Titanic T1503 Mk III Listening Tests
Construction, Description and Inspection
After doing my design comparisons and concluding that the given cabinet in the kit was very close to the suggested design by WinISD for a closed box system it was time to put the T1503 kit together. Before I started just pulling out the tools and connecting things up I read the assembly instructions in the User’s Manual which can be very important for a novice speaker builder. Well for only having a 4 page document I was extremely impressed. After a short introduction to the kit, it lets you skip to the Features section if a pre-built kit was purchased. To build the kit only 4 tools are required, screwdriver, hex driver, wire stripper and a utility knife; although they forgot to include a mallet. It gives a specific order of what to install first and why. It even suggests sealing the threads of the spikes which I have always done on my own but when using these spikes I think it is required since they can only be hand tightened. The kit was very easy to put together; the toughest part was installing the driver. I liked the fact that it had pre-installed T-nuts for the spikes and the driver but I have found that if the T-nuts are only hammered in as they are here they can be pushed out and that is what happened. I use T-nuts in my own speakers but I’ve learned to put some epoxy on them to hold them in place. The driver is very heavy and some of the holes are partially blocked by the gasket so the bolts need to be pushed completely through the holes and then aligned with the holes in the cabinet. Pay heed to the instruction’s warning about cross threading the bolts, it is very easy to do. I had to back out some bolts and retry several times. The amplifier used standard screws but I don’t think it needed T-nuts. Although not a detriment, I didn’t like how long the screws for the amp were and that they protruded through the wood. The instructions don’t mention installing the grill but it’s pretty intuitive, just tap the sockets into the pre-drilled holes with a mallet and install the grill. I was humored by the comment to discard the extra T-nuts; if you’re like me you would save them for your next project.
The Dayton Audio User’s Manual not only covered instructions for putting the kit together it also covered some basics on subwoofer placement which were accurate and helpful. The only shortcoming I found with the instructions was it had no suggestions for setting the parametric equalizer. Although, as I stated earlier, setting the parametric equalizer had no affect on a closed box of this size that puts a lot of dampening on the driver. There is another use for the equalizer though. If the room response has a bad peak, the equalizer could be used to remove it. Note that the same does not work for a room null, no matter how much you try to amplify it, the room’s characteristics will still cancel out that frequency.
The driver itself is treated paper with a hefty cast frame and a 136 oz. magnet. I did not see distortion measurements on this driver from either Zaph or Mark K’s web site so I am not sure of the distortion characteristics. The cabinet was made from ¾ inch MDF with one brace from side to side. I typically like to see at least the front baffle at 1 inch MDF but it probably won’t make a huge difference. The cabinet also had rounded edges and the finish was a textured flat black paint. The black chrome spikes were very versatile. The tips could be removed or it could be used with the included metal disks if placed on a hard floor.
When it comes to listening to a sub there are only a few characteristics. How well does it integrate with the other speakers, how tight is the bass, how low is the bass and how much kick does it have? The first thing I did was set my other speakers on small to ensure all the low frequency effects were going to this subwoofer. I listened to the Yes, The Ladder disc briefly and Annie Lennox’s Into the West to start. This music didn’t have anything special about the bass but I wanted to see how well the sub integrated into the rest of the music. A subwoofer shouldn’t sound separate from the system like it is by itself. It turned out that the Titanic MK III did very well in this aspect. It played seamlessly. These songs are also very involving and I wanted to see if that were still the case with this sub and it was. Once the songs were done I wasn’t saying to myself that something was missing. I was quite musically satisfied.
Next I put on Funhouse from Flim and the BB’s. The bass in this song played with a lot of impact but as expected from the design it didn’t really cover the lower octave even with the room gain. There is a pseudo kick drum sequence that includes some really low notes along with other harmonics. It did seem to stand out a little from the rest of the music.
Trust from Patrick O’Hearn is the track I use for bass test. It will test and stress a subwoofer because of its constant low synthesized bass throughout the entire track. Again, it didn’t cover the lowest octave strongly but it did very well in its range. It was very tight and had plenty of output. I turned the volume up fairly loud and there were no signs of the woofer bottoming out or breaking up. Because of the constant bass it was a good opportunity to feel the cabinet vibrations. I could clearly feel less vibration on the sides where the brace was as opposed to the top where it wasn’t. That’s the reason I like to use cross bracing from bottom to top and side to side in my own designs. I mention this in case you decide to by the parts and build your own cabinet you should consider 1 inch MDF and cross bracing.
A couple of other good tracks played were from Steely Dan’s “Two Against Nature” CD. Gas Lighting Abbie played the bass very tight with no lingering bass notes, which is expected from a sealed box design. The title track, “Two Against Nature”, had even more bass and played just as tight. I took the opportunity in this song to switch back and forth to Direct mode on my processor. Direct mode turns off the subwoofer and plays the left and right speakers at full range. I have two 10 inch woofers in my front speakers that are designed to play down into the upper 20 Hz range. I wanted see if there was a big difference when engaging the subwoofer. The difference was quite clear; with the sub engaged the sound was deeper and much fuller as opposed to the front speakers trying to do the job on their own.
After my CD listening session I wanted to try out some SACDs which have 5 channels of music plus a dedicated Low Frequency Effect (LFE) output. I started with La Luna from Matt Bianco, Matt’s Mood. The bass was smooth and filled the room well. I quickly moved to what is the best recording I own and a phenomenal test for bass, Tchaikovsky’s Overture of 1812 with digitally recorded cannons. The five channel recording of this piece is so well done. It creates an ambience in the room that is unparalleled and the T1503 Titanic MK III did a superb job of reproducing that effect by keeping the bass notes strong and tight. But you don’t care about that; you want to know how those cannons did. Besides the ultra low end there are many harmonics in those cannons. This subwoofer did a much better job at playing the cannons than my own designed subwoofers. Mainly because this is where my sub woofers unload and hence bottom out. It is a very disturbing loud pop sound. I am going to have to go back to the drawing board on that design and make some adjustments. Here is where the safety of an acoustic suspension design pays off. In such a small box the woofer just can’t compress the air enough to enable it to bottom out.
Next up was the movie test and there is really only one test I needed to push the subwoofer to its limits and that is Finding Nemo. There are two scenes that have really low and loud content and I have bottomed out every vented designed subwoofer that I’ve tried. The first scene is where the submarine slides off the ocean shelf. This scene sounded so cool through the Titanic that my girlfriend wanted me to replay it. It shook the room pretty good which is what I want when watching movies. The other scene is when Darla is tapping in the fish tank and it produces some very loud low end. The T1503 Titanic sub didn’t quite have the impact here which I am used to but again the woofer played safely. It’s kind of cool to think of the design as the box is a sort of high pass filter (subsonic filter) to keep the ultra low frequencies from damaging the woofer. I watched a couple of other movies using the Titanic without any critical listening and it seemed to do just fine through the movies.
After I finished all tests we found out that the amplifier was equipped with a notch filter built in and that it was not enabled.
A DIY'er saves about $150 over a built unit. I saw one of these assembled go for just over $300 on E-bay. I wanted it, but my gf put a limit on my electronics spending, until I show up with some jewelry.
Yea, ain't that the way it always is.
I am still interested in the Ultra sub. I really want a subwoofer that is gonna be able to handle 4,000 RMS watts with a 4" coil, so I am leaning toward the Ultra 5400. PM me chris and let me know what you can get me 1-for?
I PMed you the information. Check your inbox.
How does this puppy compare to the AV123 MFW-15? The MFW-15 is vented whereas this one is sealed. The MFW-15 is much cheaper as well.
I just snagged one of these on Audiogon. (I got some jewelry to keep me out of the doghouse as well.) The consensus on reviews is that the cabinet sucks, but the driver and amp are solid.
The sealed cabinet is a big compromise for drivers, and with most drivers, it means substantial impairment vs. other designs that are ported. There are exceptions of course. Take a super woofer, like a JL W7 or TC Sounds TC3000 or ULTRA LMS, and it will excel even in sealed systems, due to the insane excursion, motor linearity and power handling ability these units possess. But, 99.99% of all woofers do not come close to the characteristics of these super woofers. The Titanic is a good quality unit, but like most, suffers highly when compared to a vented design. Use it in a vented design, and it will radically improve in performance.