Review: Velodyne DD10+ Subwoofer
WHY I Bought What I did – Skip this part if you know 100% the reasons you do what you do before you do it…I didn’t. To not describe WHY I ended up where I am seems to sidestep the DD10+ solution, so it seems beneficial to the end product to go through the journey. As a matter of fact you can skip to the end of the review if you are knowledgeably 100% right all the time. There are pitfalls to be avoided with subs that were not obvious when I started this investigation. If you want to learn in ten minutes, don’t read this review.
Subs aren’t for the timid to buy and use. I didn’t go into the purchase of subs knowing this, but learned it as I went. But, every stereo I’ve ever owned, and just loved, had powered subwoofers. My old DQ-10’s with DQ-1W subs and electronic crossover, and My Vandersteen Quatros. I used stereo subs in the DQ-10 system since the DQ-10’s by themselves acted more like real satellite speakers, with weak bass by nature. The Quatro’s were liked because they had good bass…but I didn’t, at the time, make the connection to powered sub woofers until I made a switch to the C4’s. Clint Eastwood said, “A man’s gotta know his limitation”. This statement could not be truer of bass, and how your room will limit them.
The C4 is indeed a “full range” speaker for what it is worth. It has tremendously good imaging, sound stage size, clarity and a natural tonal balance where it excels. But, compared to powered Quatros in my same room, bass was just not digging deep enough with any authority. I kept thinking that this can’t be, but it was. The energy needed to go deep is a major undertaking in speaker size and / or power. Those big C4 cabinets are still not near big enough to go DEEP with any real efficiency in my room. Yes, I love the spec sheet but the music hits the room and it is what it is.
Using my old Vandertones I soon saw the issue with my C4’s. The roll off rather sharply in real room placement at about 40Hz, with a MASSIVE spike at 33Hz in my 40 foot long basement room. Speaker placement was for midrange imaging, not so much the bass. I’ll toss the bass for imaging and 200Hz on up perfection any day of thee week. So I decided to investigate how to improve the bass.
Most all the amplifiers energy goes into the bass frequencies below 200 Hz or so. So my 175-watt into eight ohms KISMETS were pretty taxed just by the bass energy, and overall headroom was not significant by any means. Should I buy A new Boulder 1060 amplifier on the used market for $12,000.00? This won’t fix the in-room response of the C4’s, it will just improve clarity and definition to what’s there now.
A cheaper method, and one with more upside potential in sound QUALITY over quantity (SPL), is to use subs. So that’s where I went. And, I still gathered up a large SPL improvement to boot. This was driven by the “old fashioned” method of using a high-pass crossover from the “satellites” (like the C4’s are satellites relative to the Enterprise!) to the subs, and not the modern rendition of splicing the subs into the lower regions where the “full range main speakers roll-off. This get rather interesting, as you will see.
BASS Problems - stereo / mono and room placement.
Bass is ugly stuff. It is so room dependant as to be almost laughable in “accuracy”. With new digital room EQ on some product, this gets a little better, but is far and away from perfect…I will never ever be perfect “bassed” on my experience. The trade-offs are numerous and somewhat daunting if you have even a remote idea of a budget, and as crazy as it “sounds”, I did have a budget.
First is mono verses stereo. Many will say there is no stereo below XYZ frequency. Fine say it all day. Truth is heard, there is stereo on even everyday material at low frequencies due to room Interaction and phase distortion. The relative velocity of propagation of bass through a room is different based on where a sub is, or, where a series of bass cellos is in an orchestra. Bass energy is NOT mono. I also have many albums like Grace Jones that are VERY phase inverted left to right and that creates a very powerful sonic stage with bass. You can not hear this with one sub (I tried it that way!). So say all you want, but mono bass created partially deaf ears to bass information in my room.
The objective to “smooth” the “mono” bass interaction to the room with more than one sub was actually secondary to the idea of maintaining true stereo bass, and the sonic benefit outside of “amplitude” only concerns. I am NOT setting up a Home Theater (HT) with SPL levels way over natural music. When you get to LFE (low frequency effect) and HT accuracy is simply laughable as what explains a “accurate” explosion? Nothing, that’s what. Real explosions are often time just dull thumps, and sound smeary and not that “satisfying”. So, we make it up as we go with HT, and that’s fine. I like satisfying explosion too, but my goal is the music first and foremost.
So stereo it is, for the MUSIC soundstage definition and not the smoothness as the primary concern. The room interaction is simply too significant to ignore on amplitude response. Stereo or mono the amplitude response is a challenge.
The next obstacle was how big a sub? If you look as square-inch area and room size, the general consensus from many sources was a 12” to 15” sub in a 3,500-4,000 square foot room. Two 10” subs fits neatly between the mono 12” and 15” cone area calculations. Since I’m MUSIC and not HT, the dual 10” solution looks more than fine. At a grand less than the two 12” sub options, and smaller drivers being faster all things being the same (and they were on the 10” verses 12” Velodyne subs) this was the choice I made.
I started at ground zero on modern subs. But a slow process of elimination left but ONE choice. And that was the Velodyne DD10 Plus model. I needed flexibility in set-up since a home audition was impossible where I live, and brick and mortar visits were appallingly lacking in service, knowledge or even a demonstration of what they did have. So I was on my own. Storefront efforts leave me mystified in that they don’t leverage their strength. I’ll tend to lean towards what I’ve HEARD that sounds good than what I READ about! They aced like Internet storefronts in service (none) and then threw out a way high price explaining it covers their “overhead”. Storefronts have a BIG advantage that I’m willing to pay for WHEN I get it. I didn’t get it so I went rouge and purchased on-line. Most, if not all Emails to vendors and stores oddly went unanswered.
No other sub solution offered me;
1.0 The high-pass option at 100 or 80 Hz crossover AND the full range “splice” method.
2.0 In room EQ auto capability to improve sub placement options that was fully contained in the purchase.
3.0 Manual tweak to taste and capability.
4.0 Variable low-pass crossover and slopes.
5.0 Reputation for good sound quality over just quantity.
6.0 Ease of in your seat adjustments (remote).
Some subs had a few, but none has ALL of the options UNLESS you bought them separate and added them in at great expense (high-pass crossover, room EQ programs and / or equipment ETC). I wanted to keep my “living” room and not turn it into a “stereo” room by using a product that was primarily tuned by room placement like my old DQ-1W subs. I don’t want a sub sitting where I want to sit! And, the mono option was out, so it had to fit as a stereo option.
So this lead me to the Velodyne series of subs, and the stereo requirement and room size said two DD10 Plus models should do the trick. But did they?
The box size of the 10” subs wasn’t too bad, but they are hefty 75 pound little boxes. The wonderfully made subs exude quality in feel and touch at every interface. To hide these deep Cherry red subs seems a shame. The kit that comes with the subs has everything you will need; composite out cable, PC interface cable, LONG mic lead, microphone, mic head holder but not the stand. All the software for your PC was supplied and extensive (mostly) instructions. About all you need to supply are the high-impedance leads and possibly the low-impedance leads if you use the amp outputs to sub input option. If you buy stereo subs, you’ll need to get an RS-232 DB-9 male to female cord to connect the subs. I found a10 footer on Amazon for $14.00 to my door.
I made my Belden 1694A RG6 high impedance leads with Gold compression RCA’s (I used muted colors to hide the cables (bLack for Left and gRay for Right) to lengths that let me utilize either sub integration options, high-pass or the more “passive” low-pass option. Getting to the TV interface (my Sony TV was right at hand for this as the picture shows) going was easy and it became crystal clear that the HUGE room interaction at 30 Hz was going to be my real placement issue, by far. But, no matter where I put the sub relative to a livable solution got rid of that 30 Hz SPIKE. Knowing this, I though about which option to try first.
High Pass Option
1.0 The high-pass option at 80 Hz (the C4’s are flat to one octave below this) seemed correct.
2.0 I REMOVE in room energy created by the C4’s at 6 dB per octave below 80 Hz, so that 12dB 30 Hz spike is significantly rolled off to near a “unity” peak level.
3.0 With the C4’s rolled off below 80 Hz, the sub EQ can achieve a pretty flat response in theory.
4.0 The KISMETS amps will be relieved of duty below 80 Hz, where most power demands fall, and will have MUCH, MUCH better headroom.
5.0 The C4’s twin woofers are playing up as high as about 750 Hz so when they run full range, there is a LOT of intermodulation (Doppler) distortion effects caused woofer cone excursions. True, they use twin woofers to REDUCE the problem, but it is still there. Getting rid of it almost entirely is still better.
6.0 The C4 eight-inch and ten-inch Velodyne drivers aren’t fighting the same fight at the same time, leading to coloration “blending” that can be ugly.
Full range option
1.0 Keeps the “sound” of the C4’s closer to the same top to very near bottom if the drivers “like” each other.
2.0 Smaller range of smoothing to consider (possibly less EQ).
3.0 Run the high impedance cords separate from the RLD-1 platinum preamp (it has two pre-out RCA plug sets) to EACH sub and C4 separately for right and left channel, avoiding any and all of the internal electronics coloration inside the DD10+ sub and it’s crossover. So only the “sub” sees the coloration from the electronics.
My gut reaction said to try the more complex hi-pass option first.
The set-up on the Velodyne Digital drive subs can be daunting as you have so many options. But like a road map, worry only about the option that is best for you. Some set-up parameters is done by the auto EQ, like phase, slopes, crossover frequencies, and other stuff you may not want to learn about. Not to worry, I found that the auto EQ was as accurate as I would get since the room effects make “flat” response laughable unless I want to die in place. Yes, the manual method makes you feel like a bass God, but then you move a foot or so and your God like feelings go to Hell as the response nodes all change. I would not get too wrapped-up in the gamesmanship on bass. Get it smoothed out and move on.
WARNING – Do not set your pre-amp to your “normal” listening level when you run the test sweep! Trust me on this, it will be one scary moment. Set it to about half volume and increase it till you TV or PC screen says the volume is not too loud or soft (it will guide you). I didn’t do this and my cat puffed up into the size of a small black bear and I haven’t seen him since, and my ducting in the basement ceiling may have been flattened when the sweep hit the 30Hz peak and sent everything into motion.
What I found out in my concrete walled and floored room, and you should check your room BEFORE you buy, is that you can’t beat city hall. A LARGE spike can be “cut” but, if you go the full range route, the sub can not REMOVE in room energy placed there by the main speakers, it can JUST not contribute MORE to the problem! I had a 12 dB SPIKE at 30-33 Hz that the full range option could NOT “reduce” as it was NOT making the spike! So I could get a flat response EXCEPT for a BIG bump at 33 Hz. This made a nice THUD every time a tone fell into that region. It sounded like a T-rex going through the house. So the full range option that is so “current” is very deficient in my room, as it cannot remove energy from the room from the main speakers so much as not make the problem worse. The clarity as not a nice as the hi-pass option, either. I can not say I heard better dynamics except the clarity might have been a secondary attribute of lower headroom. The hi-pass option made me VERY happy I chose the more flexible Velodyne product.
So, I went with the hi-pass option at 80Hz crossover point. The 33 Hz spike was many dB’s down at 6 dB / octave, so it was a manageable spike that the DD10+ REMOVED with a 12 dB parametric cut at the offending peak. So I have a significantly less problematic room response using the hi-pass option. I placed the subs near each C4, and way from the rear walls as best I could to reduce the wall amplification making the 30-33Hz spike worse. The room said I was not going to win with woofer placement, and this relied on EQ to keep me in the game. So, measure your room BEFORE you decide on a sub. A 95% tile sounding sub set-up right will be better than a 100% tile sub that can’t be place (passive system) where it wants to be. I want this to be common sense before you spend your money and find out.
Those frequency response traces you see in reviews? They lie. Here’s what they don’t tell you. If you move the mic even a foot in a real room, the mic response will be decidedly different. And I do not mean a little. I mean 6dB or more, easily. If I wanted to cheat you guys and gals, I could simply walk around and take a TV shot of a FLAT response just by standing in the right room node. Like I said, bass is an ugly business. I aimed to tame LARGE room anomalies but you must realize the room will fundamentally be the same due to reflections. Smooth the room out, but you can’t smooth it away. This ain’t no anechoic chamber. I saw phase and low-pass roll off change from zero, 135 and 180 degrees and 6dB or 12dB / octave low-pass roll-off at 60-80 Hz respectively depending on where I set the mic. What’s right is if you sit in that ONE spot. An averaging system can be less “wrong” in a few spots but like an average, it is never the “exact” answer anywhere. Get the room pretty close and smooth down the spikes (don’t try to fill holes with more than +3 dB of power) and that’s reality. So I’m “mostly” flat in my room, and not as good as the +/- 3dB some claim. I’m probably more like +/- 5 dB at best. So don’t be surprised that the subs do not EQ the same, or even near the same, as you move the mic around. Just walking around the room with my Radio Shack SPL meter and watching the readout pretty much told me flat is NOT an option unless I turn to stone somewhere.
Yes, there were a few.
1.0 There is scant (none really) instruction where to set the input sensitivity, or how it works. Is “max” unity gain or amplified above unity gain? Some settings are padded below the “max” setting and some amplified above the “min” setting. I used it at the “max” setting and everything sounds fine.
2.0 The same holds true for the dual speaker lead and hi impedance input method to “blend” the mid-bass range some. Just where do you set the control? This is probably a turn it till it sound right solution but it ties in to the input sensitivity setting. Knowing where to start the process would be nice.
3.0 The stereo subs use a master / slave arrangement and the “slave” sub’s LED readout doesn’t jive with the “master” subs. I see the master do it’s things but the slave sub shows a “5” in the readout. The master sub is indeed in control, but what does the “5” mean on the slave? When it was “16” what did that mean? Everything works fine, I just don’t understand what the slave is telling me. Document this, please.
4.0 The Auto EQ function is NOT real obvious when it is done. It will cycle through settings and show where it is in the upper left screen, but once it cycles through it goes into a period of re-sweeps that seem to be doing nothing. It is. You will see the parametric EQ sliders SLOWLY adjust during the period. So be patient (and quiet) and watch.
5.0 When that period is over, you will finally see “END” in the display but…the screen trace will look TERRIBLE as it steps out of the Auto EQ stage. The “correct” settings are stored into memory IF THE SUB RESETS AND REBOOTS. Mine would get confused as I learned the ropes, and swept several times, and NOT reboot at the END notice. Well, it is a PC inside, so I turned off the subs and turned them back on (master first) and re ran the Auto EQ and all was well. So the software can get “stuck” if you jump around the menus.
6.0 I EQ’ed the subs “averaged” response connected master / slave between the two. I did NOT EQ each sub100% separated from one another as would seem more “accurate”. The EQ for BOTH subs was an average response, in other words. Can you do each separate? Well, I looked at the room response and decided that the small difference on separate sub EQ was probably too small to bother (or hear). But, maybe not. If you un tether the subs and EQ each one separate, and then go back and master / slave them, will the EQ settings STAY with each sub? If you don’t re tether them master / slave, the remote may act strange. Don’t forget if you do them separate, you’ll have to approximately cut the VOLUME to HALF on each sub as one is set to do the work of two individually.
OK, here come the flaming arrows. I like them since I’m such a “wet” target. I just snuff them out and reuse the information to the better each time that I make a decision. At fifty-four years of age, all the bad stuff has been said to me enough to not have an emotional effect any more. It’s just the data, you see.
So that said, the sound is really hard to convey. What I immediately heard was no bass! Yep, both subs all meticulously set up and I have LESS bass than the C4’s by themselves. Your ear’s sensitivity to bass is pretty grim, actually. The C4’s have a +3 dB or so “shelf” starting at about 60 Hz that acts like a loudness control that was on older equipment, and a feature your ear really needs, too. They roll off in-room at about 40Hz. That was what was missing with the subs, no more mid bass loudness “hump”. A flat response sounds too bright to most anyone, so don’t be afraid to boost the “trace” up a few dB till it sounds right to you. Yep, it isn’t flat as Kansas anymore Toto, but I never like Kansas. I used the handy remote to boost the bass setting from the auto EQ setting of 18 of 100 (the two ten inch woofers seem to be loafing!) to about 25 before it sounded “right on a bunch of material. Once I found my ideal average number I went into the auto EQ screen, and reset and saved the “global” EQ setting up to 25 as the default from 18.
True, Tracy Chapman and Grace Jones like their bass, and so do I, but it was heavier than “average” so use the remote an click it down a few on those records. Some artist take control of the bass for you, and the Velodyne DD10+ lets you take control BACK. I listen to more folk type music where a “sound” has no where to hide, and the neutrality of the DD10+ is nice. Yep, I dig out Supertramp, too, but heavy rock isn’t my thing. If movies are any indication (slam boob bang) I think you won’t be disappointed in an audition.
I cannot say I hear the DD10+ electronics in a bad way. The hi-pass filter is electronic, I believe, and sounds very clean. The C4’s are BETTER sounding than they were prior to the changes, so the DD10+ electronics, if the detract much, are exceeded by the other advantages provided with the hi-pass option (headroom and reduced intermodulation distortion).
The FAST response of the DD10+ subs was truly amazing. I hear bass tones in Tracy Chapman’s “Our Bright Future” that I never heard before. No, it wasn’t loud it was just there. The DD10+ go effortlessly deep. The soundstage was already good, but now it is simply stunningly broad with the DD10+ subs. The Kismet amps really sing with the bass load removed running the mains, and I have headroom all over the place up top. Midrange is significantly more solid and rich with the C4 bass drivers calmed down. This was not a small change, either; it was what I heard first when I stuck music into the CD player.
I would place the DD10+ “sound” at the more lean side of the spectrum. These are not “warm” sounding subs like my Quatro subs were. But, if you turn the distortion feedback control in the setting screen, you can warm them up to suit. I left them at a leaner setting that better matches the C4’s basic crisper personality. Most of the “snap” is the C4’s since bass below 80 Hz is pretty LONG wave influenced by your room (lots of reflection moving around for awhile). But, the low end was well damped and satisfyingly tight.
You have pre-sets on the remote set by Velodyne for movies, ROCK and such that really works. The movie EQ warms up the bass and puts that T-rex stomp back-in that makes movies fun. Just a click of a button and your in a movie theater. I thought that this was a gimmick but it is 100% useful. Bass is so inaccurate that the “control” the Velodyne DD10 series gives you is more warranted than I thought.
Are two 10” subs big enough? For music they sure are in my 4,000 plus SQR foot L-shaped basement but for movies and HT? Well, that’s for you to decide and pay for. Since I’ve never been fond of a stick of TNT going off by my ear at real volumes, I chose to not go there. I can’t (well, yes I can) imagine what two 15” stereo subs would do in HT applications. Two 18” DD+ subs might kill stuff. Remember the DD10+ Auto EQ to just 17 of 100 at 90 dB SPL in my room! So they are probably good to any realistic music volume (or any I’ve played). I have never heard any strange sounds from the subs that detracted from the music. They seem to be well controlled to do things “nice” and not clack or chuff.
As good as the C4’s are, the addition of the stereo DD10+ subs was an eye opener. I have bass that goes even deeper than the Quatro’s, and is fast and detailed. Oh you can definitely boost it till the rafters rattle as the controls will let you have too much bass, but the Velodyne DD series subs let your bass be good or bad as you want it to be. That’s a choice I’m glad I made. The added headroom and superb clarity of the hi-pass option SERIOUSLY makes me reframe from the Full Range option as your only integration methodology. I just can’t get over not taking advantage if the hi-pass option in a truly good set-up. I tried both methods, and I won’t even wet out the arrows on the alternative method. The improvement was that immense between the two. I did it, I heard it, I’ve heard the argument ears in hand.
SUMMARY – So how was this economical? Well, I avoided an expensive hi-pass filter purchase ($1,000.00 - $3,500 bucks!) or trying to find a passive one. I avoided super a BIG amp for the C4’s where the mono Kismet’s now sound fantastically good with headroom to spare, and let the full goodness of the RDL-1 circa 2102 platinum preamp come sailing through. You can buy an amp more for sound and price and not size with subs. Every component was looked at for bang for the buck potential, speakers, cords, electronics, ETC. But, the last addition of the DD10+ subs went far and away better than I ever imagined it would. The synergy of this product with what I currently use is amazing.
I can’t say this is the best sounding sub set-up 100% right out there. What I can say is, I feel it is the sub I can set-up in my room 95% right, which give me a HUGE advantage to have the best sounding sub in my house. And, this is a product that can be MOVED with great success into many rooms. My experience confirmed my suspicion that removing the hi-pass option is NOT advisable, or a feature you want to lose with subs. The Velodyne DD10+ sub allows me more “rights” than “wrongs” and being forced to buy sound unheard it was a wise purchase that does indeed sound terrific.
Ariston RDIIs turntable
SME III tonearm
Benz Micro Ruby 3 MC cartridge
Moon Audio LP5.3 head amp
OPPO BDP83-SE optical player
McCormack RLD-1 2012 Platinum mod preamp
Odyssey KISMET mono amplifiers
Dynaudio C4 Signature II
Belden 1694A High - impedance leads
GOLD compression RCA's
Groneberg Quatro Reference low impedance leads
Vanderseen Quatro powered subs
Vandersteen 5A Carbon powered subs.