|Revel Sub 30 Subwoofer|
|Home Theater Loudspeakers Subwoofers|
|Written by Jerry Del Colliano|
|Tuesday, 01 June 2004|
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The Music and Movies
“Superstition” from Stevie Wonder’s Original Musiquarium 1 (Motown - CD) was a suitably funky place to start with, testing how the Sub 30 meshed with my recently-tuned Wilson WATT Puppies. It is amazing to hear, when you make improvements to the low end of your system, how problems get fixed in the higher frequencies. I know I am supposed to be talking about what the bass sounded like, but the most notable improvement to the sound I could hear was the depth of the horns and guitars on the track. Wonder seemed more centered and focused than he had with my old Revel B15. The old Revel B15 was also professionally set up and tuned for my system, although my room wasn’t as acoustically “finished” as it is now (as if I am ever finished with my room). From Disc Two of Musiquarium, “Higher Ground” (a tune successfully covered by The Red Hot Chili Peppers) also features a deep and funky bass line. I worked with Hodas to add a little volume to the overall mix of my sub-speaker setup as compared to the more “flat” mastering studio-like sound that Hodas normally dials in for his pro audio clients. I wanted more fun and more bump than “flat,” but I didn’t want to give up quality or too much precision. After a set-up at really high levels, you can hear the Sub 30 moving a lot of air, but unless you turn your head, you’ll struggle to locate the Sub 30 in the room sonically. To me this is one of the true tests of whether your sub is performing well in your room. If you can feel and hear the low energy but can’t really locate the sub or tell exactly where the speakers roll off and the woofer takes over, you have made major strides in getting to audio heaven!
No matter how hard I looked, I couldn’t find any of those star-shaped sunglasses, but that didn’t keep me from firing up “Unfunky UFO” from Parliament’s all-time classic, Mothership Connection (PolyGram) on CD. Bootsy Collins tends to play a little higher up the bass guitar register than other bassists, giving me the chance to hear how the Sub 30 could split the workload with my Wilson WATT Puppy version 7 main speakers. While the age of the recording is evident by the analog noise you can hear across the top of the high end, the bass has some exciting sonic moments. The choppy and muted bass riffs remain punchy in the front (seemingly coming from the front speakers), while the very low end is fortified by the Sub 30. If you weren’t paying attention to the subwoofer for review purposes, you would only notice how detailed the low end sounds.
There were moments when I realized the subtle effects of the Sub 30 on my music when listening to less-than-perfect recordings. The original, muted and ‘70s-sounding Phil Spector version of “The Long and Winding Road” from Let It Be (Apple – CD) doesn’t benefit from the mid-range openness that the Stevie Wonder tracks do, but the additional bass energy perfectly synergized with the main speakers, adding to the spine-tingling emotional power of the musical experience. For the record, I like the old version better than the stripped-down version, but I would love to hear the old version be remastered for DVD-Audio (even in stereo, if that is all we could get). The art of the Beatles deserves the extra resolution, but the last time I checked with EMI, the Beatles on DVD-Audio (seemingly EMI’s preference of the high-resolution formats in the U.S.) is not coming any time soon. I will keep you all informed if I hear anything to the contrary in the future.
The kick drum on “Show Me How to Live” from Audioslave’s self-titled DVD/CD flip disc is only a precursor to the breathtakingly low bass guitar chops that are mere seconds from delighting your ears. “Low” bass can be had by the goofball with four 18-inch boomers in the back of his low rider. Real bass comes in a system where you are able to hear the subtleties of an astonishingly low bass guitar line in the middle of a hard rock maelstrom. What I heard with Audioslave is the kind of bass that can inspire a neighbors-calling-the-police-style listening session. In all seriousness, this track sounds so good that I had to justify incrementally increasing the volume of the sub (vs. the main speakers) so that I could avoid cranking the overall volume to unhealthy levels.
Bryan Dailey, Director of Content for AudioRevolution.com and drummer for our now-defunct cover band Ghetto Chicken, argues that even I can play the drums for AC/DC’s “Back in Black.” We have tried the experiment, and let me just tell you, it wouldn’t be any favorite demo of our readers. Nevertheless, “Back in Black,” as released by Sony Music on the experimental DVD-CD dual disc (the CD is good, too, but the 20-bit stereo version on the DVD is notably better-sounding), is something to behold. On a track that you have heard a million times on the radio, in a dorm room or elsewhere, the higher-resolution DVD side of the dual disc gives you the chance to run some TNT high voltage into your system. The main advantage you can hear in the bass is an increase in the overall punchiness of the track, along with an extended low end. The snare (not something that ever should come out of your subwoofer) seems to benefit from the increased solidity in the regions down below. By the chorus of the tune, you can feel and hear the syncopated hits as the band works their way back to the second verse. On “You Shook Me All Night Long,” you can hear much better performance on the kick drum. The bass guitar is resonating deep and very, very low but without ever sounding directional or as though it is obviously coming from the Revel Sub 30.
If you want to know how good your subwoofer sounds, you need to hear what Spinal Tap’s “Big Bottom” (MGM DVD) sounds like on your system. With everyone but Mick Shrimpton and Viv Savage playing bass, you can really exercise the low end of your sub, even if only for one verse of this amazing tune. With the Revel Sub 30, you can actually hear the wonderfully realistic-sounding unplayed bass on Derek Smalls’ double-neck bass guitar.
In all seriousness, “Spinal Tap” is not the best sonic demo, but it is about the most worthwhile thing I can suggest that you spin in your DVD player. Speaking of DVD players, listening to (or watching) music is one of the bright spots for the often bleak music business these days. It turns out that Generation X (among others), who have grown up on MTV, the Internet and video games, wants to watch their music as much as sit down and listen to it. One of the all-time best releases for that purpose is Led Zeppelin’s The Song Remains The Same (Warner) on DVD. Featuring live Zeppelin between sometimes cheesy fantasy sequences, this DVD has a different look for music that often gets a little over-played on FM radio in the U.S. In “No Quarter,” one of the songs that John Paul Jones was mostly in charge of, you can hear the role of the Sub 30 from the first dynamic attack. I turned the sub off at one point to see what the DVD sounded like without the low-end reinforcement, and I couldn’t stand it for more than about 15 seconds. While this recording isn’t the best ever mixed for DVD, the role of the sub in the overall emotional experience is very important. A sub isn’t supposed to hit you over the head; it is supposed to speak to your heart through important sonic information.
Okay, I admit it, no subwoofer review would be complete without a car chase, so why not one with a Ferrari 355 Spyder? In “The Rock,” as Sean Connery’s character absconds with a Hummer from a San Francisco hotel, Nicolas Cage’s character swipes a fly yellow Ferrari in what turns out to be a car chase for the ages. Hummers slamming into cars resulting in thunderous explosions make for some of the largest excursions a woofer will ever have. However, a Ferrari getting crushed by a derailed cable car takes this car chase to an entirely new and epic level. The squealing of the cable car’s wheels is eerie, but the woofer starts to warm up as the cable car starts nailing cars down a San Francisco street. When an explosion sends the cable car into the sky, the Sub 30 is at its best. A huge output of bass is audible; however, what is not audible are any distortions or signs of the woofer bottoming out.