Burly, brutal and at the same time flexible, well that’s just what Arendal have achieved with their new subwoofer 1.5!
When I tested Arendal 1723 in HB 12/2016, it was a completely new and very pleasant acquaintance. Really obese speakers where the form has followed function, which is wonderfully refreshing in an era where most things seem to revolve around extremely invisible sound systems with an ok sound at best and a sound bar is the same as home theater sound for many people. Thankfully there are enthusiasts who take home theater sound seriously!
BURLY AND BOSSY
The size of the subwoofer 1.5 is no joke. With about 60 cm high, it is in no way an invisible product. Not even the matte finish option can hide that we are dealing with a voluminous beast. In fact, the 1.5 is considerably larger than the Subwoofer 2 and almost as large as Subwoofer 3.
The box has an extremely stable construction, and the wall thickness (25 mm everywhere except at the baffle, which is 50 mm thick) is the main reason why Subwoofer 1.5 has a match weight of 48 kg. Besides the thick box walls, the box is braced at all angles with diagonal sawn 50x50mm rods, and there is also a central wall with a giant hole in.
High weight itself is a positive thing when it comes to subwoofers, especially if they have only one driver, in this case mounted sideways, because then the housing stays inert even when the guns rumble the worst! To unpack or move the Subwoofer 1.5 is not something you do alone. We recognize the box style, it is the same style as all Arendal 1723. Here we find six threads at the bottom, either for the supplied rubber feet or optional third party feet.
LAYOUT AND AMPLIFICATION
The box is in other words heavy, but the amplifier and all the electronics are lightweight. A couple of kilos for the whole setup, including all electronics, thanks to class D technology. The woofer is Arendal’s unique model, a 13.8 inch-sized piece of stitched cone and a sturdy (but not crazy over-dimensioned) suspension.
A bass driver consists of a large number of parts, and with regard to Arendal drivers it is clear that there have been sound thoughts behind, rather than attempts to achieve a violent appearance. Subwoofer 1.5 comes with a magnetic fastening front for anyone who wants to have a more discreet appearance.
What we may call the back side has all the controls we may wish for: Volume, crossover and stepless phase. In addition, there is a two-pole equalizer switch, a switch to control whether the subwoofer is turned on when it detects a signal or if it’s always on, as well as a switch to enable the crossover filter.
The inputs are a pair of RCA in stereo and partly a balanced XLR. There is also a balanced pass-thru, which means connecting several Subwoofer 1.5 is a no-brainer. On the backside we also find a huge slot port with a foam plug, which makes it possible to use the subwoofer both as sealed and ported.
I start by placing the Arendal Subwoofer 1.5 on the favorite spot in the home theater, just on the left side between the screen and seating position, and it works like a charm. As I’m still moving in the room, I move the sub to various other positions in the room, and when Subwoofer 1.5 is sealed, I can put it anywhere in the room without a noticeable change. When it is ported the location becomes more important, but as long as you do not try to push the box against a wall (a 5 cm gap is enough) everything works very well.
I often place subwoofers along the sidewalls, and with Subwoofer 1.5 I like to have the port directed away from me and the woofer pointing straight into the room. Now I’m testing a lot with the sub placed between the front speakers too, and it’s not easy for me to decide if I prefer the woofer aimed towards me or towards the side walls. Aimed into the room is in all cases the easiest to work with, so that’s why I use it most of the time.
To sum up: The Arendal 1723 Subwoofer 1.5 is easy to install, it’s even hard to find a place where it does not work.
So we have three knobs, three switches and a foam plug available in order to adjust the Subwoofer 1.5 to the existing home theater. The volume bar has pretty nice markings in 3 dB steps, and a reference level mode in addition, so if you want to use the knob rather than the processor, it is easy to setup the 1.5 using the dB meter.
The phase control is a controversial knob, and here it is easy to find that the control is doing exactly what it should do. If you want to adjust phase manually, just turn the knob. The crossover knob also has clear markings, and here I am pleasantly surprised as the markings actually match the measurement results!
The equalizer switch flips between a low-bass booster mode (Eq1) and one which is perceived as more neutral (Eq2). Our room measures nicely far down in frequency (20-35 Hz), so the position of this flip-flop becomes a matter of taste. Eq2 tightens the bass a bit while Eq1 increases it. But there are no huge differences, and I find it difficult choosing a favorite. If the Eq modes give subtle differences, the foam plug is all the more brutal! Here we go from a really deep and well-controlled bass with the closed box to an even deeper but above all much more physical and also a bit rounder reproduction. One could say that Eq2 represents «hifi bass» while Eq1 and ported becomes “home theater bass”, but the reality is that just the ability to adjust the bass so much will make the Subwoofer 1.5 fit most.
No matter how you choose to configure your Subwoofer 1.5, integrating it with a speaker system is easy. I have tested with the three systems we have reviewed elsewhere in the magazine, I have used our Canton system and I have used it with Monitor Audio (Gold Signature and Bronze) speakers and Focal Aria 906. Regardless of whether I choose to set the crossover symmetrically at 80 or 90 Hz, or asymmetrically and let the front speakers go all the way down while the sub starts at 80 Hz, the Arendal Subwoofer 1.5 integrates with the rest of the system no matter what.
This time I start watching Deadpool, a movie whose sound and image is very good for testing. There are scenes with very violent sound, good music and that combined with the fact that the main character is talking to us a little now and then makes the sound assessment with Deadpool fun.
To check subwoofer performance, chapter 3 works well, and that’s where we start. And it puts a smile on our face, this is really good! No matter what system we are currently using the sub with, and regardless of the eq and closed / ported box, the sub base is seamlessly integrated in a rarely heard way. Additionally, Subwoofer 1.5 hits really hard when needed, and some scenes are replayed to compare ported and sealed.
Discussions about which of the modes really is the best will not be particularly loud, as it quickly turns out they are quite different, but both modes work really well. A clear question about taste, and maybe also about the neighborhood as Pernilla in the office becomes much more disturbed by us when we drive the sub in ported mode.