Before I tried auto EQ, I played the EQ-Max 8 on its own just to find out what I was starting with. And what I was starting with is a real good little 8-inch subwoofer.
When I played a swordfighting scene from The Last Bladesman, included on the latest Dolby TrueHD demo Blu-ray Disc, the EQ-Max 8’s impressive punch led me to believe I was hearing a much larger subwoofer. In the fight, the impacts of the swords against masonry walls produces a powerful (although absurdly unrealistic) boom, each of which filled my room with slamming bass.
Another scene from the Dolby disc, the train crash from Super 8, pummeled me with similar impact, although the deepest bass tones from the crash were absent. In my favorite deep bass test scene, the spaceship flyover and explosion in Chapter 3 of Star Wars, Episode II: Attack of the Clones, the EQ-Max 8 gave a strong sense of the ship’s powerful vibrations, even if it didn’t shake the floor as a good 12- or 15-incher would.
With music tracks, I got very smooth, grooving, tuneful, and surprisingly powerful response. Tony Levin’s Chapman Stick and electric bass lines on the 40th anniversary of King Crimson’s Discipline came through with the precision, punch, and subtlety for which Levin is famed. In a few cases, I felt almost as if I were Levin himself, feeling each tap of my finger on the Stick as it came through the bass amp.
I listened mostly in the Jazz/Classical EQ mode, but also found the Movies mode useful to amp up the bass for action flicks. To my ears, the Games mode sounded crazy-boomy (although I don’t play games to my opinion shouldn’t count for much here), and the Rock mode just seemed to add a little excess punch.
So we’ve got a nice little 8-inch sub here. But what does the auto EQ do for it? Not a whole lot, at least in my room. My notes were filled with phrases like “about the same,” “maybe slightly tighter,” and “maybe a bit more impact.” (Bear in mind here that I couldn’t do an A/B comparison; I had to listen to a few tracks in factory reset mode, run the EQ, then listen to the tracks again, so there was a delay of a few minutes between the pre-EQ and post-EQ runs.) Overall, the auto EQ never hurt and sometimes seemed to tighten and smooth the sound subtly, but its effects were never readily apparent.