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So...I'll be going to Hsu Research on Friday... (1 Viewer)

Carlo Medina

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First of all, let me take a moment to acknowledge how much I'm enjoying the heck out of my PSA 15S. It is my first serious sub and has surpassed my expectations in terms of power, performance, and musicality.

I now am in need of a bedroom sub. I could happily just order another PSA sub and call it a day. Believe me I was sorely tempted to do this. Tom V. has been a long time member of this forum, and his customer service (not to mention quality of product) is off the charts.

However...

You know that feeling that you may be missing out on something? That the grass is greener on the other side of the fence?

Yeah, that sort of thinking gets you in trouble with romantic relationships. But luckily for all of us: not in home theater! :D (okay, it might get our wallets in trouble)

I decided I'd take this second sub purchase opportunity to go down and see the fine folks at Hsu Research and hear their subs (and their speakers, even though I'm not in the market for it right now) this coming Friday in Anaheim. I'm fortunate enough to live within "driving distance" to them. I use quotes because anyone familiar with Los Angeles will know that 50 miles one-way on a weekday is really stretching that term to its limits.

I set up the visit via several email correspondences (identifying who I am and what my intent was) and they were kind enough to allow me to take some photos of my visit. I'll be posting those here, as well as the unboxing, setup and mini-review of the sub I end up buying.

Backstory (or why the heck am I even doing this)

Initially I was going to go with a small bedroom sub, trying to keep the price at around $500. So we're talking SVS SB-1000, Hsu VTF-2 MK5 and Rythmik's LV12 offering. PSA didn't offer anything in this range, but Tom was very helpful with recommending other brands and models in this area (again major kudos to him).

I struck out Rythmik for no other reason than I have no personal connection with them (like with Tom's history here in HTF) and no ability to visit them, being located in Dallas. This is no knock on their product, just my own personal rationale.

That left the SVS and Hsu...and pretty much the interweb consensus is that VTS-2 MK5 would be superior to the SB-1000. So I had pretty much decided the Hsu would be my next, smaller, more music-focused sub for the bedroom. If I was going to be doing this, I thought "why not play hooky from work and go hear them?"

So that's what I'm going to do. But while I'm there, I'm going to give their whole product line under $800 a listen. If there's a significant difference going from the VTF-2 MK5 to the ULS-15 MK2 or the VTF-3 MK5HP (both under $800), I will allow myself to consider the other two.

I'll be bringing my Oppo 203 and a handful of UHDs, BDs (trust me, Interstellar and Edge of Tomorrow will be in there), as well as some SACDs and DVD-Audio discs.

If I end up stepping up to the 15" models, before I tuck it away in the bedroom I will put it out in the main room and see how they perform in the main setup.

Full disclosure: I do not have measuring software, so don't expect charts and graphs comparing the PSA and the Hsu. I mean at this point, with these two highly respected companies, I think we can all agree that they offer high quality products that can satisfy the most discerning users.

Also when I review equipment, I do so at my normal listening environment, at normal listening levels. I am not one of those who will try to overdrive my equipment to get it to clip, chuff, etc. That doesn't interest me because it would never happen to me in real-world applications. If that's what you are after, there are plenty of review sites that are more than happy to push these subs to their limits.

I will be focusing my review on how they perform at normal listening environment. Yes, I will push them a little above my normal levels, just to confirm there's plenty of headroom. My review will be aimed at "the common person with a common room size", not someone trying to drive a large dedicated home theater room running at full reference levels.

Super excited for my visit!
 

Carlo Medina

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Awesome bud, I bet you have an awesome time! Bring 2049 and War for Apes if you can, those are my two favorites on the VTF-15!
Thanks Sam!

Not sure I have War for PotA, but I do have 2049 so I'll add that to the list. Do you have any particular timepoints on 2049 for bass testing? I've only seen it once at home and yes it's an awesome soundtrack, but I can't offhand recall specific scenes that will push the sub like, say, the opening credits of Edge of Tomorrow, or the initial plane flight, rocket launch, wormhole and black hole scenes from Interstellar.

Also for all HTF members with an interest, is there anything you'd like me to ask of Hsu Research on your behalf? Please nothing controversial (like compare Hsu to Brand X). Although my primary purpose there is to shop for my sub, if I have time I'm happy to ask any questions you may have and to take any pics of any equipment you might be interested in that they happen to have out on display.

Sarah MacLachlan's I Love You, Glen Phillips' It Takes Time, and Daft Punk's Doing It Right will definitely be making the trip with me on the standard music front. If you know those songs, you'll know why I'm taking them to a sub audition.:D
 

Sam Posten

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2049 has deep synth bass all through, I like that more than specific action sequences.

Q's for Hsu: how much they value deep bass extension. My VTF is supposed to go down to 14 hz. That probably isn't really necessary or possible in a bedroom but it would be interesting to get their design philosophy.
 

JohnRice

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My two soundtrack recs are Spielberg's War of the Worlds, when the ships come out of the ground, but a lot of other sections as well. Also, A Monster Calls, particularly the late "Tell the truth" scene with the monster.
 

Carlo Medina

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Good point Sam, I'll bring 2049.

I'm barely able to get through the workday, I'm so pumped for tomorrow. But I also am realizing this. I'm probably going to go with the VTF-3 MK5HP, and will likely put that in the main HT. Why? Because the bedroom is for mostly music and mostly reasonable listening levels. The sealed PSA 15S is so tight and musical, I know it will perform wonderfully in the BR setup.

However the VTF-3 MK5HP has two ports for tuning, so if I want sealed "tighter" bass I can do it (along with adjusting the EQ), and if I want to open one or two ports and get that slightly deeper extension for movies, the Hsu will give me that option. I feel like if I buy the ULS it's just another sealed sub that would perform very similar to the 15S I already own. And if I go with the VTF-2 I'll always wonder why I went back down to a 12" driver when for $200 more I could have had a 15" model.

Don't get me wrong, I'll still listen to all three while I'm down there. I'm actually looking forward to hearing their speakers as well!
 

Carlo Medina

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Small update: I had to cut my visit to Hsu short due to a social engagement I have to be at tonight. I spent a little less than an hour there, running only Edge of Tomorrow and a bunch of songs I was intimately familiar with the bass on. Let's just say it was more than enough to make me buy the VTF-3 MK5.

Got it home, and wow, the Hsu enclosure is so much larger than the 15S. I mean, I know the specs were online, same width, about 5" taller and 5" deeper. But it's one thing to read it, and another thing to unbox and put them by each other. This is not a "better or worse" thing, it just is. And it's not surprising since the Hsu is a ported and the PSA is a sealed model. PSA's vented models are also bigger.

I set it up and dialed it in as much as I could, and settled on Q 0.6, both ports open, EQ2. I'll fine tune it over the weekend when I have time. Initial impressions are this: for anything around 22-23hz and above (guesstimate), performance is indistinguishable from the PSA. And by that I mean fantastic.

But as I mentioned before, there's a couple of low bass sequences I test, I call them "stupid low" bass. The opening of Edge of Tomorrow, and the lowest of the lowest notes in Glen Phillips' It Takes Time. Unported, EQ2, I'm already feeling higher SPL out of the Hsu. Again, not surprising since this is a ported model. It's not that the Hsu volume is set too high, as the rest of the bass spectrum sounds in-line and blended with the other songs and scenes I'm testing. Again, with no SPL meter and frequency analyzer I'm only guessing, but I'd say most of these "stupid low" notes live below 22hz.

Initial impression is that I made the right decision to go with the VTF-3 MK5 HP for the living room, and will be moving the PSA to the bedroom. I definitely don't want the lowest of the low replayed in the bedroom because it's going to absolutely get my downstairs neighbors up to my place with ill intentions.

I'll post some pics later, maybe Sunday night, and do some fine tuning. I have to start getting ready for tonight's festivities.

Many thanks to Hsu Research for their hospitality and for making such a wonderful and affordable product!
 

Sam Posten

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Glad you are digging both of them Carlo. Also glad I have a single family home and nobody to negotiate with as far as how loud I can play, in and out of said family =p
 

Carlo Medina

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It's a double edged sword, having this much flexibility, Sam. I've been continually experimenting, and am now at 1 port (4") open, Q=0.7, EQ1. I had to bump the sub volume up from just a hair under 9 o'clock position, to about 9:30. and I think it's a smoother response and digs a little deeper without being boomy.
 

Craig Chase

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Here is a VTF-3 Mark V in our 25 x 24 x 9 foot theater room. It was essentially flat to about 15 Hz in room:

Hsu%20VTF-3%20Mark%20V%20sweep_zpsbqxro7mr.jpg
 

Craig Chase

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It was with two ports open - a single port would have too much chuffing. I sold the subwoofer over a year ago to an old "forum friend", and don't remember the rest of the settings. Hsu and PSA both make incredibly good subwoofers, regardless the cost. The affordability makes them even better!
 

Carlo Medina

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True words. Now having both I can’t imagine parting with either one. Well I can. But it involves moving to a larger place and upgrading to maybe a PSA V3601. :blink:
 

Craig Chase

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I have both an Axiom EP800 sealed sub and the PSA V3601. They are incredible performers. The Axiom hitting about 11 Hz in our room to the PSA's 14 Hz while the PSA is more powerful. Both go as deep and powerful as I would ever want in our pretty large room. You won't be disappointed.
 

Carlo Medina

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A more detailed review will follow much later, as I ended up having company Sunday and this is a hectic work week, so I won't have much time to really put the Hsu through its paces. But here are some pics I took of the Hsu room and the unboxing.

IMG_9474.jpg
The audition room (my name for it, not sure if they have one). CCB-8s are the prominent concentric bookshelves you see, with a couple of HB-1s with grills on. Not pictured, the home theater recliner you sit in, and the shelf area behind it which houses all of their 15" subwoofers which they can cycle through for you to audition.

IMG_9476.jpg
The ULS-15 MK2, VTF-3MK5HP (the model I ended up purchasing) and the VTF-2 MK5

IMG_9481.jpg
The VTF-3 MK5HP beside my PSA 15S. Remember the PSA is a sealed design, and down-firing, hence the enclosure differences. Both are 15" drivers. The widths are the same, but the Hsu is about 5" taller and deeper.
 

ManW_TheUncool

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Thanks for your recent posts on subs, Carlo.

I'm finally in the market to seriously consider something similar myself after going w/out for so long. Been running my Vandersteen 2Ci's (driven by B&K amp) w/out sub forever given my living situation here in NYC area, but some recent (and more and more) BD soundtracks seem to be pushing the setup way too hard (for explosions and such), so finally looking to alleviate the situation w/ a reasonably good sub even if I can't actually shake the place up that much...

Well, I suppose I could try dialing down and rolling off the LFE using whatever settings in my eMotiva UMC-200 (just for action movie soundtracks), but I'm probably best off finally getting a decent sub instead... especially since I'm getting the OK from the wife, haha...

_Man_
 

Carlo Medina

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Congrats on the wife approval! My advice is to buy the best sub you can within your defined budget. A great sub can always sound great at low volumes, as well as at reference level. But a cheap sub that sounds fine at low levels will underperform at louder levels.

I have nothing but great things to say about both the PSA and the Hsu. The main difference will be aesthetics (I prefer Tom's industrial finish to the black vinyl of the Hsu, though both brands offer subs with wood finishes for upcharges), and the ability to tune, if that's important to you. With PSA you either buy a ported or sealed, and the ported model is a wide port that isn't pluggable. Hsu you can buy a sealed or a 2-port model which gives you the option to plug one or both ports.

I went with the sealed PSA and ported Hsu. I do like the ability to tune the Hsu, but I also will admit if you're OCD about these kind of things, you can keep tweaking until you go nuts, whereas the PSA is very much a set it and forget it. Since I can't plug any ports on the sealed PSA, I tune it to the best I can and I'm happy with the results.

With the Hsu I tune and am happy, and then get a wild hair up my bu...and tweak and then adjust and then am happy...then tweak and...you get the point. I think any of the settings I've tried would please most people but I'm just nutty that way, give me dials and tuning options and I'll start tweaking.
 

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