Whether you're looking for more bottom end for dance, rock or rap-or need the ".1" subwoofer source for 5.1 surround sound playback-chances are compact near-field speakers are going to come up shy in the bass department. But don't go blaming your monitors: Small enclosures and the 5- to 8-inch woofers used in most two-way speaker systems are simply not capable of delivering the air currents required for deep, punchy bass.
Priced at $499, the PS 110-B from Tannoy is an integrated powered subwoofer designed to work either as an adjunct to a stereo playback system or to provide LFE (the Low Frequency Effects sub channel) in a surround system. The PS 110-B combines a long-throw, 10-inch woofer in a 1711/42x1611/42x1111/42-inch, front-ported enclosure, with a 110-watt MOSFET amplifier and crossover built into the back of the cabinet. The case is finished in black vinyl, and four hefty rubber feet help prevent the box from coupling with the floor.
The rear panel offers balanced XLR inputs that connect to the control room outputs of your mixer and two XLR outputs for passing a signal to a pair of powered speakers or to the power amp driving your near-fields. The crossover point is adjustable from 40 to 150 Hz, or it can be bypassed entirely, thereby feeding a full-range signal to both monitors and subwoofer. Other controls include a subwoofer level pot for setting the overall subwoofer/monitor balance, an LF boost knob that raises the extreme low 31 to 63Hz band by an overall +4dB linear shelf, and switches for ground lift and phase reverse. The power supply is internal (with removable AC cord), and all XLRs are wired pin 2 hot.
Between the phase reverse, all-pass/lowpass modes, crossover frequency, LF boost and sub level pots, the PS 110-B can be tweaked out to work in most any acoustical space. Although LF energy is generally nondirectional, finding the exact spot to locate any sub in a small listening room can be tricky, and the degree of flexibility offered by the PS 110-B's controls really helps the fine-tuning process. The system is capable of maximum SPLs of 110 dB, but to prevent overexcursion or damage from pushing the woofer too hard, an onboard limiter kicks in. The limiter is inaudible, except in extreme conditions.
LISTENING TESTSI began my listening tests using a pair of JBL LSR 28Ps bi-amped near-fields, with the drive signals routed through the subwoofer's highpass outputs. One thing was immediately clear: Even with the sub level knob turned up to 11, the PS 110-B couldn't keep up with the much hotter output of the JBLs. Trying the same arrangement with a pair of Meyer HD-1s had the same results: lots of HF/MF, not enough bass. Obviously the PS 110-B is designed to work with lower-output monitors. Anyone who needs a better matched subwoofer for the above-named monitors, Tannoy 800 Actives, or any other high SPL monitors should check out the Tannoy PS 115-B ($1,299), a 15-inch woofer brute that really gives users a reason to try out its sub level trim control.
Driving a pair of Tannoy Reveals (via a QSC amp) through the subwoofer's highpass outputs was just right-in fact I had to back the sub level pot back somewhat to achieve a smooth balance. Just to prove this wasn't simply a matter of "this only works with Tannoys," I tried the same setup with a pair of vintage TOA 265ME monitors. After I adjusted the crossover frequency up slightly to about 130 Hz, the blend between woof-end and top-end was spot on. Bumping up to 5.1 playback with five 265MEs driven by a Bryston 9B, the PS 110-B held up fine, with a smooth, natural, unexaggerated bass response.
In situations such as this, the PS 110-B really excels, adding just the right amount of bass extension to a smaller system without sounding phony or hyped. If you're looking for an air-slamming, knock-you-over subwoofer that can keep up with the "four 15-inch woofers in the trunk" street machines that cruise down my block, the PS 110-B may not be the ticket (although two PS 115-Bs may do the trick). But if you're upgrading to 5.1 or if your near-fields need that extra oomph, then the PS 110-B is worth checking out.
Tannoy/TGI North America, 300 Gage Avenue No.1, Kitchener, Ontario, Canada N2M2C8; 519/745-1158; fax 519/745-2364; www.tannoy.com.