Velodyne Dd 1812 Signature Edition (£13,000)

Strap yourselves down... with its 18in and 12in drivers, and 2500W of Class D amplification, Velodyne's 1812 subwoofer might literally blow your socks off

I’m a sucker for a bit of extreme hi-fi, so how could I resist the UK’s first review of what is billed as the world’s most powerful domestic subwoofer. Velodyne’s DD-1812 Signature Edition is a 176kg beast with two 1250W Class D amps driving twin drivers in a true two-way configuration. Low frequency duties are split between a 12in carbon-laminate driver at the top and a whopping great 18in version for the really deep-down stuff south of approximately 35Hz. The name 1812 is a rather dull reference to the driver dimensions and not Tchaikovsky’s masterpiece of that year, which would have been so much more appealing given the piece’s famous low frequency thunder.
   It was only a few days later when the gravity of my enthusiastic decision began to make itself felt. Did my house have big enough access doors? Was there space in my music room for something the size of a fridge-freezer? Has anyone informed the Health and Safety Executive? In the end, getting the beast out of its crate and into the house was relatively easy, although it came to rest blocking out daylight for most of my local village.

Beneath the child-scaring looks and gloss black livery the ’1812 is the ultimate extension of Velodyne’s much respected Digital Drive (DD) series of subwoofers. These are based on a heavily constructed sealed-box enclosures, Class D amplifiers and substantial drivers with huge magnets – some 25kg of magnets in the 1812’s case. With 2500W on tap, the 1812 is fitted with a 15A ‘square-pinned’ IEC mains input and Velodyne recommends a dedicated 45A spur for peak performance. As I can’t wire a plug without a diagram, it was duly fed from a standard 13A ring main for this test.
   Common to the rest of the DD range the 1812 has a self-equalising parametric EQ system. Operating in simple mode this uses a self-generated tone or it can be set up by feeding its sweep tone to your main amplifier. This allows the RTA system to measure the bass response of the speakers and subwoofer as a whole system. A calibrated mic and stand are supplied and full manual control of all filtering parameters is achieved by the sub’s on-screen display and supplied remote control.

First step to fine tuning any subwoofer is getting its relative position in the room correct. Velodyne’s manual laughably suggests moving the beast around several room locations and measuring the output at each to assess which is best. I double-checked the packaging, but half a dozen burly assistants were not supplied – so the 1812 was shuffled around to the best of my ability... about 5cm from where it was delivered.
   Unfortunately this did not transpire to be a sweet spot. The first audio run with Supertramp’s punchy ‘Better Days’ from Brother Where You Bound was like being hit by a sheep... tied to a Mac truck. Despite a simply vast amount of low frequency energy the notes were soft, woolly and generated an enveloping crush of room-induced bass peaks. With judicious use of felt pads and a vehicle recovery winch I managed to slide the 1812 into a better position. This transpired to be between the main speakers some 2m from the rear wall – comprehensively blocking the view of my TV screen. But it was more than worth the sacrifice. Using manual set-up and roll-off settings to integrate with my large floorstanding loudspeakers the result was seamless LF extension, near pancake flat to 15Hz. That is – by a fair few Hz – the lowest any speaker I have tested has achieved. And the effect was sublime.
   But it is not the 1812’s ability to knock your spleen into your buttocks with sheer power that impresses, although it can without breaking into a sweat. Nor is it the stupendous LF extension or its ability to drive the room with such ease. What really appeals is the way that it enhances the entire audio band, lifting the pace and realism of the sound seemingly regardless of the speakers partnered with it.
   Playing Alison Krauss’ collaboration CD with Robert Plant shows the 1812 at its most revealing. In addition to obvious improvements in bass detailing, communication and extension, mid and higher frequencies seem to have more room to breathe in the mix. On ‘Trampled Rose’ Krauss’ voice is given a healthy boost of presence with greater textural and emotional information. It is softer, warmer and more enticing with a fluidity that is pure liquid honey. Across the entire CD there isn’t a track that does not benefit from the 1812.

Returning the1812 to its original room position and experimenting with the built-in EQ, I was able to get the sound almost right. Which was actually rather impressive. It also allowed me to see my TV. But the 1812 doesn’t truly manage its full cross-spectrum magic unless it is perfectly positioned in the first place. Out with the winch again, and to the bin with the TV Times.
   Of course, no subwoofer test would be complete without a romp through AC/DC’s catalogue. Having leapt off the sofa air-guitaring to ‘Whole Lotta Rosie’ I knew the 1812 was a hit with rock music, invigorating the sound with fast-paced energy and infectious tempo. A final play-out on Faithless’ ‘We Come One’ from the CD Outrospective showed the sub’s true all round appeal. This high energy dance track is not the last word in subtlety but, backed by the Velodyne’s enormous presence and speed, the track’s bass beat and throbbing sweeps down to 20Hz are turned into a thrilling ride. Think I’ll invite the neighbours over for a rave. 

An accomplished all-round sub-bass system that manages subtlety and sublime power in equally copious measure. Given a large room and good set-up, the 1812 offers a wholesale increase in richness and presence across the entire frequency spectrum – a revelation that could turn the most hardened two-channel audiophile onto subwoofers.

Originally published in the July 2009 issue