RSL Speedwoofer 10S Subwoofer Reviewed
By: Dennis Burger,
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The latter scene, the battle of the bands, is more a test of the extremes in between those. Here, the goal is to punch. Hard. And punch hard the Speedwoofer 10S does. In fact, in the second half of the battle (after Scott and his band pick themselves up and brush themselves off for another go), the subs kicked up enough of a breeze to flap the legs of my Chewbacca jammies, even from seven feet away ... yet I never heard the slightest hint of port noise.
Again, though, what impresses me most isn't that the Speedwoofer 10S is capable of cranking out such bass. It's more the fact that it does so with a nimbleness and richness that's surprising. Looking at my testing notes I see the question, "What's the opposite of 'one-note'?" Whatever it is, that's the adjective I'm clawing for here. What RSL's engineers have cooked up here is a delicious blend of fury and finesse.
Here are the measurements for the RSL Speedwoofer 10S, provided by Brent Butterworth. (Click on the chart to view it in a larger window.)
±3.0 dB from 29 to 145 Hz
(1M peak) (2M RMS)
80 Hz 116.5 dB L 107.5 dB L
40-63 Hz avg 115.5 dB 106.5 dB
63 Hz 117.1 dB L 108.1 dB L
50 Hz 115.9 dB L 106.9 dB L
40 Hz 113.0 dB L 104.0 dB L
20-31.5 Hz avg 107.5 dB 98.5 dB
31.5 Hz 111.2 dB L 102.2 dB L
25 Hz 107.2 dB L 98.2 dB L
20 Hz 101.5 dB 92.5 dB
The chart shows the frequency response of the Speedwoofer 10S. It's admirably flat using the LFE input (blue trace), and it extends high enough that the sub won't present any problems if you're crossing it over to the main speakers using the crossover built into your AV receiver or surround processor.
I measured the effects of the sub's low-pass filter (crossover) circuitry by setting the knob to 100 Hz, which was the only marked setting other than 40 or 200 Hz. As I've seen with many subs, this control is not accurately calibrated; the -3dB point at the 100 Hz setting is 71 Hz; at 100 Hz, the response is -10.5 dB. So, if you use the sub's internal low-pass filter, start by setting the frequency 20 or 30 Hz higher than you think you need to. It's no big deal, though, because if you're using an AV receiver you're bypassing this filter--and if you are using this filter, you should set the filter frequency and the sub level by ear, anyway.
The CEA-2010 output measurements are excellent for a subwoofer of this size and price. They're almost the same as I measured from the SVS $699 SB-2000, which has a 12-inch driver and a 500-watt amp; the SB-2000 averages +0.6 dB more output between 40 and 63 Hz and -0.1 dB less output between 20 and 31.5 Hz. Both of those results are within CEA-2010's margin of error. Note that the max output of the subwoofer at all frequencies above 20 Hz is determined by its limiter, not by the distortion rising above the CEA-2010 thresholds--although at 31.5 Hz and 25 Hz, the distortion at max output is running pretty close to the thresholds. So basically, this limiter is tuned in what I consider to be the optimum way.
Here's how I did the measurements. I measured frequency response using an Audiomatica Clio FW 10 audio analyzer with the MIC-01 measurement microphone. I used ground plane technique, with the microphone on the ground two meters from the front of the subwoofer, and smoothed the result to 1/12th octave.
I did CEA-2010A measurements using an Earthworks M30 microphone and M-Audio Mobile Pre USB interface with the CEA-2010 measurement software running on the Wavemetric Igor Pro scientific software package. I took these measurements at two meters peak output. The two sets of measurements I have presented here--CEA-2010A and traditional method--are functionally identical, but the traditional measurement employed by most audio websites and many manufacturers reports results at two-meter RMS equivalent, which is -9 dB lower than CEA-2010A. An L next to the result indicates that the output was dictated by the subwoofer's internal circuitry (i.e., limiter), and not by exceeding the CEA-2010A distortion thresholds. Averages are calculated in pascals. (See this article for more information about CEA-2010.)
You'll note that, in all of the above testing, I relied on dual subwoofers, which is the norm in all of my sound systems throughout the house. I did, of course, test the Speedwoofer 10S in isolation. And although it remained impressive, I did notice that its output was a little more uneven. Of course, that statement is axiomatic: two subs will always give you more even performance than one. In the case of the Speedwoofer 10S, though, I found that the solo sub performance was, in either position, slightly more wobbly at the upper end that other subs I've tested in its class. (And by "in its class," I really mean subs that sell for $100 to $300 more.)
That put a little extra work on the plate of the Anthem Room Correction, which wasn't quite able to fully fill in a few of the valleys between 80 and 100 Hz. But it certainly got close enough to create a good blend between the sub and sats.
Other than that, it's really hard to find fault with any aspect of the Speedwoofer 10S (and even the above observation could barely count as a "fault"), especially given its price.
Comparison and Competition
In the world of affordable, high-performance, Internet-direct subwoofers, two obvious competitors to the Speedwoofer 10S come to mind. The first, and perhaps most obvious, is the SVS PB-1000, a ported 10-inch sub with similar connectivity and similar power. The PB-1000 does boast lower rated bass extension (down to 19 Hz, but it is a good bit larger (nearly three inches taller and deeper) and sells for $100 more.
Hsu Research's VTF-1 MK3 subwoofer is another obvious competitor. It's a perfect price match for the Speedwoofer 10S, but it stands apart in a couple of distinct ways. First, it features a dual ported design, one or both of which can be sealed to tune the sub's performance. It also features a variable Q control, making it an impressively tweakable subwoofer, especially at this price point. Again, though, it is a good deal taller and deeper than the RSL.
In looking over what I've written so far, I'm a little disturbed by how frequently I've made reference to price. In doing so, I don't want to give the impression that the RSL Speedwoofer 10S is merely a great value. I'm not merely wagging my tail because of what it delivers in relation to other subs with a similar sticker price. By any measure, this is a fantastic 10-inch sub, one that in many ways delivers the performance of a 12-inch offering. If it sold for twice the price, I wouldn't hesitate for a moment to recommend it.
In a way, I actually am recommending that you spend twice the price--because the Speedwoofer 10S, when paired with itself, delivers the sort of clean depth and nimble upper-low-bass performance that I never would have dreamt possible from subs of this size (much less this price!) when I constructed my first home theater system back in the mid-90s. Throw in free shipping and a 30-day free trial, and this one is positively a no-brainer.
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