With the PV1’s up off the floor (now mandatory considering the quite high crossover frequency) things started to get very interesting: I know we are almost out of sub territory and heading into a three-way system but hey, it sounded really good. In terms of augmenting the main loudspeakers, the benefits to be had were much the same as when I was utilising the high pass filters in the ASW’s, resulting in a system that was capable of real dynamics and high volume levels. The PV1’s would not reach the depths of some of the bigger models that I have tried, but were still producing output below 20 Hz without too much trouble, and the odd 32-foot organ pipe (even the silly 64 - foot resultant of Liverpool cathedral) set the furniture rattling in an alarming, but quite exciting manner. But the speed and agility that they were capable of meant that bass guitar and drums were always part of the band, setting the pace and rhythm with a real sense of determination. Which led me to thinking…
I have avoided mentioning the Quad 2805s so far because trying to get sub-woofers working with them is quite frankly, a real bastard. But, having been using these loudspeakers on and off for the last few months I just couldn’t resist. Extending the bottom end of the Quads has been the subject of so much debate and experimentation amongst some aficionados of the breed that it must rank alongside that great conundrum, the best amplifier to mate with the beasts, as their personal hi-fi holy grail. The di-pole radiation of electrostatics seems to be one of the main problems (most loudspeakers are omni-directional when it comes to bass) together with the very light diaphragm that is so much faster than any moving-coil; marrying the two technologies together is an uphill struggle, even if you are Martin Logan. Out of the sub-woofers that I have tried within this session, the Eclipse has been the most successful by quite some degree, due in no small part to its wide open, un-forced performance. The PV1’s however, worked extremely well, set up just behind and at 90 degrees to the Quads, and while I am not going to suggest that the integration is seamless, it is one of the best combinations that I have yet heard. Put it this way, I am not intending to let either speaker stray too far from my living room, and will continue to experiment.
The major benefits of using a pair (or more) of sub-woofers are that it is much easier to get an even response within the room, which ultimately delivers better integration with the main speakers as well as higher maximum levels. Adding a second sub will not necessarily give you greater extension, and that is a consideration, but by and large I found the results far more satisfying with two units in operation. The exception to this was the Eclipse, whose incredibly quick, push-pull operation seemed to maximise on its musical contribution. In many respects the most capable all-round performer we’ve tried, I can only wonder what two of them might sound like!
The Velodyne subs with their digital management offer a highly flexible and competent performance, as well as being capable of very high levels, probably the loudest of the units I have looked at. The SMS 1 is an extremely useful bit of kit, whether you use it purely for setting up or for daily management of a sub or subs. It has been invaluable to me over the last few weeks, and it has to be said that it is well worth the money. The B&W ASW700 is actually a very good sub-woofer, and although I’m sure it would hold its own when it comes to home theatre, has the advantage of being very solid and crisp in its delivery, which makes it a good addition to a music based system. The PV1: the sub-woofer for people who don’t like sub-woofers. Not as capable in terms of depth and volume as the others, it excels in its ability to produce fast, low colouration bass, and a pair of these offer a fascinating option in the context of a music orientated system, especially one using speakers such as the Quad. However, isn’t it ironic that in some ways the most interesting sub-woofer here is almost impossible to use in a high-quality system due to its limited connection options. Too good to ignore, I’m sure that you have not heard the last of this… But for the moment my sub-woofing experience seems a little like a game of snakes and ladders!