In 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?"
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 Mayweather...by refusing to get in the ring. When I played the Boston Audio Society recording of the Saint-Saëns "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...
Here are the measurements for the Artison RCC Nano 1 subwoofer. (Click on the chart to view it in a larger window.)
±3.0 dB from 58 to 145 Hz (movie mode)
±3.0 dB from 59 to 145 Hz (music mode)
Crossover low-pass roll-off
-22 dB/octave (-12dB crossover slope setting)
-33 dB/octave (-24dB crossover slope setting)
The chart here shows the frequency response of the Nano 1 with the crossover set to the maximum frequency and for -12dB/octave slope, in music mode (blue trace) and movie mode (red trace). As you can see, switching to movie mode doesn't change the frequency response shape much; it mostly just boosts output by an average of +5 dB. The sub has solid output down to about 50 Hz, usable output down to about 40 Hz, and then it falls fast below that. I've measured micro-subs with deeper response. Obviously, the measured crossover slope responses are different from the switch settings. Probably the switch settings refer to the electronic filter only, not to the combined response of the filter and the driver.
The CEA-2010A results for the Nano 1 are lower than most of the subwoofers I review, which of course are much larger. However, compared with the few subs that play in its niche--i.e., ultra-compact models designed for high performance--the output is impressive. For example, the Sunfire Atmos subwoofer, which is slightly larger, delivers, by my measurements, a 40-63 Hz average output of 108.4 dB and a 20-31.5 Hz average of 81.8 dB. Compare that with 109.2 dB/86.0 dB for the Nano 1. The PSB SubSonic puts out 100.2 dB/83.3 dB, although at $249 and 40 percent less external volume, it's not really in the same class as the Nano 1.
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 did a ground-plane measurement with the microphone placed on the ground one meter from the sub, and the results smoothed to 1/6th octave. I backed this up with measurements taken using close-miking of the woofers; the results were essentially the same.
I did CEA-2010A measurements using an Earthworks M30 measurement microphone, an M-Audio Mobile Pre USB interface, and the CEA-2010 measurement software running on the Wavemetric Igor Pro scientific software package. I took these measurements at one-meter 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.
Obviously, the Nano 1 can make no pretense of offering floor-shaking, lease-breaking bass. If you want that, this isn't your sub. The one significant criticism I have of the Nano 1 is that I'd have liked a little more deep-bass response. It seems to be tuned primarily for punch in the midbass region around 60 to 80 Hz. This tuning works great for music, but it can leave action movies sounding a little thin unless you put the sub in the corner, where to my ears it sounded a little too boomy for music. In the "subwoofer sweet spot," it also sounded thin on heavy rock, such as Mötley Crüe's "Kickstart My Heart"; with the Nano 1 in the corner, Tommy Lee's kick drum suddenly had the power it lacked before.
So you may have to compromise on placement. If movies are what matters, put it in the corner. If music is what matters, put it where it sounds the most even. If you want the best sound for both, the Nano 1 doesn't really have the muscle to deliver that.
I also noticed that the Nano 1's surprising mid/upper bass punch made choosing a crossover point a little fussy when I had it in the "subwoofer sweet spot." I liked the sound better with an 80 Hz crossover; at 100 Hz the punch was a little too punchy for my taste. But of course, if you pair the Nano 1 with small satellite speakers, they may not have enough bass extension to cross over smoothly at 80 Hz. So I found myself tweaking these settings more than I normally would, but of course, I'm not used to using micro-subs. Who is? With the sub in the corner, listening mostly to movies, 80 Hz worked fine.
The Nano 1 is expensive for what it does, but its price is similar to that of its competitors. I guess high-performance micro-subs cost a lot to make.
Comparison and Competition
This part's easy because there are so few ultra-tiny subs designed for fairly high performance. One obvious competitor is the Sunfire Atmos, which costs $200 more, uses dual 6.5-inch woofers with a 1,400-watt amp, and includes auto EQ, which is especially useful if you place the sub in the corner. The Atmos has deeper bass extension at fairly low volumes, although its average output from 20 to 31.5 Hz is lower than the Nano 1's. It also has weak output in the upper bass, which impacted its performance with music. It's been three years since I tested the Atmos, so I can't remember it well. However, based on what I said in my review, I can say for sure that I'd prefer the Nano 1 for music, and I might like the Atmos better for action movies.
There's also the $899 Velodyne MicroVee, which has a 6.5-inch driver, two 6.5-inch passive radiators, a 1,000-watt amp, and is about the same size as the Nano 1 and Atmos. I haven't reviewed it, and no one seems to have published CEA-2010 measurements for it. It's probably in roughly the same ballpark as the Nano 1 and the Atmos.
In my experience, anything that outperforms the Nano 1 is going to be considerably larger.
Artison built the RCC Nano 1 for a specific application: augmenting the bass of in-wall, in-ceiling, or small satellite speakers or soundbars. It's well designed for this purpose. I'd also add that I think a lot of audiophiles would like it for adding some bass to their favorite bookshelf speakers, for two reasons. First, it doesn't boom at all; it's tight and "fast." Second, the Nano 1's versatile crossover setup and inputs will help it blend with the main speakers without the need for an external crossover or a preamp with a built-in crossover. The Nano 1 isn't inexpensive, but it's in roughly the same price range as its few competitors, and by a modest but perhaps important margin, it's the smallest and nicest-looking one of the bunch.
• Artison Introduces Its First Freestanding Subwoofer at HomeTheaterReview.com.
• Check out our Subwoofers category page to read similar reviews.
• Visit the Artison website for more product information.