Subwoofers

Fall Shopping Guide to Affordable Subwoofers - Chrysalis Photon-8, Starfire-10, and BassMatrix-12

ARTICLE INDEX
Chrysalis Photon-8, Starfire-10, BassMatrix-12 Subwoofers

Introduction to Chrysalis Subwoofers

The football season is upon us, and although you might not be thinking about a subwoofer to reproduce the deep sounds of shoulder pads smashing into chest pads, you know you want one for those movies by fireside and nachos.

Back-to-School purchases for your kids may have brought you near the limits of your credit card, and you are trying to figure out how to get some boom, thud, and crash, but not spend so much cash? Right? Right.

If we backpedal to a few years ago, buying a small subwoofer really meant "Token Bass". You know, just something you could point to in the corner when your buddies asked you if you had a subwoofer.

Those days are over, and it's a shopping time we go.

Specifications

  • Chrysalis Photon-8
  • Design: Sealed Enclosure
  • Driver: 8"
  • Magnet Structure: 12.7 Pounds
  • Amplifier Power: 1,000 Watts RMS (Class D)
  • MFR: 26 Hz - 120 Hz ± 3 dB
  • Inputs: Line-Level and Speaker-Lever
  • Outputs: Line-Level; 80 Hz High-Pass
  • Adjustable Low-Pass: 40 Hz - 120 Hz
  • Dimensions: 10.1" H x 10.4" W x 12.8" D
  • Weight: 30 Pounds
  • MSRP: $999 USA (Photon10 is $1,249)
  • Chrysalis Starfire-10
  • Design: Ported
  • Driver: 10"
  • Magnet Structure: 5.6 Pounds
  • Amplifier Power: 150 Watts RMS (Class D)
  • MFR: 32 Hz - 140 Hz ± 3 dB
  • Inputs: Line-Level and Speaker-Level
  • Outputs: Speaker Pass-Through
  • Adjustable Low-Pass: 50 Hz - 200 Hz
  • Dimensions: 13.8" H 12.8" W x 14.4" D
  • Weight: 25 Pounds
  • MSRP: $399 USA (Starfire-12 is $499)
  • Chrysalis BassMatrix-12
  • Design: Slot-Loaded
  • Driver: 12"
  • Magnet Structure: 5.5 Pounds
  • MFR: 28 Hz - 120 Hz ± 3 dB
  • Inputs: Line-Level and Speaker-Level
  • Outputs: Line-Level and Speaker-Level
  • Adjustable Low-Pass: 60 Hz - 150 Hz
  • Presets: Movies, R&B-Rock, Jazz-Classical, Games
  • Dimensions: 15.9" H x 15" W x 16.8" D
  • Weight: 50 Pounds
  • MSRP: $699 USA (BassMatrix-10 is $599)
  • Chrysalis Acoustics

Velodyne has always meant quality, and during their early years, it meant big bucks too. The technology for building high power and deep thud for a few hundred $$$ was just not available.

Well, now it's available.

For this review, we chose one of each of three new lines by Chrysalis (designed and manufactured by Velodyne for various markets).

These are the Photon-8, Starfire-10, and BassMatrix-12.

Design: Chrysalis Subwoofers

The number in the various model names is obviously the size of the driver, but what are the other differences?

Well, the littlest one (Photon) has the biggest amplifier for one thing. And, the biggest price. Why? Because it takes heavy duty engineering, heavy duty drivers, and powerful amplifiers to get big bass out of a little box. And when you are talking about a box this small, it is really tough. Ergo, more bucks.

Below is a photo of the Photon-8 (it is also the one on the far left in the photo at the beginning of this review).

Chrysalis Photon-8 Subwoofer

It has a sealed enclosure and a 1,000 watt RMS amplifier. The driver is front-firing. It will fit just about anywhere. MSRP - $999.

The Photon-8 amplifier panel is shown below. It has all the controls we expect from a flexible sub, including auto on/off, the ability to bypass the crossover (every modern SSP and receiver has crossovers built-in for the subwoofer), and phase adjustment.

Chrysalis Photon-8 Subwoofer Rear Panel

Next up on the list is the Starfire-10. The driver is forward firing, and there is a port on the bottom. Amplifier power is 150 watts RMS. MSRP - $399. Bought at a discounted price, you will be driving home with a big smile on your face and some green still left in your wallet.

Chrysalis Starfire-10 Subwoofer

Notice that there is no on/off switch. The sub is meant to be used as auto on/off. It turns on when it senses a signal. Switching amplifiers are the reason. They draw almost zero power when they are not playing any music. Other than that, just a few basic features. Spring clips for speaker-level in/out instead of binding posts.

Chrysalis Starfire-10 Subwoofer Rear Panel

And hither comes the BassMatrix 12. It is slot loaded, which means it has a horizontal slot along the front bottom. The amplifier is 200 watts RMS. MSRP is $599.

Chrysalis BassMatrix-12 Subwoofer

Here is the BassMatrix rear panel. It has a power on/off toggle and an Auto sensing switch. These days, the amplifiers in subwoofers are so efficient (Class D - Switching), I just leave all my subwoofers in the Auto-On mode. When I watch a movie or play some music, they power on by themselves, and when I finish, they turn off after a couple of minutes. It's a great feature.

Chrysalis BassMatrix-12 Subwoofer Rear Panel

The crossover is different on each of these models, so you will need to pay close attention when setting up the subwoofer output on your SSP or receiver. In general, I like to have my SSP control the crossover, so if the crossover cannot be totally defeated on the subwoofer, you simply turn it to the highest setting, such as 200 Hz, and set the crossover frequency that you actually want to have, e.g., 80 Hz, in the SSP. Remember to always keep the volume control down when you are making changes to any switches. Turn it off before plugging in or unplugging cables.

The BassMatrix has a remote control that lets you select among several preset bass EQs, such as Rock, Jazz, and Games. This gives you extra bass punch just in the right places when you are listening to different types of music.

Chrysalis BassMatrix-12 Subwoofer Remote Control


The Chrysalis Subwoofers In Use

I continue to be surprised at the sound of products designed by Velodyne. The Chrysalis are no exception.

The BassMatrix-12 put out the most bass because it has the largest enclosure and driver. There is just no way to fight the laws of physics. But, the Photon-8 had the tightest bass, and that is because it is easier to contol a smaller cone. I did not hear clipping, because the subwoofers have limiters. Chrysalis knows that we are going to crank up the sound, so they build some protection into the circuit. It will only go so loud, and not loud enough to damage the driver.

And, they do play loud. Not like my Velodyne DD-18, but they are not designed to compete with the sound of a $5,000 subwoofer that has an 18" driver capable of 2" excursion and 1,500 watts of RMS power to make it all happen. The Chrysalis are designed for someone looking for a quality subwoofer that fits over by the couch, or near a corner, doesn't overpower the room with its physical size, and only puts a small dent in your credit card balance.

I used the three subs in our various audio rooms, playing John Coltrane in one of our two-channel audio setups (vinyl), and watching the new Blu-ray release of Transformers in our home theater lab. Each Chrysalis delivered great bass. This is a far, far cry from what relatively small subs could do just a few years ago. The title of the story now is "The Little Box that Could".

Chrysalis Subwoofers Test LP by John Coltrane

Chrysalis Subwoofers Test Blu-ray DVD Transformers

Chrysalis Subwoofers On the Bench

I measured the room response for all three subwoofers, placing the microphone 1 foot away from the center of the driver.

Here are the results.

To compare the three subs, look at the drop in output between 50 Hz and 30 Hz, which is the most important region, as none of them would really be expected to produce high output in the 20 Hz to 30 Hz area.

So, the Photon-8 drops 6 dB, the Starfire-10 drops 13 dB, and the BassMatrix drops 8 dB. The little 8" sub performed the best in that measurement. Remember, though, it's the most expensive, and that expense went to engineering a good output at those low frequencies. And, hey, it's not easy.

Chrysalis Photon-8 Subwoofer Frequency Response

Chrysalis Starfire-10 Subwoofer Frequency Response

Chrysalis BassMatrix-12 Subwoofer Frequency Response

At 35 Hz, I was able to get 109 dB from the Photon-8, 108 dB from the Starfire-10, and 112 dB from the BassMatrix-12. The BassMatrix-12 also had the lowest distortion. Again, you can't fight the laws of physics. A large driver in a large enclosure lets components work more efficiently than a small driver in a small box.

I basically played the heck of these subs and didn't have any problems. They will be a custom installer's dream.

Conclusions About Chrysalis Subwoofers

So, you plunk down your cash and you take your choice. For myself, I would choose the BassMatrix-12. It plays louder at lower distortion. But, I have this suspicion that the Photon-8 is the one that Chrysalis won't be able to keep on the shelves at the stores. It is small, and plays deeper than the other two.

In any case, you can't go wrong with whichever Chrysalis model you choose. Don't make the mistake of thinking that Chrysalis is lower quality than Velodyne models of similar size. The same technology is there, just through different distribution channels. In this economy, these subs could be a very pleasant surprise when you decide to make the move on rounding out the bass in your two-channel audio or home theater systems.