There’s nothing exciting to report about the setup on the PB12-NSD, because it’s such a straightforward sub. I placed it in my usual “subwoofer sweet spot,” connected the sub’s left-channel input to the subwoofer output of my Denon A/V receiver, balanced the levels, and I was done. I used the PB12-NSD with a 5.1 system based around MartinLogan’s EM-ESL, another 5.1 system using a quintet of Sunfire CRM-2s, and a stereo system using Hsu Research HB-1 MkII speakers. With all these speakers, I set my receiver’s crossover point to 80 Hz so the sub was handling all the bass.
In addition to playing the PB12-NSD on its own, I placed it side-by-side with the Hsu Research VTF-15H sub I use as a reference standard, then plugged both subs into my custom-built testing switcher. The Hsu was configured with one of its two ports plugged and set for EQ mode 2 and Q of 0.5. For these tests, I didn’t know which sub corresponded to which number on the switcher, and I kept the grilles on so I couldn’t see the woofer cones moving. Thus, the test was blind.
“Pretty amazing for a 12-incher,” I noted when I played the “Toccata and Fugue in D minor” from keyboardist Don Dorsey’s Bachbusters, a 1980s synth-baroque masterpiece that a reader under the pseudonym “trosse02” tipped me off about in the comments after my recent piece on ultra-deep bass recordings. When I cranked the system, the PB12-NSD responded with serious shaking of my listening chair and various unsecured objects in my listening room.
Action movies like the bass-intensive Blu-ray Disc of Thor showed that the PB12-NSD could deliver all the bass I wanted and even more. I never pushed it past its limits, even when I played the system at pretty stupid-loud volumes (loud enough to hear clearly out on the street in front of my house even with the front door closed), and it never failed to give me the quantity and quality of bass I wanted. I never heard a trace of distortion or port noise. I later found that the PB12-NSD’s internal limiter is set conservatively, operating through the entire bass region rather than just 40 Hz and up as with most subs, so there’s no way I could have pushed it past its limits anyway.
I went back and forth and back and forth and back and forth between the PB12-NSD and the VTF-15H, trying to hear differences, but it was tough. Subwoofer A might sound a little better on, say, the depth charge scene from U-571, but then subwoofer B might sound better on the scene in Thor where a giant demon robot thing attacks a small town. Likewise, sub A would sound better on Steely Dan’s “Aja”, while sub B would sound better on Mötley Crüe’s “Kickstart My Heart.” I never developed a preference for one or the other.
Maybe, though, the PB12-NSD sounds ever-so-slightly more tuneful and defined. If so, the difference is extremely subtle — a home theater fanatic wouldn’t care at all, and only the most demanding audiophile would even notice.
This is all quite a testament to the quality of the PB12-NSD, because the VTF-15H is one hell of a subwoofer. And the PB12-NSD is just 67% of the volume, 56% of the weight, and 76% of the cost of the VTF-15H. The bigger VTF-15H does enjoy a performance advantage over the PS12-NSD, as we’ll see in the Measurements section, but it’s not an advantage I could exploit in my listening room, even at levels several dB higher than my normal.
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