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Perlisten R212s Powered Subwoofer Review

by September 13, 2022
Perlisten R212s

Perlisten R212s

  • Product Name: R212s Subwoofer
  • Manufacturer: Perlisten Audio
  • Performance Rating: StarStarStarStarStar
  • Value Rating: StarStarStarStarhalf-star
  • Review Date: September 13, 2022 10:55
  • MSRP: $ 4,995
Perlisten R212 Subwoofer Review YouTube Discussion
  • Alignment: Push-Pull, Sealed
  • Amplifier: 1.3kW RMS short term
  • Frequency Response:

THX EQ: 20-256Hz (-6dB) / 16-278Hz (-10dB)

Boost (Large Room) EQ: 16-256Hz (-6dB) / 14-278Hz (-10dB)

Cut (Small Room) EQ: 25-256Hz (-6dB) / 19-278Hz (-10dB)
  • Driver complement: (2)300mm, Glass fiber diaphragm +/-20mm linear excursion
  • Processor: 32-bit ARM Cortex M4, double precision floating point math
  • Display Interface: 2.4" LCD color touchscreen
  • Inputs: (2) Balanced XLR, (2) Unbalanced RCA
  • Outputs: (2) Balanced XLR unbuffered, (2) Unbalanced RCA unbuffered
  • Parametric EQ: 10-Band PEQ with 3 user presets
  • Dimensions (HxWxD): 23.6” x 16.1” x 19.7"
  • Weight: 48.2 kg (106.0 lbs.)
  • Shipping Dimensions: H: 23.6” W: 16.1” D:19.7”
  • Certification: THX Dominus (2), THX Ultra (1)
  • Available finishes: Piano gloss black


  • Extremely low distortion
  • Ruler flat response
  • Phenomenal time-domain performance
  • Lots of headroom
  • Tremendous build quality
  • Very nice looking
  • Highly sophisticated amplifier


  • Expensive!


Perlisten R212s Subwoofer Introduction

One of the best subwoofers we ever tested was Perlisten’s D215s, their flagship subwoofer, but at $9k, it wasn’t for everyone. However, if you didn’t need quite as much sheer headroom as the D215s provides and aren’t looking to spend $9k on a subwoofer but are still interested in the technologies and design ideas of Perlisten, you could save a significant amount of money by looking at their Reference series products. The Reference series does scale down the extravagant build quality and feature set of the Signature series subs a bit, but the design ideas and promise of tremendous performance remains intact.

R212s perlisten logo

The flagship of the Reference series subwoofers is the R212s, a $5k dual 12” subwoofer powered by a 1.3kW amplifier using state-of-the-art signal processing. This is the subwoofer we will be looking at in today’s review. The questions this subwoofer poses are: How much is given up by stepping down from the Signature series? Will you get much of the same performance but at a massive discount? How does the Reference fare against competing subwoofers from other manufacturers? Does the R212s represent the sweet spot of value in Perlisten’s subwoofer line-up?


R212sThe Perlisten R212s is a high-end subwoofer and it looks the role. It has a gloss black, squared cabinet, but the front baffle is a rounded solid piece with a premium satin black finish. The front-mounted driver is recessed fairly deep into the front, and it makes the sub look like a solid block (which it nearly is). The other driver is mounted for a down-firing orientation and isn’t really visible unless you look very closely since it is hidden by mesh grilles. The R212s does not come with a grille for the front of the sub, so people who abhor the sight of a driver cone might have to look elsewhere for their subwoofer solution if they aren’t able to keep the subwoofer out of sight. The cone for this sub looks very slick; it uses a dark grey glass-fiber weave that matches nicely with the satin black baffle. A circular widening of the front baffle around the cone is a stylistic touch that gives the sub a bit of flair. The amp plate has a black brushed aluminum surface that looks nicer than most. It is not a small subwoofer, but it isn’t huge, so while it won’t disappear in a room, it won’t dominate it either. A touchscreen on the top front of the sub adds a futuristic touch that gives the R212s a modernist aesthetic. It’s a sub that is more stylized than the normal black boxes that most subs look like. That may or may not be an attribute that some buyers are interested in, but I think it looks pretty darn cool.      

Design Analysis

The R212s is not an ordinary subwoofer design. It is much like a scaled-down version of the D215s, so I will be quoting from the design description of that review generously. A basic single-sentence description of the R212s would be that it is a dual 12” driver sealed push-pull design. One of the most distinguishing elements of this subwoofer is the push-pull aspect, but what is that? This is a sealed dual-driver configuration where one driver is mounted with the cone facing outward and the other with the cone facing inward. The drivers are then wired in opposite phase of each other. So the cones of both drivers are moving inward and outward at the same time with respect to the cabinet, although they are moving inward and outward in opposite phase with respect to each other.

R212s wireframe R212s underside

The advantage of the push-pull design is that the non-linear motion that only occurs in one way of travel is mitigated by the other driver since motion is restricted by the increase in air pressure by the inward motion of each cone. In other words, the cones are coupled together by the constant level of air pressure inside the sealed cavity, so the motion of one of the cones in one direction is always modulated by the other cone’s opposite direction of travel. If the cone has uneven excursion with respect to inward and outward oscillation (as all drivers do to some extent), that is balanced out by the interior air pressure change created by the opposite motion by the other driver. This reduces even-order harmonic distortions which are created by nonlinear motion in just one direction of the cone’s travel, and Perlisten claims a 10-12dB level of distortion reduction.

R212s cone2

The drivers that Perlisten uses are humdingers. They have a glass fiber composite cone that is very stiff yet very light. The cone is connected to the frame via a beefy half-roll surround and multi-layer Nomex spider. Perlisten’s progressive suspension design is among the most sophisticated in the industry. Inner corrugations of the spider have a different thickness that enables a farther linear travel than one uniform piece of Nomex.

R212s back panelThe basket is a formidable cast aluminum piece that allows venting underneath the spider. The motor uses an enormous double-stacked magnet that has been massively saturated for an enormous level of magnetic flux. There are multiple aluminum shorting rings installed in the motor to reduce the effects of inductance that should help to give the driver more mid-bass sensitivity and less harmonic distortion. The voice coil is made from aluminum as opposed to copper or copper-clad aluminum. That might seem slightly counter-intuitive for a high-end design seeing as how copper is more conductive, but that extra electrical resistance can be made up by simply using a larger gauge wire, and the larger gauge wire has the added benefit of being better for thermal dispersion since it has a lot more surface area from which to radiate heat. Moreover, even with the larger gauge wire, it is still lighter than copper, so using aluminum reduces moving mass, thereby making the driver more sensitive. Perlisten specs this driver as having a 20mm one-way linear travel which is a lot for a 12” driver but believable given the build seen here. The driver as a whole is a heavy-duty affair much like we have come to expect from Perlisten.  

The amplifier is a 1.3kW RMS class-D design with some very sophisticated processing onboard. Processing is handled by a 32-bit ARM M4 Cortex processor and a 48-bit data path DSP which sounds like overkill for subwoofer range frequencies. The ARM Cortex Processor analyzes and adjusts the system performance at every millisecond to maintain sound quality and safe operating ranges. It can safely adjust itself to handle irregularities in the AC as well as high temperatures without needing to go into full shutdown. Many other aspects of system operation are monitored in real-time such as power supply output and current, amplifier temperature, power supply temperature, output voltage and current, short circuit faults, DC offsets, and AC undervoltage/overvoltage. In this regard, it has to have one of the most advanced amplifiers on any subwoofer at any price.

 R212s input control

There are no controls on the back panel, and controlling the sub is done through a 2.4” LCD color touchscreen mounted on the top front of the enclosure, so it is much easier to adjust than fiddling with knobs on the back panel. The R212s can also be controlled through Perlisten’s subwoofer control app for those with iOS and Andriod OSs. Naturally, with such a powerful processor, many aspects of operation can be fine-tuned to the nth degree. Among parameters that can be controlled, the user has access to a 10-band parametric equalizer, a 0-270 degree variable phase, a 40Hz test tone generator, independent gain and wake-up controls for each of the sub’s four inputs, time delay, low-pass filtering from 30Hz to 160Hz at 6,12, 18, or 24dB octave slopes, and different operating modes for small rooms, large rooms, and THX mode. There are four inputs mirrored by four of the same style outputs: two unbalanced RCAs and two balanced XLRs. The sub can be hooked up and shared with multiple systems since the inputs can all be independently controlled. What is more, the volume controls on the R212s can control groupings of Perlisten subs, so if you have a multi-sub system of up to eight subs, you can use the controls to attenuate the entire system rather than having to change the gain on every single unit.

THX Dominus badge3The Perlisten R212s subwoofer has a Dominus level THX certification but only as a two-unit system. Alone, it achieves THX certified Ultra performance level, meaning that it can hit THX Reference levels of a continuous 95dB with 115dB peaks in a 3,000 cubic foot room with a 12-foot distance from the subwoofer. It is very unusual for a sealed subwoofer design to be able to attain that level of certification, since normally only ported subs have the low-end power to meet those performance requirements. But THX requirements go well beyond just getting loud; that immense output has to be produced with extremely low distortion. While THX keeps their exact performance requirements a secret, in our past testing of THX-certified subwoofers, it looks like they mandate less than 5% total harmonic distortion from 25Hz and above even at the maximum drive level. What is more, they do not seem to permit much compression, so the frequency response is not allowed to change much going from nominal drive level to a maximum drive level. That means that the sound character of the subwoofer remains the same no matter how hard you drive it, although there may be exceptions for this on sealed subwoofers. There are a lot of other criteria that a product needs to meet to achieve THX certification, not just for sheer performance, but also to conform to a wider THX system so that the end user experiences almost exactly what the content creators intended.

The enclosure is a very stout one made from high-density fiberboard rather than the conventional MDF. It uses 1” paneling for the main body of the enclosure and has a diagonal windowpane brace inside. It has a 2” thick curved front baffle piece mounted on the main cabinet for a tremendous 3” thick total front paneling. The interior space of the sealed compartment is likely smaller than it looks from the outside since it must have a good amount of elevation to give clearance to the lower driver motor. It isn’t a whole lot of interior space, but it doesn’t need it since the driver motors are so powerful. The feet are some broad rubber cones that have a polished copper trim ring.

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 Marantz AV7705 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

As always, I started my listening of subwoofers with a pipe organ recording, since this ‘king of all instruments’ can produce the most powerful deep bass of any acoustic instrument. Towards this end, I found a recent release on Qobuz titled “The Organ at the Cathedral Basilica Kielce” that had some tracks which showed off some of the low-frequency power of the pipe organ. I was not able to find out much about the eponymous organ used in the performances, but there is no doubt from hearing this album that it can move a serious amount of air in the lower octaves. The album contains an assortment of popular organ compositions to show off the character of the organ of the album’s title such as Buxtahude’s “Passacaglia,” Bach’s “Fantasia,” and Tchaikovsky’s “The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy.” They were performed by the award-winning Polish organist Paweł Wróbel. 

The Perlisten R212 bass  oomph that was so realistically reproduced that it was startling.

The first track, the famous “Passacaglia,” puts the sub into action early, and the R212s impart a strong low-frequency foundation without becoming overbearing or dominating. Subsequent tracks aren’t as bass heavy but still reach into deep bass, and the R212s was able to provide the lighter touch called for by those songs without drawing attention to itself. I experimented with different crossover frequencies to see if any sounded the best, and this pipe organ music was a good choice for that since it has a complex mix of harmonics around the usual crossover frequencies, so any crossover misbehavior will be especially audible. The R212s was able to maintain a seamless blend with the main speakers with any frequency that I selected, and it handled everything with equanimity. One track that was particularly good for demonstrating the low-frequency prowess of the Kielce Cathedral’s organ, as well as the R212s subwoofer, was “Adagio di Molto” by Aleksander Karczyński. This track had sustained notes in the lowest registers that generated a feeling of quiet grandeur as a setting for the main melody, and the R212s executed it beautifully. The next track used short, powerful stabs in deep bass that had an oomph that was so realistically reproduced that it was startling. By the album’s end, I had to think that this presentation of the pipe organ did not leave much room for improvement if there was any at all. Pipe organ enthusiasts are surely going to enjoy what the R212s could do for their recordings.

Organ Cathedral Kielche  Lustful Sacraments

Taking a hard left from cathedral organ recordings, I listened to some hard retro synth music with Perturbator’s “Lustful Sacraments.” This album is situated somewhere between the genres of darkwave, industrial, and 80s retro, but it mostly has its own agenda that doesn’t neatly fit into any single genre. Perturbator is a major figure in the retro-synthwave scene, but this early 2021 release sees him expanding outside of the boundaries of retro-synthwave while still retaining some of his signature elements. Perturbator is not exactly shy in his use of bass, and many of these tracks are driven by heavy analog synth basslines and kick drums. There is a lot of bass going on in these tracks, and a good sub or seriously full-range speakers are needed to reproduce this album in its full glory.    

the R212s could deliver a nearly live-sound sensation to the bass percussion.

From its first moments, “Lustful Sacraments” announced itself as music that would not go easy on bass, and the R212s relayed this message with enthusiasm. The R212s flooded my room with the fat synth basslines. Kick drums had a tactile jab with every hit, and the R212s could deliver a nearly live-sound sensation to the bass percussion. This album is thick with a myriad of instruments and sound effects, and the hard bass that the R212s could produce helped to create a massive wall-of-sound effect as though I were front row at a movie or concert. The drop on track 6 as reproduced by the R212s was a great moment of musical combustion, but it was track 7 that had the most powerful bass with some massive square wave sweeps that growled with menace. Some tracks incorporated distorted electric guitars that added to the sub’s load with some low-frequency grit, and the sub had no trouble keeping the electronic bassline distinct from the guitar distortion effects. The album ended on a slower tempo note with a lot of vintage-sounding synth bass, and I could feel the buzzing bass sound vibrating my seat. In the end, the R212s proved to be a killer subwoofer for this unique blend of electronic and rock music. Headbangers with a healthy subwoofer budget have a great choice in this sub.

For a very different musical bass experience, I turned to the genre of dark ambient, and the album I selected was Metatron Omega’s “Evangelikon.” This 2019 release on the Cryo Chamber label is permeated with bass, but it is rarely used in a blunt manner. Distant rumbling sounds, understated drones, and the humming of ancient alien machinery are the stuff that taps into deep bass in this album. These foreboding soundscapes are pictorial and evoke quite specific imagery, and an adept reproduction of deep frequencies is critical in accomplishing their goals. Poor bass reproduction would turn the low-end into mush; I wouldn’t expect a subwoofer like the R212s to do that, but how would it sound with “Evangelikon?”

While this music is weighted more toward low frequencies, it doesn’t run wild with deep bass, and the R212s sub was able to give it depth without turning it into an indistinct rumble. Track 3 brought in some almost infrasonic beats that would nearly be lost in a system with average extension, but the R212s could reproduce them as clear as a bell. At times, many bass elements would be playing simultaneously like low-tuned bell ringing, ambient synth drones, and low-pitched chanting, but the R212s was able to keep these sounds separate and unconfused. Track 8, “Agnostos Theos” (Greek for “Unknown God”), delved into some serious plunderphonics and allowed the R212s to bring some earth-trembling thunder. Most of the other tracks had deep bass, but it served as a background, and the R212s kept it there where it belonged. The title track “Evangelikon” brings in a deep bass wind noise that the R212s carves out with excellent definition: I could easily imagine a lesser subwoofer turning this sound into a boomy mud. This music benefits from a sound system with articulation as well as deep extension, and thankfully the R212s provides both. Of course, one should expect that out of a subwoofer that costs $5k, but there is no question that the sound quality is top-notch which can be heard when listening to this album.

Evangelikon  Suffuse

through the R212s, the bass transcended mere sound and turned into a physical sensation.

For bass of a much more blatant nature, I turned to a recent release from Chrizpy Chriz entitled “Suffuse.” Chrizpy Chriz produces electronic music in a variety of styles and tempos, but it all tends to be very bass-heavy, and to describe “Suffuse” as bass-heavy is an understatement. However, this is serious music rather than bass tones dressed up in percussion as can be seen in some other gimmicky electronic music styles. There is exploration in sound, structure, rhythm, and melody, and Chriz’s sound is unique and inimitable. The bass in “Suffuse” is prodigious in both quantity and quality, and, at a high level, would be a very taxing load for any subwoofer. There is other music that can function equally as a stress-tester for their sound system, but it isn’t likely to be as much fun to listen to as “Suffuse.”

I cranked the system loud, and, through the R212s, the bass transcended mere sound and turned into a physical sensation. This was chest-stomping bass that had a jarring presence. Every kick drum was a punch, and every bassline attack was a shove. Since all the tracks were short, the nature of this physical assault changed frequently but not the severity. A special mention should be made for track 10, “Ballast Tank,” which was like a brutal full-body massage on the R212s. At a high volume on this powerful sub, “Suffuse” felt like being put in a clothes dryer set on the spin cycle. At the level I was listening at, the R212s had as much output as I could personally handle, but I knew it had plenty more power on tap, and I didn’t dare push it full blast in my home for fear of damaging something. A dual R212s system would constitute a THX-certified Dominus system, and, given what I heard blasting “Suffuse” with a single unit, I could easily see two of these being sufficient for a 6,500 cubic foot room, even though that is a huge room. Needless to say, the R212s blasted this electronic music without even coming close to breaking a sweat. Fans of bass-heavy electronic music who are looking for a high-end subwoofer have a rock-solid choice with the R212s.

Movie Watching

In my review of the Definitive Technology Demand D15, I watched the anti-hero comic book movie “Venom,” which turned out to be a fun romp as far as sound mixes go. I recently borrowed a copy of the sequel on blu-ray, “Venom: Let There Be Carnage,” and the sound mix was sure to be a bass-fest, so what better system to watch it on than one that included the Perlisten R212s? In the sequel, our protagonist is not getting along so well with the alien parasite that inhabits his body and occasionally emerges to wreak havoc, but they must put aside their differences to overcome a more powerful parasite that has taken over the body of a notorious serial killer. A plot like that given a $110 million dollar budget is a recipe for lots of low-frequency mayhem, and it promised to be a good test of a sub’s ability to deal with a big-budget action movie.

with the Perlisten R212s, you really are paying for more than just good looks.

“Venom: Let There Be Carnage” turned out to have tons of deep bass content and kept the R212s busy for its running time. Major low-frequency use was nearly constant thanks in part to the effects processing on Venom and Carnage’s dialogue which brought their voices into subwoofer-band bass. A plethora of action scenes used a punishing amount of bass, especially in the climactic fight in the cathedral. While it was fun to hear such an excessive sound mix, the tactile feel from such a potent subwoofer was like experiencing the blows as the listener, and I felt a sense of relief when it was over. Talk about immersion! The music score included a slew of hip-hop that added a fair amount of bass to the sound mix as well. The effects sounds were so loudly mixed that Marco Beltrami’s orchestral score was barely audible. The deep bass capability of the R212s was like that of a ported sub rather than the sealed subwoofer that it is. A typical sealed subwoofer would shortchange the deeper bass in movies such as this one, as it would be running up against its limits, but I didn’t get a sense of that at all from the R212s. It handled all of the deep bass ably, and I never felt that it was close to its limits. The tremendous excursion ability of the dual 12’s in the R212s really comes in handy for movies such as this. With enough amplifier power, excursion, and driver motor strength, you don’t need a large cabinet and ports for massive deep bass output. However, lots of amp power, excursion, and driver motor strength are expensive, so with the Perlisten R212s, you really are paying for more than just good looks.

Venom2   Deepwater Horizon

For a more down-to-Earth sound mix, I finally checked out the 2016 disaster movie “Deepwater Horizon” which was, of course, based on the infamous real-life drilling rig explosion that killed several crew members and caused a major environmental catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico. It promised its fair share of bass and so I thought it would make for a good demonstration of a sub’s ability to tackle a sound mix that wouldn’t be as over-the-top as “Venom: Let There Be Carnage.”

“Deepwater Horizon” turned out to have much more deep bass than I anticipated. On the R212s, it could be absolutely thunderous at times. Heavy bass kicked in early into the movie with a deep dive down a mile into the Gulf of Mexico to where the wellhead capped the ground underwater, and the bass in this opening sequence shuddered my seat. The roaring sound of the camera POV rushing through water made a point about how deep the marine riser was piped down to the seabed, and on the R212s, the point was made by vibrating my digestive system. Rescue choppers were given a rhythmic thumping that had enough power to resemble a real-life helicopter flyby. The exploding rig itself was a veritable buffet of different bass effects sounds, with the various seals and valve blow-outs, natural gas ignition, and debris ricocheting off nearby surfaces to present an environment of extreme danger. It was a concussive experience on the R212s. Another memorable moment of tremendous bass was when the underwater cement plug finally blew apart and let loose a massive pressure build-up of petroleum and natural gas. On the R212s, that scene was utterly jarring. The R212s was able to relay the sheer violence of the sound mix and helped to make the unfolding catastrophe lifelike and truly scary. I found “Deepwater Horizon” to be an unexpectedly engaging movie, and perhaps a key ingredient for that was how realistically tumultuous the R212s imparted to the sound making the movie that much more immersive.

Perlisten R212s Subwoofer Measurements & Conclusion


R212s outdoor testing

Testing on the Perlisten R212s was conducted with the microphone facing the woofer at a 1-meter distance with measurements scaled back to a 2-meter distance by subtracting 6dB. The temperature was recorded at 55F degrees with 70% humidity. The subwoofer’s gain was set to maximum, phase was set to zero, and the low pass filters were set to bypass.

R212s frequency response 

The above graph shows the measured frequency responses for the Perlisten R212s subwoofer per its operating modes. All the responses display a beautifully linear response all the way up to 200Hz with the low-end roll-off being the distinguishing factor between them. The “Small Room” mode rolls off at a higher frequency but at a more gradual slope that should make it a better fit in rooms with lots of low-frequency gain - these rooms tend to be small hence the name for the mode. The “Large Room” mode is for rooms that do not net much low-frequency gain. My own room does not get much gain, so this is the mode that I used for my own listening. This response is much like what would be expected from ported subwoofers: flat down to a low frequency followed by a steep drop-off. This mode holds a remarkably flat response that I might characterize as a +/-1dB window from 25Hz to 200Hz. The 200Hz upper end is great for those who want to experiment with higher crossover frequencies, and some people get better results than the standard 80Hz crossover. The THX mode follows a target curve mandated by THX, and I suppose it factors in some room gain, but THX has always been tight-lipped about their performance targets. Altogether, this measurement shows the R212s to be an extremely accurate subwoofer with respect to tonality.

R212s cea-2010 table 

Large BassaholicThe above CEA-2010 measurements are short-term bursts that show the subwoofer’s clean peak SPL before heavy distortion sets in. Our measurements have been referenced to 2-meter RMS, which is 9dB down from the standard requirement for the measurements to be shown at 1-meter peak. However most publicly available CEA-2010 measurements are shown at 2-meter RMS, so we followed that convention. The results displayed here from the R212s are very good and show this sub to be tremendously powerful. These are what I might expect to see from a ported 15”. A sealed sub that can nearly hit 100dB at 20Hz in this measurement set is a rare thing and prove that the R212s has an enormous amount of displacement on tap. But it’s not just raw displacement; it is linear, low-distortion displacement where the output does not deviate much from the input signal. It is only at 20Hz where the R212s can be made to surpass the distortion threshold for the CEA-2010 test, and even then only just barely. This sub cannot be pushed into heavy distortion, period. The THD percentages shown here are as distorted as the R212s can possibly get from being pushed as hard as possible. It does not lose its composure no matter what. Most of these measured distortion results would be totally inaudible. At the worst of 16% THD at 20Hz, you would need to be listening for it in a pure tone signal, and even then its audibility would be questionable. Much like we saw with the D215s, Perlisten subs only produce very clean bass. While the R212s could not be stressed hard, it isn’t able to generate enough deep bass output to meet our Bassaholics “Extreme” Room Rating and so it gets a “Large” room rating, meaning that it is sufficient to power a room from 3,000 cubic feet to 5,000 cubic feet (For information on how the room ratings are determined, please read our article “Bassaholic Subwoofer Room Size Rating Protocol”). However, for the purposes of music which doesn’t tend to dig below 40Hz, this would be able to easily power a room larger than 5,000 cubic feet.

R212s compression measurements 

Testing for long-term output compression was done by first conducting a 20-second sweep tone where 50Hz hit 90 dB with the subwoofer 2 meters from the microphone. We then conduct further 20-second sweeps by raising the gain by 5dB until no more output could be wrung out of the subwoofer. These tests show us the long-term continuous headroom that the subwoofer is capable of. These tests were done with the R212s in its “Large Room” mode. The R212s holds its “Large Room” response shape up until the 100dB sweep where it starts to compress the response. Above that, higher drive levels squeeze out the EQ’d low-end until we can see its native sealed response. The highest drive level here very much resembles the “Small Room” mode response, and so if we had conducted this test in the “Small Room” mode setting, there would scarcely have been any change in the response shape from the lowest drive level to the highest. Again, the overall output levels depicted here show that the R212s is a very powerful subwoofer. It has a lot of deep bass output for a sealed subwoofer, but its mid-bass output is particularly potent with the ability to produce a continuous 115dB from 50Hz to 200Hz. For those who plan on getting a multiple sub system using R212s subs, they try much higher crossover frequencies than normal to take advantage of this level of headroom, since most speakers would not be capable of that kind of mid-bass output, even if they were connected to monster amps.

R212s THD 3D view

R212s THD 2D view

The above graphs show the corresponding total harmonic distortion to the long-term output graphs. Essentially, they depict how linear the subwoofer remains for the corresponding drive level seen in the long-term sweeps. The quantity being measured is how much of the subwoofer’s output is distortion and is shown here as a percentage. While the R212s can be pushed into some higher distortion levels in deep bass at a continuous drive level, it should be remembered that the rate at which distortion is rising here almost mirrors the rate at which the output is dropping off. It should also be noted that room gain traditionally shores up the fundamentals rather than harmonics, so room gain can act as a distortion reduction mechanism itself. Distortion only started to creep up at the 105dB sweep where it hits 20% THD at 16Hz. Pushing it harder than that does incur greater levels of distortion, but now we are nearing the maximum output that the R212s can generate. The lowest drive level shown here of the 95dB sweep keeps distortion down roughly below 5% from 16Hz and above. 95dB is pretty loud so it’s difficult to call that a nominal drive level. At nominal drive levels of 90dB and lower, the background noise of the testing site constituted a significant fraction of the measured distortion percentage, even though I had been testing in a relatively quiet environment, so I did not include those results. That means that the distortion produced by the R212s was so low that it could not be measured over the whisper of the background noise from the environment. That is extremely low distortion. Indeed, at nominal drive levels of 90dB or less, the R212s does not even come close to 1% THD above 40Hz. The drivers that Perlisten uses are pretty much marvels of modern engineering.

R212s 2nd harmonic  R212s 3nd harmonic

Perlisten's push-pull design claims to significantly reduce even-order distortion is quiet evident.

The above graphs depict measurements of the constituent harmonics from the long-term output sweeps and are what the total harmonic distortion measurements are composed of for the 2nd and 3rd harmonics. These individual harmonics can give us a clue as to what might be the cause of some quirk or non-linearity. We are only showing the 2nd and 3rd here because they more or less reflect the higher even-order and odd-order behaviors, although higher-order harmonics tend to be much further down as a percentage of distortion compared to the second and third.

Perlisten’s push-pull design claims to significantly reduce even-order distortion products, and the above graphs are very much evidence of that. The vast majority of distortion products stem from odd-order harmonics. There are very few even order distortion products. That is what would be expected from a push-pull design where that arrangement corrects for non-linearities that occur on only one side of the cone’s travel. It can’t help odd-order distortion where the non-linearity affects both sides of the cone’s travel. My guess is that there were probably not many even-order distortion products that the push-pull design could have corrected for to begin with. These drivers are so well-engineered that they have done quite a bit to reduce even-order distortion at the start such as the use of multiple shorting rings. There is also evidence of optimization where the drivers are striving for the highest possible linear throw, so any problems that occur on a single side of travel are ironed out, and odd-order distortion is all that remains because that is unavoidable as the moving assembly reaches its limits. I think that the push-pull design decision to knock out more even-order distortion is just icing on the cake.

R212s Group Delay2 

Group delay is the measurement of how much time it takes for individual frequency bands of an input signal to be produced by the speaker. It can indicate that some frequency components are developing slower than others or are taking longer to decay. It is generally thought that 1.5 sound cycles are needed for group delay to be audible at bass frequencies, although there is an argument that group delay should remain under 20ms to be completely unnoticeable, but that is likely meant for mid and upper bass frequencies.

The R212s posts some outstanding results in these group delay measurements for either mode. To keep the graph uncluttered, we left out group delay for the THX mode, but its delay is pretty much smack dab between the “Large Room” mode and “Small Room” mode in level. The “Large Room” mode does show a bit more group delay than the “Small Room” mode, and that is not surprising since it EQs the response more. Nonetheless, even the “Large Room” mode keeps group delay well below anything that would be close to audible. The “Small Room” mode group delay is so low that it looks like hardly any equalization or filters were used. It achieves one of the lowest group delay measurements that we have yet seen. For the mid-bass frequency band, where low group delay is most important, the R212s keeps delay under 5ms. For deep bass between 20Hz and 50Hz, delay averages between 10ms and 5ms. The time-domain performance shown here is phenomenal.  


R212s hero5Before I wrap up this review, I will briefly go over the strengths and weaknesses of the product under review, and, as usual, I will start with the weaknesses. The Perlisten R212s has only one weakness, and that is its price. This is perhaps an unfair critique since there is no way a product like this can be made cheaply. However, its cost flatly takes it out of consideration for a whole swath of subwoofer shoppers. $5k is a lot of dosh for a subwoofer. But you do get a lot of sub for your money, so while it is expensive, it is in no way a poor value. In fact, I regard them as a good value for those who are shopping for a sub in this class. And that brings us to its strengths, which are essentially everything else. To wit:

The audio performance of the R212s is excellent: extremely low distortion, ruler-flat response, remarkably low group delay, terrific low-frequency extension for a sealed subwoofer, and lots of output. There isn’t a single facet of performance where it is not exceptional. It is true that there are less expensive subs that can provide more raw headroom, but not so much when you factor in other aspects of the R212s such as size, feature set, finish, and build quality. These other strengths combined with the audio performance are why this thing costs so much. 

To touch on these other elements, the build quality is second-to-none. It has a boulder-like enclosure that houses massively overbuilt drivers, and there are no cheap plastic shortcuts taken with material quality anywhere. It has a high-end build quality, attention to detail, and a luxury-level solidity throughout. The high-grade gloss black is free of any orange-peel effect, and the satin black front baffle is very easy on the eyes. As subwoofers go, the R212s is a really nice-looking one; the industrial design is superb.

One aspect that makes its performance so extraordinary is its size. While it’s not a tiny sub, it is not huge either, but it has the performance that one would expect from a much larger unit. This is a point on which I expect it to make a lot of sales; it produces a big sound from a small footprint. There are a lot of people for whom space is at a premium, and so they need to make the best possible use of it. The R212s makes a lot of sense for those looking for a high-end sound system in a luxury apartment or bedroom. It would also be a great choice for high-end recording and mixing studios on account of its ruthlessly accurate reproduction under any condition as well as its indestructibility.  

Its feature set also makes it one of the most advanced subwoofers that money can buy. It can be controlled via an app or a color LCD screen. It has an enormous level of flexibility and tweakability and that includes an overkill 10-band parametric equalizer as well as independent control over the configuration of each input, not to mention an extraordinary level of fine-tuning over many other parameters of operation. Furthermore, it is dense with failsafes that keep it out of harm from any input signal as well as a wide range of conditions of input AC power.

R212s outdoors2

As I said before, it is not a cheap subwoofer, but you do get your money’s worth. Many other high-end loudspeaker manufacturers make similarly priced subs, and their subs look the part, but they don’t compete in actual performance or technology. The R212s does everything very well. It’s perfect for a high-end home theater, two-channel system, recording studio, and mixing studio. If you have a relaxed budget and are looking for a sub that isn’t the size of a refrigerator, it should be very high on your list of options. For those shopping within Perlisten’s family of subwoofers, those who are considering the mighty D215s ought to also consider a dual R212s system instead for a mere $1k extra; you will get about the same level of output but will also benefit from the response improvements that can be had with a multi-sub system. Not that most people will need more than one; the single R212s I spent time with put a smile on my face over and over, and I am sure that it will do the same for any prospective buyers.

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 ExtensionStarStarStarStar
Bass AccuracyStarStarStarStarStar
Build QualityStarStarStarStarStar
Fit and FinishStarStarStarStarStar
Ergonomics & UsabilityStarStarStarStar
Dynamic RangeStarStarStarStar
About the author:
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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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