Product Review - Carver Knight Shadow 10" Subwoofer - March, 2002
John E. Johnson, Jr.
One 10" Rubberized Paper Cone
Nominal Impedance: 5.7 Ohms
Amplifier: 500 Watts RMS into 5.7 Ohms
Variable Phase 00 - 1800, Variable Low Pass 35 H - 100 Hz; Passive 70 Hz High-Pass
Size: 11" H x 11" W x 11" D
Weight: 40 Pounds
MSRP: $849 USA
Carver Corporation, P.O. Box 1589, Snohomish, Washington 98291; Web http://www.carveraudio.com/
"I'm baaaaaaack," Bob Carver probably says, about the return of Carver Corporation. As many of you know, Bob sold his interests in Carver Corporation some years ago, started Sunfire Corporation, and then bought the Carver name back. Although Sunfire and Carver make the same type of products, namely receivers, amplifiers, and subwoofers, the market is different. Sunfire is the high-performance arm, while Carver Corporation will get back to its roots, making bang for the buck stuff.
This is where the Carver Knight Shadow subwoofer comes in. It uses some of technology of the Sunfire, including a long throw driver and tracking downconverter power amplifier, but the amplifier is not quite so large, and there is no passive radiator. The result is a powerful subwoofer - not earth shattering (neither is the price) - and is something that everyone can afford.
If you look at the photo up top, you will see that the Shadow looks pretty much like the Sunfire Subwoofers. The enclosure is semi-gloss black, the enclosure is small (11" cubed), the driver goes all the way out to the edge of the enclosure, and the driver has a huge rubber surround. I don't think I have ever seen a home theater product design that set in motion so much change in the industry as did this look. That surround has been mimicked all over the world. The reason it is so big is that the driver has a very large excursion (movement forward and backward) which requires a large flexible surround to accommodate the movement. When I look at that big surround, I think of the air cushions that people with hemorrhoids sit on, but that is because I am a geezer.
Of course, to drive that cone so far requires a big amplifier too, and the Shadow sports 500 watts. If you are familiar with Sunfire Subwoofers, you know this is a fraction of what Bob's tracking downconverter power amplifiers are capable of in the Sunfires. On the other hand, 500 watts are not exactly wimpy. The Shadow comes with a wooden frame grille. I guess the plastic ones don't hold up in wind tunnels.
The rear panel of the Shadow has a very familiar look (photo below). Except for the name Carver, it is identical to the Sunfire layout. Line-level inputs and outputs are gold-plated RCA jacks, and the speaker binding posts are gold-plated too. My oh my, we have come a long way from the old spring clips.
The level controls are flexible, having volume, crossover, and variable phase. Well marked and easy to read. My kind of panel. The AC is grounded and uses detached power cables.
Unlike Sunfire Subwoofers, the Shadow does not have a passive radiator.
Although the Shadow is about the same price as the Sunfire Subwoofer Junior that I just reviewed, the Shadow is more powerful. For example, while the Sunfire Junior could put out 105 dB maximum at 31.5 Hz, the Shadow delivered 108 dB at that frequency (both measured at 1 meter, with the subwoofers 1 meter from a rear wall). 3 dB may not appear to be very much, but it is the equivalent of doubling an amplifier's output power. This is significant. Why the difference? Well, they both use similar technology, but the Shadow has a 10" driver, while the Junior has a 7". Even though the Junior has a 1,500 watt amplifier, that smaller driver and smaller box make a huge difference in what the sub can deliver. That is probably why no one before Bob Carver ever made such small subs. Now they are commonplace with the development of digital switching amplifiers that can be small yet powerful and efficient (and not horrendously expensive either).
The frequency (room) response chart, shown below, indicates that the Shadow rolls off quickly below 31.5 Hz. The rise at 20 Hz is due to strong harmonics. At 25 Hz, however, it sounded quite clean. The magnetic field created by the Shadow being driven hard caused me to have to degauss my computer monitor, which was nearby, after the tests. If I have to start testing products in steel bank vaults with my computer outside, I think I will switch hobbies.
I used the Shadow in our reference home theater lab, with a Theta Casablanca II, Theta Dreadnaught Power Amplifier, and Cinepro Power Amplifier. Speakers were Krix and Threshold Electrostatics. Cables were Nordost and BetterCables.
The Shadow can kick tail with the best of them. It won't compete with an 18" subwoofer, but for its size, it is very good. I was particularly impressed with the cleanliness down to 25 Hz. That is hard to do for any subwoofer. At average listening levels, the Shadow does not sound all that different from the big expensive guys.
We tried all our reference DVDs with the Shadow, including the pod race from "Star Wars: Episode I", "True Lies", "Pearl Harbor", and "The Matrix". All the thuds, thumps, and kabooms were there where they should be, and nothing seemed to be missing. A flat response to 15 Hz is nice if you are listening to concert pipe organ CDs, but not much is down there in movie sound tracks (in terms of percentage of the total sound track). I had to yawn to pop my ears after all that. Subwoofers sure have improved over the past few years. A short while ago, a subwoofer like this, at such a low price, and so small, did not exist. It will go anywhere, and play just about anything. I only have one complaint: I have to return the review unit.
The review is short because Bob's technology is well established. Rather than wallowing in verbosity, I cut to the chase. The bugs are out and the quality is in. The Carver Knight Shadow is a solid, well built, high performing product. For under $1,000, this sub is on the short list.
- John E. Johnson, Jr. -
© Copyright 2002 Secrets of Home Theater & High Fidelity
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