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Velodyne Optimum-12 Subwoofers Review

Adjusting the controls on a subwoofer for best performance takes time and patience. It is always interesting to see ads for used subwoofers appear on the Web stating “only a week old” or “barely broken in”. These almost always identify a dissatisfied owner. I would bet that the owner did not take the time to 1) play a lot of music to break in the woofer driver; and 2) set the low-pass frequency and subwoofer volume controls correctly for optimal performance. I have set up about a dozen different subwoofer models, including a few that I built, in my systems over the years. I suggest that if you can determine the final settings by ear in less than two weeks then you are an unusually gifted subwoofer installer. The Velodyne Optimum-12 subwoofer makes this task far easier than many other subwoofers.

Velodyne-Optimum-12-SubwoofVelodyne has been making powered subwoofers for over 25 years. The upper models in the extensive product line use a servo (feedback) circuit that corrects non-linear errors which significantly reduces distortion while protecting the driver and amplifier if the performance limits are exceeded. You can’t blow them up by playing the 1812 Overture at high volume levels or by inviting King Kong into your living room. The new Optimum series replaced the well received SPL Series and sits just below the top tier Digital Drive models in Velodyne’s product line. The Optimum-12 has a list price of $1800 and is available in piano black or gloss cherry finish. I have the latter finish and find it very handsome, the reddish cherry contrasting elegantly with the black fascia. The Optimum series also includes 8″ and 10″ models. Among many other features, they include a 7-band equalization and room correction system with a set up program that is completely automatic. When you initially install the sub, connect the supplied microphone, push a button on the sub, and in a couple of minutes the sub adjusts its frequency response and corrects for anomalies in your room’s bass acoustics. It just doesn’t get any easier.

Adding to the feature list is a digital readout of the current low-pass crossover frequency setting. This setting is changed with a knob on the back of the sub. The display can also show the sub’s volume setting. These numerical indicators are hugely valuable to me as I can make note of these settings, change other components in my system, and very easily go back to a previously installed preamplifier or main speakers by simply dialing in the old settings. It takes just a minute to have perfect settings again. Since a difference of just one Hertz in the crossover frequency setting or just one number in the volume setting can ruin a perfect blend with the main speakers, these digital readouts are, at least for me, “must have” features. (Digital readouts in a subwoofer? Yes, I’m spoiled!) Another very helpful setup tool, included with Optimum subs, is a remote control that can change the volume of the sub, select mute, and adjust the phase from your listening seat.

The Optimum-12′s small remote control has several other useful features, such as enabling you to turn off the display or quickly check settings. The frequency response is 21-120 Hz (+-3dB). The 12” driver has a huge 21.6 pound (9.8kg) magnet which is driven by a 1200 Watt RMS cool running internal power amplifier. The overall weight is a manageable 49 pounds, and the size is a compact 15.25”H x 14.9”W x 18.5”D. It has a signal-sensing auto turn-on feature so you never have to bother to turn it on or off. Velodyne offers a confidence inspiring 5 year warranty on the driver and a shorter 3 years on the electronics. The removable grille is best left off for critical listening.

The subwoofers – I used these in pairs – for comparison are the $2800 JL Audio fathom f112. Other components included Marantz MA-9S2, Nuforce Reference 9 V2 SE and the new, incredibly musical Jones Audio PA-M300 amplifiers; Dali Euphonia RS-3, Merlin TSM-MMe and YG Acoustics Kipod stand mounted speakers; various preamplifiers; a custom Windows 7 computer using the outstanding Prism Orpheus Digital Interface; SOTA Cosmos IV turntable with a Triplanar VII u2 tonearm and Miyajima Shilabe moving coil cartridge. Interconnects are Mogami; speaker cables are Element Apollo and Audience Au24 e; power cords included Audience PowerChord e, Element Stealth “es”, PS Audio PerfectWave AC-10 and AC-12.


Review continued on 10Audio.com next….

Features:

  • Tiny cabinet dimensions
  • Intuitive, interactive front panel displaying volume, presets, crossover and phase
  • Automated, one-button, 7-band EQ room correction system
  • DSP digital control
  • Remote control with four one-touch customized presets
  • 2400W dynamic power / 1200W RMS

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