It aspires to bring high levels of low octave bass which is both tuneful and powerful to your listening environment. The design brief also specified that the final product be of a relatively modest size and have an attractive finish to suit any décor. GoldenEar’s solution incorporates some novel twists on subwoofer technology, some of which, we’ve experienced in their ForceField line of subs. Sandy and his team have garnered an enviable reputation for delivering products with exceptional sound quality at approachable prices. Have they done it again with the SuperSub XXL? Let’s have a look shall we?
GoldenEar Technology SuperSub XXL Subwoofer
- Powerful, clean, and detailed bass reproduction for both movies and music
- Strong response right down to 20 Hz
- One sub is potent enough for a medium to large size room
- Compact size allows for easy integration of multiple subs
- Novel use of dual opposed drivers on the horizontal axis and dual opposed passive
radiators on the vertical axis
- May require a little extra care in placement for optimum results
GoldenEar has a thing for bass. Don’t get me wrong, it’s quite obvious that they work hard to achieve a high quality, well balanced sound in all of their products that I’ve encountered. A quick listen to any of their Triton speakers will get that point across pretty clearly. But GoldenEar does have a knack for extracting surprising levels of bass from speaker and subwoofer enclosures with sizes that would cause you to expect otherwise. One of the ways they accomplish this is through their clever, and unconventional, use of passive radiators in place of traditional porting schemes. In regards to subwoofers, I noted how effective I thought these strategies were in my review of the GoldenEar ForceField 5 last year.
Dual Driver Subwoofer with Dual Passive Radiators
Two 12” Long-throw High-output Bass Drivers
Two 12 ¾” x 14 ½”Quadratic Planar Infrasonic Radiators
10 Hz – 200 Hz
1,600 Watt ForceField Digital/DSP Amplifier
Low Pass Filter:
12dB/Octave Continuously Variable from 40 Hz – 200 Hz (Stereo Inputs)
The SuperSub XXL looks to take the formula of the ForceField 5 and effectively double most of the parameters while keeping it all in a single box with a manageable footprint. That’s two long throw 12 inch diameter drivers firing in a horizontally opposed orientation (left and right if you will). This isn’t such an unusual arrangement in subwoofers these days but adding a pair of large passive radiators, also in an opposed configuration (firing up and down), is something a little different.
Add in a significantly more powerful amplifier, a good deal of increased DSP processing horsepower and a larger (but not too large) well braced box, and you have all the ingredients for a very compelling low octave sonic generator. The fine folks at GoldenEar were kind enough to send two of these little beauties for my review as I like to run twin subs in my stereo setup and in my home theater. Hmmm. I wonder what possible trouble I could get myself into?
The GoldenEar SuperSub XXL does endeavor to pack a lot of technology into a moderately sized and smartly dressed package. From a purely aesthetic angle, the SuperSub XXL eschews the standard rectangular box by incorporating softly rounded edges and some inverted beveled front corners with a deep, gloss black piano finish all around. It definitely has a handsome and distinctive appearance with echoes of some simple art deco design cues. It’s a sturdy little box as well. Rapping your knuckles on the front of the enclosure gives you a distinct sense of solidity, and sore knuckles!
From a technical standpoint, the SuperSub XXL sports two 12” long throw bass drivers, similar to the one found in the GoldenEar ForceField 5 subwoofer. These drivers are mounted in a horizontally opposed configuration so that they fire out the left and right sides of the enclosure. In addition to these active drivers, GoldenEar couples two large oblong passive radiators, also in a horizontally opposed setup, firing out of the top and the bottom of the box.
This driver and drone arrangement is said to have a couple of major benefits. The first being that, since the active drivers are configured for bipolar operation (both cones move out of the enclosure at the same time, and inward at the same time, and are, thus, in phase), any inertial forces from the operation of a single driver, which would normally be transferred to the box as wasted energy, get cancelled out by the other driver. The second is that because there is sound radiating from four different axis, the SuperSub XXL should have a better time coupling with the room and, subsequently, smoother overall response. The subwoofer’s electronics package consists of a 1,600 watt class D amplifier controlled by a 56 bit processer section with a 192 kHz sampling rate.
On the back of the subwoofer we find the main inputs and controls. There is no ON/OFF switch as the subwoofer is auto signal sensing so only a blue status light indicates a state of activity. To the right of that is a toggle switch to select either LEFT/RIGHT or LFE input. Beside this are two rotary dials, one for setting the Low Pass Crossover frequency and the other for setting the overall level. Right below these dials are a pair of LEFT/RIGHT RCA input jacks. The LEFT jack also doubles as the LFE input and is switchable via the aforementioned toggle switch.
Again, this as a lot of stuff to be cramming into a box smaller than a 20” square cube.
For the majority of my testing, a single subwoofer was used and set up along the side wall nearest to the front right speaker. I found that this sub didn’t seem to like the normal spot that I usually locate subwoofers (front wall behind the front right or left speaker). After a bit of experimentation I found that the SuperSub XXL seemed to prefer a side wall placement in my habitat. That location seemed to result in the best coupling with the room and the smoothest raw overall response before any speaker calibration was applied.
GoldenEar was nice enough to send two identical subwoofers as I usually run twin subs in my home theater to help even out the bass response amongst all the seats. So after all the preliminary testing and measuring was done I incorporated the second subwoofer into the system, just to “gild the lily” a little bit.
Associated equipment used: Denon AVR-X4000 receiver, OPPO BDP-103 Blu-ray player, Salk Songtower main speakers, Zaph Audio ZD3C center channel speaker, Rocket RS300 quasi-dipole surround speakers, Pioneer 50” KURO plasma display.
I’ve had a fair amount of subwoofers in and out of this room, most have been bigger with some being significantly so. My initial listening impressions were that the SuperSub XXL does an excellent job keeping up with the bigger boys particularly where it counts. No, it won’t give much useable content below 20 Hz if that’s what you’re after. That sort of performance would require a noticeably bigger enclosure and bigger drivers than what the SuperSub has in order to deliver the required SPLs and keep the distortion level minimal. That’s just simply the physics of it.
I suspect GoldenEar has used some clever design and technology to obtain what they feel was an optimum balance between performance and size. And that line happened to fall right at 20 Hz, the traditionally accepted lowest frequency of human hearing. But for everything at 20 Hz and above, where most of the movie and music bass content is, this sub sounds incredibly sweet and detailed.
Like other GoldenEar subwoofer offerings, the SuperSub XXL excels at detail retrieval in the lower registers. When listening to music in particular, you really start to notice the different pitches down in the low end more. Plucks of a standup bass, a piano hammer hitting a low A, and kick drums all seemed to deliver a clearer sonic story versus the typical “thump, thwack, or thud” from some other subs I’ve heard. And while it does distinguish itself at the presentation of the subtleties, this sub will hit hard when you ask it to.
There was plenty of wall rattling during challenging movie passages and there were more than a few times I felt the bass hit me square in the chest when called upon. When I eventually added the second SuperSub XXL into the mix, positioning it directly across from the first one on the other wall, things just got even better! With more headroom at my disposal, everything just became more impactful.
The bass also became more even from seat to seat in my home theater, with a good deal less variation when I moved around. As I mentioned in the setup section, I did have to relocate this sub as I didn’t get the impression that it was performing to its potential in my usual subwoofer location. Whether that’s a result of its unique 4-axis design not meshing well with the room at that spot, I can’t rightly say. However it does underscore the importance of taking one’s time when integrating a subwoofer into a room because the sidewall, where the sub ended up being, was not someplace I would have considered ideal.
Once there and calibrated though, the bass fell in line perfectly. At no point in my listening did the bass ever seem disconnected from the rest of the system, whether listening in stereo or surround. My wife was quite surprised at the levels of bass coming out of this relatively diminutive (for us) box. She, of course, liked the fact that we could see more of our room and less of the equipment with the SuperSub XXL, so married folk, take that into your considerations as well. A few of the standout music and movie samples during my time with the SuperSub XXL were:
Tropic Affair by Jim Brock on Reference Recordings CD. This live to two track recording is an oldie but a goodie. Jim Brock’s drumming and percussive skills give the SuperSub XXL a proper workout. With kick drum hits that catch you properly in the gut on songs like “Ladies Of The Calabash” to the detail and weight of the lower register conga type drums on the song “Anya”, the SuperSub XXL kept pace with the dynamics and never once got sloppy with the sound. The rich electric bass lines of “Tropic Affair” and “Palm-Palm Girls” were also replayed with excellent weight, sustain and decay by the GoldenEar sub. The final track, “O Vazio”, begins and ends with loud and deep percussive strikes that can shake the room at volume. The SuperSub XXL passed that test extremely well, getting me to feel the initial strikes and the reverberations thoroughly.
Morph The Cat by Donald Fagan on Reprise Records, DVD-Audio 5.1 Surround. This disc is known for its aggressive electric bass lines and in full on surround, it does not disappoint! From the opening strains of the title track, the SuperSub XXL digs deep and keeps time, rendering the basslines with authority. Beyond the reproduction of the initial string pluck, the sub precisely renders that resulting reverberation and decay of the notes so perfectly that you get a good sense of just how much the bass player attacked those strings. This little bit of sonic heaven continued on with the funky tempo of “Brite Nightgown” and the smooth jazziness of “Mary Shut The Garden Door.” Bass and kick drum throughout these tracks just sounded palpable and richly textured.
The Secret of Kells Blu-Ray, Flatiron Films. This gem of an animated movie is, visually, a beautiful tapestry of design and color woven with Celtic mythology to create a fantastical tale that was a real treat to watch. While it doesn’t have an intense bass-heavy soundtrack, this movie does have well recorded Celtic drums underpinning the music and action all through the film. What struck me was just how good these drums sounded and the how well that the SuperSub XXL conveyed the impact and textures of those drums – from the quietest moments where they were merely an accent all the way through to the intense pounding during the attack of the Vikings. The SuperSub took a part of the soundtrack that I may not have otherwise paid more than scant attention to and brought it to the fore and revealed how important it was to the overall story and pacing of the movie.
Live Free or Die Hard Blu-Ray, 20th Century Fox. Now this is an action movie! Crashes, explosions, gunfire and a really foreboding soundtrack. The SuperSub XXL didn’t flinch at all during any of it. During the Tunnel scene when one of the cars becomes a flying projectile aimed squarely at our heroes. The resulting impact of that car hitting the ground completely shook the room. Another scene where the natural gas substation detonates in a series of progressively louder explosions is delivered to impressive effect with the SuperSub XXL. One of the best scenes was when the F-35 Raptor was firing its cannons at the semi-truck. The XXL made you feel each one of those rounds as they left the cannon barrel and headed straight for Bruce Willis! This sub can definitely get loud if the situation calls and the output is delivered cleanly within its operating range. I heard no distortion or any signs of distress with any of the movies or music I played.
All in-room measurements of the SuperSub XXL were recorded using an average of twelve separate measurements taken from various points in the listening area. This method helps to reduce the effect of room modes and helps give a more realistic indication of the overall subwoofer response in my home theater. The measurements were taken using Room EQ Wizard and a UMIK-1 microphone professionally calibrated by Cross Spectrum Labs. The graphs have no smoothing applied.
This is a measurement of a single SuperSub XXL alone, with no room correction or speaker calibration applied. Not a bad raw measurement with a modest rise from around 30-23 Hz before a steep rolloff just before 20 Hz. The dip at 67 Hz is a natural occurrence of the room itself.
This next graph shows the raw measurement (green trace) compared to the response of the sub after it’s been calibrated with Audyssey XT32 and crossed over to my main speakers at 80 Hz (red trace). Overall a respectably smooth graph with a particularly flat lower end. Running this sub a few dB “hot” while watching movies will give you nice little added punch without sounding bloated.
The GoldenEar SuperSub XXL is a well crafted, attractive, and potent piece of low level, percussive delivery hardware. It is thoughtfully designed, solidly built and leverages GoldenEar’s expertise and technology in a novel way to deliver outstanding bass performance from a modestly sized enclosure. No, it is not a miner of sub-20 Hz material. But in its operating range, it excels in delivering all the quantity and quality of bass that you could practically need. It does this with such an emphasis on detail retrieval and a lack of distortion that it will be particularly admired by music lovers.
THE SUPERSUB XXL Delivers The Goods, Where It Counts, With Practical Performance And Style.
- Excellent sound quality
- Modest footprint
- Solid construction
- Attractive finish
- A 0/180 phase switch or variable phase control for those who don’t use room correction
- A balanced (XLR) input
- Other finishes beyond piano black
- Perhaps a larger version of this type of sub, capable of usable output below 20 Hz for those who like to feel their pants vibrating
The SuperSub XXL doesn’t forget the movie crowd either, being deftly capable at delivering all the cinematic cataclysms, at volume and pressure that your movie collection can muster. If you are looking for a subwoofer that will seriously do justice to both your music and movies and won’t take up a huge chunk of your room, I can thoroughly recommend the GoldenEar SuperSub XXL. Just be sure to take the time and care to set it up right and you will be richly rewarded. As a matter of fact, get two of them and just try to wipe the resulting grin off your face. I dare you!