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bigbassman 10-19-2006 06:31 PM

Sound Quality Notes for Drivers
Great 12 Challenge - Subjective Listening Tests:

First off, I'd like to thank Loyd Lowry, Chad Hicks, Sean Belanger, Nick Morgan, Ramos, Nick Lemons, Jake from Sundown Audio, and anyone else I guys really made this possible and I'm still amazed we were able to get done what we got done in such a short amount of time. Glad I could be a part of it! Let's get to the results.


Drivers were reviewed in no specific order...all testing was conducted in an E-150 full-size cargo van, with power being provided by a PG Tantrum 1200.1. Power was constant from 2 to 4 ohms, so 2 and 4 ohm DVC drivers received the same amount of power. The subwoofer preout voltage was not adjusted during testing to remove that as a variable. Listening material included the following:

Harry Gregson-Williams - Chronicles of Narnia OST - The Battle
Eva Cassidy - Wayfaring Stranger
Deanna Bogart - OK, I'll Play the Blues
Dream Theater - Stream of Consciousness
The Doors - Back Door Man
The Eagles - Hotel California (HFO)
IASCA demo disc - track 7
John Williams - Theme from Superman II
Henry Mancini - Theme from the Pink Panther
Dire Straits - Brothers in Arms
Chris Izaak - Baby Did a Bad Bad Thing

Individual Observations:

Note: due to time constraints, not all woofers that were tested for SPL were subjectively tested. I tried to get as many that most people would use for SQ or SQ-like applications.

Dayton Reference 12

* Lacked low end presence - weak on the lower registers. On Gregson-Williams’ “The Battle”, there’s a thundering drum passage @ 36 seconds into the track and again at about a minute; on a proper substage it should be resounding but controlled, and give the recording a sense of being in a large orchestral space...with the Dayton, it made some feeble noises and that was it. Disappointing.
* Transient response was acceptable, although not particularly impressive on very dynamic material
* The loss of a confident lower octave noticeable on tracks such as "Brothers in Arms".

Elemental Designs e12a.22

Did a respectable job on the test material, good handling of complex passages – its drawback is a lack of relative output compared to some of the other woofers on very low subbass, such as the 16Hz infrasound in Williams’ Superman II score.

Rainbow Vanadium

One of the (many) things I enjoyed about this woofer was its "punchiness"; on upright bass notes it had a strong "pluck" from the instrument, and it wasn't overbearing at all to the front stage. Handled double bass with aplomb. Its one shortcoming, if it had one, was relatively low output compared to "beefier" drivers such as the Mag D2 or W6v2. However, for a pure SQ application it'd be hard to go wrong here. It’s also a very visually appealing speaker with excellent build quality.

Rainbow Profi 12

Not quite as adept as the Vanadium for LFE, but the Profi put up quite a fight. Kickdrums were solid and well-defined, but once again, if you have a lot of power on tap for your substage, these might not be the drivers to choose.

Aura Sound MR 12.4

From a cosmetic standpoint, probably the best-looking driver all weekend – if not the most unique. But it's not all looks - this thing came to play. I played the rapid double bass of "Stream of Consciousness", and it just laughed, begged for more. The kettle drums of "The Battle" were deafening, but never out of place. I found myself just enjoying the music, instead of nitpicking over the driver's mistakes...because there weren't any! I'm really hard-pressed to find any faults with this woofer sonically - the price is the only drawback :)

Soundsplinter RL-P

Honestly, I was a little disappointed with the RL-p. On "Wayfaring Stranger", the bass line was "lazy", for lack of a better term - it seemed to pick and choose the notes it wanted to play, and the results weren't pleasing. "The Battle" lacked command on the bottom octave, sounding a lot like the weak LFE of the Dayton Reference.

Fi Audio Q12

The Fi wasn't as punchy as the Aura or Rainbows with fast kickdrums, but it wasn't sloppy either. Unlike the RL-p, it had much better low end extension, and you could tell it was really reaching down into those low notes to fill out the music. For anyone that thinks the Q and the Mag D2 are the same driver, you obviously haven't listened to both of them side by side :) The Q is a good driver, don't get me wrong - but the Mag simply brings more of the music out. The price differential might have something to do with it, though :D

Orion XTR3

Nothing really remarkable about this speaker...boomy and unrefined on the low end, and couldn't keep up with fast transients well. Avoid for SQ use.

Pioneer Premier 2000SPL

This woofer struck me as an SPL-based driver that just happens to sound decent. While it commanded the low drums in orchestral pieces, the top end was sloppy and unimpressive - stand up bass suffered as the timbre just wasn't quite there. But it didn't hold back when called upon to reproduce the 16Hz rumble in the finale of "Superman II" - a track that paralyzed other woofers. Just don't have your LP crossover set too high.

Durabrand 12

For $40, this one sucked. I think I heard two distinct notes out of it, and that was died in SPL testing with 50 watts after I was done with it. Even the Q Power we tested previously put up more of a fight.


From DIY Mobile Audio, I was expecting more. The cone was already dented before testing even started, just an omen of the build quality problems this driver had during the weekend. I never felt "right" with this - it seemed like it was missing the fundamental notes, like it was "glossing over" complex bass lines. It wasn't overbearing or difficult to blend with the front stage, but it wasn't very musical either. And by the end of the test, it looked like it got beat up pretty badly - all in the course of 48 hours. Durability is not this speaker's forte, and neither is sounding particularly good.

Resonant Engineering SR 12

Just an all-around good performer - not quite as sonically "quick" as the Aura/Rainbows, nor as deep or commanding as the 2000SPL, but not lacking in either of those departments either. But with RE's move to dealer sales, the price of this woofer is not competitive compared to offerings from other companies.

JL W6v2

Say what you want about CA&E reviewers being idiots (and after reading their "review" of the SI Mag D2, I'm not sure idiot is a strong enough word), but Tom Nousaine was right - this is a damn fine woofer at any cost. It didn't do any one thing perfectly, but it did everything excellently. The timbre and musicality of a single kickdrum was dead-on, as well as the thundering gut-wrenching shake of large orchestral drums. It was just a fun driver to listen to...I even strayed a little from my designated test material to play some KMFDM and Junkie XL, and it performed admirably. Put this in a low-tuned ported enclosure, give it power, and you can't go wrong.

Crystal COMPX 12

* Lagged on the fast transients of "Stream of Consciousness"
* Did have a powerful low end, but overall not a driver suited for SQ applications

Mass Destruction Sidewinder

Sonically, very similar to the Orion XTR 3 - a sloppy, one or two-noted speaker that's better suited for street beating than SQ reference material. This was the second time I had heard the MD Sidewinder, and I wasn't impressed for musicality.

db Drive PLW12D2

Notes that should have been tight and clearly defined, weren't on this speaker. Mancini's "Pink Panther" theme has two distinct notes in the introduction, one higher and one lower - on a good system these have a very defined boundary in which they need to be placed. On this driver, like the MD Sidewinder and even RL-p to some degree, the notes "bled over" those limits and sounded bloated.

Funkin Audio MothaFunkin 12

It may be able to handle four strapped Sundown SAZ-1500D's, but I'd avoid this driver unless rap is part of your daily playlist. Distinct notes were slurred together, and it was very localizable in the soundstage. I did appreciate the terminal setup, especially for a DVC driver - there are four sets of terminals, so each coil gets two spring-loaded posts per lead.

Oz Audio ME

The little cousin to the P (which had problems of its own during SPL testing), the Me was a competent driver in the subjective tests, with LFE to spare. Very good sense of pace and timing, with a mastery of all kinds of instruments from the guitar of "Back Door Man" to kicks to kettle drums. Recommended.

Stereo Integrity BM 12:

I was eagerly waiting to test this driver, and with Nick Lemons in the passenger seat, we took it for a spin. I was impressed with its handling of complex material, it didn't shy away from material that humbled other woofers. Excellent transients, confident sub-30Hz response, and just melted right into the stage. If there's anything lacking from the Mag, it would be overall output - but for the cost, I'm not complaining one bit.

Stereo Integrity Mag D2

What can I say about this driver that hasn't already been said? One of the best offerings out there...although after this weekend I think there are a few strong competitors in its price range :) The reason why I chose the Aura over it had to do with tonal quality – I just felt that the Aura was a more natural-sounding driver, but it was a really close call.

Top choices:

1. Aura Sound MR 12.4
2. Stereo Integrity Magnum D2
3. Rainbow Vanadium
4. JL W6v2
5. Stereo Integrity BM/Fi Q – hard to pick a clear favorite here

Honorable mention goes to the Rainbow Profi.

That's all, folks! Remember, all of this is subjective and it's just in my very humble and sometimes idiotic opinion. YMMV, offer not valid in all 50 states, void where prohibited, do not remove label under penalty of law, etc, etc...

~ Jim

007 10-21-2006 02:51 PM

Re: Sound Quality Notes for Drivers
I think THD measurements would have been beneficial here.

bigbassman 10-21-2006 07:11 PM

Re: Sound Quality Notes for Drivers
at reference level.. its a moot point..

low power, low excursion situation...

Loyd L.

Armageddon 10-31-2006 08:26 AM

Re: Sound Quality Notes for Drivers

Originally Posted by bigbassman
at reference level.. its a moot point..

low power, low excursion situation...

Loyd L.

What box were these drivers in? Whatever recommended or just the sealed box you were using?

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