Subwoofers

Velodyne Optimum-12 Subwoofer

ARTICLE INDEX

Design and Set-up

The Optimum 12 can be had in either of two finish options: hand-rubbed gloss black lacquer or real cherry veneer. My review sample was of the gloss black persuasion. It looked terrific and fit in nicely with the décor of my theater space. There is no up charge for the cherry veneer finish and I'm sure it's equally as nice as the black finish.

Velodyne Optimum-12 Subwoofer

The sub comes with a remote control that controls all elements of the woofer's set-up and operation. This remote responded within a relatively narrow angle of incidence. The remote is very useful from the standpoint of being able to adjust the sub level on the fly, switch between different equalizer contours and cycle through the four available phase angles (0°, 90°, 180° and 270°). I really like having control over the phase angle while sitting in the theater space. I find that the differences between various phase settings can be very subtle and your aural memory doesn't always allow you to discern the different settings when you have to walk back and forth between the sub and your seating position. There is one other unique feature of the remote that I personally liked the most: it attaches to the back of the sub magnetically when not in use. How cool is that?

Velodyne Optimum-12 Subwoofer

The Optimum-12 is equipped with a 1,200 watt Class "D" switching amplifier. This rating is on the basis of an RMS output. Velodyne claims that this amp can generate 2,400 watt peaks. No distortion specification is provided. Be that as it may, this is a lot of power and is one major key behind the sub's output and extension.

Velodyne Optimum-12 Subwoofer

This sub comes equipped with a seven band graphic equalizer. There is no video or serial output that would allow the user to view or manipulate the settings. If you want to manually adjust things for yourself, then you will have to move up to Velodyne's Digital Drive models or purchase an outboard equalizer such as Velodyne's own SMS-1 both of which include outputs that allow the user complete control over the equalizer functionality.

The Optimum-12's equalizer is, therefore, fully automated. The user places the included mic at the seating position, presses a button on the remote and the woofer issues a series of sweep tones, measures the response and makes the appropriate corrections. The mic is a small, lightweight cylinder (about ¼" in diameter and ½" long). Its decent quality lead-in cable is flexible and easy to wind and unwind. The mic "stand" is a small, dense metallic pedestal. I wish it had a threaded fitting on the bottom so that it could be attached to a tripod. It did work competently when I placed it on top of the back cushion of my listening seat.

I must say that the equalizer in this sub is far more accomplished than the equalizer that's built into my receiver. It was able to flatten the response to a degree that has eluded me in the past. There is still a minor suck out at around 40 Hz but it is much less pronounced with the Velodyne than my reference system.

I would like to offer one more observation on the topic of equalizers. Being somewhat of a purist, I do not generally engage EQ's. As a point of fact, I run all my main channels un-EQ'd. But when it comes to subwoofers, I currently feel that equalizers are nearly essential to getting good bass response due to the realities of life. Most users don't have the flexibility to position their subs in the best place for smooth response. Instead, the woofer goes in the most convenient space in the room and equalization becomes a necessity to obtain the best performance. That's how it works for me; the sub goes in the front-left corner of my theater and I use the EQ to correct the tonal response.

The Optimum-12 is equipped with a two-character LED display. It's one of the really bright blue ones that may be distracting if not for the fact that it can be turned off. I turned it off. It does come on to confirm remote or hard button input. It also gives feedback in all areas of operation by way of abbreviated, logical messages.

The cabinet is sealed. All things being equal, a sealed cabinet design will start to roll off sooner than a bass reflex design. A sealed cabinet usually rolls off at 6 db/octave while a ported enclosure typically rolls off at 12 db/octave. Sealed enclosures also tend to produce bass that is perceived to be "tighter" and more in time with the music.

One of the first things I did after unboxing this sub was to perform the knuckle rap test which produced a hollow, ringing sound and caused me to furrow my brow just a little. According to Velodyne, a rigid cabinet is not a major design priority for the Optimum subs. They feel that the gently curved shape of the cabinet's side walls, along with the stresses induced by the cone's motion obviate the need to provide a more robust cabinet. While I have the intuitive sense that they are probably correct, most of what I have read would have me believe that a thin cabinet wall would produce its own distortion by way of propagating sympathetic vibrations into the listening space. Still, Velodyne is a highly respected sub design and manufacturing company with a stellar reputation. They obviously know what they are doing. The proof is in the pudding as they say. I did not hear any deleterious sounds from this sub that could be due to cabinet vibrations.

I am really impressed by the driver in this sub. It is a 12" nominal diameter driver with a generous surround. The cone is Kevlar-reinforced and looks like it could withstand a dynamite blast. The basket is cast, not forged. The dual-layer voice coil does its thing in a strong magnetic field courtesy of a massive 21.6 pound magnet structure. Velodyne does not spec the Xmax for their driver. I would venture that its maximum excursion spec is quite substantial.

The plastic grille sports a Velodyne logo at the bottom. The grille is affixed by way of de rigueur plastic nubs. The look is utilitarian. I wish Velodyne would go with a magnetic grille: I like the look with the grille off and the female parts of the mounting hardware affect the resultant look.

The Optimum-12 comes with installed rubber cones in lieu of the more typical metal cones or rubber feet.