What are your Favorite Subwoofer drivers?

Discussion in 'DIY Subwoofers' started by Matthew J Poes, Feb 19, 2018.

  1. Matthew J Poes

    Matthew J Poes Staff Writer
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    I've generally made no apologies for my views on subwoofer drivers. I've established a set of criteria I use to evaluate a driver as a good choice in a home subwoofer. Some of those criteria may or may not have much merit in the real world. None the less, it has lead to a small number of drivers, mostly Pro audio, which meet my criteria.

    What I look for is a driver with at least 10mm of linear XMAX (assuming sufficient driver diameter) and preferably quite a bit more. A power handling that is in excess of 1000 watts. relatively low inductance for a subwoofer. A linear motor design which makes use of good linearizing techniques such as the voice coil itself, inductance rings, etc. Finally, that it be a high quality and well built driver, preferably one that can be readily rebuilt if damaged. Beyond that, I like good sensitivity, but using better terminology, one that can be designed to have high system efficiency at the frequencies it will be utilized at. Low distortion, including in the upper bass frequencies. This means that pro subwoofers tend to be the best options because they tend to meet these criteria for the least money, and in some cases, simply do a better job meeting the criteria compared to any driver.

    It was very validating when Ricci started testing these pro drivers and finding that the best of them could seriously kick some butt in the low bass department.
    http://www.data-bass.com/systems

    One criteria I require (as mentioned above) is low distortion. A number of high powered home theater subwoofers have very high inductance and do not have the most linear motors. These combine to create a driver that often has rising distortion not just as the driver loses its composure in the excursion department, but at higher frequencies as well. Many of these drivers has higher levels of 2nd harmonic distortion which is likely not so bad, but also odd order. This is more bad as it is more audible. Because the odd order rises, you also often see higher odd order distortion (5th, 7th, etc.) begin to rise, and while still very low in absolute terms, they actually exceed audible levels rather quickly (and would not be masked by content because they are higher order). This is why I like pro drivers as they don't typically suffer this issue, while handling a lot of power, being really well made, and easily rebuilt if need be. Add in great high sensitivity and you have a sub that is capable of a lot of output. The downside of these pro drivers as compared to the others I mentioned is typically two fold:
    1. much lower xmax, often 1/2 to 1/3 that of the uber subs
    2. lower mms, higher BL, and a number of other factors that tend to favor a larger box and a more downwardly tilted response.

    So that's my preference and why. I'm not suggesting my view is right or the only way. It is simply my preference. I'd like to know what your preferences are and why.

    Now as for my favorite drivers (meeting all the criteria above):
    1. B&C 21DS115-4 (Current favorite driver at any price)
    2. B&C 18DS115-4
    3. Focusworks GUJ21v1
    4. Faitalpro 18XL1800
    Affordable drivers meeting at least some of the above criteria:
    1. Dayton Ultimax 18
    2. Dayton PA465s-8 (Very under-rated in my opinion, 11mm of xmax, 1000 watts rms, 2000 watts max power, 94db sensitivity, and linear motor)
    And....Promising mew driver line
    1. La Voce Subwoofers http://www.loudspeakersplus.com/LaVoce-Pro-Audio-Speakers-s/228.htm
    Expect some future articles related to La Voce drivers. I have already talked with Loudspeakers plus about coming out to their facility and touring the drivers once they arrive. Who knows, maybe more. These drivers seem to offer many of the things I love at more favorable pricing.

    So that's my preference and why. I'm not suggesting my view is right or the only way. It is simply my preference. I'd like to know what your preferences are and why.
     
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  2. chrapladm

    chrapladm Moderator
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    We are in the same boat as far as wants. My top drivers are basically the same. However that is also based on using a single driver for bass. If using a 2 way system( horn subs with other alignment) for bass that top 4 for me can change.

    The 21SW152 is my top choice as it is almost exactly the same price for me as the DS115. And the 18SW115 is also the same price as the DS115 so the same for the 18. I think Funk's drivers would be my choice also based on opinions and simulations. But I also would love to own TC 5100 but they are no longer for now.:(

    If I have the room I would love to have a horned sub setup down to about 20-25hz. Then add in some LLT's for below that. I would use the 21SW152's but if there is enough room a 21Guj would work. I am also pretty sure the SI, IA, Mach 5 offerings would also work. For me I have not had the room so most of the time I end up with one type of alignment for subs.

    BUT I also have learned that when using subs you must make sure that you use REW to see what your getting. I like the large non pro audio drivers below about 30hz and above that I prefer the bass from pro audio drivers. Although I may be content with a LLT 21SW152 which is next on the list to build.

    Lots of variables for me but I am slowly getting the system I am wanting. Working on L/R upgrade has been the biggest improvement so far.
     
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  3. Matthew J Poes

    Matthew J Poes Staff Writer
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    The 21SW152 is probably a better driver in absolute terms than the DS115, it handles more power, has lower inductance, lower distortion, handles a bit more power, etc. In practice it seems that the DS115 is probably a better choice for use in ported or sealed boxes, while the SW152 might be the better option for horns. @Mark Seaton tested a bunch of these a while back and may have more to say.

    I'm not a big sub 20hz kind of guy, I have to say, and in my own experience, these drivers we are talking about produce prodigious amounts of sub 20hz bass in room. A single Dayton PA465s in a ~5 cu ft ported enclosure tuned to 19hz is producing flat bass down to 15hz and below, and the distortion is exceedingly low up to 110db's, the limit of where i have measured so far. If I get a time when the family isn't home I will test again. Testing at 115 or 120db's below 30hz is tough because even in a soundproof room that is loud enough to be both readily felt and readily heard throughout the rest of the house. Most soundproof walls like the ones I built only have maybe 15-20db's of transmission loss below 80hz, which means that 115db's is going to be upwards of 90db's outside the theater. That is LOUD by most any reasonable standard.

    I like the SI24 drivers, but for the money, I prefer the funk made drivers such as the Focusworks line. They seem to have a more linear motor with otherwise similar performance. I'm not saying I wouldn't happily take the SI24's, just saying if it was my money and I could pick anything, I probably would go that direction. If we were talking about limiting them to below 50hz, then it wouldn't matter in the slightest. The greater excursion and power handling would likely favor the SI drivers.

    And finally, yes, REW or any measurements is pretty critical. Just look at my article on SBIR to see why. I know a lot of "experts" who have misperceived a big dip in the bass due to placement related cancelation effects as having better smoother tighter bass. It took me showing them with objective measurements that it was in fact a flawed response. I even had one who never gave up his convictions and insisted what I measured was not what he heard, that it was a flaw in the measurement (even though more than 30 separate measurements taken in different locations all came to the same conclusion, and was mathematically provable).
     
  4. tesseract

    tesseract Senior Admin
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    JTR Speakers proprietary woofers

    Eminence LAB15 is a fantastic driver for the money.

    I have ported duals of the precursor to the Dayton Ultimax 18, which is now the contemporary value king.
     
  5. Matthew J Poes

    Matthew J Poes Staff Writer
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    The Lab15 is a good value.

    AND since you mention Jeffa drivers, I wish Eminence would introduce new Subwoofer drivers based on a new deeper frame. Their current frame can't support much more than 8-10mm of Xmax and so they would need to add spacers to gain extra Xmax, which is not something they offer in an off the shelf driver. Jeff uses a custom Eminence driver in his lower end subs and I understand it uses a custom spacer to achieve higher Xmax. I have no idea how much, Jeff is pretty tight lipped.

    His better subs use a Fi built driver and all I can say is that he must have really worked hard with them. Their HT driver has such high inductance that odd order distortion rises like crazy as output increases. JTR subs don't show this behavior nearly as much, there distortion above 50hz is actually low enough to be near as good as it gets. I don't know how he does it. I had a Fi 15" HT driver a number of years ago that I had custom built and it didn't perform great. I also had some custom TC Sounds TC 3000 subs that I also sold because of high inductance related distortion. They also were very noisy subs at high Xmax. I never could put my finger on why I didn't like those subs but I ultimately prefered a 12" Dayton Reference sub to either of those and kept that until getting the Geddes Bandpass subs with B&C drivers.
     
  6. chrapladm

    chrapladm Moderator
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    If Fi would ever get back to me I was going to use one of their 15's in a horned sub. BUT I could just use an 18 from BC. I usually give up SPL for SQ. PLUS I never have problems or any issues when dealing with BC. Always get answers promptly. But yes the FI had always been horrible with inductance. I was going to try one of their new 15's to see how it performs.

    JTR makes some awesome products. I will be loosely making a clone on his dual 15 main(Noesis 215RT). I was already going to make something very similar and then saw he had built a design already. And his dual 18" Cap ULF or OS subs are monsters I would definitely buy if I needed a pair of OEM subs.

    Not many pro audio like high Xmax drivers out there. BMS 18N862 is another option. Funk seems to be about as close as you can get.
     
  7. Matthew J Poes

    Matthew J Poes Staff Writer
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    B&C, Fatal Pro, and 18 sound all now make a number of pro drivers with higher than typical xmax. I don't know what counts as truly high xmax anymore, but I consider average to be 10mm or less. 11-15mm to be above average. 16mm-25mm to be high xmax. 25mm plus to be ultra high xmax. A lot of these drivers have as much as 60+mm of total cone travel and while they exceed xmax at say 15mm, they may still be producing relatively low distortion bass just outside that range.

    I have limited experiences here, of course, so I don't want to overstate this, but what I had found with those ultra high xmax drivers I did own was that they often were pretty noisy at those high excursions which could be distracting. Some of these drivers have also been Klippel tested and not quite met their XMAX rating in linear excursion. B&C calls this other spec XVAR and a number of their drivers even show slightly less linear excursion than their geometric excursion value would be. Back when one of the car audio forums had a member with a Klippel tester, he had found a few drivers rated in excess of 30mm's that fell a bit short of that, some quite a bit short. All of this led me more and more toward the pro drivers, especially these new ones with pretty high excursion.
     
  8. chrapladm

    chrapladm Moderator
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    I like Klippel testing but inductance is another thing. There are plenty of drivers that Sundown make that match their Klippel testing but still have high inductance. Oh well.

    I only wish I could buy a pair of the Funk drivers but they are beyond my budget. The best thing for me is the BC 21's. And I only wish I didnt have to have a MOQ of 50 drivers to be able to get a 2 ohm 21.(IPAL specs but 2 ohms.)

    My next purchase for subs when the time comes will most likely be BC. Might go with the DS115 but I will have to check pricing when the time comes.
     
  9. jtwrace

    jtwrace New Member

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    Has your top drivers changed? I'm very interested in some 18" B&C such as the B&C 18TBW100 in a sealed box for ULF is what I'm thinking.
     
  10. Matthew J Poes

    Matthew J Poes Staff Writer
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    https://www.parts-express.com/lavoce-san18403-18-neodymium-subwoofer-8-ohm--293-731

    Check these out. Good value. 13mm of xmax, night light weight design. Neo motor. Good power handling. Basically Italian designer but Chinese built. I’ve had a little time with this line and I think they are a great value.
     
  11. Tonto

    Tonto Senior Member

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  12. Matthew J Poes

    Matthew J Poes Staff Writer
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    For the really low stuff they are hard to beat. My hang up has always been displacement per dollar. The value proposition isn’t there. While no regular 18” sub is even going to approach what this can do, if you have the room, multiple good 18’s will. If all you want is the most output for the money (with the best sound quality), a quad of ultimax’s is Hard to beat. IF you want bragging rights to say you have 24’s or want the most output in the least space, these suckers are hard to beat.
     
  13. Tonto

    Tonto Senior Member

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    They have cheaper ones as well that also preform well. He used to put on sales that were very attractive. If I remember correctly he was a sponsor in the old days. Has anybody reached out to him lately?
     
  14. Matthew J Poes

    Matthew J Poes Staff Writer
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    Nothing he offers today has the value of the Ultimax. He has occasionally launched a cheap 18, they have been ok. The nice thing about the Ultimax is that it’s extremely linear. It has among the lowest distortion of any subwoofer on the market. Similar to the also excellent reference series, but with more xmax. The best Stereo Integrity 18 is still not quite as clean, but handles way more power and has way more excursion. For many people with a finite amount of space, it makes more sense to use the highest output sub driver they can find (and the HST-18 is still a pretty clean driver). If you only have room for one 18 or even if you have room for four, the extra 3-6 dB of output you get from the HST-18 might be well warranted. On the other hand, my point was that if you have room for a single 24” sealed sub, you also have room for dual 18’s. The Ultimax will equal or exceed the 24 at that point for a fraction of the cost. Especially true when comparing two 24” subs against 4 of the Ultimax 18’s.

    It’s not a knock on SI. His subs are excellent quality, made in America, and you support a small business. All good reasons to buy SI. They are the Corvette ZR-1 is subs. The Ultimax is Chinese made and Parts express and its suppliers are all big businesses. But man do they know how to make a great sub driver for a great price. The Nissan GT-R is subs if you will.
     
  15. Negatron

    Negatron Moderator
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    Have you looked at Danley DTS10 subs? I had 2 of them in my last HT...one under the center channel (behind the screen), and the other under the 2nd row of our HT seating. If you look around you might be able to find a used pair of the DTS10 kits (Much cheaper than the retail ones...I wish Danley would have kept selling the kits or would sell the plans).
     
  16. Health Nut MD

    Health Nut MD New Member

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    Ju aas t checking in.... I dissapeared from building subwoofers after doing the TC sounds (8) LMS 5400 drivers... I still have 2 drivers factory sealed in boxes because I bought 2 extra drivers I still haven't used.

    Can you tell me what is the current cost no object subwoofer driver(s)? I wonder how the TRW fan subwoofer is doing these days?
     

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