THE LOW DOWN
My conclusions should be easy to guess. The Sunfire True Super Junior was my favorite, producing the loudest and most depth-rattling bass in my room - an incredible amount given its size. But its steep rolloff above 80 Hz will make it tough to blend with smaller satellite speakers. In fact, in my setup the Junior sounded best with its crossover set below 80 Hz.
The Velodyne SPL-800R played only a bit less loud and sounded just about as deep. It also had a distinctly more balanced sound higher in the frequency range, blending well with satellite speakers at the 100-Hz crossover setting and even at 120 Hz.
While the Lilliputian Pinnacle SubSonic couldn't equal the depth or power of the bigger and more expensive Sunfire and Velodyne subs, it should work well with tiny satellites that demand a 150-Hz crossover or even higher. And for such an attractively tiny sub, it sounded amazingly solid on almost everything that I listened to. -D.K.
IN THE LAB
It's not uncommon to find discrepancies between lab measurements and subjective observation of subwoofer performance, as here with the Sunfire, which didn't measure as well as the Velodyne in some respects but was Dan Kumin's favorite. There are several reasons.
We standardize our measurements of sound-pressure level (SPL) at any given frequency to the highest level generated, in decibels (dB), with a maximum of 10% distortion. The Sunfire produced output at 25 Hz, but did so with more than 10% distortion, so that measurement is omitted from the graph on page 71. At 32 Hz, its SPL with less than 10% distortion was 93 dB - equal to the Velodyne's.
In this context the word "distortion" has a somewhat different import than you might expect. As with the other subs here, if you feed the Sunfire a low-bass tone and turn up the signal, upper harmonics - multiples of the fundamental tone - will eventually constitute more of the sound than the fundamental itself. The Sunfire produced an additional 12 dB SPL when driven to maximum output. At this point, the second harmonic was louder than the fundamental. While technically this is a distortion of the input signal, it is generally difficult to detect as such by most listeners. It may give the suggestion of deeper bass but is really just an increase in overall volume.
In contrast to the Sunfire, the Velodyne bumped the sound-level meter only 6 dB at maximum output with distortion unchecked, and it produced a higher maximum SPL overall within the 10% distortion limit, hitting 108 dB at 62 Hz vs. the Sunfire's 102 dB. The Pinnacle at full output without regard to distortion also drove up the meter by 12 dB. For a full lab report on all three subwoofers, click here.-Tom Nousaine
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