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Christmas Gift Guide
Speakers

Dayton Audio Sub-1500, a maximum-fun subwoofer

The Audiophiliac spends quality time with Dayton Audio's 15-inch subwoofer. It's just $179 shipped!

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Dayton Audio Sub-1500 Dayton Audio

I love reviewing subwoofers. After speakers, subs deliver the biggest improvement in sound quality per dollar spent. It's a difference you can literally feel, and you'll feel even more with a really big sub, like the Dayton Audio Sub-1500. The price is right, it's just $179, shipped, in the US!

Back in 2012 I reviewed Dayton Audio's little 8-inch Sub-800 ($75), the little guy is a steal. Dayton also offers affordable 10- and 12-inch subs in the series. I've heard little subs that get the job done in small rooms, but to get really deep, effortless bass in large rooms over 400 or 500 square feet, you need at least a 10-incher, and 12- or 15-inch subs wouldn't be overkill. Those sizes refer to the diameter of the woofer drivers, but cabinet size is also a big part of the story, and the Sub-1500 is plenty big -- it's a 19.75-inch matte vinyl-covered cube, and it weighs 52 pounds.

The connectivity suite includes stereo RCA inputs for use with AV receivers and speaker-level inputs you can hook up to any stereo receiver or power amp. No worries about impedance mismatches, the Sub-1500 will be happy with any amp. The sub's speaker-level outs are unfiltered, and just pass along the signal to your stereo amp. The Sub-1500's internal 150-watt amplifier drives the 15-inch woofer, and your stereo amp runs the speakers. You'll use the Sub-1500's gain (volume control) to match the subwoofer's volume with your speakers. There's a bass port on the bottom of the cabinet. Read "how to hook up a sub to a stereo system" blog to learn more.

I did the bulk of my Sub-1500 listening tests with it paired with a set of PSB Alpha B bookshelf speakers ($299 a pair), Lepai LP7498E stereo integrated amp ($115), and my Oppo BDP-105 Blu-ray player ($1,199).

The xx's first CD is all about simmering atmospheres and throbbing beats, and the Alpha B and Sub-1500 together unleashed a big, weighty sound. With Beck's new "Morning Phase" CD the depth, space, and texture of the sound belied the cost of the speakers and sub. I also popped on the Dayton Audio B652 speakers ($40 a pair); they're terrific for the money, but they're a big step down in sound quality from PSB Alpha B. Still, if you can't start with the Sub-1500 and the PSB Alpha B, go for a smaller Dayton sub and B652s, and add better speakers later.

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Dayton Audio Sub-1500 rear panel Dayton Audio

I also tried the Sub-1500 with my large Zu Audio Druid V speakers, with the sub supplying under 50Hz bass. Most of the time I was unaware the Sub-1500 was actually doing anything, but when I felt the low rumble you can only get with a big sub, I knew the Sub-1500 was taking the Druid Vs' sound to the next level. Electric basses had more growl, more guts, and when I turned the Sub-1500 off the Druid Vs sounded a little thin.

The Sub-1500 is best paired with large bookshelf or tower speakers. If you're using midsize or smaller bookshelf speakers, and you're on a tight budget, stick with the Sub-800 or Sub-1000.

Subs are the best-kept secret in audio upgrading; nothing makes a bigger difference in sound quality than adding a well-matched subwoofer to your system. The $699 Hsu VTF-3 Mk4 sub goes deeper and has punchier, better-defined bass than the Sub-1500 does. The VTF-3 Mk4 has "just" a 12-inch woofer, but it's mounted in a bigger, 22.25x17.75x25.75-inch cabinet. It's an all-round better design than the Sub-1500. So I'm not claiming the Sub-1500 is the best sub in the world, but it's a great buy for anyone looking to fill a fairly large room with a lot of bass, for just $179, shipped!