Hsu Research STF-1 review: Hsu Research STF-1

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4 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

The Good Sassy budget subwoofer; 8-inch woofer; 150-watt amplifier; seven-year warranty.

The Bad Loses definition at high volume levels.

The Bottom Line Hsu Research's most affordable subwoofer sings with micro satellites.

8.0 Overall

The Hsu Research STF-1 is one hell of a $299 subwoofer, but it really didn't surprise us; after all, the brand specializes in producing affordable high-performance subwoofers. But Hsu recently broke free of the subwoofers-and-nothing-but-subwoofers strategy when it introduced a superb satellite speaker package, the VT-12 ($299). If you buy the STF-1 and VT-12 combo factory direct, Hsu will knock off $100, bringing the total package price to a very affordable $498.

The STF-1 has a downward-firing 8-inch woofer and a 150-watt amplifier and is available in textured black (pictured) or silver PVC coating. As budget subs go, it's nearly a full-size model, measuring 19 inches high, 10 inches wide, and 16 inches deep. Instead of the usual cheap rubber feet, Hsu includes a decent set of adjustable cone feet. The back panel hosts the unit's volume and 30Hz to 90Hz adjustable crossover controls. Then again, we're sure most STF-1 owners will select the crossover bypass option and let their receiver's internal bass-management system provide the crossover function. Connectivity options include heavy-duty speaker-level inputs and outputs, plus a mono line-level RCA input. The STF-1 can operate on either 120 or 240 volts, and the sub is backed up by a seven-year warranty. (Many subwoofers offer just three years of protection.) A particularly robust MDF cabinet contributes to the STF-1's healthy 43-pound heft; we'd rate the baby Hsu's build quality right up there with that of many $500 subs.

Naturally enough, we mated the STF-1 with the VT-12 satellite package and pumped the Matrix Reloaded DVD to room-filling levels; the Hsu sub/sat system can play nice and loud. The STF-1's robustly deep bass power was impressive, and it was capable of dishing out low-frequency effects like a much larger subwoofer. Despite its extremely dynamic and forceful presence, though, we noted one downside: the sub had a tendency to thicken the bass and lose pitch definition at high volume levels. Still, the STF-1/VT-12 combination was one of the most seamless pairings we've ever heard. Morpheus's deep booming voice has the requisite amount of boom over the VT-12's center speaker, and that's something that most subwoofer/satellite systems can't match.

The STF-1 is the most junior member of the Hsu family of subwoofers. Its larger siblings are the STF-2 ($399), which sports a 10-inch woofer and a 200-watt amplifier, and the STF-3 ($599), which boasts a 12-inch woofer and a 300-watt amp. If the STF line of subwoofers doesn't quite match your needs, Hsu offers seven other models.

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