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Thiel Universal SmartSub USS Preview

Thiel Universal SmartSub USS

Thiel Universal SmartSub USS


  • Product Name: Universal SmartSub USS
  • Manufacturer: Thiel
  • Review Date: November 01, 2011 22:55
  • MSRP: $1990
  • First Impression: Mildly Interesting
  • Buy Now
  • Driver Configuration: 1 x 10-inch woofer
  • LFE Input response: 20 Hz-300 Hz, +,-3dB
  • Size: 20" H x 11" W x 15.5 " D
  • Weight: 55 pounds
  • Acoustic Output: up to 99dB @ 20Hz, 106dB @ 30 Hz
  • Sensitivity: 1 volt for 120 [email protected]
  • Inputs: 1x RCA, 1x XLR
  • Outputs: 1x RCA, 1x XLR
  • Amplifier: Analog w/high efficiency switching power supply
  • Amplifier Power: 550 watts, RMS

Executive Overview

uss2Looking like something out of the 1970's, Thiel's new SmartSub USS is a single driver beast that boasts that is has solved sub/room interactions without the use of a microphone. That's a big claim. But, let's back up.

The Thiel USS comes in a truly retro real wood finished cabinets (Natural Cherry, Dark Cherry, and Black Ash available). It sports the new silver logo, stainless steel hardware, and heave duty spikes. The single drive is a aluminum 10", long-throw woofer sporting a 2.5" voice coil and a 20 pound magnet (nearly 1/2 the weight of the entire sub). A proprietary short coil/long gap motor system on the drivers lowers distortion by keeping the magnetic field around the coil. An integrated 550 watt amplifier powers the sub and also provides room correction (more on that in a bit).

The Thiel USS is a fairly spry sub at only 55 pounds and 20" tall by 11" wide and 15.5 " deep. While not exactly tiny, for a sub with the performance the Thiel USS is bragging, it is positively diminutive. But what is that performance? Well, we've read on a few sites that the USS can hit as low as 10Hz but that isn't listed on the Thiel website. Instead, they suggest 99dB at 20Hz and 106dB at 30Hz. Oddly, these numbers reflect a corner placement so you can subtract, according to Thiel, 12dB for a placement well away from a wall or 6dB if your placement is close to one wall (a common placement). Usually, corner placement for measurements is the purview of the dishonest manufacturer but Thiel believes they've conquered the room effects. But how?

The key, according to Thiel, is one of definition. Most bass problems are attributed to room resonances. Really, they are boundary problems. Bass bouncing off the walls either reinforces or cancels itself. Since boundary affects are both consistent and predictable. So, rather than use a microphone, the Thiel USS requires only that the owners input into the amp the distance to the nearest two walls (labeled side and rear walls). Using these dimensions, the USS creates a custom response curve for your sub.

This does cause some issues during setup. According to Thiel, you cannot use an SPL meter "due to differences in bandwidth
between the subwoofer and the main speakers." They don't offer an alternative other than your ears. The SmartSub room correction also corrects for compression distortion due to heating of the drivers' voice coils. We're curious as to why Thiel didn't include a ceiling measurement in their subwoofer adjustment solution (or all boundaries and not just two). Power users will note the lack of crossover or phase controls on the back of the USS. Thiel offers the PX05 Passive Subwoofer Crossover unit, instead, though phase duties are addressed within the room correction solution.


The Thiel Universal SmartSub USS looks to be a very capable 10" sub. If some of the performance claims are to be believed, the $1990 price tag may be quite the bargain. Getting a single 10" driver to play cleanly down to 20Hz at meaningful output levels is quite the achievement. Anything lower would be amazing. While we have doubts as to how well their SmartSub room correction system actually works, the theory is sound. We'd be very interested to see it in action - especially if we could place it in a traditional, sealed theater versus one that has one or more openings.

For more information, please visit www.thielaudio.com.

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

haraldo posts on November 05, 2011 15:40
Is this guy still inside the sub…. or did you let him out before you closed it?
its phillip posts on November 05, 2011 13:53
I'll take two
Warpdrv posts on November 05, 2011 12:56
LOL Ricci - that thing is ahhh needless to say quite large pal…

69.25“ Tall
41.5” Wide
22" Deep

118.6db @10Hz
120.4db @15Hz
124.0db @20Hz
114.5db @25Hz
114.2db @30Hz
117.7db @ 40 Hz

LOL !!!

Ricci posts on November 05, 2011 09:27
3db, post: 839525
I don't think you can even get a handful of subs that will have 11Hz as its -3db point regardless of price.

I've got one that I designed that does. Its a little “different” than these others. The port alone is larger than the sw-311 that was reviewed.
haraldo posts on November 04, 2011 17:39
its phillip, post: 839599
Looks like that Burmester starts rolling off at ~30hz according to this review:

Impossible to read this as it's so small, but yes….. I been very skeptical to this 5Hz figure, and this with one 12" driver in a closed box !
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As Associate Editor at Audioholics, Tom promises to the best of his ability to give each review the same amount of attention, consideration, and thoughtfulness as possible and keep his writings free from undue bias and preconceptions. Any indication, either internally or from another, that bias has entered into his review will be immediately investigated. Substantiation of mistakes or bias will be immediately corrected regardless of personal stake, feelings, or ego.

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