The textured, black-vinyl, black-cloth grilled SubZero won't be taking up residence at the Museum of Modern Art anytime soon, but it is a neat, nicely crafted little box. It can be oriented either horizontally or vertically, and the front-mounted woofer and port allow you to stuff this pup in a corner or a cabinet. Just remember to keep it at least a foot or two from your TV, since the sub isn't magnetically shielded.
The sub's built-in amp is rated at a mere 50 watts of continuous power but can reach up to 180 watts on peaks. The SubZero's 8-inch polypropylene-coated woofer won't produce the sort of superlow bass response to guarantee bragging rights with your audiophile buds.
Plug and play
PSB recommends, where possible, hooking up both the line-level and the speaker-level connections on the SubZero. That way, if your receiver's bass management turns off its sub output when you play CDs, as many do, the SubZero will still receive the signal.
The SubZero is at its best in little rooms working with little speakers. The Alpha Intro LR and CLR are its natural partners. Then again, we loved PSB's baby sub paired with Dynaudio's Audience 42 bookshelf speaker, a much larger speaker with deeper bass response.
We put the SubZero through its paces on Men in Black, Hollow Man, and the Talking Heads' Stop Making Sense DVDs and were reasonably happy with sub's definition, but really deep bass was missing in action. In smaller spaces (say, less than 200 square feet or so), the SubZero's lack of deep bass may be an asset, since it's less likely to overload the room and turn boomy.
The SubZero matched up well with the Alpha Intros as long as we placed the sub somewhere near or, better yet, between the satellites. The SubZero didn't run out of steam on CDs, but we were aware of the lack of oomph on bombastic DVD soundtracks.
A shoot-out between the SubZero and our old 100-watt Energy ES-8, 8-inch sub proved interesting. The ES-8 was gutsier, with a tighter sound, and it went a trifle deeper. To be blunt about it, the SubZero blunted bass transients, so it sounded muddled relative to the punchy ES-8.
Mating the SubZero with a set of PSB satellites is a natural choice, because they sound great together. But is the SubZero the deepest, most powerful $299 baby sub you can buy? No, Polk Audio's brawny PSW250 (also $299 list) can kick the PSB's (and the ES-8's) bottom.