Originally Posted by PBC
So we headed over to John's house for the second round of what I will call fun with subs!
John has a spectacular house, with what seemed like rooms full of audio/video stuff all over the place! John and his wife were wonderful hosts, and the food and beverages were incredible! Nothing like a beef tenderloin sandwich to get the day going, especially after lugging that 155lb beast back and forth from my SUV!
There was 6 of us in total, with Asher having to leave very early unfortunately as he was on call. As you can see in the picture, the subs we listened to were:
Dual Axiom EP400's (you can see one on top of the Velo)
JL Fathom F113
SVS PB13 Ultra
The last sub is the Velo HGS18, but we were having issues with it right off the bat so left it out.
The room was relatively large, at about 3,000 cubic feet and sealed with bass traps all over the place. It had a steep but narrow null from about 38 to 42hz or so, then again up in the 120 range if I recall. The speakers (6 Totem Model 1's and a matching CC) were crossed over at 90 on John's Arcam pre, and were driven via an Outlaw 770 amp. The video source was very impressive, what I believe was a JVC DLA-RS2 on a 110 16:9 screen. The speakers were incredibly articulate and sounded great, and HD sources (I stuck around to watch a bit of 300 and then a couple periods of the Leaf's game after everyone had left) was a site to see! DVDs/CDs were played through a Toshiba XA-2 HD-DVD player.
We equalized all subs before hand using the SMS-1 (more on this a bit later), took about 1.5 hours or so (for some reason the SMS started messing with the settings after they were saved the first time around), so we had sine waves in our heads for quite some time!
We only listened to the EP-400's for a couple scenes and quickly realized it simply couldn't keep up from an extension perspective with the rest and left it for some music tests at the very end. It sounded wonderful with some bass guitar tracks (Eric Clapton) that we had played, an impressive little performer. Looking at the SMS graphs, it rolled off considerably at about 27/28hz or so. Would make a great sub for stereo applications or in a small room (e.g., a condo) and was very clean.
The scenes/music we tested the remaining 4 subs in were:
Cars - Highway scene with lots of rap
Eric Clapton - bass guitar solo
Pulse - not sure what the scene is called, but you know which I mean!
WOTW - Laser scene
Sasha - Not sure which CD, but basically house music
Macus Miller - fantastic bass guitar track
We tested an organ track at the end but I can't recall what it was (reached down to 17hz or so) and I unfortunately didn't take notes at that point!
As most of these scenes were new to me and I'm still new at this stuff, I had some difficulties with getting pen to paper with what I was hearing, but I did my best in any event! It was very difficult doing it with 4 subs blind as by the time I hit the 3rd/4th sub, I was having trouble remember what the heck the first one sounded like! John manned the switcher and was the only non-blind participant.
Before I start, I will add that it's incredible just how subjective this really is, which confirmed what I've felt all along about subs. Some people will simply like the way one sub sounds over another, and then like a different sub for a different application or scene! Just checking the notes of others showed just how so, since the other participants had different results in most of the scenes!
The SVS was tuned to 20hz, and all listening was done at -5db DD, unless noted otherwise.
This was a difficult track to judge, as I'm not a huge fan of rap and therefore aren't entirely sure what it's supposed to sound like (i.e., I was guessing it should be boomy vs. tight).
Sub 1 - This sub seemed somewhat reserved to me on the track, the notes were pretty clean, but didn't seem to have the same chest slam as 2 or 3 in this scenario.
Sub 2 - Seemed a tad more loose than sub 1, but did have that boom/slam I would have thought one would want with this sort of track
Sub 3 - was somewhat similar to Sub 2, but with more chest slam and possibly slightly higher SPL? Hard to choose between this and sub 2, but give this the slight nod as it had a tad more output/feel, in particular where the fire juts out of the exhaust of one of the cars.
Sub 4 - Again, less output than 2 or 3, but seemed tighter and cleaner. Similar to 1, but not much output with the exhaust like sub 3 and 2.
After this first scene, I was thinking 1 and 4 were the sealed subs (I was only half right!).
Sub 1 - The bass guitar seemed a tad muddy to me, with not a lot of definition, in particular, I wasn't getting that nice plucking sound when the bass player was playing.
Sub 2 - Much tighter than number 1, I thought this was the 2nd best sounding sub of the lot for this scene. Seemed to give you that I'm there feeling
Sub 3 - personally I thought this sub performed the worst of the 4 in this test. Again, this is highly subjective, as by worse we are practically splitting hairs here! Just seemed the most loose of the bunch to me, but did have some nice slam, just too much overhang for my tastes.
Sub 4 - Personally, my favourite for this scene. Good tight sound, hate to use the term fast but just seemed to recover the best after each note.
Before I start on this one, I have to say that John seemed very much inebriated here after just 1 glass of scotch! Kidding of course! But after playing 3 subs he sheepishly looked over and said darn, I think I screwed up on the last one. So hopefully I'm getting the order right, but in any event you'll see my responses below. This was by far the hardest scene to judge, as none of us really knew what it was supposed to sound like and almost all the subs were hitting their limits here. Jesse was just sitting there with a smug look on his face as we all struggled asking is that what this is supposed to sound like? Jesse, with his 4 18 Avalanche IB setup with 2500 watts, simply said no, that is definitely not what it is supposed to sound like. In his system he indicated the pulse is all around you and not localized at all. Also, it seemed many of the subs were reversing the pulse to him (I'll let him explain that if he joins in).
Basically at this point I was just listening for bottoming out, or what Ilkka believes is the subs' limiters engaging.
Sub 1 - bottomed out in the hallway sooner than sub 2
Sub 2 - bottomed out as the woman opens the door
Sub 3 - Started to bottom out just before the opening of the door, then a ton of that ugly sound once she walks into the room!
Sub 4 - Very little impact in the hallway, then when she opens the door this is where Jesse felt the sound of the Pulse was reversed (i.e., higher then lower, or vice versa, I can't recall!). The sub didn't bottom out, but clearly its limits were reached as the SPL just wasn't there
Sub 1 - clean, but not a lot of SPL/slam
Sub 2 - seemed to hit it's limits at open of the door
Sub 3 - very similar sound to 2, slightly less bottoming out?
Sub 4 - again, did not bottom at all, but couldn't even hear the heartbeat?
WOTW - Laser
Sub 1 - Very clean sounding laser blasts, good slam/response
Sub 2 - Great SPL and good punch, think it was my favourite on this scene
Sub 3 - sub seemed to continuously hit it's limits, very high SPL and great slam, but that ugly noise reared its head a few too many times
Sub 4 - Very clean, articulate, but not a lot of slam. Very pleasant though.
I won't really go into this track as all the subs seemed to sound the same to me here. I believe sub 3 seemed to reach the deepest at one part though.
Sub 1 - to my ears the best sounding sub (which is odd, given that I wasn't a fan of this sub for the Clapton bass guitar solo)
Sub 2 - Good kick, possibly some overhand?
Sub 3 - The most output and good full sound, great chest slam, just not as articulate as the first sub to my ears.
Sub 4 - Wasn't as impressed with this sub for this scene
As you can see, and I hate to sit on the fence like this, but for me there was no clear winner. We had a discussion about this at the end and most agreed that each sub had it's positives and negatives, or trade-offs if you will. I jokingly added you'd almost want a different sub depending on what scene you're listening to and everyone agreed.
The subs were:
Sub 1 - Axiom EP600
Sub 2 - Fathom F113
Sub 3 - SVS PB13
Sub 4 - Velo DD18
Personally I have to admit I wasn't impressed with the fact that we seemed to keep getting the limiter to engage on the PB13 in 20hz mode, which had me wondering whether the new amp still had some issues?
We did listen to the Eric Clapton scene again with the PB13 in sealed mode and were quite impressed with its sound. In sealed it's a very musical sub and seemed to keep up with the F113 to my ears here. The EP400s were very impressive with this track as well!
At the end as John mentioned we tried to torture the PB13 in 10hz mode as John felt if the sub was going to fail, this is where it would fail. So we put it to the test (besides, Ron and Ed at SVS were pretty clear when they told me to test it out!). At -5db the limiter was engaging big time and those farts were coming out all over the place. But the sub didn't stop, that's for sure! We decided to try it again, but this time without the SMS-1, and for those of you interested, this definitely showed the SMS1 was limiting the output at lower frequencies as the sub was much louder after this. However, the limiter was kicking in even more often (obviously). Hopefully Velo comes out with their firmware fix for this ASAP. Although in this case it did exactly what they intended it to do!
That's it for now folks. Sorry that this wasn't as helpful as I would have hoped. What was clear to me was that each of these subs were incredible performers and sounded different depending on the application/scene. The Servo on the DD-18 was impressive in keeping it's distortion to a minimum, albeit by limiting its output. However, that is what it's intended to do!