Big cinema bass at a price that won't break the bank
What is the XTZ SUB 12.17?The XTZ SUB 12.17 is the largest subwoofer in the Swedish company's new SUB 17 Series and sports a 12-inch driver and two bass reflex tubes at the front. The 12.17 has it roots in XTZ's previous 99W12.16 but the new model uses a driver derived from their highly successful Cinema Series. Along with the new driver, the SUB 12.17 includes a 500W RMS (800W peak) Class D amplifier inside an MDF cabinet. There are different EQ settings and the option to further tune the performance using supplied plugs for the bass reflex tubes. The SUB 12.17 has both RCA and XLR inputs at the rear, there is a removable front grille and the XTZ comes in a choice of matte or gloss black or matte white. The SUB 12.17 can be picked up for £599 as at the time of writing (August 2016), offering the prospect of big cinema sound without breaking the bank. Can it live up to that promise? Let's find out.
DesignIn terms of design the SUB 12.17 doesn't exactly tear up the rule book but then there is only so much you can do with a wooden box. With that in mind, the design of the XTZ is actually rather attractive, with a lovely gloss black finish on our review sample. The company helpfully includes a pair of white gloves in with the manual and power cable, which means you can move the subwoofer around without getting greasy fingerprints all over that lovely gloss finish. There is a removable front grille that is made of a black acoustically transparent material, the subwoofer itself uses an MDF construction and it sits on four removable rubber spikes. The overall build quality is excellent, with the SUB 12.17 measuring 395 x 500 x 400mm (WxHxD) and weighing in at a hefty 25.9kg.
The SUB 12.17 uses a forward-firing driver, which we'll cover in more detail later, with two bass reflex tubes (ports) beneath the driver and there are foam plugs included for fine tuning the bass response. Around the back there is a central panel where you'll find the various controls and connections. We'll go into the controls in more detail later but in terms of connections there are left and right unbalanced RCA line inputs with the left one being used for an LFE signal, a balanced XLR input and a balanced XLR passthrough for connecting more than one subwoofer together. There is also a program port, which allows an XTZ employee access to the programmable parts of the amplifier. Finally there is a three-pin connector for the power cable and an on/off switch.
The gloss black SUB 12.17 is attractive or at least as attractive as a wooden cube can look
Features and SpecsIn terms of new features what differentiates the SUB 12.17 from previous generations is the addition of a 12" driver derived from XTZ's Cinema Series. The manufacturer calls them 'high-speed' drivers because their use of very light and extremely rigid materials enable the them to perform with increased precision and improved dynamics. XTZ's long throw 'high-speed' driver uses a very lightweight, stiff cone material and a very strong magnet structure which gives the SUB 12.17 an incredibly fast response. It can thus produce sound pressure levels with better dynamics, whilst maintaining precision. The cone is made out of a very strong, long fiber pulp blend and the driver also needs to make ultra-long strokes for maximum sound pressure, so to get a maximum of linearity, XTZ developed a special NBR (Nitrile Butadiene Rubber) rubber surround. The custom designed driver also includes an FEA optimised magnetic field design incorporating a tightly focused "T" pole design, a large aluminium shorting ring to minimise inductance and lower non-linear distortion and an ultra-high temperature aluminium voice coil with an airflow maximiser design.
The SUB 12.17 uses the same type of Class-D amplifier found in XTZ's Cinema Subwoofer Series. It has a very high power output for a driver of 500W with almost twice that in terms of peak wattage output whenever needed. In contrast to many other Class-D amplifiers, the design has superior clipping characteristics which ensure maximum headroom capability by minimising the use of limiting circuitry. The amplifier features an advanced DSP processor, which gives it improved control over the driver at all levels with two EQ settings that raise specific frequency ranges. In addition to a higher degree of customization, this approach also allows the subwoofer’s sound characteristics to be changed for optimised tuning to suit different environments or preferences. The internal cabling in the SUB 12.17 uses 99.99% pure copper wire, which guarantees the highest signal transparency. The SUB 12.17 gains additional weight from its stable external walls made of MDF, as well as numerous internal stiffeners. This construction, combined with damping material, reduces internal resonances to a minimum which leads to better control and higher dynamics.
Setup and OperationAs with any subwoofer, the more care and attention that you pay to positioning the SUB 12.17 correctly, the better the performance. We know our test room very well, so that was a relatively straightforward process but you may need to experiment with different locations before deciding on the ideal position. One useful tip is to place the subwoofer in the sweet spot and then, whilst playing a test tone, move around the room listening for where the bass sounds most even, avoiding peaks and troughs. In the manual XTZ recommend trying corners or the midway points along the front, rear or side walls but if you're only using one subwoofer the front of the soundstage is the most logical choice.
The SUB 12.17 includes the controls you would expect to see on any subwoofer, such as crossover, phase, volume and a low pass filter. It also has the option of being left on or in an auto mode that turns the sub on when a signal is received and turns it off when no signal has been received for an hour. There is an indicator LED as well, which is green when the sub is turned on and working, red when it's in standby and off when the unit is completely shut down.
As well as the usual controls that you find on a subwoofer, the SUB 12.17 includes a number of additional features that allow for a greater degree of fine tuning. There is a switch on the back panel that offers a choice of REF, EQ1 or EQ2, which is designed to better match the sub to your room and your system. The REF setting delivers the full frequency response for the deepest bass, however care should be taken to ensure the lower frequencies are not over represented and “muddy”, depending on the room geometry, placement of the sub and the listening position. If the bass does feel "muddy" then you can select EQ1 which is a direct countermeasure to the problem of over represented low bass/room gain. The setting lowers the bass extension, thus resulting in more controlled bass. Finally there is the EQ2 setting, which stores more energy a bit higher in the frequency range, to deliver punchier and faster bass.
The SUB 12.17 has two bass reflex ports that can be blocked with provided foam plugs. Depending on the configuration you choose, the characteristics of the subwoofer can be changed by altering the lower boundary frequency. With both ports open the sub will deliver increased output in the higher frequency range. If you just block the left port then the bass has increased output in the mid-range but if you just block the right hand port, this will increase the output in the lower frequencies. Finally if you close both ports then the sub becomes a sealed box, with a flatter more controlled response.
XTZ SUB 12.17 Video Review
PerformanceWe had high expectations when it came to the SUB 12.17 and we’re pleased to say that the subwoofer didn’t disappoint. We started with movie soundtracks and the XTZ really delivered, producing all the low frequency effects and carefully engineered bass moments with precision and control. There have been quite a few films released recently that really rely on low frequency effects to add impact to scenes and underline the rest of the sound mix. San Andreas, with its story revolving around a giant earthquake, certainly makes full use of low frequency effects and the SUB 12.17 did a fantastic job of reproducing all that tectonic devastation.
However, the XTZ managed to deliver all this bass with a pleasing degree of nuance and control. There was a responsiveness and precision to the subwoofer that meant the bass retained its impact without overstaying its welcome. The SUB 12.17 was especially effective with the soundtrack for Pride & Prejudice & Zombies, which despite its Regency setting has plenty of big bass moments. However it also has plenty of less amped up sequences and the XTZ was very effective at springing to life when an ‘unmentionable’ attacked and then melting into background as everyone retired to the drawing room for a game of cards.
The physical size of the SUB 12.17 meant that it had no problems handling even the most bombastic of soundtracks. So a three hour bass-fest like Batman v Superman was delivered with great precision and dynamic range by the XTZ. If we had to pick a fault with the subwoofer it was that the amplification could have had more power, especially for a sub of this size. It certainly had no trouble delivering all the super-powered punches in Batman v Superman but it would have been nice to have a little more headroom. However, overall the subwoofer was a great performer with soundtracks and is sure to please even the most demanding film fans.
Of course a subwoofer can be used for more than just movie soundtracks, although generally we prefer listening to music with just our front stereo floor standers. However there are those who like to add a subwoofer to their music listening using a 2.1-channel configuration. This is where XTZ’s 'high-speed' driver came into play, with the SUB12.17 proving nimble enough to provide some fast bass response to even the most complex of arrangements. We put the XTZ through its paces with a combination of albums and concert videos in both multi-channel and stereo mixes.
The SUB 12.17 was certainly up to the task, displaying a precision and control that is rarely found on subwoofers at this price point. What really impressed was how well the XTZ integrated into both two-channel and multi-channel setups. As a result, the subwoofer will work well with any number of systems and regardless of whether you watch movies or listen to music, the big 12” driver will deliver deep and detailed bass that is both controlled and precise. A subwoofer is designed to pick up the lower frequencies where the main speakers roll off and this is what the SUB 12.17 does so well, seamlessly integrating into the rest of the system.
XTZ's 'high-speed' driver delivered powerful bass that was fast, controlled and precise
- Superb performance
- Flexible setup
- Excellent build quality
- Great price
- More power in the amps would be nice
XTZ SUB 12.17 Subwoofer ReviewThe SUB 12.17 is another great subwoofer from Swedish manufacturer XTZ. It utilises a 12" driver and Class D amplifier combination that is based on the design the company uses in their award-winning Cinema Series. The design isn't ground-breaking but the front firing driver has two bass reflex ports underneath it which, although they look identical, are tuned differently. This allows you to customise the performance of the SUB 12.17 using the provided foam plugs. The gloss black finish on our review sample was very attractive and the XTZ has an excellent level of build quality.
There are connections at the rear for unbalanced RCA and balanced XLR inputs, as well as a number of controls. Along with the usual crossover, phase and volume controls, there is a low pass filter and three EQ options. These allow you to fine-tune the performance of the subwoofer and once you combine all these features with careful positioning, you should be able to seamlessly match the SUB 12.17 with any system or room. The overall performance was excellent and the XTZ delivered deep bass that was fast, controlled and precise. It was very effective with film soundtracks but also with two-channel music, making the subwoofer a great all-rounder.
When you consider the performance, design, features, build quality and price, there really is very little that warrants criticism on the XTZ. In fact our only negative observation would be that the built-in amplifier is the same as the 10" model, so perhaps a bit more power and headroom for the larger driver would have been nice. However that aside, the subwoofer is capable of a powerful and controlled performance that is sure to please and it does so at a very competitive price. As a result we're happy to award the XTZ SUB 12.17 a Best Buy badge.
Value For Money9
Our Review Ethos
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