After living with the SubMersive HP for a month, I feel its time I provide some feedback to other potential SubMersive owners.
Warning this is going to be long –REALLY LONG!!!
First, I am going to state that this is not going to be technical but purely subjective review as I don’t own or (right now) care to use certain tools as such REW as my technical skills are lacking and my placement is VERY limited. I am by no means an audiophile but I do know what I like.
Second, for part of this review I am going to put on a flame suit as I know what I was doing with my old set up was “wrong” and still not perfect with my current set up but who cares, its my room, my system and I am the one listening to it but still flame on.
My previous sub was a HSU VTF3.2 (now sold). I really liked this sub and I can only compare the SubMersive to what I own so this review should not be considered as a HSU or VTF3.2 bashing as I would still recommend it if you can find one or its less powerful sibling the VTF 2.3 or its more capable big brother the VTF3.3. I still think the VTF3.2 was an exceptional value. I still think HSU customer support is fantastic more so Pete is one of the most helpful people I’ve talked to 5 years ago and talked to him early this year and nothing has changed – he’s still an awesome individual.
Here’s a little background. My room is approximately 1150 cu feet, which is not sealed and is opened to the rest of the house for the most part. You can see some of the pics in the link or sig below. My system is nothing special compared to most here but I am happy with it. In 2005, I own a Pioneer 1014 receiver and purchased an Onkyo 805 receiver in 2007. I never cared for how either made my speakers sound with their EQ (MCACC or Audyssey). I always thought they made my speakers sound thin and or bright at louder levels and could get fatiguing to me. I do however love what Audyssey does for EQing the sub but still chose to leave Audyssey EQ off because it’s either all or nothing with Audyssey on the Onkyo 805. With Audyssey off, but with the some distance settings and crossover settings at 80Hz, I think my system sounds better but there was a 20Hz peak (with the Submersive HP and the 3.2 in Max Ext Mode) and other peak 50Hz. Tests were done with HSU test disc and Radio Shack 33-4050 SPL meter.
Flame suit on:
I always ran my VTF3.2 hot -Hot-HOT! I owned it for 5 years. For the first 4 years, I had it in the Max Extension or 18Hz mode about 10dbs hot. I never took it to reference levels so I felt comfortable with running it that hot. The sub volume dial was at 9 o’clock position or a smidge over and receiver at -1 on sub volume. As stated above, it had a peak at 20Hz and another at 50Hz. Always had my VTF3.2 crossed at 80Hz on the LFE channel as it gave away its location very easily in either Max Ext or Max Out above 80Hz. I felt the 3.2 did a very good job with movies but sometimes the port noise would get to me. On certain movies such as Cloverfield, Dark Knight and a few others, if I turned up the volume a little (not reference) on the entire system it would sometimes sound weird – like the bass was all jumbled together and not clear anymore. I think the term here might be dynamic compression but again I am not technical so I could be wrong. I then read online that some 3.2 owners were finding great results switching to Max Output mode so I made the switch in the last year and enjoyed the more mid bass slam and it seems less distorted or compressed at louder levels (it was still there at times but not as bad as the Max Ext mode but I also lost some umpf below 20hz). The 50Hz peak was there as well. What everyone should take away from this is that the VTF3.2 is not a bad sub by any means but I like a lot of bass hence the higher than normal levels. Things probably would have been much better with an EQ but after 5 years of ownership and so many good things being said about Mark Seaton and his SubMersive, I leaped off the fence. Folks like ssteel01, Kain, Mike Duke, RossandWendy and a BUNCH of others really left quite the impression on me with some post, comments and private messages they provided. Before I go any further, I am going to single out Mike Duke and say you need to be on the Seaton payroll I’m sure I’m not the only one that feels that way as I am sure you helped many of us make the switch and we are much happier for it.
A quick call to Mark in early April, made me realize that this guy Lives, Breathes and Poops audio! He was smart enough to make your head spin when listening to him but also kind enough to dumb down the language so even I can understand. You can really tell he’s been doing this for quite some time and still extremely passionate about what his company does. After all the private messages and comments I read from other SubMersive owners, my conversation with Mark started off like this “I can’t take it anymore, I want one!” After a few minutes on the phone, Mark told me I can either get the SubMersive now or wait a few weeks, possible months, and get my hands on an upgrade that’s been in the works and he’s been testing for many months. Now ~2 grand is not cake for me (far from it) so I decide to wait for a more powerful amp but I was sworn to secrecy until he was ready to make this news public when further tests were completed and shipments/supplies were available.
Fast forward a few months to early July and enter the SubMersive HP. That’s a 3 month wait. This wait is understandable as the HP was still in its final testing and production stages. I could be wrong but I think the normal wait now is like 3-4 weeks.
I received an email from Seaton Sound stated that my SubMersive shipped and 3 days later the FedEx truck was at my doorstep. I thought the SubMersive was packaged really well with fairly thick cardboard box it came in was sealed well with 2 inch Styrofoam all the way around with real thick cardboard edge type protectors and each corner of the Stryofoam inside the box. After opening the top of the box and slowly pushing it upside down, I was able to slide the SubMersive out with ease by just lifting the box upwards. I then found the SubMersive wrapped in a thick plastic, inside the plastic was some stryofoam type wrap around the top and between the grille and speakers.
See link for packaging:
The wife was kind enough to buy furniture moving sliders and help me put them under the SubMersive feet while I lifted it up. I moved the VTF3.2 out and put the SubMersive in its place and proceeded to plug everything in. The SubMersive was positioned just like the VTF3.2 is below with the one driver facing the back wall (about 3.5 inches away from that back wall).
I’ll have more pics later as I don’t have my camera now. The pics in this are a few weeks or months old in some cases.
I pulled out my SPL meter and began to set everything up using the old HSU test disc. The SubMersive obviously has more headroom than the VTF 3.2 but the numbers/graph looked very similar to the VTF 3.2 in Max Ext mode in my room. As previously mentioned the VTF3.2 about 10db hot uncorrected so I decided to set the SubMersive was set up about 7-8db hot uncorrected and tried a few test scenes with WOTW and Finding Nemo. Even though the graphs on paper looked very similar to the VTF from 80Hz to 16Hz, that’s pretty much where the similarities ended. The bass seemed tighter and cleaner with much more authority. Authority might not be the right word but I think others refer to this as “more weighted”. There was definitely more impact as well but zero overhang. My receiver sub volume was at -5 and I think the SubMersive was on -7 on the dial. I then played some music and noticed some of the same characteristics/qualities I mentioned above. Thinking this was good enough for now, we (the wife and I) decide to watch the entire movie of WOTW (War of the Worlds) to see get the full impact rather than just doing demo after demo. I sometimes think that playing demo after demo gets tiring as you just look at the Max SPL and may lose a lot of how things actually sound and feel (at least for me). WOTW was great – there was a new presence in the room (more weight and more impact but no distortion and the bass seemed smoother – if that makes sense) that really made the movie seem like some new version we never heard or experience before. Later, we watched Finding Nemo and Terminator Salvation in there entirety and again there were some scenes in these movies that really woke up in terms of authority of bass/weight and impact. It’s more than just more weight or impact but it’s hard to put into words. I can’t place my hand or mind around it to express it verbally. Now as much as I would like to say everything sounded so much better than the VTF3.2 that was not the case (Kinda). Going from a ported sub to a seal sub does take some getting used to. Regardless of the hot settings of each, there was some scenes that **sounded louder** with the VTF3.2 (Not cleaner, Not had more impact, Not had more weight, Not more true bass but just **sounded louder**). I now believe some of these scenes were never meant to sound like it did with the VTF3.2. I think this is the over hang mixed with some port ringing along with cabinet vibration that some have talked about with some ported subs. I tried some other scenes in other movies and noticed the same thing in scenes like the plane crash in Flight of the Phoenix and the Iron Hide flip in Transformers. Both of Subs were hitting similar SPL but the VTF3.2 (Max Out mode) sounded louder again this was not cleaner just more audible, almost distorted like you could hear the cabinet/port noise along with the bass of the movie. The SPL meter may have been picking up this noise and providing the same readings as the SubMersive in terms of max SPL. One thing is for certain; the SubMersive clearly had more umpf and woke up every Bass scene to another level or 2 or 3. After 5 years with the Vtf3.2, this volume thing took some getting use to. I am only stating this to be honest and so if there are any other folks going from a good ported design running hot, it may take some getting used to but you are not missing anything other than “noise” that should not be there. May be sitting so close to the VTF3.2 or the SubMersive amplified these effects for me but it was noticeable but not on every bass scene. I don’t mean this in a bad way as I soon started to realize how much CLEANER the SubMersive sounded. After like 3-4 days I was use loving the cleaner sound of the HP so much that I decided not to even hook up the VTF3.2 anymore and box it up for sale (it’s sold now). What should also be noted is that in these same scenes with the SubMersive felt like a completely new experience in terms of impact/weight and just down right awesomeness! With the VTF3.2 the plane crash scene in Flight of the Phoenix scene felt good and sounded loud – it added so much to the movie experience. The SubMersive takes out that distorted noise and just adds so much more impact and feel that your pulse starts to race and you actually feel like you are in that plane about to crash. I don’t think that movie goes very low in terms on Hz but I had a weird slightly uneasy scared feeling watching/feeling it that I never experience with the VTF3.2 in either mode.
The next few days that came was followed with some more movies and a few more demos. One in particular was Tim Burton’s 9. We watched this a few months ago and I thought it sounded good but did not know what all the hype was about with this movie and its claim to fame in the AVS subwoofer forum. I thought a lot of other flicks sounded better than it on my previous sub. I decided to re-rent it and watch it again. OMG!!! The difference was measureable in the butt-o-meter I could clearly feel and hear the difference. I forget now what scene it was but my wife screamed at one point “It felt like someone threw a grenade under my recliner!”
With music, the difference was even more apparent. The SubMersive sounded so much smoother and life like compared to the VTF3.2. Before the SubMersive, I thought the VTF3.2 sounded pretty good with music. After the SubMersive, the VTF3.2 does not hold a candle. The SubMersive just seem to blend with all the other speakers and sometimes would just disappear. The 3.2 always sounded the same. Whether it was a kick drum or whatever type of instrument, the 3.2 made them all sound more similar than different. With the SubMersive, there was a lot more distinction between instruments and bass itself.
There were still a few things I did not like and it was all with placement and EQ and not an issue with the SubMersive HP. The HP sounded so good and so smooth most of the time then when it hit that peak around 50Hz, it would really start to bug me. At least I am guessing it was this 50Hz peak that was bugging me. Not that it sounded bad but once you get a taste for this smooth yet powerful bass, you crave it like a junkie and want it like that all the time not just on certain songs or certain scenes of a movie. I believe in my set-up/room having the SubMersive 3.5 to 4inches from the wall did not help things for me. When I sat in my recliner I could sometimes clearly hear that the bass was coming from behind me and towards my right. It sometimes sounded like I could hear the bass coming directly from that back wall (not all the time but it was noticeable). I then decided to run Audyssey again and again to see if it would help. I had to keep turning down the volume of the SubMersive and re-running as it was too hot. When Audyssey was engaged it did smooth out the bass a lot and I decided to take my system to reference levels. I did verify everything with my SPL meter and it did pull out the peaks and what not for the bass and calibrated flat or 1-3dbs hot (corrected). I decided to demo the 2008 Hulk movie (sound cannon) and Transformers (Iron Hide flip) at reference. To say I was impressed and is a gross understatement. I was literally scared! Not this is so cool, I could do this all day long but more like “holy $h&T turn it off before we break something in the room or the room explodes”. It sounded very powerful, very impressive but down right scary. It did not feel or sound like the SubMersive was breaking a sweat but it gave the impression that the room may be the weakest link. Keep in mind my house is all concrete block. Here’s the funny part – during that cannon scene at reference, I thought I was finding the electrical limits of my room because everything in that room and the SubMersive HP is hooked up to a 15amp breaker. I thought I noticed the light on the ceiling was flickering during the Hulk cannon scene. While I was doing this test my wife ran in the room and started telling me how great that sounded all the way in the kitchen. I replayed the scene again and told her to keep an eye on the light and see if it’s flickering as I was now seeing spots trying to stare at the light bulb. I replayed the scene and looked at my wife who was laughing hysterically. She finally composed herself and told me to replay it again and look at the light at the angle she was looking at it. Yeah – the power was fine! There was so much bass energy, pressurization or what have you that the light bulb socket may not have been bolted down securely because it was shaking along with the light bulb during that whole scene. This is something we never noticed with the VTF3.2. We watched a movie or two with the Audyssey engaged and normal listening levels and again I didn’t care for what it did with my regular speakers. Even though the bass was smoother and blended better with the rest of the speakers, the others speakers now sounded thin and bright with very little warmth to them. I verified this same thing with some music CDs. My favorite CD to test is Bob Marley - Legend (no particular reason I just love that CD and think that album has a lot of great sounding instruments). All prior tests on the VTF3.2 and the SubMersive were performed with this Legend CD and a few others CDs as well. I ran Audyssey one more time using the same exact methods and now it made my center channel sound all muddy like someone stuck a wool blanket over it. It was at this moment that I decided to get the Anti-Mode 8033. I mean if I love how Audyssey sounded for my bass but love how my speakers sound without Audyssey, then Anti-Mode and its easy set-up would be my best choice.
I ordered Anti-Mode and had it within 3 days. I ran the Anti-Mode setup and noticed, more often than not, the bass was a lot smoother now. I know Anti-Mode does other things as well with decay and what not but I have no way to verify what it did other than listening to it and using my SPL to verify if the peaks were gone. The HSU test CD revealed that some of that 20Hz peak was taken care of but most if not all of that 50Hz peak was gone. I tested this with the SPL meter and it was calibrated flat again 1-3db hot (corrected) with the rest of the speakers. I ran a few more tests and watched a few more movies but I still was not 100% happy with it as I could sometimes still hear the bass coming from behind me – towards my right. I decided to give Mark a call. He was very helpful again and advised to play with the distance setting in the receiver to see if that helps minimize localization and also use the Tool DVD kit he supplied along with some other recommendations. I did try the distance setting and it helped a little but I started to realize this screamed placement issue. Since there is no place for the SubMersive HP in the front of my room, I tried turning it sideways. It barely fit sideways. With both recliners reclined in the back position, there were ~2.5 inches of clearance on each top side of the SubMersive and the tall back of each recliner. The SubMersive was now firing not into the recliner but behind them. I decided to re-run Anti-Mode again and use the HSU test CD again. I also adjusted the distance setting to what sounds best and gave a smoother response to the 80Hz crossover. The test CD SPL numbers looked exactly the same as it did prior to the move but after listening to some more demos, it was blending far better than it did before. I can sometimes still tell where the bass is coming from but this far less frequent as it was before – it’s more like the exception now rather than a common thing. I decided to try Mark’s DVD Tool kit and calibrate the entire system. I found that kit to be a very useful tool and easy to use. All speakers were still crossed at 80Hz even the LFE channel. Everything sounded wonderful. The bass was smooth, powerfully weighted yet detailed. The clarity of my speakers was still intact and the warmth was still there too. We watch more movies on it and the subtleties of car doors and trunks closing to heavy explosions all sounded and felt more real, had more umpf - everything just went up a few notches yet was very balanced, bass had more layers and textures to it and oh so smooth. I had it like this for a day or two and it was much harder to tell where the bass was coming from so I got curious decided to change the LFE channel crossover from 80Hz to 120Hz. End result everything is still balance and in a few movies there seems to be more LFE content there. I double checked everything again and I am still calibrated flat according to the SPL meter so corrected is probably 1-3db hot. The receiver sub level is at -5 and the sub volume dial is between -24 and -16. It’s been like this for over a week now. We recently watched the Dark Knight again the difference in bass to me and the wife was very apparent. It’s unreal how clean it is but now feels like nice chair messages with a lot more rippling type feel added. I am not the only one noticing some of this as the wife has been commenting a lot on how much more her recliner has been shaking as well. I have been watching more movies listening to music and grinning like a clown over here. It’s hard to get this smile off my face when I am using the system.
Here’s some weird stuff I noticed that I did not expect but was a very pleasant surprise. Whenever I listened to music pre-SubMersive, I did not like to listen to anything but 2 channel music. 5 channel just did not sound right. I would sometimes listen to music with the VTF3.2 off and sometimes with it on but always in 2 channel (Stereo, Direct or Pure mode). Now with the HP, I can listen to 5 channel music and it does not suck or muck things up. It actually sounds pretty good. I still think 2 channel sounds better with SubMersive on but 5 channel sound much better now that I don’t feel compelled to switch it to 2 channel mode when enjoying some of my favorite CDs. There were a few times that it was hard to tell that the SubMersive was even on so I reached over and turned the power switch off to the SubMersive and all of the soul and foundation of whatever I was listening do was gone. Hit the power switch again and there goes that stupid – stupid grin again. There were a few times, on different occasions, I was listening to music at low listening levels and noticed goose bumps all over my arms. I’m not sure if you can put a price tag on something like that. I read in a few places that Mike Duke and a few others stated that the SubMersive elevated their entire system performance to the next level and I believe that statement pretty much nails it.
I know my placement is not ideal and only wish I had more room to move this thing around to see if there is even more potential in it (can’t see how that is possible) but overall I am very VERY PLEASED with the SubMersive HP and would recommend it to anyone. If an idiot like me can appreciate its qualities such as smoothness, weight, accuracy, depth, the uncanny ability to touch you like silk during certain moments of a soundtrack and then scare you enough where you feel you pulse is racing like never before in other movie soundtracks is priceless and all this in a package that is not that much bigger than the VTF3.2. I also found a lot of folks spring for the nicer finish. I’m not sure if the picture shows it but the satin black is nicely done. I expected a more plain less shiny finish like the VTF 3.2 so again I was pleasantly surprised.
In the end, it does exactly as the name implies -it Sub Merges you into the experience. The Seaton SubMersive HP is now my second favorite thing in my living room/HT - the first being the wife!
Before anyone ask…. “Hell eF’N Yes!” - it’s worth the price tag and more…and Hell Yes again it was worth the wait!” The difference between bass and the entire sonic experience now is improved so much that if I had to quantify it, I would say that the audio improved more so than how video would improve from switching from DVD to Blu-Ray on a 50inch or bigger HDTV.
I wanted to do this somewhat long write up of my full thoughts as I thought if I read more posts like this on the SubMersive, I would have jumped on it sooner than later. I thought something like this would have helped me in the past and might help someone else in the future.
One last note – the biggest thanks for getting this thing goes to my wife. Not only was she the one that originally told me “stop thinking about it and get it already, you know it will be great from all the research you did” but a few weeks after I ordered the HP we were hit with some unexpected expenses - all in one day! The AC system in the wife’s car broke, the central air in the house stopped working and my riding lawn mower took a dump. Again, all this in one day and we live in Florida on a ¼ of an acre so AC is a must down here and that riding mower is nice to have in the summer heat. While eating dinner with my wife that night, I looked at her and said. “I think maybe I should cancel that order for that sub with all these……..” I could not finish the sentence as she interrupted me and said “There is no way in hell you are canceling that order, that sub sounds like one hell of a deal!” If it was not for her, I probably would be SubMersive-Less right now Yes, I know my wife is Awesome!
PS … AC in the car and home has been fixed as well as the mower
Here’s a link to my humble set up: