- Written by Kevin Lichterman
- Published on 05 March 2008
I've lived with Epik's Conquest subwoofer for three months now, so I've really taken my time completing this review. In my defense, there were extenuating circumstances for my tardiness.
First of all, in all honesty, I only had a small window each day to listen to the subwoofer. My audition time was limited to the few hours between the time I arrived home from my day job (after reading this you'll certainly agree I can't quit my day job) and my kid's bedtime. Sure, there were more hours in the day, but for some reason the poor kid found it disconcerting when her bed along with the rest of the house would tremble at the pounding bass of the Conquest. Second, call me greedy, but once you get used to this level of performance, it's hard to give it back up, but I am getting ahead of myself.
Epik Subwoofers – The New Kid in Town
If you haven't heard of Epik Subwoofer until now, it's forgivable. The company was founded by Chad Kuypers in August 2007 in Crystal Lake, Illinois - a small town in Northeastern Illinois near Chicago. Chad's an accomplished musician and has a decade of speaker building experience according to his biography. f He works with his father, who himself has 30 years of furniture manufacturing experience, at Epik to build subwoofers that can be stamped "Made in America". Their stated goal is to bring world class bass performance at reasonable prices to the consumer. Let's see how they do.
- Deisgn: Front-Firing; Ported (Dual 6")
- Driver: 18" Paper/Kevlar
- Amplifier: 1,000 Watts RMS BASH
- Dimensions: 36" H x 22" W x 31" D
- Weight: 200 Pounds
- MSRP: $1,599 USA
- Epik Subwoofers
Creating a Conquest
There are some price-is-no-object subs on the market in search of ultimate bass performance. Epik takes a different approach with the Conquest. I'd say it's been designed around the "size-is-no-object" philosophy. You can see the difference between the Conquest and a more typically sized subwoofer in the photo below. Generally, the larger a speaker cabinet is, the more efficiently it can produce bass. An efficient design can lead to lower production costs. With that concept in mind, this is one of the biggest subwoofers I have seen intended for use in a home environment. Will Epik's choices allow them to meet or beat competitors' prices and still provide top-notch performance?
Finished, the enclosure of the Conquest is 36" High x 22" Wide x 30" Deep. To put this size in perspective, it's roughly the size of a 46" Rear Projection TV. It is constructed using ¾" thick (1 ½" around the driver) Ultra Refined Grade Medium Density Fiberboard (MDF). This higher grade of MDF, compared to what you'll typically find at Home Depot, offers a more homogeneous composition that will ensure a better looking enclosure especially on exposed edges. I'd suspect its uniformity may contribute to a less resonant enclosure as well – at least to some degree.
Using this raw material, Epik uses a four-axis computer controlled (CNC) milling machine to cut out the 12 pieces that make up the Conquest enclosure and its four internal braces. Again, I suspect that using this method for production reduces costs to Epik by decreasing waste and by increasing efficiency of construction due to the speed and precision of CNC machine. The end consumer benefits as well through the passed along savings and high quality construction.
The combination of the MDF, the internal cabinet bracing (see above), and a good stuffing of acoustic insulation give the enclosure a solid feel for its size. Give most sides of the enclosure a good knuckle rap, and you get a nice dull thud. However, where the internal braces are not present, the sound is a bit hollow. This can lead to coloring of the sound in some speakers. However, on the well vented Conquest this did not seem to be an issue.
While a wood veneer finish is offered, the main finish of the Conquest is a textured black. According to Epik, the coating they use is an energy absorbing coating used by the military as part of body and vehicle armor. While I don't know if it will stop a bullet, in my experience it does seem scratch resistant. In fact, in reminds me a bit of a spray in tuck bed liner - admittedly a much more glossy and smooth finish than you'll find in most pickups.
Subjectively, I found that the enclosure of the Conquest was well built. All attached components of the system such as the driver and ports were attractively flush mounted within tight tolerances. The enclosure edges were nicely rounded over. The black finish itself would best be described as functional. It is not as nice as some of the furniture grade finishes I have seen on other speakers, such as the ERA Design 5 speakers and subwoofer I previously reviewed. On close inspection, I was able to detect a flaw or two in the enclosure finish at the corners. In these cases, I could detect the underlying seam through the finish. However, this is inconsequential. Overall, for a subwoofer of this size, I'd say it could blend into a typical dimly lit home theater.
Driver and Ports
The driver of the Conquest is impressive. It is a proprietary design of Epik's, being an American made 18" driver weighing in at nearly 70 pounds! It features a paper cone, reinforced with Kevlar for piston like stiffness, three inches of excursion, and 3000 Watts of power handling capacity. This baby moves some air! Speaking of air, dual 6" or cat sized (trust me) flared ports are used along with this massive driver. According to Epik, these ports allow the driver " . . . to perform virtually unhindered by compression".
As you can see from the picture of it removed from the enclosure, the amplifier for the Conquest is almost as impressive looking as the driver. Although there's neither a big toroidal transformer nor much heft that one would traditionally equate with amplifier quality, based on its ratings, the physical size is deceiving. The Conquest uses a BASH / Indigo design customized specifically for Epik. This particular design falls into the Class D switching category of amplifiers, a category known for its high efficiency. With an RMS rating of 1,000 watts that peaks even higher, it can definitely get the job done, as you'll see below.
Connectivity and Control
For connectivity, the Conquest offers the typical high level (speaker) and low level (RCA) inputs. The low level inputs have a pass-though feature to allow daisy chaining multiple subs. It does not offer the balanced inputs found on some other subs. Balanced XLR inputs can offer better noise immunity than unbalanced low level inputs provide. However, with my 15 foot run of Monster Subwoofer RCA cable, this was not an issue.
To allow seamless integration with the rest of the speaker system, the Conquest provides: a fully variable crossover control from 50 to 150 Hz, fully variable phase control from 0 to 180 degrees, and a fully variable level or output control. The ability to completely bypass the internal crossover in favor of using an SSP crossover is a nice addition.
Power to the Conquest can be set to On if you plan on controlling the sub with a master power conditioner / controller or Auto to turn on automatically when bass signal is present. I found that the power cable provided was a touch loose and had no ground prong. If I were to keep the sub I'd replace that cable. Also, if I had a choice, I'd prefer that a ground be included on the Conquest's amp with an option to lift the ground to eliminate any possible ground loop hum would it become necessary.
Since I live within driving distance of the Epik factory, Chad and his father were kind enough to deliver the speaker directly to me. Without many options to move it once the Conquest was in place (you'll see why below), I had them place it in my basement theater.
This room had the Infinity Beta setup as seen here in Colin Miller's review (sans the subs), a Yamaha DSP-A1 working as a preamp, and an Adcom GFA 555 Mark II providing amplification. I used this setup for most of the testing, although I did throw a pair of B&W bookshelves (CDM-1NT) in for some of the 2.1 channel testing.
While I twiddled with the Conquest's crossover, for the testing I used the 80 Hz low pass output provided by the Yamaha to drive the Conquest. The Conquest itself was placed roughly 1/3 of the way down the main wall, well out of the corner (it did not need any kind of corner reinforcement).
My initial reaction to the Conquest Subwoofer was "Wow, so that's what real bass is!" In this I was far from alone. Anecdotally, a friend of mine with a fairly high-end system (mainly B&W 801 speakers driven and controlled by Bryston components) was forced to search for an upgrade to his own system after listening to the Conquest in mine. There'll be more on this story later.
Home Theater – 5.1
When a bomb goes off in a movie and a picture jumps on the wall, you know you are in for something special with a subwoofer like this. Early on in my audition, I watched a CSI New York episode and jumped out of my seat when there was a lab explosion. Definitely not my normal reaction!
Since the Conquest was truly a step up performance wise from what I was used to, I found myself revisiting many of the clips and movies I had previously viewed to see how big the difference was with the Conquest.
First I tried The Haunting from "dts Demonstration Disk #4" (a nice collection of Movie Clips from dts). The scene in the clip is when the house comes to life and attacks. On all my previous viewings, the sub in the system would always clip with the low frequency effects. The Conquest handled it with aplomb.
Next, I next tried chapter 9 from The Incredibles. Mr. Incredible's first battles with the rolling Omnidriod literally shook the room.
I've always felt that the plane crash from Tom Hank's Cast Away was very realistic – well I assume it was realistic, at least it's as close as I need to get. Anyway, the Conquest simply increased my appreciation of this scene. It crashed around just like the plane and honestly, reduced any of my immediate desires to become airborne.
Since I've had the Conquest in my system for over three months and have viewed a few dozen movies, I could go on and on singing its praises. The Conquest's performance never failed to impress. But I've been reminded I'm not paid by the word.
While I primarily focus on home theater, I did break out some tunes as well. I first tried a couple of the typical house shaking genres - rap and pipe organs. What, don't you always listen to the two back to back? For rap I tried LL Cool J's "Going Back to Calli" of his Greatest Hits All World. The impact of the bass line was as good as I've ever heard. It was in the chest-pounding good fun. Of course I couldn't skip the pipe organ, so I gave a traditional standby a shot, Bach's "Toccata and Fugue in D Minor". This particular version was from Sound Check from Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab. I've always been impressed with the attention to details in their recordings. Almost needless to say at this point, the lower notes of the organ were reproduced with an impact I've never heard before. Heck on some systems these sounds are completely irreproducible.
Finally, I listened to a little music that wasn't so much focused on maximum impact, rather I tried to see how subtle this big boy could be - did it have the speed to blend well with mains? Simply, I'd say yes. Plucked bass guitars transitioned smoothly between my main towers and the Conquest. For example, the bass was subtly but authoritatively reinforced in "She Makes Me Feel Good" by Lyle Lovett on his recording on the 1999 dts 5.1 Demo CD. I know, 5.1 music in the 2.1 section - sacrilege! This smooth blending of the sound between the mains and the sub held for both the Infinity Beta 50 tower speakers as well as the smaller B&W bookshelves. This seems to indicate that the Conquest is flexible enough to work well in many systems.
So did it measure as well as my glowing reviews would indicate – heck yeah! Although measuring the performance of this darn thing was tough. All I had on hand was my (usually) trusty Radio Shack SPL meter with its roughly 120 dB max range. As always, I placed the meter close to the driver (roughly at the speaker grille) to reduce the room's influence. In this position, the Conquest was easily able to exceed the maximum capability of the meter, so I'm not entirely sure what the upper limit of the sub is! The measurements I did make are noted in the graph below. As you can see, the measured performance is between 122 and 127 dB between 10 and 80 Hz. Pretty darn impressive!
The Conquest is an eye opening subwoofer. If you are looking for spectacular bass regardless of size, this is your sub. The Conquest has few peers, and at $1,599 it really is a steal. However, I give one caveat: this is a heck of a big box. In a room, it's the equivalent of adding a big screen TV – perhaps even the second. If you have the space or can design a theater around the Conquest, look no further. However, if you are short on space or are design and décor conscious, you may have to look for other options. Epik itself offers many other choices. Based on the pedigree and accomplishments of the Conquest, one of these may meet your needs.
Back to my anecdote from earlier, my friend did go out and purchase a subwoofer, two in fact – JL Fathoms F112 and F113. Both he and I agree that the Conquest is the better performer on many levels except one, only the smaller Fathoms could get past his wife. In fact, most subwoofer manufacturers don't build large enclosure subwoofers for exactly this reason. The upside to the Conquest is its great big down low, and its downside is its great big upsize.