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    Hardware Reviews


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    Power Sound Audio XS30 Subwoofer Review

    Hardware Subwoofer Ztagtest
    If you haven’t heard the name of our newest forum sponsor Power Sound Audio yet, don’t worry; it’s only a matter of time before the brand goes completely viral. Co-founded by Tom Vodhanel and Jim Farina and headquartered in Mineral Ridge, Ohio; Power Sound Audio is an American audio company to its core. Both the co-founders have a long history in the industry and are known for designing killer products that deliver impressive bang for the buck. This same philosophy has become the core of what Power Sound Audio does today, producing high quality subwoofers at affordable prices while never compromising on performance.

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    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.

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    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.


    Performance

    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?

    Measurements

    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.

    XS30-1.jpg

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    XS30-4.jpg

    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.

    Music Impressions

    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.

    Movie Impressions

    Brave
    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
    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.

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    Closing Thoughts

    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




    26 Comments

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    Matthew Anderson
    Oct 27 2013 01:24 PM

    Very nice review Dave. The XS30 looks like one fine sub. I am glad you mentioned that you had some experience with the XS15 and XV15 as well. I leaning towards dual XV15s with my listening and watching being about 50/50 for music and movies. What were your impressions of the XV15 and do you plan on writing a review of that sub. Thanks.

    Very nice review Dave. The XS30 looks like one fine sub. I am glad you mentioned that you had some experience with the XS15 and XV15 as well. I leaning towards dual XV15s with my listening and watching being about 50/50 for music and movies. What were your impressions of the XV15 and do you plan on writing a review of that sub. Thanks.

    The XV15 had that typical ported sub sound - by that I mean lots of air movement, very tactile and a little longer decay with more bloom. It's a fantastic sub, and I strongly considered buying a pair of them because they just slam so hard!

      • Matthew Anderson likes this
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    Nathometheatre
    Jan 26 2014 06:07 PM
    Great review! I'm currently selling my SVS PB12/plus2 so I can buy dual XS30's. I can't wait to get them! Tom makes a fantastic product especially for the price. Simply can't be beat in my opinion.


    Sent from my iPad using HTF

    Would this be a step up from my nearly 8 year-old SVS PC Plus 20-39?

     

    My new dedicated room will be sealed, 12x10x8 feet.

    I think so - I've heard their various cylinder subs and this beast has a lot more power.

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    Robert Crawford
    Mar 05 2014 09:32 AM
    How in the hell you move that big boy around? It looks beautiful and no doubt it gives you what you want out of subwoofer.
    I walked it very slowly :-). Seriously , I took my time

    Dave, I have a PB/12 Plus 2, an early one with the original drivers.  I am still quite happy with it, most of the time.  My HT is about 4,000 cf.  My main complaint with the SVS is it does sometimes lose control and produce some very noticeable chuffing.  Do you have any opinion how the XS30b might compare?  Music is my #1 priority, so a sealed sub might just do the trick, but I wonder if I will still get at least the same pressure levels for movies.  I suspect extension is noticeably better.  There is also the XV30b, which looks like a clone of my SVS, but I suspect it won't do anything (or much) to solve the chuffing issue.

     

    I sure wish it had double the power.

    Now I realize there is an XS30 and an XS30b.  Is the b a newer model?

    I believe so, but would have to check with them to be sure.

    In my opinion, this sub will perform very well next to your SVS. No need to replace one, just go to two subs and enjoy overall improved bass response. This will be especially noticeable on music if you get it dialed in well. 

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    Tom Vodhanel
    Mar 13 2014 01:17 PM

    Dave, I have a PB/12 Plus 2, an early one with the original drivers.  I am still quite happy with it, most of the time.  My HT is about 4,000 cf.  My main complaint with the SVS is it does sometimes lose control and produce some very noticeable chuffing.  Do you have any opinion how the XS30b might compare?  Music is my #1 priority, so a sealed sub might just do the trick, but I wonder if I will still get at least the same pressure levels for movies.  I suspect extension is noticeably better.  There is also the XV30b, which looks like a clone of my SVS, but I suspect it won't do anything (or much) to solve the chuffing issue.

     

    I sure wish it had double the power.

     

     

     Hi John,  I believe you would find the XS30 sounds very different from your current subwoofer. If headroom for the mid and upper bass is what you are after the XS30 is a very good choice. 

     

     There should be no concerns for port noise from the XV30f.  The laminar flow capabilities combined with the down firing port really minimize any chance of this.  Also, many times we label noise "port noise" and he immediate thought is a "chuff" type of sound as the port exceeds flow capabilities. Often, this noise isn't caused by port restriction. Instead it is strong bass being sent to the subwoofer under its "tuning" frequency. When this happens we usually depend on electrical signal manipulation to attenuate the signal enough to avoid such audible "noise".

     

     Tom V.

     Power Sound Audio 

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    Tom Vodhanel
    Mar 13 2014 01:19 PM

    Now I realize there is an XS30 and an XS30b.  Is the b a newer model?

     

     

     *b* =  bstock.  These are usually subwoofers returned within their 30 day trial period. These tend to be very rare....maybe one/month on average.  Once we get them back we will QC them to ensure they perform 100% and look like new(or reasonably close to like new). Then we pop them up on the outlet center for 5% off. They tend to sell in a few minutes..:)

    Tom V.

    Power Sound Audio 

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    Tom Vodhanel
    Mar 13 2014 01:31 PM

    Dave, I have a PB/12 Plus 2, an early one with the original drivers.  I am still quite happy with it, most of the time.  My HT is about 4,000 cf.  My main complaint with the SVS is it does sometimes lose control and produce some very noticeable chuffing.  Do you have any opinion how the XS30b might compare?  Music is my #1 priority, so a sealed sub might just do the trick, but I wonder if I will still get at least the same pressure levels for movies.  I suspect extension is noticeably better.  There is also the XV30b, which looks like a clone of my SVS, but I suspect it won't do anything (or much) to solve the chuffing issue.

     

    I sure wish it had double the power.

     

     

     Wishing the XS30 had double the power?  The improvements would be fairly subtle, this is a well matched system.  Remember, while going from 725 watts to 1450 watts certainly would sound impressive in marketing speak....BEST case would be a 3dB gain across the entire operating bandwidth....let's say 10hz to 100hz.  In this specific case you may see about 1.5dB - 2dB of that in the mid/upper bass. You'll lose a bit to thermal compression/DSP "throttle back" requirements to keep the voice coil from over heating. In the deeper bass...we are approaching the linear excursion limits with the current  design. We *might* be able to tick another dB out of it with double the wattage but that's difficult to say. 

     

     Now you could use a tensile strength 15s with more power handling, and more throw like Mark's Submersive....add in TRIPLE the amp power...and you've got a real monster on your hands. Of course you're at 2.5(?) the pricing too..:)

     

     Tom V.

     Power Sound Audio 

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    Tom Vodhanel
    Mar 13 2014 01:32 PM

    Would this be a step up from my nearly 8 year-old SVS PC Plus 20-39?

     

    My new dedicated room will be sealed, 12x10x8 feet.

     

     Quite an upgrade as I'm intimately familiar with both..:)

    Tom V. 
    Power Sound Audio 

    What I'd like to see...for the uber audiophile...

     

    A sub ran with a(relatively speaking) fast tube of 10 watts...

     Often, this noise isn't caused by port restriction. Instead it is strong bass being sent to the subwoofer under its "tuning" frequency. When this happens we usually depend on electrical signal manipulation to attenuate the signal enough to avoid such audible "noise".

     

     Tom V.

     Power Sound Audio 

    Thanks Tom.  I suspect that is exactly what it is.  Is that less likely to happen with a sealed sub?

     

    As far as what I am looking for, it might involve more headroom in mid and upper bass.  I don't cross it over at an extremely low frequency.  Usually in the 70 to 80 Hz range.  Even though the Thiels are supposed to be flat to 30 Hz, they eat power like there's no tomorrow and keeping the crossover reasonable seems to help.  Plus, I do like the sound slightly on the "meaty" side.  What I'm looking for, in general terms, is something with at least as good extension, but cleaner for music.

    Thanks Tom.  I suspect that is exactly what it is.  Is that less likely to happen with a sealed sub?

     

     

     

    That can not, at all, happen with a sealed sub.

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    Tom Vodhanel
    Mar 13 2014 02:16 PM

    What I'd like to see...for the uber audiophile...

     

    A sub ran with a(relatively speaking) fast tube of 10 watts...

     

     Every time I hear the phrase "fast bass" it reminds me of of a conversation I had with Tom Nousaine back in the 1990s.  I questioned him on a recent review and why a subwoofer had very little clean output at 20hz in his testing. His response (paraphrasing) was along the lines of..."well, they advertise it as "fast bass"....maybe the bass was so fast it escaped my room before I could measure it?"

     

     Tom V.

     Power Sound Audio 

     Every time I hear the phrase "fast bass" it reminds me of of a conversation I had with Tom Nousaine back in the 1990s.  I questioned him on a recent review and why a subwoofer had very little clean output at 20hz in his testing. His response (paraphrasing) was along the lines of..."well, they advertise it as "fast bass"....maybe the bass was so fast it escaped my room before I could measure it?"

     

     Tom V.

     Power Sound Audio 

     

    That is hysterical.

     

    But not the same thing as a tube...(which I know you know that)...

    Back in the dark ages...when Pyle's "New Wave"(or was it Purple Wave?) was "it" in car audio...

     

    Friend of mine put triple 15's in a Tempo and wondered why he didn't have "anything below 30hz"...(nevermind his "reference" was a Cassingle of Eazy E)

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    Tom Vodhanel
    Mar 13 2014 02:34 PM

    Thanks Tom.  I suspect that is exactly what it is.  Is that less likely to happen with a sealed sub?

     

    As far as what I am looking for, it might involve more headroom in mid and upper bass.  I don't cross it over at an extremely low frequency.  Usually in the 70 to 80 Hz range.  Even though the Thiels are supposed to be flat to 30 Hz, they eat power like there's no tomorrow and keeping the crossover reasonable seems to help.  Plus, I do like the sound slightly on the "meaty" side.  What I'm looking for, in general terms, is something with at least as good extension, but cleaner for music.

     

     I wouldn't say the subwoofer "order" (sealed, PR, ported, etc) would itself be more/less prone to "audible noises" when driven to its limits. The key is design refinement and to a large degree component quality.  Give us your plus/2 design and allow us to "refine" the electrical side of things and bit and I'm sure we could minimize the noise you are hearing and improve the sound quality. The designer responsible for your plus/2 performance did his best....but he has learned quite a bit in the last 10 years..:)

     

     All of the Power-X subwoofers use advanced DSP integrated amplification. This allows much great precision with the system limiters, compressor, attack, release, etc, etc. There are no performance metrics for this yet so I would say the best source of information would be subjective comments from users and reviewers. 

     

     Which "tuning" mode are you running with the plus/2? (how many ports open, switch setting on the sub?)

    Tom V.

    Power Sound Audio 

    Thanks again Tom.  I have one port open with the switch set to 16Hz.  In the years I've had the sub, I've tried different combinations.  I hope that is the correct combination for the lowest tuning.  I am rather certain that what I mentioned, which doesn't happen very often, is the sub being fed a signal that is too loud and too low for it to handle.

     

    I'm actually quite impressed how the Plus/2 holds up after all this time.  It's an excellent performer.  I'm just at the point where I wouldn't mind something a little cleaner.  A little more extension wouldn't hurt...

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    Tom Vodhanel
    Mar 13 2014 03:02 PM

    Thanks again Tom.  I have one port open with the switch set to 16Hz.  In the years I've had the sub, I've tried different combinations.  I hope that is the correct combination for the lowest tuning.  I am rather certain that what I mentioned, which doesn't happen very often, is the sub being fed a signal that is too loud and too low for it to handle.

     

    I'm actually quite impressed how the Plus/2 holds up after all this time.  It's an excellent performer.  I'm just at the point where I wouldn't mind something a little cleaner.  A little more extension wouldn't hurt...

     

     This could be a case of port flow limitations. dual 12s with a single 4" port.  If you haven't experimented a bit as of yet, try leaving the porting as is(one open) and resetting the amp switch to 25hz.  This will electrically attenuate the signal <24-25hz gradually which will reduce the port flow requirements. This may also help in other areas too.  First, it may allow a little better integration into the room transfer function. Meaning, the bass may "tighten up" for you...particularly with bass heavy music. Second, by attenuating the frequencies under 25hz a LITTLE, you will have more amplifier headroom for the mid and upper bass. This may or may not make an audible difference to you...but it will only take about 10 seconds to rotate the knob and then relax and see what you thing with your favorite music.

     

      The plus/2 was one of our most well received designs...it packed a lot of value.

     

     Tom V.

     Power Sound Audio 

    Excellent!  I will give that a try.

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    Tom Vodhanel
    Mar 13 2014 03:37 PM

    Thanks again Tom.  I have one port open with the switch set to 16Hz.  In the years I've had the sub, I've tried different combinations.  I hope that is the correct combination for the lowest tuning.  I am rather certain that what I mentioned, which doesn't happen very often, is the sub being fed a signal that is too loud and too low for it to handle.

     

    I'm actually quite impressed how the Plus/2 holds up after all this time.  It's an excellent performer.  I'm just at the point where I wouldn't mind something a little cleaner.  A little more extension wouldn't hurt...

     

     

     Also, if there is anything you can do in terms of placement to give the bass/sub more efficiency that could help a good bit too. For example, corner loading often works well, particularly if there are no room openings near the corner.

     

    Tom Vodhanel