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SHOOTOUT! Epik Empire vs HSU VTF-15H vs CHT CS18.1 vs Rythmik FV15 vs eD A7s-450

post #1 of 1241
Thread Starter 
Intro/Our Approach:

We do NOT intend our shootout to be a Âfinal word in determining a king of $1000 Internet Direct (ID) subs. We approached our shootout from a totally different perspective than has been normal for these things. We feel itÂ's something a lot of you have been wanting from a review or shootout. So here it is: We arenÂ't trying to answer the question of ÂWhich of these subs is best?Â, but rather, we are trying to be helpful in determining ÂWhich sub is best for YOU personally, the readerÂ. The answer to that question will differ from reader to reader, so we canÂ't answer it for you - just maybe help you reach a more informed decision and have a little fun along the way. We know some of you want us to make the decision for you, but we canÂ't. And we wonÂ't so please no PMÂ's asking us Âwhich sub is best or Âhow would you rank the sub?Â

Some of you have remarked to us you are interested in 2 or 3 of the subs in the shootout. Do yourself a huge favor and read about all five. Each one is impressive in its own way, so you might find one of the subs you werenÂ't considering will fill your needs the best.

NOTE: We donÂ't mind a difference of opinion, but making comments just to ruffle feathers is trolling. We donÂ't approve of trolls jumping on every and any thread they can, just to bash certain manufacturers or their personnel. So first time someone decides to troll we ask you to leave the conversation. Second time it happens weÂ'll ask a mod to warn the offender. Hopefully it stops there.

NOTE..again: I think we might've confused some of you by posting the way we did.
Although this thread is posted under Adam's screen name "madaeel", Ethan (below90hz) actually put it together. So Ethan is "below90hz", Adam is "madaeel".

Frequently Asked Questions:
Before moving on, letÂ's address some questions that have been raised:

Q: How did you guys calibrate the subs and do room EQ?

A: We used only what came with the sub at the $1000 price point, and weÂ're fairly confident that testing the subs like that will make this shootout relevant to more readers. In fact, Sound and Vision magazine (among other pro reviewers) also test subs in a normal listening environment, so we're not doing anything new here.

To explain: If Reader A has no intention of, or no capability to EQ the sub they wish to buy, our results are relevant to Reader A's situation. If Reader B plans on using Audessey, our results are still relevant to him as well because he knows that the sub will at least perform as well as we say it does, maybe even better once he uses room correction. But if we only test the subs after doing some room EQ with Audessey, Reader A has no idea if the sub will sound as good as we say it does. And what about Reader C, who has room EQ capability but its not Audessey? He'll be left guessing as well. So testing the subs as they come straight from the manufacturer ensures that, whatever the results, each sub's performance can mostly only be improved on, and therefore leaving little room for doubt as to its performance capabilities as posted in this thread.

NOTE: Although we've received several comments stating our impressions on sub's performance are exactly how some of our readers would describe it, your own experience with the sub may be different. There are many variables involved in how a sub performs. Take a look at our test setup/methodology to get an idea of how your listening environment and usage may differ or be similar to ours.

Q: You guys arenÂ't pros, you donÂ't have a laboratory-grade listening environment, nor do you have laboratory-calibrated testing equipment. What makes anything you have to say worth reading?

A: Well weÂ'll answer that question with a question of our own: How many of you are going to listen to your sub in an anechoic chamber (or outside), calibrated by $10,000 worth of equipment, and use it mostly to listen to test tones, pink noise and sine waves? Two regular dudes sitting on their couch listening to the subs and taking measurements with a rat shack meter is far closer to how youÂ'll actually use any of these subs then say, measurements from a lab or taken outside at 1m. That is why we feel what we have to say is at least worth taking a peek at.

Q: You guys did do the shootout blind, right?

A: Well, think about the reasons for making any product comparison blind. It is to eliminate bias. So what part of this shootout requires us to be unbiased? The part where we list the specs? No, the specs are what they are. How about output? Again, it is what it is. The aesthetics? Well, commenting on a subÂ's looks requires we know which sub weÂ're looking at Â- thereÂ's no getting around it.
The only aspect of the shootout that may require us to be Âblind (if you really think its necessary) would be the sound quality portion. However, since weÂ're not going to create a ranking system Ã* la CraigsubÂ's legendary thread, we donÂ't need to do that portion blind either. WeÂ'll report on our impressions of accuracy and post FR charts, but really all five subs sound awesome and its not like we can take measurements anyways. Therefore, our approach is to include a ÂWho should consider this sub category for each sub. A different approach for sure, but we believe more or less just as helpful.

Q: WeÂ've seen the intro video - are you guys that ridiculously attractive in real life too?
A: We would love to answer that question, seriously, we would. However we are incredibly busy with our modeling careers and being body doubles for Jason Statham so we just donÂ't have the time to answer.

Q: How did you two determine max output?
A: With the sealed subs, it was pretty easy. We started at a high but safe volume level, and then kept increasing the volume level on the receiver (AVR) by anywhere from 5 to 1 decibel increments until increasing the volume no longer made the sub get any louder. With ported subs, itÂ's a bit more tricky since itÂ's typically a lot easier to accidentally take a ported sub to xMech (bottoming out) than a sealed sub. So we did the same as we did with the sealed subs, but as an added precaution Ethan also sat right next to the sub and listened very carefully for audible distortion as a sign we had passed xMax and were approaching xMech.

Q: So you guys really just bought some subs and tested them for fun?
A: Well, technically AdamÂ's wife bought the subs. But yeah, thatÂ's what we did.

Test Setup/ Methodology:
This section is IMPORTANT. If you read nothing else, read this!

  • All numbers are straight from an analog SPL meter. We bought a second brand new SPL meter to verify numbers; the two meters almost always matched each other exactly and were never more than 1db apart. Some of you might assume that the actual SPLs are higher than what we state based on the popular rat shack meter conversion chart; however from what weÂ've read, it is entirely possible the numbers are fairly accurate as posted.

  • Unless otherwise noted, all numbers we post are always taken at listening position, 8Â'-6Â from the corner-located subwoofer.

  • The Âlistening position in this case was where Adam always sits on his couch: directly centered on his TV.
    • Ethan always sat at his left, about 24Â-30Â farther away from the sub.
    • AdamÂ's listening position is not the Âsweet spot in his room. Ethan was probably sitting in the/a sweet spot, which we verified with both meters that it typically hit 3-6db higher than at the listening position. Keep that in mind as you consider the SPLs we post.

  • We put each sub in the exact same location and orientation (in a corner, driver facing front, including CS18.1 and Empire), using painterÂ's tape to mark the spot for consistency. It is possible that a sub-crawl test mightÂ've revealed a more ideal location for none, some, or all of the subs. However, based on some quick tests the location and orientation we chose yielded very good, if not the best results.

  • Test tones played to generate FR charts were all played at the exact same volume (at -15) after channel leveling the LFE to the other speakers. We channel leveled each sub several times to make sure the results were consistent.

  • The listening environment is AdamÂ's living room which is open to the rest of the first floor. It about 4000 to 4500³ft. It also sits on floor joists above his basement.

  • Here is the list of test material we used:
    • Music:
      • ÂBass, I Love You by Basstronics
      • ÂLow Roads by Bass Mekanik
    • Movie:
      • Cloverfield Â- Qwik-E-Mart Walk-by scene
      • Cloverfield Â- Bridge destruction scene
      • Flight of the Phoenix Â- Plane crash sequence
      • Kung Fu Panda Â- ÂSkadooshÂ
      • Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen Â- Intro
      • The Incredible Hulk (2008) Â- Sonic Cannon scene

  • Music was played in 2-channel Stereo. All sample scenes from movies were in 5.1 DTS except Kung-Fu Panda which was in 5.1 Dolby Digital

photography is © Elena Jasic. Check her out www.elenajasic.com and her photography blog (some parts of site are nsfw)
post #2 of 1241
Thread Starter 

: 22.25(W) x 22.25(D) (23.50(D) w/ grille) x 22.25(H)
Weight: 140lbs
Driver size and material: 18 poly
Enclosure: Sealed, .75 thick, 1.5 thick at front, EFS
Amplifier Power: 1300w RMS
Special features: Co-Linear Motor Technology, FLEX Spider

Price, Shipped:
$850 (as tested)


Unboxing: No video available. We are willing to insert one from a volunteer though.

Build Quality:
This one Ethan and I disagree on a little. I do agree some of the parts are a little cheap. I had a resistor fall off my amp's circuit board which is very odd to say the least. We DO agree the grilles could be a little nicer but I think that's nit-picking. These things are beasts. My A5-325 weighs as much as all the subs in the shootout, though mostly due to the driver. Ethan's s450 is the only sub I'm comfortable sitting on because it outweighs the rest of the subs by at least 20-30 lbs. So in that sense I think the build quality is pretty good.

When you're talking reliability we do think they need to work on this a little because they do seem to have more problems with that than most of the other companies here. Having said that though Alex, Brett, and Matt are VERY quick to get you up and running again. When my amp had it's problem I had a new amp in three days. That's very impressive! We both agree that if you have problems eD will take care of you as fast as possible.

Shipping time:
They're getting better but they still have the longest wait times for their products. Though after receiving their subs most people tend to forget how long they waited.

The s450 has a basic truck liner finish. So it's not as nice as some of the other finishes on the subs tested. However it's still a nice looking sub, and while some people don't like the silver driver I think it's one of the better looking drivers out there. This thing is probably not going to have a high WAF. Its big and heavy. Then again eD will also make ANY custom finish you want. How many people have torch red Subwoofers? One or two perhaps???

Ethan says: right before we started testing the subs I bought an Epson projector. I now have a much better appreciation for this sub's finish. In fact now I like how the A7s-450 looks even more. I don't think it's a truck liner finish at all like some lesser attractive people do. I really like the fact that it didn't reflect barely any light from the projected image, so that's a definite plus for those of you thinking about placing a sub near your screen.

Plug n Play:
No. Like most sealed subs, you will have to do a sub crawl test to find the optimum location. As it turns out, in Adam's living room the corner we chose was the only available location but we didn't even need to eQ it since its FR was pretty much on par with the rest of the group. However, in Ethan's basement theatre that would have never worked; the eQ.2 came in very handy for helping with a huge null at 45hz.

Shootout Performance:
(We did not use the eQ.2 for this test!)

1) I Love You Bass - regularly hit 108-109, peaked @ 111db. We took it right to xMax with only a slight loss in SQ, had to be next to sub to notice it. This is much farther than Ethan took the sub for his A7s-450 review, yet the A7s-450 never skipped a beat - which is what he said it could do all along with properly functioning components. Hit 121db @ 1m on this particular track, and peaked @ 116db in Ethan's listening position.
2) Low Roads - regularly hit 112-113db, peaked at 116db. Turning up volume one more notch did not increase actual SPLs. This is what a properly working sealed sub normally does when it reaches its max output.

1) Cloverfield - qwik-e-mart walk-by and bridge destruction
a. at reference level regularly hit 115db, pegged meter at stairwell scene. Regularly hit 110-112db during qwik-e-mart, peaked at 116db. Regularly hit 110-113db, peaked at 117db on bridge scene.

2) Flight of the Phoenix - Plane Crash sequence
a. at -5 from reference level regularly hit 110-114db, pegged the meter several times, also hit 117db and then 118db at 0:17:00 (end of crash sequence)

3) Transformers 2: Return of the Fallen (RotF) - Intro sequence
a. at reference level averaged 106-108db, peaked at 110db.

4) Kung-Fu Panda - Skadoosh
a. at -3 from reference level maxed out at 111db

5) The Incredible Hulk (2008) - Sonic Cannons scene
a. at reference level averaged 108-110, peaked at 114db - possibly could've gone up another notch but wanted to play it safe because of infrasonic material.

Customer Service:
Most everyone seems to be very satisfied with eD's customer service. I have never had a problem with their CS, and in fact am quite impressed with their CS, but as many of you are aware, Ethan had a huge problem when he was blamed for damaging a faulty driver that he obviously did not damage. Several people also PM'd him they got similar treatment, which was a little disheartening.

Since then, however, Ethan needed a replacement foot after one went missing from our trip to Craig's house for the first shootout. Alex immediately sent out two feet without hesitation. After finding out they hadn't arrived within a week, Alex didn't hesitate to send out two more, even though Ethan said he didn't mind waiting longer to see if they showed up. That is the famous eD customer service you always hear about. Ethan was really happy about that. So our viewpoint of eD's customer service has definitely taken a more positive outlook.

Recommendation to Manufacturer/room for improvement:
Reliability is an ongoing issue. Compared to the other ID companies, there are just way too many my sub stopped working posts on the official eD thread. Yeah its great that eD takes care of those people, but we'd much rather not have our subs stop working. Which is a shame because you guys make fantastic products - we love our subs. So please please please stop ignoring the reliability issue and build them to last longer.

Also, different grille inserts would be nice. Ethan's 16-yr-old $250 JBL subs have the exact same grille inserts as the A7s-450 - actually they're even a tad beefier. For $850 we don't think its too much to ask for some nice ones like Epik's or Hsu's - that would be fantastic.

What we like/were impressed with:
Output. Plain and simple. This beast gives you the most boom for your buck. At $850 shipped for one (get two or more and it's only $800) there probably isn't a better deal out there.......so far.

Ethan says: at my house when I had it playing Low Roads at 116db in my basement Home Theatre (HT), I walked upstairs to see why my wife would scream at me sometimes if I did it too long. The first thing I noticed was that the first floor was bouncing up and down like a freshly plucked guitar string (no exaggeration). I happened to have my SPL meter in my hand so I looked down and110db. The A7s-450 put 110db in the room above it.

Who should buy this sub:
Recommended for people who's primary concern is budget and max SPLs, whereas WAF (due to size), sound quality, build quality and bottom end extension* are secondary in importance. Also recommended for people who hate their eardrums.

*It should be noted that extension would most likely be improved if the room we tested it in was completely enclosed or smaller, or if someone uses an eq to flatten the response.
post #3 of 1241
Thread Starter 

: 20”(W) x 20”(D) x 20”(H) (w/out feet) – Enclosure
17.5”(W) x 13”(D) x 4”(H) – Rack Amplifier
Weight: 75lbs – Enclosure; 20lbs - Amp
Driver size and material: 18”
Enclosure type: Sealed, 0.70” thick Baltic Birch
Amplifier Power: 497w RMS
Special features: Down or Front-firing, Modular System

Price, Shipped:



Build Quality:
Hmmm. This is a tough one folks. Mostly because it's not that great. It needs a couple more coats of paint and of course there's the feet.........uhh I'll just pass on that and say get the grille. The driver also was sticky??? and because of that attracted a lot of dust that remained on the driver. In other words, as for the aesthetic portion of the build quality well, there is a definite need for improvement here but rest assured Craig has taken the lead in correcting it. As far as durability, as hard as we pushed this thing and given its performance, there’s no reason to doubt its durability.

Shipping time:
The 18.1 was one of the first subs to arrive. Though I live in PA as well so I'm sure that helped. Regardless it did get here in a couple days which is pretty good.

This thing is the ugly chick in the lineup - next to the other subs at least. On it's own it doesn't look that bad honestly. When I first took it out of the box I thought it looked decent, not great, but decent. Then when the other subs started rolling in my view changed. Standing next to the other subs it looked like I built it, which is not a compliment. The sub itself is light since it has the separate Dayton amp and so it's only a 75lb 20" cube. In that case it has good WAF but the finish would probably negate that.

Plug n Play:
No. Like most sealed subs, you will have to do a sub crawl test to find the optimum location. And with only a 1-band parametric EQ, it took us a while to get any kind of useful improvement in the FR.

Shootout Performance:

1) I Love You Bass – regularly hit 106-108, peaked @ 111db when it just wouldn’t go any louder. Like the A7s-450, there was minimal loss in sound quality (SQ) even at max output. Btw, when clip light came on it was only doing 106-109db. We are able to squeeze 2db extra out of it – which, for those of you who are familiar with the song – that is a big deal.
2) Low Roads – The sub regularly hit 113-115db, and peaked at an amazing 118db at the listening position. That means it might’ve been hitting 120db or more in Ethan’s seat (forgot to measure, sorry guys). Again, when the clip light came on the sub was only hitting 108-110db, and peaked @ 113db. So there is actually significantly more output available before any audible clipping takes place. In this case by ignoring the clip warning we were able to take the sub 5db farther!

1) Cloverfield - qwik-e-mart walk-by and bridge destruction
a. at -2 from reference level (clip light was all lit up so didn’t want to take it to reference) hit 113db during walk-by, maxed out at 115db

2) Flight of the Phoenix - Plane Crash sequence
a. at -5 from reference level hit 110-114db thru out, peaked at 116db-118db

3) Transformers 2: Return of the Fallen (RotF) - Intro sequence
a. at reference level (absolute max output, came very close to distortion) peaked at 111db several times. Sounded ah-maze-eeng, felt like it was hitting harder than it did on Cloverfield.

4) Kung-Fu Panda skadoosh (1:19:30)
a. at reference level lit up the clip light solid red, but it played a clean 110db

5) The Incredible Hulk (2008) - Sonic Cannons scene
a. at reference level peaked at 114db then steady 108-110db. This was absolute max, the clip light was all lit up and (standing next to the sub) it actually did only very slightly audibly clip this time.

Customer Service:
Craig has taken some heat for how he responds to people on various forums. Has he handled everything perfectly? No. But looking specifically at CHT's customer service regarding the sub we bought, it's been without incident. If that's all that matters to you, then great.

Recommendation to Manufacturer/room for improvement:
We’re not going to touch the numerous problems with the finish, because the series 3 should be addressing those problems. We will say that 2 coats of black semi-gloss would eliminate 90% of the series 2 aesthetics problems. As for the feet? We highly recommend buying the grille.

Moving on, we couldn’t help but notice the Dayton amp's red clip warning light is quick to come on. This is part of the reason we had to retest; after compiling our notes, we realized the CS18.1 could go much louder than what it did when the clip light came on. So we decided to retest and ignore the light. We got significantly higher output from the sub without any audible compromise in sound quality. That’s when the CS18.1 put up the highest SPLs on “Low Roads”, making it the only sub to reach 118db twice. (Again, that’s at the listening position folks). So maybe a brief one-page setup sheet that includes a note that the clip warning light is only a warning would be helpful.

We’d also really like to see a plate amp instead of a rack amp. Reason being: (1) the separate amp is a bit cluttered for our taste, and (2) the driver is just too powerful for that 70lb Baltic birch enclosure if you don’t set the amp on top of it. A nice plate amp would keep it from dancing around.

What we like/were impressed with:
This thing just absolutely pounds like the Devil. Considering its average max SPL over the 8 pieces of material we tested was less than a decibel under the A7s-450’s average, its safe to say that the two subs equal each other in output. Except this sub also has a clear and noticeable improvement in sound quality over the A7s-450. We’re not sure if it’s the driver, the Baltic Birch enclosure, or a combination of all the sub’s parts, but Craig hit an absolute home run with this sub’s performance. That is why so many owners are willing to look past the aesthetics. It just goes super-loud and sounds great doing it. And for the price of a spray can of black paint, it doesn’t look bad either!

Who should buy this sub:
Recommended for people whose primary concern is max SPL, mid-bass slam and sound quality, whereas bottom end extension*, aesthetics, build quality and WAF (due to looks) ** are secondary in importance. We should also note that at its current pricing, it pretty much matches the A7s-450 in bang-for-buck, but easily exceeds it in SQ-for-buck.

*It should be noted that extension would most likely be improved if the room we tested it in was completely enclosed or smaller.

**The sub tested was the old 18.1 Series 2. So these comments are a reflection of THAT sub. However these have been discontinued and a new finish will be available on the 2011 line-up.
post #4 of 1241
Thread Starter 

Dimensions: 16(W) (18(W) w/ grille) x 24(D) x 22(H)
Weight: 120lbs
Driver size and material: 15 (x2) Kevlar reinforced paper-pulp
Enclosure type: Sealed, 1 thick
Amplifier Power: 600w RMS, 1500W short-term RMS
Special features: Parallel Drive Technology, Inert Cabinet
Price, Shipped: $940



Build Quality:
This sub has some of the best build quality in a sub $1000 subwoofer I've seen. It's the smallest sub but weighs as much as the others. Everything about it shows it was well built. From the enclosure to the amp and driver they seem put together very well. Everything is flush and there is no defects whatsoever. Top notch build quality.

Shipping time:
The Epik, along with the 18.1, were the first subs to arrive. However as I mentioned before CHT is in PA so for the Empire to arrive the same day is amazing. Sometimes though Epik runs out of stock and you'll have to wait awhile for the next run but it's like eD subs, they're definitely worth the wait.

This sub was my wife's favorite. So that should pretty much tell you everything. In fact if it was a little taller she said she would've kept it upstairs. That surprised me. It's compact, inert, and while the finish isn't as nice as some of the others, it's still more than nice enough to put in a living room. This sub definitely has the highest WAF.

Plug n Play:
Pretty much. You might wanna do a sub crawl like for the CS18.1 and A7s-450, but it seemed to us that the Empire didn't suffer as badly from a non-optimal location and orientation as the other subs. It actually seemed to do quite well wherever we put it. We guess that's because of the opposing driver configuration.

Shootout Performance:

1) I Love You Bass - regularly hit 104-106db, peaked @ 109db. Its funny that of all the subs this one had the lowest spl's yet on the low note of the song I felt it moved more air and had more oomph than any other sub on this particular track. (Ethan felt the HSU had the most oomph though.)
2) Low Roads - regularly hit 113-115db, peaked @ 117db. Hit 123db @ 1 meter! The Empire seemed to have the most punch of the group. Not that the other's didn't have punch, its just the Empire had enough punch to make us notice it stood a little taller than the rest.

1) Cloverfield - qwik-e-mart walk-by and bridge destruction
a. at reference level hit regularly hit 106-108, peaked around 111db during the walk by scene. Regularly hit 107-109 and 114db was absolute peak during bridge scene

2) Flight of the Phoenix - Plane Crash sequence
a. at -5 from reference level consistently hit 110-114, and pegged the meter several times (116db+) (this scene was hard to measure because from 110 to 116+ was too big of a variance to keep the meter at one setting, and we didn't have a reliable second SPL meter that day)

3) Transformers 2: Return of the Fallen (RotF) - Intro sequence
a. at reference level regularly hit 108-109, peaked @ 111db a few times. This scene for some reason doesn't hit the SPLs the other movies scenes do, but it always sounds LOUD. A lot louder than the numbers indicate.

4) Kung-Fu Panda - Skadoosh
a. at reference level it hit 108db

5) The Incredible Hulk (2008) - Sonic Cannons scene
a. at reference level it averaged 108-109db, peaked at 112db

Customer Service:
Chad isn't on message boards as much as some of the other ID companies (which we don't see as a bad thing), but he is the owner of Epik, and he does make time for his customers. We haven't spoken with him as much as CHT and eD, but he seems like a great guy to deal with, and as far as we can tell from the official Epik thread the Empire is a pretty reliable sub, so there shouldn't be too much need for CS after you get your sub all set up. However, if you do he takes care of his customers as well as anyone. The only negative with dealing with Epik is sometimes Chad can take a little bit responding to emails, but since it's a small company you have to expect some sacrifices to get the high quality products they put out out at those prices.

Recommendation to Manufacturer/room for improvement:
Well there isn't much to say here. Moving the sub around as much as we did, we did notice there's not much room to get our fingers under it, and we'd often get our fingers pinched when setting it down on a hard surface. So slightly thicker feet would be nice. And maybe a bigger discount for buying two!

What we like/were impressed with:
We like that the empire is inert. And for a compact sub, the fact that this thing can run with the big dogs is impressive. In fact, check this out:

Ethan says: The first day we got it, I had to go back to work after unboxing it, but Adam continued to listen (don't think he even noticed I left). As I walked out to my car about 45ft (measured) from the corner of the house the Empire occupied, I clearly heard Cloverfield thuds. And then when it happened again, I realized - I wasn't just hearing it, I could feel it shaking the ground beneath me!

That's why we suspect the Empire might've put up even better numbers if we tested it in the location it was in on the day we unboxed it.

Who should buy this sub:
Recommended for people who's primary concern is WAF (both small size and good looks), mid-bass slam, build quality, plug-n-play and bottom end extension*, and are willing to possibly give up 1 or 2db in max SPL to satisfy those concerns.

*It should be noted that of the three sealed subs the Empire was the only one to have solid extension down to 20hz - and again remember we did no sort of EQ'ing to this sub, and no room correction for any of them.
post #5 of 1241
Thread Starter 

: 18(W) x 25(D) (26(D) w/ grille) x 24(H)
Weight: <120lbs ?
Driver size and material: 15" black anodized aluminum
Enclosure type: Selectable (1 or 2 Port Vented)
Amplifier Power: 370w RMS class A/B patented servo controlled
Special features: Direct Servo Technology, Phase Alignment Control

Price, Shipped:



Build Quality:
Another well built sub. Rythmik knows what they're doing. Once again the driver, amp, and enclosure are first class. The amp especially. It has more features than any other amp in the shootout, which while not maybe necessary, it's nice to have.

Shipping time:
The Rythmik took the longest to arrive but that's only because I was waiting for the amp with the markings on it. The one in stock didn't have any and considering all the features I figured it's be better to wait for it. It would've shipped right away had I not wanted that amp. Shipping times should be on par with Epik and CHT.

Aesthetics on this sub are pretty good. Everything on it has a quality look. The finish is nice and the driver is gorgeous. It is big though. There's no hiding any of these subs but with this one it's not bad since it looks great. As far as WAF goes the only drawback is it's size. It's not the biggest sub out there but it's definitely not a compact sub either.

Plug n Play:
Sort of. If you look at the controls without reading the manual, they're not marked as clearly as some other subs. BUT, look at the manual and everything is plain as day. In fact, this was definitely one of the easiest subs to set up and eQ. Only took like 5 minutes to get it set up. But the fact that it does have so many controls is why we say its sort-of plug and play.

Shootout Performance:

(NOTE: during our tests the limiter was set to OFF for music - this does impact max output in that it allows for higher SPLs)
1) I Love You Bass - regularly hit 108-109db, peaked @111db. We could hear a drop in clean output so we didn't want to take it any farther since we were already waaaay past xMax. However, even with the loss of accuracy, it still sounded amazingly clear and tight.
2) Low Roads - regularly hit 113-115db, peaked @ 117db quite a few times.

(NOTE: The limiter was set to ON for movies. Do not play movies with the limiter set to off)
We could tell this sub dug deeper then most of the other subs when listening to movies. There was a very satisfying deep growl from scenes with deep bass. The FV15 (and the HSU) possibly could've dug even deeper depending on the settings.
1) Cloverfield - qwik-e-mart walk-by and bridge destruction
a. at reference level Hit 114db on stairwell scene. During Qwik-e-mart walk-by it peaked at 112db several times, regularly hit 109-111db. It averaged 108-110 and peaked at 113db for bridge scene.

2) Flight of the Phoenix - Plane Crash sequence
a. at -5 from reference level regularly hit 109-113db, peaked @ 115db. Took the volume 1db past those numbers and accidentally bottomed out the driver. So limiter definitely works great - but it is not fool proof.

3) Transformers 2: Return of the Fallen (RotF) - Intro sequence
a. at reference level regularly hit 108-110 and peaked at 112db. Also played a note right at the end of the opening title shot we never noticed before, probably because the other subs couldn't dig deep enough for it to be noticed.

4) Kung-Fu Panda - Skadoosh
a. at -3 from reference level hit 112db

5) The Incredible Hulk (2008) - Sonic Cannons scene
a. at -2 from reference level averaged around 108-110, peaked @ 112db

Customer Service:
I've never heard anything negative with regards to their CS or that their subs are unreliable. Every company will have some subs break down but so far so good. Brian seems like a good guy as well and was very quick to respond to emails.

Recommendation to Manufacturer/room for improvement:
We know this is probably being nitpicky, but honestly - stick-on rubber feet? For over $1100 we were not expecting stick-on feet. And we weren't expecting to have to roll up a piece of foam to plug one of the ports. It looks ridiculous, and is another cutback we weren't expecting on an otherwise flawless product.

On the other hand, Brian is addressing the feet and port plug aspects of the product, so don't be surprised if some time in the near future we have absolutely nothing to nitpick.

What we like/were impressed with:
At $1125 shipped, this sub goes for the most cash. And it's absolutely worth it. It's incredibly powerful, it's gorgeous, along with the HSU it is extremely accurate, and it's got flexibility in its controls. We're pretty sure no one has ever returned one of these bad boys. Well, no one in their right mind anyways. And did we mention accurate? Did you see how it moved in the intro video? Thing stops on a dime - no - stops on a needle!

Who should buy this sub:
Recommended for people who's primary concern is sound quality, bottom end extension, build quality, flexibility and aesthetics, whereas budget and WAF (due to size) is not important. Recommended for max SPL only for those who know what they're doing.* If you're looking for top quality sound and max SPL - but with a little more peace of mind, we suggest stepping up to the FV15HP.

*This sub was the only sub to bottom out on some source material, but that was our fault - hence the recommendation to be careful if you're looking for pure spl. It definitely can cleanly push the numbers we've posted, but we accidentally went over the line a few times because this thing sounds so good there is very little audible indication that we were pushing it to the limits. Be sure to set the limiter to ON for home theater.
post #6 of 1241
Thread Starter 

: 18(W) x 26(D) (w/out grille) x 25(H) (w/ out feet)
Weight: <123lbs ?
Driver size and material: 15
Enclosure type: Selectable (Vented or Sealed)
Amplifier Power: 1400 W short term, 350 W continuous
Special features: Flared Triangular Ports, Hybrid Tuning

Price, Shipped:



Build Quality:
Another sub that exudes quality. Once again the driver, amp, and enclosure are top notch. The sub just looks very well put together. I have heard nothing but good things regarding HSU subs and after seeing this one I understand why.

Shipping time:
The HSU took a little longer than the Empire and 18.1 to arrive but as far as I know they always have product in stock and ready to ship. You won't wait long for a sub.

This sub has the best finish in my opinion. It's a semi-gloss that obviously isn't as shiny as gloss but still gives it that high end look. Plus the driver and triangular ports are definitely a break from the norm and look amazing. My step-daughter, who isn't exactly a sub fanatic, said it was her favorite look. All in all a great looking sub. As far as WAF goes the looks are among the best but it's a massive sub. Out of all the subs it was definitely the most imposing.

Ethan says: Like the Rythmik, this thing is straight sexy. If I wasn't married, I'd totally hit on it and then feel bad when I walked away without a phone number because its totally out of my league.

Plug n Play:
For the most part, yes. You may have to spend a little time getting to know the different settings, but the sub is indestructible so you can plug-n-play if you want.

Shootout Performance:

1) I Love You Bass - just hit clean, hard and accurate @ 109-110db and peaked at 111db. The low notes in this song REALLY shook the floor and couch. It should be noted that overall, the VTF-15H played this song the loudest. Which is impressive because this song has an extremely hot infrasonic track on it, and it really limits how loud you can turn up the volume. But with its massive amount of excursion capability, the VTF-15H was just indestructible, and its performance on this track is part of the reason we feel that way.
2) Low Roads - regularly hit 113-114db, peaked @ 116db. In this mode it didn't punch as tight as the sealed subs, but once again the HSU managed to physically move us more than any other sub. 116db is 4db over what it could do in 1port open mode.

1) Cloverfield - qwik-e-mart walk-by and bridge destruction
a. at reference level hit 113db in the stairwell scene. Walk by scene regularly hit 107-109db peaked at 110db. Bridge destruction average 108-110, and peaked at 110db.
2) Flight of the Phoenix - Plane Crash sequence
a. at -5 from reference level averages 109-112db peaked at 114db. Barrel Roll hit 111db (Craigsub hit 109db )*

*The barrel roll scene on the HSU was more potent than any other sub. I felt like I was going to vomit with the rest of the people on the plane.

3) Transformers 2: Return of the Fallen (RotF) - Intro sequence
a. at reference level averaged 107-109db, peak was at 112db and once again it sounded clean and really loud.

4) Kung-Fu Panda - "Skadoosh"
a. at -5 from reference level hit 108db, increasing volume didn't change SPLs or change how clean it played (typical for this sub)

5) The Incredible Hulk (2008) - Sonic Cannons scene
a. at -5 from reference level played around 105-107db, peaked at 110db

Customer Service:
As far as we can tell its outstanding. Pete is about the nicest guy to talk to or deal with. He's taken quite a few shots on these boards from certain people who almost take pride in their rudeness, but he's never been anything but gracious and polite. He's also been very pleasant to deal with personally. As a side note, we couldn't help but notice that Dr. Hsu has also been described as one of the nicest guys too. So we're guessing CS would never be anything short of fantastic when dealing with Hsu Reasearch.

Recommendation to Manufacturer/room for improvement:
There isn't anything real to recommend here, so again we're going to have to nitpick. Um, maybe just think about a different stock finish? The semi-gloss finish looks amazing, but there is a drawback with that considering how easy it fingerprints. And anyone wanting it near a projection screen might find its reflectivity a bit distracting.

Oh and even though we love the VTF-15H's feet, maybe consider offering an optional set of feet that transfer less to the floor for people who don't? Ok, we're done grasping at straws now.

What we like/were impressed with:
The driver is so powerful you can actually see the enclosure vibrate when its maxed out. (You're not gonna place anything on top of a sub this gorgeous anyways so that's not a bad thing). This sub is indestructible. Just always sounded clean, tight, no distortion or anything. Again, just look at the intro video, like the Rythmik you can tell this thing is as accurate as they come. Plus total peace of mind when cranking it. We can't tell you how much fun this sub is to listen to. It was kind of a mystery to us: even though its average max SPL was about 2.8db below the A7s-450, this thing just moved you like no other. Some people don't like the transference, but we do. Nothing is more fun than having someone over to your HT for the first time, and they jump out of their seat when the couch shakes during that first explosion.

Another thing we liked about the HSU is, even in vented mode, it seemed to have the advantages of both a vented AND a sealed sub in that it played 20hz material with the authority of a vented sub, but had the accuracy typical of a sealed sub. Also, unlike many vented subs, turning it up didn't induce clipping or any distortion, it just stopped getting louder like a sealed sub. In fact, this was the only sub that kept its sound quality all the way up to its max output. And that was in 2 vents open mode. Noice!

Who should buy this sub:
Recommended for people who's primary concern is sound quality, build quality, aesthetics, flexibility and who want an indestructible sub that REALLY shakes your couch (aka fun factor) and are willing to give up 2 or 3db in max SPL to satisfy those concerns. Bottom end extension*, and WAF (due to size) are secondary in importance, and people with projectors should keep in mind this sub's finish will reflect light.

*This sub was tested with both ports open or 22hz mode. Extension would be improved upon by running it in 16hz mode or one port open.
post #7 of 1241
Thread Starter 

For size comparison, here's a few group photos. We're guessing these photos are a rare breed

And to summarize everything nice and neatly for you guys as far as FR and SPLs go, here's a comparison of all the sub's FRs in one graph:

And here's a comparison chart of all the sub's results from the various pieces of source material:

The A7s-450 and 18.1 are spl monsters. They're pretty much a tie in that department. The 18.1 to both Ethan and I does sound better than the s450. It just sounds cleaner and tighter. The s450 still sounds very good, not muddy at all. Its just once you've heard both, its clear the 18.1 sounds better. And so does the Empire, it is also a little monster. (little next to these guys) We'd put its sound quality on par with the CS18.1, although it has its own distinct sound so some of you may prefer one over the other. It was only down 2db's compared to the 18" subs yet went down to 20hz with authority. It's nice to know that even without room gain the Empire can go down that low. Rythmik's FV15 is a ported sub that has the sound quality of a sealed - a high-end sealed sub. It amazed us how clean and tight the sound was - at very loud volumes. You would never guess it's a ported sub except for it's output down low. It went the deepest of any of the subs, which is to be expected, and made it's presence known on some material where the other subs didn't. Then there's the HSU. It tied with the Rythmik in sound quality over the other subs, and again these two had their own distinct sound so you might prefer one over the other. The Hsu had the least output average, but only by about 2.8db. Oddly enough it shook the couch more than any other sub. One of the things we loved about this sub besides its looks was that it never complained no matter how loud it went. An outstanding sub all around.

Ok so to sum up, yes all these subs have their own strengths and each one is amazing in its own way. So again, the whole point of posting our experience is to provide some insight - not to sway you one way or another, but to leave it up to you the reader to draw your own conclusions. Hopefully we've helped you out a little in that regard.

Thanks for reading!
post #8 of 1241
Sweet. Wish I knew of this before I bought the empire last week lol
post #9 of 1241
Guys, thanks so much for doing this. There is so much info, I haven't had the opportunity to peruse it all.

Quick thought. If the 3 side-by-side photos in the CHT 18.1 section are actually separate photos (driver, driver closeup, amp), you might consider editing the post and put the photos under each other rather than next to each other. That would eliminate the need to scroll sideways to read your text. If it is one single collage, then never-mind.
post #10 of 1241
Great read guys! Amazing work!
post #11 of 1241
Fantastic presentation! Great pictures, video, and text!
post #12 of 1241
Very well done guys. One issue for me at least, you should not have editorialized the CHT sub section. That was out of place in what otherwise was a great presentation. The CHT product issues are well known by all who have seen the photos, and the CS issues are well known by those who read the thread. Otherwise, nice job.
post #13 of 1241
I'm loving the intro videos for the subs (especially the Rythmik and Hsu reacion shots!), but the first one for the A7s is "private" and inaccessible. Can you guys make that one public too? By the way, fantastic shoot out, thanks for all the effort!
post #14 of 1241
It won't let me play the eD intro video. Rest of the videos appear to work though.
post #15 of 1241
Great job guys! A big thanks for the time and effort it took to put this all together.
post #16 of 1241
I thought you guys did a great job! I had a lot of fun going through and will be back to do it again. Absolutely love the individual subwoofer introduction videos. They had me cracking up!
post #17 of 1241
Standing O for you guys. Great work and well worth the wait.
post #18 of 1241
Great work, guys. The vids are a nice touch. I had no problem with the eD intro. It's a difficult read due to having to scroll back and forth. Maybe someone at AVS can tell you how to make it all fit in a typical window.

To bad you have that nasty null at 45Hz.
post #19 of 1241
Nice, very nice. I bet it was fun!!
post #20 of 1241
Ethan and Adam, STUNNING job, in 5 years on AVS I have never seen an enthusiast review anywhere close to this cool. I like your no-nonsense attitude and approach. I'm having a blast reading through each section and watching the vids and will be going back through it all again. Thank you for sharing freely with us the fruits of your labor/time/money, and mostly for bringing some FUN back to this forum!

Lifting a tasty pint to you both - Cheers!

post #21 of 1241
Nice job, you guys are to be commended! The videos are a bonus and you seemed to have captured the flavor of each sub. I think you have helped many of us in our search for the sub that's right for us. Thank you.
post #22 of 1241
Well done guys.

Adam's wife bought the subs? Does she have any sisters?
post #23 of 1241
Very nice! I enjoyed the videos.
post #24 of 1241
Strong work, thanks guys! I don't think anyone expected this.

Only one suggestion, get a tripod for that SPL meter.

Still, wow! Heck of a job, guys! I am also going to tip a pint on your behalf.
post #25 of 1241
To Jason Statham, errr Ethan and Adam I want to thank you both for this. I read the entire "pre shootout" thread while I was at work and when I got home I had to come here for this.

You guys did a great job with the photos and the intro videos. They looked very nice and did a great job of showing the aesthetics really well as well as having some nice accompanying other material that made me smile during the intros. As someone who is learning and doesn't have a full grasp of all the technical talk that goes on here I very much like something like this.

It was obviously a lot of work, time, money, and most importantly FUN. Again, thank you very much for this. You guys really put yourself out there with a lot of the scrutiny that comes with stuff like this and you obviously enjoy it, have a sense of humor about it, and you do offer value to people when you do something like this.

Well done guys.
post #26 of 1241
Nice job! But next time hire a better make up artist/hair stylist.
post #27 of 1241
One of the most entertaining and usefully informative reviews I have read/watched in a long time. Seems like there is no bad choice in the whole group,which is a good thing

Thanks for all of the hard work: Menace
post #28 of 1241
Thanks so much for posting this and the time and money it took to get it to happen. Great job !!
post #29 of 1241
[/size][/font] Then there's the HSU. It tied with the Rythmik in sound quality over the other subs, and again these two had their own distinct sound so you might prefer one over the other. The Hsu [font=Arial][size=4]

I know this may be hard but would you be able to somewhat describe the difference in sound between these two? Did you listen to other music on these subs besides those two songs used for testing.

Thanks for the great thread. I know how long it takes to write up reports .
post #30 of 1241
Interesting read. Thanks for taking the time to do this. It's interesting how what is measured, and what is heard do not always make sense. I believe it stems from harmonic distortion. It is nice to see you guys realize that not all sounds are created equal.
Above all, this had to be really fun. Way to go guys.
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AVS › AVS Forum › Audio › Subwoofers, Bass, and Transducers › SHOOTOUT! Epik Empire vs HSU VTF-15H vs CHT CS18.1 vs Rythmik FV15 vs eD A7s-450