STF-1 Listening Tests & Conclusion
This recording has some demanding, sudden dynamics in the bass, so it made sense to me to give it a spin. The bass is deep and the sonic character of the recording sounds a bit like actually being at a concert.
Throughout the album, bass lines were full and well blended with the main speakers. Tonal character at the low end was musical. A good example is the timpani part during "Where Will You Be" where timbre was adequately retained. The standout dynamic transitions occur during "I Am Waiting" where the whole band kicks in towards the end, and the opening movement of "Endless Dream: Silent Spring". The STF-1 handled both well, maintaining composure.
Animal Logic II
Animal Logic was a short-lived ensemble that put out a couple of albums in the early 90's. Stewart Copeland, formerly of The Police, and Stanley Clarke, whose resume includes Return to Forever with Chick Corea, support a singer by the name of Deborah Holland. Various studio musicians round out the rest of the instrumentation. On this album, Stanley Clarke is featured, effectively playing the electric bass as a lead instrument, carrying the melody for most of the album.
The STF-1 kept up with Clarke's tightly played, moving bass lines throughout this album as well as Copeland's syncopated drum parts. The subwoofer's extension was adequately deep to fill out the sound and blended seamlessly with the main speakers in this more exposed sonic context. Stanley was able to move between lower and higher registers without noticeable dips, peaks, or phasing troubles.
Slapped bass lines, chords, and a whole lot of notes were thrown at the STF-1, which pulled it all off musically and managed to render inner details. "Stone In My Shoe" features a quickly moving bass solo that the STF-1 was able to keep up with. The final track, "What Looks Good on the Outside", is the only piece with acoustic bass and this gorgeous part was handled well by the sub.
Dave Holland Big Band: What Goes Around Anyone who has heard Dave Holland play will know why this a good test for musicality for any bass driver. This guy can play. The double bass lines in his performances just don't stop moving. With a big band around him, there is a lot for any speaker system to do.
Uptempo pieces saw the STF-1 keep up; slower pieces had the required delicacy. Exposed bass lines were detailed and articulate and the low woodwinds and brass were filled in nicely. Most importantly, instrumental timbres in the lower register were maintained. During "Shadow Dance", the sub did well with a lot of articulated, staccato playing with vibrato, 1/4 and 1/2 step bends, and chords. Slow charts like "Blues for C.M." and "First Snow" were musical and detailed as required.
Symphony 'Mathis Der Mahler' Trauermusik Symphonic
San Francisco Symphony, Herbert Blomstedt (London Records)
There's nothing like some twentieth century orchestral music for evaluating musicality of a bass driver, so I selected Hindemith. These compositions make substantial use of low strings and brass, with a full sound and good hall acoustics captured in this recording.
The STF-1 provided a musically satisfying performance of the low strings in these compositions. The bass output was deep, musical timbres of the instruments were retained, and the subwoofer supported and framed hall resonances in the recording. Of note, the bass drum in "Versuchung des heiligen Antonius" resonated with depth through the hall. The subwoofer did sound somewhat loose at times, but was not "boomy". A convincing recreation of the low frequency effects within an orchestra hall is a challenge for many subwoofers and the STF-1 fared well considering its price point.
Conclusions & Recommendations
Overall, my impression of the STF-1 is positive. The sub plays with satisfying output levels with the ability to vibrate the room it is in. In terms of design intent, the STF-1 succeeds. The appearance, while average and unremarkable, has a solid construction and good fit and finish. Usability and features were standard for the majority of subs. In another room with a different layout, the ability to slip the unit behind a couch or mid-way along a side wall may be more successful in evening out in-room bass response than my experience.
Sonically, the sub did its real job well. Listening, particularly with music as source material, revealed a well-tuned, ported design that was able to maximize its inherent design advantages, while minimizing the shortcomings of some less competently executed ported designs. The STF-1 represents a high level of performance for its price range. More importantly, the sub is able to fit well into different listening systems and provided a musical presentation of the source material. The STF-1 can keep up with fast pounding as well as more articulate and delicate program material. The sub's ability to maintain musical timbres and reveal inner detail was good. Considering the context of price, I'd have to say quite good.
The STF-1 made a good showing of itself by all accounts. Any shortcomings the STF-1 had were limited and would not be obvious except in direct comparisons or if one had spent a lot of time in the company of more expensive subs. There are subs that are tighter, deeper, more accurate, and even more musical, but they tend to cost more; some a lot more . For the price, this is a product definitely worth considering for an audition.
Retail/Direct Price $375/$249
The Score Card
The scoring below is based on each piece of equipment doing the duty it is designed for. The numbers are weighed heavily with respect to the individual cost of each unit, thus giving a rating roughly equal to:
Performance × Price Factor/Value = Rating
Audioholics.com note: The ratings indicated below are based on subjective listening and objective testing of the product in question. The rating scale is based on performance/value ratio. If you notice better performing products in future reviews that have lower numbers in certain areas, be aware that the value factor is most likely the culprit. Other Audioholics reviewers may rate products solely based on performance, and each reviewer has his/her own system for ratings.
Audioholics Rating Scale
- — Excellent
- — Very Good
- — Good
- — Fair
- — Poor
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