Published on December 8th, 2012 | by Greg0
Sounds Of The Season: Niles SW8 Takes Subwoofers To A Wireless World
Sometimes you want to get rid of sound, like in our recent look at the noise-cancelling headphones from Audio-Technica. But other times, you want to add it- in your home theater system, bass is one of those often-overlooked parts. If you’ve been content just to use the speakers built into your television, there is an entire aspect of movie watching that you’ve been missing- the shaking, booming, vibrating satisfaction that you’ve felt at the cinema. And if you have a basic speaker system, one of the easiest upgrades you can make is to your subwoofer, turning a run-of-the-mill set of speakers into a roaring monster of a system in one simple step.
We’ve been testing out the Niles SW8 8-inch Powered Subwoofer, the first item we’ve had the chance to check out from the company. The rule with subwoofer is: buy as much as you can fit or afford. Size matters, and this one is a great model for almost any small- to mid-sized room. We dispute the claim they make on their website- this isn’t “ideal for any size room”, but is perfect for most apartment dwellers. And Niles makes smaller and larger models as well, from 6.5 inches to 15 inches, with a focus primarily on the custom installation market.
Quite a few subwoofers have passed through our hands- and the two standard models that we use are a 10-inch from Velodyne (the EQ-Max 10)and a sturdy, sizeable 12-inch BIC Acoustitech. This new one from Niles offers quite a few features, including one major advancement that we’ll discuss in detail later:
- Long-throw, Front Firing-woofer: 8″
- Dual, Long-throw, Side-mounted Passive Radiators: 8″
- Amplifier Power (Dynamic): 1200w
- Amplifier Power (RMS): 300w
- Frequency Range: 36-200 Hz
- Fingerprint Resistant, Piano-like Finish
- CAT5 Wiring Ready
- OmniMount® Ready
- Wireless Ready
You’ll notice a crazy, almost unbelievable amount of power for model of this size, and a few other things of note there. We didn’t test out the CAT5 wiring option, but it’s an interesting one, requiring an optional adapter and allowing you to string ethernet cables instead of more expensive audio ones. Like most decent subs, there is also variable phase control for matching sound to your main speakers, but this one is highly adjustable instead of just 0/180 degrees. There wasn’t an auto-tuning option built into this model, where microphones automatically help adjust to the acoustics of the room (we’ve seen one in the DEQ-10R that felt a bit like overkill, since better receivers offer that feature). The unit weighs in at only about 16 pounds, quite reasonable for a powered subwoofer, and this one is easy to hide in a corner.
But the most interesting bullet point: “wireless ready”. The worst part of setting up audio equipment is often dealing with the cables, and stringing them all over the place presents a tripping hazard, makes a room less attractive, or requires some major installation. Using the optional and SW-T and SW-R (FG01671/2) wireless transmitter and receiver, we connected to our receiver. The process was surprisingly easy, and the results impressive. You’ll still need to find power for the sub-woofer, but as long as you have an outlet nearby, you’re set.
In a few moments, we had gone from a larger sub to a smaller one with more power and no audio cabling necessary. There are a couple of compromises: we noticed that it could take a moment for the wireless signal to setup when starting up the system, but on the flip side it does power down automatically to save power (as does the subwoofer). The larger compromise is in frequency response, and it’s here where the major downside of this subwoofer comes into play, and the roots in commercial installations step forward.
Truly easy to install, and very powerful for unit of this size, it’s easy to overlook the frequency range listed above. That lower number is not really low enough to grant the sort of bass we like to see from a subwoofer (at least 30, lower is better). And so, while the Niles SW8 is a satisfying wireless option, with no obvious delays nor reductions in audio response or quality, it didn’t offer the oomph we need to see to recommend to home theater lovers as part of a 5.1 system. You can add others pretty simply, but that gets expensive quickly. Speaking of which, expect to spend around $500 on the subwoofer itself, and an additional fee for the wireless components (pricing unavailable on press time and it didn’t appear listed on their site).