Even after all of this, you will still need to experiment with subwoofer output levels to find the ideal balance between too little and too much bass. However, once you’ve jumped through the hoops, things really take off.
How Dual Subs Sound
The ML Balanced Force 210 subwoofers are extremely effective at reproducing low end. I’m not saying that “these are really great” in a flippant way, or because I like subwoofers. As I stated earlier, I haven’t been a fan of subs in the past, but the Balanced Force 210s have changed all that.
In my large room, low-end extension has been an issue, and listening to great bass-centric albums from artists like Jaco Pastorius, Ron Carter, Charles Mingus, or Victor Wooten has always been a little unsatisfying—especially when it comes to electric bass. The Balanced Force 210s fixed that problem, and I can now listen to something like Victor Wooten’s Soul Circus without cranking my system’s volume to super-loud levels to achieve proper low-end response.
Listening to Jaco Pastorius’ eponymous debut album [180g, Epic Records] was a whole new experience with the 210s. Jaco Pastorius was the LP that put the electric bass front and center, and is considered by many to be the greatest bass album of all time. But without subwoofers or a really incredible, über-expensive floorstander to reproduce those super-fast, low-end notes, songs like “Come On, Come Over” and “Continuum” never sound complete. With properly set-up Balanced Force 210s, Pastorius’ bass finally came through in its full glory, each note taut and punchy. Most importantly, low-end imaging was dead-on precise—actual notes rather than some diffuse undertone floating ghost-like through the room.
Victor Wooten, one of the great modern electric bassists, can really test the limits of your system with his playing, especially on songs like “Bass Tribute” from Soul Circus [CD, Vanguard]. “Bass Tribute” features multiple electric basses, as well as an upright bass, and separating all of those low-end notes is difficult for even the best floorstanders. But with a pair of good subwoofers, these songs transform your listening room into a recording studio full of tall Ampegs and Fenders. Again, the Balanced Force 210s have an incredible ability to properly locate electric basses and upright basses within the soundstage, and to do so without sacrificing speed and articulation.
Many hardcore audiophiles deem pipe organ the ultimate test of a system’s ability to reproduce low bass. Of course, it’s impossible to reproduce a gigantic pipe organ in your home (as anyone who has heard a pipe organ concert can tell you), but you can bring your system to a whole new level of realism by properly setting up dual subwoofers. My go-to test record for organ music is, naturally, Karl Richter playing Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor from Bach’s Organ Works [LP, Deutsche Grammophon]. I’ve heard the Toccata and Fugue in D Minor played in several cathedrals throughout Germany, and the power and force of the organ is overwhelming—again, virtually impossible to reproduce at home. But the Balanced Force 210s get you eighty-percent there, which is pretty incredible for subwoofers a tiny fraction of the size of an actual pipe organ.
I can’t claim that the MartinLogan Balance Force 210s are the end-alls in low-end reproduction, or that they will fool you into thinking there is an actual standup or electric bass sitting in your living room. What I can say is that they have brought me much closer to the real thing and made me a believer in subwoofing. Now that the 210s are in my listening room, my music—and not just music where bass is prominent—has taken on a new life. They have made a far greater difference in my stereo than any other component I can remember in a very long time. If you have a large room or really feel the need to hear low bass, the Balanced Force 210s are essential tools to getting the most out of your music. Just make sure you have the space—and the patience—to fully appreciate these big boys.
SPECS & PRICING
Frequency response: 20–120Hz +/-3dB
Low-pass filter: 30–80Hz
Phase: 0, 90, 180, 270
Woofers: Two 10" sealed, high-excursion aluminum cones
Amplification: 850W Class D
Inputs: RCA, XLR, speaker level, 3.5mm trigger
Outputs: RCA/XLR multi-out
Power consumption: 125 watts, 15 watts standby
Weight: 96 lbs. each
Dimensions: 19" x 19" x 19.5"
Price: $2995 each
2101 Delaware St.
Lawrence, KS 66046