All About the Bass

Actually, it’s about better bass when selecting my home theater’s subwoofer.  More bass is not necessarily the goal here.  I’m mainly looking at size, aesthetics, and power.  Above all else though, I want to know if the sub represents how things are actually supposed to sound.  Shaking the room and bothering the neighbors may seem like the cool thing to do (actually it is).  It’s not what I’m after for the basement, though.

Go watch Jurassic Park when the T. Rex first approaches and shakes the water cup.  The true test of the subwoofer for me, is how well it handles the subtle vibration as the dinosaur takes those first stomping steps.  All four of the subs I’ve narrowed my selection down to should perform admirably in rendering that scene.

The scene was inspired by the thumping bass from an Earth, Wind and Fire song played at top volume.

Does Size Matter?

The size of the subwoofer actually does matter depending on the size of the room.  My intended basement theater will be quite large, so I am looking for something 12″ or larger.  Another thing to consider is the size and power of the other speakers in my set up.  I have not yet picked the fronts, but I am certain to go big there too.  If I did have smaller sized speakers elsewhere, it wouldn’t do to have a subwoofer so overpowering.

Beauty is in the Eye of the Listener

For most people the way their subwoofer looks is completely irrelevant.  The goal in a living room setup is typically to hide the thing wherever possible.  It’s usually someplace in the corner or under a table.  In my theater though, I want it out there and easily seen.  It’s a very important part of the overall sound and I need it to be recognized.  I am even changing my mind on the idea of adding a second sub, despite my previous comments to the contrary.  This would help with the looks (adding a symmetric quality to the space) as well as the sound.  Having two subs ensures the bass is more evenly distributed throughout the room.  I intend to have multiple listening areas, which might otherwise create a somewhat different experience in each.

Power Up

The most important aspect I’m looking at is the power of the subwoofer.  You can get great sound from most powered subwoofers.  It’s not always necessary to add extra muscle.  Many home theaters are in fact, overpowered in this area.  Once again though, I am talking about a big room.  That’s probably the only, yet crucial factor, which has me looking for the added boost.  The bottom line is obtaining big power without killing the bank account.

After reading countless reviews and looking at dozens of different subwoofers, I have narrowed it down to these four choices:

Klipsch Reference R-112SW –  This is a 12″ subwoofer and therefore can handle the large room I am planning.  From a power standpoint, it’s a respectable 300 watts (capable of 600 watts dynamic).  The Klipsch’s efficient design produces more output while using less energy.  It’s got that really cool copper look that only Klipsch can give you.  But, you can put the cover on and go flat black which will blend in with any decor.  Of course, I am not really looking to blend.  This sub is also wireless compatible by adding the Klipsch WA-2 Kit.  It’s a workable solution with a decent price.

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Polk Audio PSW505 –  Another 12″ and 300 watt sub is this Polk Audio offering.  However,  this one can only handle 460 watts dynamically compared with 600 watts for the Klipsch.      It does feature a volume control switch and allows for smooth blending of sound with the other speakers in any home theater.  The PSW505 has slot load venting which reduces noise and distortion.  It also features a power down mode when not being used to conserve energy.  It has a nice real wood finish and is built well.  I currently have the PSW10 in my living room and it does a great job.  This one is an upgrade over that and definitely one to consider as my  lowest priced option

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ELAC S12EQ Debut Series 1000 –  Okay, now we are talking some muscle.  This baby is also 12″ but with 1,000 watts of power.  It’s pretty big too at 17 x 17 x 17 and 49 pounds.

Display for Subwoofer Control App

The ELAC also features an advanced digital control system which can be adjusted using the free iOS, FireOS or Android app.  That is a great feature, since I’ve always had to settle for a “set and forget” strategy rather than actually getting up and adjusting settings on the sub itself.  You can take advantage of the digital control feature at a lower price by opting for the ELAC S10EQ (400 Watts).  I would gladly pay a bit more for the full powered version, though.

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Klipsch Reference R-12 SWi –  Easily the most eye catching of my choices, this Klipsch is made of spun copper and gorgeous.  I’m sure there’s a Men of Honor quote in there somewhere.  This one is 400 watts and measures 18.5 x 14 x 16, weighing 50 pounds.  Wireless is built in on this model so it could be placed just about anywhere I like.

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On the downside, the R-12 SWi is easily scratched, requiring a degree of care setting it up.  The sub is all digital and features a low pass crossover and phase control.  If I want, I could have the beauty of this one at a lower price (and power) by opting for the R-10 SWi.  Personally, I’m leaning towards the larger and more powerful unit.

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Well, there you have it.  As for my choice?  I am still on the fence about this, but right now I’m going with the very appealing Klipsch R-12 SWi.  I have really come around on the idea of having two sub woofers, so the R-12’s mid range price will help.

Previously I selected the best Dolby Atmos speakers for my theater

Next up I’ll choose my front/main speakers


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