I finally managed to get my hands on a maxxbass 103 processor when it started retailing here in australia a couple of months back. I thought i would include my impressions because reviews of this device are a little hard to find and there has been some pretty controversial debate about it in other forums. I decided to post it here cos i love this forum and because all the smart guys browse this forum and will definitely come across this. werewolf and dang, this means you.
First some background reading:
How it started:
It started off innocently enough. I heard of a electronics/car audio retailer nearby who stocked the unit. Fair enough, i dropped by for a demo. It was a noisy and crowded store, but they had a unit hooked up to some ghetto nasty car audio speakers on soundboards. I brought a couple of cds with me to test out. It was hard to judge, but i did what i could and my initial impressions when playing the music whilst going back and forth bypassing and activating the maxxbass processor was "my goodness, it really works." I could easily hear basslines an octave lower (maybe more) with the maxxbass unit activated on the minimum setting (set to 'door' and not 'sub'). I tried the sub setting and did not notice a difference but there was a large difference on the 'door' setting. There was just a lot more presence, and notes which were clearly inaudible or close to it suddenly appeared just as large in intensity as everything else in the spectrum. Some have said it before, hooked up to standard 6.5 inch speakers, if i didnt tell you the maxxbass was being used, and i just turned it on, you would think that i activated an additional subwoofer somewhere.
So i thought to myself: "Alright, this thing passed the first test, now i'll buy a set and do some more testing at home and see if i REALLY think this unit is a keeper". They ordered in a unit for me, and i just picked it up today.Here are the results
I should state from the onset that i have a severe lack of equipment right now. my scope and DMM are no longer in australia so my impressions are divided basically into 2 parts: Performance using test tones, then how they performed subjectively with music. I used 2 seperate sets of equipment, the first a high-resolution pair of headphones with a dedicated headphone amp (my choice of musical reference, i have yet to hear any car audio system come close to the sound quality my headphones possess, and in the headphone world, they are only middle tier at best). The headphones are Beyerdynamic DT-770 Pros. Then i repeated the listening tests on my home mini hi-fi, a standard 200 dollar boombox with a 3 way bass reflex setup.
With test tones, i began at 250Hz, listening to frequencies in 1/3 octave steps all the way down to 30Hz. i would enable/disable the maxxbass repeatedly and observe the difference. The same back-and-forth methodology was also used with music, but more on that later.
Starting at 250Hz, and activating the maxxbass, i did not notice a single difference in the tone itself. The signal itself appeared marginally louder, but no different in tone. I noticed the same effect as i went lower in frequency. Up till about 100Hz, i noticed a slight increase in volume with no difference in the tone itself, which leads me to believe there was no (audible) introduced distortion at 100Hz and above. So far, so good.
Below 100Hz though, things started to change. Starting at 80Hz, there was a dramatic rise in the percieved volume. Again, no difference in the tone, so no audible distortion. This effect persisted and the difference became larger and larger as i went lower in frequency because my headphone's response was starting to rolloff and the maxxbass was restoring it to flat faultlessly. At 50Hz-80Hz, the percieved difference was almost shocking. Huge amounts of clean tone, with no signs of stress or distortion to be found anywhere.
Below 50Hz though, although the level was still being 'fixed' by the maxxbass to intensity levels seen at higher frequencies, there was an audible change in tone when the maxxbass was activated. You could audibly pick up on the upper frequency harmonics. This continued all the way to 30Hz.
Just to re-iterate, the maxxbass was on 'door' setting the whole time, meaning it kicked in at 70Hz according to the manual. I tried it with the 'sub' setting and noticed almost no difference anywhere, at any frequency. Differences were slightly audible at lower frequency but the difference was tiny and hardly consequential.
Moving on to music, the impression i have is consistent with my test tone results. I could hear a very audible bass extension. I listen to my headphones a lot, and the music i used, i was very familar with. I can safely say that despite the maxxbass working, it was not introducing any kind of change in the way the music is presented or adding unrecorded information in. Imagine a speaker's F3 is 80Hz. With this thing activated, it was absolutely no different from suddenly changing the speakers F3 to 40Hz and keeping the frequency response shape exactly the same other than that. Thats the best way to describe how it sounded. Again, hardly any difference on the 'sub' setting.
I moved on to my boombox and basically got the same results.
Other points to note:
I did not notice an audible decrease in the preamp output voltage levels of the maxxbass unit when hooked up to my headphones or boombox. There might have been some loss, but if any, it was not noticable or significant. i was getting the exact same volume to my ears as if the maxxbass unit was not introduced in the signal chain. The clip indicator on the maxxbass unit never came on during testing.
When listening on my headphones, i could hear audible hiss being introduced when the unit was activated and no music was playing. This hiss would disappear when the maxxbass processing was disabled. When hooked up to speakers, the hissing was almost completely gone and i would never have noticed it if i didnt hear it on my headphones first. There is also an audible 'click' in the music when the maxxbass processing was activated but this is not a big issue if you dont bypass/activate the unit repeatedly when listening to your music. I did not detect any turn on/off pops from the unit. At all times, i never noticed much audible difference when using the 'sub' setting on the unit.
Overall i would say that i am very optimistic about this unit. Controversy aside, i can definitely say that this unit does work the way it claims. I did not hear any kind of distortion except at very low frequencies, and even then, only with test tones, and not music. No other part of the musical spectrum was affected by the unit except the midbass frequencies and below i.e. no difference in the midrange and treble. I personally think that this unit will work incredibly when used on door speakers with a highpass at 50Hz or higher. I doubt that one would obtain a large enough difference to make it worthwhile if used on subwoofers. Used on door speakers to make up for the lack of a sub or to bring that upfront-bass presence without introducing audible distortion, i doubt anyting in the car audio world (short of getting a much bigger/better/more expensive speaker) beats it. The only thing that would stop me using this unit in future is if the hiss i talked about earlier becomes audible in my car audio setup. If it was, this unit is as good as ruined
Hope this helps, and sorry if it was a little long to read