HTS Moderator , Reviewer
The subject of this review is the Rythmik LV12R, a bass reflex subwoofer that uses a 12" driver and rear-facing port. Measuring 22.5"x16"x18.75" (HWD, including grill) and weighing 61 pounds means it's on the large side for a subwoofer with a single 12" driver. Pushing the custom Rythmik driver is a 300 watt Hypex Class D amp that utilizes a patented servo control system. Frequency response is quoted as 19Hz-300Hz (+/-2db), which is impressively deep and flat for a subwoofer in this price range. There's a 5 year warranty on the driver and 2 years on the amp.
Rythmik is, for the most part, a typical ID (Internet Direct) company. They do have a distribution arrangement with Ascend Acoustics but Rythmik's primary business model is pretty much standard for ID companies; they sell direct over the internet.
The LV12R has a retail price of $589, which includes shipping in the continental US. For other locations Rythmik provides a $55 shipping credit. Like most ID companies there's a 30 day in-home trial; if it turns out the LV12R is not for you they will refund your money, but "returns of non-defective units are subject to a restocking fee". Nothing is specified regarding precisely what events would trigger a restocking fee, but the company clarified their policy for me with the following explaination...
As for return, the back and forth shipping is not refundable and there is no restocking as long as customers keep the sub in good shape. The returned subs will be sold as B-stock with about 15% discount. So the condition needs to be very reasonable. In all these years, I only charged a restocking for one customer who ordered a piano black sub and apparently just dragged the sub across hard floor without considering deep scratches under enclosure. In that case, the enclosure is completely totaled and I have to charge him some restocking fee. In all other cases, we have charged no restocking fee.
The LV12R came single boxed, which I'm not a fan of, but at 3 full layers thick it was one of the sturdiest boxes I've encountered. There was 2" medium density foam blocks on the top and bottom that were completely cradling the unit. It was also wrapped in plastic.
One unique aspect regarding Rythmik's packing is they include removal instructions printed on the inside of the top flap. Normally you would open the top of the box, invert it 180 degrees so the uncut bottom was now facing up and then lift the entire thing up and off. Rythmik does it a bit differently though because they include a "skateboard", a separate piece that looks like a tiny shipping pallet made from foam and cardboard. It's placed between the sub and shipping carton and the intended purpose is to act as a slider to simplify the unboxing process. The concept is that after you've cut open the top you lay the box on its side and then use the slider as an aid while you pull the sub out. For someone like myself -- who unpacks and repacks a lot of subwoofers -- the "tip it over" method works better for me, but for the person who doesn't do this on a regular basis I can see where it would be helpful. Either way it's a thoughtful feature and may come in handy because a few of Rythmik's subwoofers weigh a substantial amount.
The only accessories included are a 2 prong power cord, 1" round hard rubber feet and a single page combination Quick Guide/Installation. The power cord and feet were contained in their own cardboard box that was sitting in a cutout in the top foam piece. That's an excellent way to keep them from bouncing around while the sub is in transit.
The Quick Guide/Installation sheet is printed on a standard 8.5"x11" piece of paper, with the Quick Guide on one side and the Installation instructions on the other. It doesn't contain a lot of information and may prove insufficient for the person who doesn't quite grasp some of the more advanced configuration settings, especially those unique to Rythmik subwoofers (like the Bass Extension setting, which electronically alters the systems Q). The rough English translation probably won't help much either.
The cabinet isn't all that wide -- and for a bass reflex subwoofer it isn't too deep either -- but the LV12R is pretty tall. Unless you have a good sized room it may not go unnoticed. The overall weight is probably in line with its size, so you can move it around with relative ease. The "knuckle rap test" returns a slight hollow sound, but it doesn't feel cheap at all. Quite the opposite actually; the cabinet comes across as rather solid, with very little vibration transmitted through the panels even when the driver is pounding away with deep bass material.
The panels are made from 7/8" MDF all around. The review sample came covered with a very lightly textured vinyl wrap called Black Matte. If the shipping box is any indication Rythmik may also sell it with other finishes -- Black Oak and White Matte were specifically mentioned -- but only the former is listed on their website. On the inside of the cabinet you'll find both horizontal and vertical braces made from 7/8" MDF, along with another brace around the entire center made from 1/2" MDF. Glued to all the inside panels, except for the front and back, was 1" acrylic damping sheets. Taken together it helps explain why the cabinet was pretty much inert, regardless of how hard I pushed it.
The grill is just as sturdy as the cabinet, made from the same 7/8" MDF. It's held in place with the fairly universal plastic pin and socket arrangement. The grill material used is virtually transparent and was applied perfectly. One item lacking was any type of badge or company logo on the front. With the black matte finish on the cabinet, and the grill material virtually the exact same color, the LV12R comes across as one rather large, bland box. Rythmik should probably consider adding something to break up the monotony, so it doesn't look quite so plain.
The 12" driver isn't particularly impressive to behold, completely absent exotic materials for the cone or basket. Instead what you'll find seems pretty standard; treated paper cone, stamped steel basket and a fairly thin rubber surround (thin, as in material thickness). There are dual slug magnets, a sizable voice coil bump-out and a 1" cooling vent, but those are pretty standard for this class of subwoofer. The driver itself is only held in with wood screws too, so you certainly would be forgiven if you thought this setup was nothing special. But upon closer examination you see there are two sets of leads connecting the driver to the amp, one of which is marked "Servo". That's when you begin to realize looks are deceiving, and that perhaps something else is afoot.
The double flared port measures 3.25"x13" and fires out the back of the cabinet. That could potentially create some challenges for those who like to place their subwoofer very close to the back wall because now you'll need to leave about a foot or so of "breathing room". That's actually the perfect segue to a curious observation I had...
The LV12R is essentially an evolutionary change from its predecessor, the highly acclaimed FV12. After a bit of digging I uncovered the fact that the LV12R and FV12 are more similar than dissimilar. For example, they both use the same driver, port and enclosure dimensions. The port on the LV12R is rear-firing, as opposed to front-firing on the FV12, and the grill covers the entire front baffle now where it didn't previously, but those two changes don't amount to anything particularly significant. The amp is new -- an audiophile grade Hypex Class D -- but it's still rated at 300 watts, just like the FV12. That makes me wonder "why change the model?". The big difference was the new amp, so why not just modify the cutout size in the FV12 cabinet so it would accommodate the different dimensions and be done with it? There was a several month gap between the time Rythmik ran out of FV12's and when the LV12R started shipping, leaving a void in their product line. To me it seems as though they let their competitors have a lot of business because of that.
The new amplifier in the LV12R is pretty special though, and exclusive to Rythmik. Just like all their other subwoofers it utilizes a patented Direct Servo feedback system to ensure the bass response is always precise and accurate. Rythmik explains it like this...
A sensing coil adjacent to the driver voice coil is used to generate a feedback signal which is then used to correct any difference between the original and the reproduction. The sensing coil acts as a microphone, and the feedback is sent to the servo board where the necessary corrections are made instantly.
According to Rythmik the process for correcting the signal occurs in the following manner:
- The plate amplifier receives a signal which is filtered on the pre-amp board to achieve correct integration. The signal from the preamp passes to the power amplifier which then sends the amplified signal to the voice coil of the driver. The amplified signal is shown above in red.
- As the amplified signal passes through the voice coil, the cone moves and begins to reproduce the signal.
- At the same time as the cone is moving in response to the amplified signal, the sensing coil is generating a feedback signal. There is no time delay between step 2 and 3 because they occur simultaneously. While the cone is moving, the sensing coil is sending feedback. The sensing coil is a specialized microphone which measures the precise output of the driver. The correction signal is shown above in blue.
- The correction signal is fed back into the summing points of the amplifier. It is compared to the original signal and corrections are made without the use of any active circuits.
- The driver reproduces a signal that has been corrected by instantaneous feedback. Detrimental memory effects have been eliminated and the sound is true to the original.
- Reduction of the effects of thermal compression are eliminated under normal operation
- Higher efficiency allowing output which would normally require a more powerful amplifier
- Deep bass extension can be achieved using a low mass driver with superior transient response
- Mechanical and thermal memory effects are reduced, further improving transient response
- Much greater damping control over the cone
- Dramatic reduction of the re-radiation of bass from inside the box
Rythmik didn't stop there; they also added the ability to configure bass extension. Through the use of another toggle switch you can set the actual Q value to 19Hz (Low, with a Q=1.1), 22Hz (Med, with a Q=0.9) or 24Hz (High, with a Q=0.8). In essence what this allows you to control is how deep the LV12R will go, and in turn how loud it can play. The lower the Q value the more potential output you can get, but in order to do that there is some lower extension sacrificed. The opposite is true for a higher Q system; it will be able to produce deeper bass but can't play quite as loud. This is a very useful feature and allows a degree of configuration that no other subwoofer manufacturer provides at this price point.
Internally the amp utilizes a torodial transformer. A torodial is often considered to be the ideal lossless, zero-impedance style of transformer. Not many subwoofer amplifiers use these, let alone in units costing under $1000, which shows that Rythmik spared no expense with this amplifier.
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.
There's an awful lot of tech talk contained in the Impressions section, some of which you may not fully understand. In this case that's OK because Rythmik did all the heavy lifting for you, making it fairly easy to configure the LV12R so you can get the most from it. "So how does the thing sound?" you may be asking yourself. In a word, very impressive (alright, so that's two words). The dynamics and precision are nothing short of exceptional, with both movies and music. Want deep bass from your favorite blu-ray discs? No problem, it can certainly handle that. Want a subwoofer able to deftly navigate virtually any type of music? Yup, it can do that too. Perhaps volume is your thing, and you want to crank it loud? Feel free, because the LV12R will play right along. Flip a switch or two, maybe twist a dial some, and it can easily morph into whatever type of subwoofer you want it to be. You can configure the LV12R to pump out enough volume where it will force you to reach for earplugs, or set it up so the bass punches you in the chest. Your choice. I like that. A lot.
Under normal circumstances once I have a subwoofer tuned I leave it like that and go about my evaluation, but not in this instance. I spent so much time fiddling around -- for no other reason then I could -- that this review took about twice as long as it should have. To be honest, I was having a blast trying every permutation to see what the difference was. That all occurred before I got down to business though, and ultimately I settled on a configuration that provided the deepest bass.
Configured for the lowest possible extension revealed a subwoofer that seems more capable then a unit with a single 12" driver really should be. It also displayed surprising texture and balance, rarely sounding as though it was struggling. Of particular note was its ability to produce subterranean bass, which is perhaps unequaled in any subwoofer of similar price. Many is the time I felt vibrations coursing through my chair, eliciting a goofy smile in the process. In virtually all instances the LV12R was poised and composed. Up close you could detect a hint of stress or port noise on occasion, but in my primary listening position it was never evident. Seeing as how I'm such a fiend for accuracy and precision its not often I encounter a subwoofer that doesn't grate on me at some point, but I don't recall that happening while reviewing the LV12R.
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.
Tron: Legacy (blu-ray)
The LV12R produced one of the best renditions of this obnoxious soundtrack that I've heard to date. Yes, I did say obnoxious; more than a few scenes have the bass/LFE portion recorded too hot for my tastes, which takes away from the overall sound quality. There were a couple of times where the LV12R droned ever so slightly -- like the booster rockets on the Transporters that pick up Kevin Flynn -- but beyond that there was very little to complain about. It's quite a feat for a subwoofer to make this soundtrack clear and enjoyable, yet that's exactly what happened. Of particular note were the fireworks that preceded the Light Cycle Battle; they came through with thunderous bass, very similar to the real thing. The LV12R wasn't afraid of volume either; at -10dB there was no strain detected, but there was certainly a lot of bass coursing through my chair. Very well done Rythmik.
When that first explosion occurs -- while Robert Hawkins, his brother and their friends are talking on the fire escape -- the depth and clarity of the blast was spectacular. I both heard and felt a nice deep rumble. When the creature destroys the Empire State Building the impact of the collapsing structure was powerful but controlled, believable yet restrained. I think that's what I like most about the LV12R, the fact it tempers everything with a nice balance and seems to reproduce the entire LFE track with accuracy and the appropriate weight. When the Brooklyn Bridge gets cut in half the bass is clean, precise and deep. The best part, without question, was the scene when the troops attack the creature for the first time. As our hapless stars are trying to find a place to hide the military begins an assault using all manner of ground-based artillery. Every sound coming from the LV12R was almost perfectly balanced, with excellent transient response and clarity. Even though total chaos is ensuing during that assault everything was distinct.
Lord Of The Rings: Fellowship Of The Ring (blu-ray)
In Scene 1, as the battle that pits Man and Elf against the forces of Mordor begins, I found myself already being drawn into the action because of what the LV12R was doing. The impact associated to the marching troops -- and the battle in general -- created a very realistic sense of conflict. When Saron gets his hand cut off, and the Ring and his helmet hit the ground, there was a nice solid thud from each. When Isildur picks up the Ring there's supposed to be a very deep bass sweep, which the LV12R didn't quite have the ability to produce to the fullest. The Bridge Of Khazad Doom scene was definitely a treat, from start to finish. Whether it was the Balrogs roar, the crumbling staircases or the foreboding rumbles that are the underpinnings of this scene all of it seemed to be in the proper proportions, with excellent definition. The LV12R transported me to Moria.
Black Hawk Down (blu-ray)
What better place to start with then perhaps this movies most recognizable piece, the "Irene" scene. What gives this particular scene its notoriety is the cacophony of noise created by the helicopters as they're taking off and heading into battle. The LV12R did splendidly, producing a solid 'whoosh', 'whoosh' sound from the rotor blades. The deep rumble from the choppers engines was equally believable, the intensity almost palpable. Actually that's pretty much how I felt about the entire movie; whether it was gun fire, explosions or RPG missiles they were all produced with depth and clarity. There was a sense of realism about all of it.
After all the movie testing had concluded I checked the amp to see how hot it had gotten, but it really wasn't all that warm. In spite of how hard I had been pushing the LV12R it didn't seem all that fazed.
I have a confession to make; I think music on the LV12R sounds wonderful. Why am I saying it like that? Because I've always believed acoustic suspension designs trump bass reflex when it comes to music (and I still do). Rare is the ported subwoofer which can satisfy my demanding musical requirements, but the LV12R did just that. Brian Ding, the architect behind Rythmik's subwoofers, should be credited for this; he didn't forsake music for home theater, a failing far too many others succumb to.
Creed - What If (CD)
From their 2000 CD Human Clay, What If is quintessential Creed; a song that has a heavy driving rhythm section replete with fuzzed guitars and wailing vocals. My kind of music for sure. Human Clay actually spawned two radio hits -- With Arms Wide Open and Higher -- but I went for What If instead. Right from the get-go the LV12R let it be known that it came to play, creating a deep and authoritative sound from the combination of Scott Phillips drums and Brian Marshalls bass. Everything blended seamlessly and made for an enjoyable time.
Stone Temple Pilots - Big Empty (CD)
Probably not what most people would consider the prototypical song for a subwoofer test, but there's some logic behind why I chose it. This is more of a blues oriented tune then most of STP's music, one in which the bass guitar plays a very prominent role. That allowed me to focus on what Robert DeLeo was doing instead of mostly on the drums like I often do. This song actually requires a bit of subtilty from a subwoofer, lest it fails to render all the nuances properly. The LV12R had no trouble whatsoever; I cranked this one very close to the painful level, yet even though I was pushing my own endurance it didn't seemed all that concerned. I tapped out before the LV12R did.
Joe Bonamassa - Bird On A Wire (CD)
I wasn't going to use this song again because it's been in quite a few of my recent reviews, but for some reason I couldn't resist. I'm really glad I decided to ignore my initial reservations though because it turned out to be excellent. As I've mentioned in the past this song was recorded with a lot of emphasis on the rhythm section, making it an ideal subwoofer test. The LV12R brought all of it to life; every thud from Bogie Bowles bass pedal came through with alacrity, while Carmine Rojas's bass sounded powerful and deep. It was so impressive I ended up listening to this song at a ridiculous volume level 3 times. Yes, 3 times.
Pearl Jam - Even Flow (CD)
Even Flow is from the album Ten, the best Pearl Jam disc in my opinion. Although the title is Ten there was actually eleven songs, but Even Flow is the only one with a two word name (all the rest are a single word, so I always assumed that's why they called it Ten). The beat is pretty simple, but with a lot of intensity from the kick drum and bass guitar. As was the case with Creed the LV12R simply devoured this material. The punch reproduced from Dave Krusen's bass pedal was deep and sharp, making this song a pure delight. I ended up listening to almost the entire CD because I was enjoying it so much. 'Nuff said.
To quote the oft repeated line from the famous (infamous?) ring announcer Michael Buffer; are you ready to rummmmble? You had better be if you buy the Rythmik LV12R, because it certainly is. This subwoofer combines power, depth and poise in equal parts. It's on the large side, and a bit generic in appearance, but for sound quality it's the yardstick to use when measuring any subwoofer costing less than $600. The Rythmik LV12R is nothing short of amazing, and well worth the asking price.
Please use the Rythmik LV12R Discussion Thread for questions and comments
These measurements were taken using XTZ Room Analyzer II Pro. The unit was indoors, physically positioned in the center of my listening room with no other speakers running.
This represents the individual performance of the driver (green trace) and the port (blue trace)
This represents the Spectrograph of the driver by itself
This represents the Spectrograph of the port by itself