Velodyne SPL-800 Set-Up and Listening Tests
The SPL 800 does not feature filtered speaker level outputs meaning in a subwoofer satellite system, you must rely on the bass management of the A/V Receiver to limit the bass of your front satellite speakers. Or play them full range. This shouldn't be a problem for most people as the majority of today's A/V Receivers have full bass management capabilities.
Standard volume and crossover level adjustments are offered, along with a 0/180 degree phase switch. I would have preferred a variable phase control for optimizing subwoofer and speaker blending, however few companies offer this feature.
I initially evaluated the SPL-800 in my bedroom system in a room about 12' x 10' or 120 ft^2. I placed the SPL-800 near the corner wall behind the left front speaker and set the crossover to 50Hz which is about 5-10 Hz higher than where my RBH 61-LSE bookshelf speakers begin sharply rolling off bass output. I have found it's usually a good idea to set the subwoofer crossover slightly higher than the roll off of the main speakers for a smoother, more seamless blend. What I found in this set-up was that the SPL-800 was so powerful for my room that I had to turn the volume level down to less than ¼ and move it at least 1 foot away from the side and back walls. I ran the SPL-800 through its paces using test tones and bass heavy techno type music to get beyond its "break in" period before doing any critical listening evaluations.
I began my more critical listening evaluations with some bass intense music from Sade, Depeche Mode, Patricia Barber, Talking Heads and Steely Dan. The tile song from Sade's Lovers Rock CD really hit hard and deep on the SPL-800. I was quite amazed by the bass extension of the SPL-800 so far, and can't recall when I have heard a sub at this size or nearly twice its size for that matter with such authoritative output. The bass was well extended and controlled, although it was not quite as articulate or "fast" as I have heard on more expensive and larger subwoofers. However, the bass never sounded one notey or sloppy. "Only When I Loose Myself" by Depeche Mode is a very bass intense song that contains multi tone extended bass information down to the lower octaves of the audible range. If played on a mediocre subwoofer, it is easy to hear the subwoofer cone break up and/or lack of ability to reproduce the lowest notes. The SPL-800 had no problem pumping out the bass in this song. It never sounded stressed, nor did it run out of oomph at even the loudest listening levels I could personally tolerate in my room. Instead of hard clipping or distortions typical of many subs when driven to or beyond their limits, the SPL-800 seemed to reach its limits with more poise and control. I did start to hear dynamic compression during maximum SPL limits, but it was clearly more preferable to listening to popping or bottoming. Sadly, I have had larger and more costly subs in my listening room for past evaluations, such as the Pinnacle Digital Sub 350 which featured dual 12" fiber cone woofers in an isobaric loaded cabinet that sounded like a helicopter when driven not nearly as hard as the SPL-800. The reason for this was apparent in the Pinnacles employment of lower quality woofers which went into obvious break up modes leading to differing cone velocities causing doubling, which I like to refer to as "helicopter noise". Thankfully, I never heard any helicopters or audible break up when driving the SPL-800 sadistically hard.
Playing various cuts from Patricia Barber and Steely Dan only strengthened my viewpoint on the Velodyne subwoofer. It was a hard hitting, space efficient quality subwoofer capable of complimenting high performance bookshelf speakers in small to medium sized rooms while achieving nearly the lowest octaves of human hearing. In, fact I estimated using Avia test tones that the SPL-800 had very good extension down to slightly below 29Hz with a sharp but steady roll off shortly thereafter. What I had come to realize in my listening tests is that the SPL-800 never seemed to loose control. In fact, it appeared to me that minimizing distortion and non linearity, while being able to reproduce authoritative bass content, was a primary design goal of Velodyne with this fine product.