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DVD & Blu-ray Reviews
It Happened One Night Blu-ray Review
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22 Jump Street Blu-ray Review
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22 Jump Street, the sequel to the highly successful and very funny 21 Jump Street, comes to Blu-ray in a typically excellent transfer from Sony. It also... Read More
Power Sound Audio XS30 Subwoofer ReviewHardware Subwoofer Ztagtest
Many of you may remember Tom from his early days posting on HTF. In 1999 Tom went on to become one of the drivers behind SV Subwoofers, heading up the R&D department until leaving the company in 2007. At Tom’s side was Jim Farina – originally an assembler at SV Sound who went on to earn his degree in Electrical Engineering Technology and joined Tom in the R&D department in 2003, where he stayed until 2008.
I reached out to Tom & Jim a few months ago to inquire about the possibility of reviewing one of their subwoofers. At the time, the guys were struggling just to fill their existing demand for product and asked me to be patient. About 6 weeks later, I was offered the opportunity to write the first industry review of the new XS30 subwoofer.
Fit, Finish & Specifications
The XS30 is a dual-opposed sealed subwoofer featuring two proprietary high-excursion 15” drivers, and a 725W RMS (1450W peak) BASH DSP amplifier. The XS30 measures 23.5” x 18” x 22.5” and weighs in at a substantial 111 lbs. Both drivers and the enclosure are 100% made in the USA and are assembled by Power Sound Audio in Ohio. While all Power Sound Audio’s designs are collaborations between Tom & Jim, I have it on good authority that Jim was the driving force behind the design of the XS30.
The unit I received features a standard black texture, though premium finishes are available with a slight delay and cost increment. Build quality is a very important metric on any subwoofer, and in the case of the XS30 quality is outstanding. The cabinet is exceptionally inert and well braced, featuring a pair of very solid grilles and rubber feet. Taken as a whole, the XS30 is a testament to over-engineering, careful assembly and quality materials.
Setup & Integration
The XS30 was surprisingly easy to integrate into my system as it has a very similar footprint to my Seaton SubMersive HP. Simply swapping the sub out and plugging in netted a pretty smooth unequalized response. I ended up adjusting my seating about 12” backward to optimize the response before running an Audyssey calibration, which took a total of about 40 minutes.
We’ve established that the XS30 is well built, relatively easy to set up and manufactured in the USA – but the most important question of all has yet to be answered: How good is it?
Here are a series of measurements taken at various listening positions in my room (no Audyssey), showing the response I got with XTZ's Room Analyzer II Pro. You'll note the early roll off (60Hz) in the first graph, which is a result of my 60 Hz crossover and the mains being disconnected.
Overall, the XS30 delivered usable response down to the mid teens with clear, powerful and heavily visceral bass reproduction. Once I had it dialed in, the results were astounding.
I began my evaluation of the XS30 post-calibration with a playlist of my favorite bass tracks, moving from heavy electronic bass tests all the way to classical and jazz.
Bassotronics – Bass I Love You
A track that’s infamous for its infrasonic activity (pardon the onomatopoeia), I typically use this tune to verify the low frequency extension of the subwoofer while listening for any major room interactions. The XS30 performed admirably here, digging down deep with useable response down to 15Hz. Impact and punch were also excellent, with no noticeable muddiness.
THX Ultimate Bass Test
I love this tune for its over the top bass content and variety, exhibiting everything from deep dubstep like drop effects to tight impactful bass slam. No matter how much it ages, this track is a great way to see what a subwoofer is made of. Playing the track through on the XS30 was a treat, as my chest, pant legs and everything else not glued down vibrated happily.
Mickey Hart – Planet Drum, Spirit into Sound
Mickey Hart’s solo work consists of world percussion music filled with every type of bass and drum imaginable, a single track may contain tribal drums from sub-Saharan Africa to ceremonial drums from North America, to the copper kettle drums of the Caribbean. This is a fun type of music to enjoy, and also features a great deal of very complex content that wonderfully tests sub/main integration and subwoofer musicality. I listened to these albums for close to two hours and was thoroughly impressed by the articulation and natural sound of the XS30. While the sound of the XS30 is characteristic of other dual-opposed sealed designs I have heard, the XS30 has a level of punch and bounce to its sound that makes listening all the more enjoyable.
The Dolby Atmos downmix to TrueHD in Disney/Pixar’s Brave is one of my favorite reference Blu-ray surround experiences. Filled with a great combination of surround activity, music, action and some moments of great LFE, this is a great film to verify overall performance of a home theater system. I chose this as my first movie to test the XS30 with as I was worried about overall integration and cohesiveness with my mains first and foremost.
The XS30 didn’t disappoint, delivering a great deal of low frequency energy when required during the opening scene with the bear, but also managing to politely back up the drums of the opening musical montage without dominating. Throughout the rest of the film I more or less forgot the XS30 was there and just enjoyed myself. What more could you ask for?
Dredd is over the top, it’s a little campy and it’s a whole lot of fun. It just so happens that Dredd is also overflowing with LFE. I will admit to replaying a certain scene involving a high-caliber machine gun and some concrete shredding over and over again when testing subwoofers. The XS30 was a champ here, delivering deep bass and plenty of impact. Where this subwoofer truly excels however, is in delivering the midbass punch we’re all used to hearing in IMAX theaters and other commercial venues. The XS30 doesn’t have the ability to get as subsonic as some of its much more expensive competitors, but delivers so darn well in the fun factor department that this is quickly forgotten. We aficionados appreciate bragging about our response below 15Hz, but the content that really matters is between 20 Hz and 80 Hz, and this is where the XS30 shines. Its nimble, tight bass reproduction couples with a lot of displacement to give a ton of slam for your dollar, and while watching a movie like Dredd, it is impossible not to appreciate the value this sub represents.
War of the Worlds
No matter how far we get past the expiration date on this film, I can’t help myself. The pod emergence scene is still a reference for sheer bass output and never manages to disappoint with a truly capable subwoofer. The XS30 was solid here, shaking the walls and filling the room, yet clearly not able to pressurize the room to the same extent as my SubMersive. When you stop and think about this, it’s not so surprising. The SubMersive HP’s 2400 watts are far in excess of the XS30’s 725 watts, and probably make up for the difference in ultra-low frequency output. All that said, it’s important that you understand I’m comparing the XS30 against what is currently considered the best subwoofer available, a unit that costs double the XS30’s list price.
What is it that we all look for in a subwoofer? Value certainly sits high on most of our lists, but ultimately we all buy a subwoofer expecting a certain level of performance. When Jim and Tom founded Power Sound Audio, they realized that they would have to deliver in both of these arenas to shake up the market. I’ve had the good fortune to listen to several of their products, including the XS15 and XV15 in addition to the XS30 I reviewed here. Across their product line, Power Sound Audio subwoofers excel at delivering clean and visceral bass with an emphasis on a crazy high “fun factor”.
Fun factor is a term I’ve used twice in this review but haven’t defined, so let me step back and do so. Fun factor is a sub that can put a giant smile on your face just because it has that intangible interaction with your physiology, the room and the content that reassures you that you’re hearing ALL the bass, and feeling it too! The sub with fun factor is the one that makes you want to play your favorite bass heavy content on repeat while you grin and giggle like an idiot. This is the essence of Power Sound Audio, and it’s a wonderful element to discover in a home theater product.
To step back and consider the price at which these units are selling for, it’s truly amazing what Jim and Tom have accomplished. The XS30 is a superb performer with a very fair price tag. In this reviewer’s opinion, at its current price of $1149 the Power Sound Audio XS30 represents one of the finest values available in home theater today and should be at the very top of your audition list. Highly Recommended!
Reviewed by: Dave Upton