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a Audio EnthusiastDate Reviewed:
March 11, 2009Bottom Line:
When I first shopped for subs back in early 2008, I was considering a wide range of options. Having previously settled on an e-bay deal for a Velodyne DLS-4000R, I was eager to step up into a true subwoofer that could handle content below 20hz. I also plan to buy a house in the near future, and wanted something that would be capable of handling a dedicated room. At this time, it is placed in a main listening area that is just under 2000 cubic feet, connected to a small open kitchen on one side of its length, and a long but fairly narrow open hallway on the same wall on the other side. The room itself is about 19.5'x12.5'x7.8'.
After a great deal of research online, I had narrowed it down to the MFW-15, an Epik Valor, Hsu VTF-2 Mark III, SVS PB12-NSD, and the eD A5-350.
Size: Not an issue to me.
Finish: wanted furniture finish, which ruled out the eD
Output: wanted sub-20hz performance, since I listen to Movies more than Music (80/20)
I ruled out the SVS due to output issues. I felt that after reading many reviews, I would end up with much more performance with either the Hsu or the MFW for movies, which was very important to me. I read about the sub design, and how Mark Seaton contributed his expertise to AV123 in the design of this sub. Having learned more about the quality of his work and his philosophy, I was only more encouraged to get a "budget" version of one of his designs.
A sale hit the MFW-15s back then, and I used it to essentially upgrade my finish to Cherry for essentially no cost, and ordered the MFW-15. A few days later, they notified me it had shipped. The shipper notified me when it showed up about 8 days later, and I went to pick it up. It barely fit into the back of my 97 Civic Hatchback - but it did, and the shipping employees were impressed when they found out what was inside.
It was double-boxed, with a couple inches of foam padding around it - very well packed. I put it on its side and slid it out onto the carpet. It is truly a very beautiful finish. Mine is a sort of satin-like cherry finish, and it is certainly just a veneer, but it's a nice one. It looks like an end-table, and at 2 feet tall, it's tall enough to be one. Not that I would put any drinks on it!! It is narrower on the sides, and the cabinet seems solid and stiff. At over 100lbs, it's no small potatoes. No replacement for displacement, as they say. Most tiny compact subs are about 12"x12", and this is certainly not in that category. It must be about 40% larger - but that space is put to good use! If you think smaller is better, then move on, and start compromising. This sub is not for someone looking to compromise on finish or sound quality.
I ended up placing it in the same spot as the Velodyne to start - then later re-arranged my room which required a change in placement to avoid nulls in the main listening area. The crawl test was how I discovered the best possible spots, and then added some logistics determined actual placement. I ended up putting it behind the main seating area, by about 5 feet - which is essentially near-field.
I set the sub gain to 11-o'clock as many had suggested online, then calibrated it using Audyssey on my Denon 788, then entered the Denon setup menu and manually configured the Front channels (PSB T55 towers) to set them to "Small" - since Audyssey had incorrectly set them to "Large" - which would send LFE signals to the front speakers that I wanted to go to the MFW-15. Then, I used an SPL meter and Denon's built-in test tones to double-check the speaker volume calibration - it was fairly close - I ended up making adjustments that seemed to show better results even across multiple seats. I am not quite sure if I did this in the right order - but I am a little new to this, and I am certainly happy with the result. The sub came out to being calibrated at the same db as the speakers, so I think the 11-o'clock gain setting is appropriate. I tried it at 12, but the receiver setting started to hit -10, which is very close to the lowest channel level on my receiver. This is obviously too high on the subwoofer gain, since it is so much power that it nearly defeats my receiver's capability to adjust the LFE level - and my ability to customize it.
After all, setup was well worth it. On music, the MFW-15 added a perceptible punch and some very low end support for bass lines and electronic sub signals. I listen to an eclectic mix of alternative, grunge/goth, punk, brit-punk, folk/indie, metal, and a little old-school hip-hop here and there. Even a little jazz here and there. Jaco Pastorious sounds amazing, much cleaner with the MFW. Primus - tight and visceral - just like I would expect. Amy Winehouse's Live in London DVD gained an equally stellar live feeling with the MFW that previously had a somewhat flat low-end. Does It Offend You, Yeah? provided some powerful and thrilling dance jams. Don't even get me started on the Public Enemy! Even my beloved Radiohead OK Computer sounded crisp and punchy. Great for music, for my purposes. My friends and I play a lot of Rock Band on this system, and not only do the tunes sound good, but the thunderous echoed ending of each song really drives home the point when you finish!
And that's not even the good part. Movies are absolutely amazing with this sub. It makes "sounds" - if you can call them that - where the Velo would simply huff. Ocean's 11 sounds amazingly better with this sub. It blends so well, and adds just enough low end to make it the smoothest movie - and it really complements the spectacular music. Near the end of Casino Royale, it feels like my house is coming down with the house in the movie. In the beginning of The Two Towers, Suaron's death at the hand of Isildur is simply stunning. The waterfall is a stunning companion to the visuals of the shockwave expanding across the battlefield. It resonates through your whole body. The famous emerging pod scene from War of the Worlds really lifts you out of your seat.
The biggest difference I have noticed is not that I have vastly changed the majority of how movies sound - and that is a result of the mostly excellent setup calibration. Basically, during 90% of the movie, you don't even notice it is there. Then, when something happens - it REALLY happens, and you are enveloped in the effect. It's a very powerful experience. Depending on the effects, it can be almost dizzying. The sound, and more importantly the FEEL of what happens in movies. You just feel more there.
Considering the DLS-4000R had a $600 MSRP, it's a little bit ridiculous that the MFW-15 only lists for $100 more. They aren't even in the same category. On forums I have read, many people who have heard far more expensive subs (in the $1500+ range) say that this sub compares very well or similarly to them. I can believe it, based on my experience with the Velo. I have owned several HTIB (Home Theater in-a-Box) setups in the past, and none of them (nor the Velodyne DLS 4000R) have even a HINT of the visceral power of the MFW-15. Really, those other things aren't "sub" woofers. I'll never buy one again. Even at less than half the price of this sub - there's far better you can do than those.
Very very happy with my purchase. I wish I could afford another one, but I am certainly very glad that I saved up the extra cash to grab this (I had set myself a $500 budget). This has added so much enjoyment to my movies and music. Worth every penny!!
Used product for: More than 1 year
Duration Product Used: Audio Enthusiast
Product model year: 2008
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