 dB AL ... 20-63 Hz average: 118 dB AL
2. Epik Conquest
Listening results: This subwoofer is hard to distinguish from the A7-900. Once again, pipe organ, the WOTW scene, bass guitar - were all played effortlessly. It is not quite at powerful, nor as visceral, as the bigger eD sub, but it is also an easier sub to live with for some rooms, because it is not quite as large as is the eD.
Measured results ... 20 Hz: 111.5 dB AL ... 20-63 Hz average: 116.5 dB AL.
3a. SVS PB13-Ultra
Listening results: This subwoofer delivers incredible performance from a moderate sized box. It is almost on par with the larger Conquest and eD subs in terms of delivering palpable bass, and it is as articulate as the standard bearer Fathom 113. A great choice when one is looking for a combination of reasonable WAF and performance.
Measured results ... 20 Hz: 108 dB ... 20-63 Hz average: 113.5 dB
3b. Epik Castle
Listening results: Another subwoofer of reasonable size which also gives a terrific performance. It loses some in articulation to the SVS, but also has a bit more authority on powerful movie scenes. It is a solid choice when one wants a large slice of the Conquest/A7-900 performance in a package that is easier to live with.
Measured results ... 20 Hz: 108.5 dB ... 20-63 Hz average: 115.5 dB
3c. AV123 MFW-15
Listening results: Pairing two MFW-15's does exactly what one would expect, it adds a signifigant amount of slam to the areas in which the single unit excelled. What a pair of MFW-15's does above 20 Hz is what makes it the 3rd alternative in the $1500 and under category for excellent performance for the $$$. On music, it is tight, clean and tuneful. It is the other sub combo the brought the Steely Dan 2AN disc to life. On movies, one will experience room shaking bass that is visceral, with the best slam of any subwoofer in its class. It is overshadowed below 20 Hz by the Castle and Ultra, and it will be up to the listener to decide which of the 3 "109 pointers" works best in his system.
4. Creative Sounds DIY Dual SDX-15
Listening results: After carefully adjusting for a proper shelving curve (kudos to Mark Seaton for the tutorial on the 2496), this subwoofer gave a credible performance. The only real downside is that the new Castle from Epik is a superior performer in a smaller package for less money and no labor required.
Measured results ... 20 Hz: 104 dB ... 20-63 Hz average: 115 dB
5a. JL Audio Fathom 113
Listening results: The built in ARO system makes calibration into one's system a snap. The Fathom allows the well heeled audiophile to get an unmatched combination of powerful bass and extension with bass quality that matches the finest monitor speakers, all in a package that will fit in a room of high quality furniture. The panel of listeners was shocked that something so compact could deliver such visceral bass. This is the first subwoofer that delivers on the promise of small size with true subwoofer performance.
Measured results ... 20 Hz: 102 dB ... 20-63 Hz average: 112.5 dB
5b. AV-123 MFW-15.
Listening results: The MFW-15 amazed the panel by largely matching the PB13 Ultra in all musical areas with the exception of pipe organ. Bass is deep, tight and powerful, with no overhang at all. The cabinet work done on this subwoofer is absolultely stellar, especially in its price range. By stellar, we mean just how inert it is. The cabinet barely vibrates during the most powerful passages, and this helps the MFW-15 to get its excellent musical rating. It is, as an earlier graph shows, very linear in its response curve, all the way to 100 Hz. It is in the area of slam an linearity that allows this subwoofer to match more high priced units. The Steely Dan disc on this subwoofer is a bass head's dream, with a lot of the panel requesting to hear it again after the test. Stanley Clarke was also as crystal clear on the MFW-15 as with any subwoofer we have had.
Measured results... 20 Hz - 105 dB ... 20-63 Hz average: 112 dB
6. Definitive Technology Trinity
Listening results: The Trinity surprised a few listeners by being much musical than a dual active 14 and quad passive 14 inch drivered sub "should". Its music/movie weakness was above 60 Hz, and this sub is a total performer when used with a 50-60 Hz crossover. For home theater, no sub here delivered a better performance on the machines emerge scene from WOTW, while Steely Dan's 2AN was almost as good as the Elemental Design's delivery.
Measured results ... 20 Hz: 109 dB ... 20-63 Hz average: 115.5 dB
7. Velodyne DD-18.
Listening results: The big Velodyne was our original standard bearer here. It is a beast above 25 Hz, and is the ultimate in "plug and play", in regards to its auto eq. The DD-18 is still worthy of consideration, but it is eclipsed by many newer offerings.
Measured results ... 20 Hz: 95 dB ... 20-63 Hz average: 109 dB
8. ACI Maestro (2nd edition).
Listening results: The ACI shares a lot with the DD-18. At the time we teste it, it was a spectacular performer. It delivers a solid 25 Hz floor, with a roll off below that. It does not handle the WOTW scene as well as a $2400 subwoofer should, but on music it is stellar.
Measured results ... 20 Hz: 95 dB ... 20-63 Hz average: 108 dB (note, these #'s are a lot lower than the original Maestro. At the time of the original Maestro, I measure @ 1 meter from center of enclosure, or about 18 inches from driver, and achieved 107 dB).
9. Elemental Designs A5-350
Listening results: The eD surprised a lot of the panel with its ability to retain excellent music scores. It is another sub that loves the 2AN disc, and most were impressed when they find out it was a $715 subwoofer. It also handles the WOTW scene with a lot of power and floor shaking ability. It does not quite match the more expensive subs in articulation, but for $715, it is a bargain.
Measured results ... 20 Hz: 105 dB ... 20-63 Hz average: 111 dB.
10. JL Audio F-112
Listening results: From 25 Hz and up, it is impossible to tell the difference between it and the Fathom 113. It is an outstanding compact subwoofer. The general concensus, though, was if one was going to buy a 112, spend the extra $$$ and get a 113.
Measured results ... Not measured. Sorry, somehow this slipped past us.
11. Hsu VTF-3HO (With and Without Turbo)
Listening results: For a subwoofer package of $900 to $1000, the Hsu VTF-3 HO was, at the time of its release, the standard bearer in its price range. It is exceptional on music, and delivers slam on HT which will impress anyone used to what is normally purchased for more money at a store. The Turbo adds extra heft below the 20 Hz standard for a true subwoofer, and the Hsu is a solid choice even today for someone looking for a relatively compact subwoofer.
Measured results : 20 Hz... 101-102 dB (depending on configuration) ... 20-63 Hz Average ... 108 dB
12. Hsu VTF-3.3 (With and without Turbo)
Listening results: The VTF-3.3 is very close overall to the VTF-3 HO. It is exceptional for its price, in terms of its output and visceral feel. For music, it is unmatched in its price range - or was, until the Epik Valor came along. This is a subwoofer that goes beyond its measured numbers, and for its often quoted sale price of $629, an exceptional value.
Measured results: 20 Hz: 100-101 dB (depending on configuration) ... 20-63 Hz average ... 107 dB
13. VMPS VSS
Listening results: The VMPS is a very capable subwoofer, with excellent power to 30 Hz, and adequate power below 30 Hz. It is a good choice for someone who places a premium on music performance, especially classical music. Bass is subjectively deep and tight on discs like Two Against Nature. It does lack in visceral response to many other subwoofers, including several less costly competitors.
Measured results: TBD
14. Epic Valor
Listening results: The Valor is a subwoofer which will be the answer to many budget audiophile's dreams. It is an exceptional musical performer from about 18 Hz and up, with a very agile presentation of bass at all times. In our smaller basement theater, using a pretty good high end set up, it amazed listeners in its presentation of the Steely Dan 2AN disc, and also with its slam for HT. It is not an SPL monster like the Castle, but in the right room, it is magic.
Measured Results: 20 Hz... 99 dB ... 20-63 Hz average: 109 dB
15. SVS PB-12 Ultra
Listening results: A terrific subwoofer considering its 2002 design. It remained competitive in the $1200 - $1500 arena until 2007, when it was replaced by the PB13-Ultra. The "old" Ultra was at one time a standard bearer for performance, and remains a solid mid pack subwoofer today.
Measured results: 20 Hz ... 102 dB ... 20-63 Hz average: 109 dB
16. Axiom EP-500
Listening results: The EP-500 was one of the first subwoofers to stress linearity across its frequency band. What is somewhat ironic is it sounds more like the baby brother to the new PB-13 Ultra than do smaller SVS models. It is capable of surprising amounts of bass slam, and is excetionally articulate for music. Its down side is that is current price is rather expensive for the performance. Its up side is it is quite compact, and an excellent choice when space is a consideration.
Measured results: 20 Hz ... 97 dB ... 20-63 Hz average ... 107 dB