High-End Audio Buyer’s Guide: Subwoofers


PSB SubSeries 5i


At this point no one should be surprised at what this Canadian speaker company can do in the lower-price range. Even so, the performance of this econo-sub is semi-unbelievable. Extension, dynamic slam, and good musicality from this 10" bass-reflex design make it a perfect match for minis. psbspeakers.com





REL T5/REL R-218


A special round of applause is due to this pair of ideal mini-subs for music lovers. Both are fast and tight,
yet tonally supple, with well-defined timbres; they’re also remarkably potent for a single 8" driver (the T5) or a single downward-firing 10" (the Class-D-amp-equipped R-218). The sumptuous high-gloss lacquered enclosures house inputs for high-level Neutrik Speakon (cable included), plus low-level RCA and LFE inputs. Pocket classics both. sumikoaudio.net



JL Audio Fathom f112/f113


These two subs—identical except for woofer size (12" vs. 13.5") and amplifier power (1500W vs. 2500W)—raise the bar in subwoofer performance with their unlikely combination of brute-force power and tonal and dynamic finesse. Capable of delivering high SPLs at very low frequencies without strain, the Fathoms are equally adept at resolving the pitches, fine dynamic shadings, and tone colors of an acoustic bass. Reference-quality performance at a reasonable price. jlaudio.com



Paradigm Ref Sig Series SUB 2


The Paradigm Sub2 may be one of the few subwoofers that can be properly mated with planar loudspeakers. This lightning-fast sub’s ability to project front, rear, and sideways means that it is simply impossible to detect where the SUB 2 is positioned. The SUB 2 features what Paradigm calls Vibration-Canceling Design Architecture, and the design clearly delivers the goods. The hexagonal cabinet can make it rather unwieldy to install, but once in place the Sub2 can deliver a crushing 112dB at 10Hz. paradigm.com





JL Audio Gotham g213


This subwoofer delivers the ultimate in bass power and extension, all with perfect pitch definition and unflappable stability. With proper setup—a non-intuitive process best left to the dealer—the Gotham also won’t interfere with main-speaker purity. The Gotham has zero overhang, thickness, and bloat, unlike most subwoofers. Note that JL recommends deploying the Gotham in stereo pairs. jlaudio.com




Wilson Thor’s Hammer


Thor’s Hammer more than lives up to its name. This magnificent 700-pound subwoofer can deliver shattering blows in the bass region. But its most notable feature is its ability to disappear and profoundly increase the size and scale of the music. The Thor has no passive crossover network inside it and no equalization. So external amplifiers and active crossovers are required to operate it. A pair of Thors run in stereo will offer ultimate performance. wilsonaudio.com


brandonnash@yah... -- Fri, 12/14/2012 - 17:18

The only way that paradigm creates 112 dB at 10 Hz is in a concrete bathroom. No way it is able to do this. As well regarded as the absolute sound is I find it increasingly alarming that you just continue to baselessly agree with whatever a manufacturer tells you.

hyfynut@yahoo.com -- Sat, 01/12/2013 - 19:28

Number 1) This is not a formal review but merely passing along info the company has provided them.
Number 2) Have you had this sub in your house and measured it's performance ? It has 6 high excursion 10" drivers and 4500 watts of power. I don't personally know if the sub is capable of those specs , but neither do you. Maybe you could purchase one and do some measurements for us.

brandonnash@yah... -- Sat, 01/12/2013 - 22:05

Turns out my suspicion was correct. My background in home audio involves hundreds of hours of designing subwoofers as well as building them. That's how I knew that sub could not do that kind of numbers.


Turns out a friend of mine has measured this sub and at 10 Hz it came nowhere near the manufacturers claim.


hyfynut@yahoo.com -- Sun, 01/13/2013 - 00:00

Hopefully the friend your referring to isn't the reviewer in the link. I say this because the sub is being measured OUTSIDE. Do you have a home theater OUTSIDE ? I don't . I know some customers who have a projector outside for the occasional football party but none of them have any $9000 dollar subs out there. Measuring a sub in a quasi anechoic state ( i.e. outdoors with no boundary reinforcement ) does not accurately represent the maximum spl at a given frequency. And even in this review the author states that the subwoofer's -3db point is an astonishing 13hz ! Outside ! With boundary (room) gain it seems plausible that this sub could generate those numbers if the room was large enough (not small as in your concrete bathroom example which would only reinforce the upper frequncies) to reinforce the lower frequencies nearer the stated 10hz.

brandonnash@yah... -- Sun, 01/13/2013 - 13:59

The method used in his measurements are the current standard for testing subwoofers. When measuring and comparing subs this is the only accurate way to do so. After all, you are comparing subwoofers, not rooms.

I understand you don't listen to a sub outdoors, but indoors there would be no way of accurately comparing two subs unless they were the exact same size along with the same dimensions and also placed in the exact spot as the previous sub.

Looking on paradigm's website it does state that measurement is in room. That is all it states. Only "in room". Doesn't say what size room or the dimensions or materials used in building the room. It doesn't even mention placement. So that measurement is useless. I have seen a compact car go 400+ mph outdoors on a track. Without stipulation you would never know that car had rockets attached and was on a sled track at a rocket testing facility.

A sub this small that is flat or nearly flat to those frequencies are using a huge amount of eq that end up boosting those bottom frequencies incredibly. Normal rolloff for a sealed sub is 12 dB/octave. When more than one driver is packed in or if the enclosure is too small the numbers increase for rolloff, thus making it more difficult to reproduce those frequencies. With all the extra power and eq comes extra distortion. Its no different with this sub.
I have no doubt it is a good subwoofer. I just wish that claims like this would cease. I put that sub in my room and there is no way, no matter the placement, that it could achieve those numbers. Going by the reviews it does look like a beast of a subwoofer, but I would not buy it. Too many other options for much cheaper.

And I am with the other person who commented on the Wilson. I have heard that sub before and while it does sound nice, I believe most could duplicate that sub's performance with far less money.

hyfynut@yahoo.com -- Sun, 01/13/2013 - 16:02

Ok so let me be clear. I believe you are wrong. ( Except for the Wilson sub .) This could be an interesting debate if you could provide any evidence. Buy the sub and put it in your room and measure it. Let me know how that turns out. 6 long excursion 10" drivers is not small by any one's standards , and when you throw in 4500watts of power (9000 if you plug into 240v ) and again not small. If you want to base a subwwoofer's in room maximum output specs on it's quasi anechoic measurements than go ahead. You'll still be wrong. Even if this sub produces prodigious amounts of distortion at those low frequencies ( which it does due to the limitations you described ) the argument we're having is whether or not it's possible for this sub to produce 10 hz at 110db. With room gain providing up to 15db of boost ( given a decent size room ) Yes this sub "could" produce those numbers. I know all A/V companies stretch the truth but Paradigm is one of the most respected companies around and I generally have found their claims to pan out. I could be wrong about this sub and the company selling it but I don't believe i am. I believe this sub to be very expensive, and we could be miles ahead building our own larger cheaper subs but that's not what this discussion is about .
Peace out

brandonnash@yah... -- Sun, 01/13/2013 - 17:45

Sorry, just noticed I replied in the wrong spot. See my comment below.

ripster -- Fri, 12/14/2012 - 17:53

I found it odd that someone castigated AVguide for providing information. Anyone who has followed AVGuide, TAS, etc knows that there is a difference between passing along information and providing an analytical review. Thanks for letting us know about new products and especially by type, i.e. subwoofers, etc. It would be interesting to see a review of a sub that can deliver 110db at the frequency you mentioned!

mutyangparol -- Sat, 12/15/2012 - 03:01

"The Thor has no passive crossover network inside it and no equalization. So external amplifiers and active crossovers are required to operate it. A pair of Thors run in stereo will offer ultimate performance."

No crossover whatsoever. Just a box and a couple of drivers - all for $21 THOUSAND DOLLARS.


You must be insane. People who will throw that kind of money on a personal system are even more insane to take that kind of money for granted. Unjustifiable.

motogp34 -- Mon, 12/24/2012 - 20:05

I would go with,
SVS PB13-Ultra
Seaton SubMersive HP

brandonnash@yah... -- Sun, 01/13/2013 - 17:27


This is a comparison of indoor vs outdoor measurement. The increase indoors doesn't really start to kick in until below 10 hz. The slight increase that does occur isn't enough to cover the 18 dB needed reach this lofty goal of the well respected Paradigm. Granted this is just in this one particular room and things can sway having a smaller room. Your comment about needing a larger room contradicts your believe that an indoor measurement would prove an advantage.

And as Paradigm and being reputable, I would say that overall they have quality products. I did however have a set of paradigm speakers that were used well within their limits and blew tweeters in 3 of my 5 speakers I had.
As far as buying a that subwoofer to test it, I have no need. I own a Danley DTS-10 and can safely say that it would be a chore to achieve 112 dB with all my 2000 watts of power at 10 hz. This is below it's tuning frequency so I wouldn't try to push that, but comparing the two subs, the Danley is down 3.8 dB compared to the Paradigm at 10 hz. The Danley begins to take it's lead over the Paradigm at 12.5 hz with a 3.9 dB increase and then really takes off past that achieving 114.5 dB at 16 hz...outdoors. This is a 12 dB increase over the Paradigm. At what cost? A bit of floor real estate. Savings of half if bought built direct from the factory with amp installed ($4500) or if you go the kit route and provide your own amp you're at ~$1500.

So the point is do I believe that the Paradigm can do 112 dB at 10 hz in a normal room? No I do not. Not without some fudging of some numbers/placement/mic distance. In my theoretical concrete bathroom? Yes, I believe it could.

hyfynut@yahoo.com -- Sun, 01/13/2013 - 18:03

This isn't a comparison of indoor verses outdoor. This is a disagreement over whether the Paradigm sub in question can in fact hit the published spec. No I did not contradict myself when I mentioned room size. The frequencies that are reinforced by the room are dependent on , among other things , actual frequency wavelength and the longest measurable distance between parallel surfaces . The farther apart these walls are from each other the deeper in frequency the room gain comes in affect. In order to reinforce a given frequency the distance between parallel surfaces must be at least 1/2 the distance of the actual wave length. A small room will reinforce mid to upper bass from the sub where as a larger room will reinforce those as well as lower frequencies. As a general rule of physics bass is smoother in a larger room because of this law. I have never heard of paradigms of any sort blowing tweeters even operating outside their limits. Was there some serious boost in the highs , due to judicious eq ? Too high a volume levels with too small an amp ? I've had two pairs of paradigms that I literally abused feeding them over twice their rated power and they never protested one bit. ( Can't say the same for my roomates though. ) I've also sold many pairs of their speakers and had no complaints or failures. They had then one of the lower return rates in the industry. Danley stuff is quite serious and I must say I was very impressed with a demo of their full range speakers from close distance ( Much closer than I usually want to be to pro audio speakers ) and also 30 to 40 feet away. Didn't get a chance to listen to the sub, but my boss who has the most seriously high-end-high-power he-man rig you've ever seen was impressed. The full range's were being powered by a Powersoft Amp. Several thousand watts from a single rack space ! Looks like we won't ever agree on the main point we're arguing about ...
C'est le vie Aint audio fun.

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