Budget subwoofer comparison

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bbslo

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Budget subwoofer comparison
« on: 21 May 2016, 05:16 am »
I recently picked up the Pioneer SW8 MK2 and the Martin Logan Dynamo 300. Since I've seen very few comparisons of these two budget subwoofers, I thought I'd post some thoughts.

First, let me say that this was a short and basic comparison where I put the subwoofers side by side and connected one high level and one RCA and then swapped the set-up and listened again. I listened to a variety of music via CD and DAC. Also, I only listen to music so theater use wasn't important to me. My room is about 12 by 20 with an partly open adjacent room about 10 by 12 and it has low carpet.

The two subwoofers are very similar physically. They are very close in size though the ML is a bit taller and wider. The black vinyl wood grain is similar though the Pioneer is clearly more like wood grain and the ML is more like a black cube. The pioneer has a blue light on the front and the ML has a red light on the back. The Pioneer has a bottom firing 8" woofer (coated paper I think) and a side port. The ML has a bottom firing 8" polypro woofer and a bottom firing port. The amp panel on each unit is almost identical. I would guess they came from the same factory although the Pioneer is stated at 50watts/100peak and the ML at 75/150 peak. I believe both are D class. The Pioneer has a hum (several individual reviews talk about this on some units) that is noticeable in a quiet room. The ML has a hum too, but it's much quieter.

At first listen one thing stood out: the Pioneer seemed to put out more bass at the same volume. After a few minutes of listening it became clear that the Pioneer had a little boost in its bass output. This makes sense because the measurements I've seen show a 40hz bump in the output. I couldn't find a measurement for the ML -- I'd love to see one. After some more listening that boost started to feel a bit artificial. I'm sure it would depend on the room and the speakers, but when I was able to listen side by side I found the ML to be less noticeable, but more even-keeled in the bass it added. I had both units crossed over about 70Hz and the volume at about 60%. On some tracks I prefered the Pioneer and the extra oomph; on most I prefered the ML. One other thing I noticed is that on a few tracks with heavy bass played loudly, the side firing port of the Pioneer created some port noise that was not present in the ML -- not sure if that was because of the flared design of the ML port or if it was due to the fact that it fires down.

In the end, I could be happy with either one though comparing them side by side my preference is for the ML. For the money they are both pretty amazing.

And, if you're wondering, I did play them both at the same time to see what that was like. They were side by side so not placed properly for two subwoofers. It was kind of fun, but probably too much bass for my ears. I suppose with better placement and a little reduced volume the two together could have sounded very nice.


JLM

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Re: Budget subwoofer comparison
« Reply #1 on: 21 May 2016, 11:59 am »
Thanks for the write-up and the effort that took.

I note that the stated F3 for the Pioneer is only 38 Hz while the ML is 32 Hz.  Hard to call either a subwoofer, but for roughly $150 you can't expect much. 

But to put that into perspective the remarkable $300/pair JBL LSR305 (small active 2-way with 5 inch woofer) is rated down to 41 Hz and you don't need a separate power amp.

bbslo

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Re: Budget subwoofer comparison
« Reply #2 on: 21 May 2016, 06:39 pm »
Good point. I was unsure about adding one since my speakers are rated down to about 41Hz. I was pretty happy without the sub, before I heard them with the sub.

I did see one professional review measure the Pioneer sub to 31hz. I found both subs produced fairly even sound levels down to about 30hz test tones before rolling off sharply. I also found that both produced satisfying added bass to my speakers and was surprised to find that, after listening, I set their crossover at about 60-70Hz when I expected I would set it at about 50Hz.

The added bass is not noticeable on all music of course, but it's very nice compared to the speakers alone on enough of the music I listen to to make the addition worthwhile.

At some point when I find a good deal on a used sub at the next level -- like a REL T3 or a Pinnacle Baby Boomer -- I'd like to get it to compare to the ML.

charmerci

Re: Budget subwoofer comparison
« Reply #3 on: 21 May 2016, 07:46 pm »
If you want to get to the next level a bit at a time, I'd recommend hanging out here.


http://www.avsforum.com/forum/113-subwoofers-bass-transducers/


They're pretty picky on cheap subs - under $500 new. When you get to the more pricey stuff, they tend to want room shaking ones for home theaters.

I.Greyhound Fan

Re: Budget subwoofer comparison
« Reply #4 on: 21 May 2016, 09:43 pm »
If you decide to upgrade your sub on a budget, look at the used market.  I just bought a used Martin Logan Original Dynamo on Ebay for $180  to pair with my other ML Original Dynamo.  The Original Dynamo's are nothing like the 300.  Check Audiogon and Ebay for good deals on REL, Velodyne and ML subs to name a few.

bbslo

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Re: Budget subwoofer comparison
« Reply #5 on: 22 May 2016, 03:49 am »
Good ideas and suggestions - thanks!