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It's an audio fact of life: If you really want your home theater to "get down," you need a great subwoofer. The hitch is that the best subs are always huge and cost a bundle. Energy Speaker Systems, one of the leading Canadian speaker companies, lives up to its name and has managed to design a high-performance but commendably compact subwoofer. Best of all, the $300 (list) S8.2 is one of the more affordable baby boomers on the planet.
The S8.2 sub sports a new, 8-inch, polypropylene/mica/glass-sphere woofer, and its deeply flared, front-mounted port increases placement flexibility. To the right of the port, you'll find an audio/video-equalizer switch, as well as bass-level and low-pass-filter (from 50Hz to 100Hz) controls. Yes, the dimpled black-on-black controls aren't the most legible devices, but they're more accessible than the rear-mounted, grab-your-flashlight jobs that we usually deal with. Energy designs and builds the sub's 100-watt, class A/B MOSFET amplifier in-house; for an entry-level unit, that's extranice. One gripe: The S8.2 lacks a 0/180-degree phase switch, so achieving the smoothest match with the sats takes a bit of time.
This sub's connectivity options deserve special mention. The model offers both a direct line-level input that will simplify hookup chores with A/V receivers, as well as a filtered input for use with older receivers.
The S8.2 is our choice for reigning champ of budget-priced subs. It goes way, way down to levels lower than those of most 8-inch--and even some 10-inch--subs. Holly Cole's Temptation CD features some extraordinary, rolling-thunder acoustic bass, and the S8.2 never softened or muddled a note. The Energy's pitch-accurate bass sounds wonderful on all sorts of music. Special-effects-laden DVDs shook our large room with gusto, so you don't have to worry about confining the S8.2 to a small living room or a bedroom. This model blended best with Enegry's Take 5.2 satellites but was still quite acceptable with Klipsch's Quintet II sats.