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Power Sound Audio XS30 - Review and First Impressions

The XS30 is a dual 15” driver sealed sub offered by Power Sound Audio (PSA) as part of its “Power X” subwoofer line. I recently had the good fortune of purchasing two XS30's for my 1800^3 ft dedicated home theater during PSA’s initial pre-order offering. At a cost of $1,149 each and a 5 year transferable warranty, the XS30 represents a phenomenal value offering amazing sound and quality at a very competitive price.

Before digging into the review of the XS30, I’m compelled to speak about my buying experience and the unusually extraordinary customer service that PSA provides. You may have read that PSA's customer service is off the charts. I can 100% confirm that it is in fact OFF the charts! I began looking at PSA’s Power X lineup as a favor for a friend that needed help researching a sub for a new theater system. This is when I was first exposed to comments on various enthusiast sites praising PSA’s personable customer service and buying experience, not to mention solid reviews of their XS15 and XV15 subs. This fueled my own interest in a possible sub upgrade that I had been planning for sometime later this year. That targeted timeframe changed once I began a very open and honest dialog with Tom Vodhanel of PSA. I found several things refreshing about our dialog. Tom never once bashed a competitor, in fact he praised many offerings by competitors. He appeared interested and willing to give advice even if it didn't mean a sale, and was very enthused about the quality of his company’s subs. I'm not sure if PSA can maintain the level of communication I experienced as demand for their subwoofers grows, but the quick response time to emails (not to mention the fact that you are emailing with one of THE designers) and the depth of knowledge sharing was very impressive - a customer’s dream! This level of interaction has remained true even after receiving the subs (set-up advice has been easy to get, detailed, and helpful and PSA has been quick to reasonably respond to any issues). Long story short, my upgrade bug turned into a full-blown ICU septic situation and my better half gave me the nod to proceed with purchasing dual XS30's as a quick sure-shot cure!

Communication about my order remained strong until delivery day. The PSA XS30 is a large sub that requires a large box. My shipment was handled by a freight company. The XS30 is shipped by being strapped to a pallet which the freight company happily delivered directly to my garage. The shipping weight for a single XS30 is roughly 116lbs (145 lbs if you include the pallet), so only plan on moving the box with the aid of a friend, or, if you are lucky, by sliding the box on towels over wood floors. Internally, PSA protects the XS30 with plastic and foam. The unit’s grills are boxed separately, safely sealed in plastic sleeves and surrounded by bubble-wrap, and placed on top of the sub.



Now onto the nuts and bolts: The physical characteristics of the XS30. These subs are hulking beasts! Their cabinets are generous in size and, as you may have seen in photos, have a grainy exterior that is black in color. No seams are evident around the exterior of the cabinet. It's a very interesting, if not unique, surface. At first glance, the cabinets appear to have a bit of sheen when exposed to light (initially I was concerned that they would reflect light in my light controlled theater room, however this has proven to be a non-issue). Each sub sports round black rubber feet - roughly an inch thick - set-in several inches in from the sides of the cabinet. In addition to the cabinets, the 15” drivers have a commanding appearance. Overall, I find the XS30’s looks to be edgy and mysterious, and must note that with their grills off and drivers exposed they look refined and ready for one purpose: Bringing serious LFE!







The cabinets themselves feel ROCK solid. A quick knuckle rap test tells the story. It produces a solid thud (other subs I have on-hand are quite the opposite, sounding hollow and thin compared to the XS30). The cabinet also feels solid when handling. Weighing in at 110 lbs, the XS30 feels secure and robust when lifting and moving around. Picking up an XS30 is almost like picking up a giant brick!

The XS30 is powered by a 725W (1450W peak) DSP Bash Amplifier. The exterior plate to the amp has “Power X” emblazoned on it. The controls are standard fair: Power toggle (on, auto, off), gain, phase, crossover, power plug, two input jacks, and a small green light that subtly glows when the unit is turned on. The various knobs and switches all feel solid.



Each unit comes with a user guide and a power cord. The user guide includes instructions on upacking the unit, advice on room placement, installation procedures, and connecting the subwoofer. My only qualm is that the unpacking instructions are “in” the user guide. It seems to me that those would best displayed on the exterior of the shipping box (or provided in the shipping confirmation email). Most users probably unpack their sub before opening the user manual and any unpacking advice, especially for owners that have never unpacked a subwoofer this heavy, is probably best offered in an easily visible place.



Once I unpacked the XS30’s, I began the task of properly placing them within my theater. I tried roughly 6 different placement configurations (center of side walls, center of front and back walls, front corner/back corner, front corner/ 1/4 side wall, 1/4 of side walls, and 1/4 of front wall). After taking REW measurements from 3 different seating positions for each configuration, I decided the best places for the XS30’s are at the 1/4 points along the front wall. This configuration gave the most even response in my room across the center and far-left/far-right seating positions. Because of some space issues, they are turned at a 45 degree angle (pointing toward the middle of the front wall).

Here are the REW room measurements I recorded during placement. I chose the configuration represented by the measurements shown in the upper left graph.







Note, in a light controlled environment, the light reflected from the exterior of the XS30's is hardly visible and a non-issue.



Upon setting the gain on each XS30 to about 68-70 dB (when run simultaneously they reach about 78 dB), phase to 0, crossover to 150Hz, and measuring the sub distance using MCACC (note, my Elite AVR manages the crossover which is set at 80Hz), I began the process of equalizing the subs using REW software and a Behringer Feedback Destroyer Pro DSP1124 parametric equalizer. After placing 7 filters, I managed a decently flat response to about 19Hz. As you can see, I have a TON of room gain from 40hz right on down to about 10hz. Wow, is right. Just as Tom Vodhanel had predicted, the XS30's use room gain to their advantage. They sink their teeth right into sub-sonic frequencies and take a HUGE merciless bite to about 9Hz before there is any drop off. That is flat-out nasty.




Now to the goods. The meat of the matter. The reason why you are probably reading this.... "HOW DO THEY SOUND," you ask? Let's just say this: Incredible. I have had the pleasure of watching about 10 films over the past 3 weeks. These films have included heavy action titles like Battleship, Dredd, Looper, Prometheus, Warrior, and Total Recall (2012 release) to movies with less emphasis on audio like Jonathan Levein’s 50/50. And what a treat it has been!

I love bass and shake, hence my seating is wired with 6 bass shakers. Prior to the arrival of the XS30’s, these shakers drove the bass experience our theater. Not any more. Enter the PSA heavy hitters. The XS30’s are now the star of the show. That is not to say the shakers are disengaged. However, they now compliment, rather than lead, the theater’s bass experience.

What I’ve found through my hours of movie watching is an extremely even, tight, and smooth bass. It’s not localized or one sided in it’s presentation - not in the slightest bit. It can be felt pulsating through the room. It is consistently in control and it never loses its composure. I have driven the XS30’s hard (roughly -4 on my Elite’s dial which is about as much as I am interested in handling). The bass gives and gives and sounds like it could easily give more. With my bass shakers off, the XS30‘s pulsate bass through the couch and have an excellent slam factor. And, wow, can they play low - easily handling 16Hz warble test tones.

From gun shots to the bass lines in AC/DC's "Thunderstruck" to the various LFE's paired with machines and engines, the XS30's really deliver the goods. Impactful, airy, present, and thick. Just a few highlights: As the sky divers jump from the crashing Osprey in Transformers: Dark of the Moon, there is a thumping effect that the XS30’s play as tight, loud, and composed as I have ever heard in my home theater. Same goes for the quick thuds associated with Dan firing his shotgun during his run to the train station in 3:10 Yuma (not to mention, the LFE associated with the train arrival is tight, hard hitting, and rumblelicious!). The ultra-low frequency effects in Battleship associated with the forcefield shooting in the air from the alien craft in the water... well, let's just say they it's alive and PULSATES through the room. And, the insanely punishing 10Hz material presented in Dredd is played with authority. Never bottoming out or sounding as if it is simply too much for the XS30’s to handle.

The XS30’s also have a musical side and a softer side. This is completely on display during the movie 50/50. The bass lines from Radiohead’s High and Dry and Pearl Jam’s Yellow Leddbetter (both featured songs in the movie) are wonderfully tight and really show-off the complimentary nature between the XS30’s and my RTiA 5 mains. Never dominant, but wonderfully present. The XS30s also accurately present all the subtle bass that we experience during movies like car doors shutting, distant rumbles, and background music.

I have to mention, during all of the thunderous LFE the XS30’s dish-out during movies, their cabinets remain calm. I have placed my hands on the top and sides of the cabinets on numerous occasions and you’d never know they were subs were on. No vibration, no rattling, practically inert.

If you look at the total package: Reasonable cost and warranty, solid construction, aggressive design, great performance, and top notch customer service. It’s safe to say that Power Sound Audio has a very hot product on its hands. The XS30 is going to give the competition fits. These two units have been a fantastic addition to my home theater experience. If you are in the market for a new sub, do yourself a favor and add one to your short list. You won’t regret it.
 

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Nice review. These must be great subs! Have fun. Dennis
 

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Thanks for posting that. I'm sure others will benefit from your insight. Sounds like you should be more then set. For a while anyway... :D
 

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Todd, thanks for taking the time for this mini review. It's nice to have measurements along with subjective impressions.
 

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Thanks for the review and great information! I recently bought War of the Worlds to test out my new XS-30. I was thoroughly impressed and just as you said, I really felt the bass. It almost felt like I had a butt kicker under my couch. It was a good bass though that would reverb through the back of my couch in the chest area. I also went through some scenes of the Dark Knight Rises and really enjoyed the rumbling of the Bat as it took off. I think I like the WAF on this one slightly better for the simple fact that it sits am inch lower so is more out of site in my current setup.

Very happy with my upgrade and should be set for some time to come. Great customer service, great warranty, expectations fulfilled if not exceeded, how can you not beat that plus the bang for the buck factor!
 

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Discussion Starter #10 (Edited)
Definitely! My pleasure. I just spent some time editing the review. I didn't really have a chance to edit my writing this afternoon, but wanted to get it out there. Hopefully I cleaned up the ole' grammar just enough to make it more readable. ;-)
 

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Discussion Starter #11
I've edited the original post to reflect more a review, rather than a first impression. Just to note, PSA has handled all of the first production shipping issues very efficiently and reasonably. I really appreciate their attention and concern to the minor problems they experienced. I would have absolutely zero hesitation recommending them.
 

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Discussion Starter #13 (Edited)
So did I. That's the kind of customer service that people always hope for but never receive. They've definitely got a good thing going in that department!
 

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So do I. That's the kind of customer service that people always hope for but never receive. They've definitely got a good thing going in that department!
Thanks for the update. Always enjoy reading your posts and definitely like reading what others have to say about the same product I have. Nice theater and pictures as well! I couldn't make out the graphs too well, not sure if that's because I am looking on my phone but they are all blurry for me.
 

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Discussion Starter #17
No outboard amp... each XS30 has its own 725W (1450W peak) DSP Bash Amplifier. Plenty of power to get the job done:meter:
 

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Thank you for your review... this sub is on my short list -- I am honestly waiting to see what new products are released before I commit to anything just yet.
 
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