Velodyne SPL-1200R Subwoofer Review 
Home Theater Loudspeakers Subwoofers
Written by Augie Bettencourt   
Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Velodyne Acoustics is arguably the most well known subwoofer manufacturer in the world.  In the early 1980’s, a Velodyne subwoofer was simply the subwoofer to own.  If you wanted the best subwoofer made, you purchased a Velodyne - end of story.  At that time, the Velodyne ULD Series set the standard in subwoofer design and everyone soon wanted to purchase the big subwoofer that looked like a coffee table.  By the time the 1990’s rolled around, home theater became all the rage and Dolby Digital and DTS, both 5.1 configurations with left front, center front, right front, left surround, right surround, and a separate low frequency effects (LFE) channel for deep bass, almost made owning a subwoofer mandatory.   Subwoofer demand grew, but subwoofer cabinet size began to shrink.  Companies like Velodyne started to design compact subwoofers with output levels that matched or exceeded past larger designs.  Velodyne’s engineering ability and brand-name recognition allowed it to give consumers what they wanted by developing a complete product line of compact, high-output subwoofers like the Velodyne SPL-1200R.

Setup


As I unboxed the Velodyne SPL-1200R, I was immediately struck by the quality of this subwoofer’s beautiful, black lacquer finish.  At a mere 57 pounds, it’s definitely no heavy-weight in subwoofer terms.  At 14 inches high by 14 inches wide by 16 inches deep, it’s quite petite and its small size is downright shocking for a 12-inch subwoofer.  The front panel has a black cloth grille that is removable and has a lighted, blue Velodyne logo.

Setup couldn’t be easier.  I disconnected my current reference subwoofer, which also has balanced (XLR) inputs, plugged in the power cord, ran the auto-EQ feature, adjusted the volume with the help of my Radio Shack SPL meter and had the subwoofer woofing within minutes.  I’ll discuss the one button, auto-EQ feature later in the review, but I must say that I found the one button, auto-EQ feature of this subwoofer easier to use than with any other subwoofer I have ever used before.  There aren’t many subwoofers on the market that have this feature, but I found it both invaluable and extremely simple to use.    

Features

 The SPL-R (Small, Precise, Loud – Remote) Series is available in three different models (SPL-800R, SPL-1000R and SPL-1200R) and all SPL-R Series subwoofers feature a six-band auto-EQ function, with included microphone and a full-featured remote control.  With one touch on the remote, the SPL-R generates its own test tone, analyzes that tone via the included microphone and feeds the information back to the subwoofer.  It then automatically adjusts the 6-band internal EQ to provide and best bass performance in any room, regardless of acoustical variation.  The auto-EQ function is powered by the Texas Instrument Digital Signal Processing (DSP) technology that allows precise management of the subwoofer’s crossovers, slopes, equalization, subsonic filters and distortion limiting circuitry.  Velodyne claims this technology allows the SPL-R Series subwoofers to play incredibly low and loudly, with 70% less distortion than competitive products.

Besides the addition of auto-EQ, the remote control also comes complete with four listening presets for movies, R&B-rock, jazz-classical and games; a four position phase adjustment control; night mode setting which limits the maximum output of the subwoofer for late night listening; volume control and light control.  I found the presets to be extremely helpful when selecting a listening choice, because there are four different presets, consisting of Movies, R&B - Rock, Jazz - Classical and Games.   The presets provide the following characteristics for bass reproduction:  Movies: Maximum output and impact for explosions and other action adventure movie content.  R&B - Rock: Provides the driving bass found in today’s rock music.  Jazz - Classical: The tightest, cleanest, lowest distortion bass.  Games: Maximum loudness available for the impact of video games.

All three models in the SPL-R Series subs are powered by a Class D (digital) switching amplifier delivering 1000 watts RMS and a whopping 2000 watts dynamic power!  The drivers incorporate light, stiff Kevlar-reinforced fiber cones, massive 21 lb. magnet structures (on the SPL-1000R and SPL-1200R), 2.5” to 3” copper wound voice coils and vented pole pieces.  The available finishes are black gloss, medium cherry or light maple.  MSRP for the SPL-1200R is $1,899.  

More important than bass quantity, I wanted to listen for bass quality, pitch definition, tightness, accuracy and distortion levels.  This is what many music lovers want in a subwoofer.  With that said, this is a subwoofer review, so I also pulled-out some of the most punishing, teeth-rattling, bass-centric CDs and DVDs I could find to test this subwoofer.

Music

I’m surprised that almost twenty-five years after I first saw AC/DC perform at the Oakland Coliseum, thirteen-year-old kids are still walking the malls today, proudly wearing the same AC/DC “Back in Black” shirts I purchased in 1981.  Reminiscing a bit,  the first CD I slipped into my Denon DVD-3910 DVD/CD player was AC/DC “Back in Black” (Deluxe Digipak) [ORIGINAL RECORDING REMASTERED] (Atco).  The bass was tight, punchy and had a visceral quality that could be felt as well heard.  The pounding bass-line of AC/DC never sounded more authoritative.

For great percussion compositions, look no further than Mickey Hart “Planet Drum” (Ryco).  This well-recorded CD offers some of the best drum demonstrations you’ll ever hear, even though you might sometimes feel like the music isn’t going anywhere.  On “ Temple Caves ”, you’ll hear a combination of sounds ranging from drums, conch shell, slit gongs, body percussion and even a rain stick.  With extremely low frequency bass, it’s a true test for a subwoofer and the Velodyne SPL-1200R never let me down.  Pitch definition was some of the best I’ve heard and low frequency output was impressive.  I have never heard another 12-inch subwoofer provide bass with as much low distortion and deep bass response as I have heard with the Velodyne SPL-1200R.

To add some “flava” and “phat” bass hooks, the last CD I listened to was “The Eminem     Show” (Interscope Records).  If a thirteen-year-old can be into AC/DC, then I can listen to Eminem, especially if it’s a sample of Aerosmith’s song “Dream On”.  On “Sing for the Moment,” it had all the bass slam, drive and punch that even Diddy would admire.  

Movies

Now it was time for movie watching and I started my movie viewing with “Monsters, Inc.”  (Pixar/Disney) Chapter 5, “Ted Walks to Work.”  I was surprised by how my theater was energized by the bass output of this compact subwoofer.  Bass energy could actually be felt as much as it could be heard, which is a testament to the shear amount of output this small subwoofer provides.

 One of the greatest, extremely low frequency bass demos in movie history is in U-571  (Universal Studios Home Video).   Chapter 15, “Depth Charge,” is the low frequency king and I was treated to distortion free, bass authority that is seldom heard from such a small subwoofer.  Deep bass never sounded strained or uncontrolled, not even in the least bit.

Black Hawk Down is a great, action packed movie with an amazing, sweeping soundtrack.  On Chapter 4, “Irene,” the whirring sound of the helicopter blades creates  low frequency sound pressure levels that are felt, as much as they are heard.  Anything in my home theater that wasn’t bolted down was rattling and I was treated to deep, room-shaking bass, adding to the realism of the event like no other 12-inch subwoofer I’ve heard before.

Regardless of what you think of Pearl Harbor (Buena Vista Home) as a movie, the  soundtrack is amazing.  Chapter 22, “First Strike”, has incredible dog-fight scenes, with rafter-rattling bass levels.  Explosions never seemed to stop and I could see the 12-inch driver of the Velodyne SPL-1200R moving violently, but bass quality remained tight, forceful and never out of control.

How could any comprehensive subwoofer review be complete without the bass- demonstrating movie that started it all?  I couldn’t wait to put the Jurassic Park DTS Collector’s Edition (Universal Studios Home Video) (fixed disc version PEMC-D2R2)  DVD into my Denon DVD-3910.  The Velodyne SPL-1200R made it feel like the T-Rex was stomping on my chest, as I literally felt the bass output of this compact subwoofer.  I was amazed and couldn’t believe that I wasn’t listening to a much bigger subwoofer.     

Drawbacks


At $1899 retail price, the SPL-1200R isn’t the cheapest 12-inch subwoofer on the market, but when you consider the technology, ease of use, compact size, bass quality and output level, this subwoofer is a bargain.  I also expect a subwoofer at this price level to offer a detachable power cord, for those of us who like the option to make those types of changes.  

Conclusion

Velodyne has always been known to manufacture some of the biggest, baddest subwoofers in the world, but some of their older designs were the size of coffee tables.  Velodyne applied everything they know about making great sounding, big subwoofers and now produce incredible sounding, small subwoofers.  Whether you’re an audiophile or home theater enthusiast, in minutes you can set-up the feature-rich, Velodyne SPL-1200R and listen to amazing amounts of distortion-free, accurate bass.  The Velodyne SPL-1200R isn’t inexpensive, but if what you want is a compact subwoofer that will produce prodigious amounts of accurate, distortion-free bass, this subwoofer is a bargain and I highly recommend it. 

Manufacturer Velodyne





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