Velodyne SPL-1200 Ultra

Velodyne SPL-1200 Ultra Velodyne is one of those few companies that makes subwoofers, plus some other stuff, rather than the other way around. So you’d expect its SPL-Ultra Series SPL-1200 Ultra subwoofer to be pretty good. (Spoiler: it is.)

This is a mid-sized unit, and fairly heavy at a bit over 20kg. The enclosure has a piano-black gloss finish and sides that taper slightly as they move towards the rear. The removable grille is cloth over a panel, which has cut-outs for the driver and for the IR receiver on the body (this subwoofer comes with a credit-card sized remote control). The top of the grille is also sculpted to allow access to the soft power button (there’s a hard switch at the rear), the calibration microphone input and the blue display.

The calibration microphone for that input is supplied, along with what is described as a ‘mic stand’. Don’t be confused, it’s only 25mm tall. The microphone itself comes with a generous length of cable.

The sub’s driver is a 305mm unit (the 12 inches of the model number) with 75mm voice coil, with coils wound both inside and outside the former.

The magnet structure is a massive 9.8kg — nearly half the weight of the entire unit. The driver uses a die-cast aluminium basket.

Sealed enclosure, big magnet — all these things suggest a big power amplifier. Velodyne rates it at 1200W continuous and says that its digital amplifier technology runs at better than 95% efficiency. The signal is DSP-controlled, and the main control function is of course the ‘room bass correction’ circuit, which is adjusted using the calibration system. This features seven bands of adjustment.

Velodyne SPL-1200 Ultra

There are line-level and speaker-level inputs. The adjustable filter has a setting at one end of its range by which it can be bypassed. There are also line-level outputs which are subject to a fixed 80Hz high-pass filter, so these are useful to pass on the signal to a power amplifier for the main speakers in a stereo system.

Phase is adjustable to four settings using the remote, and likewise the level can be set with the remote. The front display shows the chosen the level. There are also four preset EQ curves which apply boost for different purposes.

Performing the calibration is very simple: you simply plug in the microphone and stick it where your head would normally be, then press and hold the EQ key on the remote control for a few seconds. The subwoofer will respond with about 10 rather loud frequency sweeps, and that’s it. I tested it also in a position with a relatively lumpy bass response and the system pulled back the peaks by a couple of dB, but the effect was fairly mild. It doesn’t seem to have been engineered for aggressive correction.

Listening soon revealed this to be a fine, fine subwoofer indeed, extremely powerful, and with very good extension. On music — The Police, ‘Leather Cats’ by Oregon, all the tracks on Holly Cole’s ‘Temptations’ album — the subwoofer’s bass was strong, but smooth and tuneful. I played several tracks way too loud for comfort, and the subwoofer just kept on doing its thing, only louder.

The big drum in the overture of ‘Dagger Society’ suite was thunderous, with superb bite on the stroke, room-rattling power and a deep, rumbling decay. The Bach, the Tchaikovsky, equally good. Again, temptation got the better of me. The main complaint about the venerable recording of the 1812 has been that one can’t play the orchestra

at enjoyable levels without destroying one’s speakers when the cannon come along. This subwoofer overcomes that problem. I enjoyed both the orchestra and the thorough slams when the time came.

Movie performance was just as good. The airport scene in ‘Heat’ and the end of the world in ‘Titan A.E.’ both positively pulsated the room.

The unit has a Night Mode for ‘late night listening’, and for a moment I was excited that this unit was going to address a weakness in just about every subwoofer: the inability to set a high-pass filter to eliminate the deep bass. It is that which travels the furthest at night. Unfortunately, this seems to act as a level limiter rather than a filter.

As for the presets: choose ‘Jazz’. The graph presented here was with the subwoofer with that setting, and that’s what I did all my listening with. The ‘Rock’, and even more so the ‘Games’ presets produce peaky output in the mid-bass with reduced bass extension. The ‘Movies’ preset could be useful. It rolls off the bass fairly sharply below 30Hz — doing what I’d hoped Night Mode would — but you need to adjust the level because it’s about 6dB higher in the mid-bass than ‘Jazz’.

The Velodyne SPL-1200 Ultra is one of those rare subwoofers able to reconcile the often irreconcilable: deep bass extension, low distortion, high levels and reasonable enclosure size. This is one deeply impressive sub. SD

Velodyne SPL-1200 Ultra

Velodyne SPL-1200 Ultra    
Price: $2899

+ Enormous levels available
+ Very low distortion
+ Very good bass extension

- No, nothing negative here

Drivers: 1 x 305mm, forwards firing
Enclosure: Sealed
Inputs: 1 x stereo line level, 1 x stereo speaker level (4 x binding posts)
Outputs: 1 x stereo high pass
Low-pass crossover: 40-135Hz
Quoted power: 1200 watts
Measured room response (pink noise -6dB): 18.5-167Hz
Level at 20Hz: -2.5dB
Dimensions: 394 x 380 x 470mm
Weight: 20.7kg
Warranty: Two years