BOWERS & WILKINS DB-1

MJ13.10.2012

Subwoofers

The DB-1 subwoofer is a simple monolithic cube finished in flawless piano lacquer. It extends ca half a meter to any side and is incredibly heavy. I had to pull the 50 kgs of the sub upstairs and it was not an easy job, rather an Olympic discipline, as unlike an amplifier there are no handles on the device. As such the DB-1 is among the most inconvenient pieces of hifi that I’ve had to move around my house.

100% reference

Funkce a forma

98%
Ergonomie
96%
Zvuk
100%
Zpracování

The manipulation with the DB-1 is so clumsy because it is too big in its crate, and when unpacked it is difficult to get a firm grip on it as there are two sizeable bass cones on its sides and one platform packed with electronics at the bottom. The two 300mm woofers are by 20% bigger than those in the B&W’s 800 Diamond flagship, the design principles are identical, that is based on Rohacell.

The Rohacell is not Bowers & Wilkins’s proprietary material – they source it from German Evonik Industries that have developed it for demanding applications in aerospace, automotive and medicine industries, not for audio. It is not based on paper or fabric, like many audio afficionados like to say, but on foamy polymer structure (polymethacrylimide, chemically) that is both extremely light and extremely stiff. The polymer structure is sheeted between two layers of carbon fibres to give it final dynamic properties. The company literature says that, though the cones are big in diameter, they do not suffer from deformations during the pistonic movements of the membrane and have exellent self-damping properties. By this the Rohacell cones should exhibit up to 10dB improvement in dynamic behavior, which is an astonishing figure, considering the audio business where 1dB means a lot.

An Analog Devices DSP chip is the real brain of the DB-1 - it controls the sub’s auto calibration process and other settings - whereas a class D 1000W amplifier takes care of sufficient output power. By using the digital amplification the dimensions of the subwoofer could shrink to the aforementioned cubature, it is not a long time ago when subwoofers of similar parameters were as big as cupboards.

Nízké frekvence

Váha
98
Výbušnost
95
Artikulace
95

The DSP is a keyword for the DB-1’s performance. For sure, the sub has to be connected to a processor/amplifier before you can make a use of it. The DB-1 sports both single-ended RCA and balanced XLR connections, unlike its peers it does not offer main speaker connections, however. For pure high end applications, be it music or home cinema entertainment, the speaker level connections usually deteriorate the quality so I did not miss this feature.
The XLR input of the DB-1 supports only a single channel operation and Bowers & Wilkins recommends to use Y-links to monophonize a stereo signal. Audio purists will not like it and will perhaps prefer the stereo RCAs for that reason but the result is going to be the same in the end – the DB-1 sums both channels into one on the input of its internal D-class amplifier. If you need to use two separate subwoofers for ultimate stereo performance down to the lowest octaves I recommend not using the two DB-1s: the dual woofers radiate in an omnidirectional fashion and using four such drivers may result into problematic behavior in a room, including sound wave cancellations. Also DSP-ing the frequency response with the dual DB-1s will be next to impossible. The B&W DB-1 subwoofer was designed to give the ultimate performance as a single unit.

Čistota rozlišení

Detail
90
Transparentnost
90

There are two options of operating the DB-1: either with four buttons at the subwoofer’s base or via a laptop. No need to say that the computer interface is much more user-friendly and intuitive.

To control the DB-1 via the computer it needs to be connected with the provided USB cable, first you have to download installation software, however. The installation is fully automated and the program gets all the necessary tools (Microsoft Visual C++, dynamic libraries and other utilities) from B&W’s software depot – an internet connection is required therefore. As soon as the installation procedure is completed the program installs a small DB-1 icon on your desktop that launches the subwoofer control SubApp interface. The whole set-up takes no more than 15-20 minutes of looking at progress bars and various notifications – afterwards a small green square announces that it is time to play. The moment of switching the DB-1 on is the moment of falling to love: there is a cool monochromatic minidisplay on the sub that lends to the sub a kind of ultra-high-end appearance (apart from being very functional). In the standard configuration the display faces a listener (and the woofers fire to the sides). If you prefer a different placement and does not want to miss the display, no problem, just turn the sub upside down, release few bolts, rotate the base by 90 degrees and bolt it back. Very simple, very clever.

Tonální věrnost

Témbr
98
Dynamika
98
Časování
98

There were frequent moments during my life with the Bowers & Wilkins DB-1 when I stood up and switched the subwoofer off just to make sure that it contributes to the music, for it did not like working hard – the solo oboe part in Saint-Saens Bacchanale can be the example. However, when the sub was disconnected, the music suffered. The soundstage did not shrink. The instrument did not lose its presence. The bass was not deeper. What happened was that the whole picture was less alive, less lifelike, and the palpability of the recording venue significantly vanished. The Saint-Saens’s piece let me also feel the ‘sound’ of the air that pressurized the microphone membrane during the recording. Originally I thought that this particular air pressure is a remnant of my room’s reverberation, however, I found that it had been recorded on the disc. You would never have a chance to hear sounds like this without the DB-1 in your audio chain.

Later on, the association with Tangerine Dream lured me into listening to their Optical Race album (Private, 259 557), a fine example of excellent synthesized compositions. This upbeat music pumped up the DB-1 effectively as it did with Kraftwerk’s Tour de France Soundtracks (EMI, 591 710 2). The latter made the DB-1’s woofer make swift excursions - the subterranean bass pulses of Kardiogram played back at high volume levels literally exploded in my room, yet the bass never became excessive or less taut comparing to lower loudness levels.

Prostorovost

Trojrozměrnost
98

The tautness, speed and certain dryness of the bass is the best virtue of the B&W DB-1 subwoofer. I already heard Nielsen’s Neger Tanz from Aladdin suite (BIS CD 247) through the superb Velodyne’s DD-12+, however, it was only with the DB-1 that I forgot making notes and just listened and listened. The Velodyne still rests on the anti-resonance platform in my listening room at the time of writing this review so I had plenty of time to compare these two head-to-head.

To my ears, the DD12+ has more muscle - it is more on the pumping and rich side of tonality. Its bass is juicy and generous, but sometimes way too rich and generous. It suits well to the material like For Whom The Bell Tolls crusher from Metallica’s Ride The Lightning album (Phonogram/Vertigo, 838 140 – 2).

The DB-1, despite having two woofers, exhibits more reserved behavior and its bass, though extremely authoritative, shows a high degree of self-control with the aforementioned tautness, speed and dryness as a result.

The full text of this review is available in our SPECIAL EDITION REVIEWS section.

Cena v době recenze:99 000,- Kč

Doporučení prodejci

Eurostar Ostrava, Dobřejovice u Prahy, tel. + 420 323 606 877

Jasyko, Brno, 541 210 108

Připojené komponenty

  • Sources: Accuphase DP-78
  • Amplifiers: Accuphase A-60, Accuphase C-2410
  • Interconnects and speaker cables: Homegrown Audio DNA, Krautwire Fractal, Neyton Frankfurt, Vincent Subwoofer Cable
  • Loudspeakers: Audio Physic Virgo V, KEF LS-50
  • Subwoofer: Velodyne DD12+

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The DB-1 subwoofer is a simple monolithic cube finished in flawless piano lacquer. It extends ca half a meter to any side and is incredibly heavy. I had to pull the 50 kgs of the sub upstairs and it was not an easy job, rather an ...

Doporučení prodejci

Eurostar Ostrava, Dobřejovice u Prahy, tel. + 420 323 606 877

Jasyko, Brno, 541 210 108

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