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Emotiva BasX S8 subwoofer: High-performance sound for a budget price

The Audiophiliac finds Emotiva's baby subwoofer sounds like a grown-up sub.

Steve Guttenberg/CNET

I've always had a special place in my heart for small, well-designed 8-inch powered subwoofers, like Emotiva's feisty new BasX S8 ($199). It didn't take long to hear that this little guy easily pumped out more bass than most entry-level tower speakers! And we're not just talking about bass quantity -- the BasX S8's bass is tight, punchy and potent. For those who crave more power, feel free to step up to Emotiva's $299 BasX S10 10-inch, or $399 BasX S12 12-inch subs, but in the small CNET listening room the BasX S8 was the best fit. For midsize rooms consider buying two BasX S8s for better-distributed bass in the room. If your room is huge or you want to have your insides shake, get one or two BasX S12s. Me, I'm happy with one BasX S8, tucked in beside the right channel speaker.

Emotiva BasX S8 subwoofer


A few tech specifications caught my eye. First, the 8-inch long-throw low-frequency driver that sports an injection-molded mineral-filled polypropylene cone, with a 1.5-inch voice coil on a solid aluminum former, and forced air cooling. That 8-inch driver is on the bottom of the cabinet, and there's a bass port on the rear panel. The BasX S8's back also hosts stereo RCA inputs and outputs, but no speaker-level inputs. A 150-watt power amp lurks inside the 18.25-by-10.6-by-12.6-inch cabinet that weighs a hefty 21.2 pounds.

I started my listening sessions with the BasX S8 paired with Emotiva's overachieving $299-per-pair Airmo​tiv B1 bookshelf speakers (look for the full CNET review soon). Tweaking the crossover, phase and volume control settings on the BasX S8 to smooth the blend between sub and speakers took 15 minutes, and once they were adjusted I never fussed with them again. Assisted by the BasX S8, the little B1s sounded like mighty tower speakers!

Post-punk funk band ESG's recordings from the 1990s have remarkably clear electric bass lines, and the BasX S8 served them well; and the best part was the way all of the bass appeared to come from the B1 speakers, not the BasX S8! That's the goal, when the sub's perfectly dialed in all of the bass should appear to come from the speakers.

I also swapped out the B1s for ELAC Debut B5 bookshelf speakers, and had no trouble getting the BasX S8 to blend with the speakers. With both sets of speakers I noted a benefit beyond adding bass: The BasX S8 also improved the speakers by deepening their soundstages.

With bluegrass-country singer Alison Krauss' new "Windy City" album her vocals sounded more natural with the BasX S8 paired with either set of speakers. With Mac Quayle's synth-driven score for the "Mr. Robot" TV series the BasX S8 made a huge difference in the sound of the music; the sub revealed deep bass textures that went unheard from the speakers on their own. Once I got used to having the sub in the system I removed it and really missed it, as the speakers sounded awfully small and dynamically constricted without the BasX S8.

Since some BasX S8 buyers will use them in stereo or multichannel home theaters I put some time in watching movies, with the BasX S8 providing low-end support for the stereo Airmotiv B1s. No problem, the BasX S8 handled explosions and home theater mayhem with ease.

All of this from a $199 sub, that's fantastic! The Emotiva BasX S8 sub sounds like a winner to me.