Over the last twenty-five years of system building, external subwoofers have never been part of the equation for me. Despite my love of deep bass, my love for the seamless continuity between drivers has always won out over the prospect of deep but poorly integrated bass. Bolstering this attitude has been the several systems I have heard along the way with subwoofers that had overblown bass that stuck out like a throbbing thumb, or, just as egregious, systems where I could not detect the deep bass that should have been easily perceived. My Lansche 4.1 with its dual sided 10" powered bass drivers have ultimately satisfied, so why mess with what's working?
I had very good reason to investigate the offer of two GoldenEar Technology SuperSub XXL subs to help fill my 33' x 70' x 14' listening room, however. For one thing, my experience and review of the GoldenEar Triton One speakers had been such a positive experience. The Triton One punched way above its weight with incredible bass performance, so the prospect of GoldenEar taking on bass in the form of an outboard subwoofer was too intriguing to pass up. Never mind the pedigree that comes with a GoldenEar product. Sandy Gross, founder of GoldenEar Technology, was also a founding partner in Polk Audio and Definitive Technology. In other words, Sandy knows his way around a speaker. Putting all my cynicism and prejudices on the back burner, I opened my mind to this opportunity and gave them a shot.
Weighing 82lbs and costing $1999 (the smaller $1249 SuperSub X is on the way), the SuperSub XXL subs are substantial in weight and girth. Yet unlike many other boxy looking subs on the market, the SuperSub XXL with its beveled corners and trapezoidal shape, not to mention the flawless gloss black finish, fits in perfectly with a well-appointed room. The SuperSub XXL is powered by an 1800 watt Class D amp. Drivers are set up in a dual plane inertial balanced configuration (patent pending), and are made of polymer infused cellulose fiber. The passive radiators are Medite. Utilizing only two controls on the rear, loudness and frequency adjustment (from 10Hz -250Hz), setup is extremely straightforward. Just grab a disc that you are familiar with and use your ears to lead the way. Position the SuperSub XXL's closer to the rear wall or corners and the bass gets bigger sounding by engaging the corner loading reinforcement; move them further away from the wall and corners and that brings out the transient accuracy at the minor expense of a sense of power. The SuperSub XXL's stayed true to these basic positioning rules of subwoofers and posed no eccentricities that corrupted the process.
The SuperSub XXL's landed midway between the speaker and the front wall, roughly three feet to the outside of each speaker.
After some brief experimentation, I could detect no gaps or discontinuities between the SuperSub XXL subs and the adjustable bass drivers of the 4.1. The Lansche 4.1 were adjusted down a few dB from120-250Hz, and the subs were integrated to enhance and bolster the bass of the Lansche 4.1 more than completely replace it. I was really surprised how easily it came together.
My system of choice for this review consisted of the Pass Labs XA200.5 Mono amplifiers and the XP-20 preamp. Balanced outputs from the XP-20 went to the amplifiers, and single-ended outputs went to the subs. All wire was MIT with the outstanding MIT ACC 169 speaker interface and MA-X SHD Interconnects and Power chords. The Krell Connect Streamer and Triangle Art Signature turntable served as musical sources.
Wanting to first hear how the SuperSub XXL's could enhance some mellow music, the low bass on "That's the Way She Loves" from Aaron Neville Warm Your Heart on vinyl was helped along by the SuperSub XXL subs, with added dynamics and enhanced sense of texture and growl. The bass gains not only texture but a sense of grip, the equivalent of the torque offered by a great automobile. The music is propelled forward with certainty, which is an expression of the fine transient performance and low distortion of the SuperSub XXL's. There is no lag in the bass getting off the line. Ultimately the first impression is one of great musicality, speed and effortless power.
On "Crazy" from Willie Nelson's Greatest Hits, I tweaked up the volume of the SuperSub XXL subs, you know, just because I could. What happened really surprised me. The bass didn't just get louder; the music's presentation began to take on the shape of a live event. Bass at a live show is almost always louder, deeper, more defined and powerful than it is on a compressed recording. And with the SuperSub XXL's, despite sticking out in the mix more due to the tweak in volume, the low end was completely believable. The tone, texture and control held true and positively charged the music. "Night Life" from the same Willie Nelson title brings the live blues club into my space. The lowest notes were rendered with fine resolution and definition. I get no sense there is anything missing. There doesn't appear to be any spot on the frequency curve where the Super Sub XXL's are more comfortable or at ease than the other. Low 20Hz bass is as clearly audible and as controlled as the 250Hz point.
Joe Satriani's guitar masterpiece "Crystal Planet" from Crystal Planet has bass that is a bit bloated around 60-80Hz range, though it does impress below that. As the song comes to a close, the listener is treated to some rapid fire double bass drum antics and the SuperSub XXL subs just take it all in stride. We are talking a major crescendo that will have you fearing for your whole system, save the SuperSub XXL subs. I never once felt like I was antagonizing them or nearing their limits in any way.
On the acoustic bass from Blue Train, John Coltranes' stellar work of American art, the SuperSub XXL's enhance the stature of the bass without changing its essential character in any way. The lowest reaches are painted with plenty of airy resonance. There is no muddying of the bass range obscuring natural timbre allowing for a full expression of the instrument.
Why not just turn up the volume on my adjustable woofers in the Lansche 4.1 you ask? Because the SuperSub XXL subs keep the main drivers from having to work beyond their comfort zone, and the SuperSub XXL subs really own the low bass space. The drivers on the Lansche simply cannot move enough air to compete. The ability to simply overlap the low frequencies of my 4.1 without a great deal of fretting worked just fine.
My system does double duty as a two-channel home theater as well as two-channel music. Watching the much-anticipated return of Game of Thrones, the GoldenEar Technology SuperSub XXL's give the soundtrack a fantastic foundation. There is a great deal of low frequency impact buried in all the horse-charging, soundtrack-swelling glory. My wife even basked in the SuperSub XXL's performance. "Wow this sounds amazing, the subs really sound great!" As a married audiophile/reviewer, it is really nice to have that affirmation from someone who loves music and movies, but doesn't care a bit about the gear. That speaks volumes. After all, this is hi-fi, not brain surgery. This should all be fun, and the inclusion of the SuperSub XXL's pushes the fun meter deep into the red.
In most rooms a single SuperSub XXL should suffice. On the other hand, I listened to one sub in isolation for a while, and I personally prefer the symmetry created by two subs in my large space. Smaller rooms could easily be overloaded by the massive output capacity of two SuperSub XXL's if not carefully set up.
Acoustic bass? Check. Electric bass and Soundtrack effects? No sweat. Everything I threw at the GoldenEar Technology SuperSub XXL subwoofers sounded fantastic. They brought music and soundtracks to life in a way that is very compelling. With a relatively small investment, you can take your system to a whole ‘nother level. This is an upgrade that offers outstanding value and sheer quantity of improvement compared upgrading most parts of an audio system. Build quality and design are both first-rate and easy to integrate into a nice room. The subs received ooh's and ahh's from visitors, offering great pride in ownership.
GoldenEar Technology has really done it right with their SuperSub XXL. Go for it and have the time of your audio life!
SuperSub XXL Subwoofer
Retail: USD $1999
P.O. Box 141
Stevenson, MD 21153