This month I had the honour and pleasure to test a subwoofer once more. Nothing less than the Epik Legend was there to put the fire to my regular SVS. Epik? Never heard of you say? Well, then it's about time you get to know them!
Epik is not very well known in Europe, because until recently they were only available in the US. Since a few months however they made an agreement with L-Sound from Norway. L-Sound is also well known as the only European importer of the famous SVS-subwoofer, of which my own PB12+ is an example. L-Sound does not use a dealer network. You order your subwoofer, whether it is an SVS or an Epik, directly through them. Their after sales service is excellent, so you do not need to worry if anything should be wrong with your sub.
As they already housed the SVS range, L-Sound must be convinced that Epik can add surplus to their range. Epik is in America a very well respected player in the subwoofer area, among others because since their Epik Empire model they showed a somewhat different philosophy then other subwoofer manufacturers.
The Legend is the smaller brother of the Empire. The Empire was quite innovative. It uses two drivers facing each other. Moreover the Empire and the Epik are sealed subwoofer, so there is no bass port. This remarkable choice to build a sealed subwoofer using two active drivers, was made very consciously though, as it deals with some of the issues quite efficiently.
First of all ported subs have a few drawbacks. One of them is the possibility of port noise at higher volumes (or when poorly designed). This happens when the air going through the port is making friction noises because of its high speed. Secondly ported subs are tuned to perform optimally until a certain frequency. Below that frequency there is a large decay. This can be audible, especially with smaller subwoofers, who often are tuned relatively high (30Hz or even higher). This leads to the third problem, necessary to tackle the above mentioned issues, being you need a big volume. Size does matter, but not everybody can appreciate a big subwoofer in their room.
A closed subwoofer does not have these drawbacks. There is no port, so no port noise. There is no tuning frequency, so there is a very gently decay possibly offering a more relaxed sub. The main drawback of a sealed subwoofer is that it has less output at the lower frequencies. This means it will provide less sound pressure at the low end.
And this is where Epik gives a solution. By using two drivers, you gain 3dB. 3dB may seem little, but in the low end region this can make a world of difference. With a subwoofer the mantra, ‘the more headroom, the better' is very true.
The Empire used two 15" drivers. Unfortunately I have never heard it myself, but the user experiences speak for themselves. Some thought the Empire was a bit too big, which made Epik build the Legend. The Legend uses two 12" drivers. The housing of the subwoofer could become significantly smaller (46x38x51 cm). Quite compact actually, especially when comparing it to my PB12+, which is about twice the size.
Choosing two drivers has an additional advantage, next to the added output. They eliminate each others vibrations, making the cabinet a lot quieter. And it shows, the sub vibrates less than my SVS, although the latter is a lot heavier.
The Legend is powered by a 300 watt amplifier, that by using a larger capacity can deliver peaks up to 750 watt, which is not a luxury for a subwoofer. Good choice made by Epik.
The Legend is also very complete connection wise. Next to a low level input you also have high level outputs. Users using a pre-amp without separate sub-output, can connect the Legend in parallel with their speakers. The crossover can either be bypassed or adjustable between 40 and 160Hz. For the phase Epik limited the choice to either 0 or 180 degrees. A bit unfortunate, because a continuous variable makes integration easier. You can get the same result by playing around with the distance setting in your receiver, but directly at the subwoofer is easier and faster.
There is also a switch to have the subwoofer leave standby automatically. It will automatically turn on when it sees a signal on the input. If there is no signal, it will switch off automatically after a certain period. Personally I prefer to manually turn on and off the subwoofer. My experience with automatic switches has not always been impeccable.
Now that we have described the subwoofer, it is time to welcome him into my theatre. Reluctantly the SVS makes room for the Legend, although not after giving the small one a condescending glance.
The Legend does not weigh that much, so putting it on my Gramma speaker base was done in a heartbeat. Quickly connecting the low level input, and off we go.
When calibration the sound levels I notice my equalising on the SVS has to be adjusted to the Legend. My 20 and 50Hz filters need modification. The Legend clearly offers less output in the lower end, but as it is a sealed design, this is perfectly normal.
Kraftwerk is the first candidate. Their Minimum Maximum DVD is a real gem in the surround area and offers a subwoofer both mid and sub low challenges. I have to check whether everything is correct, because what the Legend produces, is quite convincing. Although there is less power in the lowest end, it still manages to build up an impressive sound with a very controlled mid-low. Thanks to room gain the reduced lowest end is not missed, and if you wouldn't put it against a low end freak like the PB12+ you wouldn't notice it.
I take it a step further with War of the Worlds. A nightmare for most subwoofers. The low end in this movie often dips below 20Hz, with peaks to 5Hz. The Epik passes with flying colors. You can hear and feel it does not tackle the lowest end as easily, but the sound pressure built up is more than enough to put the wind in your trousers.
I'm switching to music, in order to be able to assess the subwoofer's qualities in this area. First some electronic stuff, Trentemöller. Some of their tracks have a bass that goes pretty deep, while still being challenging on the mid low. This is where the Legend shines. The bass is produced very tightly, with more than enough speed and authority to impress. The transition between the lowest end and the midrange of the subwoofer is fluent, and quick changes do not bring it off balance.
The bass guitar with rock songs of Meat Loaf and the Doors are subtle and every note is well defined. With pleasure I kept it in my theatre a bit longer, and for a moment my PB12+ feared to be replaced.
Very impressive, the Legend. For its current price of 649 euro I cannot think of an alternative that offers the same musicality as the Legend while still having the same authority in the lowest end.
If you are looking for a subwoofer that can produce the lowest end at this price level, you can find some alternatives, but then you need to concise on musicality. However if you are looking for a musical sub that can easily provide musical support while still producing enough low end not to be ashamed when the movie hits, then the Legend is very well recommended. The Holy Trinity (a compact design, musical and low end) is possible at this price level.
Pro and con
+ musical sub
+ yet with sufficient (but not limitless) authority in the lowest end
+ high-level connection
+ compact at this performance level
- phase adjustment not continuous