Greetings fellow audio enthusiasts:
I just got a second Valor (used) to go with my original Valor purchase.
It’s great to have stereo subs again!
Though the Valor is no longer available, as Chad, in his relentless pursuit of cost-effective state-of-the-art subsonic woofage, has already made the Valor obsolete (I believe that the first generation of Epik's subs had retail sale availability for less than 18 months, all but the Conquest discontinued in order to bring out the latest lineup), I am posting my feedback for several reasons:
By confirming the high value and extraordinary quality of the original lineup, this may help address the concern expressed by several posters about whether or not the 2nd generation lineup is as “good a deal” or simply as good/better in SQ/SPL than the original.
IMHO, those who purchased the first generation Epiks don't post much because we have found satisfaction; most of those that have posted their reviews also had reasonable experience with either other entrepreneur’s cost-effective but state-of-the-art subs or extensive DIY builds.
I cannot provide direct comparisons of the Valor to the new Epik line, but I can extol the virtues of using dual Valor subs in stereo configuration!
My stereo sub install:
In my current installation, I am running L/R main speakers as “full range” in my surround processor’s speaker configuration but crossing each over to its own individual sub with an active crossover (Behr. CX3400) to handle the bottom octaves of Magnepan MG12's, the babies of the Magneplanar line which I picked up used on Audiogon. (in process of rebuilding my man cave after divorce-driven liquidation)Music
Subwoofer integration with Magnepan's or other open baffle, dipole panel speakers has been considered a challenge for several reasons:
1) Level matching between dipole and omni-directional point source transducers does not track well with distance/listening position. (This is due to the difference in power loss with distance between line source vs. omni-directional point source) - Valor cannot offer any advantage here.
2) The sonic characteristics of boxless, open-baffle dipoles differ greatly from boxed omni-directional point sources, making timbre matching across the frequency range problematic. - The Valor has the most transparent, no-sound-of-its-own of any sub I have heard, other than an IB (infinite baffle sub using multiple drivers to increase the total radiating area and spread the load)
3) Planar bass has always been considered to have excellent transient response, starting and more importantly, stopping quickly due to small displacement over a large area. Mating any sub using smaller area, higher displacement drivers to a more nimble speaker is tough, demanding a sealed approach to minimize resonant slop but also demanding a low Q, wide range frequency response. - The Valor’s sealed extended rolloff (and resultant low group delay) and flat FR on the high side fits these requirements very nicely.
4) The difference in distortion characteristics, between point source and line source speakers;http://www.linkwitzlab.com/frontiers.htm#E
An added advantage of tall sources is their relatively large radiating surface area, which means small excursions and, therefore, progressively lower non-linear distortion for a given maximum sound level. Low distortion means increased dynamics and clarity, and the ability to play back at near live levels without listener strain.
- The Valor, especially now with two of them, has never made enough distortion or distress to be audible, producing an effortless sounding presentation in combination with the mains.
With that info as context, when I say that the integration between my dual Valors and the Magnepan MG 12’s rivals and exceeds the integration I had between 2 Vandersteen 2Wq subs and Magnepan MG 3.6’s, that is saying something very very complementary about the Epik Valors!
When taking into consideration the fact that the 2Wq costs around 3 times what the Valor cost new (when you include the cost of the high quality in-line attenuators required by the Vandersteen) and ESPECIALLY considering that the 2Wq’s were crossed over at 80 and I am crossing the 2 Valors over at 120 (due to the smaller bass radiating area of the baby Maggies), this should give some idea of the sound quality of the Valors.
One thing I (re)discovered during the integration process:
time-coherence is very important, even (or especially) down low. Getting the time-alignment of the sub and the main panel within less than a millisecond (less than 13 and a half inches difference in path length to the ear) is a must!
I got the time alignment down to less than ½ a millisecond (using the Behringer CX3400 crossover which has delay for the low channel) and if I close my eyes, the 4 transducers coalesce into one sound stage, seamless and alive.
Played the following recordings for testing system PRaT (Pace, Rhythm and Timing):
DreamTheater - “Octavarium”
Rachael Lampa - “Live for you”
Jaci Velasquez – “Crystal Clear”
Avalon - “Oxygen”
Michelle Tumes – “Dream”
Alison Krauss - “Forget About it” (SACD - a nearly ideal recording of voice and acoustic instruments, not to mention the stellar musicianship and song selection)
Point of Grace - “Free to Fly”
Though of course I miss the larger Maggies and their true ribbon tweeters, when it comes to delivering the music, especially the bass and midrange, the MG 12/Valor combo rocks!Home Theater
Blu-ray movies tested:
Iron Man, Serenity, Flight of the Phoenix, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World
Since the dual subs are spaced 4.5 feet apart between the L/R mains, for any frequency below 62 the subs are effectively collocated and you get the 6dB boost from duals. However, the input to room resonance modes is spread a little in space, enough to help in the EQ process.
A note on SPL and Dual subs: I favor sealed over ported or passive resonators (the best SQ down low I have ever heard was from an IB install) so clearly SPL is less important to me than sound quality, smooth extension (providing low group delay) and low distortion.
However, telling the surround processor that there is no LFE/sub but only 2 large L/R speakers, which forces the processor to direct all LFE channel energy through the dual Valors in addition to the low bass from all channels, results in more SPL than I can stand at reference, in a room with high ceilings, more than 5000 cubic feet volume and open to the kitchen.
Dropping down to -10 or 10 dB below reference, the sound is still awesome, clear and clean and is at a level which has satisfied all of my visitors to my previous man cave.
I will not say that there was no power compression going on, because I am not set up to measure that. I am saying that the LFE effects sounded very clean, with most audible problems due to not being able to use the Antimode 8033 to quell room problems, since I would need two Antimodes to have stereo subs.
Oh and to the often parroted canard about stereo subs being unnecessary “because you can’t localize low frequencies”, I say this:
Do you utilize the crown jewel of western civilization, the empirical experimental method, to discover natural laws for yourself or do you think education means conformity to the herd, and trusting in the authority of others as opposed to experimenting for yourself and trusting your own experience?
Having extended experience noting the differences of going from a mono sub supporting stereo mains to stereo subs (WITH NO OTHER CHANGE), under two different system configurations, in two radically different acoustic spaces, I can say that anyone can hear the difference in the soundstage (for music at least).
Whether it is our ancestral experience of our ears saving our ass because we CAN sense the phase or spatial distribution of low frequencies and DO jump the right way when a large object or animal makes low frequencies nearby, or some more recently gained psycho acoustical perceptual skill, I cannot say.
For recreating a realistic, you-are-there soundstage, either truly full range stereo mains or a hybrid integration between stereo subs and mains is a must.
Epik’s first generation Valor, its cheapest, entry level priced sub, has proven more than adequate for integration with a fussy, highly resolving main speaker. It also, in dual configuration, has more than enough SPL to do justice to movie effects in a medium sized room.
(And I have just begun to EQ, hoping to extend the flat portion of the sealed 12dB/octave rolloff down to 17, at 10dB below reference levels before power or excursion limits are hit. One advantage to enjoying less than reference levels is that there is significantly less demand on the subs when EQing for flat FR.)
I can’t say that the SPL would satisfy the most hard-core bass addicts, looking to liquefy their brains and other internal organs by prolonged immersion in the extreme SPL’s easily achievable now by any amateur in cars or in small rooms stuffed with many multiples of the subwoofer power required to reach reference levels.
Infrasonic frequencies have been explored for military use, so as a caution and since I do not like to be overloaded/assaulted by sound, in my system design, I aim for only the recommended 115 dB peaks from my subs.
But, if the baby (and the old baby at that) of the Epik line can provide effortless loud low octaves in dual configuration, then the larger, newer models should not disappoint.
Hope you enjoyed this report/review!