- Written by Richard Stevens
- Published on 06 April 2009
I remember building my first home theater system many moons ago. I can still feel the agonizing pain of shopping for a subwoofer. Of all the components in my system it was the one item I obsessed over the most. Being the newbie that I was I had two basic requirements, big and loud. Over the years as my tastes refined I started to care less about size and subwoofers that go "boom" and began to care more about detail, finesse and accuracy. While I don't consider myself a subwoofer snob I appreciate good bass as much as the next man. Luckily for me there weren't many choices when I first got started, nowadays there are choices galore. Internet-direct and brick & mortar dealers offer a wide variety of options at a wide variety of prices. One can start to feel like a kid in a candy store. At the CSX-15's price $399.00, this sub has a chance to solidify itself as a value/performance leader. I was eager to see what it was capable of.
- Design: Ported Enclosure
- Driver: 15"
- 2.5" Voice Coil
- 100 Ounce Magnet
- MFR: 25 Hz - 500 Hz
- Amplifier: 225 Watts RMS
- Input Impedance: 33 kOhms
- Phase Control: 00 - 1800
- Low Pass: 40 Hz - 120 Hz @ 12 dB per Octave
- Selectable Bass Boost EQ - 12 dB @ 45 Hz
- Crossover Bypass Switch
- Dimensions: 21" H x 18.25" W x 17.75" D
- MSRP: $399.99
Setup and Installation
If you don't have any friends this would be a great time to make some. The packaging is very heavy, tipping the scales at over 90 pounds. I would definitely recommend recruiting some help when moving this puppy around. Cadence does a splendid job with the packaging of the CSX-15, using thick styrofoam plates and not one, not two, but three boxes for shipping.
Needless to say it survived the trip in one piece. Removing the CSX-15 from its packaging I was immediately struck by its recessed grill, the pictures on the web don't do it justice, it's quite the looker. Gloss finishes aren't for everyone, especially for those of us with small children. Even if it is prone to smudges, I liked the black piano gloss face of the CSX-15. The CSX-15 comes with 4 large cones and 4 mini-floor plates for use on both carpeted and hard wood floors.
The front of the sub showcases a computer tuned bass-reflex vented port below its 15" woofer and is constructed with ¾" high density MDF fiber. The sub is finished in black woodgrain with the exception of the faceplate. Around back is where things get interesting, aside from your basic gain and crossover controls the CSX-15 features a bass boost switch that can add up to 12db's at 45hz. I recommend playing with this setting to see if it's right for you.
Depending on placement I got good results with this setting on 6db or disengaged all together, your room and listening tastes may vary. If not set correctly this can add considerable boominess to the sound, so again I stress caution when trying to find the right setting. The CSX-15 also features a very capable Class A 500 watt dynamic/225 watt rms amplifier. The 15" woofer is accompanied by a 2.5" Four-Layer Dupont Kapton Voice Coil Former. I usually don't obsess over such things but the knobs and speaker connecters appeared to be off good quality giving the back panel a distinguished look. Another bonus considering the price of the CSX-15.
For the time being my home theater room has been temporarily relocated to my living room (you can imagine how popular this makes me around the house). Living rooms can be tricky for home theaters, typically they aren't acoustically treated and tend to have things like furniture in them, this isn't the ideal place for linear bass. Because of the environment I was dealt I had to go back to subwoofer 101, the old sweet spot trick. Placing the subwoofers in various locations throughout the room and crawling around the floor to locate the spot that works best for that room. Luckily for my knees this didn't take too long. The CSX-15 ended up in the front left corner of the room with the woofer almost directly facing my main listening position nearly 12 feet away. My living room is fairly large by big city standards at 24 x 15 so I was anxious to see how the CSX-15 would sound in this space. I connected the CSX-15 to my Denon AVR with the crossover set to 80hz, I'm not stuck on this setting, my speakers are pretty flexible. I usually set the crossover anywhere between 80 to 100HZ. 80hz worked fine with the CSX-15.
Say what you want about burn-in but I'm stuck in my ways, I lived with the CSX-15 for a few days before giving it a serious workout. The thing I love most about new subwoofers is digging through my treasure chest of bass heavy DVD's, I'm sure I'm not the only one. The Lord of the Rings trilogy continues to be one of my favorites, not just because of the near constant low frequency action but because of the movies themselves, it's quite easy to lose yourself in them. In my opinion all three movies are demo material. To put the CSX-15 through its paces I turned to the third installment; "Return of the King". Right away the CSX-15 established its ground, midbass was strong and blended well with the main speakers. The front sound stage was seamless. It's important for a subwoofer to not draw attention to itself, the CSX-15 succeeded.
Chapter 37, "The Battle of Pelennor Fields" is one of my favorites. It's a scene I know well having demo'd it a 100 times. I was surprised how well the Cadence subwoofer performed; my reference sub had a bit more slam and is a step faster but the CSX-15 held its own. Cadence rates the useable frequency response of the CSX-15 at 25 Hz on the low end, which is pretty accurate. At reference levels the Candence remained composed, seeming to have much more headroom than the specifications suggest. At 105 db's the CSX-15 didn't flinch. In my room the CSX-15 was playable down to about 21 Hz, I experienced a roll-off of nearly 10db below that. I didn't expect the CSX-15 to reach ultimate subsonic depths but nearly 20 Hz playback at this price range is very good.
When it comes to subwoofers, music separates the men from the boys. I'll be honest, a 15" woofer wouldn't be my first choice for music, especially on fast paced material that requires a certain amount of agility. I popped in John Mayer's "Continuum" album to see how the CSX-15 would handle itself. Again I noticed the CSX-15 was a bit slower than what I was accustomed to, but not disappointingly so. Midbass accuracy and detail were both very good. On track 4 "Gravity" the CSX-15 was right at home, I was tapping my toes in no time. Every time I had a criticism of the CSX-15 I was drawn back to its price.
Multichannel music was equally satisfying. John Legend's "Live at the House of Blues" Blu-ray has an outstanding PCM 5.1 soundtrack, this is bass you can feel, the Cadence handled itself quite well. I experienced some boominess when the bass guitar kicked in, further adjustment of the bass boost control alleviated the problem, proper setup is critical with the CSX-15.
Below are measurements courtesy of Cadence. The CSX-15 was pretty solid across the frequency range.
SPL vs. Frequency
Impedance vs. Frequency
The Cadence CSX-15 has set a new standard for budget subwoofers, at least in my opinion. Its price to performance ratio is incredible. While I found its music performance to be good, its performance with movies was excellent. It may not be the fastest sub out there nor will it have you reaching for your pipe organ collection it does provide excellent performance with a wide range of material. In today's economy every dollar counts and bang for your buck is King. If you're looking for great performance at a great price you owe it to yourself to check out the CSX-15.