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Velodyne SPL 800 Series II review

Big sounds can come out of little packages

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Our Verdict

Refined, articulate, fast and flexible miniature sub shows others how it should be done

For

  • Ultra compact

    Fast, well controlled output

    Flexible inputs and controls

    Real muscle, notwithstanding size

Against

  • Not magnetically shielded

    No remote control

Velodyne is one of the great names in subwoofers, with more understanding of the size issues involved than most. We're not going to guarantee that this subwoofer will make it past every sentry on every front door (usually the lady of the house - sexist but true), but if any subwoofer will make it, this has to be the one.

It's tiny, taking up less than a cubic foot, and it can nestle in a corner, under a table, behind an armchair. It also looks gorgeous with its smooth rounded sealed (infinite baffle) real wood veneered enclosure.

But under the shell it has a potent bass generating engine, based on an ultra long throw 200mm driver. By moving further forward and back, it can shift as much air as a larger, shorter throw driver.

The problem here is that pushing a loudspeaker cone when it is bolted into a small sealed box where the driver has to compress the air inside the box takes an enormous amount of energy. A better solution for small subwoofers is to use an ultra powerful amplifier, but this solution would add bulk unless you go for a digital (Class D) design with a switch mode power supply.

Class D amplifiers run cool and can be very compact, and that is how this subwoofer has been designed.

The SPL 800 Series II is a very grown up design in everything but size. The smallest of three very similar models which differ only on drive unit and box size, there are high (speaker) and low (line/LFE level) inputs, a switch which defeats the loss pass filter when used strictly from the LFE output of your home cinema amplifier, a phase switch which allows greater flexibility in positioning, and adjustable low pass filter and level controls. The only feature missing is remote control.

Sound of music

Musically the SPL800 II is something of a revelation given that it is so small. Of course it cannot subvert the laws of physics. It's a small box, and the bass extension it provides is necessarily limited, but not as limited as you might suppose.

It has enough muscle to add real extension, both in depth and at substantial volume levels, to medium size stand mount speakers - those with bass unit sizes of up to 160mm or so - and smaller models, with an in-room response that extends to around 25Hz. It even hints at a surprisingly purposeful character with smaller floor standing two way designs.

For this listener however what sets this little subwoofer apart is not what it does, but how it does it. There are enough adjustments on tap to cope with full stereo subwoofer duties as well as LFE for multichannel home cinema, and the output is very fast, very controlled and very tuneful, with barely a hint of box type colourations.

This is something of a puzzle as the body panels are clearly on the resonant side when assessed with the time honoured knuckle rap test.

The SPL800 II is also unfeasibly muscular, with real depth and control. You may be interested to know that SPL in the model name stands for 'Small, Plays Loud' (no kidding). Now you can see why.