Hey guys & Girls, i thought i would post this up here, im from Australia so the prices are in AUD and im sorry for the metric measurements
Having spent a considerable amount of time listening to the IXL18 I was interested to see how the smaller IXL10 compared with its bigger brother. I was always very impressed by the IXL18 and I was optimistic about how the IXL10 would perform. I was hopeful that the IXL10 would be able to replicate the sonic character of the IXL18 in a smaller enclosure. Although I have a Mach5 SPL15 I had been looking for a smaller subwoofer for a daily musical system. The IXL10 ticked all the right boxes, small, affordable and orientated towards sound quality systems. Although very applicable for home theatre the focus of this review is on the IXL10 as a sound quality driver for mobile audio.
Technical Features & Specifications
The build quality is excellent for a driver in this price range as are the driver's features. Triple stack 7.5 motor structure is something that is more fitting of a driver retailing for $500, in this regard the IXL10 punches far above its price tag. Large foam surround is constant across the IXL range. It is worth noting that the surround consumes a considerable amount of area reducing the driver's effective cone area. However the drivers high Xmax of 20mm offsets the small piston diameter. The driver has a single spider which is reasonable stiff, more so that on the IXL18. Dual screw terminals rather than push down terminals. Other reviewers have commented on the frustrating nature of the screw terminals which are spring tensioned and sometimes difficult to use. Granted if you have large fingers they might be annoying but I figure most people will only use the terminals once or twice in the life of the driver. I personally had no issues with the terminals. The motor is large with a considerable pole piece vent for cooling. The coils are dual 2 ohm to facilitate a 1 ohm load when wired in parallel or 4 ohm in series. The coil itself is a 3 inch coil on an aluminium former. Despite the rating of 1000 watts RMS the IXL series coils will take considerably more power if not clipped before any thermal issues. (I'm not suggesting you try but its useful to know, for reference my IXL18 was subdued to 2000 measured watts and it took 4 minuted clipped to burn the coil.) Other specifications worth noting are the low resonant frequency (FS) of 27.8Hz which is very respectable for a 10 driver and the sensitivity rating of 81db/1W/1M. The low sensitivity and high power handling suggests on paper that the driver is very inefficient requiring considerable power to drive however I found this not to be the case. The IXL10 is what I would describe as an industrial looking driver with a focus on performance instead of looks with impressive features and specifications for its retail price of $235.
The review was conducted in my daily driver, a Ford Laser sedan. The source was a mid level Alpine Headunit, a CDE-104BTi to be exact. Music content was from either original CD's or an Ipod with files ranging from very compressed MP3's and MP4's (128k) to WMA and Apple Lossless. For the review I listened mainly with three amplifiers, a Jaycar monoblock, a Jaycar 2 Channel and a Digital Designs C4a. All amplifiers retailing bellow $500 which is the price range that potential buyers of the IXL10 will most likely purchase amplifier from. I did also pair the IXL10 with a Hertz HP1KD amplifier for a limited time to audition the driver with a high power, high quality amplifier. Previous experiences with recommended enclosures has lead me to adopt a principle of never building recommended enclosures so for the IXL10 I entered the TS parameters into WinISD 0.50a7 and modelled the driver in various enclosures. My goal for the IXL10 was quality output from a very small enclosure so I decided on a small sealed box. For a QTC of 0.7 (which is considered optimal) WinISD recommended a very small enclosure of 9 litres, due to the impracticality of such a design I settled on 18.5 litres. This gives a QTC of 0.58 which in theory translates into a slower low frequency roll of, or in other words more deep bass. I also modelled the IXL10 is various ported enclosures. Although it models very well in ported alignments due to the small box sizes and low tuning it is very hard to fit enough port area into the box. 20mm's of Xmax means the IXL10 requires a reasonable amount of port area which combined with the small box size and low tuning results in unfeasibly long ports. The box was 18mm all around with the exception of a double thickness front baffle. Given its final size of a little more than 320cm cube I decided box bracing was not required. The box was mildly stuffed with acoustic wool. On a final note most listening was with the box pushed up against the back seats with the driver facing the boot lid. As with all setups there is a compromise between overall output and quality, from the outset the goal was to achieve realistic infra bass reproduction at a level in keeping with the front speakers. Unlike my experiences with the Mach5 drivers (SPL15 and IXL18) overall output was not a priority.
I listened to a wide variety of music during this review from Ambient, Orchestral and Acoustic through to commercial Pop and Rock even expanding into Heavy Metal, Dance, Trance and Drum & Bass. Not only because this is what my daily listening includes but more importantly different genres of music challenge drivers in different ways.
Without a doubt one of my favourite bands, their albums 100th Window, Blue Lines, Mezzanine and No Protection are real favourites of a band widely attributed with the innovation of the genre Trip-Hop. Mezzanine is widely considered as a fantastic recording with s special emphasis on the bass lines, what better album to test a subwoofer. Track 7, Man Next Door, highlights the deep driving bass lines that massive attack are famous for. Double drum beats that are deep with substantial reverb. Unfinished Sympathy from the album Blue Lines is another perfect example. The IXL10 managed to reproduce these bass lines without the sloppiness and muddiness that many subwoofer produce. What was more surprising was the IXL10's ability to realistically reproduce these lows at a reasonable level from such a small sealed enclosure. I find Massive Attach a real challenge for most subwoofers yet the IXL10 really impressed.
This is an IXL motor next to the IXL10, the motor is from an IXL18, they are the same motor accross the range with tripple slugs and a large pole vent for cooling
Progressive metal, heavy metal, rock metal infusion, whatever you chose to classify Dream Theatre they have some impressive songs. A favourite of mine is the 23 minute A Change of Seasons which is very dynamic with fast and hard passages one minute followed by slower rock style sections. Starting at 3:20 there is a drum line that contains incredibly fast kick drum. I have heard systems where the detail in the kick drum is completely lost. Yet again the IXL10 surprised with fast dynamic reproduction. This song did highlight a slight lack of impact from the IXL10, while the sound was very fast and tight it did feel at times like the kick drum did not have the impact that it should have. Some like to refer to it as the missing fundamental, to expand while the sub sounded great I noticed a lack in physical impact, I felt like I could not feel the drum as I would have liked to. To be fair this is probably as much a criticism of my midbass drivers rather than the sub but I noticed it never the less. On a more positive note John Myung's bass riffs were always reproduced with good accuracy, even the low B which is very prominent in Dream Theatres Music. With a many subwoofers the bass lines are drowned out by the kick drum, with the IXL10 despite considerable kick drum I could always hear with good detail and accuracy the bass guitar.
I only have one album from Harmonic 33 titled Extraordinary People and to my knowledge it might be their only album but it is great. Without a doubt the song Kaleidoscope is the best on the album. For all the ground pounder guys who are sick of chopped and screwed bass CD's go hunt down this song, the bass line comes from nowhere 48 seconds into the song. The lows are very prominent and dig very deep, you not going to reproduce such lows with budget subwoofer or ported enclosures tuned in the traditional 35-40Hz range. Reproducing the low notes with reasonable volume is difficult but the real challenge comes from doing so while remaining clean and tight with low group delay. To be honest this song is probably the song that made me begin to really appreciate what the IXL10 is capable of. Without a doubt the best reproduction of this track I have yet experienced in my car.
This photo highlights the IXL's 20mm Xmax, the driver is capable of fairly serious throw which makes up for the small piston diameter.
Ghost In The Shell (Stand Alone Complex) Soundtracks 1,2,3
I doubt many are familiar with the soundtracks from the successful anime series Ghost In The Shell series. Musical producer Yoko Kanno is amazingly talented and these three CD's for the base for my auditioning CD's due to quality of the recordings and the diverse range of music. Litium Flower from the first soundtrack is a rock song that is driven by a full sounding bass line. Yet again the IXL seemed to reproduce the complicate and fast lines with accuracy and realism. Another equally good example of the IXL's performance was track 16 (Japanese title which I cannot translate) which contains some very fast drum and a sound effect that I can only describe as a door opening followed by a sweep that drops very low. This track emphasizes the IXL's ability to replicate sub 30Hz content. I did however find myself looking for more emphasised output during enthusiastic listening experiences.
Side by side with the cheaper Digital Designs 512a.
The albums Hold Your Colour and In Silico are excellent examples of Australian Drum & Bass with fast intricate and deep sweeping bass lines. Boxes with high group delay tend to sound horrible on Drum & Bass often ending up sounding delayed and muddy. The track 9,000 miles from In Silico contains lots of low frequency information and most systems struggle to sound realistic, most systems sound very poor on this track, especially at elevated volume levels. I once again noticed a lack of output and for the first time I felt like I was driving the subwoofer hard, at very loud listening levels the IXL10's output started to sound slightly distorted and lacking the clarity I had come to expect from the driver.
Don't worry if you have not heard about Andy Salvanos, he is a very talented local Adelaide artist who plays a 10 string Chapman stick. I have two albums Fragments and Closer which contain some great songs. The reason I decided to include these albums into the review is these albums I enjoyed listening to more than any others because of the IXL10. It's amazing how the most subtle details can have the most profound impact and effect on the listening experience. In the case of Andy's soft acoustic recordings the IXL10 added subtle impacts such as the harmonics between bass notes and warmth and depth to his melodic bass lines. A good friend who has considerable experience in audio was quick to comment on this when listening. The song Long Black Lunch from the album Closer is a perfect example, the subtle detail contributed by the IXL10 added considerable realism to the bass lines.
I spent lots of time in the car both stationary in the garage and on the road listening to music from all different genres. Despite the efficiency rating I found the IXL10 was not hard to drive even from 2 bridged channels of a 4 channel amplifier, 400 watts seemed enough to get the driver moving in a 18.5 litre sealed box. While is does seem loud enough on most music materials I found that some songs lacked impact. The best way to describe this is it feels like the 10 cannot sweep enough air to reproduce some material at high volumes. At lower volumes the sub produces very clean bass and amazingly has the ability to reproduce sub 30Hz content without much difficulty. I think the main problem with the lack of impact is due to my love of very loud dynamic music. Although this is not in keeping with the original aim of quality sub bass reproduction sometimes I found with the volume up high the IXL10 did struggle. In my sedan with the back seats folded up I think I would need 2 IXL10's to achieve exactly what I'm looking for. I could always hear the bass note regardless of how loud I pushed the volume but sometimes I could not feel them in a way I would have liked. For someone with a smaller hatch or more modest listening levels I cannot recommend the IXL10 enough. Ported would have given more output again but with a different sonic signature.
Here is a video of the IXL10 YouTube - Mach5 IXL 10
In my system other components are the limiting factor for the IXL10. While there is no doubt there are better drivers in production I found the IXL10 to perform far above expectations. Being mainly an SPL orientated car audio enthusiast I did not expect to enjoy the IXL10, yet I found the opposite happened. I have spent more time listening in that car then ever before, the IXL10 is the best sounding subwoofer I have had in my car, great sounding, clean and balanced. Despite a total lack of processing on my headunit I was able to achieve a good balance with my front speakers. I could not help but be impressed that potential buyers need not play around with custom boxes, the IXL10 will sound great in a generic 0.7 cube sealed 10inch prefab box. Unlike many drivers that require trial and error in boxes all I had to do with the IXL10 was build a generic sized sealed box and connect it to an amplifier. Others thoroughly enjoyed listening to music in my car with many commenting specifically on the sub and its clarity, many owning more expensive subwoofers themselves. As far as car audio memories the IXL10 will always be high on the list because it really opened my eyes to how good a subwoofer can sound in an automotive environment. The next step from here is either another IXL10 or an IXL12. As always a big thanks to Mark and Sam for offering great drivers at amazing prices. Oh and you had better get ready for another order when I work out wether I want another 10 or a IXL12