Power Sound Audio XS30se Subwoofer Review
By Chris Heinonen on
There are many Internet Direct subwoofer companies around today. They have been one of the most successful areas of audio and home theater to transition to the direct sales model. A recent addition to this group is Power Sound Audio. While Power Sound Audio may be new to the scene, the forces behind it are not. Tom Vodhanel was the director of R&D at SVS, long the most successful online subwoofer company. Jim Farina is also from SVS who took over R&D after Tom left.
|Manufacturer:||Power Sound Audio|
|Amplifier:||800W RMS, 2400W Peak BASH|
|Inputs:||Left (LFE) and Right RCA|
|Dimensions:||23.5″ x 18″ x 22.5″|
|Review Date:||July 23, 2014|
A Veritable Monster
Never again will I live in a house where the home theater is in the basement. I’ve taken countless bulky, heavy pieces of equipment down the narrow staircase myself. Nothing has ever been the challenge that the XS30se is. It is the first unit that has required help for me to move it across the floor due to its massive size and weight.
The good part of this is that the build quality of the XS30se is top-notch. Other subwoofers I have had in for review have been well built, but not to the degree of the XS30se. It is rock solid and doesn’t vibrate even under the most demanding bass loads. Once you have the XS30se in place, it is not going to go anywhere. The controls and inputs are standard for a subwoofer. You have RCA line level and LFE inputs, but not speaker ones. Controls for level, phase, and crossover are available, and the power can be set to Always On or Auto. There is no room correction available but more room correction systems are adding LFE support as time goes on.
The 15” drivers in the XS30se are custom designed for Power Sound Audio and based off the Eminence LAB 15 driver. Developing this driver is a joint project between the two companies, with multiple iterations of prototypes, testing, evaluation, and discussions on how to improve it. Eventually they reach a final design, and that is what is inside of the XS30se.
Why Dual Drivers?
Talking to Tom Vodhanel, one of my first questions was why someone would pick a dual driver subwoofer over running two separate subs? There are pros and cons to each, so it’s good to know those to decide where you should start. Running dual subwoofers, over a single dual-driver sub, will provide more even bass throughout a room. With proper positioning many of those nulls created by your room will be reduced. It also is much easier to move dual subs around than to move one massive subwoofer around a room. Trust me here, the XS30se is not the easiest component to move.
You also get a little more deep bass extension (10Hz to 40Hz) on the dual XS15se’s versus a single XS30se. What Tom said they have found is that most people do not want to run more that two subwoofers in their room. I know a lot of hardcore home theater users, and only know one or two that have more than dual subs in their room. Starting with the XS30se instead of dual XS15se’s makes it easier to add that second sub down the road and have even higher output than you did before. Running quad XS15se’s will provide a similar effect but most people are not willing to go that far.
Dual XS15se’s will cost more, with a pair going for $1,500 versus the $1,250 of the single XS30se. Power Sound Audio also provides a discount if you move to dual subwoofers in the first year. Instead of $1,250, the second XS30se is $1,100 including shipping. Both options have pros and cons, you should just be aware of them so it can help you make the correct decision on which to purchase.
I listened to the XS30se in two positions in my room. First I ran it behind the couch, only because I am unable to lift it and move it past the couch myself. Once someone was able to assist me I put it in the front and center of the room below my projection screen. I always used the bass management in my receiver or processor and so the crossover controls were not used.
Just to see what the XS30se is capable of, I put the volume to max with it situated only two feet away from me. This was a bad idea. Not because it drove the XS30se too hard, but because I could not take it. In my 2,400 cubic foot listening room the XS30se is capable of pressuring my eardrums. That is something that has never happened in the past, even with $10,000 worth of subwoofers. As impressive as this is, it also overpowers the rest of the system so I pull the volume back to a level that matches the rest of the system.
On Bjork’s “Hyperballad”, the bass notes shake the room. With its sealed design the XS30se has no port noise to distract and these notes are crisp and clear. While everything else in the room rattles the Power Sound subwoofer sits there, not breaking a sweat. I placed a screwdriver on top to see how much the cabinet is vibrating but it just sits there, not moving at all. The 15” drivers fire together to reduce cabinet noise and it pays off. The video below shows just how inert the cabinet is.
Though subwoofers and audiophiles often do not get along, a good one can enhance well made recordings. Miles Davis has little in common with an action blockbuster, but both have recordings that dip into the lower octaves. The double-bass during “So What” off Kind of Blue dips down to around 40Hz. My Mythos STS speakers can play those notes but not as clean and clear as the XS30se can. With the XS30se’s sealed woofers those musical notes are clean and clear and blend right in with my speakers. If you still think of a subwoofer as something that makes fat, boomy bass then you haven’t used a good one.
I’ve watched Pacific Rim more than any other movie I don’t like. While I find the movie itself to be poor, the image and soundtrack are among the best available. Cranking it close to reference levels I sat down to watch again, and it startled me out of my chair. The massive roar of the Kaiju attacking San Francisco during the initial scene hit me as it never had before. The deep, guttural roar filled the room thanks to the XS30se and probably woke my neighbors up.
Another classic of modern cinema, Transformers: Dark of the Moon, has an equally impressive soundtrack. When the Decepticons begin to rise on the moon, the sound completely fills the room. Sound effects from pulse weapons to explosions are loud and clear, with an impact you can feel. 15” woofers have the power to move enough air that you feel the impact beyond just hearing it.
Nothing fills the room like Tron: Legacy. Daft Punk outdoes themselves here, with bass notes that play at levels never heard before. As Clu descends into the light cycle areas, pulsing beats and fireworks make the XS30se work hard. Even as I push it as hard as any movie I own can push it, it does not back down.
Even after a few years, I still have trouble thinking of a subwoofer as a component that blends into a system. When done well, the subwoofer never draws attention to itself. It doesn’t pressurize your ears, it doesn’t make you realize that it’s there every time an explosion goes off or a deep bass note is hit. This is the success of the XS30se. If I put it somewhere other than the front of my room, I would not realize it was there. It provides those lower octaves, and does it superbly, but it just vanishes into the rest of the system as it should.
There are some things that Power Sound Audio can improve on the XS30se. Without speaker level inputs, it may not integrate into a true two-channel system. This makes the lack of any EQ a little more forgivable since you will use it in a system with a room correction system.
The feet on the XS30se could be larger, with a carpet spike option as well. I installed my SVS SoundPath Isolation System feet instead which keeps it off my carpeted floor and makes it easier to grab and move. None of these are deal-breakers, but the sort of small compromises you have to make to keep prices low. For almost everyone the absence of these items will not affect performance, but will keep your wallet happier.
Big Power in a Big Package
Nothing about the Power Sound Audio XS30se is small. The sound, and the sub, are both bigger than you expect to see for $1,250. The build quality impressed me as soon as I opened the box and the sound quality never stops impressing me. That you can buy a dual 15” sealed subwoofer with this kind of output for the price is surprising to me, but it is good for everyone else.
The XS30se delivers on both performance and value. The only real negative about the XS30se in my mind is the massive bulk of it but you only have to move it into position once. I’ll gladly call a friend over to help in order to get the performance and value that the XS30se provides me. I don’t like to say “This will be the last subwoofer you ever need”, because that is only true until the urge to upgrade strikes again. If I did say that, I’d say it about the XS30se, because I can’t really see a reason that almost anyone would need anything more than it can provide.
|Product:||Power Sound Audio XS30se|
|Pros:||Deep, Powerful Bass, very good build quality, power to spare|
|Cons:||Impossible to move on my own|
|Summary:||The XS30se subwoofer is built incredibly well and has enough deep, clear bass to satisfy virtually anyone.|