DPS-10 Listening Evaluation
Used in my home theater, the DPS-10 was compared to my reference Velodyne F1500R. This, of course, is a mercilessly unfair comparison. For one, the F1500R retailed for $1700 when last sold and is built to a hallmark standard. Both subwoofers were easily able to attain output levels to match the other speakers per the test tones from my receiver; this reinforces my long held belief that gross output levels are not the major challenge when building a subwoofer (unless they are to be used in cavernous halls or to molder your ears and home). To be fair to the price point this product is offered at, I did the Home Theater evaluations from three perspectives; no subwoofer ($0), the DPS-10 ($449) and the F1500R ($1700).
In my Home Theater I use NHT super-zeros all around, their mechanical cutoff and the crossover in my receiver is 80Hz. Output levels from both subs and all the speakers were adjusted using the test tones from the receiver and my handy-dandy Radio Shack SPL meter.
Over several movies, the results were pretty much consistent and predictable. I will use the "Tyrannosaurus Rex" scene from Jurassic Park to detail my findings. In the first scenario I used no subwoofer, which resulted in the dinosaur's foot stomps to sound like someone banging on a little tin can. This is what one would expect to hear when only the harmonics above 80Hz were being reproduced in this scene.
With the DPS-10 turned on, there was a dramatic improvement in the experience. The footsteps were heard at a fairly high volume, with the response being deep and extended enough to convince you that a T-Rex was headed your way.
I would have been quite happy with the DPS-10 experience if I had not heard the same scene with the F1500R. Now the experience changes in a couple of ways. The stomps were actually not quite as loud as with the DPS-10, but they were much deeper. So much so that, I actually felt the stomps more than I heard them. Nothing tells your brain to run for cover like sub-20Hz thumps getting progressively louder. Even though you know it is a movie, you do start to experience the feelings of dread and anxiety you were intended to. But, this small enhancement in experience will cost you a whole lot more money.
In summary, I would say that in a home theater application you could tremendously elevate your experience by adding this $449 subwoofer. And if you want to take it to a THX cinema level experience be prepared to spend multiples ($1700 in my case). The reasons for distinction are simple: the F1500R is rated flat to below 20Hz and would sound louder and deeper on frequencies about 50Hz and below. The DPS 10 has a peak around 70Hz and a sharp drop-off below 40Hz, and I can only suspect that an intentionally underdamped response to provide more resonance and the impression of more output.
Also, keep in mind that the distinction between the DPS-10 and F1500R would be most noticeable on passages where sonically there is not much else going on other than the LF effects. In passages where a lot more is going on at many frequencies (e.g. gun battles) it would be much more difficult to pick out the differences. The gun battle scene in the Matrix has a lot going on at many frequencies, and the boominess is hard to pickout. Actually, the overall sensation registers a bit deeper with the DPS-10 since the booms, bangs and crashes all meld into a terrifying sensation. But in scenes such as in Jurassic Park with the T-Rex approaching, the footsteps sounded much too boomy and muddy with the DPS-10; while much deeper, cleaner and convincing with the F1500R.
Now, I know I said that I would not evaluate this product from my usual context of two-channel music-only. But, the curiosity was just killing me, and I know my loyal readers (all three of them, including my mom) would want to see this as well. The critical listening tests were done in comparison to my reference ACI Force ($750). I originally intended to do these tests outside, at the same location I did the measurements at, but unfortunately the weather did not cooperate for weeks and the pressure of a deadline forced me to compromise. I conducted the tests indoors, with the two subwoofers placed side by side on a transverse axis of the room so each sub 'saw' the same room profile. The intent being, that if I cannot prevent room modes then at least attempt to have both units subject to the same modes, hence equalizing the playing field and making the comparison fair, if not accurate.
The units were calibrated for the same output level at 40Hz, and were connected directly to the outputs of my disc player. These tests were done at a distance of about three feet from the subwoofers and without the use of satellite speakers. The crossover was set to 200Hz on both units. The Velodyne was on the "Jazz/Classical" preset unless specified. Here is what I heard:
'Bass resolution test' (Chesky Records;Chesky Jazz and Audiophile tests Vol2;Chesky;JD68)
The Velodyne gave the double bass an excessive bloom, and sounded unnatural and underdamped. Although the peaks were a bit louder with the Velodyne, it was likely due to the ACI having a flatter response relative to 40Hz and did not sound better or convincing. Using the "R & B/Rock" or "Games" presets the sound was completely unbearable. Again, I would not recommend using those for music.
Without comparison to the ACI the Velodyne may have sounded like the bass was deep and extended. But in direct comparison it was appeared that the Velodyne had an exaggerated hump in its response curve (as is also seen in the measurements).
'Rimshot' (Eryka Badu; Baduism; Universal; UD53027)
The electric bass riffs on the start of this track run quite deep and loud. Again, the Velodyne sounded very loose and boomy, to the extent that the definition of the individual notes were lost in the resonances and the clattering of things in my listening room.
The difference in sound quality was more than subtle from a frequency response, speed, and control perspective. I did not even attempt to see how well the Velodyne would mate to an "agile" speaker such as the Triangle Titus. That may have been almost sadistic.
The price differential between these models is about $300, but they were designed with entirely different goals. The Velodyne DPS-10 focuses on low cost, SPL levels, features, aesthetics and digital processing. I would have to say that it successfully met all of its goals. The ACI Force on the other hand focuses on system integration and performance level to audiophile standards. The ACI also meets its stated goals, and for a ridiculously low price relative to the market (she ain't my baby for nothin'). These findings are a perfect example of why I advise folks to first understand what a designer's goals are for any product. Given an honest answer and a competent designer, you can quickly gauge if a product should interest you or not. While I have found most designers of audio products today to be quite competent, I do not always find an honest answer when inquiring about a product's limitations.