Friday, March 16, 2012

Kicker Solo-Baric L7 15 Inch Subwoofer Review

As the saying goes, bigger is always better. It can be easy to argue that is not always the case. But in looking at the Kicker 15 inch square Solo-Baric L7 DVC subwoofer for the behemoth it is, I would have to argue that at least in this case...bigger does appear better. And better it does look!
With the slogan, "Livin' Loud," Kicker products are built to be able to endure the torture that playing loud can enforce on the products. Yes, they take that slogan seriously, and their quality products uphold it. So naturally, when given the opportunity to review the venerable L7, I jumped on it. I just knew it was going to be build like a tank, something I have grown to expect from Kicker products.
Their features and specs include:
-Square vs. Round: More cone area results in greater sound pressure produced by the woofer
-The massive motor structure of the L7 paired with KICKER's patented square-woofer technology provides extreme output capability
-Heat-sinking cast aluminum basket provides a strong motor foundation and maintains low temperatures during long-term operation
-Injection-molded SoloKon™ is our most advanced cone design, adding targeted strength for reliable performance and accurate response
-Patented corner-ribbed, double-stitched Santoprene® surround provides durability at high excursion with uncompromised sound quality
-360° constant-contact back bracing adheres directly to every contour of the cone to maximize mechanical coupling of the motor, maintaining precise linear excursion while making the woofer as strong and responsive as possible
-Heavy-duty speaker leads are stitched and glued to the spider rolls for reliable performance when pushed to the limits
-Progressive-roll spider keeps stress away from the glue joint of the spider landing for long-lasting reliability
-Venting in the back-bracing of the cone and perimeter of the spider landing provides maximum air-flow to cool the voice-coil during operation
-Dual Voice Coils with high-temp copper windings handle extreme power levels for long durations without burning out
-T-cut top plate extends the magnetic field of the motor, adding balanced motor strength throughout the entire excursion path of the voice coil
-Solid-dome extended pole piece maintains precise voice-coil control and aids in heat dissipation

Size (IN.,CM): 15, 38.1
Impedance (OHMS): 2 or 4 DVC
Max Rec Amplifier Power (WATTS PEAK/RMS)*: 2000/1000
Sensitivity (dB 1w/1m): 89.4
Frequency Response (Hz): 18-100
Mounting Depth (IN.,CM): 8-11/16, 22.1
Mounting Cutout, Square (IN.,CM): 13-3/4, 34.9
Min Rec Sealed Box Volume (CU. FT., Liters): 1.5, 42.5
Max Rec Sealed Box Volume (CU. FT., Liters): 6.0, 169.9
Min Rec Vented Box Volume (CU. Ft., Liters)**: 3.0, 85.0
Max Rec Vented Box Volume (CU. Ft., Liters)**: 6.0, 169.9
*Assumes typical music program with minimal amplifier clipping;
varies with enclosure size. See your KICKER dealer for details.
**Port Volume Excluded.
The Kicker 15" Solo-Baric L7 came shipped double boxed, so it was well protected. The box was your typical printed packaging with pictures of the product and details opening the box revealed a Goliath of a subwoofer wrapped in plastic and sitting in a fairly solid molded Styrofoam. Taking off the plastic bag showed the quality I was wanting to see. I have seen Kicker Solos before, as well as heard them.
I have previously reviewed Kicker RS speaker line. After taking the midrange drivers out of the packaging, I could not help but think that they took some of the design for the cast baskets from their subwoofer line. The baskets were solid, and tough. So when I saw the tank-like build quality of the cast basket, I thought again to myself, Yep, that's Kicker! My only disappointment was that the only items included were the subwoofer, and manual. I would have liked a grill, as the location in my car is right behind my seats. But then again, no one includes grills for subwoofers.
Build quality, materials used, and fit and finish were also really incredible. The cast aluminum basked was solid, as was the quality of the hard plastic injection molded SoloKon cone and Santoprene surround that was stitched to it. The cone movement felt stiff, and was a sign that is could handle a lot of power. This same build quality also followed through into the terminals, spiders, and leads stitched into the spiders. I liked the rougher feel of the black aluminum basket. And the magnet was just plain huge! The kicker Solo-Baric L7 really is built like a tank. Fit and finish of the end product was excellent.
The manual was also well written, with wiring diagrams, enclosure design options, and specs. The enclosure designs options were for compact and sound quality designs for both sealed and ported. And they provided enclosure measurements and panel sizes for each. With the cost of gas and popularity of compact cars, I went with the compact sealed design and the minimum 2.0 cubic foot enclosure, to see how it would perform.
With all speakers, their design, features, and build quality are only good for so much. Speakers including subs aren't designed to just sit there, and we as consumers don't buy them to look good. They need to sound good. After all, playing our music is what it's all about! And if you are serious about your bass, you not only want it to sound good, you also want it to rattle the fillings in your teeth! Next up is the listening tests. It will include all sorts of music, from classical to rock, to pop. And to really try to get the fillings rattling, some bass tracks as well.
I have to admit, that when I first started listening to some of my favorite tracks, I thought it sounded good, but was expecting just a tad more. Like with Metallica: Of Wolf and Men. The Kick drum had good impact, and excellent low end extension. And when I listened to Dead Or Alive: Lover Come Back to Me, the bass beats were impactful. When listened to at lower volumes, the bass beats where plenty quick. But when cranking the volume, the huge 15 inch driver was not quite able to keep up.
Then I thought that this is really not fair. After all, who is really going to be buying this huge beast of a driver? So I turned to Justin Timberlake: Sexyback. WOW! The bass was not heart pounding, or even chest pounding. It was BODY POUNDING! When given the music this driver was more designed for, it went from slightly above average to stellar! And when I turned to my Techmaster PB's Bass Computer: Activate, and Time To Jam.....HOLY #@%&!!! The volume, sound pressure, and dispersion was just insane! Now this is Kicker!

I have come to expect a lot from Kicker. They just perform. And with that being said, I am still impressed. For what it is and at it's $499.95 price point, the Kicker Sub-Baric L7 15" DVC subwoofer is a solid value. It was very clean sounding, played with plenty of authority, and played deep. Not only did its massive motor structure provide high power handling, it was also well controlled and responsive. Only the quickest of beats posed a challenge to reproduce with perfect accuracy. And for a large 15 inch driver, that is only natural, yet the L7 did better than expected for its size. So just keep in mind, that this is a 15 inch driver. It is large, it is efficient, it plays deep, and it is LOUD! It's perfect for street music. If you are after the deep loud bass that can be heard from blocks away, the Kicker Solo-Baric L7 15 inch subwoofer is for you.

In the world of subwoofers, there are so many choices. Many manufacturers are trying to get your hard earned money. And in this world of cost cutting, it is easy for manufacturers to rely on its brand name and slump in quality of its products. It is obvious that Kicker expects and only releases products worthy of the name. Kudos to them! Those looking for a subwoofer would slight themselves if they did not include the Kicker Solo-Baric L7 15" DVC in their list to listen to and to consider. Based on its design, features, quality, and performance, the L7 has earned our Editors Choice Award. For more info and complete specs, check out their website at Reference gear used included Kenwood Excelon DNX9980HD Multimedia Receiver, Vibe Audio Space 3D 6 inch 3-way component system, Alpine Type-X SPX-17Pro component system, Vibe Audio Stereo Lite 4 Channel Class GH amp, Vibe Audio Black Death Bass 1 Class GH sub amp, AudioControl DQSX 6 Channel Digital Crossover/Equalizer.