Sunfire XTEQ 12 Subwoofer Review
Power, control & response - what more could you want from a sub?
What is the Sunfire XTEQ 12?The Sunfire XTEQ 12 is a subwoofer that uses a 12-inch driver powered by a 3 kilowatt amplifier and coupled with a matching passive radiator. The XTEQ series has been specifically designed to deliver powerful bass performance from a smaller cabinet and comes in three varieties. Along with the XTEQ 12, there’s the XTEQ 8 and the XTEQ 10 which, as their model numbers might suggest, use 8 and 10-inch drivers respectively. The range also includes a dedicated microphone and an automated equalisation feature, along with multiple inputs including a balanced XLR connector.
The Sunfire XTEQ 12 retails for £1,800 at the time of writing (June 2015) which, whilst not exactly cheap, is certainly a reasonable price point in the subwoofer market, especially when you consider the potential performance. So let’s see if Sunfire’s latest range of subwoofers is another successful entry in the manufacturer’s illustrious line-up.
DesignThe XTEQ 12 is a subwoofer so there’s only so much you can do when it comes to design but it manages to be a surprisingly attractive product when you consider it’s essentially a 13-inch black cube. The high gloss black finish looks gorgeous, although it does show fingerprints easily so keep the duster handy. Whilst the black finish suited us in our dedicated home cinema, Sunfire might want to consider offering more colours to add to the subwoofer's 'lifestyle' appeal. The dual design means there is a 12-inch driver on the right hand side and a corresponding 12-inch passive radiator on the left. Aside from the acoustical benefits, this approach certainly helps to balance out the appearance, making the XTEQ 12 slightly more interesting to look at than the average subwoofer. There are removable surrounds around the driver and radiator but no grilles so, in the case of the driver, make sure no one puts their foot through it.
Despite its diminutive appearance, the XTEQ 12 weighs in at a hefty 27kgs, so be prepared to break a sweat getting it out of its triple-lined packaging that reminds you of some bizarre cardboard matryoshka. Why it it so heavy? Well aside from the driver, radiator, amplification and sealed cabinet, at the heart of the XTEQ 12 is a massive magnet that accounts for much of the weight. The build quality is excellent and the entire subwoofer is nicely engineered and well constructed. The XTEQ 12 sits on Anti-Walking Tread Design Feet that should address one criticism of previous Sunfire subwoofers, their tendency to start moving across the room when there’s a lot of bass action in a soundtrack.
At the rear of the enclosure are the connections and the various controls for setting up the XTEQ 12. In terms of connections there's a balanced XLR input with a nominal impedance of 14k Ohms, a line level RCA input with a nominal impedance of 15k Ohms and a slave line level RCA input with a nominal impedance of 8k Ohms. There's also 3.5mm jack for the provided EQ microphone and a 12V trigger that uses a provided connector. The outputs are a line level RCA throughput with the choice of an 85Hz high pass filter or bypass and a slave line level RCA output with a nominal impedance of 120k Ohms. There are controls for the crossover frequency, the level and the phase, as well as a button for controlling the automatic or manual EQ process, a button for turning the EQ on and off and an indicator light. There's also the main on/off button, a switch for selecting the voltage and a three-pin power cable connector.
The build quality is excellent, the design surprisingly attractive and the features are impressive.
Features & SpecsWhen you consider that a subwoofer is essentially a big active speaker you wouldn't think there would be much in the way of features but you'd be wrong. The XTEQ 12 comes with quite a few that make it both highly flexible in terms of setup and installation. First of all, as already mentioned, the XTEQ 12 uses a dual design with a 12-inch active side-firing driver on one side and a 12-inch side-firing passive radiator on the other. It also includes a massive 3,000 Watts of amplification that uses Sunfire's Tracking Down Converter and high-powered XT amplifier design. The XTEQ 12 also includes Asymmetrical Cardioid Surround (ACS) which enables extended xMAX for tighter bass and extended woofer excursion; along with High Back EMF Driver technology to produce increased bass from a smaller cabinet.
The XTEQ 12 also includes a suite of premium audiophile features such as advanced auto turn-on circuitry, Anti-Walking Tread Design (AWTD) feet, gold-plated connectors, soft clipping circuitry and crossover level and phase controls. As already mentioned there are extensive connectivity options included a balanced XLR input, for increased installation flexibility with consumer and professional components. From the perspective of installing your new subwoofer as easily and as effectively as possible, the XTEQ 12 also includes a digital Auto-EQ circuit for enhanced room calibration. The increased precision of the room-specific calibration means that the XTEQ 12 can more accurately integrate with the room and the rest of your system. To facilitate this feature the XTEQ 12 comes with a dedicated microphone and stand, although there is also the option to manually EQ the subwoofer.
SetupAs with any subwoofer, careful placement will pay dividends in terms of its integration within the room and with the rest of your system but as a general rule at the front of the room between the centre and left or right speaker is a good place to start. Since every room is different, the optimal position can either be established by modelling the room and taking RTF measurements or playing a test tone and moving the sub around whilst listening from the sweet spot. Although you could take Sunfire's advice and put the subwoofer at the sweet spot and listen at the front of the room to find the place where the bass is most balanced. The more subwoofers you can include the better the bass response in the room and we were lucky enough to have two XTEQ 12s to use in the review, so we tested in both a single and dual setup.
If you want to setup one subwoofer then once you have found the best place to position your new XTEQ12, you can connect the microphone, place it at the listening position and run the Auto-EQ. This only takes a few seconds and proved to be very effective, although if you would rather do it manually, you can run a series of test tones and adjust the level for each one. There is a switch on the back for turning the EQ on and off. If you're using two subs then you connect the second one to the first using the slave inputs and outputs and run the Auto EQ on the first. The procedure will automatically EQ both subs in turn and adjust the phase between the two if necessary.
Once you've EQ'd the subs for the room and each other, you can then setup your whole system, again either automatically or manually. Since our Denon AVR-X7200 includes twin subwoofer outputs, we were able to run one and then two subs directly from the receiver but if you only have one subwoofer output, then you can connect the second sub to the first using the slave inputs and outputs. We tested the XTEQ 12 in our dedicated home cinema using one and then both of them in a full 7.1.4 Dolby Atmos setup, as well as with 5.1-channel and 7.1-channel soundtracks and two-channel music.
Sunfire XTEQ 12 Video Review
Sound QualityThe first thing you notice about the XTEQ 12 is that despite its diminutive size, it can deliver plenty of low frequency energy. Just one XTEQ 12 was sufficient to produce deep bass within our dedicated home cinema, which is the size of the average living room. The Auto-EQ also did an excellent job of adjusting for the characteristics of the room itself and we could test the effect it was having by turning it on and off using the switch at the back. The non-ported nature of the cabinet meant that the XTEQ 12 was very responsive, reacting quickly to the audio with tight and controlled bass. Whilst some might feel that a ported sub will deliver more impact, the three kilowatts of power in the XTEQ 12 meant that it plenty of energy and could go very low if needed. Sunfire's goal was to produce a subwoofer that could deliver solid bass without the need to resort to a cabinet the size of a fridge and we'd say they succeeded. We can also report that thanks to the Anti-Walking Tread Design (AWTD) feet, the XTEQ 12 remained firmly in place and didn't make a break for freedom, even during really bass-heavy movies.
Although one XTEQ 12 would have been sufficient for testing, we weren't going to refuse the opportunity to run a pair of them at the front of the room, especially as our Denon receiver has twin sub outputs. The addition of a second XTEQ 12 was less about adding additional power and more about creating an even bass response throughout the entire room. We were always impressed by how effective the XTEQ 12 was at delivering bone-shaking bass in a controlled and effective manner. The low frequencies were always there to support the rest of the track and never to dominate or draw unnecessary attention to themselves. Whilst watching American Sniper in Dolby Atmos, the XTEQ 12s had no problems delivering the obvious bass moments such as explosions or rumbling tanks but they also delivered in more subtle ways. There was a visceral thump to the gunfire, even when the Navy SEALs were using suppressors, so you were always aware of the deadly force of their weapons. Jupiter Ascending has a very active Dolby Atmos mix and once again the XTEQ 12 delivered all the bass moments with great aplomb, resulting in a hugely enjoyable experience.
When we moved onto more traditional 5.1 and 7.1 sound mixes the XTEQ 12 was just as impressive, handling the deep bass moments in bombastic soundtracks like Pacific Rim and Godzilla with ease. However it was once again the XTEQ 12's ability to deliver bass in a refined manner that really impressed. We watched the classic scene from Peter Jackson's King Kong where Kong and Anne are on the ice and whilst this is essentially a moment of tranquility amongst all the carnage, there are still opportunities of low frequency effects. The subs gave Kong's breath a real sense of weight, always reminding you of the ape's enormous size, even during a moment of tenderness.
It's this ability to deliver really deep bass whilst also retaining a sense of subtlety that makes the XTEQ 12 ideal for both movies and music. The sub's speed and control meant that it could add a lovely low-end presence to music, perfectly integrating with our front floor-standing B&W speakers. The Waterboys latest album Modern Blues never sounded better and the XTEQ 12 handle the rocky bass moments with consummate skill. When we listened to Yakar by Senegalese musician Amadou Diagne, the beautifully recorded vocals and acoustic instruments sounded wonderful. There was a palpable presence to every breath and the drumming was tight with every bass note perfectly timed. Overall the XTEQ 12 is a superb subwoofer that will deliver deep bass from a small cabinet in a powerful but controlled manner, making it ideal for movies and music.
The XTEQ 12 delivered serious impact when needed but always in a controlled manner.
- Power to spare
- Wonderful control
- Highly responsive
- Excellent EQ features
- Great build quality
- Attractive design
- Smaller cabinet
- Only available in black
Sunfire XTEQ 12 Subwoofer ReviewThe Sunfire XTEQ 12 is a fantastic subwoofer that delivers on the company's promise of creating a speaker that can deliver deep bass from a smaller cabinet. The appearance is about as attractive as a subwoofer can be when you consider that it's essentially a black 13-inch cube. The XTEQ 12 uses a dual design, with a 12-inch driver on one side and a 12-inch passive radiator on the other but there are no protective grilles so make sure no one damages the driver. The high gloss finish will look nice in any environment but watch out for fingerprints and perhaps in future Sunfire could offer a choice of other colours. The build quality is excellent and the XTEQ 12 is beautifully made but it's seriously heavy so be careful with your back. The entire cabinet sits on Anti-Walking Tread Design (AWTD) feet, designed to stop the subwoofer from moving across the room when it's generating a lot of bass, and thanks to the 3,000W amplifier it can certainly do that.
Setup was very straightforward and the excellent Auto-EQ meant that the XTEQ 12 could seamlessly integrate into your room and with your system. The performance was absolutely superb, with a lovely deep bass that was evenly distributed around the room. We tested the XTEQ 12 in both a single and dual configuration and although using two subs clearly has its benefits, the diminutive XTEQ 12 certainly had no trouble energising our dedicated home cinema. The non-ported nature of the XTEQ 12 made it very responsive, allowing it to easily keep pace with the fastest or most complex of tracks. However its three kilowatts of power meant that it could also deliver serious impact when it needed to but always in a controlled manner. As a result the Sunfire XTEQ 12 makes an ideal choice for anyone looking for a sub that can handle movies and music, as well as those seeking deep bass without the huge cabinet.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £1,800.00
Value For Money8
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