The GoldenEar Technology SuperSub XXL is the first model in a new line of high performance, compact subwoofers brought to us by GoldenEar Technology co-founder Sandy Gross and his development team.

It aspires to bring high levels of low octave bass which is both tuneful and powerful to your listening environment. The design brief also specified that the final product be of a relatively modest size and have an attractive finish to suit any décor. GoldenEar’s solution incorporates some novel twists on subwoofer technology, some of which, we’ve experienced in their ForceField line of subs. Sandy and his team have garnered an enviable reputation for delivering products with exceptional sound quality at approachable prices. Have they done it again with the SuperSub XXL? Let’s have a look shall we?

GoldenEar Technology SuperSub XXL Subwoofer Review

Highlights

GoldenEar Technology SuperSub XXL Subwoofer

  • Powerful, clean, and detailed bass reproduction for both movies and music
  • Strong response right down to 20 Hz
  • One sub is potent enough for a medium to large size room
  • Compact size allows for easy integration of multiple subs
  • Novel use of dual opposed drivers on the horizontal axis and dual opposed passive
    radiators on the vertical axis
  • May require a little extra care in placement for optimum results
Introduction

GoldenEar has a thing for bass. Don’t get me wrong, it’s quite obvious that they work hard to achieve a high quality, well balanced sound in all of their products that I’ve encountered. A quick listen to any of their Triton speakers will get that point across pretty clearly. But GoldenEar does have a knack for extracting surprising levels of bass from speaker and subwoofer enclosures with sizes that would cause you to expect otherwise. One of the ways they accomplish this is through their clever, and unconventional, use of passive radiators in place of traditional porting schemes. In regards to subwoofers, I noted how effective I thought these strategies were in my review of the GoldenEar ForceField 5 last year.

GOLDENEAR SUBWOOFER REVIEW SPECIFICATIONS
Design:

Dual Driver Subwoofer with Dual Passive Radiators

Drivers:

Two 12” Long-throw High-output Bass Drivers
Two 12 ¾” x 14 ½”Quadratic Planar Infrasonic Radiators

Frequency Response:

10 Hz – 200 Hz

Amplifier:

1,600 Watt ForceField Digital/DSP Amplifier

Low Pass Filter:

12dB/Octave Continuously Variable from 40 Hz – 200 Hz (Stereo Inputs)

Inputs:

Direct Coupled, Unfiltered LFE Input/Low Level Left and Right Channel Inputs

Dimensions:

17.6″ H x 19.75″ W x 15.9″ D

Weight:

78 Pounds

MSRP:

$1,999

Company:

GoldenEar

SECRETS Tags:

GoldenEar, Subwoofer, Passive Radiators

Where to Buy:

GoldenEar Website

The SuperSub XXL looks to take the formula of the ForceField 5 and effectively double most of the parameters while keeping it all in a single box with a manageable footprint. That’s two long throw 12 inch diameter drivers firing in a horizontally opposed orientation (left and right if you will). This isn’t such an unusual arrangement in subwoofers these days but adding a pair of large passive radiators, also in an opposed configuration (firing up and down), is something a little different.

Add in a significantly more powerful amplifier, a good deal of increased DSP processing horsepower and a larger (but not too large) well braced box, and you have all the ingredients for a very compelling low octave sonic generator. The fine folks at GoldenEar were kind enough to send two of these little beauties for my review as I like to run twin subs in my stereo setup and in my home theater. Hmmm. I wonder what possible trouble I could get myself into?

Design

GoldenEar Technology SuperSub XXL Subwoofer Review

The GoldenEar SuperSub XXL does endeavor to pack a lot of technology into a moderately sized and smartly dressed package. From a purely aesthetic angle, the SuperSub XXL eschews the standard rectangular box by incorporating softly rounded edges and some inverted beveled front corners with a deep, gloss black piano finish all around. It definitely has a handsome and distinctive appearance with echoes of some simple art deco design cues. It’s a sturdy little box as well. Rapping your knuckles on the front of the enclosure gives you a distinct sense of solidity, and sore knuckles!

GoldenEar Technology SuperSub XXL Subwoofer Review

GoldenEar Technology SuperSub XXL Subwoofer Review

From a technical standpoint, the SuperSub XXL sports two 12” long throw bass drivers, similar to the one found in the GoldenEar ForceField 5 subwoofer. These drivers are mounted in a horizontally opposed configuration so that they fire out the left and right sides of the enclosure. In addition to these active drivers, GoldenEar couples two large oblong passive radiators, also in a horizontally opposed setup, firing out of the top and the bottom of the box.

This driver and drone arrangement is said to have a couple of major benefits. The first being that, since the active drivers are configured for bipolar operation (both cones move out of the enclosure at the same time, and inward at the same time, and are, thus, in phase), any inertial forces from the operation of a single driver, which would normally be transferred to the box as wasted energy, get cancelled out by the other driver. The second is that because there is sound radiating from four different axis, the SuperSub XXL should have a better time coupling with the room and, subsequently, smoother overall response. The subwoofer’s electronics package consists of a 1,600 watt class D amplifier controlled by a 56 bit processer section with a 192 kHz sampling rate.

GoldenEar Technology SuperSub XXL Subwoofer Review

On the back of the subwoofer we find the main inputs and controls. There is no ON/OFF switch as the subwoofer is auto signal sensing so only a blue status light indicates a state of activity. To the right of that is a toggle switch to select either LEFT/RIGHT or LFE input. Beside this are two rotary dials, one for setting the Low Pass Crossover frequency and the other for setting the overall level. Right below these dials are a pair of LEFT/RIGHT RCA input jacks. The LEFT jack also doubles as the LFE input and is switchable via the aforementioned toggle switch.

Again, this as a lot of stuff to be cramming into a box smaller than a 20” square cube.

Setup

GoldenEar Technology SuperSub XXL Subwoofer Review

For the majority of my testing, a single subwoofer was used and set up along the side wall nearest to the front right speaker. I found that this sub didn’t seem to like the normal spot that I usually locate subwoofers (front wall behind the front right or left speaker). After a bit of experimentation I found that the SuperSub XXL seemed to prefer a side wall placement in my habitat. That location seemed to result in the best coupling with the room and the smoothest raw overall response before any speaker calibration was applied.

GoldenEar was nice enough to send two identical subwoofers as I usually run twin subs in my home theater to help even out the bass response amongst all the seats. So after all the preliminary testing and measuring was done I incorporated the second subwoofer into the system, just to “gild the lily” a little bit.

Associated equipment used: Denon AVR-X4000 receiver, OPPO BDP-103 Blu-ray player, Salk Songtower main speakers, Zaph Audio ZD3C center channel speaker, Rocket RS300 quasi-dipole surround speakers, Pioneer 50” KURO plasma display.

Secrets Sponsor

In Use

I’ve had a fair amount of subwoofers in and out of this room, most have been bigger with some being significantly so. My initial listening impressions were that the SuperSub XXL does an excellent job keeping up with the bigger boys particularly where it counts. No, it won’t give much useable content below 20 Hz if that’s what you’re after. That sort of performance would require a noticeably bigger enclosure and bigger drivers than what the SuperSub has in order to deliver the required SPLs and keep the distortion level minimal. That’s just simply the physics of it.

I suspect GoldenEar has used some clever design and technology to obtain what they feel was an optimum balance between performance and size. And that line happened to fall right at 20 Hz, the traditionally accepted lowest frequency of human hearing. But for everything at 20 Hz and above, where most of the movie and music bass content is, this sub sounds incredibly sweet and detailed.

Like other GoldenEar subwoofer offerings, the SuperSub XXL excels at detail retrieval in the lower registers. When listening to music in particular, you really start to notice the different pitches down in the low end more. Plucks of a standup bass, a piano hammer hitting a low A, and kick drums all seemed to deliver a clearer sonic story versus the typical “thump, thwack, or thud” from some other subs I’ve heard. And while it does distinguish itself at the presentation of the subtleties, this sub will hit hard when you ask it to.

There was plenty of wall rattling during challenging movie passages and there were more than a few times I felt the bass hit me square in the chest when called upon. When I eventually added the second SuperSub XXL into the mix, positioning it directly across from the first one on the other wall, things just got even better! With more headroom at my disposal, everything just became more impactful.

The bass also became more even from seat to seat in my home theater, with a good deal less variation when I moved around. As I mentioned in the setup section, I did have to relocate this sub as I didn’t get the impression that it was performing to its potential in my usual subwoofer location. Whether that’s a result of its unique 4-axis design not meshing well with the room at that spot, I can’t rightly say. However it does underscore the importance of taking one’s time when integrating a subwoofer into a room because the sidewall, where the sub ended up being, was not someplace I would have considered ideal.

Once there and calibrated though, the bass fell in line perfectly. At no point in my listening did the bass ever seem disconnected from the rest of the system, whether listening in stereo or surround. My wife was quite surprised at the levels of bass coming out of this relatively diminutive (for us) box. She, of course, liked the fact that we could see more of our room and less of the equipment with the SuperSub XXL, so married folk, take that into your considerations as well. A few of the standout music and movie samples during my time with the SuperSub XXL were:

Secrets Sponsor

Tropic Affair

Jim Brock “Tropic Affair”

Tropic Affair by Jim Brock on Reference Recordings CD. This live to two track recording is an oldie but a goodie. Jim Brock’s drumming and percussive skills give the SuperSub XXL a proper workout. With kick drum hits that catch you properly in the gut on songs like “Ladies Of The Calabash” to the detail and weight of the lower register conga type drums on the song “Anya”, the SuperSub XXL kept pace with the dynamics and never once got sloppy with the sound. The rich electric bass lines of “Tropic Affair” and “Palm-Palm Girls” were also replayed with excellent weight, sustain and decay by the GoldenEar sub. The final track, “O Vazio”, begins and ends with loud and deep percussive strikes that can shake the room at volume. The SuperSub XXL passed that test extremely well, getting me to feel the initial strikes and the reverberations thoroughly.

Morph The Cat

Donald Fagan “Morph The Cat”

Morph The Cat by Donald Fagan on Reprise Records, DVD-Audio 5.1 Surround. This disc is known for its aggressive electric bass lines and in full on surround, it does not disappoint! From the opening strains of the title track, the SuperSub XXL digs deep and keeps time, rendering the basslines with authority. Beyond the reproduction of the initial string pluck, the sub precisely renders that resulting reverberation and decay of the notes so perfectly that you get a good sense of just how much the bass player attacked those strings. This little bit of sonic heaven continued on with the funky tempo of “Brite Nightgown” and the smooth jazziness of “Mary Shut The Garden Door.” Bass and kick drum throughout these tracks just sounded palpable and richly textured.

The Secret of Kells

The Secret of Kells

The Secret of Kells Blu-Ray, Flatiron Films. This gem of an animated movie is, visually, a beautiful tapestry of design and color woven with Celtic mythology to create a fantastical tale that was a real treat to watch. While it doesn’t have an intense bass-heavy soundtrack, this movie does have well recorded Celtic drums underpinning the music and action all through the film. What struck me was just how good these drums sounded and the how well that the SuperSub XXL conveyed the impact and textures of those drums – from the quietest moments where they were merely an accent all the way through to the intense pounding during the attack of the Vikings. The SuperSub took a part of the soundtrack that I may not have otherwise paid more than scant attention to and brought it to the fore and revealed how important it was to the overall story and pacing of the movie.

Live Free or Die Hard

Live Free or Die Hard

Live Free or Die Hard Blu-Ray, 20th Century Fox. Now this is an action movie! Crashes, explosions, gunfire and a really foreboding soundtrack. The SuperSub XXL didn’t flinch at all during any of it. During the Tunnel scene when one of the cars becomes a flying projectile aimed squarely at our heroes. The resulting impact of that car hitting the ground completely shook the room. Another scene where the natural gas substation detonates in a series of progressively louder explosions is delivered to impressive effect with the SuperSub XXL. One of the best scenes was when the F-35 Raptor was firing its cannons at the semi-truck. The XXL made you feel each one of those rounds as they left the cannon barrel and headed straight for Bruce Willis! This sub can definitely get loud if the situation calls and the output is delivered cleanly within its operating range. I heard no distortion or any signs of distress with any of the movies or music I played.

On the Bench

All in-room measurements of the SuperSub XXL were recorded using an average of twelve separate measurements taken from various points in the listening area. This method helps to reduce the effect of room modes and helps give a more realistic indication of the overall subwoofer response in my home theater. The measurements were taken using Room EQ Wizard and a UMIK-1 microphone professionally calibrated by Cross Spectrum Labs. The graphs have no smoothing applied.

GoldenEar Technology SuperSub XXL Subwoofer Review

This is a measurement of a single SuperSub XXL alone, with no room correction or speaker calibration applied. Not a bad raw measurement with a modest rise from around 30-23 Hz before a steep rolloff just before 20 Hz. The dip at 67 Hz is a natural occurrence of the room itself.

GoldenEar Technology SuperSub XXL Subwoofer Review

This next graph shows the raw measurement (green trace) compared to the response of the sub after it’s been calibrated with Audyssey XT32 and crossed over to my main speakers at 80 Hz (red trace). Overall a respectably smooth graph with a particularly flat lower end. Running this sub a few dB “hot” while watching movies will give you nice little added punch without sounding bloated.

Conclusions

GoldenEar Technology SuperSub XXL Subwoofer Review

The GoldenEar SuperSub XXL is a well crafted, attractive, and potent piece of low level, percussive delivery hardware. It is thoughtfully designed, solidly built and leverages GoldenEar’s expertise and technology in a novel way to deliver outstanding bass performance from a modestly sized enclosure. No, it is not a miner of sub-20 Hz material. But in its operating range, it excels in delivering all the quantity and quality of bass that you could practically need. It does this with such an emphasis on detail retrieval and a lack of distortion that it will be particularly admired by music lovers.

THE SUPERSUB XXL Delivers The Goods, Where It Counts, With Practical Performance And Style.

Likes
  • Excellent sound quality
  • Modest footprint
  • Solid construction
  • Attractive finish
Would Like To See
  • A 0/180 phase switch or variable phase control for those who don’t use room correction
  • A balanced (XLR) input
  • Other finishes beyond piano black
  • Perhaps a larger version of this type of sub, capable of usable output below 20 Hz for those who like to feel their pants vibrating

The SuperSub XXL doesn’t forget the movie crowd either, being deftly capable at delivering all the cinematic cataclysms, at volume and pressure that your movie collection can muster. If you are looking for a subwoofer that will seriously do justice to both your music and movies and won’t take up a huge chunk of your room, I can thoroughly recommend the GoldenEar SuperSub XXL. Just be sure to take the time and care to set it up right and you will be richly rewarded. As a matter of fact, get two of them and just try to wipe the resulting grin off your face. I dare you!

  • Jim Milton

    What an interesting design. I got to play with the Forcefield5 and was quite impressed with it. This one looks like a real “plaster cracker”!

  • kevon27

    You really have to by madly in love with GoldenEar products to buy this sub for $2000.. SVS, PSA, Rythmik, HSU would all give far, far, far better performance for about the same price or way less.

  • Jim Milton

    We realize that there is a large market of consumer subs out there, but Sandy Gross has been designing award winning speakers and subs for many years and he is well respected in the audio community. GoldenEar’s founders and their engineering team have literally hundreds
    of years of combined experience and have created or helped to create
    many of the world’s best-sounding and best-selling loudspeakers. The performance of this sub speaks to it’s pedigree and anyone familiar with Sandy’s products can purchase this sub with confidence that it can stand tall with the “other guys” subs.
    I believe we had a Paradigm sub make the “Bad Ass” award just the other year…so we appreciate other manufacturers as well.

  • David Musoke

    Really it’s too bad distortion measurements were not done as this is the main use of these dual opposed designs in subwoofers..to cancel or drastically reduce 2nd harmonic distortion products which reduced overall distortion across the full range of the subwoofer’s operation. True though that a bigger sub is needed for sub-20Hz authoritative operation with low distortion

  • Carlo Lo Raso

    While it’s true that some of the fine subs you mentioned will play lower frequencies that doesn’t necessarily mean that they will sound better. All subs will naturally increase in distortion as they go to the lowest point in their range. It looks as if GoldenEar has elected to limit the low end of their sub right at 20Hz to avoid excess distortion and to play more cleanly where it matters. In real world use, the strategy works and it sounds really good.To be fair, it’s not everyone’s top priority to play down to 12 or 16Hz. If that’s what your priority is, then yes, there are other choices. If you want something that’s a manageable size and sounds great with both movies AND music then this sub really deserves a look. In terms of it’s price, realistically, putting two long throw drivers, two passive radiators, a powerful amp and DSP in a modest size box and getting it to perform is not an easy or inexpensive thing to pull off.

  • BlockerBrothers

    I agree with you 100% however the fan boys will be along soon enough saying otherwise. I have owned the Forcefield 5 and 4 along with a host of other subs from HSU, SVS, Sunfire etc. and finally stopped looking when I took delivery of the PSA XS30se which trumps everything else I have had to date and that includes both music and movie playback. It’s also cheaper than the GE XXL. I should also mention that I had numerous issues with both my GE 5 and 4. The 5 needed the amp replaced twice and the four needed it replaced once. A quick Google search will fetch you lots of feedback on the QC issues that surrounded these subs after the initial launch. Anyway, the PSA has just worked since day one with zero issues. At $2K (in my opinion), there are much better options out there regardless of how low you want to go or how well you want music integration.

  • Carlo Lo Raso

    I don’t question your claim that you’ve had issues with GE subs that you’ve owned, but I’ve tried a number of searches about the QC issues on FF subs that you mentioned and besides a manufacturer’s forum post about an admitted production run error that was fixed, I can’t find any other mention online of issues or QC problems with these subs. Do you have any additional information or links? I’ve reviewed a few GE products and have not had any issues with them. I also own a set of four SuperSat 3 surround speakers and they’ve been bulletproof for over a year. If there is lots of feedback on problems about these subs out there, as you claim, I can’t find it.

  • BlockerBrothers

    Hey Carlo, let me explain how this went down. I was an early adopter of GE. When it came to the subs specifically I started with the FF4 and within a month the amp went. I searched Google and came across a few things (hence my Google comment) and ultimately ended up on GE’s own forums. At the time, I was not alone in what I was saying. My dealer ended up pulling off the amp and sending it to someplace in Canada for replacement (Blue something or other?). A few weeks later the sub was back up and running and given it had died once, I was nervous that it would do it again so I eventually traded it off on a FF5. Roughly seven weeks later, the same thing happened. Again amp swapped out by dealer and a few weeks later, more problems started. By this point in time even my dealer was asking questions on the GE forums about QC. At the end of the day I have nothing against GE and have actually met Sandy a few times at CES, but based on my own personal experience, they had QC issues when they first started on a few of their powered products. Those may be in the past, but they were there from the get go. My father in law purchased a pair of Tritons a few years back and had to get one of the amps replaced on it. If you want more confirmation I can put you in touch with the dealer all of this was purchased from.

    Let me be clear here. I have no issue with or in bashing GE, but I stand by my original comment. For $2K, there is better out there at this price point and for those who go off graphs, superior performance can be had for less.

  • Carlo Lo Raso

    Got it. Thanks for taking the time to elaborate. You know, I get what you’re saying about price versus performance but it goes back again to what your priorities are in a sub. If you want lower reach, yes there are other options. If you want lower reach and clean output, there are options, but the choices get physically bigger and the price creeps up. This sub is small, clean and solid down to 20Hz. It’s a compromise but in all the right areas and I think it will hit the sweet spot for a lot of people. I know I didn’t post any distortion plots but the bass was clean and detailed with this sub, even when I pushed it. If I had the disposable scratch handy, I wouldn’t think twice about buying the two. I’m getting tired of big black boxes with 18″ drivers taking up a ton of floor space in my HT and duals of this GE sub sound just as good (if not better) but just don’t reach down to 12 Hz. I could live with that. I agree they aren’t cheap, but again, there is a lot more going on than just a driver, box, amp and port. We may each have different priorities for subs but at the end of the day, it’s a big enough market out there and there will be something for everybody. I’m betting there will be plenty of takers for this sub, exactly because it is what it is.

  • whyknots

    Not Much R&D is needed for large drivers in a large box.Its a simple calculation when size is not a concern. When you want to get similar performance in a small enclosure its much more complicated and hence the cost rises. This is nothing new. Sunfire would be an example of this.

  • John Johnson

    You would not know that for sure unless bench tests were performed.

  • John Johnson

    Again, this is a subjective opinion.

  • BlockerBrothers

    “I compared a $3,400 DAC to a $12,000 DAC, and the less expensive one outperformed the expensive one” You forget to end that with “in my subjective opinion”. Just saying……….

  • John Johnson

    I compared them subjectively by listening and objectively with bench tests using an Audio Precision to measure the DAC linearity. So, “It is in my objective opinion . . ..” Read the Blog.

  • John Johnson

    Cancelling the second ordered harmonics requires a certain two-driver configuration. It is not a simple matter of dipole or bipole. One driver is mounted in the enclosure in the standard fashion, so that it is facing out of the enclosure, and the second one is mounted outside the enclosure, so that it is facing into the enclosure. Both drivers move out of the enclosure at the same time, but one driver’s cone is moving out of the basket and the other is moving into the basket. This cancels the second-ordered harmonics. Other than that, one can use servo-feedback sensors on the voice coil, but that seems to be going out of fashion.

  • BlockerBrothers

    At the end of it all, it still amounts to an opinion. As for your blog, sorry, but I will pass. I tend to trust my own ears and honestly pay little attention to the “opinions” of others when it comes to audio gear. As I’m sure you have, I have lost count on the number of highly regarded pieces I have had through my hands over the years that ended up being average at best. My search for a sub hit fourteen different models before I landed on my current one and a few of the ones I tried were much more expensive and a few were even cheaper. At the end of the day, I do agree with you on one point and that s that you can’t correlate price with performance.

  • John Johnson

    The blog I refer to is not about subwoofers. It’s about DAC linearity and our perception of musical detail. The data represent something that has not been published in a consumer hifi magazine before, as far as I know. If you don’t want to read it, you are missing something new. Depending on the room and associated equipment, trusting your ears can be deceptive.

  • David Musoke

    But aren’t these woofers connected in such a way as to cancel this distortion? If not, then what’s the purpose of having 2 active woofers and 2 passive woofers in one box?

  • John Johnson

    No, for the GoldenEar sub, both cones move out of the basket at the same time and into the basket at the same time. This is called bipolar operation, and the drivers are in phase. It’s not the same thing as described in my post above. The advantage of having the two drivers is simply more output. The active drivers cross over to the passive radiators at a specific frequency and at that point, the passive radiators are producing most of the sound.

  • David Musoke

    OK. Thanks JJ I wish SPL vs Distortion measurements were taken as defined by the CEA2010 standards to compare it with other subs in its class. Oh well, excellent review nonetheless!

  • John Johnson

    We are preparing to get the SPL vs. Distortion measurements since Carlo still has the subs.

  • This push-pull config you describe would double the mass of the driver setup, reduce the natural frequency and increase the lower end output?

  • John Johnson

    What it allows you to do is have high power in a smaller enclosure. Also, each driver only has to move half as far for the subwoofer to put out the same amount of SPL, reducing distortion. I have placed an animation of the push-pull subwoofer on Facebook, located here https://plus.google.com/communities/107625336931068040032
    Also, since second-ordered harmonics are reduced, the overall distortion is lower than two drivers in a non-push-pull design.

  • Master

    I am a fan of these Honest Reviews ,

  • John D.

    6 months later and still no SPL vs Distortion measurements (CEA-2010). Or did I just miss it? In which case can you please point me to it. Thanks!

  • Michael

    Why would you audition such audio equipment with elevator music of Jim Brock…

  • Michael

    Why bother with measurements, Johnny? Because you don’t trust your old ears? Can you hear the difference between 0.05% and 0.08% distortion? Or to be completely objective don’t listen at all. Just report the measurements!

  • Carlo Lo Raso

    Glad to hear it.

  • Carlo Lo Raso

    Because I happen to like Jim Brock…

  • Carlo Lo Raso

    Because more information is never a bad thing. Providing plenty of both subjective and objective data gives readers a better overall picture of the item under review.
    And…we try to have a little something for everybody. 😉