Velodyne has an impressive 30-year history of building some of the world’s finest subwoofers for home use. Some would argue that when it unleashed the 120-pound ULD-18 subwoofer in 1983, it set the stage for what would become a new trend in home audio. Since, then, Velodyne has brought several innovations in subwoofer technology to market, thereby upping the ante for everyone else in the market.
Recognized as a high-end brand, Velodyne is also noted for making subs with a high-end price. Today, you can spend as much as $5,800 on a Velodyne sub, which will get you 3,000 watts of power behind a massive 18-inch driver and a one-touch auto-EQ system that promises perfect bass even in a cavernous space. Recently, however, Velodyne has been offering more affordable subwoofers, which it promises deliver bass performance beyond the capabilities of other budget-oriented subs. It’s a fine idea, but did Velodyne successfully crack the bang-for-your-buck code? We reviewed the Velodyne Impact 12 subwoofer and have the answer.
Out of the box
We unpacked the Impact 12 by accident. Sometimes our testing lab gets overrun with speakers awaiting review and when that happens, all cardboard boxes start to look the same. We grabbed what we thought was a sub from a different manufacturer; you can imagine how surprised we were to learn we had grabbed the Impact 12. Velodyne lists the sub’s shipping weight at 38 pounds. Toss the cardboard and packing foam and you’re left with a 35-pound sub. That’s particularly light for a 12-inch subwoofer, especially from the likes of Velodyne.
We immediately suspected a less-than-robust cabinet build, and our suspicion increased when we gave the Impact 12 a rap with our knuckles. The lack of bite and slightly hollow sound indicated a lighter grade of wood and a modicum of acoustical batting. We reached inside the downward-firing port hole and felt around a bit to discover that a respectable amount of acoustic filler had been used. It covered the left and right side of the cabinet completely, but the top was left bare.
The Impact 12 is a pretty handsome looking subwoofer. The vinyl wood-grain finish is attractive, with the seam hidden along the bottom of the sub. The front is adorned with a grill that is concave on the left and right side, adding an elegant touch. The sub looks great with or without the grill, thanks to glossy black trim. The 12-inch driver looks pretty manly, too.
Features and design
The Impact 12 features a forward-firing 12-inch, long throw, treated fiber woofer with foam surround. The cabinet measures 15.1 x 14.2 x 18.9 (H x W x D-in inches) and is outfitted with conical rubber feet. We found no metal spikes or footers accompanying the sub.
Powering the sub is a digital amplifier (which helps account for the sub’s light weight) capable of delivering 165 watts RMS/275 watts peak. Those without subwoofer outputs on their electronics will appreciate the availability of increasingly rare speaker-level inputs and outputs as well as the commonplace line-level (RCA) inputs. Rounding out the amp’s features is a continuously adjustable low-pass filter that ranges from 50Hz up to 200Hz, a volume control, and a phase switch that alternates between 0 and 180 degrees. Interestingly, the sub has no power switch. Standby power is engaged when the sub is plugged in, and the sub is triggered to activate by any incoming signal
As we mentioned earlier, the sub’s port faces downward–a handy feature for eliminating chuffing (port noise) and a boon to those who are forced to place their sub in the corner.
We replaced one of two existing subwoofers in our test system with the Impact 12 and ran test tones to dial things in. While our front Aperion Verus Grand speakers are capable of hearty bass well down to 40Hz, we crossed them over at 80Hz and left the rest to the Velodyne.
We started our evaluation with some music. What better way to launch a 12-inch subwoofer evaluation than with a medley of songs featuring some of the world’s finest bass players? First up was Marcus Miller’s “Bruce Lee” from the album Silver Rain — a track we’ve kept in our bass evaluation playlist for the last six years due to its persistently punchy kick drum punctuated by Miller’s bass-slapping, which spans the entire range of his five-string instrument. The first thing we noticed about the Impact 12 was its surprising lack of cabinet resonance (that’s a good thing, folks). When we first checked out the sub’s cabinet, we were worried we’d end up hearing some mud, but what we got was only the timely and rhythmic thump of Poogie Bell’s kick drum. Each time Miller dipped into his lowest octave, the Impact 12 picked it right up and accurately conveyed Miller’s clean tone.
We moved on to sample Level 42’s “Mr. Pink” as played by Mark King on Live at the Jazz Cafe. This rendition of the classic instrumental features King front and center slapping his way through an intro that lasts just over a minute. We’ve heard this track lay waste to many a sub as they failed to nail the speedy and relentless articulation imposed on them by King’s almost drum-like approach to bass playing. Amazingly, the Impact 12 held together just fine. Each punctual slap hit and disappeared as quickly as it should with tonally-accurate sustained notes interspersed here and there.
After we made our way though some Victor Wooten, Jaco Pastorius, and Les Claypool, we felt quite satisfied with the Impact 12’s musicality, but we had one more cut on our list that we couldn’t resist throwing at it. We’re not fans of Bassnectar, necessarily, but artist Lorin Ashton knows how to deliver some serious bass. After a few minutes of play time we killed our speakers and isolated the subwoofer. Here, we noted that, under extreme stress, there was a little bit of bloat around 80Hz — but nothing substantial. It would be hard to hear it in the context of a larger system. At worst, we suppose it might indicate that the Impact 12 is not the ideal candidate for a tiny satellite speaker system demanding the sub do more work than it ought to. But really, you could do a lot worse.
To round out our evaluation, we taxed the Impact 12 with three movie clips from the films Tron: Legacy, Green Lantern, and Jurassic Park, (yes…we did take full advantage of DTS Demo Disc 16, thank you very much) and a full-length viewing of Avatar. In each scenario, we found the Impact 12 performed quite admirably, delivering deep rumbles without much unwanted resonance, and offering well-executed dynamics and quick, powerful punches. The sub was able to load our room with plenty of bass without making us feel like we were swimming in a sea of low-end warble.
The Impact 12 is listed on Velodyne’s website at $459, and we’ve found it online from reputable e-merchants for as little as $330. The question we posed in this review’s introduction asked whether or not Velodyne had managed to deliver premium performance from a low-cost subwoofer. We say: Yes, it absolutely has. While the Impact 12 admittedly lacks some of the refinement that its $1,000+ brethren offer, it delivers seriously impressive performance at a price anyone can live with. Adding to this sub’s performance is its attractive design, which we think will be the clincher for any on-the-fence subwoofer shoppers out there.
Definitely a recommended product.
- Great low frequency extension
- Minimal cabinet resonance
- Speaker level inputs and outputs
- Attractive design
- No metal spikes or footers included
- No power switch to kill vampire power
- Some bloat in upper range at extreme volume