Using my custom-built testing switcher, I compared the CSX-12 Mark II with various subs I had on hand, including a Hsu VTF-15H, a Klipsch SW-310, a MartinLogan Dynamo 1000 and a Wisdom Audio SCS “suitcase sub.” Note that the cost for all of these is at least twice that of the CSX-12 Mark II. For my first tests, I plugged the cables in at random so I didn’t know which sub was which on the switcher control. I later listened to the CSX-12 Mark II on its own.
Gear reviewers often make sloppy use of words like “outstanding” to describe products that may sound great but don’t actually stand out from other good products in their category. When I describe the CSX-12’s performance as outstanding, I mean it really does stand out. In fact, in the upper bass range it’s the equal of the 37-percent-larger, more than twice-as-expensive Hsu VTF-15H. (While it may seem impossible that the CSX-12 Mark II could match the bigger Hsu, in the upper bass octave from 40 to 80 Hz the maximum output of large subwoofers is typically dictated by their limiter settings, which seem to be more conservative in the VTF-15H.)
The Final Destination 2 DVD clearly demonstrated the CSX-12’s genuinely outstanding performance. In most scenes, the CSX-12 Mark II and the VTF-15H sounded about the same. Both had an impact that was nothing short of brutal. With most of the sound effects in the awesome multi-vehicle pileup that opens the movie — such as the crash of a giant log through a highway patrolman’s windshield — I could barely tell the difference between the two. Both outperformed all the other subs in the intensity and power of their upper bass output.
In the most dramatic car crashes, I could hear the deeper response of the Hsu’s much bigger enclosure. My chair shook a little more and the room felt more energized. I had the same experience when I played the opening scene from Star Wars, Episode II: Attack of the Clones. My ears, my body and, later, my spectrum analyzer told me that the VTF-15H was producing a lot more energy in the bottom 2/3-octave of bass, from 20 to 32 Hz. Still, in every demanding action movie I played, the CSX-12 Mark II easily gave me the “thrill ride” effect I wanted.
The CSX-12 Mark II sounded great with stereo music, especially pop and rock. Its definition and punch were unsurpassed by any of the other subs. In fact, it seemed to deliver a slightly exaggerated sense of punch on certain cuts, such as Steely Dan’s “Aja.” I’m not sure if it’s the only sub that accurately portrayed the bass in this tune, or if it’s adding something extra. Hell, I wonder if the guys in Steely Dan would be sure. Regardless, the differences I’m talking about here are subtle. The point is that the CSX-12 Mark II could work just fine even in a serious audiophile setup.
Only a few instruments, such as the kick drum in Mötley Crüe’s “Kickstart My Heart” and the pipe organ in the Michael Murray/San Francisco Symphony recording of Joseph Jongen’s Symphony Concertante, revealed the limits of the CSX-12 Mark II’s bass extension. On these, the sub sounded a tad strained, and I could hear a bit of noise coming from its slotted front port.
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