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OSD PS-10 Subwoofer Review
The subject of this review is the $199 OSD Audio PS10 subwoofer. The PS10 is a small bass reflex (ported) subwoofer designed for home theater. As you'll find out shortly, it's capable of more then just that. Measuring in at only 13.5"w x 14.25"h x 13.5"d it utilizes a single 10" driver and weighs approximately 29lbs.
The driver is front-firing, as are the dual ports (both of which are 2" in diameter). The amp is rated at 125 watts RMS, with no mention of peak power. There's a 115/230 volt switch on the amp, so international usage is possible. The rated frequency response is 25Hz to 180Hz @ -3dB. There is a 2 year warranty against defects in material and workmanship.
OSD Audio sells direct to the public but you can also purchase some of their products from Amazon, which is where I got the evaluation unit from. I've observed that both prices are within a few dollars on a regular basis. However, I ordered from Amazon because they were having a "cyber monday" sale and the price was 30% off. OSD Audio was still selling them for $199 at the exact same time, so it appears as though any price breaks would only apply to Amazon orders.
The unit came double boxed. The inner box held the subwoofer in place using blocks of styrofoam in each corner, both top and bottom. Those blocks were fairly thick, providing almost 2" of protection between the box and the cabinet. The subwoofer was in a sealed plastic bag too.
The grill is perhaps an inch thick, but oddly doesn't feel very stout. The cloth is wrapped around to the back of the frame, and was applied evenly and smooth. When I attempted to remove the grill for the first time it was inordinately difficult. After a bit of struggling it eventually came off, and with it about a 1 square inch section of the veneer. Seems like they used a bit too much glue on the grill and it adhered directly to the cabinet. Maybe it was placed on the cabinet while the glue was still wet, but either way it was now damaged.
One other thing about the grill; the pins used to attach it to the cabinet appear no different then any other, but they did a very good job of securing it - the grill stayed firmly affixed for the duration of my evaluation.
The owners manual is rather good, especially given this is such a low cost sub. It's well laid out, organized logically and actually reads as though it was written by someone who speaks English fluently. A nice surprise. But it did contain some inaccuracies unfortunately.
The first of which is it shows the auto/standby switch as having 2 positions, but in reality there are 3; on, off and auto. It also says the LED is green when on and red in standby mode. It's actually green when on, but in standby the LED is off entirely. The most egregious mistake though is it depicts the gain and crossover knobs as being on a control panel mounted to the front of the subwoofer, which they're not. As is the case with most other subs both of those dials are on the back, attached directly to the amp.
That last issue does lead to a curious observation... a company named AudioSource sells a subwoofer called the PSW 110 that looks suspiciously close to the PS10. Even the names are similar, which seems like it may be a little more then merely a coincidence. The topper, as it turns out, is the fact that the AudioSource PSW 110 possess the identical front panel controls pictured in the PS10's owners manual, the same controls the PS10 doesn't have. I don't know for sure they're the same unit -- the dimensions appear to be slightly different -- but there's certainly more then circumstantial evidence to suggest the two subs share a connection of some type.
Appearance wise, this is probably the most generic looking sub I've ever seen. The cabinet is basically a cube, and nothing more. The corners are square, without any contour. The grill is the same dimension as the cabinet so there's nothing to differentiate it's profile from anything else, other then the cloth. Even the veneer is ordinary. It's not that the PS10 looks bad, simply uninspiring.
I don't especially like the fact that the driver has only 4 screws securing it to the cabinet - the fewest screws I've seen up till now has been 6, so 4 strikes me as insufficient. The driver isn't flush mounted either, it's affixed on top of the front panel. Think that's bad? Maybe not in this instance. Unless the front panel is thick -- at least .75" -- flush mounting a driver is actually bad for structural integrity because you're removing material from the very place you need it most; where the driver attaches to the cabinet. While surface mounting does make it look less esthetically pleasing when the grill is off, and infers a lack of forethought, it's better from a structural standpoint, so even though the driver is secured with just 4 screws it is mounted to a panel that's a full .5" thick. From my perspective this seems to be a wash; they don't use enough screws, but the ones they do use are at least being driven into a .5" panel.
The ubiquitous 'knuckle rap test' returns a somewhat hollow sounding echo, which isn't uncommon for a sub comprised of walls that are only .5" MDF. What's also uncommon -- in a good way -- is the interior is lined with damping material. It's not terribly dense or thick, but it's inclusion is noteworthy for such a low cost product. There's no internal bracing though.
Another nice feature is the amp has it's own enclosure, completely sectioning it off from the rest of the cabinet. This isolates the electronics from the backwave created by the driver. It's probably more important for an acoustic suspension cabinet to have such a feature, because of the immense internal pressure associated to that type of design, but it's still worthwhile to include it for bass reflex as well. Regardless, it's an unexpected bonus.
The + and - speaker wires are the only thing going between the amp enclosure and the cabinet. They run through a dollop of silicone where they exit the enclosure. The wires themselves are wrapped in a foam surround, further insulating them. All-in-all, there were enough thoughtful little touches to make you feel some genuine care was given to the design and engineering.
The dual ports are made from some type of heavy-duty cardboard. Don't equated that to mean the core from a roll of paper towels though - think more along the lines of mini Sonotube. Internally the ports go about 2/3rds of the way back, bend 90 degrees upwards, and then 45 degrees in towards the middle. The inside opening of each, which has a plastic flare attached, is just below the underside of the magnet. Both ports were well anchored and rigid, showing no signs of flex.
The driver uses a half-roll suspension that's not terribly stiff, but it is on the larger side of normal. The cone construction is typical treated paper, with an inverted dustcap.
There are speaker and line level inputs on the amp, but no outputs of either kind. The crossover and gain controls only have numerical values for the highest and lowest of their respective settings, and nothing but dashed lines in between the two extremes. I'm constantly amazed by how that seems to be a cost saving mechanism on inexpensive subwoofers. Would it really add that much extra to silkscreen on a few more numbers? I somehow doubt it, so I consider this type of omission inexcusable. OSD is not alone in this regard -- many others do it as well -- but that doesn't make it any less inexcusable in my opinion.
Setup is the same as pretty much every other subwoofer; connect the sub-out from your AVR to the line level input(s), adjust the gain, set the crossover and turn it on. I did use a Y splitter to double the input signal, which increased the sensitivity. Since there is no EQ or DSP there aren't any surprises, good or bad, regarding how the PS10 gets hooked up and configured.
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.
The first thing I'd like to note is associated to a pet peeve of mine; the auto-on functionality, or lack thereof. This is 8th subwoofer I've either bought or reviewed in the past 1.5 years, yet it's probably the only one where the auto-on feature has worked perfectly. Because of that I've grown particularly annoyed about how poorly this simple feature has been implemented on so many products. Is it really that hard to get right? I think not, yet so few do it seems.
When you raise the volume on your AVR the PS10 comes to life, every single time. It does so quickly and without having to crank it to some ridiculous level. It doesn't go into standby during long periods of dialog -- like when watching a sporting event -- yet it does shut itself down properly after about 10 minutes of no real input (when the TV is muted or turned off). In essence, it simply works, just like it's supposed to. What a rare treat.
In spite of the cabinet damping it does tend to ring a little, which deprives the bass of some richness. Bracing might help this tendency, as would thicker walls I imagine. But even with that this little sub does still put out some surprisingly good bass. Most of the time the lower frequencies are potent and clear, with no hint of the "one note" bass noise that other budget subwoofers force you to endure. I wouldn't go so far as to say it's musical, but it's pretty close. It does have it's limits of course, so don't expect the PS10 to plumb the depths and give you that gut punch you might achieve with a much more expensive subwoofer. There is a certain amount of depth and impact missing due to it's budget-friendly approach, but frankly this is a good subwoofer. I never once experience the PS10 embarrassing itself. Quite the contrary, actually; I often marveled at just how much it could do, or how loudly it was able to play, while still maintaining it's composure.
I'm not prone to watching at "reference level", so my assessments should be considered in that regard. I've also begun to run each test scene twice; once while seated on the floor, within a few feet of the subwoofer, and a second time sitting in the normal listening position. This allows me to hear it as I normally would, yet also ascertain if it's straining even the slightest bit.
Like most people I have particular scenes I use when testing speakers. A few of my favorites are Lord of the Rings: Bridge of Khazad Doom, Collateral: Club Fever and Avatar: Assault on Home Tree. All three were used for this review.
Lord of the Rings: Bridge of Khazad Doom - There is an almost persistent ultra low-level rumble in portions of this scene. For a subwoofer to handle that properly it needs to be crisp and capable of reaching down low, otherwise that effect comes across as just an annoying rumble. The PS10 struggled a bit here.
When this effect kicked in there was some mechanical noise heard, indicating the driver had reached it's physical limits. There was some port chuffing as well. This was evident even at my normal listening position. The specifications claim this unit is capable of 25Hz at -3dB, but my conclusion would be that's somewhat optimistic. OSD does provide graphs to corroborate their contention, which I attached to this post for reference sake.
The Balrog's roar was produced much better, and exhibited a good overall balance. The fire effect that also accompanies him (her?) everywhere was clear, and displayed an impressive amount of power. When the staircase starts to crumble and fall, crashing down into the abyss, the bass was delivered in a solid manner and with great detail. The various impacts were balanced with the other sounds in a well controlled and precise way. It became apparent the only place the PS10 was having trouble keeping up was with the very low frequencies - above that octave it did an admirable job.
Collateral: Club Fever - This disc has the option of using DTS or DD, so I tested with both. The only significant difference is DTS has a bit of additional low bass, while DD seems to have a little more clarity.
Although this scene doesn't contain a tremendous amount of LFE information it does have a driving musical soundtrack, and over-emphasized gun sounds. The music portion I've found can cause trouble for a subwoofer because it does tend to drown out the voice track in certain spots. Because of that an articulate subwoofer is critical. The PS10 performed well here.
With DTS the music did not over-power the dialog, which I have observed with other budget subwoofers in the past. The driving synth bass track sounded like it would in a club, albeit with a smaller sound system (in other words you don't feel it, but you certainly hear it). The gun sounds were delivered with authority and blended properly with the other effects. No matter how close I got to the sub there was no audible indications of distress during any portion of this scene.
Avatar: Assault on Home Tree - For those familiar with the movie this scene has low frequencies, ultra-low frequencies, explosions, voices and enough other things going on to provide a good test of virtually every component in your system. The PS10 survived this scene virtually unscathed. I say "virtually" because when you got close to it there was some port noise in a few spots, but thankfully no untoward mechanical sounds. From the listening position the port sound was completely inaudible.
As the gunships approach Home Tree you can almost feel the underlying intensity. Realistically, a 10" subwoofer is not going to give much -- if any -- physical sensation of impact but there was an occasional rumble felt, which I didn't expect. While the missiles were being fired at the base of the tree all the low frequency elements were surprisingly distinct; the launch, the sound of propulsion and the delivery of payload. As more and more started to strike the tree the intensity picks up, yet the PS10 kept pace and never faltered.
As the tree begins to crumble and fall the ultra-low effects start to kick in, and the PS10 kept right on chugging along. There was a degree of ultimate impact missing, but it wasn't as much as you might expect given the price of this unit. From the crackling and explosion of the roots as the weight from the tree starts to shift, all the way to the final massive thud when it smashes into the ground, the bass sounds were pronounced and detailed. Not until I sat within 3 feet of the sub was there even a hint of stress, and that consisted of only a small amount of port noise.
At this point the amp was beginning to get a bit unhappy though. After playing each of the test scenes multiple times, at what I consider to be a higher then normal volume level, I noticed the heat fins were starting to get a little warm. Not so hot you couldn't touch them, but not too far from it. Once the testing had concluded, and the volume was dropped back down, they did cool rather quickly.
I use a combination of lossy and lossless material to see how musical a subwoofer is, and in both instances the PS10 held it's own. Whether the songs were bass heavy to begin with, or focused more on the upper bass region, this sub played them with clarity and accuracy. Music lends itself to more critical listening, so if a manufacturer cuts corners it will often be conspicuous here. As mentioned previously, I don't think the PS10 could necessarily be classified as "musical", but I believe for a budget subwoofer it did very well with music reproduction. Yet another time I was pleasantly surprised by what I heard.
Support was hit or miss; sometimes I got fast turn around and detailed answers, while others it was days before hearing anything, and the response was terse (not in the rude sense, just brief). Almost invariably I had to send another email to "remind" them there were open issues that hadn't been addressed. One thing I hadn't anticipated was the response I got after mentioning I was doing a review (which I only do after I'm done assessing the technical support, so as not to confuse the issue).
When I finally divulged my intentions I received an email from someone else, who CCed a half dozen other people as well. The person seemed quite interested in what I was doing, and made certain things were being handled appropriately. I found this level of attention to be a nice surprise (there's that word again). It's exceedingly rare for a company making a $200 subwoofer to show that level of concern for a review, especially one being done by someone with no discernible credentials. But they were, so perhaps OSD is the exception to the rule.
As you've probably already surmised, I really like this subwoofer. While it does have a few shortcomings it's still a very good value nonetheless. The review might best be summed up like this; the OSD Audio PS10 is the story of the little subwoofer that could. Yea I know, that sounds a bit campy, but it's really quite accurate. I often found myself thinking "you know, that's not bad at all" while listening to it. I certainly can't say the same thing about most of the other budget subwoofers I've reviewed.
The overall sound quality and level of output the PS10 is capable of belie the diminutive price tag. It's not much too look at mind you, but if sound is more your priority then this one should most definitely be on your 'short list', especially for the individual on a very strict budget. Simply put, your $200 buys a lot of product here.
Note: OSD Audio makes a 12" variant called the PS12, which costs a mere $50 more. If the qualities and inherent value from the PS10 are extrapolated to that unit I would imagine it's also an impressive subwoofer for the price.
For those interested in my subject assessment it would be the OSD Audio PS10 is highly recommended.
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