Perfect timing – great thread
I've been researching this area for several months. Nearly every ID has moved to selling all-in-one subs with very high quality plated integrated amps. There are very few exceptions and very few passive subs. Like you, I prefer / need all my electronics in one cabinet / room and not scattered about the room into different power outlets. As for what’s better, there’s no right and wrong – only options which depend on your design goals. Clearly the market is delivering what most people can use, enjoy and want. I consider myself an outlier with few options as my SAF is pretty specific too.
Why would I want this format? My AVR setup / design is fed by a 7.5kVA isolation transformer + other. If I scattered "powered subs" about the space, then I have no simple way of supplying this power feed, in my great room which is my home theater. I’d have to install / distribute more power-outlets to support these dispersed plated subs. In most US homes, wall standard power outlets are series-wired 15A in a room or even multiple rooms - depending on what the electrician and builder decided. 20A outlets are typically required by code in areas like kitchens but seldom found in HT setups unless the owner designed it that way.
Jim Wilson makes excellent points that the DSP and other options available to subwoofer-engineers today is amazing. They can push their motors to extremes while delivering the best sound possible for us to enjoy. Some of this stuff simply was not possible or feasible just a few years ago. Part of my quest is to replace my original HSU HRSW10 passive’s. Note: These are tuned and controlled using RANE professional hardware with time delays etc.. so I could optimize each sub independently. That’s the best we could do 20 years ago before DSP came along. Guys, don’t laugh, they still pack a punch but I'm ready to move to a pair of 18" for this space.
The other constraint is the IDers, for the most part, adopted Henry Ford’s approach – any color you want as long as it’s black, blacker and glossy black. There are very, very few exceptions. Sadly, my SAF has said absolutely no more black monoliths in the room! If this were a dedicated HT area, I might get away with it but this is our main family room. She's upped the ante that they must meld nicely with the maple cabinets, they must be down-firing, they must be protected from pets, and I do have a rather aggressive size limit. Why? she does not to see any big black grates, we have pets, and they gotta be visually compact for the location. Oh, two more things - the space is nearly 10,000 ft3 - in very open floor plan so there's only 2 locations I can even put subs where they are not in the way and I prefer Made In the USA when possible.
So at this point, there are very few subwoofer engineers out here which are capable of making such products.
The only passive high(er)-end subs I located today were from RBH. The issue I have with those are none of the stuff Jim mentioned such as DSP optimizations, is there. Yeah, two of these would be the easiest drop in replacement for my original HSU’s but given what I read here, I think I can do better... eventually. Sadly HSU does not make/offer any passives now – round or otherwise and I asked them a few years ago. They politely conveyed – no market. For me their original sonotube approach was quite clever as it delivered a good quality unit which I could move without inducing a hernia!
The only contenders in this play I know of today are:
So if anyone knows of more options not already mentioned on this thread, please share. Peace.