Friday, March 26, 2010

Vibe Audio CBR 12 Evo Loaded Car Subwoofer Review

I enjoy innovative electronics. Innovations do not occur very often in speakers. At least changes do not happen as often or as fast as with electronics, such as surround sound receivers. But they do happen. Up for review is a loaded car subwoofer box from Vibe, their CBR Evo 12.

The subwoofer is a 12" aluminum cone long throw driver in an innovative enclosure. The box design is one I have seen in the home audio environment. But I do not recall seeing a similar design in the car audio environment. The design features dual ports with port plugs, such as with SVS home subwoofers. For maximum SPL, you can keep both ports open. Or you can opt for a sealed design and plug in both of the port plugs.

I love the design. It gives the user a lot of flexibility. If you are not sure if you want a sealed or a ported design, there is no need to buy separate boxes and switch out your subwoofer. In fact, you can even make changes on the fly. With the design, it is very easy to change the sound to your liking, in less than 10 seconds.

The rest of the box is very solidly built, made with MDF and tuned for the lowest bass possible within the woofer's specs. The box is tuned to 45hz ported or 35hz sealed. The ARBSS (Anti Resonant Bass Support System) protective rubber gasket edges on the outside allows for issolation between the box and vehicle floor for less rattle or distortion from the vehicle, and the 4 gripper feet on ARBSS help keep it from moving around. The box is very solidly built, and appears to be able to handle the wattage printed on the box itself. The enclosure showed it can handle 1000 watts RMS, and 3000 peak watts. The enclosure is also fairly small with measurements of 14.6" tall by 20.3 inches wide by 16.3 inches deep, and built in handles for easy handling.

The subwoofer itself is very well built, and very solid. It features a 3mm aluminum cone with aluminum voice coil former that acts as a built in radiator to dissipate heat from the voice coil. The surround is a multi layer heavy foam surround for cone speed and excursion control. The drivers are available in 12" and 15" sizes, and in 2ohm or 4ohms, in a high performance machine cast alluminum basket.

So we know the build quality of the box and the sub are good. But it was not designed to just look good. So how does it sound? I can tell you that I was impressed. It seemed to live up to it's specs, and outpaced my Kenwood amp which managed to shut down a couple of times. And that was with my amp putting out 1200 watts RMS.

The reference system I used consisted of a Kenwood Excelon KDC-X991 deck, Kenwood Excelon XR-S17P 6.5 inch components up front, and Rockford Fosgate Fanatic HPC1206U 6.5 inch coaxials in the back. A Rockford Fosgate P4004 powered the component and coaxial speakers, and a Kenwood X1200M Class D monoblock powered the Space driver. I threw an arsenal at it, from "Toccatta" in Fresh Aire III, to Justin Timberlake's "Bring Sexy Back" to "Lover Come Back to Me" in Dead or Alive's Album Rip It Up. It stood up to my barrage of music fairly well. And I really liked to be able to pull the port plugs, or toss them back in depending on the music. "Toccatta" from Fresh Aire III was clean, and very musical. The natural air suspension of a sealed enclosure when using the port plugs seemed to help with the quick beats of Dead or Alive's "Lover Come Back to Me." Pulling the plugs again yielded more output, but slightly muddied the sound of the quick beats. For a 12 inch aluminum cone driver it kept up pretty well, moving a lot of air with no flex from the stiff cone. Justin Timberlake's "SexyBack" sounded great with lots of punch both plugged or unplugged. As I cranked up the volume the Vibe Space driver just seemed to ask for more, bringing a smile to my face. If you can't tell, I really liked the option of the port plugs. I could have both a sealed enclosure that came out a little more musical and a little more accurate, or have the port plugs open for higher output. But either choice yielded excellent dynamics. Throwing some test tones at it confirmed the boxes tuning. While there was usable output down to 20hz, there was steep rolloff at the tuning frequency.

When it comes to subwoofer and enclosure design, there are always compromises. It appears that the right decisions were made. The Space 12 is a solid driver, and the enclosure is well made. A larger enclosure would have yielded deeper extension. But this enclosure is small enough to mover around and let you have some trunk space, and sound good at the same time. Good job, Vibe. If you are looking for a good sub, Vibe deserves some attention. It sounded great with all types of music. These Brits have some skill. For more info and complete specs, check out their website at