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Arendal Sound 1961 1S and 1V Subwoofers Review

by January 24, 2022
Arendal 1961 Subs

Arendal 1961 Subs

  • Product Name: 1961 1S, 1961 1V Subwoofers
  • Manufacturer: Arendal Sound
  • Performance Rating: StarStarStarStarhalf-star
  • Value Rating: StarStarStarStarhalf-star
  • Review Date: January 24, 2022 01:50
  • MSRP: $ 900 - 1961 1S, $1,100 - 1961 1V
  • Buy Now
  • 550-watt RMS amplifier
  • Type: 1961 1S: sealed, 1961 1V: vented
  • Side-firing 12.2” glass fiber cone
  • Frequency Response:
    1961 1S:
    EQ1 19-200Hz (+/-3dB)
    EQ2 26-200Hz (+/-3dB)
    1961 1V:
    EQ1 16-200Hz (+/-3dB)
    EQ2 20-200Hz (+/-3dB)
  • Dimensions: (HxWxD):
    1S:16.3” x 12.4” x 16.3”
    1V: 21.5” x 15.3” x 19.7”
  • Weight (unboxed): 1S: 44.1 lbs., 1V: 79.6 lbs.
  • Inputs: RCA stereo inputs & outputs
  • Finish: Matte Black, Matte White
  • Warranty: 5 years


  • Punchy mid-bass
  • Extension below 20Hz (1961 1V)
  • Excellent time-domain performance
  • Heavy-duty build quality
  • Sophisticated amp control
  • Reasonably sized


  • Smaller size means lowered deep bass headroom


We were greatly impressed by Arendal’s top-of-the-line subwoofer, the 1723 2V, in our review last year. While it was truly a magnificent beast, it did have two qualities that precluded it from ownership by a lot of people: it was very large and heavy, and it was also somewhat expensive. With this in mind, we decided to check out what Arendal could do at more accessible sizes/weights and pricing. When Arendal suggested their entry-level 1961 series, either the 1S or 1V, we answered: why not both! Today’s review examines Arendal’s efforts around the $1k price point, in both a ported and sealed form factor. Our question here is how well do they scale in price/performance next to the mighty 1723 2V? Let’s now dig in to find out…

Arendal Sound 1961 Subwoofer Youtube Review Discussion

Packing and Appearance

The Arendal 1961 subwoofer boxes arrived at my house wrapped in the plastic sheet covering that was bound by security tape. The boxes were very heavy-duty, as they must be to survive international transit, and the subs were packed in thick polyethylene foam blocks to give it a buffer for shocks and jolts. The subs were wrapped in a cotton sack so as not to get scuffed in the unpacking process. Since anyone who buys these subs will receive them via parcel shipping, it is important that they be well protected from commonly abusive shipping practices, and on this count, the 1961 subs have some very sensible packing.

1961 pair w grilles

1961 pair wo grilles

Arendal’s subwoofers all have a similar industrial design, so the 1961 subs look much like their larger 1723 siblings except a bit smaller. And smaller size is almost always a welcome attribute for people who are trying to get their audio equipment not to clash with their interior decor. I would characterize the 1961 1S as a small sub and the 1V as a medium-sized sub. However, I frequently receive such large subs that my idea of subwoofer sizes might have become a bit skewed. Their size advantage notwithstanding, the 1961 subs benefit from the tasteful and restrained trickle-down aesthetics of their larger siblings. The cabinets are fairly simple oblong boxes with the vertical edges having a significant beveling. All of the edges have a very slight rounding so there are no sharp edges anywhere.

1961S 5  1961S

The 1961 subs only come in matte white and matte black finishes. As matte finishes go, the 1961s are pretty nice, and I have found the quality in “matte” finishes to range widely between manufacturers. The 1961 finishes aren’t as fine as the finishes from the 1723 series, but the 1723’s “matte” finish was really a true satin finish that was downplayed by Arendal for some reason. The 1961’s “matte” finish is a true matte finish, and a bit rougher and more textured than the satin finishes of the 1723s. The advantage of the slight texturing is that the matte finish is more durable and is not a fingerprint or scuff magnet like a satin finish.

1961V amp driver hero2  1961V hero angle4

The 1961s are rather monolithic in appearance with the exception of the cone. The cone is a smooth matte black surface surrounded by a trim ring so there aren’t any exposed screws. One point of detail within the cone is the Arendal insignia printed in white in the concave dustcap. The cone can be hidden by a magnetic grille, but the whole sub is already so minimalistic that the grille doesn’t improve the appearance. Its only use is to protect the cone.  The only other aesthetic detail in the sub is an Arendal logo in the lower front of the sub. The 1961 subs are simple and unobtrusive, so they aren’t likely to stick out in most people’s rooms if placed in a corner or out of the way.

Design Analysis

1961 driver

As was mentioned before, the 1961 subwoofers come in both a vented and sealed model (the 1V and 1S respectively), and the vented model also comes with a port plug in case you wanted sealed sub performance but in a heavier and larger enclosure than the 1S for some reason. To get into the specifics of design, let’s start with the drivers. The 1961 subs tout their drivers as having a 12.2” diameter cone as opposed to normal 12” size cones. That may well be true in some technical sense, but the reality is that there is a wide range of actual cone areas that fall into the rubric of claimed 12” cone sizes, and what is more, an additional 0.2” of diameter isn’t likely to make a big difference even if there were some true point of comparison against other 12”s. The cone is made from a heavily-treated long fiber pulp, which is a good material for this application on account of its high stiffness-to-weight ratio.

1961V cone2

The cone is attached to a stamped steel basket via a Nomex/poly-cotton spider and isoprene rubber surround. These suspension components are engineered with very sophisticated modeling techniques and then fine-tuned using a Klippel laser scanner. The suspension is engineered to not exert a lot of tension on the moving assembly until very high excursions, thus allowing for lots of linear throw, and it also should not add a significant amount of weight, which would lower sensitivity. 

The motor uses two 6” diameter magnets with a ⅞” thickness which ought to give it a lot of force for the energized coil to react against. There are aluminum shorting rings in the motor which should lower inductance thereby increasing the bandwidth of the drivers and lowering even-order harmonic distortion. The voice coil uses aluminum which has most of the conductivity of copper yet without nearly as much of a weight penalty; that ought to give it greater efficiency than copper. Venting is done in the basket under the spider. The backplate has been heavily bumped out to allow for high excursions without the former hard-bottoming against the backplate which can wreck the former in an instant. As with the suspension, the motor has been heavily optimized via computer modeling and Klippel scanning. 

The 1961 subs use Arendal’s Avalanche 550 IQ amplifiers, a very sophisticated class-D design controlled by a powerful DSP engine. As the name suggests, it can output 550-watts RMS which should be plenty for the 12.2” drivers. Instead of the traditional knobs to control the basics like volume, phase, and low-pass frequencies, the 550 IQ uses a single knob and two buttons to control a 1.8” color LCD screen. This design enables a much wider and deeper control over all aspects of the sub’s operation. Phase can be controlled out to a single degree, volume can be fine-tuned to a single-decibel, and the low-pass filter can be set to exact frequency. The 550 IQ also features a 3-band parametric equalizer, so the 1961 subs do not need an external equalizer to manually alter the response. Response problems created by the room can be addressed on the sub itself. Operation modes and subsonic filters can also be engaged by the amp. The amp has two RCA inputs and outputs, and the inputs can be individually controlled so that the sub can accommodate connectivity with two different systems simultaneously. 

 1961V amp plate

Backpanel View of Arendal Sound 1961 Subwoofer Amp

In addition to the extensive level of control permitted by the 550 IQ amp, it also constantly monitors aspects of system operation to ensure that the sub is never running in potentially damaging situations. Power supply voltage, output voltage, and system temperature are a few of the properties always being monitored in real-time. If the amp senses anything amiss among a multitude of operational properties, it will immediately shut itself down rather than risk any damage to the sub itself. As with any other computerized system, upon activation, the amplifier runs through a series of self-tests to make sure everything is in order before becoming fully functional. Toward this end, the inclusion of an onboard tone generator makes it easy to deduce a problem within the larger system to see where a problem might lay if the sub isn’t producing sound.

1961 parametric EQ  1961 subsonic filter

A Useful 3 band Parametric EQ to help tame problematic bass modes

The enclosures are made from high-density fiberboard which is denser and tougher than the standard medium-density fiberboard that most sub enclosures are made of. The side-panels have a ¾” thickness and the driver baffle has a 1 ½” thickness. The 1V’s slot port paneling spans the width of the enclosure and snakes all the way up to the top of the sub on the interior of the cabinet; this adds a considerable amount of bracing as well as mass to the cabinet. There is also a fair amount of stuffing inside the cabinet to damp resonances. A nice side effect of enclosure stuffing is that it can help to lower the system resonant frequency. The feet are some stiff rubber cylindrical pieces with the Arendal logo molded into the bottom. The 1961 enclosures are built like boulders which is what I have come to expect from Arendal. These subwoofers feel very solid, and their size belies their weight. Just trying to lift the 80 lbs. 1V sub brings home the reality of their mass very quickly. 

 1961V interior

Interior View of the Internals of the Arendal Sound 1961 Subwoofer

The overall design and construction of the 1961 subwoofers fall in line with the other products from Arendal that I have encountered. The quality of materials and workmanship are well above average, even here in their entry-level subwoofers. The construction doesn’t go as far over-the-top as the 1723 series, but that is to be expected. But now we are faced with the question of what does all of this engineering add up to? Let’s give them a listen to find out…

Listening Sessions

The best placement for a single sub in my room gives me a relatively flat response for an un-EQ’d single subwoofer, with a window of +/- 4 dB from 25 Hz to 100 Hz with no broad dips in important ranges. This location trades low-end room gain for a relatively flat response, a worthwhile trade for my tastes. The receiver used was a Pioneer Elite SC-55 and the crossover was used mostly at 80 Hz. As always, I will note here that since room acoustics have a huge effect on low frequencies, the way these subwoofers sound in my room at my listening position is not necessarily going to be the way they sound anywhere else for anyone else, so readers would do well to keep that in mind, and not just for this subwoofer in this review but for any subwoofer in any review.

Music Listening

Pachelbel organ worksAll devotees of Johann Pachebel are sure to have CPO’s “Complete Organ Works” albums in their collection, which are recordings of performances of all of Pachebel’s surviving compositions in very high sound quality. The most recent of this set is the 2019 release “Complete Organ Works III” which was played on the Trost organ at the church of St. Walpurgis in GroBengottern in Germany. Most of the compositions in this album don’t really take advantage of the deep frequency prowess that a subwoofer is capable of, but the ones that can do so in a way no other acoustic instrument can come close to. Some of the tracks lean on the lower registers heavily, some lightly, and some don’t have any bass whatsoever, but I was interested in how the 1961 subwoofers could balance the light bass touches against the moments when the full low-frequency force of the pipe organ could kick in. 

While the subwoofers’ integration with the speakers is mostly a matter of calibration, the quality of the subs is still important in achieving a good blend. On this count, the Arendal 1961 subwoofers made for a seamless fusion in sound with the main speakers. Both the 1S and 1V proved to have a delicate enough touch to reproduce the more full-throated moments of the lower frequencies with verve without overdoing the softer bass that comprised the majority of this album. On the tracks with heavier deep bass, the subs could help to simulate a space much larger than my actual room size. They could recreate the sound of this massive pipe organ with authority and were able to convey the size and scope of this, the “king of all instruments.” Switching between the subs, they both sounded very similar. At high volumes, I thought that the 1V might have had an edge in lower-pitched notes, but they were both so close that may well have been my imagination. If there are no size restrictions, the 1V is the one to get regardless, since it will naturally have an advantage in deep bass on account of the port. However, if size is a concern, the 1S is hardly a compromise at all for organ music in my experience in listening to this album. There is no doubt that both subs are fine choices for pipe organ music.     

...the Arendal 1961 subwoofers made for a seamless fusion in sound with the main speakers.

One of the most influential artists on modern electronic music is surprisingly looking to be none other than John Carpenter, who, of course, is more popularly known as a movie director. While his movies are fairly influential themselves, he is, more than anyone, responsible for spawning the entire subgenre of “synthwave,” music that can best be described as ‘Carpenter-esque.’ Carpenter is retired from filmmaking these days, but he continues to make music, and his music is very much in the synthwave vein. His most recent album, “Dark Themes III: Alive After Death,” is relatively bass-heavy with a fat vintage synth sound. Growling electric guitars also round out the low-frequencies in this music, and it all gives the subwoofers a lot to do, thereby making it a good demo of a sub’s abilities.

Both 1961 subs were able to give Carpenter’s music a strong foundation. The bass line pulsated with energy that could be felt as well as heard, and kick drums were also given a physical as well as aural dimension. Hearing these tracks so dramatically realized makes me wish there were accompanying movies to go with them (the 7th track, “Skeleton,” definitely justifies a movie). Again, switching between the subs, I didn’t get a sense that the 1S and 1V were especially different on this content. I thought maybe the 1V had slightly more weight on some tracks. This isn’t surprising since the 1V’s port advantage probably doesn’t extend much higher than 40Hz, and the vast majority of bass in this music is likely above 40Hz, but then again expectation bias may be coloring my experience on this. Regardless, both subs killed it with “Lost Themes III,” and anyone looking for a sub to give their retro-synthwave music some more oomph would do well with either one.

Lost Themes III  Syvys

For bass-heavy music of a much subtler nature, I selected a dark ambient album from the Cyclic Law label entitled “Syvys” by Otavan Veret. This album is comprised of four long-form pieces using a variety of sounds that employ deep bass to varying degrees. There are timpani-type drums, drawn-out basslines, atmospheric drones, and distant rumbling noises, so there are plenty of sounds for a subwoofer to feast on. It should be an interesting test of the 1961 subwoofers to see if there were any perceivable differences between the sealed and ported models in this music. There is a lot of bass in “Syvys” but it all forms a part of a larger sound, so how well would the 1961 subs keep the low-frequency elements intact with the rest of the sound?

The 1961 subs were able to keep track of the multitude of low-frequency sounds on this album without blurring them together or lumping them into an ambiguous mess. The sound never bifurcated into a “sub/satellite” divergence that cheap systems can have, and the album was reproduced as a cohesive whole. The subwoofer’s presence only became undoubtable when bass reached much deeper than what the main speakers could plausibly reproduce. Alternating between the subs, there did seem to be a somewhat more clear difference between them during passages that had a near subterranean rumbling noise. The 1S could reproduce this rumbling, but not quite with the strength that the 1V could manage. Aside from that, the subs were indistinguishable. “Syvys” was recreated to an evocative degree and felt like a soundscape that was explored by the listener in detail. The gentle deep-bass repetitions of the third track, “III,” had a mesmeric effect that kept the subs busy with a plethora of low-frequency sounds. While I have to give the 1V a slight edge in reproducing this album, either sub is sure to please anyone looking for some deep bass assistance in this lower-key type of music.     

SleepnetFor bass of a far less subtle character, I found a terrific new release on Division Recordings from Sleepnet titled “First Light.” Sleepnet is a solo project from Noisia’s Nick Roos, and “First Light” has a slew of tracks that cover a range of different electronic music styles. Few of these tracks are shy about the use of heavy bass, which is no surprise coming from a member of the drum and bass supergroup Noisia. The album has some calm tracks but it also has some real bangers that can serve as a stress test for any sub at a high enough playback level. Usually in this type of test, either the sub gets pummeled or the sub ends up pummeling my ears, but something is going to get a beatdown, so the question is what was going to give first?

Both subs could throw a serious punch. While they weren’t able to get louder than I could actually tolerate, they were able to get as loud as I would ever listen to this album for enjoyment, and that is pretty loud. Bass drops and kick drums could be felt as well as heard. I cranked the volume, and neither sub exhibited any signs of over-driving nor did they produce any audible distortion. The sharp attacks of the kick drums showed a seamless merging of subwoofer and loudspeaker, and I didn’t detect any sluggishness or extra decay from either of the subs. Anyone who thinks that sealed subs have some kind of inherent transient superiority over a ported sub should give these subs a close listen to dispel that delusion. As was heard on some other content, the 1V did give a meatier presentation in passages with deeper bass, but the difference was not huge, and both subs made this album sound great. In particular, the track “Angel Blade” (that tune is a real banger, by the way) did have a more intimidating opening sound on the 1V subwoofer. This album turned out to be a blast to listen to on the 1961 subwoofers, and it leaves me wanting to hear more from both Arendal and Sleepnet.

Movie Watching

DemonicI have enjoyed Neil Blomkamp’s movies since he first appeared on my radar with 2009’s fantastic “District 9,” so it was a treat that he had come out with a new movie that was quietly made during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 that was titled “Demonic.” In this movie, the estranged daughter of a comatose woman gets a chance to reconnect with her mother despite it coming by way of entering a virtual reality reconstruction of her mother’s psychic landscape. Before falling into a coma, the mother had gone on a horrific killing spree, and the daughter was driven to know why her mother committed such heinous crimes. Things get complicated when she learns that her mother may not have had full agency over her actions during the murders, and there may have been another malevolent force at work within her. The trailer for “Demonic” promised a movie with a lot of deep bass, so I decided that a good time to watch it is with the 1961 subwoofers on hand.

Most of the deep bass moments in “Demonic” occurred in the virtual reconstructions of a disturbed mental landscape. Much like the effects work involved, those scenes had an odd glitchiness in the sound mix that the 1961 subwoofers recreated with full potency. Another source of low frequencies was Ola Strandh’s music score with heavily incorporated electronic elements that perfectly matched the movie’s theme of modern technology versus ancient evil,. It was given a satisfyingly solid foundation by the 1961 subs. In fact, I enjoyed the music so much that I looked to see if a soundtrack was available, but sadly that doesn’t seem to be the case. Another aspect of the sound mix given a frightening aural presence by the 1961 subs is the sound of the film’s antagonist, which I will not say much about so as not to spoil the movie for those who haven’t seen it. Suffice to say it is accompanied by a truly intimidating sound. I switched from the 1S to the 1V sub in the middle of the movie and didn’t really notice any significant change, but it may be that the movie doesn’t often dig to frequencies below 30Hz or that frequent A/B switching would have been needed to reveal the differences. In either case, the 1961 subwoofers helped to make this movie-watching experience an enjoyable one, even if the movie turned out to be a bit hokey. 

GreyhoundAnother movie I watched with the 1961 subwoofers was the recent WW2 naval war movie “Greyhound” starring Tom Hanks. In “Greyhound,” a convoy of Allied ships crossing the Atlantic is hunted down one by one by a group of German U-boats. The inexperienced commander of the Allied fleet has to figure out how to ward off the invisible threat and get as many ships in the convoy to their destination as possible. It is based on the true story of one of the longest and most complex battles in naval history. Naturally, any modern movie with destroyers, depth charges, and torpedoes should make for some serious subwoofer fodder, so I thought it would be a great test of the subwoofers’ ability to recreate a big Hollywood sound mix.

After watching “Greyhound,” it turned out to be a more continuous exercise for the subwoofers than I had expected. This movie had the subs working from nearly start to finish since it took place in the rough Atlantic waters. Large ocean waves pounded against the sides of the ships constantly. The 1961 subwoofers had no problem recreating the tumultuous conditions of the stormy Atlantic. Blake Neely’s bombastic music score was also a point of low frequencies for the film, and the Arendal subs did a good job of keeping the music separate from the effects sounds. Rewatching the first skirmish and switching between the two subs, the 1V did give more full rendering of the battle noises. It was notably more forceful and gave the scene a more violent depiction. That is, of course, predictable, given the design differences between the 1V and the 1S, but that is something that should be kept in mind for those who might think that these subs are close in their capability. They can hold a rough parity in performance in mid-bass, but not in deep bass, and there was lots of deep bass in “Greyhound.” This isn’t to say that the 1S gave a poor showing. On the contrary, it acquitted itself well, but there is only so much a small sealed subwoofer can do below a certain frequency range. If you don’t have the room for a larger sub like the 1V, the 1S really doesn’t embarrass itself, even on heavy-duty bass content like this movie, but if the large size can be accommodated, there is no doubt that the 1V is the sub to have for a more lifelike recreation of deep bass effects sounds.

Attached Files
ryanosaur posts on December 27, 2022 15:51
Prolix, post: 1584233, member: 95128
ust feel like I'm missing something.
The fish hook at the end of the marketing and Audio-phool fishing line? That's not a bad thing.
Once you bite, they make you their b!tch.

Whether the 1723s are worth the price differential is a personal values decision. Good Bass does cost money, and chasing extension or a percentage point on distortion can be pricey.
shadyJ posts on December 27, 2022 15:36
Prolix, post: 1584233, member: 95128
The other thing I've been wondering about is that Arendal says the 1723 subs are “tighter and more musical” than the 1961 subs. Nemo Propaganda described the 1723 as a higher end bass experience where the bass comes from an ink black background. I've read forum accounts of the 1961 sounding maybe not quite as refined as some other options.
But, the 1961 measurements appear to show low distortion, relatively little compression, and low group delay which I believe should result in a pretty high fidelity bass situation. Are there attributes that affect perceived bass fidelity that aren't typically measured? Just feel like I'm missing something.
I don't think there is much else that is measured that can tell you a lot about the sound character of subwoofers. I would say that Arendal's claims about the 1723s sounding qualitatively better than the 1961s is just marketing.
Prolix posts on December 27, 2022 09:51
The other thing I've been wondering about is that Arendal says the 1723 subs are “tighter and more musical” than the 1961 subs. Nemo Propaganda described the 1723 as a higher end bass experience where the bass comes from an ink black background. I've read forum accounts of the 1961 sounding maybe not quite as refined as some other options.
But, the 1961 measurements appear to show low distortion, relatively little compression, and low group delay which I believe should result in a pretty high fidelity bass situation. Are there attributes that affect perceived bass fidelity that aren't typically measured? Just feel like I'm missing something.
William Lemmerhirt posts on December 04, 2022 23:54
Prolix, post: 1581590, member: 95128
Thanks! My Arcam doesn't have independent sub outs so I'm trying to stick with one, unfortunately.

You can use a splitter.
William Lemmerhirt posts on December 04, 2022 23:53
Prolix, post: 1581550, member: 95128
Anyone have thoughts on switching from a JL e110 to a 1961 1V for theater use only? JL is showing greater CEA output over 40hz so I'm unsure whether the 1961 would actually be a downgrade for some content even though it's ported and has a larger driver and cabinet. Arendal support told me they weren't familiar with the e110. I'm just looking to get some of that ported theater experience without buying a huge box.

How big is the room? I would never use a sealed sub, but especially for HT only. Unless there’s a space issue, there’s just no reason. So imo, if Arendal is what you want, I’d at least get a pair of the V’s. I haven’t compared output numbers, but suspect that for HT the arendal V would be better overall. Room size imo would dictate what to do. If the room is large I’d think there are better options, but they will be bigger, and likely more expensive. Depends on what you really want.
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About the author:

James Larson is Audioholics' primary loudspeaker and subwoofer reviewer on account of his deep knowledge of loudspeaker functioning and performance and also his overall enthusiasm toward moving the state of audio science forward.

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