|Sonance Son of Sub Subwoofer|
|Home Theater Loudspeakers Subwoofers|
|Written by Ed Masterson|
|Saturday, 01 March 2003|
Sonance, long known as a dominant figure in the world of in-wall speakers, is the newest player in market of small and affordable subwoofers. The Sonance Son of Sub (SOS) is the smallest subwoofer in the Sonance line. It’s a self-powered sub with a 75-watt RMS amplifier and a 10-inch video shielded driver. This free-standing subwoofer measures 14 inches wide, 14 inches high, 13.5 inches deep and weighs 45 pounds. The Son of a Sub’s frequency response is listed as 35 Hz to 250 Hz. It has most of the standard features that you might expect from a powered subwoofer, such as speaker and line level inputs, speaker level outputs, crossover controls, a phase switch and an auto-on feature built into the amplifier. A neat auto-on feature automatically turns the amp on when a signal is present, and turns the amplifier off when no signal has been present for an extended period of time. The amplifier also has an anti-clipping circuit to prevent it from being overdriven. The SOS retails for a modest $349.
Sonance designs its products predominantly for the custom install market, although this product may provide value for customers who are building simple systems on their own. Although the SOS is a free-standing subwoofer, it has features that make it practical for in-cabinet or in-wall installations. It uses a forward-facing 10-inch paper cone woofer with a rubber surround and a two-inch voice coil. The crossover controls, phase switch and volume controls are located on the front of the unit behind the removable grille, allowing for easy access when the sub is flush-mounted. The variable crossover offers adjustment between 60 Hz and 250 Hz. Based on its limited frequency response, the SOS is really more of woofer than a “subwoofer.” It is designed to provide bass reinforcement with smaller speakers that cannot produce deep bass effectively, rather than to provide true sub frequency reinforcement.
The fit and finish is suitable at the level you should expect for a subwoofer at under $400. The enclosure is solid and well built, but it is finished with a very utilitarian black textured vinyl. The crossover and volume controls feel smooth and durable, but the speaker terminals are the spring-clip type, which supply a fairly weak connection and severely limit your options. The SOS is missing high-pass line level outputs, which are generally the best way to connect a satellite/subwoofer speaker system when you have separate amps and preamps. This method of connection generally helps lower-powered amplifiers to perform significantly better in the midranges and highs. If you want to use the high-pass filter in the SOS, you will have to run your high-level speaker outputs from your amplifier through the sub, thus forcing the amplifier to produce the full frequency spectrum.
I initially connected the SOS to the subwoofer output on a Classe SSP 30 MKII A/V processor. With my Revel F30s for main left and right and the Revel C30 for the center channel, the SOS seemed to be redundant. The F30s produce useful bass down into the 30 Hz range, about the same as the SOS. The SOS definitely added reinforcement in the bass, but with the combination of larger speakers and good amplification, the reinforcement therefore becomes unnecessary. I decided to perform my serious evaluation with the Snell K.5 Mk II bookshelf speakers, which are a more realistic match for the SOS. Sonance recommends placing one SOS in each front corner near the front left and right speakers. This setup helps to ensure smooth blending with the satellites. Placing subs in the corners can also help to increase the overall loudness that can be achieved. I ended up with the crossovers in the A/V processor set up so that the satellites handled 70 Hz and up, while the SOS handled everything below 70 Hz.
I started out with the movie “Blue Crush” (Universal Studios Home Video). This is the story of a surfer chick (Kate Bosworth) who lives on the north shore of Oahu. This movie features an abundance of surfing footage at the world-famous Pipeline, a surf spot known for its giant hollow barrels. For a surfer like me, this kind of surfing footage is like crack to a junkie. The film’s soundtrack also has some extreme tests for a subwoofer. The SOS did a good job of reproducing the dynamic energy of the waves crashing. With my Klipsch RSW 15 and Linn Sizmik 12.45 reference subs, I could actually feel the waves crashing rather than just hearing them. The SOS does not reach low enough to shake the room the way a true subwoofer can. To be fair, the subwoofers that I am comparing here are between four and seven times more expensive. However, my point is that the SOS is bass reinforcement rather than something designed to produce rock bottom low frequencies. Considering where many in-wall and bookshelf speakers roll off on the low end, the Sonance SOS is a welcomed addition to the lower frequencies, even if it doesn’t rearrange your lower intestines with bass.
Next I decided to watch “Scooby-Doo” (Warner Home Video), a movie I often view with my kids. In Chapter 8, the plot starts to unravel when Shaggy and Scooby stumble on the monsters’ cave and start to stir things up. Velma soon discovers that the monsters cannot survive in sunlight and, in fact, explode when they are exposed. The SOS had plenty of power to recreate the sound of the explosions and gave me a visceral home theater experience of the kind you would expect from the larger and pricier subs.
I moved on to the movie “XXX” (Columbia/TriStar Home Entertainment), starring Vin Diesel. For those of you who have not seen this film, I would describe it as a punk rock version of a James Bond flick. It combines all of the latest extreme sports stunts into a secret agent action movie. Additionally, the soundtrack has some of the best surround effects that I have heard to date. You can expect something to be flying over your head or exploding around you at any given moment. The SOS proved totally capable of shocking you with its power during the explosions. I played this movie suitably loud and the SOS did a good job at keeping up and not becoming sonically confused. The SOS only started to run out of steam during the loudest explosions. To its credit, many of the products that I have heard in this price range would have run out of steam at much lower levels. Most listeners will not find the limits of the SOS unless they consistently play movies at extreme volumes.
So how does the SOS perform on music? I tried a few different music genres and was pleasantly surprised. On the second track of the Keb Mo’s self-titled CD (Epic Records), the bass was powerful and extended nicely. Although not as well-defined as I have heard with my reference subwoofers, it effectively communicated the drive and rhythm of the music. With the SOS, the bass line in Track 5’s “Angelina” had my toes tapping and ultimately had me very involved.
I next put in the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ What Hits!? (EMI). The first track, “Higher Ground,” is my all-time favorite by the Chilis. Every time that I hear this song, I am immediately transported to my drunken college days when I would fearlessly bounce around in a mosh pit. The SOS was only borderline capable of keeping up with the demands of this listening session. If it had more amplifier power, it would have passed the test more easily, but at under $400, you can’t expect to have it all.
If you are looking for a subwoofer to reproduce true sub cycles (below 20 Hz), this is not the right product. With a frequency response down to 35 Hz, the SOS will not add useful response for those with large speakers and adequate powerful amplifiers. The lack of high-pass line-level outputs means that it is also not the best choice for those who are trying to integrate a sub into a system with separate amps and preamps. Realistically, anyone with large full-range speakers or separate amps will likely be shopping at a higher price point.
At $349, the Sonance Son of Sub is effectively designed to be, and marketed as, a value product. It may not be capable of producing the earthshaking low-frequency effects of today’s movie soundtracks the way a true subwoofer can, but it can fill in the bass nicely for those with modestly-priced home theaters or music systems with bass response. I could see the Sonance SOS working very well in rooms with in-wall music speakers in a distributed music system or in a small home theater where all of the speakers are installed in-wall. The SOS will add some pop that you rarely hear with in-walls. For under $400, it is hard to argue with the SOS as an add-on in your home.