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Ask OPRA: Comparing Subs, Cables

by September 22, 2005

In the continuing tradition of addressing the critical issues in Home Audio and Home Theater, OPRA returns with new wisdom, new suggestions, and new lists…all of stemming from a shockingly bad grasp of the basic functioning of speakers, amplifiers, and electricity in general. Read at your own risk.

What is the proper technique for comparing 15 different subwoofers, none of which I can listen to?

The more I stare at this question the more I think my itty bitty brain is going to explode. Fifteen subwoofers… that would be SOOOOOOO SWEEEEEET! I could bounce my house to the good part of town! Here are some options:

1) Purchase them all on your parent's/wife's/neighbors credit card and return them all afterward - chances are the restocking fee at OPRA's House of Kick Butt Audio will get you killed or thrown in jail (if it's the wife's card, go for the former, she'll still get you in jail).

2) Run around and listen to them at every store hoping that your audio memory exceeds the 3 second maximum that scientists or, um… people that went to college… say it is - chances are the speeding fines as you run from store to store will be prohibitive.

3) Ask OPRA - no way, that dude has a lead ear and a large behind, plus he's more strapped for cash than you are!

No, I think the way to go is to look at the specs. What! you exclaim. Well, before you go all loco on me, hear me out. You have got to READ BETWEEN THE LINES (which lines, I'm not sure, but it sounded good). If companies are going to lie about their products, where are they going to lie? That's right… frequency response. Ignore that spec for the bogus pile of marketing hoopla it is. No, you need to look at the I M PORTANT stuff like:

1) Shape - Boxes are SO last year. Ovals are all the rage, my friend. Look for something that will crush small children if it ever falls off its base

2) Feet - Everyone's got those spiky things nowadays. You need coasters. This allows the sub to be moved quickly and easily. The high-end companies are putting 3" knobbies with chromed out rims. Bling-bling, baby!

3) Weight - In this digital age where everything is getting smaller and lighter, the smart money says heavy is the thing! It means the sub was probably made out of recycled rebar and bricks… but hey, you know that enclosure isn't going to flex!

4) Internal wiring - Lets be honest now, copper is dead. Silver is only slightly better. What we need is the newest, polychromesilveroxideadamantium wire in your speaker. Yeah, baby! 2AWG all the way! Sure, there'll be skin effect, but with 1 square inch of surface area per 4 inches of wire, that's a butt-load of skin! It'll add 25,000 lbs to the sub, but then again, that just proves point #3.

5) Size of drivers - all those BassHeads going for the 15" subs don't know the kind of musicality they are missing from the smaller drivers. Bro, you got to get the smallest driver possible because they are totally quick and… cute and stuff. Problem is, they are not very loud. So what do you do? Add more. A lot more. If you can find a sub with 43, 4" woofers you'd be in 45Hz, 98dB heaven!

6) Materials - Everyone uses MDF. Pah! What you need is Plexiglas. Yeah man. The thicker the better. Hey, if it's good enough for bank tellers, money changers, and…the Pope, it's good enough for me! Plus you get to see all the rebar, bricks, and those cute little speakers pumping their little hearts out.

So, what are you looking for? How 'bout a see-though, egg shaped, bulletproof, 300,000lb sub on dubs with 109, 2" drivers - all powered by an external pro-amp bi-amped to 5,000,000 watts. It's good for music, HT (watch out for those explosions, it's liable to bounce and crush you where you sit), and if you have a long enough cable, you go four-wheeling in the back! Careful to put it in 'Park' when you bring it back in - don't want it to roll over the dog or anything.

How much do cables matter.

Cables are EVERYTHING! Come on, it only makes intuitive sense. Speaker quality, component ability, noise floor, scratches on DVD's, cancer… all this and more can be solved with the right cable. Have some old woofers lying around? Attach them to your receiver with Destiny's Cable Child's Speaker Wire of Restoration and watch that woofer dance! Sonic bliss, broham. Really want it to shine? Get their bi-wire set for only 3K more!

Have an old integrated amp you want to convert to a 12.5 system? Do you have to spend big bucks on a new receiver… NO!... get the GLOB ! SuperPro Logistic Reference Interconnects and BA M ! you are set to go. Not enough holes in the back, it's only two channels? Don't worry, you can just poke them through the chassis with the patented GLOB! M egaReference Silver-Plated Interconnect of Piercing. Like a hot knife through butter. They'll turn any old clock radio into a hub of audio bliss controlling five 7.1 systems in 33 different zones… and it totally opens up the sound stage!

What other uses are there for esoteric cabling? The applications are mind-boggling. Jumpstart your car with regular old jumper cables? What, are you INSANE???!!!! Use the Ed die M oolah 1AWG Hi-Flow Put Your Hands in the Air and Jump Cables and not only will your car spring back to life but it'll add 10,000 miles to your tire life, improve your fuel efficiency, and your engine will sound like a choir of castrati.

How does the OPRA know that all these cables do exactly what I say they do? Easy, just call the company and ask them! Don't have the minutes on your cell? Go to the Internet and read all the extensive testimonials on their websites. Surely, all those people can't be wrong! Right?

What is OPRA's ultimate HT system recommendation?

The key to the ultimate home theater is not the size of the speakers or the number of amps or the watts per drivers or damping factor or any other such mumbo jumbo (mostly 'cause I don't know what any of that stuff is). No, true believers, the key to home audio bliss is… drum roll, please… matching components.

"Come on OPRA," you say, "I've been at Joe BestCircuitStore's house with his Sony TV, Sony receiver, Sony DVD, Sony speakers, Sony stands, and Sony speaker cable (solid aluminum covered in lambs skin, gives the term "sheath" a whole new meaning) and I've never experienced the type of audio bliss that makes your head fall back, drool come out of the side of your mouth, and makes you swallow your tongue. I don't buy it!"

You are right… in a way. Finding a large manufacturer of electronics willing to stamp their name on any old import electronics and claim it as their own is not the way. No, the problem with your friend's Sony exclusive set-up is that they didn't take it far enough. The first step is to match all your components and speakers. To really achieve audio nirvana you need to match EVERY SINGLE ELECTRONIC ITE M in your house. If you can't find an item made by a company, you don't need it. JVC doesn't make vacuums? Get a broom or dog. Yamaha doesn't do blenders? Start chopping or get creative and use the spinning spokes off your V- M ax. Denon hasn't expanded their line to include washers and dryers? Better outsource or pick up one of those Little House on the Prairie boards.

And don't give me any of that, "Well, HK is owned by Harman Int. which also owns…" crap. It won't fly. If it don't say HK on the outside, it is totally going to disrupt the audio feng shui you are creating in your HT. If I were you, I wouldn't even TOUCH a piece of electronics made by another company. Who knows what kind of Audio hex you'd carry back to your system. It'd be like Terminator III… no, not the computer program becoming sentient and taking over the world cliché… it'd just suck. Without the hot chick.


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About the author:
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As Associate Editor at Audioholics, Tom promises to the best of his ability to give each review the same amount of attention, consideration, and thoughtfulness as possible and keep his writings free from undue bias and preconceptions. Any indication, either internally or from another, that bias has entered into his review will be immediately investigated. Substantiation of mistakes or bias will be immediately corrected regardless of personal stake, feelings, or ego.

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