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The 'King Kong' of affordable subwoofers

The Epik Empire boasts two 15-inch woofers, weighs 120 pounds, and sells for $799. Any questions?

The Empire (subwoofer) strikes back

Subwoofers make bass, that's easy. But really high-quality affordable subwoofers are surprisingly rare. The big problem facing subwoofer designers is the pressure to make really small subwoofers. That's not to say small subs can't make bass, they boom and thunder all right, but the sound tends to veer to the muddy side of accurate. That can sound acceptable for home theater duty, where nuance and subtlety aren't always big priorities.

So sure, a 1-foot cube sub can get the job done for a home theater, but can it define the sound of a 1962 Fender Precision Bass? Can it play music and let you really hear what's going on in the bass? No way! For that you need something a bit more substantial: a large subwoofer. Big subs also make their presence known in home theaters, where their sound has the gravitas no minisub can match. Oh, but most large, high-performance subs come with heavyweight price tags.

That's why I'm jazzed about the $799 Epik Empire; this bad boy boasts two 15-inch woofers; a Class D 600-watt (1,500 peak watt) power amplifier; in a 22-inch-high, 18-inch-wide and 24-inch-deep cabinet. The Empire's 120-pound weight might be a not so subtle indication that it's solidly built.

I briefly spoke with Epik's founder and chief designer, Chad Kuypers, Thursday. He's a no-nonsense kind of guy, and he told me he's working on some really cool larger and slightly smaller subs, but for now he's just offering one model, the Empire. Epik Subwoofers is located just north of Chicago, Illinois, where they build the subs, including fabricating the precision CNC machined cabinets in-house.

The Empire features a pair of proprietary 15-inch drivers, with Kevlar-reinforced paper pulp cones for maximum stiffness and rigidity. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the Empire's design is its two woofers were designed to cancel cabinet vibrations. I've seen similar approaches used in other subs, so I have every reason to believe the Epik Web site's remarks on this matter, "If you put your hand on the subwoofer during a very loud passage, you will notice the cabinet doesn't vibrate. The drivers are internally 'coupled' via bracing to cancel the forces on the cabinet. Virtually no energy is transmitted to the ground or floor via the cabinet."

That should minimize the amount of bass that would be transmitted to the room below (not eliminate, reduce), compared to more conventionally designed subwoofers.

Another interesting feature: the Empire is a sealed (acoustic suspension) design, which tends to sound better than more common ported subwoofers. Connectivity options include RCA and XLR inputs.

Epik sells direct and currently offers the Empire for $799, plus shipping. That seems like a great price for a high-end, made-in-the-U.S. sub, or even one made in China. The subwoofer can be returned for a full refund of the purchase price within 30 days.

If you've heard an Epik sub, please tell us about it.