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Velodyne EQ-Max 15 Subwoofer Review

by February 26, 2012
  • Product Name: EQ-Max 15 Subwoofer
  • Manufacturer: Velodyne Acoustics
  • Performance Rating: StarStarStarhalf-star
  • Value Rating: StarStarStarStar
  • Review Date: February 26, 2012 21:00
  • MSRP: $ 879

Velodyne EQ-Max 15 Specifications

  • 15” forward firing long throw woofer
  • 1” HDF enclosure with down firing ports
  • Amplifier: 750 watts rms, 1500 watts dynamic power
  • Frequency Response: 23-120Hz +/-3dB (14-240Hz Overall)
  • Finishes: Black vinyl
  • Dimensions (H/W/D): 21.5” x 19” x 21”
  • Weight: 75 lbs. (shipped)
  • Warranty: 3 years electronics (5 years driver)

Driver features

  • Reinforced fiber cone
  • 10.14lb magnet structure
  • 2.5” diameter 4 layer copper voice coil
  • Vented pole piece

Additional Features

  • Removable grill
  • Remote control
  • LED display
  • One touch auto EQ room bass correction
  • 4 EQ pre-set curves: Movies, rock, jazz/classical and games
  • Variable low pass filter, 40-135Hz 12dB/octave (24dB ultimate)
  • Phase: 0, 90, 180, 270 degrees
  • Auto on/off
  • 80Hz 6dB/octave high pass crossover


  • Unbalanced (RCA) inputs and outputs
  • Speaker level inputs and outputs L/R
  • Front panel microphone input (1/8”)
  • 1/8” 12V trigger


  • Remote operation
  • EQ presets
  • Well protected


  • Large
  • Limited deep bass extension


Velodyne EQ-Max 15 Subwoofer Review Introduction

Not long after sending in their flagship DD18+ to us for examination, Velodyne decided to also send us the top of their more budget minded EQ-Max line, the EQ-Max 15. The EQ-Max series still employs digital signal processing, built in EQ and efficient class-D amplification like the Digital Drive series but they lack the active servo control and are a little less powerful and advanced as one might expect from a line that is a fraction of the cost of its more upward scale brethren. After the resounding performance turned in by the DD18+, I was eager to see what the folks at Velodyne could coax out of one of their more humble offerings.

Unpacking and Initial Thoughts

eqmaxfront.JPGThe EQ-Max 15 arrived in a large brown box like most any other subwoofer and while it tipped the scales at 75lbs I found it to be an easy one man unpacking job. In comparison the DD18+ comes in at a hernia inducing 160lbs as delivered. The EQ-Max 15 has a single cardboard box of heavy gauge with cardboard corner reinforcement and top and bottom foam protections. The sub was further protected inside of a large plastic bag. Also contained within were the remote, batteries, power cable, a quick start guide, owners manual and the microphone for the auto EQ system.

After the unpacking was complete I had a chance to examine the unit in all of its glory. The finish is a dark chocolate brown vinyl wrap with lots of wood grain that looks rather good to my eyes. This is the one finish available on this line. Interestingly Velodyne lists this finish as black vinyl, but it is quite different from the usual plain black seen on many offerings. I liked the finish and found it to be a refreshing change from the aforementioned flat black usually offered in this price range. The EQ-Max 15 is not what most would consider a small subwoofer which is not a surprise. It is a vented 15” after all. I would call it moderate to large but not quite into the hulking beast category. The grille deviates from the standard black square and is instead cut into a form fitting shape around the bottom of the woofer which helps to spruce up its looks a little. The grille is also a wood frame and not plastic. Fit and finish overall looked to be very good.

Design Overview

The Velodyne EQ-Max15 utilizes a 15” long throw driver front firing in a vented cabinet. The vents consist of a pair of 3” diameter down firing ports which are held off of the floor by extra tall rubber feet. The amplifier is listed as an efficient digital unit of 750rms, 1500w peak rating. The unit is controlled via remote control and touts a total of 4 built in EQ presets to tailor the response shape to a listeners taste or to suit program content. The front panel houses an LED display and also the port for connecting the supplied microphone for the auto EQ function, which are hidden behind the grille in normal use. The auto EQ is mentioned as having 5 bands in the Velodyne literature.

In typical Velodyne fashion they have made it challenging to remove the driver for inspection. In this case there is a trim ring which covers the screws that mount the driver. They can only be accessed by removing the trim ring and it may only be removed by unscrewing it from the inside of the cabinet. This requires removing the amplifier and then working around the ports. Needless to say I decided to skip this endeavor. I was still able to examine the driver while mounted in the cabinet, although this did limit its ability to flaunt its photogenic properties.

The driver is a 15” nominal unit utilizing a paper cone and dust cap with small half roll foam surround. The frame is stamped steel and the spider appears to be of moderate diameter judging from the landing size available in the frame. The voice coil is listed as a 2.5” diameter 4 layer copper unit. The motor has a large pole vent with screen and a bumped back plate. The magnet is powered by a moderate sized roughly 6” diameter and ¾” thick single ferrite slug. Judging by the parts quality and construction this is low cost, moderate duty unit with limited excursion capabilities compared to some other current day drivers. However, the lighter moving mass may also impart this driver with higher sensitivity than usual.

The amplifier unit is listed as being a highly efficient and digital in the literature which indicates that it is probably a regulated class D topology. It is connected to the front LED and remote sensor via a ribbon cable. Interestingly virtually all of the controls except for the low pass crossover are controlled via the remote. I’m curious as to why all of the other controls are digitally controlled except for the low pass filter. Removing the amp from the cabinet showed it to have a couple of small aluminum heat sinks and a couple of large reserve capacitors. During the strenuous testing done outdoors it never got any more than warm. It seemed to have plenty of power for the application as well. Connection possibilities are limited to unbalanced RCA style and speaker level connections and a 12v trigger input.

eqmaxback.JPG         eqmaxboard.JPG

The enclosure of the EQ-Max 15 was what looked to be 1” thick material that the plate amp was recessed into. The grill was heavily constructed using what appears to be the same wood material as the cabinet and was not the light plastic commonly seen. The grill inserts gripped firmly and did not seem as fragile as many others commonly used. The pair of 3” diameter ports extended deeply into the cabinet stopping only a few inches from the top enclosure panel. The cabinet did not have any large braces in evidence, but there was a generous amount of damping material inside. Covering the top, bottom and both side panels and also behind the driver. Overall the parts and construction quality are good for this price bracket.

eqmaxinside.JPG       eqmaxbottom.JPG

Velodyne EQ-Max 15 Subwoofer Review Listening Session

For all of the listening sessions the EQ-Max 15 was placed in the front right corner of the room firing into the corner about 4 inches from the walls. This places the subwoofer a little over 4 meters from the primary listening position. I have determined this to be the best available single subwoofer placement in the room for most units. Audyssey was run on the system to allow it to integrate the subwoofer, which was then followed by a check and recalibration of the subwoofer and speaker levels prior to the listening sessions. The internal low pass filter was defeated in favor of a 125Hz setting inside of the Onkyo PR-SC886P. The EQ preset was set to the Jazz / Classical position.

rio 800.JPG

DVD: Rush - Live in Rio

This is probably my favorite live performance of the Canadian trio available on disc. Part of that might be due to the rabid support of the Brazilian fans who fervently sing back most of the songs and engage in soccer style chants in between sets. Having watched it so many times I am very familiar with the bass present and the EQ-Max 15 did a great job here. All of the fundamentals of the technically dense drum work throughout the performance were well reproduced with plenty of punch. I started out at -20 from theater reference playback and quickly decided to turn it up to -15 after a couple of songs. I briefly ran the volume up to -12 at which point the EQ-Max 15 provided a hefty amount of kick drum thump, but still seemed to be well in control of the situation. The bass guitar tone is one of my favorite things about this disc and Rush in particular and the EQ-Max had no trouble cleanly delivering each individual tone even on faster sections when the volume was turned up considerably. I also tried out a variety of other musical selections from my library ranging from folk rock to electronica, to metal at various volume levels and the EQ-Max did a fine job with all of them as well. The EQ-Max-15 was able to provide a lot of impact in a large room while maintaining excellent composure and pitch definition.

Blu-ray: 9

This disc was purchased on a whim while shopping one day and in my personal opinion has one of the sleeper audio mixes available. The soundtrack is varied, high quality, used imaginatively and very dynamic. The bass range in particular is made extensive and often times violent use of and at times drops down far below 20Hz with authority. It is a rough test for any subwoofer. In 9bluray 800.JPGother words demo material. I was interested to see how the EQ-Max 15 would handle some of the more demanding passages at a master volume of -15. At the beginning of the movie there is a gust of wind that blows a piece of paper accompanied by a subtle very low frequency pressure wave. This was barely hinted at by the EQ-max 15. Not many subs reproduce this regardless of cost as it is mostly below 20Hz. Further into the film there is a section with an undead cat that attacks 9 while he hides in a can. Here the EQ-Max did well reproducing the thuds, shudders and impacts with authority. Still later is a dialogue that explains the historical events leading up to the current post apocalyptic circumstances, which is chock full of battle and gun blasts. Again the EQ-Max 15 did very well with the various rumbles, blasts and explosions while projecting a lot of volume. However the EQ-max 15 does not have the extension to reproduce the very deepest bass frequencies like the DD18+ does, that much was obvious. Towards the end of 9 the bass, when present, gets even deeper, louder and more taxing. At a few points I noted what seemed like possibly port noise or overload from the EQ-Max 15 on a few especially loud parts. It wasn’t a glaringly obvious noise and probably would not have been noticed by someone not actively focusing intently on the bass range.The final battle with the machine has some of the most trying bass signals I am aware of on any soundtrack and it seemed that the EQ-Max 15 may have been limiting to protect itself during some of this. The fact that it sounded powerful on what it could reproduce and only emitted minimal distress noises when it could not is a testament to how well Velodyne did dialing in the protection circuits. The EQ-Max 15 could not quite produce the sense of depth, power and ease that the much more sophisticated and brawnier DD18+ had provided in this room, but this is to be expected. Overall, especially considering the price class, this is a strong showing by the EQ-Max 15 since this is a tough room for a single subwoofer, even a large one, to reproduce what I would consider as very difficult, home theater demo material.

Velodyne EQ-Max 15 Subwoofer Review Measurements and Analysis

The EQ-Max 15 subwoofer was measured outdoors sitting directly on the ground on its side with the M30 microphone placed 2 meters from the front edge of the corner of the cabinet with the grill removed. The driver and ports were equidistant from the microphone. The LFE input was used so that the internal low pass filter was disabled, the phase was set to 0 and the subwoofer volume was set to maximum. The Jazz/Classical EQ pre-set was used as it had the flattest basic response. All tests were conducted in this configuration, except for those tests purposely conducted to examine the effects of the built in functions or different operational modes.

The overall approach to this testing along with the equipment and software used is outlined in the article here.

Powered Subwoofer Testing Outline and Procedures Overview

Editorial Note on Enclosure Orientation for Outdoor Measurements:
There has been some concern expressed by Velodyne that the orientation used for the ground plane measurements may have compromised the EQ-Max-15’s performance. The EQ-Max-15 subwoofer is designed to have the down firing ports in close proximity to a boundary for proper loading and that the rumble filtering and limiter circuits are tuned to the subwoofer operating in this manner. To explain a little further…When a port is placed in close proximity to a boundary it changes the effective air mass of the port which lowers the system tuning some. This in turn impacts the driver excursion with frequency profile and also system response shape, sensitivity and efficiency. Placing the subwoofer so that the ports are firing to the side not loaded into a boundary as per the orientation for the measurements here, would increase the tuning frequency a little which would have some effect on the overall system performance. What would likely be seen is slightly higher output in the upper bass with lowered distortion and slightly diminished low end output with increased distortion. The tuning shifting up slightly allows less driver excursion above tuning and increased driver excursion at the low end as it unloads from the tuning at a higher frequency range prior to the rumble filter. Knowing this, why was the EQ-Max-15 tested in this orientation? Whenever I set-up to measure a subwoofer with multiple radiation points outdoors the first thing that is done is a few investigative measurements with the subwoofer in various orientations in order to determine which produces the flattest most extended and powerful output. The EQ-Max-15 was measured in both down firing and a diagonal orientation as used for the measurements presented here. The resulting measurement showed the EQ-Max-15 to have virtually the same response shape either way and to have slightly higher output levels and lower extension in the configuration it was ultimately measured in. This is shown in the measurement graph below.


eq-max-15 down vs cea-2010 suggested.jpg

The second reason for choosing this orientation for measurements of the EQ-Max-15 is that it is what is shown for a subwoofer of this particular geometry in the official CEA-2010 document. Quoted from section 4.2 note D. of the official document.

“A DUT with major radiating elements located on multiple faces of the loudspeaker cabinet shall be oriented so that no point on the DUT is closer than the measurement distance to the microphone, and so that the microphone is as equidistant as possible from all radiating elements.”

This statement is then followed by the following diagram also from the official document.

CEA-2010 orientation.JPG

These are the reasons behind why this particular orientation of the subwoofer was chosen for the measurement session.

In order to be fair it should be noted that Velodyne feels that the performance of their product may have been hampered somewhat by measuring the subwoofer in this orientation. Unfortunately I did not communicate this bit of information to Velodyne prior to the tests and the EQ-Max-15 has since been returned to Velodyne so a further test of it in the down firing orientation for comparison is not possible. Regardless, kudos to Velodyne for having the confidence in their products to submit them to this type of in-depth evaluation in the first place. Having covered that, let’s proceed to the outdoor measurements that were gathered.

xover response.jpg

Velodyne EQ-Max 15: Effect of Low and High Pass Filter Settings

Above is the effect of various setting of the low pass filter on the EQ-Max 15’s response. These were at the minimum, maximum, 11 o’clock and 1 o’clock positions on the dial. The black trace is with the low pass filter defeated.

eqmax15 eq response.jpg

Velodyne EQ-Max 15: Effect of EQ Presets on Response

In the chart above is the basic response of the EQ-Max 15 using the various factory EQ settings. The Movie pre-set provides an overall level boost and gooses the 30-50Hz region a bit. The Game setting seems to more aggressively filter the low end and boosts the response into a peak centered at about 63Hz. The Rock setting induces an EQ boost centered just above 50Hz. The flattest response is found using the Jazz / Classical pre-set, so it was used for the rest of the measurements.

eqmax15 base response.jpg

Velodyne EQ-Max 15: Basic Frequency Response as Tested

The basic raw response of the EQ-Max 15 as measured outdoors in the Jazz EQ setting and with the low pass filter defeated, falls within a 6dB total window over the frequency range of 29-128Hz. The Velodyne specification is 23-120Hz +/-3dB which matches what was measured reasonably well except for the outdoor measurement indicating less ultimate low frequency extension.

Velodyne EQ Max Internal Auto EQ

I unfortunately did not get a chance to properly evaluate this particular aspect of the EQ-Max 15’s performance. I attempted to run the auto EQ routine in room multiple times with varying placements before packing the unit up for return shipment but did not observe a change in the measured output of the EQ Max-15 before and after running the routine. I attempted restoring the factory settings using the remote control and rebooting the unit. I am not sure if the unit had perhaps a fault somewhere, perhaps a short in the supplied microphone cord or I may have made some sort of error setting up the auto equalization routine myself. Unfortunately we had already arranged for pick-up of the unit so I did not get a chance to investigate further. I apologize to Velodyne and any readers who may have been interested in this particular aspect of the EQ-Max 15.

eqmax15 waterfall.jpg

Velodyne EQ-Max 15: Waterfall Decay

eqmax15 group delay.jpg

Velodyne EQ-Max 15: Group Delay

The response of the EQ-Max 15 in the time domain shows no area of concern, never breaking 1.5 cycles of delay. There is a slight increase below 35Hz likely due to the vent tuning and rumble filter employed, but is much less dramatic than that seen in some other bass reflex units and should not be of audible consequence.

eqmax15 long term output compression.jpg

Velodyne EQ-Max 15: Long Term Output Compression

Above are the results of the output compression test for the EQ-Max 15. It maintains its basic response well up until the nominally 110dB output sweep. At the 115dB level it is obvious that the limiting circuit is intervening heavily and the response shape has changed by a large amount.

Note on Output Compression Testing: This is by far the most demanding measurement type conducted on the subwoofers during our testing and will reveal any issues with overload, port compression, port noise, driver distress, creaks, rattles, buzzes, etc. Additionally this is outdoors with just the subwoofer operating so there are no nearby walls or objects to vibrate and no upper frequency content from other speakers that would normally help to cover up or mask any objectionable noises from the sub in a typical room. Any sort of audible distress or issues with the subwoofer will be readily apparent in this environment.

During the final two sine sweeps of the output compression test the driver in the EQ-Max 15 did seem to be overloaded and out of excursion in the 30Hz range and did develop some doubling and a mechanical suspension noise. There were no notable cabinet resonances or buzzes. I thought I might have detected some port chuffing but if I did it seemed to be of less concern than the driver. If the volume was reduced a little the sub was free of any notable noises. My impression was that the 750 watt rated amplifier is perhaps capable of more than this driver can handle in this application. (Note: Velodyne’s engineers feel that this may have been at least partly attributable to not operating the subwoofer in its normal orientation.)

eqmax15 long term output compression magnitude.jpg

Velodyne EQ-Max 15: Output Compression Magnitude

Above we have another way of looking at the output compression which shows only the amount of compression of the signal occurring. The EQ-Max 15 performs very well up to and through the 105dB nominal sweep with no appreciable compression shown. At the 110dB level there is some compression starting to occur but it is less than 2dB over most of the range. During the 115dB sweep there is a large amount indicating that the system is clearly at its maximum effective output levels already.


Velodyne EQ-Max 15: Maximum Long Term Output Level

Looking at the maximum long term output achieved by the EQ-Max 15 during output compression testing it falls into the middle range of all commercial subwoofers tested thus far. From 40-80Hz it is quite strong and is in the upper range of units tested. This octave is the meat of the bass range and corresponds well with the subjective impressions during the listening test of the EQ-Max-15 having a lot of capability. Above 90Hz and below 30Hz it is capable of less headroom.

eqmax 15 THD.PNG

Velodyne EQ-Max 15: Total Harmonic Distortion

eqmax 15 115DB THD.PNG

Velodyne EQ-Max 15: 115dB Sweep Distortion by Component

Total harmonic distortion and distortion by harmonic component testing reveals that the EQ-Max 15 is very clean down till almost 30Hz even running flat out at its limit, with THD under 5%. Below 30Hz the amount of distortion rapidly increases, which is expected as the cone excursion increases and the frequencies extend below the effective vent tuning. Looking at the harmonic makeup of the distortion reveals that it is primarily composed of the 2nd harmonic followed by the 3rd which is what you would want to see as higher harmonics are often noted as being more offensive to the ear. The notch in THD at about 23Hz followed by an upsurge seems to indicate that this is the system vent tuning.


Velodyne EQ-Max 15: CEA2010 2 Meter Groundplane RMS Results


Velodyne EQ-Max 15: CEA2010 2 Meter Groundplane RMS Comparison

CEA2010 Results

The CEA-2010 test results show that the EQ-Max 15 is amplifier limited from the 31.5Hz band and up and provides low distortion output. Over the 40-80Hz octave it provides over 110dB of peak output which is substantial. Output is still strong at 31.5Hz, but drops off considerably below that point with a passing result of only 84.8dB at 20Hz. However if distortion is ignored the EQ-Max 15 can muster up an additional 10dB of output at 20Hz producing 95.3dB flat out. (Note: Velodyne’s engineers feel that the shift in tuning by operating the subwoofer other than with the ports down firing may have caused an increase in deep bass distortion, which could lower the CEA-2010 passing output below the 31.5Hz band.)

Velodyne EQ-Max 15 Subwoofer Review Conclusion

eq-max_nogrille_7.jpgThe Velodyne EQ-Max 15 attempts to offer a glimpse of their top of the line Digital Drive series feature set and performance at a much more affordable price and give subwoofer hunters with more modest budgets access to Velodyne products. A goal well met for the most part. I was fond of the finish on the review unit. The dark brown wood grain being a welcome departure from the endless parade of black cubes. Build quality was good as well, as was parts quality, although it seems like more performance could possibly be coaxed out of the system with a heavier duty driver as the current one did seem to be over-exerted at times. The measurement session shows the EQ-Max 15 to have strong basic performance including high output headroom over theimportant 40-80Hz octave and great distortion performance above 30Hz. Looking at the measurements it does not surprise me at all that subjectively the EQ-Max 15 did very well with most any type of music I happened to throw its way. On the opposite side of that coin the modest extension and output below 30Hz showed up subjectively with a less strong performance with bombastic movies which contain a lot of heavy lifting in this area. It does do well with movies, just not as well as it does with music which was really impressive. Even without the extreme extension offered on some other subwoofers, the EQ-Max 15 offers a lot of value for the money and some features not offered on most other subwoofers in this price range, like remote control operation, EQ pre-sets and the auto EQ system. Not to mention a generous warranty term and the backing of a long established audio manufacturer. If you haven’t heard recently Velodyne has started to offer their products for sale online, which has been somewhat controversial, but means that where previously if you happened to live in a remote area you may not have had access to a reasonably close B&M Velodyne retailer, you should now be able to have a factory authorized Velodyne shipped to your door no matter where you are in North America. In the case of the EQ-Max 15, which might be the best current value in the extensive Velodyne product catalog, that can only be a good thing.

The Velodyne EQ-Max 15 receives the Audioholics Bassaholic Medium Room rating, which means that this sub is recommended as maintaining adequate headroom in rooms or spaces of 1,500-3,000 cubic feet and/or for users who usually listen at low to moderate volume levels. For further information in how we make these recommendations see the full article here.

See: Audioholics Subwoofer Room Size Rating Protocol


Velodyne EQ-Max 15 Review

Toll Free: 866-243-0789
MSRP: $879

The Score Card

The scoring below is based on each piece of equipment doing the duty it is designed for. The numbers are weighed heavily with respect to the individual cost of each unit, thus giving a rating roughly equal to:

Performance × Price Factor/Value = Rating

Audioholics.com note: The ratings indicated below are based on subjective listening and objective testing of the product in question. The rating scale is based on performance/value ratio. If you notice better performing products in future reviews that have lower numbers in certain areas, be aware that the value factor is most likely the culprit. Other Audioholics reviewers may rate products solely based on performance, and each reviewer has his/her own system for ratings.

Audioholics Rating Scale

  • StarStarStarStarStar — Excellent
  • StarStarStarStar — Very Good
  • StarStarStar — Good
  • StarStar — Fair
  • Star — Poor
Bass ExtensionStarStarStar
Bass AccuracyStarStarStarStar
Build QualityStarStarStarStar
Fit and FinishStarStarStarStar
Ergonomics & UsabilityStarStarStarStar
Dynamic RangeStarStarStarStar
Attached Files