After to listening to a couple of tracks from Madonna, just to hear the sheer grunt of the bass lines, I turned to the venerable Head Hunters album from Herbie Hancock. On the opening number “Chameleon,” the electronic bass line, which is set to a funk beat, endows the song with an elemental excitement. Even after listening to the disc for so many years, I really was quite taken by the precision with which the XXL sub not only helped improve the transient pluck of the notes, but also allowed the notes to decay for just a split second longer. There simply was none of the overhang that sometimes afflicts subwoofers.
To hear the Head Hunters SACD sound so distinctive wasn’t a revelation, but it did add a sense of realism to the proceedings. I felt as though I were hearing one notch further into the song. On the SACD Friendship, which features Clark Terry and Max Roach in a duet, the pounding of the detuned drum heads and the wailing of the virtuosic trumpet runs came through with a ferocity that compelled not simple respect but awe for these two players.
That same sense of clarity and precision came through on another recording that I’ve come to cherish, The Art of Bach, by the talented piano duo Anderson & Roe. Their recording obviously consists of transcriptions, including one of the Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 arranged by the composer Max Reger, but I feel that, rather like looking through a prism, the two-piano versions open up new musical angles into Bach’s compositions. What did the XXL bring to the table? It helped provide a foundation for the deepest piano notes, thereby subjectively improving the sense of a steady tempo on a number of the pieces. This was especially so with stately works such as the opening cantata arranged for piano. It seemed to acquire an even more tranquil and magisterial character. Ditto for a marvelous performance of a Deutsche Grammophon CD of Schumann’s violin sonatas performed by the peerless Gidon Kremer and Martha Argerich. Once again, the grand piano just sounded a notch grander with the XXL. At the same time, the quietest notes also sounded a touch more ethereal as though they were emanating from pitch-black backgrounds.
Some of this can surely be ascribed to the XXL’s effortless ability to help widen the soundstage. The best way that I can describe this effect is to suggest that the combination of deep notes and concert-hall air and ambiance that a sub like the XXL supplies adds a degree of verisimilitude that a single pair of loudspeakers cannot, no matter how low or how powerful the bass coming out of those speakers is. The stone cold truth is that a pair of subwoofers will add a vital ingredient to the sonic stew that is simply impossible to capture otherwise.
This, the latest brainchild from industry veteran Sandy Gross, is the real deal. I must admit to shaking my head at what Gross manages to extract from small packages; somehow he and his engineering team successfully defy the maxim that size matters. The XXL is a diminutive beast that offers a lot of performance for just about any stereo system. No, it doesn’t have the cachet of some of its tonier brethren. But for anyone looking for a reasonably priced subwoofer that plunges into the nether regions with musicality and dexterity, volcanic power, and subtlety, the SuperSub XXL is a must-audition. I imagine that it will win over more than a few listeners as much as it did me.
SPECS & PRICING
Frequency response: 10Hz–200Hz
Drivers: Two 12" long-throw high-output bass; two 13" x 15" quadratic planar infrasonic radiators
Amplifier: 1600-watt ForceField switching amplifier
LFE line-level input: Unfiltered (no low pass)
Right/left line-level input: Variable high-pass from 40Hz–150Hz
Dimensions: 17 3/8" x 19 3/4" x 16 3/8"
Weight: 78 lbs.
Price: $1999 each
P.O. Box 141
Stevenson, MD 21153