"Smells like a man" she says as I open the box.......
Time for another Average Joe review! Remember folks, I am not a pro. I dont compete, I dont have thousands in test gear. I just listen to them in a car as you would in the real world and try to find the weak spots and what sounds really good playing. I have played with pretty much every brand over a 30 year span so would like to think I have a good grasp on what is pleasing to most people vs what is less than ideal.
Going back a few weeks, a large amount of boxes arrive at my home. Some amps, new source unit, some speakers and one very large speaker. I start to open the boxes, small to large. As I get to the Stereo Integrity stuff and open the boxes I exclaim "Oh joy! An air freshener that looks just like the speakers!" initiating a snicker from my wife. I start to dig deeper and see something else so I hand the air freshener to my wife and I let out another chirp of excitement as I discover the stickers. I notice her looking at me like I am a simpleton. What can I say, I like stickers. lol As I dig into the speaker box my wife opens the air freshener and says "It smells like a man". I am glad it smells like cologne and not burning speaker windings.
Anyway, on to what I am here to play with. Stereo Integritys new SQL 12" subwoofer. I was contacted a while back from the owner of SI to see if I would like to review the new sub. Sure, I thought, would be interesting to hear. Then realized I had no current test car to throw it in and promptly went to work setting up my 2002 Jaguar XJR up to handle this new driver. My friends at Crow Concepts spent a couple weeks making sure the car was completely dead adding 100+ lbs of sound deadening in conjunction with the already seriously sound deadened factory Jaguar stuff (Jag puts CCF over the wheel wells, carpets the wheel wells on the bottom side and lays lots of material everywhere to keep the cars quiet). They also formed the custom box into the car and ran all the wires. They set the car up so the noise floor is as low as possible and so the vehicle does not resonate. Since the amplifiers are only 3' from the Continental AGM battery they are wired directly to it with 4awg wire. Nick said to get at least 1000 watts on this beast so I bought in an Arc XDi 1100.1 to drive it. I feared it was too much but if thats what he wanted me to throw at it I am all too willing to try and blow it up.
The new SI SQL 12 is an impressive looking subwoofer.
And here are the subwoofers specifications:
SQL-12 Dual 2 Ohm
Re 3.5 ohms
Le 2.7 mH
Sd 532 cm^2
Vas 59.8 L
Mms 343 g
Sensitivity (2.83v/1m) 86.7 db
Xmax 28.4 mm
Its designed to work in a .8-1 cubic foot sealed enclosure or a 1.6 ported box tuned at 33hz. I am testing it in a 1.08 sealed box with just under 1/2 lb of poly fill.
As I said earlier the sub is being powered with an Arc XDi 1100.1 running at 1 ohm. Source unit is a Pioneer P99RS with a Matt R mod and the sub is accompanied by a pair of Stereo Integrity TM65MKIII mids and JBL T04 titanium tweeter. System is running full active with the subwoofer on a LP filter at 60hz with a 12db slope. The mids take over at 80hz also on a 12 db slope.
So lets get into the nitty gritty of it. The sub looks wonderful and is quite beefy tipping the scales at just nearly 30lbs. The white cast basket is a nice touch and breaks away from the norm. Very robust spring terminals and a clean looking cone. The sub is very understated in its looks with no bright logos screaming "Look at me!" although the production version will have a black SI logo on its center cap. I do like the SI logo though as its simple and contemporary.
Now I should point out this is the prototype sub and as such is a tad different from the production version. The production version will have an 8mm shorter voice coil that should alleviate one of my complaints which we will get to in a moment.
In my testing of this sub a few things popped out at me instantly. The first was just how seamlessly the driver blended with the front speakers. Wonderful transparency. The other was just how low it could play effortlessly. The last was just how power hungry this thing is. Even on hip hop and bass music I could throw every last bit of power the amplifier could throw at it and the sub would not protest at all but I also felt it should be a tad louder on 1100 watts. Speaking with Nick I discovered this issue will be gone on the production version as it will be 3db more efficient due to the shorter voice coil. 8mm does not sound like a lot but thats a whole lot of copper so thats a whole lot of mass. It will handle the same power with the shorter coil and should make it quite the beast.
On to the sound. The ability to play very deep is a wonderful thing. It really brings a lot of life to all kinds of music be it if you are listening to Yes or K-Kamp. In addition to that its also a very accurate sub. Attack and decay are stellar making it sound very realistic with drums. Kick drums smack you in the chest with a very satisfying thump. Double kick drums are very well defined making any drum solo very satisfying.
I tried so many different styles of music and the subwoofer performed quite well on anything. Its sound was like a cross between the BM series and the HST series. It is very quick like the BM but has slap you in the face output like the HSTs and the ability to play sub 20hz notes at a level that rivals the BM series. I started with "She Sells Sanctuary" and found myself turning up the level more and more as its a fun old rock tune with great drums and a nice bass guitar line. In this song the sub blended so well that I only knew it was playing when I would turn it off. When running it did what any good SQ sub should do, become transparent and make your front end sound like the heros. Same with classic rock, just effortless quick bass. Weather it was Joe Walshs "Life of Illusion" or Moody Blues "Blue Guitar". The drums and bass guitar just sounded natural. Playing Yes "The Calling" was quite a treat. The drums were perfectly placed and with a wondrous slap to them. The synthesizer bass line really growls at you. At 6:30 on the songs closing there is a bass line that comes in and shakes you to the core. I dont know what frequency it plays from, sounds like 25-60hz, but is a sound I have heard for decades with only a few subs playing it like its supposed to sound. Most will get a bit muddy at high volumes but this sub was 100% composed and just gave a satisfying growl that shook the office 30' away. Playing Robert Plants "Big Love" I could just sit back and forget what I was doing. The kick drum accompanied by the bass guitar sent chills up my spine. Was just so smooth and clean it reminded me of my old Infinity Beta IRS servo subs.
Thats what really rocked my world on this sub is that at low, medium or ludicrous high volumes the sub always sounded the same. Was always warm and inviting. The impact was always spot on.
I then decided to torture test the sub with some rap, hip hop and bass music. I decided to break away from my normal test tracks and play with some other stuff like "Junior B" from Yello. Track has a nice deep bass line to company the female vocals, violins and various digital generated tones. At 2:35 a very deep bass line comes in that shook my eyeballs. Was actually a bit stronger than my pair of BM MKVs could do on the same power. Impressive for a single 12 in a small box. I then pulled out some old school Notorious BIG, Eminem and 'Pac. These subs would be right at home in an SQ system or a system that you just wanna bump with.
I closed out the testing with some K-Kamps "This Way". Very deep digging bass on this track. I have hurt a few subs over the years with this track. What blew me away is I fed every last drop of juice the 1100 could feed this subwoofer and the sub would not tap out. Amp was sucking the battery down to 11 volts and its the only track that can do that. The sub just did what it was asked and shook my entire shop.
I have included a video of it playing that song because the stroke is so impressive. Mind you this is recorded with my camera phone and the mic simply could not keep up. The distortion is in the recording, not the speaker.
So whats my thoughts on the sub? Well it should be louder on the power it was being fed. This should not be an issue on the production version as they will be 3db more efficient. I also wish it was a D4 voice coil as that would allow two to make the most out of a mono amp. Again, that will be offered in the production run. The pluses are it is superbly clean and accurate. It can reproduce live music, rock, oldies, symphony all with great accuracy. The big bonus is it helps quench that inner bass lovers desire when called upon. It will slam with the best of them and do it for hours on end at levels that will keep you saying "What?" when people try and speak to you the rest of the day.
Oh yeah, did I mention its under $300! $250 during pre-order and $280 afterward. I would really suggest getting in on the pre-order. I have never tested a sub $300 sub that can even come close to this things SQ and bass output. You could pay $600 and be every bit as pleased with it. It has to be the best bang (pun intended) for the buck out there. Its a good looking sub too. I give it two thumbs up. I for one will be ordering a production version because if its just like the prototype for SQ and bass but even louder and more efficient I really feel this driver is a home run. Could you get a sub to out perform it? Yeah, there are several out there BUT be ready to pay 3-5x as much and need a larger enclosure. There are many more subs out there that are 4x + the price and could not offer the SQ of this sub, much less with the sheer growl its capable of.