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Product Review - Sonique Thunderbox 8" Powered Subwoofer - April, 2001

David Wurtz


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Specifications:

Driver: Vifa M22WR 220mm (8 inch), Downward Firing

Power Handling: 150 W RMS (300W RMS short term)

Sensitivity: 88 dB for 1 Watt @1 meter

Fs: 26 Hz

Voice Coil DC Resistance: 4.3 Ohms 

Amplifier:

Amplifier Power rating: 150W RMS

Overall Specifications:

MFR: Down to 28 Hz

High and Low level Inputs and Outputs

Variable Active Low-Pass Crossover 40 Hz– 100 Hz

Phase Switch 0 - 180

Size: 370 mm H x 319 mm W x 532 mm  D

Weight: 20 Kg

MSRP: $1,400 AUS (About $800 USA)


Sonique Audio Pty. Ltd., 86 Rundle Road, Salisbury South, South Australia 5106; International Telephone: +61 8 8285 9722; International Facsimile: +61 8 8285 9744; E-Mail: steve@sonique.com.au; Web http://www.sonique.com.au  http://www.sonique.com.au

Introduction

Steve Lund, Sonique Audio’s sales manager, must have a great sense of humor in naming their latest subwoofer release the “Thunderbox”. Please let me explain if you don’t understand why I’m laughing at the moment. In Australia, a “Thunderbox” is slang for a toilet or “dunny”. So now do you know why I’m laughing, or shall I explain further? OK then, the New Edition Macquarie Dictionary (Australian Version) defines a Thunderbox as: “Colloquial a toilet - so called from the amplificatory effect of the bowl”. So there you go, you got it out of me, and if you need any more explanation, don’t e-mail me!

Steve commented that they were kicking around a few names after work one day, and as a joke, someone suggested the Thunderbox. After the laughter has subsided, Steve said, “Well, why not?” and c'est-la-vie “The Thunderbox”. I suppose with the initial part of the box’s moniker being “thunder”, it would suggest large amounts of bass. Well, let’s dig in and find out!

The Package

The Thunderbox has quite a low profile, only being 370 mm high. This is also allowing for the 40 mm plastic feet. The box itself is blank, except for a Sonique badge at the front, and the amp module at the back. There is a black groove carved around the base of the box, about 30 mm from the bottom of the cabinet, which adds a decorative touch of class to the magnificent American Oak timber finish. The air movement components, a 220 mm (8 3/4") driver and 4” port, are mounted on the bottom of the box.

The driver is mounted about 20 mm up from the base (in other words, recessed) and is made by Danish company Vifa. It features a cast alloy frame, rubber roll surround and absolutely huge center vented magnet.

The 100 mm port is fitted in an L-shape into the box to allow for its larger diameter (larger diameter ports need more length) and is made from custom tubing.  

The power amp module is imported from English company Acoustic Energy Limited and features a large center tapped transformer, four discrete output transistors, and 13,600 microfarads of power supply capacitance. The boards are not completely original from the manufacturer as they are custom modified by Sonique with several key components being replaced with more accurately measured and matched ones. Sonique has also added an extra board to the configuration.

The Sound

The Thunderbox’s –3 dB point of 28 Hz can vary depending on where the unit is placed. This is mainly due to the downward firing driver. I did play with the positioning while sweeping frequencies down to 25 Hz and found it to be a little temperamental where it produced its best bass performance.   I also had to consider the best place to sit the Thunderbox where I would not trip over it. A suitable compromise was eventually found.

My first experience listening to the Thunderbox was watching the DVD “Lost in Space” which I had just recently added to my collection. This is quite a bass-heavy movie with several significant scenes of deep sound and is really a definitive test of the Thunderbox’s availability to deliver the low-down. 

Did it pass the test, I hear you ask? Yup, it sure did. As we expect from most modern (quality) subwoofers these days, it delivered a typical amount of good quality bass in all the right places. It can be sometimes very difficult to compare one subwoofer with another as they are very much like any other piece of electronic equipment that we use. That is, they are designed to perform similar functions, but the performance of the units will vary according to their price, aesthetics, and size. Keeping in mind that the designer has taken all three of these key issues close to his heart, by its low-profile design and relatively small enclosure, small (8”) driver and 150 watt power unit, this thing really does put out the good stuff!

Using the DVD movie “The Matrix” I did notice the sub “run out of go” during some of the big bass bits.  This is because the Thunderbox has built-in limiters that allow it to be driven without going into overload. So, instead of it distorting in the bass heavy bits of “The Matrix”, the box just kept working to its maximum output. This is fine by me as an alternative to hearing distorted bass and a very good method of ensuring you don’t blow the subwoofer.

Musically, the Thunderbox was more than acceptable in reinforcing the bass. Clean and punchy, my main reference CD, “The Rockmelons” was reproduced in its entirety without discoloration added to the system using the internal crossovers. Plenty of - and I really do hate using this expression - bang for the buck.

Conclusion

The Thunderbox really does do an admirable job as an all round bass reinforcement solution. The clean bass, small size, superb styling (real wood veneer is tough to find in this price range), and modest cost, make it one of many great options when looking for a new subwoofer, or indeed, replacing the old one.

- David Wurtz - 

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Copyright 2001 Secrets of Home Theater & High Fidelity
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