BK Electronics P12-300SB-PR Subwoofer Review
Go direct for the best value bass
What is the BK Electronics P12-300SB-PR?The BK Electronics P12-300SB-PR is the latest version of one of the Essex-based company's most popular offerings, a subwoofer that partners a 12-inch driver with 300W of amplification. Ed Selley reviewed the original and extremely impressive P12-300SB when it debuted four years ago, and the new version builds on its previous incarnation's success.
The company has added a passive radiator (hence the PR suffix), but otherwise it's the same marriage of sensible design and high quality components. Thanks to BK's direct sales model it's also competitively priced at £450, so the P12-300SB-PR promises to deliver a winning combination of performance and value. Let's see how it performs, while comparing it to other subs with 12-inch drivers that I've reviewed recently.
DesignThe BK Electronics P12-300SB-PR looks identical to the previous model, with a well-made and sealed cabinet that's constructed of MDF. The resulting cube is simple but solid, and has a forward-firing 12-inch driver that looks as equally well engineered as the rest of the sub. It uses a paper pulp composite cone that appears suitably rigid and is backed by a magnet and coil that should be capable of going very low.
The subwoofer sits on a set of large hard plastic feet (with optional 8mm spikes included), and these provide solid support, good isolation, and ample space underneath for the downward-facing 12-inch passive radiator. The connections and controls are at the rear, and there's a black fabric grille that attaches to the front baffle using studs.
The P12-300SB-PR comes in a wide variety of finishes that includes cherry, light oak, black, black ash, silver, and white (our review sample was in light oak). There are also walnut and mahogany finishes that cost £505, and gloss black and gloss white finishes that sell for £545. The sub is fairly big for a budget model, measuring 400 x 460 x 400mm (DxHxW) and weighing in at 27.7kg.
It's extremely well engineered, looking and feeling like a sub that's twice the price
Features and SpecsThe BK Electronics P12-300SB-PR might seem like an unwieldy model number, but it does contain clues to the subwoofer's specifications. The P represents the fact that it is part of the Platinum series, the 12 relates to the 12-inch driver, the 300 denotes the 300W of built-in amplification, the SB signifies that it's a sealed box and, as previously mentioned, the PR suffix indicates that BK has added a passive radiator.
The 50 litre enclosure contains a forward-firing 12-inch (300mm) long-throw composite fibre cone that uses a 2-inch (50mm) voice coil, and an eight spoke cast aluminium basket with stacked magnets and a vented pole piece. The matching downward-facing 12-inch (300mm) passive radiator also has an eight spoke cast aluminium basket, and BK claim that the combination of a 12-inch driver and 12-inch passive radiator results in an effective drive area of 17 inches.
There's a 300W 'Peak Discrete' amplifier built-in which means that unlike many rivals that use Class D amps, the P12-300SB has a visible heat sink at the rear and produces perceptible heat after a period of use. The sub has a drive unit impedance of 4 Ohm and a gain control range of 60dB. BK Electronics claims that in a 'normal' room you should see the P12-300SB-PR go below 20Hz on a +/- 3dB calculation. The sub also includes ASP automatic speaker protection with audibly transparent driver protection.
In terms of the rear connections, there's a gas-tight Neutrik high-level input and a low-level stereo gold-plated RCA input, which can be connected simultaneously. These high- and low-level inputs each have a separate gain control, and there's also a frequency adjustment that can be by-passed on the low-level input for LFE use and a continuous 0 to 180 degree phase control (rather than the usual two position switch). These features are designed to make the P12-300SB-PR extremely flexible, allowing you to integrate the sub into any Hi-Fi or home cinema system, or even both at the same time.
The sub includes an auto on/off feature that switches the subwoofer into standby after 10 minutes of inactivity and instantly switches back on again when it senses a signal on any of its inputs. If you don't like the auto on/off feature it can be de-activated by toggling a switch so that the P12-300SB-PR remains switched on until turned off by the main power switch. BK includes a 1.8m power cable with a three-pin connector, along with a 5m RCA to RCA subwoofer cable and a 5m high-level lead with a Neutrik connector at one end and three leads at the other end.
Overall, that's an impressive set of specifications, features, and extras, and while the P12-300SB-PR lacks any form of remote control for EQ settings, that's hardly surprising given its price point. A remote control can prove very useful during setup but it's hardly essential, and since the majority of users will connect the P12-300SB-PR to an AV receiver they can use that to EQ the bass performance of the system.
This sub favours simplicity over flash, but is well specified and includes some nice extras
Setup and OperationThe BK Electronics P12-300SB-PR is not only flexible in terms of installation, but it's easy to setup and simple to control. In terms of the connections, you have a choice between using the high-level input or the low-level input, although as already mentioned you can connect both simultaneously.
The high-level input is an unbalanced dual channel (stereo) input that uses a professional 'touch-proof' Neutrik Speakon connector. You need to attach this to the sub and turn it until it locks, and then use the three wires at the other end to connect to the main left and right terminals on your amplifier: red wire to the red right terminal and white wire to the red left terminal, with a black wire that can be connected to either black terminal.
In effect, you are bi-wiring the sub to your power amplifier, and the use of three cables is designed to preserve the earthing. It should be noted that BK doesn't recommend using this connection with a digital amp. The advantage of this approach is that the sub receives exactly the same signal that is being sent to the front left and right speakers. This means the character and tonal balance of the bass from the main speakers are reflected in the bass from the subwoofer, making this approach ideal for a Hi-Fi setup.
If you're installing the P12-300SB-PR in a home cinema setup then you should use the low-level input. You can either use stereo RCA connectors to connect the left and right output on your amplifier to the left and right input on the sub, or if your receiver or processor has a dedicated LFE/Sub output you can use the provided RCA to RCA cable to connect to the right (mono) input on the P12-300SB-PR. The latter is the most likely connection for the majority of home cinema setups.
If you're using the latter, you will need set the filter control to Out/LFE and then all you need to do is set the phase, frequency and gain controls correctly (depending on the kind of system you are running and how it's set up). The only other setting is the switch for the Auto On, which you can set to either Active or Disabled depending on your preference. If you choose to activate this feature the sub will automatically turn off after 10 minutes without a signal and will switch back on once a signal is received on an input.
There's often some experimentation when it comes to positioning a sub but the better you know your room, the easier it is to avoid any major issues. I placed the review sample at the front of my room, between the centre and left speakers in a spot that I knew was reasonably balanced. You can either use the fitted nylon screws in the bottom of the feet (ideal for delicate floor finishes), or you can remove them and screw in the spikes instead.
The BK is flexible in terms of installation, easy to setup, and simple in operation
PerformanceThe BK Electronics P12-300SB-PR delivers the goods right out of the gate, taking a dedicated LFE channel and producing prodigiously deep bass. My first port of call was the very beginning of Edge of Tomorrow with its massive opening bass notes that go right down to the lower registers, resulting in an ultra-sonic experience that you can literally feel. I've tested some seriously powerful subwoofers in my home cinema and while the BK can't rival a room-loading monster like the SVS PB-4000, it is capable of giving a flavour of the kind of bass energy that you get from such a large and considerably more expensive sub.
Edge of Tomorrow's opening is capable of revealing any limitations in terms of depth, control and sustainability. The P12-300SB-PR handled this particular test with remarkable confidence, no doubt thanks to BK's non-nonsense approach in combining a well-engineered design, solid construction and high quality components to generate plenty of low frequency power. The 12-inch driver and 300W of amplification also play their part, as does the addition of the passive radiator, producing sound pressure levels so deep, well defined and distortion-free that it made me glad my house is detached.
It's fair to say that BK hasn't designed the P12-300SB-PR just to simply deliver incredibly deep bass, but any self-respecting home cinema fan would be lying if they didn't admit this kind of performance puts a smile on their face. Edge of Tomorrow's repeated beach assault offers plenty of opportunities for this sub to produce perfectly timed bass energy as explosions tear up the sand and heavy gunships slam into the ground. However, the BK is also extremely nimble, handling the transients with skill and adding a solid percussive thump to the gunfire and a nice sense of weight to the exo-suits.
This sub is capable of retaining a level of detail and texture that sets it apart from many of the other 12-inch subs I have tested – regardless of price. The locomotive in Unstoppable offers various different low frequency effects that combine to create a cohesive sense of scale and power. The sounds combine elements such as the exhaust, the wheels on the tracks and the movement of the train itself. The BK defines each of these low frequency effects, resulting in a specific bass signature that helps realistically portray the feeling of an enormous runaway vehicle crashing through your room.
Overlord has a wonderfully dynamic soundtrack that makes extensive use of low frequency energy to give scenes greater impact. The film's opening parachute drop kicks off with flak ripping across the soundstage, and the P12-300SB-PR ensures each ordinance is delivered with a precision that is suitably visceral. As one of the aircraft erupts into flames you can almost feel the heat, while another plane crashes into the ground with a seismic impact. The BK also adds a percussive kick to heavy machine-gun fire, along with giving the flamethrowers real force.
The P12-300SB-PR is technically a sealed sub, insofar as it doesn't have an actual port. However, the addition of a passive radiator means that it isn't totally sealed, and internal air-pressure changes are relieved by the passive radiator moving in and out. What that passive radiator actually does is create a larger effective drive area without the airflow noises that might occur with a port, and provide better control over the frequency range. The passive radiator certainly achieves BK's goal of delivering bass below 20Hz, but how does it affect the sub's speed and timing?
Whiplash is the perfect test of these particular subwoofer traits, thanks to a soundtrack that's full of incredibly precise and fast drumming. Miles Teller's final drum solo is as crazy as it is impressive, and it results in a flurry of flashy percussion. I was delighted to find the P12-300SB-PR keeping pace with the drum sticks, delivering the underling bass with speed and precision. There are undoubtedly faster subs but considering the depths the BK is capable of mining, it's still a surprisingly fast performer that's capable of some impressive transient speed.
The performance is outstanding with controlled and responsive bass that goes very deep
- Outstanding performance
- Excellent build quality
- Cables included
- Exceptional value
- Nothing at this price.
BK Electronics P12-300SB-PR Subwoofer Review
BK Electronics P12-300SB-PR VerdictThe BK Electronics P12-300SB-PR delivers such an outstanding level of performance that it would be impressive if it cost twice as much. The fact it's able to deliver bass that is controlled, responsive and ridiculously deep for just £450 is nothing short of amazing.
The direct sale model undoubtedly helps in terms of the pricing, but there's more to it than that. BK has applied a straightforward ethos to designing and building its subwoofers: using a well-engineered cabinet, solid construction, and high quality components. The manufacturer also avoids unnecessary frivolities, instead taking a no-nonsense approach that concentrates on sound quality.
This new new model takes what was great about the P12-300SB and builds on it, with even better low frequency extension and a surprising amount of speed. I've tested a number of subwoofers with 12-inch drivers recently, and bang-for-buck the P12-300SB-PR is simply the best in its class.
What are my alternatives?There are plenty of alternative subwoofers in the £500-700 price range, although none that can touch the P12-300SB-PR in terms of value and performance.
However, the REL HT/1205 is certainly a good choice, benefiting from the company's experience and subwoofer expertise. Its low-frequency delivery is superb and, thanks to a 12-inch driver and 500W of Class D amplification, it goes deep but remains controlled. As a result, bass remains tight rather than boomy, with a performance that has power and agility. However, it doesn't go as low as the BK, and at £699 it's very pricey.
The Fyne Audio F3-12 looks better value at £599 but it's still expensive compared to the P12-300SB-PR. However, the F3-12 is a genuinely impressive subwoofer, with a ported cabinet that hits the lower frequencies, while remaining surprisingly agile and controlled. There's excellent responsiveness and plenty of detail, as this subwoofer delivers a performance that feels deeper than its quoted specs.
In terms of other choices, the XTZ 12.17 is another cracking sub that also produces deep and controlled bass with power and responsiveness, and it will also set you back £599. Finally, there's the SVS PB-1000, which has been around for a while but remains an excellent ported sub with deep bass and plenty of power. Best of all it only costs £519, which puts it at the turnstile of the P12-300SB-PR's ballpark.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £450.00
Value For Money10
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