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Just ordered a PSA (Power Sound Audio) 15S subwoofer (1 Viewer)

Carlo Medina

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So...apparently 20 years is about enough time to elapse to really get me to want to upgrade a subwoofer. I'm currently running an Energy e:XL-S12 that I bought in the late 90s (or maybe early 00s I don't remember). It rumbles fine, but I never really felt it competed with other subs I'd heard in other venues. Then I got my Denon AVR-X4400h with Audyssey, which helped blend in the sub to my mains in a way that previous Elite receivers with MCACC never did (see my separate review on the Denon if you're interested). I'm 50/50 movies and music, and live in an apartment complex so I don't want "bring the house down bass". I want clear, accurate, articulate, and deep bass at moderate listening levels (with the occasional peak level reached when watching Mad Max: Fury Road or any Christopher Nolan movie :laugh: ).

Even with the better sound blending, I still felt that the Energy didn't really dig deep as other, more capable subs. Being a nearly 20 year old sub manufactured when the concept of Home Theater was in a different place than it is today, I don't hold that against it. Hell I still run my Energy C6s in my bedroom from that time period and they absolutely sound stellar.

But it was time to see what was out there, LFE-wise. Also there was something funky going on with my Energy sub, with any minor turn of the volume knob generating low frequency crackling, and sometimes it would chuff when there was no signal. I took that as a sign from the LFE gods that it was time to upgrade.

So for the last 2-3 weeks I've been research subs around the 'net pretty heavily. I started with SVS but of course, with their new dealership model, their prices are a bit higher than when I last recalled checking out subs when Stimpson and Vodhanel were still the S and V of SVS.

I decided to Google and see what Tom V was up to and to my surprise (although I guess I shouldn't have been) he'd started a new company: Power Sound Audio. While on their site, their chat window popped up and again to my surprise (and again I probably shouldn't have been) it was Tom V. on the chat! He was very helpful and informative and never pressured me into a sale. In fact when I told him about the Energy acting up, he recommended unplugging it, removing the various knobs, blowing out the potentiometers with compressed air while turning them back and forth 10 times, and seeing what happened.

Like magic: it fixed my Energy. No crackling noise. No unwanted chuffing/activation. It's like new. He could have lost a sale. But like life, karma has a way of coming back to you.

Still, I'm not made of money, and I only wanted to upgrade once for the next decade. I had absolute space requirements. I needed my next sub to be less than 19" wide and 19" deep. I wanted to spend $1K or less (although if something in the $1000-$1200 range were miles better I'd be forced to consider it). I hit AVS's sub forums. I was pointed to brands I'd never heard of before like Rythmik. Hsu Research was popular (and a local pickup contender as it's about 45 miles south of me). And Monoprice has a new THX Ultra line of Monolith subs which apparently is setting the world on fire (and would also be a local pickup contender as they are 55 miles east of me).

So how did I narrow it down? Well the Monolith 15S was the most appealing. They're getting tremendous early reviews. But the size was just way too large for my room. It would jut out nearly a foot more than my current sub and be a foot taller. That just was a no-can-do for my current living quarters. Based on raw numbers, and for an under $1400 budget, that seemed to be a winner performance-wise, and had the benefit of being ported with the ability to plug all 3 ports. If I had a larger room, I probably would have gone with this one.

The Hsu VTF-3 MK5 was also a great contender, and at $799 direct was very much in my price range. However the depth was again out of my requirements (nearly 24" D). Also they still use Class AB amps while most of their competitors have gone to Class D for lower heat and higher efficiency.

Rythmik was intriguing, and I've never heard Direct Servo subs but some audiophiles seem to prefer the sound of them. The F15HP would have fit my sound requirements, and at 21"D it gets real close to my space requirement...but it's also nearly $1300 direct from Rhythmik. Not totally out of my price range but coupled with the cabinet depth, a no-go.

Which brought me back to Tom V. and PSA. The 15S (identical to the S1500 except downward firing vs. forward firing) is $899 shipped, satisfaction guaranteed or you can ship it back at PSA's expense. Performance should be stellar, even if some reviewers and owners I talked to prefer the Direct Servo of the Rythmik or the Monolith's much larger enclosure and triple port configuration. It should no doubt outclass my Energy by an order of magnitude. And if I ever move into a larger place, I can always just order another 15S. I would think two 15S would be enough to drive anything short of a mansion-style HT. At 19.5"H x 17.25"W x 18"D it isn't substantially larger than my Energy, so it stays within my space requirements.

So after 2 weeks of exhaustive research, I'm was back to the guy who gave me free advice and potentially lost a sale...now gaining a sale. I've ordered the 15S and have my tracking number. I'm taking Friday off to take delivery, install and calibrate it.

And of course, I will update this thread to include my thoughts on it if people are interested. Oh, and the craziest thing? I think I will have paid just a couple of hundred dollars more for the PSA 15S than I did twenty years ago for the Energy sub. It's a good time to be a home theater nut.
 

Luke Cool

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The PSA 15S is a powerful sub. As much research as you did, is box size the only reason you choose a downward firing sub? Front firing is more popular among audiophiles.

When I had one, I had a hardwood platform under it. The deep carpet in my living room did not work well with mine. I've seen discussions about the optimal surface to fire against. Are you going to place yours on a custom surface?
 

Carlo Medina

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I talked extensively with Tom about front vs. down firing. He said performance should be identical. There was a lot of differing opinions on front vs. down firing. Most claiming no performance difference, but yes some claiming preference for front firing. Ultimately, I went down firing for protection of the woofer. Several of my friends have started families and bring their infants over. The less they have to possibly accidentally punch in, the better (my towers' drivers start a couple of feet above the ground and also have grills so they aren't really in danger of being punched in). I did let him know I have carpet, but it's very low cut (the opposite of shag, I don't know what it's called). I don't think it will absorb too much. But that's what the 60 day satisfaction guarantee is for.
 

Mike Frezon

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Congrats, Carlo! What fun!

And your original post is a great read. It's neat how you ended up chatting directly with Tom V. I'm not surprised to hear about his advice. I've heard those stories over and over from when he was a regular poster on this forum.

Looking forward to your future reports. :thumbsup:
 

Carlo Medina

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Congrats, Carlo! What fun!

And your original post is a great read. It's neat how you ended up chatting directly with Tom V. I'm not surprised to hear about his advice. I've heard those stories over and over from when he was a regular poster on this forum.

Looking forward to your future reports. :thumbsup:
Hi Mike! Yeah I cannot stress how helpful Tom was on so many fronts, and again, never pressuring me with a sales pitch or pushing me towards making an order. He really did give me free advice on how to fix my old sub which has now been working flawlessly for 2+ weeks. I had mentioned the reason I was looking at a new sub was that my old one was on the fritz, so he had to believe at the time that telling me how to fix it would cost him a sale. And het he still did it.

Still I wanted to do my due diligence re: research. I don't upgrade very often so I intend for this purchase to last me for quite a while. I won't hesitate to take PSA up on their free return shipping offer if I'm dissatisfied. However after reading a lot of testimonials, I encountered very few who actually returned PSA (or Rythmik, or Hsu) subs due to outright dissatisfaction. Those who did are true "bassheads" who have much larger rooms to drive than I do, and don't have neighbors in an apartment complex to piss off like I do.

I won't pretend the PSA 15S is the end-all be-all of subs, it clearly isn't. But I am not in a place to make a DIY sub. I have tight enclosure size limitations. And I wanted to ideally spend $1K or less. Within those three parameters, the PSA fit the bill.

It's funny, knowing I'd be buying a new sub, the last week or so I've been putting my HT through its paces, familiarizing myself with the sound and quality of the current sub. I plan to keep doing that all week, so that when I install the PSA on Friday, I'll have fresh in my mind how the old sub performed for when I plug in the new sub.

Wonder if I can find online any frequency test tones and sweeps so I can measure how loud and low both subs go. I think I have an old AVIA DVD calibration disc (wow, trip down memory lane) somewhere.
 

Mike Frezon

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It's funny, knowing I'd be buying a new sub, the last week or so I've been putting my HT through its paces, familiarizing myself with the sound and quality of the current sub. I plan to keep doing that all week, so that when I install the PSA on Friday, I'll have fresh in my mind how the old sub performed for when I plug in the new sub.

That's a big part of the fun!

I won't pretend the PSA 15S is the end-all be-all of subs, it clearly isn't. But I am not in a place to make a DIY sub. I have tight enclosure size limitations. And I wanted to ideally spend $1K or less. Within those three parameters, the PSA fit the bill.

I've got an SVS PB-1000. Certainly one of the smallest--if not THE smallest sub that SVS makes...but it's an SVS gosh darn it(!) and I'm still amazed that I have an SVS sub in my little bargain HT system. I'm still thrilled with it and it does all I ask of it! :D I felt the same way when I added a Panasonic plasma back in '12 (never thought THAT would happen either) and when I added an Oppo 203 last year. I suspect all those pieces are going to be it for the indefinite future...until they start to die for some reason (even though I'm kinda anxious to get a 4k display. But that's just a flare-up of upgrade-itis. Of course I'd love to upgrade to Atmos, too!)

One of the reasons I have a PB-1000 is a combination of factors: my HT is in my living room, WAF, and the fact that it conveniently fits underneath a corner end table. No one knows its there, until it kicks in during some movie/TV watching! :laugh: So while I always read with interest and envy when others go sub shopping (or shopping for any new piece of gear), I'm more than content with the pieces in my little slice of HT heaven.

To think that I started with an HTiB that I purchased back in 2001 from Circuit City which featured a Sony receiver and Jensen speakers and sub! And I was thrilled my wife let me have THAT! :rolling-smiley:

full
 

Luke Cool

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From experience, with carpet under a down firing sub, the amp runs hotter and the cone suspension endures a lot more stress. If you only listen at low levels or the carpet has a tight hard surface, I don't believe you will have a problem. But in ether case, having a hard base for your sub to sit on, will showcase a great looking peace of equipment and probably improve its performance. As cheap as this mod is, it is one of the things that I would try when tuning the sub for the best placement. If you try this, we'd all like to hear about the results. I do have a base under my Velodyne. For deep carpet, adding it was a big improvement.

I've raised two boys (28 & 30) and am now raising two girls (11 & 14). You can believe me when I say "nothing is kid proof".
 

Carlo Medina

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My carpet is tight, but maybe I'll look around for a nice base for it. Any particular surface I should look for? MDF? Types of wood? Marble?
 

Carlo Medina

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It's a terrific sub - enjoy !
Thanks Craig, I plan to! Two days away if my shipping estimate is correct. I think I’ll stop worrying about mods at first and just set it up, run the calibration and hear how it sounds. The return window is very generous so I’m not going to panic and do anything rash without giving it a chance to simply shine as is. Tom is no stranger to bottom plates. The first SVS cylinders had bottom plates so if he doesn’t feel the 15S needs one I’ll trust his expertise.
 

JohnRice

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Thanks Craig, I plan to! Two days away if my shipping estimate is correct. I think I’ll stop worrying about mods at first and just set it up, run the calibration and hear how it sounds. The return window is very generous so I’m not going to panic and do anything rash without giving it a chance to simply shine as is. Tom is no stranger to bottom plates. The first SVS cylinders had bottom plates so if he doesn’t feel the 15S needs one I’ll trust his expertise.
I would ask Tom about it. It just seems that having a solid base under it should be an improvement, or at least desirable. I have an SVS PB12 Plus/2, which Tom also designed, and it has a built-in base plate as well. I would expect the biggest thing is that the air flow from the drivers isn't impeded.
 

Carlo Medina

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Thanks for the advice. I just asked Tom about it and he said it is fine right on carpet without a base plate. And I just did a quick search and it looks like SVS's newer cylinders also don't have a base plate, so I'm not going to worry about it. Just gonna hook it up tomorrow, dial it in, and then run a ton of music and movies on it. I've dug up old DVD-As and SACDs I forgot I had, along with lining up some great bass-heavy movies.

Also Sarah MacLachlan's "I Love You" and Glen Phillips' "It Takes Time" are really bass-heavy (and you wouldn't expect it from either artist).
 

Mike Frezon

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Carlo, I don't know if this is something you might have...but I just told a story this morning over in the thread on The Greatest Showman. I ran into some pretty impressive bass in the opening sequence of that film when I sampled it the other night. the foot stomps on the bleachers during the opening sequence were shaking my living room! Just a thought...since you were lining up some discs. :D

EDIT: And I always crank up some Diana Krall DVD-As (just her and the trio). They always give a nice look to the subwoofer for John Clayton's standup bass work.
 

Carlo Medina

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Carlo, I don't know if this is something you might have...but I just told a story this morning over in the thread on The Greatest Showman. I ran into some pretty impressive bass in the opening sequence of that film when I sampled it the other night. the foot stomps on the bleachers during the opening sequence were shaking my living room! Just a thought...since you were lining up some discs. :D

EDIT: And I always crank up some Diana Krall DVD-As (just her and the trio). They always give a nice look to the subwoofer for John Clayton's standup bass work.
Just picked up TGS sight-unseen so I'll definitely add it to the queue. Unfortunately I do not own any Diana Krall. :(
 

JohnRice

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You want suggestions?

About anything from Enya.

I can't recommend Dream Theater's "Dramatic Turn of Events" enough for some soul massaging bass. It's available from HDTracks, as is Enya's latest album. I highly recommend both.
 

Luke Cool

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Thanks for the advice. I just asked Tom about it and he said it is fine right on carpet without a base plate. And I just did a quick search and it looks like SVS's newer cylinders also don't have a base plate, so I'm not going to worry about it. Just gonna hook it up tomorrow, dial it in, and then run a ton of music and movies on it. I've dug up old DVD-As and SACDs I forgot I had, along with lining up some great bass-heavy movies.
On carpet, with or without a base plate will have a different sound. It's the difference between firing at a surface that reflects or one that absorbs sound, between a crisp burst of bass or a slightly muffled one. Both have their good points and bad points. But beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and it takes a trained ear to hear subtle differences in sound. As long as you are happy, that's what counts.
 

Carlo Medina

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Which brings up the point that I keep reading, almost to a near-consensus, that location/placement, proper setup and calibration are way more important factors in bass performance (as heard in the listening zone) than things like driver orientation, or the type of foundation it's set on. Those things can be mitigated and/or accounted for with proper placement, setup and calibration.
 

Luke Cool

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All of those things are important, and each has its own effect. In my experience, none of them can completely counter another. But never completely believe me or anyone else, find out for yourself, experiment. And as for driver orientation, if all are the same, why are so many different configurations made. One config can not be adjusted or calibrated to fit all applications.
 
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Luke Cool

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Better is a matter of perspective. You bought a great sub from a very reputable company. There is no perfect sub. All have their strong points and weaknesses.

The downward firing subs pump and suck toward the speaker, whatever is on the floor close to them. Their sound is omnidirectional, and they use the wall and the area around them to project and enhance sound. Because of this, they have a bigger sound field, are more placement sensitive, and need an open space around them. If placed correctly, they have a great sound. Front firing is more popular. Because correct placement is closer to the wall and simpler, they can be used in a tighter space.
 
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