- Written by Jim Clements
- Published on 22 December 2008
My reference subwoofer system includes a Hsu Research VTF 3 subwoofer with a Turbo installed. I also have a Hsu Research mid bass module. The mid bass module handles the frequency range between 50 Hz – 80 Hz and the VTF 3 takes on all signals below 50 Hz. The VTF 3 by itself is at least twice the size of the Optimum-12. Both Hsu units have 12" drivers, ported enclosures and they are both driven by 350-watt BASH amplifiers. Current street price for all the Hsu Research elements in utilitarian black vinyl is currently $1,298, a little less than the going rate for an Optimum-12. All the main speakers in my system cross over at 80 Hz, honoring the THX spec.
"August Rush" is a delightful story about an orphan who uses his innate musical skills to locate and ultimately reunite with his birth parents. The protagonist, Evan Taylor a.k.a. August Rush, has one scene in which he plays a pipe organ. The bass lines came across powerfully with the Optimum-12. My reference sub, the Hsu Research combo, produced a more substantial foundation for this scene. In the movie's finale, the sound of the orchestra was positively riveting through the Optimum-12. The mid bass was very tight. The bass was tuneful while clearly preserving the waveforms of the various instruments. These characteristics made me feel that there was a certain organic nature to the sound.
The "Cars" Blu-Ray in multi channel PCM has a very complex mix that is immensely enjoyable. Once again, I noticed a certain organic quality in the bass during the California race scene. This organic characteristic of the Optimum-12 is most likely due to its low distortion and acoustic suspension (sealed) enclosure design. The pitch definition in the bass registers helped draw me into the movie. One more notable quality of the Optimum-12 that was really evident while auditioning this movie is that it was not as localizable as my Hsu Research combo. This was an all-around authoritative performance by the Optimum-12.
Next up was the Blu-Ray of Kung Fu Panda. Once again, the Optimum-12 didn't quite grab you by the seat of the pants to the degree that my Hsu Research combo can. Still, the Velodyne sub was well-integrated into the mix and could play very loud in my theater space. All in all, this movie was a dynamic roller-coaster ride that we all wanted to watch over again before the closing credits had finished running. I could happily live with this Velodyne sub and its tendency toward rollicking, white-knuckle performances!
My first impression of the Optimum-12 when listening to the SACD of the Allman Brothers Band's "Eat a Peach" album was that the bass seemed a little congested. I had set the EQ contour to Rock/R&B. I started experimenting with the various EQ contours that are embedded in the Velodyne's electronics. The four contours are labeled Movies, Jazz/Classical, Rock/R&B and Games. The Jazz setting is flat and does not have a subsonic filter. The other three modes have some sort of response contour and subsonic filter. I eventually left the sub on Jazz/Classical for most of my listening as it provided the best overall tonal balance and was the mode that provided the best integrated, least localizable performance. Once I had returned the EQ contour setting to Jazz, this Allman Brothers album really soared. No trace of congestion remained. The drum solo and bass chords on Mountain Jam (Track 4) had a realistic live concert sound to them. You could really hear the Fillmore East venue in the ambiance that was presented.
Mark Knoplfer's SACD of "Shangri-La" also gelled with the Optimum-12. The Velodyne thoroughly preserves the timing and rhythm of the music. I found myself turning up the volume to nearly irresponsible levels. The bass lines were in time with the music. Distortion levels from the Optimum-12 seemed to be about the same (or maybe a little less) than my Hsu Research combo. I was glad that the Optimum-12 includes protection circuitry that protects the sub without causing it to shut down. Thank you, Velodyne!