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Hsu Research VTF-1 mk3 Subwoofer Conclusion

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VTF1_hero3.jpgNormally in this part of the review, to sum up a product I briefly go over some of its pros and cons, but the VTF-1 mk3 is a modestly-priced, modestly-sized subwoofer, and compromises have to be made within that context, so it seems absurd to nitpick small flaws when looking at its overall performance. This is a $400 subwoofer that can competently dig down to the mid 20’s Hz range with good linearity. I don’t know of any equally priced subwoofer that can dig as deep while keeping a neutral response. It can hit surprising loudness levels while doing so as well.

However, if you crank it really hard, it does lose some of its composure at the low end, mostly below its tuning point in one port mode. Port turbulence can become fairly audible when the VTF-1 mk3 is pushed hard below the mid 20’s Hz range in one port mode. If you crank a movie that has very hot deep bass, it might complain a bit. While it can be made to make some flutter noise and port chuffing, something I was not able to induce was a hard-bottoming noise of the voice coil former hitting the back plate. That should help instill peace of mind since that is the one noise above all others that I would rather a sub not make because it can potentially mean the voice coil former is being damaged which will destroy the driver.

So the VTF-1 mk3 isn’t made to plummet the deepest depths of audio, but it may very well be the deepest digger at its price point. It digs deep enough to catch most of the bass in film and even more bass in music since music does not typically dive below 40 Hz. The difference between its ported tuning modes occur precisely where one would want as a divider between the bass extension in movies and music. As mentioned before, the choice of tuning points in the VTF-1 mk3 makes its variable tuning feature more useful than most variable tuning subwoofers. As a rule of thumb, for conventional music, use it in 2 ports open mode, and for movies, use 1 port open mode. Of course, there is music that digs deep and movies that don’t, so adjust it accordingly. It only takes a moment to swap a port plug and change the EQ switch. The VTF-1 mk3’s size, price, and specifications necessitate performance compromises, but the variable tuning feature allows the user to partly decide where those compromises will be made.

In terms of performance, the bottom liBassaholics_medium.jpgne is that the VTF-1 mk3 is exceptionally good for a subwoofer at this price point. In its 1 port mode, it just barely misses our Bassaholics ‘Large’ Room Rating by 1 dB for the frequency band of 31.5 Hz to 63 Hz, so it is awarded our ‘Medium’ Room Rating. In instances in the past, we have awarded a subwoofer a higher room rating when its measurements are very close to technically qualifying where we felt it could handle a large room in actuality. In the case of the VTF-1 mk3, in truth it is not intended for a large room, so we are not going to give it that pass. It is a great sub for a 1,500 ft^3 to 3,000 ft^3 room, but it may struggle in deep frequency reproduction in larger rooms. On the other hand, for content above 40 Hz, in its 2 ports open mode, it may be able to tackle larger rooms, so I would say it depends on the user’s application.  

In terms of appearance, the VTF-1 mk3 isn’t going to win any beauty contests, but it is not really an eyesore either, so it is not bad but not exceptional. Its feature set is above average in its class, but, outside of the variable tuning ability, not extraordinary. One nice thing about these small subwoofers is that they are small and light. They are easy to transport and easy to place. Pretty much any able-bodied human being above the age of ten can cope with this 42 lb. subwoofer. That is a bigger advantage than is generally realized by audio enthusiasts. There are a lot of folks who want a great bass sound but not the daunting prospect of a cabinet that is the size and weight of a large piece of furniture. The VTF-1 mk3 makes that possible, and it also makes multiple subwoofer systems easier to implement since it doesn’t eat as much floor space.

The ease that the VTF-1 mk3 makes in setting up a multiple subwoofer system is a real asset. Multiple subwoofer systems have considerable sound quality advantages over single subwoofer setups beyond merely having more headroom, as we at Audioholics have written about time and time again, such as in article like this: Are Two Subwoofers Better Than One? Hsu encourages this by offering a $25 discount on each VTF-1 mk3 for the purchase of multiples.

VTF1_outdoors5C.jpg     Hsu_logoC.jpg

The VTF-1 mk3 is a relatively inexpensive subwoofer, but it isn’t quite entry level. Most entry-level subwoofers have to give up much more with respect to performance. They cost less, but they typically do not have a flat frequency response nor do they have much deep bass extension. The VTF-1 mk3 is one of the least expensive subs where a flat frequency response can be had, and it goes down to below 30 Hz. Most less expensive subwoofers can produce a bass sound, but they don’t do it very evenly across the low-frequency spectrum. The VTF-1 mk3 is an affordable subwoofer that gives the listener accurate playback. It is an entry to a level of performance where subwoofers become much more linear: an entry-level high-fidelity subwoofer.

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
MetricRating
Bass ExtensionStarStarStarStar
Bass AccuracyStarStarStarStar
Build QualityStarStarStarStar
Ergonomics & UsabilityStarStarStarStarStar
FeaturesStarStarStarStar
Dynamic RangeStarStarStarStar
PerformanceStarStarStarStarhalf-star
ValueStarStarStarStarStar
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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Recent Forum Posts:

Bucknekked posts on October 12, 2017 19:01
I may be the odd man out here, but, I use the near field set up today for my little subwoofer and if I replace it with a Hsu I would still do that. Because I'm in a near field listening setup for music, the choice to measure it smack dab behind the listening position makes me smile ! I liked the completeness of the review. Reviews like this give me confidence in making a future selection. Reviews like this and I can call Pogre up and have him come over and make recommendations in person. That does the trick.
shadyJ posts on September 28, 2017 18:39
William Lemmerhirt, post: 1212839, member: 81215
Nice review, but I think the near field review should be accompanied by another one with placement more akin to where most people will use it. As you said shady, it wouldn’t be fair to intentionally place the little 10 in a spot to a disadvantage but conversely, a near field review is equally unfair. (Most people won’t be able to see through the disclaimer early in the review about typical placement behavior).
All of my review subs get placed in that near-field position, because it offers the flattest response for a single sub in my room for my listening position, not because it provides an higher tactile sensation. So the VTF-1 is on a fair footing with the other subs in my reviews, at least for the subjective experiences. If I placed it anywhere else, it would not be fair to it with respect to other subs I have reviewed.

We just have to encourage prospective subwoofer buyers to take the time to place the sub in an optimal position to get good results. Great subwoofers can be made to sound terrible with poor placement, and mediocre subs can be made to sound passable with good placement. It is such a huge factor in how a subwoofer will sound in room that it can not be stressed enough.
William Lemmerhirt posts on September 28, 2017 12:58
Nice review, but I think the near field review should be accompanied by another one with placement more akin to where most people will use it. As you said shady, it wouldn’t be fair to intentionally place the little 10 in a spot to a disadvantage but conversely, a near field review is equally unfair. (Most people won’t be able to see through the disclaimer early in the review about typical placement behavior).
BoredSysAdmin posts on September 28, 2017 09:07
another excellent review James
gene posts on September 28, 2017 01:38
Hsu's latest subwoofer, the VTF-1 mk3, is a little powerhouse on paper with a 10“ driver, 250 watt amplifier, and dual 3.5” diameter ports. We have been interested in seeing what it can do ever since it was announced late last year. Now that we have finally had a chance to give it a few laps around our test track, we are ready to report what is delivered from Hsu's $400 subwoofer (price not including shipping). Read our review of the VTF-1 mk3 to learn about this point of entry to high-fidelity subwoofage.

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Read: Hsu Research VTF-1 mk3 Ported Subwoofer Review
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