TruAudio CSUB-12 Subwoofer Review - Home Theater Forum and Systems - HomeTheaterShack.com

 
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TruAudio CSUB-12 Subwoofer Review

TruAudio CSUB-12 Subwoofer Review

By Jim Wilson (theJman)



Introduction
The subject of this review is the TruAudio CSUB-12. The CSUB-12 utilizes a 12" front-firing driver with equal sized passive radiators (PR) on both sides of the cabinet. It's pretty small at just 15" in all dimensions (HWD), and weighs 42 pounds. The amp is a Class D rated at 350 watts, but there's no indication if that's RMS or peak. The manufacturer states the frequency response as 20-200Hz (+/-3dB).


Ordering
Many of you may not have heard of TruAudio before, probably due to the fact they sell their products exclusively through a dealers network. The company was actually started by custom installers, and they've opted to stay true (no pun intended) to that market segment. As such, the only place you can purchase any TruAudio equipment is from one of their authorized dealers. To find one you have to fill out a webform that asks for your name, city, state, zip code, phone number, email address, country and a description of what your "project" is. That struck me as a lot of information just to get the name of the nearest dealer.

The review unit carried a list price of $1,249, which is certainly not insignificant. There may be some room for negotiation with your dealer, but I can't say for certain if that's the case. TruAudio provides a 1 year warranty on parts and labor for the CSUB-12.


Unboxing
The sub came double boxed, which is always nice to see. It was protected by a thin sheet of material and then wrapped in plastic. There were soft foam blocks in each of the 8 corners, with the bottom four having a cutout specifically for the feet. The only accessories were a 3 prong power cord and the manual, which was little more then an instruction sheet. However, since TruAudio designs their products for the professional installer this shouldn't be considered an issue; if someone installs audio equipment for a living and doesn't know how to hook up a subwoofer they should probably consider a career change.


Initial Impressions
The first thing you notice is how small this subwoofer appears, especially when you consider all that TruAudio has stuffed into the cabinet. In a mere 15" cube they've managed to fit a 12" driver, dual passive radiators and the amplifier. Every vertical panel is packed with something. The companies website says the finish is a semi-gloss black, but to me it looked more like it was matte black. The paint application was pretty good, but I did notice a few minor imperfections. It comes with fairly large, but rather shallow hard plastic feet that had rubber inserts. There were no carpet spikes included.

The cabinet has deeply rounded corners with a flush mounted grill on the front for the active driver. It's made from 5/8th's inch MDF on all the panels except the front, which was a generous 1 1/8th inch. There's no damping material but the inside of the cabinet is actually painted. That's not something you see too frequently. The only bracing employed were small blocks of wood glued to where the panels are joined. The internal dimensions are very small though -- and it's completely stuffed -- leaving almost no place to attach additional bracing anyway. The cabinet felt pretty rigid and the overall construction was quite good, with the proverbial knuckle rap test returning a solid thud. All the screws on the driver needed 1-1.5 turns to snug them up, while the ones on the PR's and amp were tight.

The driver cone is a polymer bonded cellulose with an average size half-roll rubber surround. The TruAudio name is embossed on the dustcap. It's housed in a stamped steel frame, has a large single slug magnet with a sizeable voice coil bump-out and a 1" vent with a screen to prevent anything from getting in their. The leads were woven directly into the spider, which is not terribly common (but it's always nice to see companies go the extra mile). The driver is secured using machine screws and t-nuts.

The passive radiators appear to use a rigid plastic cone with a very similar half-roll rubber surround. In a lot of instances the PR's are virtually identical to the main driver, with the exception that they have no motor assembly of course. In this case it appears TruAudio may have opted to go in a slightly different direction; not only was the cone material dissimilar, the PR's were held in place with wood screws. They aren't covered by a grill, but there was a stylized rubber trim ring around the edges that had the TruAudio name stamped in it.

The grill covering the driver is made from MDF, measures approximately 5/8th's of an inch and feels very sturdy. The TruAudio website says it's held in place by magnets, but the review sample was using the typical pin and socket setup. The transparent grill material was applied perfectly. There were small circular rubber disks on the backside of the frame which are to help ensure a snug fit and eliminate rattles. A small notch on the bottom center of the grill is used to aid in its removal -- which was a nice touch -- but it wasn't really necessary in this case because the grill essentially falls right off. It seems the pin/socket arrangement may not have been sized properly because the grill would come off without much prodding.

On the amp there is a dedicated LFE input along with dual low level inputs. There's also a pair of right and left high level 5 way binding posts, but no outputs of any kind. The two toggle switches are used for the Phase setting -- with the typical 0 and 180 degrees -- as well as the Off/Auto/On feature. There's also a rocker switch for the master power On/Off. Two dials represent volume control and the LPF (Low Pass Filter). Neither of those indicates anything other then the two extreme positions unfortunately; Min/Max for the volume and 40Hz/200Hz for the LPF. I never like seeing that - I believe all dials should have more granular markings. The knobs used on the dials are very nice, with a rubberized coating and a plainly visible red insert denoting exactly where the dial is pointing to. The amp plate is metallic black with a brushed finish which looks very classy.


Listening
My living room is 13x17x8 (1768 CF), so it's not terribly large. The main seating position is approximately 11 feet from the subwoofer. All testing was done after the unit had been broken in for at least 15 hours.

I found very little disagreeable about the CSUB-12; it proved itself to be a remarkable little subwoofer. Both the quality and quantity of bass was impressive, with a deep and richly textured sound that had good clarity and definition. It didn't succumb even when pushed to fairly elevated volume levels. Transient response wasn't the best, but it still held its own when playing music nonetheless.

Perhaps the most enjoyable aspect is how comported it was on a day-to-day basis. A large part of my review always consists of living with a sub just like anyone else would, not merely running it through a bunch of movie and music tests and calling it a day. I can't emphasis enough how critical that is to help you understand the true nature of a subwoofer. It was here that the CSUB-12 was perhaps the most gratifying because it just seemed to know what to do and how to do it virtually all of the time. Whether it was sports, car or truck racing, newscasts, even sitcoms, the bass was almost always what you would expect it to be. It proved itself to be a willing companion.


Movies/TV
I run each test scene twice; once while seated in my normal listening position and then a second time while sitting a few feet from the subwoofer. This allows me to hear it as I normally would, yet also affords me the opportunity to determine if the subwoofer is straining even the slightest bit. Both tests are run at the same volume level, which is slightly above what I would normally use on a day-to-day basis.

10,000 BC (DVD)
During Scene 3, the Mammoth Hunt, each footstep from the individual animals had tremendous clarity but not quite the earthshaking impact you would expect from such a beast. I felt pretty much the same about the ensuing stampede; great accuracy but not quite enough depth to make me think I was in the middle of a rampaging hoard. Overall there was very good definition, regardless of what was going on in the scene.

Underworld: Awakening (blu-ray)
At the beginning of Scene 9 there's a musical score which precedes the battle, and the little CSUB-12 presented that with remarkable precision. During the actual fight there are all manner of gunshots and impacts which had a nice tone and balance, but fell just a touch shy of striking fear into me. Of particular note, however, was the excellent lucidity of the huge Lycans growl while he's still veiled behind the curtain in the second rotunda. That's too often rendered indecipherable because of the incredible amount of deep bass it contains, but the CSUB-12 didn't seemed fazed. It wasn't completely guttural, but it was clear and well defined.

Avatar (blu-ray)
During the assault on Home Tree the approaching gunships had a nice sound and a decent amount of rumble. The incendiary rounds shot at the base of Home Tree hit with a solid percussive effect. The missiles were very similar, with the occasional little bass ripple felt in my chair as they exploded. When Home Tree finally succumbs and collapses the associated sounds -- buckling tree roots, cracking branches, heaving ground -- had wonderful detail, with each of the eliminates distinct in its own right. Perhaps my favorite part was when the sundry warrior clans are descending upon the ground troops while riding their horse-like beasts. The roar from the multitude of hooves was very impressive, in both depth and sharpness.

War Of The Worlds (blu-ray)
I always seem to start with Scene 4, Into the Storm. Why? The lighting strikes require fast transient response in order to take on the air of believability, and the CSUB-12 played along willingly and produced them with great definition. During The Machine Emerges I heard enough ground breaking rumbles and buckling sounds to make it seem very close to real. Don't forget, this is just a 15" cube standing up to one of the penultimate subwoofer test scenes. As the Tripod finally rises from the ground there was a nice little moan that accompanied it. At the beginning of the Hudson Ferry scene the Tripod lets out a blast that was quite potent, with a nice clean tone.


After all the testing had concluded I checked the amp to see how hot it had gotten, but it really wasn't. There was some heat but I would categorize it as not much more than warm, which is a very good sign.


Music
I used a combination of lossy and lossless material -- MP3, WAV and CD's for the most part -- to judge how musical the CSUB-12 subwoofer was.

Firehouse - Don't Treat Me Bad (CD)
From their eponymous debut album Firehouse unleashed their biggest single, Don't Treat Me Bad. This was "hair metal" at its best, or worst depending upon your perspective. It's not a song I necessarily like -- the falsetto vocals from a lot of the bands of that era, and this genre in particular, grate on me rather quickly -- but it does have one trait very desirable for a subwoofer test; a ridiculously over-exaggerated kick drum. For some reason the recording engineer decided that Michael Fosters right foot be heard above almost all else, and in that regard the CSUB-12 came through with flying colors. The impact was almost palpable, just like Firehouse had intended I assume.

Heart - Straight On (CD)
Ironically, Straight On is almost the opposite in some respects to the previous song; Michael DeRosiers kick drum is omnipresent, but it's the bass guitar of Steve Fossen that seems to be a bit more prominent. I'm not sure what type of guitar Steve uses but in this song it sounds an awful lot like a Rickenbacker, my all time favorite. A 'Ric' has a very distinct sound and the CSUB-12 handled it with aplomb, deftly producing the rich texture that only a Rickenbacker is capable of.

Creed - One (CD)
From Creed's debut album, My Own Prison, I choose the song with the thickest bottom end. My Own Prison became one of the largest selling rock debut albums ever, which is pretty funny when you realize it was recorded for about $6000 (a mere pittance for an album). Considering how little it cost to make the recording is surprisingly good on most of the tracks. One has the entire rhythm section -- both Scott Phillips drums and Brian Marshalls bass -- recorded on the hot side, especially the kick drum. The CSUB-12 played it precisely like it should have; loud, obnoxious and thunderous, even when the volume started to approach the "hey, do you want to turn that down?!" level.

Bass Mekanik - Bass Mekanik (WAV)
Electronic music started to highlight the fact that this is, after all, a tiny subwoofer and you simply can't cheat physics. While I would classify what the CSUB-12 is capable of as very impressive, especially given its size, it wasn't quite up to the task here. During parts of this song there was some droning evident, and the deepest bass was missing in the sweeps, but I never detected any indication of bottoming. But even though it couldn't quite go as low as the song called for the CSUB-12 didn't trip over itself trying to do something it simply wasn't able to either. For me, that's the preferred response.

Dub King - Halloweener (WAV)
It was time to break out some of Dub Kings songs, just to see how the CSUB-12 handled being pummeled mercilessly. Halloweener has a few staccato blasts that invariably seem to upset a subwoofer, and it was no different this time. When those occurred the PR's started oscillating wildly, and a hint of distress was heard for perhaps the only time. There was little in the way of "feel" being produced as well. One of these days I'll find a sub that doesn't have a problem with Halloweener.

Dub King - Throbberizer (WAV)
In parts of this song there is a pulsating (throbbing?) beat with some pretty fast transients, all of which the CSUB-12 kept right up with. At times I felt a slight pressure wave, and even some ripples of bass in my chair, which struck me as incredible from such a compact subwoofer. The bass in this song must not be as deep as what's in Halloweener though because there were no sounds of anguish, and the PR's were more tame.


Conclusion
The TruAudio CSUB-12 has a lot to offer. The diminutive size belies its capabilities; based upon appearance alone you wouldn't think it has much to give, but you'd be mistaken. It can't really plumb the very depths, because it's just too small for that, but it certainly didn't embarrass itself either. With good overall dynamics and solid articulation the CSUB-12 proved unobtrusive, yet still quite capable. The price strikes me as rather high, and its only available from an authorized dealer, so there are some drawbacks, but for those who desire a small subwoofer that doesn't necessarily sound or act like one the CSUB-12 is definitely worth considering.


Please use the TruAudio CSUB-12 Discussion Thread for questions and comments



CSUB-12 Pictures



CSUB-12 Measurements
These measurements were taken using XTZ Room Analyzer II Pro. The unit was indoors, physically positioned in the center of my listening room with the microphone just a few inches from the center of the driver's dust cap and passive radiator. Yellow is the driver, green the passive radiator and blue is them combined.


-Jim

If you take yourself too seriously, expect me to do the exact opposite

Last edited by theJman; 08-13-15 at 07:46 AM. Reason: Updated web link
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