- Goes exceptionally deep for a small sub
- Easy to place
- Well built
- Not ideal for music
- Limited connectivity and controls
- Not cheap
What is the SuperSub X?
The GoldenEar SuperSub X is the smaller of two SuperSub models that form the flagship range of subwoofers from the company. On a wider level, the SuperSub X also represents the physical manifestation of a technical and design arms race that has been ongoing with subwoofers for the last few years. When the DVD driven surround sound boom kicked off, it brought with it an increase in the interest in subwoofers. At the time, subs were fairly simple beasts. Buyers generally had the choice of a box with the driver either pointing forwards or downwards which contained an amplifier and connections. Power outputs were generally in the order or 100-300 watts and devices with more power than this were considered pretty monstrous.
From here, power increased and technology began to make its presence felt. We saw the first sub boasting a kilowatt of power, then we saw twin driver arrangements and on board EQ. This has been an ongoing assault on the senses and the result has been that subs have been getting smaller, more powerful and more driver laden. The SuperSub X – as we shall cover – is a massively powerful monster of a device that happens to take up a very small amount of space.
Does this approach work though? I am by no means an expert in matters of physics but I stayed awake at school just about enough to know that the general recipe for bass is cubic capacity. Is this ferociously powerful yet diminutive cube the answer for great bass in a small space or does something have to give?
The GoldenEar is a cube shaped subwoofer that uses a pair of 8 inch drivers running in opposition to one another. So far so normal but in this instance, the SuperSub X is only getting started. For starters, these drivers are contained in a box that is no more than 35cm in any direction. Secondly, the twin 8 inch drivers are not the only units fitted to the SuperSub X. There are additionally a pair of infrasonic radiators on the upper and lower sides of the chassis. This means that the six sided GoldenEar devotes four of them to drivers and one to the control and amp plate. Short of coming up with a polygon shaped chassis, we’re approaching driver saturation point.
There is a methodology behind this though beyond a sort of subwoofer top trumps. Individually, the force exerted by one of these drivers on the cabinet is considerable. When the drivers are arranged in opposed pairs, the forces acting on the cabinet in the horizontal and vertical axis are essentially nullified. As a side effect of generating energy, the drivers themselves are helping ensure that the forces acting on the cabinet are minimised.
They are unlikely to be completely nullified though. As noted, the point where subs broke the kilowatt boundary was notable but we’re well beyond that now. The GoldenEar is motivated by 1,400 watts of power. We’ve become somewhat inured to these numbers over the years but take a moment to stop and think about that. It’s a staggering figure that puts the GoldenEar amongst the most powerful devices that I have ever tested.
It you might be thinking that this vast output is software controlled, you’d be right – up to a point. The GoldenEar uses a ‘discrete multi-band limiting, phase-perfect equalization’ system to help ensure that the power is delivered in the most effective way possible. Considerable effort has also gone into the phase and latency to further keep everything under control. If you are mentally imagining yourself plotting charts and tweaking these settings to your heart’s content, you’d be wrong. The GoldenEar does all of this processing itself and the parameters are not user adjustable.
The connectivity on the rear panel is also relatively limited. The SuperSub X is fitted with a stereo RCA input that can be switched to an LFE connection that bypasses the internal processing and allows your AV Receiver to take control of crossover and phase settings – as well as apply any EQ functionality it might have and make use of. The controls on the rear panel of the SuperSub X are also fairly limited. You get volume, crossover (the latter being bypassed in LFE mode) and that’s pretty much it. Compared to some rivals at a similar price point, the GoldenEar can feel a little parsimonious. One other minor point of consideration is that connected via my usual sub cable – a well-constructed unit that has worked with multiple subs before this one – I got a lot of mains hum when the sub was switched on. This took a very heavy duty stereo interconnect joined by an RCA coupler into a single RCA lead to remove.
The chassis that holds all this together isn’t technically a cube as it is wider than it is tall and has an extra insert on the front corners. It is assembled from MDF but feels usefully solid – the SuperSub X might be small but it’s no fun to lift in and out of a tight spot as I can testify. This density is important because with this much power and radiating area, the GoldenEar is the sort of design that is at risk from making a bid for freedom if driven hard. This is a genuine issue for very powerful and small subs and while they are far from the worst offenders in this regard, the more affordable ForceField subs can show some signs of wanting to break free when pushed.
The opposed driver design of the SuperSub X is going to help it stay anchored by dint of equalising the forces acting on the cabinet but this is undoubtedly helped by the feet GoldenEar has fitted. These are soft and extremely grippy units and once the sub is sat on a solid floor, it really isn’t going anywhere. In the time it has been here, the review sample has been completely inert.
Aesthetically, if we accept that the list of ‘beautiful subwoofers’ is a pretty short one, the SuperSub X is a reasonably solid looking thing. The piano finish is pleasing and applied to a high standard and the integrated grilles – of which there are plenty – are well sorted and make more sense than removable items in this sort of context. The GoldenEar is far from cheap but it does largely feel like it is worth the asking price.
There is the argument as well that if the SuperSub X delivers on the promised performance, it does so while taking up very little space. Compared to most rivals, the SuperSub X is easier to place thanks to its smaller size and lack of porting which means that while jamming it tightly into a corner won’t be ideal, it’ll shrug off this sort of treatment better than many rivals will. As a point of detail which I’m sure at least one of you reading this is thinking, it doesn’t seem to make too much difference in performance terms if you place something on top of the upper radiator.
Short of coming up with a polygon shaped chassis, we’re approaching driver saturation point
How was the SuperSub X Tested?
The GoldenEar has been connected to a Yamaha RX-3040 running a quintet of Elipson Planet M speakers and connected to a IsoTek Evo 3 Aquarius mains conditioner – the sub itself has been connected to a normal mains supply. Source equipment has included Blu-ray via a Cambridge Audio 752BD, scheduled and on demand TV via a Sky HD box and Netflix and Amazon via a Panasonic GT60 Plasma and Amazon Fire TV stick. A limited amount of stereo testing has also taken place via a Cambridge Audio 851A integrated amp connected to a Naim ND5XS network streamer. Formats and materials have been in keeping with those supported by this selection of equipment.
Perhaps the most important aspect of the performance of the SuperSub X is that provided you have set the levels faithfully and in a manner representative of the room you have placed it in, the day to day behaviour of the GoldenEar is entirely benign. It might be studded with drivers and boast a biblical power output but running the 90Hz crossover that works best with the Elipson Planets, the SuperSub X is content to tickover perfectly happily.
Even when you are using it in this way though, the GoldenEar gives enough clues to its performance to leave you under no illusions about the latent energy that this sub possesses. At tickover, there is an effortlessness to it that is fairly unusual in a small subwoofer – even one with 1,400 watts at its disposal. Of course, you probably aren’t reading this to learn that the GoldenEar fills in the low end of Fireman Sam without breaking sweat but I assure you it can.
Let the GoldenEar off the leash and give it the field assault scene in Furyand I suspect that however hard you might try, you will struggle to suppress a grin. The SuperSub X is monstrously powerful and while the quoted low figure of 12Hz is undoubtedly achieved with massaged figures and roll off, it is effortlessly assured in the 20-40Hz region. This is one of the smallest subwoofers I’ve experienced that goes into the subsonic region without any signs of breaking a sweat. This lends gunfire and explosions in particular a visceral realism that puts you in the on screen action more readily than is the case with a less assured sub.
Most importantly, the GoldenEar itself stays inert and unobtrusive. Even under provocation, there is very little sense of the cabinet participating in the performance. The SuperSub X can’t manage the almost incredible sense of drivers suspended in air that the SVS SB13 or the Eclipse TD520SW can but both these designs are larger and more expensive than the GoldenEar and have physics on their side. For a device that can be plonked in places those two devices can only dream of, the GoldenEar is mightily impressive.
Neither does this ability hinge solely on the delivery of ‘event bass.’ With speakers as small as the Elipsons, the GoldenEar is responsible for a significant chunk of the critical frequencies in a film and it goes about doing this in a tremendously impressive way. The most immediate way to appreciate what it does is to turn it off during a quiet passage in a film – the resulting ‘suck out’ of low end information that you had no idea it was responsible for will be very surprising.
So, what’s the catch? Well, depending on how you use the GoldenEar, there might not be one. As a device for TV and film viewing, it’s almost the ideal device but it does give some clues as to its weakness. The Hero’s Duty scene in Wreck it Ralph has a pounding techno track woven into the soundtrack. It’s there to be slightly too loud, to emphasise the sheer insanity of the game but even so, the beat is consistent and reasonably tight. With the GoldenEar, there is the sense that there is a bit of raggedness timing wise creeping into the performance. It’s not severe but you’ll notice it.
Switch over to actual music reproduction though and the GoldenEar is on more uncertain ground. It still has some real strengths – it’s ability to fill in the low piano of Nils Frahm’s Spaces is as effortless as almost everything else it does – but the moment an actual bassline with a quick time signature is part of the piece, the SuperSub X simply isn’t quick and defined enough to be truly enjoyable. Where something like the Eclipse TD520 or even the very affordable BK P300SB will sit ‘on’ the bassline and deliver the music in a way that has you involved in it, the GoldenEar never feels quite responsive enough to do the same. Additionally, the limited controls don’t really aid tweaking this. Some experiments with positioning and the like never truly deal with the issue either. If, like me, you don’t generally use subs for music – either through having another system or simply because you have speakers that are sufficiently full range in stereo that you don’t need it – this is unlikely to be an issue but for sub/sat use it is going to matter.
Let the GoldenEar off the leash and give it the field assault scene in Fury and I suspect that however hard you might try, you will struggle to suppress a grin
Having spent some time with the SuperSub X, it has to be said, what GoldenEar has achieved is pretty impressive. This meets all the definitions of a compact sub but in performance terms it genuinely manages to go toe-to-toe with much bigger designs. The care that has gone into the design and construction means it does a tremendous job of subverting the laws of physics. There have been times during testing where it has been almost impossible to believe that this is a box as small as it is. Greater user adjustability would be nice but the performance of the GoldenEar is good enough most of the time that most people won’t care.
Physics is a hard taskmaster though and this does mean that the SuperSub X won’t deliver music in the manner of a true all-rounder. This is a blow for anyone looking for a sub for all seasons but the GoldenEar is at the sort of price point where more specialist use is a more realistic situation. Some of the competition can offer a little more all-round ability but as a compact device capable of staggering impact, the SuperSub X certainly deserves recommendation.