Cambridge SoundWorks' Newton Series HD Loudspeaker line was designed to not only visually complement flat-screen HDTVs, the sound is said to be as high-definition as the picture. The subject of this review, the P300HD powered subwoofer ($1,000), is the ideal mate for the company's HD MC600HD speaker ($500 each). As such, Cambridge bundles the HD P300HD with the HD MC600HD in 2.1, 5.1, 6.1, and 7.1 configurations. We evaluated it as part of the 5.1 package, but there's no reason that demanding audio enthusiasts wouldn't want to mix and match this extraordinary subwoofer with other brands' speakers as well.
The P300HD's steel-wrapped, medium-density fiberboard cabinet exudes high-end class; it looks like it would sell for at least double its list price. The steel panels are finished in a metallic gray, the top panel is gloss black, and the perforated-metal grilles are black. It's a fairly large design, 27 inches high and 17.5 wide, but its 8.5 depth makes for a less imposing presence than your average cube-shaped subwoofer. The P300HD weighs 70 pounds.
We'd guess almost every buyer will use one of the stereo RCA inputs, but--if your A/V receiver is old enough to not have a subwoofer output--you can hook up the special speaker wires that come with the HD P300HD to the receiver's left and right speaker connections. There's also an RJ-11 jack, which is for use with Cambridge's P500 and P1000 Sound Consoles. Controls are limited to a large, illuminated volume control that's conveniently located on the top panel.
Instead of relying on a single 10- or 12-inch woofer, the P300HD boasts a total of six 6.5-inch woofers (all powered by the sub's 300-watt amplifier). Actually, the P300HD deploys three speakers on each end of the cabinet; the design gambit effectively cancels cabinet vibrations. So if you place your hand on the P300HD, even when it's pumping out lots of bass, you won't feel it moving--not in the slightest. The subwoofer won't directly transmit energy through the floor to the room below your home theater (some of the bass will, of course, be audible in that room, but possibly less than that from a conventional sub). We also noted that even when we stood right next to the HD P300HD, we couldn't detect it as a source of sound--all of the bass seemed to be coming from the MC600HD speakers! We can pay no higher complement to a subwoofer. The only other sub we've ever heard that can pull off that trick was B&W's bowling-ball-shaped PV1 sub ($1,500), but the Cambridge sub is more powerful than the B&W which uses just two 8-inch woofers.
The P300HD's extra deep (lowest frequency) bass exceeded every sub we've ever tested for CNET but one: the larger (21.75 inches tall, 15 wide, and 22 inches deep) Outlaw LFM-1. With the P300HD, we measured smooth bass down to 35Hz in our home theater. That ultralow bass capability is mostly heard on DVDs with lots of special effects--you know, the ones that really shake the room. The cannon balls blasts on the Master and Commander DVD packed more of a wallop than we're used to.
Displays of brute force power are one thing, but can the sub play a tune? Absolutely! Definition was evident on the sound of drums and acoustic and electric bass. The tactile details of these instruments were rendered with a rare precision, and the sub's dynamic punch was remarkably powerful. Yes, $1,000 is a lot to spend for a sub, but the P300HD's unique combination of sleek style, advanced engineering, and all-around excellent performance make it actually worth the money for discriminating listeners who are willing to pay the premium.