is well known for their high performance subwoofers and are widely recognized
by audiophiles and home theater enthusiasts alike. The company pioneered
the servo-controlled subwoofers, which have significantly lower distortion than conventional designs. The servo loop is closed around the cone position and incoming audio signal, resulting in a tight and accurate
low frequency response. This can be particularly challenging when attempting
to control large drivers with huge motor structures.
Building on the highly
regarded Digital Drive subwoofer series, Velodyne has recently
introduced the new Digital Drive Plus series that includes 10",
12", 15" and 18" models. We are covering the DD-12+ in
an elegant satin cherry finish in this review. Black gloss ebony and satin
walnut finishes are also available. The Digital Drive subwoofer design
includes features for automatically or manually optimizing the bass response. You can use the Self-EQ and Auto-EQplus optimization
methods without either of the user interfaces. However, if you want to use Manual-EQ
optimization or view your subwoofer's frequency response and/or parameter settings, you need to use one of the user interfaces.
subwoofer comes with an accessory kit that includes a remote control,
microphone, stand, USB cable (10 feet) mini-XLR (Mic) Cable, composite
video cable, white gloves, sweep tone CD, and Windows setup program CD.
The DD-12+ measures 15.8” x 14.4” x 18” and weighs
a hefty 75 pounds. The DD-12+ comes with an impressive three year warranty
on the electronics and a five year warranty on the driver. This covers
both parts and labor.
Our A/V system is centered around Denon's flagship AVR-5308CI A/V receiver and an OPPO BDP-95 universal audiophile blu-ray player. We also have a Dish Network Sling capable ViP 922 high definition satellite receiver with an integrated ATSC tuner for local broadcasts. The Denon AVR-5308CI is capable of decoding uncompressed multi-channel dts-HD Master Audio and Dolby TrueHD bitstreams. The Denon line level outputs are connected to a 5-channel Parasound HCA-2205AT amplifier feeding a trio of M&K Sound S150THX front channel speakers and a pair of Surround 250 Tripole speakers in the rear. Our system relies on two M&K MX350THX subwoofers paired with the front left and right channels. However, for this review we decided to only connect the DD-12+ as to evaluate the quality of the low frequency reproduction of this subwoofer. The AVR-5308CI is configured with the THX crossover
set at 80 Hz which works well with our main satellite speakers. Our listening room walls
are covered with Echo Buster sound absorption panels to help
eliminate slap echo and significantly reduce the RT60 time in the room. As a result, secondary reflections, which often blur
the sonic image are largely reduced or eliminated.
Subwoofers have always been challenging to configure, largely because the room plays a pivotal role in the overall bass response. Subwoofer placement is critical and performance typically varies depending on the location, so trying different positions often proves to be beneficial. To help users get started, Velodyne provides a Quick Start Guide to help make installation and setup easier. The Subwoofer Placement Recommendation Guide provides guidance and detailed recommendations on setting up one or more subwoofers in the room. Velodyne also provide a User Interface Manual to help guide users through the optimization of their new subwoofer.
User Interface Manual
Velodyne's User Interface Manual covers both the Windows (Part 1) and TV screen (Part 2) options for optimizing the subwoofer's performance. Only one of the interface options is needed for optimization or viewing of settings and frequency response curves, so users can skip to the part of this manual that covers the interface option they choose to use. Velodyne recommends the Windows option since users can see the parametric filter curves and save optimization settings to files on their computer. In addition, this option does not require connecting the subwoofer video outputs to the display. The last part of the User Interface Manual (Software & Driver Updates) covers how to update the driver, software, boot code and firmware.
The Digital DrivePLUS software offers a powerful user interface
that displays preset EQ and parametric filter settings and gives the user
a lot of control and flexibility during setup. The software supports Windows
XP, Windows Vista and Windows 7. The system requires the installation
of the USB Virtual COM port driver as part of the Windows setup program.
After looking at the PC-based software, it is clear why Velodyne recommends
using this over their built-in, low-resolution video interface.
Velodyne offers three equalization methods (Self-EQ, Auto-EQ, or Manual-EQ) allowing for different levels of adjustment.
Self-EQ uses the internal sweep tones and adjusts only the eight parametric EQs based on the room acoustics. Frequencies between 15 to 120Hz are covered with no adjustments to volume, crossover, slope, and phase being made. This is the fastest and easiest way to optimize the DD-12+.
performs optimization of the whole room taking into account the main speakers
and the location of the subwoofer. This optimization method requires playing
the sweep-tone CD on the connected CD player, the preamp/processor/receiver,
and the connected microphone. This optimization method can be started
from the remote, subwoofer front panel, or using the PC software. The
nice part about using the PC software is you can see the adjustments being
made real-time with the filter settings and frequency response graphs
mode allows you to adjust the settings manually as the name implies. The
filter (Q) setting can be adjusted from 0.1 to 20. The low-pass crossover
frequency (40Hz-199Hz) can be adjusted in 1Hz steps. The low-pass crossover
slope be set to 6, 12, 18, or 24 dB/octave. Phase polarity (+/-) as well
as the phase delay (0-180 degrees) can be adjusted allowing for complete
phasing control. The software allows the user to simply click on, drag
and drop any one of the 8 filter (Q) points on the screen. Interestingly
enough, none of these EQ modes attempts to adjust the subsonic slope,
which has a default setting of 15 Hz with a 24 dB/octave slope. Users
have the option of saving the parameters upon exiting. Both the Auto-EQplus
and Manual EQ methods use Velodyne's sweep-tone CD.
DrivePLUS software has a second screen that displays the five preset
parameters built into the DD-12+. The factory settings provide various
enhancements depending on the source material (Theater - EQ boost
at 37Hz, Rock - EQ boost at 52Hz, Jazz - reference listening
with no EQ, Custom - user settings, and Games - EQ boost
at 60 Hz). The defeat feature toggles the selected preset on and off.
Configuring each of the five modes (Theater, Jazz, Rock, Custom, and Games) is made easy with Velodyne's Settings panel. Volume, crossover frequency/slope, subsonic frequency/slope, phase, polarity, contour frequency/level, and Theater/Music settings are available for each of the modes. The Night Mode is also adjustable in this panel. These settings are applied to each of the modes when selected. The Auto-On control can be set to Inactive, Active, or 12V Trigger.
Subwoofers are heavy for several reasons, many of which are due to hefty construction, massive drivers and amplifiers with large magnetics. The DD-12+ subwoofer has all the attributes of a solid design with premium construction and heavy internal bracing that prevents unwanted colorations that can negatively affect the tightness and accuracy of the low frequency reproduction. Knocking on the cabinet reveals little if any significant resonance's in this enclosure, which is ideal. The internal cavity of the subwoofer is filled with acoustic fibre to further improve sound quality. The construction accounts for a large part of the weight along with the impressive driver design and huge magnet structure.
The large driver in the DD12+ is very impressive with a massive 35 pound magnet structure that has an extremely long excursion capability. The voice-coil uses a 6-layer design that measures just over 2 and a half inches (65 mm). The cone is made from a fiberglass rohacell laminate that is very rigid and the heavy-duty surround material is more than 1-inch wide. The combination allows the DD12+ to produce very high levels of bass even from a single 12-inch driver. In fact, the bass output was noticeably more intense than our M&K MX350THX subwoofer that uses two 12-inch drivers. This exceptional driver design gives the new DD12+ a whole new level of performance. The driver has spring-loaded speaker terminals for connecting the wires (something you will not see unless you happen to open up the unit). The massive magnet structure creates a huge B-field that is likely to cause problems for older CRTs. Modern-day flat panels need not be concerned.
Inside of the DD-12+
One might think that the heavy DD-12+ subwoofer uses a conventional power amplifier given the weight of this unit. However, the DD-12+ actually has a very efficient and light-weight switching power amplifier that does not rely on a big power transformer or output devices that are biased to generate a lot of heat to optimize sound quality. The switching power supply stores energy in six large 200-volt 1,000 uF capacitors on the main board. The lower board has the line-level audio circuitry that is separated from the power supply to help prevent switching noise from affecting the sound quality. The internal amplifier produces little heat, so massive heatsinks are not required even though the amplifier delivers a whooping 1250 watts rms and 3000 watts of dynamic power to produce an enormous amounts of bass.
On the Back
The large metal backpanel on the DD12+ has many interfaces not typically found on subwoofers, including ethernet, s-video and RS232 in/out ports. These are especially important if you plan to control the subwoofer remotely through a standalone controller such as RTI or Crestron. Balanced XLR connectors as well as standard RCA jack are provided to support all types of installations. Pass-through as well as high-pass outputs are provided for both balanced (XLR) and unbalanced (RCA) interfaces. The DD12+ even accepts speaker level inputs for receivers lacking line-level outputs, although few need this option. The main 120V power input does not have a ground connection. Line level and speaker level controls are provided to optimize the analog input settings. The ethernet jack allows advanced control of the DD-12+ using control systems such as our RTI XP-6 processor. Velodyne also provides an IR input when line-of-sight with the IR remote is not possible. The 12V trigger input can be used to automatically power the sub from a master unit (receiver or preamp/processor).
With the front cover removed, the DD-12+ provides an access panel with a mini-USB interface, mini-XLR microphone jack, IR receiver, 3-digit LED display, volume control (00-99) crossover-frequency (40-199 Hz) control, and an Auto EQ button to run the the Auto-EQplus equalization. The two controls on the panel use encoders rather than traditional potentiometers, so there is no worry about these getting scratchy later in life. Volume and crossover potentiometers are adjustable in 1dB and 1Hz increments, respectively. Phase can be adjusted from 0 to 180 degrees (variable in 15
The DD-12+ includes a full sized IR remote making it easy to control the subwoofer functions. The main power button on the top right is used to toggle between active and standby modes with the main subwoofer power switch in the ON position. The EQ button is used to run the Auto-EQplus optimization. Once the Auto-EQ or Self-EQ has been run and saved into memory, the user must hold this button down for al least 5-seconds to prevent accidentally over-writing a previous optimization. Dedicated buttons allow the user to select listening preset (Theater, Rock, Jazz, Games, Custom, Defeat), night mode, volume level, adjust and reset the subwoofer when connected to a display. The Night mode limits the peak volume of the subwoofer to a percentage of the selected preset volume or Setup volume. The Reset button resets the volume to the last saved setting on the System Settings screen and defeats the crossovers on the Settings screen. The Set buttons are used to increase or decrease the Q values for the parametric EQ or to set values on the Settings screen. The Light button toggles the display between momentary and constantly on. There is also a set of controls for using the Manual-EQ application without a PC, including a numeric keypad. Unfortunately, there is no backlight on this remote. It is important not to lose the IR remote as some of the adjustments can only be made using this remote.
To test out the performance of the DD-12+ subwoofer with some recent high quality material, we played a few selections from DTS' Bluray demo disc #15 and #16. These demo discs provide a collection of both movies and music with excellent fidelity, thanks to their uncompressed dts-HD Master Audio format. Even at high playback levels, the DD-12+ had no problem delivering amazingly tight and forceful bass response without loss of control or bottoming out. The dts trailers that are provided on these demo discs capture movie highlights and provide superb sound quality.
Courtesy of Universal Studios, Despicable Me provides the audience with a reference quality audio and video experience. The aggressive multi-channel surround mix with naturally sounding deep bass creates a convincing presentation without sounding artificial. Sound effects that pan across the room are delivered seamlessly with pinpoint accuracy and deep bass reproduction. Even with a mix of music and dialogue, the sound is intelligible and clear for an engaging experience.
DTS 5.1 & DVD-Audio
One of our favorite DTS 5.1 soundtracks comes from Bonnie Raitt on her Road Tested disc. Her voice exhibits a smooth upper midrange even at high volumes accompanied by the loud and forceful kick drum. I could actually see the DD-12+ driver move as the drum impacts. Again, this subwoofer moved some serious air without causing any listening fatigue during our long listening sessions.
Porcupine Tree's Wedding Nails also provided an excellent live recording demo presented in the DTS-HD Master Audio format. I have listened to this band live in Los Angeles and their music was certainly engaging. Another example of tight and cohesive bass reproduction.
The Velodyne Digital Drive 12+ is a beautiful subwoofer design that delivers in all categories. The massive 12-inch driver with long linear excursion works in perfect harmony with the integrated 1250 watt amplifier, providing enormous bass output from an enclosure that is actually pleasing to look at with its curved features and beautiful finish. In fact, few subwoofers can produce this degree of tight and articulate bass while delivering high output levels. The heavy construction keeps this subwoofer from resonating and coloring the low frequency reproduction.
The Velodyne DD-12+ integrated seamlessly with our M&K S150THX front satellite speakers and Surround 250 rear channels. These satellite speakers are now over 10 years old and still perform perfectly with a state-of-the-art subwoofer. The advanced optimization features built into the DD-12+ will get users optimal sound in complicated environments. Manual options are available for those who want full control of their subwoofer settings. While the DD-12+ is by no means inexpensive ($3399), the performance of this subwoofer leaves much of the competition in the dust.