Subwoofers are one of the most satisfying of all audio components. When properly integrated, a great sub will complement a speaker system, invisibly extending bass response while adding gravitas to music, movies, and even TV sound. The new SubSeries 450 from PSB—the company’s latest flagship—is a 12-inch sub that promises to deliver low-distortion bass response all the way down to 20 Hz from a compact enclosure.
If all you are looking for is a monster sub that simply offers maximum decibels per dollar, you may as well stop reading this post now, because this sub is about striking a balance between refinement, size, extension, and output—not just about sheer power. What the SubSeries 450 promises is finesse. Anyone who has shopped for a 12-inch subwoofer knows that there are many brands and models to choose from; it can become a challenge to find the right one. Price, size, and capability all come into play—as do user experiences and reviews. Given that reality, the question is, what sets this subwoofer apart from the competition? Let’s find out.
Features and Specifications
The SubSeries 450 ($1500) is packed with the sort of features you expect from a flagship sub. Its 12-inch driver comes equipped with a 2.75″ voice coil, 6″ spider, and 75-ounce magnet. The driver works in concert with twin, dual-opposed 10-inch passive radiators to generate notably deep bass from a modest-sized 16.25 (wide) x 15.75″ (high) x 16.5” (deep) cabinet.
Power comes from a class-D amplifier designed by NAD explicitly for this sub. It’s rated at 400 watts RMS (1000 peak) a features a very high damping factor—a measure of how well the amp can control the driver. The use of DSP processing results in a sub that exhibits essentially flat frequency response (+/- 3dB) from 20 Hz to 150 Hz.
This sub offers a DSP crossover with line-level inputs and outputs. This allows the SubSeries 450 to sit between a preamp and an amp in a two-channel system and provide bass management. Of course, you can bypass the built-in crossover functionality by using the LFE input when using an AVR or processor that offers bass management.
Unboxing and Setup
Because of its modest size and manageable weight, setting up the SubSeries 450 was easy. Unpacking was quick; one person can handle it and it took less than five minutes. Finding the right spot for optimum bass response is a bit more complex and hinges on various factors that include practical limits in terms of placement options, whether you are using one or multiple subs, and whether you are using EQ to mitigate room-related issues. To that end, the manual discusses the pros and cons of various placement options, including putting the sub in a corner, versus against a wall, versus directly between a stereo speaker pair.
Check out my unboxing video featuring the driver reaching peak excursion at 20 Hz.
For the first round of listening and measurement, I decided to place the sub between a pair of PSB Imagine T3 towers. I chose this configuration because the SubSeries 450 manual suggested it’s the optimal configuration for a two-channel system featuring a single sub. A Pioneer Elite SC-85 AVR handled amplification of the T3 towers as well as bass management. To start, I selected a 80 Hz crossover and no EQ; I left the AVR’s levels alone and set the sub’s volume to taste.
The first measurement represents the best I could do by just winging it, and it’s actually pretty good all things considered, aside from some rather severe room-related peaks and nulls. To get the sort of result I’m used to, clearly I’m going to have to put in some work into getting a good result, either by experimenting with positioning or by using EQ.
Here’s the setup for the first measurements. I performed a total of nine sweeps, moving the microphone between each one. I used the same microphone positions that Dirac Live calls for when taking measurements optimized for a single seat. You can see that the sub’s response is barely affected by the changes in the microphone’s location.
The bright red line is the average of nine measurements. Note how the bass response is essentially the same for all nine.
Here’s the initial setup with the sub positioned between the Imagine T3 towers.
Also, it looks like this sub can generate 100 dB at 20 Hz in my room. Now, as you can see in the photo, I have the carpet-levitating SVS PB16-Ultra sitting right there in a corner, and there’s no competition between the two when it comes to sheer output or low frequency extension—as you’d expect from a sub that is bigger in every way including sticker price. But again, that’s not what I’m interested in with the SubSeries 450. What I care about is how it handles non-insane volume levels—does it have agility and transparency and depth? When it plays at 20 Hz, is it clean?
My first impression is this sub does deliver a very precise and tactile bass experience that sounds like it’s coming from a larger, more powerful model. As long as you don’t ask it to defy the laws of physics, you’re good.
To be continued…