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Energy S10.2 Subwoofer Review

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For those of you who frequent Home Theater & Sound and our sister websites in the SoundStage! Network, Energy Speakers is a name with which you will be familiar. Energy is one of the highly regarded brands under the umbrella of the massive speaker manufacturer Audio Products International (API), based in Ontario, Canada. The other well-received brands manufactured by API are Mirage and Athena Technologies. The Energy speaker brand spans all price ranges, from budget to the high end.

Recently, Energy completely revamped its popular line of subwoofers. The $500-USD S10.2 subwoofer currently sits in the middle of Energyís subwoofer range.

Description

Model: S10.2 powered subwoofer

Dimensions: 15.75"H x 15.75"W x 17.3"D
Weight: 33.3 pounds
Price: Click here


Features
  • 10" injection-molded polypropylene woofer with rubber surround and 1.5" voice coil
  • 150W (RMS), 600W (peak) MOSFET amplifier
  • Dual 2"-diameter flared front vents
  • Audio/Video EQ
  • Variable low-pass filter (50Hz to 100Hz)
  • RCA and speaker-level inputs
  • Front-mounted controls
  • Black-ash vinyl finish

Introducing the Energy S10.2

The Energy S10.2 is a fairly compact subwoofer finished in a black-ash laminate. It contains an amplifier rated for 150W nominal and 600W peak output. The driver is a forward-firing 10" polypropylene cone woofer with a massive 28-ounce magnet and 1.5" voice coil for high power handling. On its lower front face, two large, flared 2" vents dominate, making this subwooferís appearance far from ordinary. Another uncommon but welcome feature is the front-mounted control panel. The controls situated on this panel include subwoofer volume level, an A/V EQ (equalizer) switch, and a low-pass filter control, continuously variable from 50Hz to 100Hz. When switched to "V" (for Video), the A/V EQ boosts low frequencies to give more punch to DVD movie soundtracks. The low-pass filter controls the upper frequency at which the subwoofer rolls off. Energy should be applauded for putting the controls in such a convenient location.

Although the on/off switch is on the back, when you leave it in the "On" position the S10.2 automatically turns on when a signal is detected -- a blue-colored LED between the front vents lights up -- and turns off after a time period when no signal is present. Also around back are two mono line-level inputs -- one labeled Input and the other labeled X-Over. The Input connection is used when your receiver or preamplifier does not have its own crossover to restrict high-frequency signals from reaching the subwoofer (somewhat of a rarity today in most A/V receivers) or when you want to fine-tune your subwoofer volume level. The X-Over input can be used with most A/V receivers whose LFE outputs are attenuated above 100Hz (or less), which is the case with most A/V receivers these days. I recommend trying the X-Over input first, which worked well in my system.

There are speaker connections around back, both inputs and outputs, for connecting the S10.2 with your main speakers. This configuration works well if you have a stereo-only setup, or want to set up your main speakers in your home-theater receiver to "Large." You should experiment with the various settings to see what works best in your system, and the S10.2 gives you all the connections to try these options. Energy went the extra step of providing good-quality five-way binding posts, which will accept banana plugs, spade lugs, or bare wire if you so choose.

Performance Energy S10.2 Subwoofer Review

The Energy S10.2 was set up in my usual home theater next to the left front loudspeaker. Using a wide range of speakers, I got a good idea of how the Energy S10.2 performs with mini-speakers to large towers.

To get an initial feel for how the Energy S10.2 would perform, I used test tones from Sound & Visionís Audio Test CD [SV-CD1] from the now-defunct Canadian magazine (not to be confused with the current American publication). These test tones are a torture test for subwoofers. With 16Hz and 20Hz signals, there was a lot of movement from the 10" driver, but very little measurable sound. This is understandable, since all subs that Iíve heard in this price range do not provide output down to 20Hz. At 25Hz, though, there was good output: about 85dB with my sound meter six feet away. Turning the volume level louder resulted in audible "chuffing" from the ports, although the cabinet remained rattle-free. At 32Hz the Energy S10.2 subwoofer had significant output, easily hitting over 105dB in my room. At the upper limit, this subwoofer had good output at 125Hz before rolling off significantly above this frequency. This indicated to me that the Energy S10.2 would blend well with most speakers, and it did. However, I found its output blended best with mid-sized bookshelf speakers, such as the Axiom M3Ti SE.

Next, I pulled out my bass-heavy DVDs and CDs and gave the Energy S10.2 an extended audition.

One of my favorite DVDs for testing bass dynamics is Dinosaur. In chapter 1, a Tyrannosaurus rex chases a smaller dinosaur collecting an egg. The T. rex "footstomps" were played loudly and cleanly through the Energy S10.2. The quantity of bass was huge, easily filling my 3500-cubic-foot room. The bass did sound a touch looser and more resonant than Iíve heard with far more expensive subwoofers, but this is understandable given the modest price of the Energy S10.2.

In chapter 6 of Dinosaur, an asteroid hits Earth. The soundtrack starts off quiet, and then climaxes with a huge explosion. This subwoofer easily kept up with the on-screen action, unleashing prodigious bass to match. The impressive quantity of bass showed me that this subwoofer was clearly designed to perform well in a home-theater environment.

I observed another example of the Energy S10.2ís high output capability while watching Jurassic Park III. Using the DTS 5.1 soundtrack, the opening credits set the stage for the bass dynamics to follow. The sound effects contain two huge foot-stomp sounds that shook my walls and floors. This was very impressive! In chapter 5, a couple of dinosaurs, a T. rex and another meat-eating dinosaur, a Spinosaurus, meet up in a death fight. Every jaw clamp, foot stomp, and body slam was accompanied by a loud "whomp" from the Energy S10.2.

In chapter 10, a group of Parasaurolophus flees a pair of Velociraptors. If you donít own this disc, picture a couple of cheetahs chasing after a herd of gazelles. The roar of their foot stomps, through this subwoofer, pounded the walls of my home theater. Although I think Jurassic Park III is a mediocre film, the response from the Energy S10.2 added immensely to my enjoyment of this DVD.

To test bass transients, I used the DVD Das Boot: The Director's Cut. This is a brilliant WWII film about a tour of duty aboard a German U-boat. The film sound was redesigned and rerecorded digitally for this special version. In chapter 2 of side 2, a destroyer on the surface races by in search of the U-boat and depth charges explode all around the submarine. Through the Energy S10.2, each explosion is a distinct event with very little overhang -- a very impressive performance!

Comparison

For comparison, I was lucky enough to have three other similarly priced subwoofers on hand: the Athena AS-P400 ($400), the Paradigm PDR-12 ($419), and the Mirage LF-150 ($500). I spent the better part of a Sunday afternoon with SoundStage!ís associate editor Roger Kanno comparing the four subwoofers. The tracks used were from Mussorgsky: Pictures at an Exhibition [DOR-90117], a recording with deep bass from a massive organ, and Blue Note Festival 2002 [Blue Note 72435-40073-2-3], a sampler disc with a track from Soulive called "Clap!" that I like. This electronic instrumental cut has punchy bass in the 40Hz to 60Hz range. I used the Audio Test CD as well, to measure the bass limits and response from each subwoofer.

On the Soulive track, I found the Athena Technologies AS-P400 subwoofer to be leaner but punchier than the Energy S10.2. The electronic bass was tighter through the Athena AS-P400 too. On the several "Promenade" tracks from Mussorgsky: Pictures at an Exhibition, the Energy S10.2 was warmer and looser than the Athena, filling the room with more bass.

The Paradigm PDR-12 exhibited good response from 25Hz to 63Hz, but rolled off above this frequency. Listening to the Soulive track again, this resulted in an audible hole in the upper bass when trying to blend this subwoofer with the Axiom M3Ti SE speakers, which wasnít a problem with the Energy S10.2. As good as the Energy S10.2 was at filling my room with bass, the Paradigm PDR-12 provided slightly more room-filling organ on the "Promenade" tracks from Mussorgsky: Pictures at an Exhibition.

Finally, I ran the Mirage LF-150 through the same tracks as the other subwoofers. It sounded similar to the Energy S10.2, with good response to 25Hz. The Mirage LF-150 was slightly punchier than the Energy S10.2 on the Soulive track. On the "Gnomus" and "Promenade" tracks from Mussorgsky: Pictures at an Exhibition, the Energy S10.2 provided slightly more bass output than the Mirage LF-150.

Conclusion

The Energy S10.2 is a terrific little subwoofer. It excels in a home-theater environment in a medium-sized room, where it can provide gobs of room-filling bass from well-recorded DVDs. It is a definite step up from entry-level subwoofers that use 8" drivers. It passed the "rattle" test with muster, shaking my walls and furnishings as I expect from a well-designed subwoofer. Although it enhanced the sound of all the various-sized speakers I used, I found the Energy S10.2 to blend better with bookshelf-sized speakers rather than micro-sized speakers, such as the Energy Take 5.2 system.

So, if youíre in the market for a modestly priced subwoofer with very high performance for your home theater, I encourage you to give the Energy S10.2 a listen. You may conclude that it is all youíll ever need.

 
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