Confessions of a BK XLS200 (vs. Gemini)

Dodgy_Geezer

Well-known Member
Twas' the day after the Spring Bank hols and everything stirred in the house chiefly because of the subwoofer smackdown going on in the corner between two bass bustin' BK boxes. Further to my post "Confessions of a BK Gemini" that you can read about here, I arranged to babysit a friend's BK XLS200 whilst he was away and thought it would be useful to do a direct comparison between the two to see what the extra 100 notes offers. Read on to find out whether blood really is thicker than water between these two siblings.

Vital Statistics
The current speaker setup hasn't changed and still consists of Canton CD200's all round with a CD250 for a centre speaker. Both subs were placed in the same corner with the Denon 1906 still providing the juice however the 1720 DVD player has now been replaced by a 1730 after its predeccessor started making strange noises and the very nice salesperson at Richer Sounds did a straight swop. Can't say the addition of HDMI has made a huge difference but I'll take it, viva El Presidente Richer!

First Look
Dimensions between the two boxes are very similar. In short, the forward firing XLS200 is shorter than the Gemini but the Gemini has smaller dimensions all round. Even without putting the subs side-by-side, you can see the XLS200 is clearly larger although still very svelte by sub standards. If height is a restriction, the XLS200 wins, whereas the Gemini would be better suited to tight spaces where overall dimensions are important. The finish as with the Gemini is par excellence and the dials on the XLS200 have the same heavy duty damped feel. One difference between the controls is that the XLS200 has an extra dial for switching the low level filter modes on and off whereas the Gemini uses the low level frequency dial instead that must be turned all the way clockwise for it to click into the off position. And of course, the Gemini also has the LED readout for frequency control and power output.

Initial Impressions
Powering on the XLS200 brought home one immediate and obvious difference: it switches on almost immediately! With the Gemini, once you switch it on, there is a brief pause as the relay activates followed by the smallest of pops before the sub is in use. With the XLS200 there is no pop and almost no pause. Literally half a second after you've switched it on and your finger is still hovering over the power button, the XLS200 is already live and doing its thing. I don't know if this is by design or whether the relay is stuffed but I'd be interested to know how other people's XLS200's behave when powering up.

Switching off the XLS200 yields similar differences albeit the other way round. This time, whereas the Gemini switches off immediately, the XLS200 gradually fades to nothing once you kill the power. By this, I mean you can actually hear the bass diminishing, it's like listening to something whilst the volume is gradually being reduced. Again, any insight into this from other readers as to whether this is normal XLS200, or indeed sub behaviour, would be most useful.

One very welcome difference is that the XLS200 had nary a hum about it in any mode whereas the Gemini in lo level filter bypass mode hums like it was an overworked generator tasked with providing clean energy to power the southern hemisphere. Even with the lo level filter completely bypassed, there wasn't a whisper from the XLS200, indeed, once switched on, you can't even tell it's switched on if the back panel is obscured and you can't see the power LED. This is odd given I was using exactly the same power cable as the Gemini, plugged into the same electrical socket. Makes me kinda wonder about the whole "it's yer cables causing the hum Guv" argument.

Bass Digger
The XLS200 on loan was a few weeks old and the forward firing affair which is why I was keen to borrow it. Plonking it on the floor towards the TV and switching it on produced a very muddy sounding bass that was thick enough to scoop out of the air with a butter knife. Not the best of starts but perching the sub upon the spikes provided to isolate it from the ground yielded massive improvements and single handedly did more to convince me about the merits of isolation than any number of free subscriptions to What HiFi. Like the Australian womens olympic volleyball squad, bass was firmed, tightened, tensed, toned and far more punchy than before.

Using an SPL meter, I repeated the Realtraps test tone experiment with the XLS200 but the resulting curve was almost identical to the Gemini indicating the same old peak at around 25Hz and that it was still good down to 10Hz. I would have expected an entirely different curve given the difference in metrics and was surprised to see the similarities to the extent that I spent the day just repeating the tests, convinced that I was doing something wrong.

Integration
I've always found forward firing subs to be easier to integrate and the XLS200 only served to reinforce this view. As per before, all speakers were set to small and calibrated to the same level using the SPL meter. A crossover of 80Hz was set on the Denon with all output directed to the sub. The gain on the XLS200 was set to 12 o clock and the lo level filter completely bypassed so that all bass management would come from the amp. As a final sanity check, the lo level frequency dial was opened fully to 120Hz to ensure that every scrap of bass would come through. Phase was left to 0, as before, changing it seemed to have little effect. The XLS200 integrated more effectively than the Gemini in my setup and required virtually no adjustment other than gain whereas the Gemini needed a few hours of fiddling arouund before it settled in well.

Performance
With the gain set to 12 o clock that is a half turn and during real world usage, the XLS200 was noticeably deeper and less boomy to the point where it sounded very thin at times. It was less obvious and not as forthcoming as the Gemini with a very suble and understated performance that often had me wondering if it was switched on. You felt like the bass had to be coaxed out of the XLS200 and it was not as eager to deliver the goods. This is a good indicator though as the best sub integrations are those where you don't actually notice there is a sub until it kicks in and for this reason, it was time to break the emergency glass and bring out the heavyweights, a motley collection of taxing and punishing DVD's wanted for crimes against bass. The names have been changed to protect the innocent:

Verminator 3: A good start as the XLS200 offers lots more depth and power over the Gemini. This is a fabulously overblown performance with seemingly little actions generating huge amounts of bass that can really be felt. A clear difference between the two subs is apparent as there were plenty of moments where low frequencies were noticeable that I wasn't able to pick up with the Gemini. A particular highlight that had me in fits is during the chase at the beginning when John Connor drives into a bouncy toy. With the XLS200 on sub duties, I've never felt that an inflatable clown could sound so menacing.
:D

The Wanton Menace: Compared to the Gemini, there was surprisingly little difference. The XLS200 was louder and added more detail to a few areas, most notably the pod race, but other than that, there was little to choose between the 2 subs.

Attack Of The Crones: Bass was considerably deeper and louder than the Gemini which is to be expected given the bigger driver and extra power. I played this at 90dB as per before and the XLS200 almost blew my hair off.
:eek:
The bigger amp on the XLS200 certainly comes in handy and although I wasn't able to measure output, I felt that there was more than enough in reserve to not only blow my hair off but take my shoes too with a packed lunch for a day trip excursion to Margate. In contrast, the Gemini at 90dB is approaching the limits of what it can produce although it doesn't bottom out.

Plight Of The Phoenix: A terrific movie from which I was expecting a stellar performance from the XLS200 and it didn't disappoint. Overall, there was little difference in output which is testament to the capabilities of the Gemini as a solid performer, crucially however the few differences made a significant impact. The XLS200 brought out more of the detail in the soundtrack, something that would become a recurring theme in the other tests and also went deeper so that I was able to feel the bass during several moments throughout the movie and not just for a few glorious seconds during the electrical storm.

Layer Steak: Again, little difference between the two subs here which I didn't expect given that the movie has a very musical soundtrack. There were a few places where the bass was more apparent and obviously louder however, both subs produced very similar output. Score-draw!

Master & Colander: With the Gemini, this was a very subdued movie and the least impressive out of the DVD collection tested. However, with the XLS200 it's one of the most impressive even at low volumes, with lots of detail in the bass that was previously missing with the Gemini. For example, with the XLS200, you can hear the deep whooshing of the cannonball once fired as it nears its target whereas with the Gemini, this is almost inaudible. The film itself was the one to most clearly show the differences between the two models and is a good one to use if you want to convince anyone with the merits of adding a sub.

Toy Tory 2: There were several moments during the opening sequence where the XLS200 added extra depth and brought out the detail in the track. Most notably, the bit where Buzz is running down the tunnel towards Zurg is underpinned by a rumbly bassline that I hadn't noticed with the Gemini.

Glade 2: Again, detail and depth of bass with the XLS200 is noticeably better than the Gemini and as with some of the other DVD's, there are several moments where uber low frequencies are apparent that were previously missing with the Gemini. For example, the opening scene at the very beginning of the movie before the title credits and voiceover has a lovely subtle foreboding bassline that gives an ominous feel of what's about to happen.

To summarise, the XLS200 made a discernable impact on some movies over the Gemini and on others it didn't. For those films where the difference was more apparent, the XLS200 added detail and depth to the bass as well as power with control. A quick switch to CD's and the differences are more apparent. A stereo source showed that the XLS200 can definitely cut the mustard and is a more musical sub than the Gemini, particularly when it came to speed and agility. Music is rhythmic and it can certainly play a tune avoiding the single note tone of cheap bass bins that sound like a stegosaurus plodding around the house. The Gemini itself is a fine sub for music but the XLS200 bests it by really bringing out the detail in the track, something I hadn't really considered was possible with a sub when listening to a CD. As with the Gemini, bass output of the XLS200 is tight, controlled, reactive but also very detailed and fast, attributes that open up the soundstage considerably.

But Seriously
Any downsides? Well compared to the Gemini, the XLS200 is nominally larger but more than offsets this with a choice of versions (down firing vs forward firing). Like the Gemini, it doesn't have an auto power off, a feature that is sorely missing and of course, it is more expensive but none of these are real showstoppers.

What It Offers
+ Uber friendly WAF
+ Solid and musical bass that is tight, controlled, agile, fast and very detailed
+ High power output for reference levels (and no hum!)
+ Superb build quality and finish
+ Plenty of controls for integration
+ A choice of different finishes
+ A choice of different versions
+ Subsonic bass that you can feel

What It Does Not
- Auto power off/on
- Controls for room compensation

Summary
The XLS200 is an excellent sub that is superior to the Gemini in 2 key areas: it offers noticeably deeper bass through a bigger and better driver and has a more powerful amp offering louder output and nominally cleaner bass. When both of these are combined, the net result is a package that offers a modest increase in performance over the Gemini, a point that I alluded to in the original review. It really boils down to one simple question: Is the XLS200 worth the additional 100 notes over the Gemini? I would say that if you are on a budget, have a smaller room, use your home cinema sporadically and play your material at modest levels, the Gemini is truly phenomenal and will step up to the task admirably. I stand by my original view that it's worth considering in the first instance over the XLS200 for said criteria. Would I upgrade from a Gemini? On the whole, I wouldn't, I'm perfectly happy with the performance of the Gemini and as stated in the original review, the next step up would have to be for something far meatier that offered a considerable rather than a modest increase in performance.

However, if you use your kit often in a larger room, like to play it loud and long and crucially, require a sub that can sing like a canary for stereo sources, the XLS200 is the one to consider. For the price point of 300 quid, it sounds like it should cost twice as much and the added advantage of being available in different versions really does mean that it can slot in pretty much anywhere and integrate well with existing kit. The XLS200 offers noticeably cleaner and deeper bass with more detail that is a modest increase on the Gemini and audiences demanding reference levels of output are well served by the larger and more powerful amp. For anyone with a budget of 300 quid, it comes recommended without any reservation.
:thumbsup:

But then at 300 notes, you're only another 100 quid away from a BK Monolith and that is an entirely different story altogether!
:D
 
Thanks for this excellent and very useful review.
I've been looking for a second hand XLS200 mostly for listening to music but there don't seem to be any going at the moment, so I was considering a new Gemini. But now you've persuaded me that I "need" an XLS200 :confused: .
I guess I'll just have to be patient or save up the extra £90.
 

Druboo

Active Member
Another excellent review DG. Thank you :thumbsup:

I think you owe it to yourself to get hold of a Monolith to compare.
If only for MAC where you don't just hear the cannonballs you feel them ;)
 

EriX

Active Member
Very interesting lunch time reading :)

I went for a monolith in the end a short while ago, so to see a xls200 vs monolith "what do you get for an extra £100" would be good too :D.

A point that interested me was when you mentioned that you added the spikes and noticed a large performance increase. What type of floor do you have in your room (I couldn't spot it written anywhere). I have read a number of comments on the use of spikes and currently don't have them on my DF monolith but considering your results with them, I might give them a try.

Eric
 

joffy1780

Active Member
:thumbsup: good stuff,very interesting reading.
 

Dodgy_Geezer

Well-known Member
A point that interested me was when you mentioned that you added the spikes and noticed a large performance increase. What type of floor do you have in your room (I couldn't spot it written anywhere).

I'm not sure what the floor is but I would hazard a guess and say its wood on a concrete base. I live in a top floor flat and although the floor creaks in a few places indicating there is wood underneath, I seldom hear anything from below and if I stamp a foot, the floor is very solid. I've been in lots of houses where there are simply floorboards and you could easily hear a mouse sneeze in the room below/above.

The spikes really did improve the output however I think it'd be less of an increase for a downfiring sub given that its already islolated to some degree by the feet. For a forward firing sub that sits on the floor, there is no isolation so I guess less energy is being used to move the driver and more is lost through the contact. Definitely worth trying the spikes though!

Regards,

DG
 

Scott_Mac

Distinguished Member
Great review!

Thanks.

Were your neighbours underneath grateful for the noise? My on going dilemma is that of upsetting the people beneath me, i too live in a top floor flat you see....
 

Dodgy_Geezer

Well-known Member
I haven't had any complaints yet but then again, I don't tend to watch anything very loud and my flat is isolated on all sides. I think the boom from a sub causes more noise than the actual low frequencies themselves so if you have a good sub that produces clean bass, it shouldn't be heard too much below. You can also get those acoustic underlay or wood floor things that dampen noise further if you're really concerned about the noise but your best bet is to just be considerate with it and just knock on your neighbours door to ask if its bothering them :)

Regards,

DG
 

paulst10

Distinguished Member
another great review DG :thumbsup:

always seems like being there in person reading your reviews

paul
 

Scott_Mac

Distinguished Member
I haven't had any complaints yet but then again, I don't tend to watch anything very loud and my flat is isolated on all sides. I think the boom from a sub causes more noise than the actual low frequencies themselves so if you have a good sub that produces clean bass, it shouldn't be heard too much below. You can also get those acoustic underlay or wood floor things that dampen noise further if you're really concerned about the noise but your best bet is to just be considerate with it and just knock on your neighbours door to ask if its bothering them :)

Regards,

DG

I'd be isolating on a slab/squash balls whatever if i do as i have a wooden floor... but the consideration of knocking on the door and asking was the main factor i was planning on using!
 

marcstang

Well-known Member
I was up and down in my neighbours flat to see if there was any noise when I set up my XLS200. Luckily we have concrete floor and the bass was hardly noticeable downstairs even at elevated volume.
 

Dodgy_Geezer

Well-known Member
I was up and down in my neighbours flat to see if there was any noise when I set up my XLS200. Luckily we have concrete floor and the bass was hardly noticeable downstairs even at elevated volume.

Marcstang, does your XLS200 power on and off the same as mine? (see Initial Impressions section of review).

Regards,

DG
 

tobydickenson

Standard Member
Im a happy xls200 owner for 6 months now, mostly used for music, and pretty much agree with everything in this review. I hadnt bothered with the spikes yet, but will try this weekend. My xls200 powers on and off exactly as described.

And I second the call for an xls200 vs monolith comparison.
 

marcstang

Well-known Member
Marcstang, does your XLS200 power on and off the same as mine? (see Initial Impressions section of review).

Regards,

DG

It's exactly as you described. When switching the power on it outputs almost instantly, and gradually fades away when powering it of whilst it's still receiving input. The light on the power switch also fades gradually.
 

Dodgy_Geezer

Well-known Member
Just thought I'd add that I watched Star Wars III today and there were lots of ultra low bass moments that the XLS200 picked up that you can't hear with the Gemini. Best of all, it was the kind you could very often feel and I get the impression that the XLS200 yields massive improvements over time once its been broken in properly (the one I have on loan has hardly been used).

Regards,

DG
 

Ade

Active Member
Thanks DodgyGeezer, nice review (and I re-read the Gemini one too!)

But I'm still don't know which to buy! Although, from both your reviews, either will be better than my older Elac sub I'm sure.....

Just out of interest, as you say you're quite happy with the Gemini in terms of power, what size of room do you have the Gemini in?

Thanks
Ade
 

Dodgy_Geezer

Well-known Member
Hi,

The room is fairly large, I attached a floorplan to the original Gemini review here. Its roughly 15.5" x 17.2" althouigh there are two window bays that make the total area much larger.

Regards,

DG
 
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barnsleyben

Active Member
hey guys,

how would you say the Monitor Audio RSW12 compares to these?

Thanks :)
 
K

Kolo T

Guest
HI DG

Wonder if you can help on this one.
Builiding a theatre, 20 x20 feet.
Whats better:
Monolith dfx1
Monolith ffx1
200 x2?

Thanks. :)

Kolo.
 

Dodgy_Geezer

Well-known Member
Hi Kolo,

I'm afraid I wouldn't know the answer to that, it's like asking how long is a piece of string. There are lots of other variables that could affect the performance and although I've heard both the FF and DF Mono's, I've not compared them directly with 1 XLS200 let alone 2.

My personal preference is that FF is much easier to integrate and sounds far punchier to me as you can direct the cone towards your seating position. Additionally, I would imagine that integrating 2 subs would be far trickier than 1 as you have to think about placement which kinda limits what you can do. For that reason, I would be inclined to go for a FF Mono given the choice.

Regards,

DG
 

goonerfromlag

Active Member
just read ur review, had me in stitches :thumbsup: and has helped make up my mind to get d xls2000, many thanks
 

kempez

Well-known Member
Just to add my thanks in your thread too - made my mind up for sure :)
 

Dodgy_Geezer

Well-known Member
Thanks for the kind comments, I've now got the Gemini in the study and have an XLS200 in the lounge. Next upgrade will definitely be The Big One, a Mono :smashin:
 

abdus

Active Member
so is the extra £100 still worthy for the XLS200? (after 2 years of use)
 

ben.bayliss

Active Member
Bearing in mind the review is now out of date as the Gemini has been replaced with the Gemini II, which has the same size (10") driver as the XLS200 and a slightly uprated amp (150W). The differences are now minimal.

Personally, I went with the Gemini (first edition - they replaced it a few weeks later grrr) and am very very happy with it. If you're after a flat system, then the Gemini will do the job very well in a modest room. If you're a bass monster then you may need something bigger.
 
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