Sights, Sounds & Insights
A TALE OF TWO SUBWOOFERS
By Scott Michael Bosco
A sub-woofer is merely a box that reproduces lower end frequencies. Depending on how one sets what is wanted it can range, usually, lower than 80hz. At a certain point bass is not heard and non-directional (to a point). It become a force, a vibrating energy that is felt. Each manufacture has different way of reproducing this effect, or sound. Some can be truly expensive.
The funny thing about bass is that is usually need room to be reproduced; or power. The smaller the box the more power will be needed.
Manufactures have devised many ways of procuring this. Some with power, some with size. It actually amazing how some smaller size subwoofers can produce amazing results.
I was not interested in either. I simply wanted a certain result. A major factor in this is of course money. The size of the one’s budget will greatly affect the out come.
Below I have chosen two subs which each have received good notices, but more importantly, very different relationships with their manufacture. This is a concern I believe since it greatly affects the warranty affixed to the speaker.
EARTHQUAKE SOUND Supernova MKVI
I first became aware of Axiom about around 2005. I saw their site and marveled over their selection, and prices. At the time what drew me in was their innovative surround speaker. Since that time I have had two set-ups, one with a custom ordered wood finish (which people have always complimented me on).
Part of the set-up was the Axiom EP600. This massive sub (then ported) was a monster. It was the foundation of the set-up and preformed without a hitch. The performance was unequaled to other subs I had encountered.
Axiom makes their products available through their site at www.axiomaudio.com. They are a small company who has received excellent reviews from various reviewers and are considered reputable. Based in Canada they ship with a 30 day testing period to all who purchase.
Since my initial purchase the company has not only changed the sub I had originally ordered but released another, the EP800. I had decided to trade up another sub I had from them towards the EP800 and see what it was like.
The EP800 is just as big as the EP600 (which now years later has no port), but the major difference is that it has two 12” drivers. The casing is massive measuring 45.5" high x 14.75" x 18". The weight of this monster is 110 pounds – no light weight in size or heft.
Having read positive reviews on this monster I decided to contact the company and learn more. My conversations with the company’s owner was enlightening and enjoyable. I found we shared a lot of the same opinions, and view as well. We had several talks and from there I decided to order one of their monsters – the Supernova MKVI
I found a local dealer and ordered. It arrived extremely well packed – actually double packed. Heavy as it is (110lbs) it wasn’t too difficult to get it out of the packaging. I had ordered it in the piano finish but as a mistake they sent the flat one.
It connected to my receiver (Marantz SR6011) via RCA cable. On back of the unit there are a bevy of controls to gain the most out of the hook-up. I chose the following settings: Cross Over was “By Pass”, Auto (Power Setting) set to “On”, Sub-Sonic: Off, Phase Deley: 0, Phase Shift: 180, Correction at: 20hrz: 9 o’clock, 30hrz: 9 0’clock, 40hrz: 12 o’clock.
What makes this sub different from most is their SLAPS (Symmetrically Loaded Audio Passive System) technology – a patented system that dramatically increases the subs efficiency. The unique design allows the active driver compression-free movement resulting in deep, dynamic and hard-hitting bass response.
Shown with, and without grill. Note the size compared to the door knob.
The black grill is magnetic and held very tightly onto the cabinet – also, is did not vibrate, or resonate during use.
I have chosen to connect this giant via the LXR outputs, with a XLR to RCA cable to my Marantz receiver (SR6011).
Although the receiver has Audyssey I have found it doesn’t work well with certain speakers systems – Axiom being one, and Orb the other. So I set the sub woofer volume to a 1 o’clock position and began with the receiver sub setting at 50 per cent. Also, I set the sub’s phase setting to 180 degrees, and crossover to 80hz.
My first test disc was the Blu-ray of JUPITER ASCENDING. The film has an amazing amount of bass throughout.
Aware of the amount of bass from the EP600 I was even more amazed at the quality of the bass coming from the EP800.
The difference, I’d say, is a much more controlled lower end. I’m not talking about boom. Loudness is not the issue but controlled, really deep bass not heard but felt. More amazing is that there is no physical affect. Meaning, the cabinet remains completely unaffected. It didn’t move a centimeter. Amazing.
This monolith just stood there throwing out massive amounts of precise deep bass, with no physical effect. Because it was just prior to the holiday season I was decorated for both Christmas and Hanukah. I had put the menorah on top of the sub – and throughout all the testing it didn’t move!
The supplied rubber feet that came with the sub held the beast in place.
I did have to adjust the volume via the receiver but the settings were simple and the sub easily integrated into my system. I did adjust the sub from 80hz to 60hz, and will still have to test to decide which setting I’ll be using for best effect.
I was amazed how each film I tested resulted in clean and un-distorted bass. Smooth is the word that comes to mind I terms of the quality of what I heard and felt. There just wasn’t any distortion, or feeling the sub was being pushed to its limits.
With CDs the sub was just the same. Test various CDs the results were the same. Controlled deep bass without distortion. In fact, it seem a bit more of a presence. I found that with certain music it was a bit too powerful.
The controls on the sub are basic, yet provide just enough control over what is heard and how it will act. The lack of a port has given this sub its own signature in sound producing a mega house of energy.
The sub is also available in a horizontal position if needed for home theater set-ups. It is available in black or cherry, but can be special ordered in numerous color and wood options.
It was sent via Fedex and packed extremely well. Delivery time to NY was 2 days – and this was during Christmas rush!
Within the cabinet are two same size drivers. They are set-up parallel, on opposites sides of the cabinet. One is the active woofer, the other is passive radiator.
Next I found a position which I hoped would complement, the best bass. Because the drivers are polar opposite to each other some have found it a bit of a challenge to position within a room.
I turned on my receiver and chose the Blu-ray of Jupiter Ascending – and the results were fantastic. The bass of course had to be sculpted further to fit into my system but this didn’t take too long. What was produced was a bit earth shaking. Deeper tones were produced that were deep and rough. I even changed the location of the sub just see the difference, and it still delivered.
There was no distortion during intense scenes, and it was able to stay that way though out the testing. To my liking I found the results better with sub’s internal cut-offs. There was a wider range of bass produced when set otherwise, but I preferred the internal cross-over. It was deeper, and much more effective.
When tested with music I found it to be a bit lower in volume, but just as proficient with deep bass. I changed the setting and was able to produce more bass with music but actually liked better the deeper, lower end of the first settings.
It was during the playing of an entire film I noticed that the unit had shifted a bit from where I first put it. It was then I noticed that it was indeed moving – a by-product of the bass delivery. I placed rubber feet under the feet of the sub and still it moved from its original position – this was not a good thing.
It was a few days into having the sub that I began to notice a hum. I changed connecting cables and even tried alternate ways of hooking it up to my system – yet still a hum.
I contacted EARTHQUAKE SOUND and spoke to the son of the owner who guided me through various tests to ascertain why the hum was there. We weren’t able to find a solution so he sent me a replacement amp. I connected that amp and thankfully, there was no hum. It was a few weeks later however when I sat to listen to a CD I noticed the bass wasn’t there. Going to the subwoofer I found it wasn’t on. From that point on I changed cables, connections but nothing helped.
When I called EARTHQUAKE SOUND and asked for the owner, he wouldn’t come to the phone. Instead his son did. We spoke of what happened and his tone began to change telling me I had done something to the sub. He had me go through different tests yet none produced a working sub-woofer. I complained and asked for a new amp since it was still under warranty. At first he refused stating he couldn’t just keep sending amps - but finally gave in, and did. Unlike the first one sent this one was in an actual amp box (original packaging). Thankfully, it worked. No hum. But still plenty of movement of the cabinet.
I have to state that when this sub worked it did so with tremendous results. But I do find it a flaw that it is carried away by its signal across the floor. I suppose it might be more stable on carpet, but I have wood floors. I certainly wouldn’t put anything on top. The giant 15” speaker delivers huge amounts of bass with ease, but the structure isn’t stable.
Although this sub has more options in the set-up, the problem of it moving during performance is a huge set back. This movement when mentioned to the company was dismissed.
It was a strange coincidence that I happen to experience two difference subs with failing amps. An AXIOM EP350 I had, and dealing with the circumstance; and how two difference companies dealt with the situation.
Between the two AXIOM won. They were kind, respectful and eager to please. In fact I wasn’t aware that the sub was still under warranty. It was they who brought that up and told me. A replacement amp would be sent (for a shipping charge) – as well as provided me with a return label for the defected one. Now, how can one complain about that!
With EARTHQUAKE the company’s attitude quickly became a bit insulting and dismissive on too many levels. Either something works or it doesn’t. Fault was not a issue and they repeatedly kept bring up how long they had been in business. In terms of customer service this is not what a person wants. Especially after spending as much for their product.
To this day I don’t understand why the owner of the company changed his stance and opted for his son to deal with me, instead of himself – especially after a sale.
Between the two I would say the AXIOM is the way to go, for service, and construction. AXIOM has produced a sub that delivers, doesn’t move, and is a company that treats its customers with respect.