Fall Shopping Guide to Affordable Subwoofers - Chrysalis Photon-8, Starfire-10, and BassMatrix-12


The Chrysalis Subwoofers In Use

I continue to be surprised at the sound of products designed by Velodyne. The Chrysalis are no exception.

The BassMatrix-12 put out the most bass because it has the largest enclosure and driver. There is just no way to fight the laws of physics. But, the Photon-8 had the tightest bass, and that is because it is easier to contol a smaller cone. I did not hear clipping, because the subwoofers have limiters. Chrysalis knows that we are going to crank up the sound, so they build some protection into the circuit. It will only go so loud, and not loud enough to damage the driver.

And, they do play loud. Not like my Velodyne DD-18, but they are not designed to compete with the sound of a $5,000 subwoofer that has an 18" driver capable of 2" excursion and 1,500 watts of RMS power to make it all happen. The Chrysalis are designed for someone looking for a quality subwoofer that fits over by the couch, or near a corner, doesn't overpower the room with its physical size, and only puts a small dent in your credit card balance.

I used the three subs in our various audio rooms, playing John Coltrane in one of our two-channel audio setups (vinyl), and watching the new Blu-ray release of Transformers in our home theater lab. Each Chrysalis delivered great bass. This is a far, far cry from what relatively small subs could do just a few years ago. The title of the story now is "The Little Box that Could".

Chrysalis Subwoofers Test LP by John Coltrane

Chrysalis Subwoofers Test Blu-ray DVD Transformers

Chrysalis Subwoofers On the Bench

I measured the room response for all three subwoofers, placing the microphone 1 foot away from the center of the driver.

Here are the results.

To compare the three subs, look at the drop in output between 50 Hz and 30 Hz, which is the most important region, as none of them would really be expected to produce high output in the 20 Hz to 30 Hz area.

So, the Photon-8 drops 6 dB, the Starfire-10 drops 13 dB, and the BassMatrix drops 8 dB. The little 8" sub performed the best in that measurement. Remember, though, it's the most expensive, and that expense went to engineering a good output at those low frequencies. And, hey, it's not easy.

Chrysalis Photon-8 Subwoofer Frequency Response

Chrysalis Starfire-10 Subwoofer Frequency Response

Chrysalis BassMatrix-12 Subwoofer Frequency Response

At 35 Hz, I was able to get 109 dB from the Photon-8, 108 dB from the Starfire-10, and 112 dB from the BassMatrix-12. The BassMatrix-12 also had the lowest distortion. Again, you can't fight the laws of physics. A large driver in a large enclosure lets components work more efficiently than a small driver in a small box.

I basically played the heck of these subs and didn't have any problems. They will be a custom installer's dream.

Conclusions About Chrysalis Subwoofers

So, you plunk down your cash and you take your choice. For myself, I would choose the BassMatrix-12. It plays louder at lower distortion. But, I have this suspicion that the Photon-8 is the one that Chrysalis won't be able to keep on the shelves at the stores. It is small, and plays deeper than the other two.

In any case, you can't go wrong with whichever Chrysalis model you choose. Don't make the mistake of thinking that Chrysalis is lower quality than Velodyne models of similar size. The same technology is there, just through different distribution channels. In this economy, these subs could be a very pleasant surprise when you decide to make the move on rounding out the bass in your two-channel audio or home theater systems.