Speakers

May the force be with you: Outlaw Audio Ultra X12 subwoofer

Big subs have huge advanatages over compact subs, so yet again the lesson is clear: for the best sound quality, size matters!

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Outlaw Audio Ultra X12 Outlaw Audio

The Outlaw Audio Ultra X12 is a brute, but brute force is an essential ingredient for high-performance subwoofers. Build quality of this 66-pound behemoth feels super-solid, and a 12-inch woofer and twin ports reside on the bottom panel. The black, satin-finished 21.25x16x23-inch cabinet has rounded corners and a gloss-black top panel. The Ultra X12 retails for $639, but you get a lot of subwoofer for the money!

I separately auditioned the Ultra X12 with two pairs of speakers, first with my Zu Druid Vs, and later with Dynaudio Confidence C1 speakers. Setup was a snap and took just a few minutes to achieve a smooth blend between sub and speakers. Obviously, the Ultra X12 added deeper bass than either speaker could muster on its own, but like with all of the best subs the speakers stereo soundstage enlarged, so I could hear deeper into the recording venue's acoustic space.

My entire listening room was energized by Jan Kraybill's "Organ Polychrome" album that features Ms. Kraybill playing an organ at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, Kansas City, Missouri. Not only were the deepest notes shaking my room, the sense of the instrument's pipes moving a lot of air was palpable. This beautifully recorded album projected a room-filling ambient soundfield, full of space and texture.

Music without a lot of deep bass also benefited from the Ultra X12, Puente Celeste's "Nama" CD sounded more fully present and immediate. The all-acoustic band's guitars, accordion, piano and drums were more realistic and powerful with the Ultra X12 in the system. Nine Inch Nails' "Hesitation Marks" album's percussive beats were as much felt as heard; the Ultra X12's bass was quick, deep and viscerally powerful. Two-channel home theater trials were no less impressive.


Connectivity options for this 350-watt subwoofer cover every conceivable contingency: there are stereo RCA input jacks for use with AV receivers with bass management, and a second set of RCA inputs for preamps without bass management. If your electronics lack preamp outputs, no problem, use the Ultra 12's stereo speaker-level inputs, and speaker-level pass-through outputs to hook up your front left and right speakers. If all of that sounds confusing, the Ultra X12 Owner's Manual offers comprehensive setup tips and instructions; it's one of the best-written manuals I've seen in ages.

If you have the room for a full-size subwoofer, the Outlaw Audio Ultra X12 will produce a major upgrade to the sound of your music or home theater system. It's highly recommended!