Artison RCC Nano 1 Subwoofer Reviewed

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Artison RCC Nano 1 Subwoofer Reviewed

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Artison-Nano-1-thumb.jpgIn at least one way, the Artison RCC Nano 1 is my all-time-favorite subwoofer. When I review headphones, I always put them on my desk next to my screen so that I have an easy visual reference. This makes my writing job much easier. The RCC Nano 1 is the first subwoofer I've been able to place on my desk and still have plenty of room for my computer and a cup of coffee. That's because the Nano 1 measures only 7.5 by eight by nine inches.

Why make a sub so small? Because there are a lot of scenarios in which a super-small sub makes sense. Maybe you just need to add a little bass to a soundbar or a set of in-wall or in-ceiling speakers. Maybe you want more bass for your desktop system. Clearly, if you're looking for maximum performance, you'll buy some big bruiser like the Klipsch R-115SW, which is roughly the same price but almost 20 times larger.

Artison did design the Nano 1 to deliver what's probably the most bass you could possibly get out of such a little box. It has two 6.5-inch drivers, instead of the more common arrangement of one active driver and a passive radiator. Using a radiator might have extended the deep-bass response, but using dual drivers increases upper-bass output. It also cancels vibration because the drivers' movements are opposite and in sync, unlike the movements of a driver and a radiator. (This is important if you put the Nano 1 on a shelf or inside an equipment cabinet.) A Class D amp rated at 300 watts RMS and 900 watts peak powers the drivers. 

Despite its tiny size, the Nano 1 has way more features than most subs. It includes a small remote control, as well as a five-button control panel on the side. It offers music and movie EQ modes, both accessible from the control panel or the remote. Wireless capability is built in, although it requires a $149 accessory transmitter. A tiny niche on the bottom accesses line-level and speaker-level inputs, a 12-volt trigger input, a remote control signal input, knobs for phase and low-pass crossover frequency, a switch that selects -12 dB or -24 dB low-pass roll-off (the former is better for sealed-box satellite speakers, the latter is better for ported satellites), and a switch that selects auto power on through audio signal sensing, through the 12-volt trigger input. And it's available in black or white.

The question with a product like this isn't, "Can it match the output of large home theater subs?" It can't. The question is, "Can it deliver enough bass to make it a worthwhile purchase?"

Artison-Nano-1-remote.jpgThe Hookup
Placement sure isn't difficult with the Nano 1 because it's small enough to fit almost anywhere. I started with it in my usual "subwoofer sweet spot" because I wanted to compare it with other subs I've reviewed. Later, I also tried putting it in the corner to get an extra +6 dB or so of bass output. I used it with three tower speakers: the Revel Performa3 F206, the Klipsch Reference Premiere RP-280FA, and the Polk T50. In each case, I set the subwoofer crossover point to 80 or 100 Hz so that the towers wouldn't contribute any bass on their own. I set the crossover frequency adjustment on the Nano 1 to the highest possible frequency (160 Hz) and let the crossover in my Denon AVR-2809Ci receiver perform the crossover function.

The line input resides in a niche on the bottom of the Nano 1. It's on a 3.5mm mini-jack, so it requires a 3.5mm-to-RCA adapter for use with standard subwoofer line-level interconnect cables. Fortunately, Artison provides an adapter: a six-inch cable tipped with high-quality, metal-bodied connectors.

A line of LEDs on the front edge provides a volume indicator. The LEDs glow blue in music mode, purple in movie mode--a nice touch.

I have only one complaint about the setup and operation of this sub. The buttons on the side control panel are labeled only with icons that are molded into the matte-black rubber buttons. It's hard to see the labels even in bright room light and even with a flashlight.

There are times with the Nano 1 that you forget you're using a micro-sub. Fortunately for audiophiles, those times are mostly when you're listening to music.

Even with the Nano 1 in the "subwoofer sweet spot," I still got plenty enough bass for most of the music I listened to. In fact, I often found that I got just the right amount of bass. For example, many subwoofers overemphasize the low notes of the detuned slack key guitar in "Ulili'E" by Dennis and David Kamakahi, and they also make Dennis' deep baritone voice sound bloated, almost as if the Incredible Hulk became a Hawaiian singer. Through the Nano 1, all of the low notes of the slack key guitar were consistent and clear, and Dennis' voice sounded realistic, with the kind of natural resonance that deep voices have in real life.

On Toto's ultra-slick production of "Rosanna," the Nano 1 got the punch of the electric bass just right. Every note sounded precise and perfectly articulated, and the tune never sounded thin or less than grooving. The Nano 1 didn't over-punch the notes as some sealed-box subwoofers do; it got them just right. Nor did it boom, but I doubt any 6.5-inch sealed-box sub would sound boomy.

The Nano 1 even survived my deep-bass torture-test material, much the way I'd survive a fight with Floyd refusing to get in the ring. When I played the Boston Audio Society recording of the Saint-Säens "Organ Symphony," which includes pipe organ notes stretching down to 16 Hz, the Nano 1 didn't attempt to play the low notes, but I could hear the harmonics of those notes, so the sound was still full.

Olive's "Falling" has a deep synthesizer bass line that goes down to about 32 Hz, and to my surprise the Nano 1 actually hit that low note. No, it didn't slam the note out with floor-shaking power, but it didn't audibly distort, either.

Action movie soundtracks proved a tougher challenge. When I watched Taken 3 with the Nano 1 in the "subwoofer sweet spot," I sometimes found the sound thin, and I ended up fussing with the volume and crossover settings a lot. I moved the Nano 1 into the corner for the 2014 version of Robocop, and I got much better results.

With the Nano 1 in the corner, the sound was always full--never slamming, but never leaving me thinking that something wasn't right or that I needed more bass. The blend of the subwoofer with the main speakers also seemed smoother, probably because the extra bass response counterbalanced the Nano 1's strong mid/upper bass output.

For, say, one of those home theater systems made up entirely of ceiling speakers--where the near invisibility of the speaker system is of paramount concern and the system's not expected to play at 120 dB--the Nano 1 might be an ideal solution.

Click over to Page Two for Measurements, The Downside, Comparison & Competition, and Conclusion...

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