I purchased a pair of DBX Soundfield ones new 35 years ago.The are in pristine condition.I have had the woofers refoamed.The only problem I had was a defective woofer during the warranty period,which DBX replaced.
I have been a big fan of dbx for a number of years. I had seen the SF-1s once while only knowing 1 person with a pair. At that time I thought they were the most phenominal speakers I had ever heard. I finally found a used pair in mint condition and drove 95 miles to get them. I absolutely love these things. The imaging (what dbx is known for) is amazing. while the high end is very crisp and while the mids can seem a bit distant, all together the system seems very balanced. Listening to live music puts the performaers in very distinctive stage positions. Interesting thogh, while listening to classic studio work such as old Fleetwood Mac Blues (pre-Bob Welsh) or Beatles / McCartney the aura of being in the studio is enhanced beyond expectations. Playing vinyl takes on an even greater enjoyment. I do not have the controller but I do have a multi-band equalizer which helps to tame the tweeters. The 10in woofers provide a balanced low end without being over bearing or booming. I do find that I amp at a higher volume smply because the 10" drivers do not move as much air volume as would a 12' or 15" driver, but that is ok as the overall output is balanced. Positioning is vital and if there isn't a capability to postion these in mid room - then its important to postion these as far away from the walls as possible to allow for balancing and reflection (remember-they fire on all 4 sides) Without going into all of the tech spec flag waving..all I can say is that these flagship dbx SF-1s have found a home and make this home sound fantastic. They are truly an amazing speaker. DBX was a trully imaginative company giving us imaginative products. Not the same old stuff. Love them...
The dbx SF1A is an amazing, excellent speaker but yes, you have to use the outboard EQ, absolutely. (I worked in dbx engineering through the 1980s and wrote the manuals.) The drivers are actually not cheap and perform very well, but in a time when dealers were being spiffed for designs with new polypro materials and the like and nonsense about driver 'speed', it was easy to knock them, and many competitors did. The woofers were by Tonegen (better than the original Pioneer woofers in the One and the Ten), and the tweeters were Audax or Peerless knockoffs (I think, not sure), or maybe originals. The lead tweeter was an Oaktron, made by Chuck McShane of AR3a fame and designed expressly to imitate the famously unequaled Allison tweeter. The midranges are a Pioneer cup unit, smooth and sold widely until a year or two ago (writing this in 2013). The immensely complex crossover is a sight to behold, and the amount of measurement and computing power that went into that design was and probably still is unprecedented; the oval radiation pattern was conceived following experimentation by MIT EE/psychoacoustics PhD Mark Davis, also of Dolby AC3 fame. Nobody at dbx then or since knows why ex-salesguy Ed Maidel has it in for dnx and the products and posts same every chance he gets, and believe me, many db-exers have asked. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org for any questions. I don't defend the trashcan appearance, though there were and are worse, and subsequent dbx SF designs with curved grills were pretty handsome, at least as speakers go.
I own a pair of soundfield 1As and every time I think its time for them to go i re evaluate and keep them. I would agree that the drivers are cheap--seriously cheap--if they were in any other type of speaker i am sure they would sound horrible. That said the crossover and eq turn these drivers from below ordinary to extra ordinary. If you have a big enough room--its got to be a big room because you want the speakers to be far enough apart and away from the back wall--if you can do this--have them sitting almost in the middle of a big room they are a no brainer--if you can find a pair. I have a pair of Infinity Betas preludes and a pair of reference kefs. All great speakers (speakers i would never part with not sure about the kefs yet) but if you want it to sound like you have a live band in your room the soundfields are better--I know it sounds crazy but i just did another side by side with the new kefs that i just got. The kefs are more accurate however they do not and cannot do what the sfs do. So it appears that the designers nailed their goal--create a non shifting soundfield. The only reason i think i frequently consider selling them is because it drives me nuts that the drivers are so cheap.
They are also great on the bottom end--they don[t add bass but if its on the album or cd its going to come through. The midrange can be harsh but you can tweak that. The high end is excellent but don't boost it with the eq or it will sound tinny. Leave it alone and they sound beautiful. Go get a brubeck cd sit back and listen and you will be amazed. This is the first time i have ever cared to give a review but i figure if someone finds them at a garage sale they should grab them before someone empties their trash in one--they are very challenged in that area--they really do look like a fast food trash can.
I worked for dbx and received a pair of the Soundfield 1a's free, as "samples." Even as freebies, I still wound up giving them away, once I had the woofers repaired in a different pair of speakers that I returned to listening to afterwards.
The 1a had many things going against it: for starters, it looked very much like a woodgrain version of a large, Sears trash can. Only the engineers at dbx thought othewise, until at a trade show, I, and another member of the sales department of the company, wound up running out of our booth to avoid laughing hysterically as someone acturally tried to "throw out" a styrofoam coffee cup into the top of the 1a! He just couldn't understand why the "door" on the top of the "trashcan" didn't swing open!
Next was the sound. Despite the plethora of drivers, and the exceedingly complex external control unit, without a separate EQ, I could never get these monsters to sound any good. Bass was exceptional, but that's about it. Midrange was distant, and horribly colored, and highs were clear and delinieated, but screechy and metalllic sounding. Hardly appropriate comments for a pair of speakers retailing for $3,300!
The 1a was the only speaker that all but necessitated an external equalizer, and the dbx EQ was a perfect match, but then that was an additional $1,200. After some very judicious "tweaking," I was finally able to get these speakers to sound reasonably good, but never as good as either the B&W 802's or the Dahlquist DQ-10's. Voices, in particular, sounded especially bad on the 1a's, even after supplementation with an EQ.
The term "Soundfield" referred to the stereo image created by these speakers, and in this respect, the speaker was unique. You could indeed sit right up, and next to the right speaker, for example, and still hear a normal stereo image, with the center image still in the center, and not from the speaker right in front of you. The same thing happened when you walked around the speakers, as the image was just as precisely located even from behind the speakers. All of that took years of extensive (and very expensive) research. The net result from most dbx retailers was a big, "So?" Does it really matter that you can get a good stereo image from behind a pair of speakers? Other than some mainstream reviewers ("Stereo Review," for example) few dbx dealers seemed to care much.
Whereas the stereo image was stable and precise from any listening position, it was also a very narrow image. That struck me immediately after connecting them, as the image seemed to have "shrunken" from a vast, wide soundstage, to one much, much narrower. And who listens seriously to a sound system, and sits to the right of the right speaker, or to the left of the left speaker, or BEHIND the speakers in the first place? Certainly no one I know.
All of the drivers used in the 1a were relatively cheap, and this was a major source of argument from dbx retailers. "How can you sell a speaker system for $3,000 with such cheap drivers in it?" was a question asked very frequently, and one which was rarely ever answered to the dealer's satisfaction. dbx engineers tried to use the Dahlquist analogy, since none of the drivers in that speaker are expensive, nor have cast frames, but then the Dahlquist DQ-10 retailed (at the time) for $500 each - a far cry from the price of a pair of Soundfield 1a's. Moreover, the DQ-10's sounded a whole helluva lot better too!
I was never enthusiastic about the 1a, even as I witnessed some of the efforts undertaken during its developmental stages. Aside from a deep, thundering bass, there was just about nothing about how everything else sounded on this speaker that impressed me at all.
One last comment: another reviewer has a great deal of praise for the Soundfield V speaker. That speaker wasn't made by dbx, but simply had the dbx nameplate on it, and was sold by the company's owner at the time (Carillon Technology Inc., or "CTI") to DAK. Much as I didn't like the "standard," dbx-manufactured and designed "Soundfield" loudspeakers, the "V" speaker was far, far worse in every respect, and in no way achieved the imaging of any of the other "Soundfield" speakers. In essense, it was an all-out fraudulent piece of equipment, masquerading as something else, done solely by the people at CTI to make a quick buck, and to allow DAK to cash in on the dbx namesake.