The name Velodyne is practically synonymous with subwoofers. They have been creating innovatively designed subs since the 1980’s with such features as high gain servos, anti-clipping, dynamic driven control systems and digital drive accelerometers to produce high volume, low distortion sound. Their latest product is part of their Sub Contractor Series. The SC-600 IW and SC-600 amp are a smaller, more affordable version of their SC-1250 in-wall design. Does this sub live up to its slogan of “Cut, Plug and Play”? Can a subwoofer that is less than 4 inches deep produce powerful bass?
- SC-600 IW (In-Wall) Subwoofer
- Twin high excursion 6.5″ Active Drivers and Two Passive Radiators
- 2″ Dual-Layer Voice Coils
- MFR: 30 Hz – 120 Hz ± 3 dB
- Nominal Impedance: 4 Ohms
- SC-600 Subwoofer Amplifier
- Output: 200 Watts RMS
- Class: A/B
- 4 Customized Listening Modes
- Automatic 7-band Room EQ (Microphone Included)
- Line-level (RCA) Inputs and Outputs
- Speaker-level Inputs with Five-way Binding Posts
- Built-in Adjustable (30 Hz -160 Hz) Digital Low-pass Crossover with 24 dB/octave Slope
- DDC Software to Prevent Over-excursion and Amp Clipping
- Remote Control Include
- Rack-mountable, Rack Ears Included
- MSRP: $999 USA (Subwoofer and Amplifier)
The challenge for any in-wall speaker system is usually two fold. Can it be easily installed and can it produce accurate sound? This is particularly tricky with a subwoofer because cone size and cone excursion are directly related to dynamic output. Anyone who has utilized a subwoofer in a room also knows that proper placement and location in a room will affect the overall frequency response.
The SC-600 IW was designed to produce deep, undistorted bass and allow for placement flexibility. The SC-600 IW uses a triple vector design that reduces wall vibration. The sub fits flush in a standard 2×4 studded wall and is in a sealed cabinet. By sealed, I mean it does not open or vent into the wall cavity itself. The SC series subs are ideal for both pre construction and retro fitting installations. It has two uniquely designed active 6.5 in. long throw drivers and two passive radiators that fire at a 45 degree angle out into the room. The combined radiating surface areas are equivalent to a 14 in. driver, yet the SC-600’s actual dimensions are 16.5 in. high by 14.25 in. wide and only 3.75 in. deep! The passive radiators are an oblong 12 x 3 inches and sport a specially designed ribbed edge cone that allows for a large excursion.
Each driver has a four-pound magnet and has a 4-layer copper voice coil to provide high output with low distortion. The outboard 400-watt (dynamic) amplifier is of a high efficiency class A/B design. The amp also has a seven band equalizer with DSP (a microphone is included) which allows for a fair amount of placement flexibility.
This is a good thing, since the placement is going to be permanent. The amp can be controlled via a small remote that allows you to sit in your “sweet spot” and adjust the volume, phase control (0, 90, 180 or 270 degrees), and four selectable customized listening modes (Movies, Rock, Classical and Games). This negates having to adjust the placement and volume by hand and as most of us know, this process can be time consuming. No need to get up and adjust knobs behind the subwoofer until it sounds “right” from your seat.
Night Mode can also be activated by the remote. The display can show current listening mode, volume and phase/crossover settings. Moreover, the display can be turned off, which I preferred, as the numeric LED was a bit too bright for my tastes in a darkened theater.
A Driver Displacement Control (DDC) helps limit the amount of cone excursion to prevent clipping and over driving the sub and an automatically adjusted subsonic filter round out the features on the amp. The unit can be rack mounted and comes with the necessary hardware if you are so inclined.
I will be honest with you and tell you that I am not the most adept at remodeling or construction. I am the type of person that, when given a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Before I took on this project, I got permission from my wife (“Honey, can I knock a hole in the wall of my media room?”). She was good with the idea of getting rid of that “black box” in the front corner of the room. Sitting there, the sub sported my bust of Bach and a picture frame. As mentioned before, the SC-600 IW is designed to fit into the wall space between the studs (16 in. unless you have non-standard spacing).
I used a stud finder and an electrical wire finder to make sure I would not encounter any surprises prior to cutting. The sub comes with a template which made placement and cutting of the dry wall easy and precise. Two of my walls are outside walls, which meant I would have had to remove insulation. This was not something I wanted to do, as it does get “chilly” here in New England. The wall on the right is up against my bathroom and has a small closet in it. The back wall has the master bedroom on the other side. My final choice was part compromise and part inspiration.
The closet space was about the size of a small phone booth and of no practical use to me. By removing the door and adding two 2×3 studs along the door frame, I attained an opening of just a hair over 16 inches across. I lined the interior space with scrap foam insulation that I had lying about and sealed up the door opening with a piece of 5/8″ sheet rock.
With the template in hand, I was able to cut an opening with a drywall saw (highly recommended) in just a few minutes. Prior to all of this, I set the SC-600 sub against this space and hooked it up to the amp to verify that it worked and that the sound quality was going to be acceptable in this location. I was confident that the EQ feature would help smooth out any frequency abnormalities that I might encounter. The spot was desirable as well because it was going to be outputting directly into the middle of my listening room.
With the functionality and sound check completed, I began my installation process.
The “cut, plug and play” slogan was accurate! Once I had my materials purchased, the actual time to put up the drywall, cut it, wire it and slipped the SC-600 IW into the opening took less than 30 minutes. Painting the wall to match the rest of the room added another 15 minutes, but still, the whole thing was done in under an hour. I was listening to music before the paint was dry! So, how did it look? See the pictures of the install.
I was pleased with the outcome and so was the wife.
Looks are important, but what about the sound? We are getting to that.
The back of the SC-600 amplifier allows for speaker-level inputs with spring clip connections or line-level (RCA) inputs. You can only power one sub at a time with this amp, but you can “daisy chain” another amp using the RCA “thru” jacks. I used the LFE line input from my pre/pro and ran 14-gauge speaker wire from the amp to the sub.
For a more finished look, I used a speaker wire wall plate located along the baseboard and connected through it to the sub. The connections on the sub are spring posts and you will be hard pressed to get anything larger than 14-gauge to fit into them. The clips provided a very tight fit, which is good, because you do not want the wires coming off after the unit has been installed.
Once wired, the sub slipped nicely into the cut opening and secured onto the drywall with six sheetrock dog toggles that flip up and grip the drywall firmly as you tighten them down. Four long wood screws are deployed through the inside wall of the sub to secure it to the inside studs. All of these screws hold the subwoofer securely into place and prevent any unwanted vibrating or rattling. And just like that, the job was done!
The hardest part (if you can really call it that) was putting the grille in place. It was bit flimsy and flexed when I tried to put it in place which caused a corner to bend out. After a bit of negotiating, I managed to secure it into place and with a few light taps. The outside edge was close to flush with the wall and after painting, it became well blended and unobtrusive. If you choose, you can spray paint the grille and edge. A cover sheet is provided to protect the drivers from splashed paint.
The final step was running the EQ. As mentioned, the SC-600 amp comes with a supplied microphone that plugs into the front of the amp. Once the amp and sub are connected and powered up, you plug in the microphone and place it in your favorite listening position. After pressing the EQ button on the remote, the subwoofer emits 12 “sweep tones” that run frequencies between 20-150Hz. After the EQ program runs, it saves the settings and returns to normal operating mode. I would recommend running the EQ anytime you re-arrange your furniture or equipment rack as this can change the frequency response in the listening area. I was pleased with the sound that the EQ program provided.
I tried the phase adjustments and settled for the default zero degree setting. I could not discern an audible difference with the other phase positions so I just left it on default. Night Mode reduces the output so as not to wake the kids for late night listening. The other custom modes, Movie, Rock and Game bump up the volume and EQ to provide more impact and “boom”. I preferred Classical/Jazz as it provide the smoothest frequency response of all the other modes.
I am a firm believer that “truth trumps thump”. You can manually turn the amp ON/OFF or use auto signal sensing to power it up when an audio signal is being detected. When no signal is detected, the amp shuts down after 10 minutes and remains in a stand-by mode. In Night Mode, the ON indicator light dims. After extended usage, I noticed that the amp stayed cool and never became more than warm to the touch.
OK. The installation and setup were quick and easy. However, what about the sound quality? Can a subwoofer that is 3.5 inches deep sound good? Remember, unlike a tradition subwoofer, you cannot tweak your location options and placement is important to achieve a flat frequency response. Once the auto EQ worked its magic, I was very pleased with the sound quality. When I first listened critically to the SC-600 IW, I was somewhat surprised that I was not noticing the bass more while watching a movie.
I listen to organ music often (I am a self-confessed Bach-aholic) and I really thought this sub was going to rock my world. I was surprised at first that the bass was not more pronounced. I think I was expecting a noticeable increase in bass output as this sub was larger than my previous sub. After some extended listening sessions, it occurred to me that good bass is not pretentious, but refined and well behaved. The lowest notes of the organ were there. I could actually feel them in my gut, but they were not overbearing. Explosions were loud, but controlled.
I began to realize that accurate and controlled bass sounded differently from what I was used to hearing. My previous sub had a down firing 8 in. woofer and in comparison, it sounded loose and unfocused. Never before had I heard a 32-foot organ stop on a well-recorded organ sound so musical and natural. The Velodyne was able to produce deep bass and yet still maintained its musicality. Here are some samples of movies and music I used to put the SC-600 IW through its paces:
Movies: Seems like every subwoofer that is reviewed is put up against U-571 and I was not about to surrender the tradition. What a better way to test the mettle of a subwoofer than a series of depth charge explosions? The SC-600 IW not only played loud and deep, but with a high degree of agility. Those charges are going off in rapid succession and the sub kept pace with all the action. This was bass that I could feel…literally, my insides were vibrating with each explosion. It was at this point I noticed some rattling going on in the room. I had to secure a few of my CDs on the rack before continuing with the movie. On the plus side, nothing structurally in my room was protesting. Batman Begins had me grinning as the police chased our hero in his “tumbler” through the streets of Gotham City.
Again, the bass was palpable, but not bloated. The vibrations I felt through my seat added to the excitement of the cinematic experience.
Music: I have a penchant for well-recorded and well-played organ music. This transcription of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition played by Jean Guillou on the Dorian label is a tremendous recording. The sound engineers really captured the rich acoustics of the Zurich Tonhalle organ. From the soft delicate passages to the thunderous conclusion, Guillou gives a jaw-dropping performance.
Again, the SC-600 IW demonstrated that it could keep up with the complex musical score. The bass was powerful when it needed to be and subtle when required. I chose my next piece of music to see how well the sub performed with my monitors. A male baritone voice would help reveal if a problem existed with blending or if the crossover frequency was not properly set up. This recording of Thomas Hampson singing Old American Songs by Copland provided a good test. Hampson’s voice remained deep and articulate without becoming thick. I ended up listing to the whole recording before I knew what time it was.
My last test was an Telarc recording called Time Warp. It contains perhaps the loudest, deepest bass notes recorded on CD that I own (actually comes with a warning on the cover!). It opens with a prelude performed on synthesizer by Don Dorsey that goes from tranquil tinkling to explosive climaxes all in the span of a few minutes.
The next track is the Cincinnati Pops under Erich Kunzel performing the theme from Star Trek: The Next Generation which opens with a tremendous tympanic whack that will make you jump out of your chair. The SC-600 IW reproduced it with startling dynamics and realism. If I had pictures on the wall…well, you get the idea!
Velodyne has proven again why they have a solid reputation for innovative subwoofer design. The SubContractor Series, whether in-wall, in-floor or in ceiling will meet the needs of those who want deep accurate bass while maintaining some extra real estate in their media room. Because of the EQ program, you can put this sub almost anywhere without sacrificing sound quality or real bass. All of the bass is there, but the subwoofer has become virtually invisible. “Cut, Plug and Play”…it could not be easier. However, without that big black box, where am I going to put my bust of Bach?