Britain’s B&W Loudspeakers has been creating active subwoofers almost since the powered-sub concept has existed. The UK company has a long history of designing for powerful levels of genuine deep bass. The latest models to advance this tradition are B&W’s new 15-inch ASW-850 and 12-inch ASW-800. These new powered subs, technically identical but for driver and cabinet sizes, combine massive, 1,000-watt (continuous) audio power with newly developed transducers to produce more intense, dynamic, ultra-deep bass than any preceding B&W subwoofer.
“We’re locked in an arms race with the purveyors of music and, especially, movie-soundtrack productions,â€ says B&W Loudspeakers Executive Vice President Chris Browder, â€œAnd I’m only half joking. Big-production filmsound’s ability to incorporate awesome bass effects has grown steadily throughout the home-theater boom, and sound-designers have raised the low-end ante considerably over just the past few years. Not to worry: These new subs give us the upper hand with headroom, slam, and bottom-octaves extension to spare.â€
Keying the ASW-850’s and ASWâ€“800’s performance is their all-new driver design. Both models use substantially the same transducer but for size (15-inch in the ASW-850, 12-inch in the ASW-800), with a newly refined Kevlarâ„¢-resin-impregnated paper material. This yields a low-mass/high-strength diaphragm, able to withstand the severe in-cabinet pressures and powerful voice-coil impulses that high-SPL deep bass demands. Combined with a new, high-output, long-throw driver structure the result is unexcelled bass â€œspeedâ€ and â€œslam,â€ even at the new subs’ lowest-frequency extremes. The ASW-850’s full response extends to 18 Hz, and its useful output (-6 dB) to a floor-lifting 14 Hz; the ASW-800 very nearly matches these with 20 Hz and 15 Hz limits, respectively. With performance so very similar, the two models suit larger- or smaller-volume installations, and higher or more moderate peak-output requirements with no meaningful compromise in performance.
The two new B&W active subwoofers utilize closed-box enclosures to achieve unattenuated output across the very lowest audible octaves, and tight, dynamic bass reproduction. Their common amplifier/electronics module boasts a full kilowatt of continuous power, with substantial headroom for dynamic transients. This design’s input circuitry offers â€œAâ€ and â€œBâ€ bass roll-off alignment settings able to optimize reproduction for either maximum extension or maximum peak output, as the listener, room acoustics, or program material require. Both filtered and unfiltered line outputs are included, the former delivering an active third-order high-pass characteristic at the de facto standard 80 Hz.
The ASW-850’s and ASWâ€“800’s sealed MatrixÂ® enclosures are crafted from heavy-weight, non-resonant wood composites, and extensively braced.
Both new B&W’s active subwoofers are offered in a choice of hand-finished, top-grade real wood veneersâ€”Black Ash, Cherrywood, and red-stained Cherrywoodâ€”with trim and finish selected to complement B&W’s current lineup of high-end models.
The ASW-800 will be available January 2003 at a manufacturer’s suggested price of $2,200, with the ASW-850 becoming available March 2003 at a suggested price of $3,000.