“ A British built sub woofer, it is very well designed, looks great and most importantly delivers very impressive sound. It also looks and sounds a lot more expensive than it is, although it is not cheap. „
For those who like to 'Buy British' this product should appeal (assuming you're after a great subwoofer, that is!)
What we have here is a quality built standalone subwoofer unit from BK Electronics of Essex, who proudly advertise the fact that their products are 'designed and manufactured' in the UK. This beast is the XLS-200 DF (DF standing for Downward Facing, which is why you can't see the speaker unit in the photo).
Lots of people have all-in-one Home Cinema systems, bought in a big box and all looking nice and tidy and fashionable, but the problem is, most of these type of systems have a serious lack of, for want of a better word, 'oomph' when it comes to the low-end frequency. When you're sat in a decent cinema, if something explodes, you actually feel it, right? Then when you're at home with the all-in-one system, you don't, right? Trust me, I've been there and I know the disappointment!
So, what to do? Well, it costs a whole lot more money, but if you're really into your films, it's well worthwhile, and that is, buy separates. You start off with a £500-£1000 Dolby Digital 7.1 Amplifier, then add maybe some B&W DM602 S2 speakers (like I did and have reviewed elsewhere), then a centre speaker, finally some rear surround speakers. At that point you've probably remortgaged the house, sold the cat/dog/children and know how to cook beans on toast, every day. Yep, I've almost been there too.
Anyway, there's a vital component missing. The standalone (self-powered) SUBWOOFER! This is the bad boy that gives you that thump in the back and rattles the windows when Robert DeNiro takes out yet another rival. And it is so satisfying to get that in the comfort of your own living room. But... where will you put it? Won't it look like a Hi-fi showroom with yet another speaker? Well, not necessarily...
THE BK XLS200 Mk2
DESIGN AND LOOKS
Now BK obviously know a thing or two about how husbands can win support from wives with their latest hi-fi purchases, because the design and looks of their products are superb. This subwoofer has an amazing choice of gorgeous finishes, including oak, cherry, walnut, rosewood and even silver. I opted for the cherry finish to match my B&W speakers, and it looks fantastic. It becomes just another part of the furniture, and makes a handy place for putting the odd magazine or unopened letter, though I'm sure I'm not really supposed to do that...
It stands at 355 cm high, that's well under half a metre, and is approximately box-shaped, with four sturdy short legs to give the unit enough air space underneath for the speaker unit to function. The legs are not adjustable. Three sides of the subwoofer are that gorgeous smooth veneer finish, so there's only one side you need to hide from view.
On the back are some heat dissipation fins, very sturdy indeed, the power switch which glows a muted orange (reminding me to turn it off at night!), the power cable socket (just like a normal kettle lead socket), the socket for the cable from the amplifier, and a variety of twiddly knobs to change and customise the setup. For something which, basically, just produces a low grunt, it's surprising to find so much in the way of controls, but I shall reveal all...
SETUP AND INPUTS
Firstly, you have a choice of mono or stereo coaxial cable connection to the subwoofer, or a thing called a Gas Tight Neutrik connection for even better quality. Now I don't have the slightest idea about this Gas Thingammy, but mine is connected using a single coaxial lead, and I am very impressed, so I'm happy enough as things are. I'm not even too sure how you would really tell the difference, to be honest, with such a low frequency sound.
You then can adjust the point (frequency) at which the subwoofer 'does it's thing' - above that point all sounds are handled by your main stereo speakers. Many amplifiers have this function built-in, but it's useful to see it on the subwoofer too, and I use it as my amplifier does not have the function.
Another knob lets you adjust the gain, i.e, how much of a sound you want produced. Too much can sound rumbly and overdone, and give you a constant humming noise, too little and the subwoofer hardly does anything. This setting does need a lot of tweaking to get right, but on mine, eventually, I found very little gain was needed.
Yet another knob will give you the ability to 'change the phase' of the speaker unit. Simply put, the soundwaves produced should travel in phase with those from your speakers, so as to avoid cancelling each other out - if they don't, this knob will allow you to alter the phase so that you get the maximum effect. Very clever, and it really does work, I found.
When I first plugged this in and switched on, I was met with an annoying humming sound. But after a call to the helpful and very human tech support at BK Electronics, I soon learned that a new coaxial cable should help (a thicker one) and that turning the gain down should also help, which it did. It is also HIGHLY advisable NOT to plug this unit into a multi-way socket, as the other equipment can cause hum through the subwoofer.
Once I'd got that sorted, I put on 'Ronin', a great explosion/gunshooting frenzy, to test things out. Well, I'd previously thought that my B&W stereo speakers were good at bass, but, wow! This thing converted me instantly into a subwooferophile.
It will give you a whole new perspective on almost any action film, guaranteed. It makes the whole difference between being at home and being at a high-end cinema disappear. It shook the glass in my display cabinets and made my eyes vibrate... well, almost.
Now I'm pretty sure that the same could well be said for many standalone subwoofers, but not all of them are built to the same quality or can be had for the same very reasonable price.
Why is a standalone subwoofer important, you may ask, as compared to one you just run from your amplifier like a speaker? Well, it's simple: low frequency needs LOTS of power, and most amplifiers just can't produce that amount as well as running all your other speakers.
So, to sum up this lengthy essay and review, if you're looking for a subwoofer to complement your home cinema system, give BK serious consideration. They are not all that well-known but they do give you loads of bang (or oomph) for your buck. They do also produce a Side Facing version of this subwoofer for those who might not want their oomphs reflected from the floor.
A FEW FACTS AND FIGURES
System Type: Critically Damped Active System with Variable Freq bass filter and 18 Litre Sealed Enclosure
Frequency Response at -6dB: 17Hz
Amplifier Input / Output Impedance: High Level 100K - Low Level 10K
Gain Control Range: 60dB
Drive Unit Impedance: 4 Ohm
Mains Input: 230V / 50Hz
Dimensions:340D X 355H x 290W
COST: £295 - a bargain! With two years warranty included.