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Emotiva X-Ref 12 Subwoofer Review

Emotiva X-Ref 12 Subwoofer

Emotiva X-Ref 12 Subwoofer


  • Product Name: X-Ref 12 Subwoofer
  • Manufacturer: Emotiva
  • Review Date: October 31, 2006 08:25
  • MSRP: $699
  • First Impression: Gotta Have It!
  • Buy Now

XRef-12 Subwoofer

  • Drivers: (1) 12" long throw woofer with die-cast frame, Butyl rubber surround, 3" vented motor structure, and proprietary para-aramid blended fiber cone
  • Power Output: 600 watts RMS, 1000 watts peak
  • Typical In‐Room Frequency Response: 20Hz‐200Hz
  • Typical In‐Room Output: 115‐118dB SPL
  • Nominal input sensitivity: Balanced Input: 1V / Unbalanced Input: 500 mv.
  • Phase Adjustment: 0 to 315 degrees (in 45 degree steps)
  • Low Pass Crossover: 40-150 Hz (in 1 Hz steps)
  • Parametric Equalizers: EQ1, EQ2 (independent)
    • Center Frequency: 25 Hz - 150 Hz (in 1 Hz steps)
    • Gain: -12 dB to +6 dB (in 1 dB steps)
    • Q: 0.5 to 5.0 (in 0.1 steps)
  • Input Voltage: 120 VAC 50/60 Hz or 230 VAC 50/60 Hz auto detecting
  • Dimensions: Unboxed: 15.625" high x 14.625" wide x 15.5" deep (including 1" high feet)
  • Weight: Unboxed: 44 lbs

Executive Overview

Hi, I'm Andrew Gash with Audioholics. Man, another subwoofer? Aren't we sick of these yet? (to off-screen) What? I'm fired? OK... After Emotiva had so much success with their Ultra Series of subs, naturally, they decided to step things up a notch. This new X-Ref sub is the official step. It comes in a 10" and 12" version (this is the 12) and the box size is nearly identical to their Ultra 10 and Ultra 12 predecessors. And while they don't differ much on the outside, the insides have undergone a considerable change. Most notably, Emotiva has upgraded the amplifiers in their X-Ref subs. The high-efficiency 600-watt RMS amplifier and high-current-density switch-mode power supply gives the X-Ref 12 more than double the power reserves than its Ultra sub counterpart.

The new X-Ref also uses a new long-throw woofer with a die-cast frame and massive 3-inch vented motor assembly. Considering the X-Ref 12 costs just $699 shipped, it's rare to find a driver of this caliber in this level of product. In fact, most subs at this price give you stamped baskets, weaker drivers and compensate with larger cabinets.


This cabinet is made of 1" thick MDF, with plenty of cross-bracing and extensive internal dampening. Emotiva calls the finish "Studio Black" - we call it "meh". It's your typical lacquer black sub, but it does match all of Emotiva's other speakers perfectly. The X-Ref 12 also comes with aluminum spikes, non-marring rubber feet, and both balanced (XLR) and unbalanced (RCA) inputs.

XLR inputs

Now, while the Ultra series subs didn't have any DSP capabilities, the X-Ref incorporates a DSP preamplifier and loudspeaker management control system. This provides the end user tools to combat acoustical challenges that speaker placement and room interactions place on subwoofers. Control, setup, and configuration are accomplished using a finicky, but functional, push-to-engage rotary knob, and a backlit LCD display lets you know what you're messing with.

Emotiva DSP

Upon closer look of the VFD interface, it looks quite similar to the system Aperion Audio employed in their Bravus line of subwoofers. It's not uncommon for companies to share common technology interfaces such as displays, connectors, etc, though Emotiva writes its own DSP code specific for their own subs. Regardless, we still encourage users to bypass the internal crossover of their subs in favor of using the more robust bass management scheme their modern Dolby TrueHD / DTS HD A/V receivers offer. Still, the added EQ the Emotiva X-Ref subs offer can be a useful tool in tweaking system performance.

Now for features - the X-Ref 12 wakes up automatically by sensing an input signal and Movie or Music equalization modes can be preset so the sub can be configured differently for each application. Also included are two independent, fully configurable parametric EQs (with frequency, Q, and boost/cut controls) so you can perfectly tune the X-Ref 12 to your room and the rest of your system. Emotiva's DSP digitally controls settings like the crossover point and equalizer parameters to ensure accuracy and repeatability.

Just like with the Ultra series of subs, X-Ref also includes some very innovative behind-the-scenes features, such as sophisticated dynamics processing and their soft limiting circuitry to protect the X-Ref from dangerous overloads. All of this is done in the digital domain opposed to analog domain of the Ultra series subs.

X-ref 12 sub glamour

But how does it sound? Freaking. Awesome. We cranked up several of our favorites, including Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring and The Incredibles. On the former, we focused on the opening prologue where the defeat of Sauron causes a pronounced bass sweep that, at reference levels, shook our room to its foundations. With The Incredibles, we queued up the scene where the rocket blasts out of the tunnel. This sequence is known to have powerful bass that goes down to under 10Hz.  Though, let's keep things in perspective, the little X-Ref12 isn't capable of delivering meaningful output below 25Hz so there were limits as you can see in our X-Ref 12 Measurements & Analysis Report. In my modest sized listening space, the Emotiva managed to crank out the low frequencies like the rocket was attempting to life off from my roof. Dishes rattled, neighbors called, my couch vibrated 6 inches to the left. OK I may be embellishing a little here, but this little sub packs quite a wallop.

Tabulated below is a comparison of both X-Ref subs and the remaining Ultra 12 sub which Emotiva still sells at discount.

Model X-Ref 12 X-Ref 10 Ultra 12
Driver 12" with 3" vent & para-aramid cone 10" with 2" vent & para-aramid cone 12" with 3" vent & para-aramid cone
Power 600 watts rms 1000 watts peak 300 watts rms 500 watts peak 300 watts rms 500 watts peak
SPL (in-room) 115-118 dB 112-115dB 110-113dB
DSP Controlled Yes Yes No
Dimensions (H x W x D) 15.6" x 14.6" x 15.5" 13.6" x 12.6" x 13.6" 14.5" x 14.5" x 15.25"
Weight 44 lbs 33 lbs 38 lbs
Price $699

SO, if you can afford this sub, you're going to have a hard time doing better for the price. On top of the inherent value and performance, Emotiva also offers a five-year transferable warranty and 30-day no-hassle return policy as well as FREE shipping. If you've got the funds, this isn't even a hard decision... try it out.

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For more information, visit Emotiva Audio

Unless otherwise indicated, this is a preview article for the featured product. A formal review may or may not follow in the future.

djreef posts on April 15, 2012 01:12
beyond 1000, post: 865107
This was a good review of the sub. What difference is it if it is made in China. As long as it is built to the standards and specs of Emotiva's designers then the finished product can come from either the USA, China, or someplace else.

It looks like a solid unit and at $700 it is a good price for what is out there in retail land.

My entire system was made in China. Dare I say, it's the best 2-channel rig I've ever owned.

beyond 1000 posts on February 15, 2012 12:16
This was a good review of the sub. What difference is it if it is made in China. As long as it is built to the standards and specs of Emotiva's designers then the finished product can come from either the USA, China, or someplace else.

It looks like a solid unit and at $700 it is a good price for what is out there in retail land.
Audioholics posts on February 14, 2012 22:18
Updated thread and post with video review… Also see the full review at: https://www.audioholics.com/reviews/speakers/subwoofers/x-ref-12
BoredSysAdmin posts on October 11, 2011 15:00
Few Measurements of X-Ref 12

AVS Forum - View Single Post - Narrow sub(s)?

Pyrrho posts on August 31, 2011 13:08
admin, post: 828089
… In fact, on paper, the X-Ref 10 appears to outgun the bigger Ultra 12 subwoofer. …

I think quite a few people need this sort of information, as they often assume that bigger (both in driver and in cabinet size) means better. The smaller one also weighs less.

So, if the measurements support what is on paper on these, the people who believe that larger is better and heavier is better really should pay attention and learn that actual performance is the only way to properly judge actual performance. Size and weight are not proof of anything about performance.

Of course, they are factors in performance, but they are far from the only factors, and therefore cannot be used alone to properly judge performance.
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Clint Deboer was terminated from Audioholics for misconduct on April 4th, 2014. He no longer represents Audioholics in any fashion.

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