1961 Subwoofer 1S and 1V review- Audioholics

If you want serious bass performance in your room without a huge box, the 1961 subs are a great choice.

We decided to check out what Arendal could do at more accessible sizes/weights and pricing. When Arendal suggested their entry-level 1961 series, either the 1S or 1V, we answered: why not both! Today’s review examines Arendal’s efforts around the $1k price point, in both a ported and sealed form factor. Our question here is how well do they scale in price/performance next to the mighty 1723 2V? Let’s now dig in to find out…

Packing and Appearance

The Arendal 1961 subwoofer boxes arrived at my house wrapped in the plastic sheet covering that was bound by security tape. The boxes were very heavy-duty, as they must be to survive international transit, and the subs were packed in thick polyethylene foam blocks to give it a buffer for shocks and jolts. The subs were wrapped in a cotton sack so as not to get scuffed in the unpacking process. Since anyone who buys these subs will receive them via parcel shipping, it is important that they be well protected from commonly abusive shipping practices, and on this count, the 1961 subs have some very sensible packing.

Arendal’s subwoofers all have a similar industrial design, so the 1961 subs look much like their larger 1723 siblings except a bit smaller. And smaller size is almost always a welcome attribute for people who are trying to get their audio equipment not to clash with their interior decor. I would characterize the 1961 1S as a small sub and the 1V as a medium-sized sub. However, I frequently receive such large subs that my idea of subwoofer sizes might have become a bit skewed. Their size advantage notwithstanding, the 1961 subs benefit from the tasteful and restrained trickle-down aesthetics of their larger siblings. The cabinets are fairly simple oblong boxes with the vertical edges having a significant beveling. All of the edges have a very slight rounding so there are no sharp edges anywhere.

The 1961 subs only come in matte white and matte black finishes. As matte finishes go, the 1961s are pretty nice, and I have found the quality in “matte” finishes to range widely between manufacturers. The 1961 finishes aren’t as fine as the finishes from the 1723 series, but the 1723’s “matte” finish was really a true satin finish that was downplayed by Arendal for some reason. The 1961’s “matte” finish is a true matte finish, and a bit rougher and more textured than the satin finishes of the 1723s. The advantage of the slight texturing is that the matte finish is more durable and is not a fingerprint or scuff magnet like a satin finish.

The 1961s are rather monolithic in appearance with the exception of the cone. The cone is a smooth matte black surface surrounded by a trim ring so there aren’t any exposed screws. One point of detail within the cone is the Arendal insignia printed in white in the concave dustcap. The cone can be hidden by a magnetic grille, but the whole sub is already so minimalistic that the grille doesn’t improve the appearance. Its only use is to protect the cone.  The only other aesthetic detail in the sub is an Arendal logo in the lower front of the sub. The 1961 subs are simple and unobtrusive, so they aren’t likely to stick out in most people’s rooms if placed in a corner or out of the way.

Design Analysis

As was mentioned before, the 1961 subwoofers come in both a vented and sealed model (the 1V and 1S respectively), and the vented model also comes with a port plug in case you wanted sealed sub performance but in a heavier and larger enclosure than the 1S for some reason. To get into the specifics of design, let’s start with the drivers. The 1961 subs tout their drivers as having a 12.2” diameter cone as opposed to normal 12” size cones. That may well be true in some technical sense, but the reality is that there is a wide range of actual cone areas that fall into the rubric of claimed 12” cone sizes, and what is more, an additional 0.2” of diameter isn’t likely to make a big difference even if there were some true point of comparison against other 12”s. The cone is made from a heavily-treated long fiber pulp, which is a good material for this application on account of its high stiffness-to-weight ratio.

The overall design and construction of the 1961 subwoofers fall in line with the other products from Arendal that I have encountered. The quality of materials and workmanship are well above average, even here in their entry-level subwoofers. The construction doesn’t go as far over-the-top as the 1723 series, but that is to be expected.

The motor uses two 6” diameter magnets with a ⅞” thickness which ought to give it a lot of force for the energized coil to react against. There are aluminum shorting rings in the motor which should lower inductance thereby increasing the bandwidth of the drivers and lowering even-order harmonic distortion. 

The 1961 subs use Arendal’s Avalanche 550 IQ amplifiers, a very sophisticated class-D design controlled by a powerful DSP engine. As the name suggests, it can output 550-watts RMS which should be plenty for the 12.2” drivers. Instead of the traditional knobs to control the basics like volume, phase, and low-pass frequencies, the 550 IQ uses a single knob and two buttons to control a 1.8” color LCD screen. This design enables a much wider and deeper control over all aspects of the sub’s operation. Phase can be controlled out to a single degree, volume can be fine-tuned to a single-decibel, and the low-pass filter can be set to exact frequency. The 550 IQ also features a 3-band parametric equalizer, so the 1961 subs do not need an external equalizer to manually alter the response. Response problems created by the room can be addressed on the sub itself. Operation modes and subsonic filters can also be engaged by the amp. The amp has two RCA inputs and outputs, and the inputs can be individually controlled so that the sub can accommodate connectivity with two different systems simultaneously. trol a 1.8” color LCD screen. This design enables a much wider and deeper control over all aspects of the sub’s operation. 

The enclosures are made from high-density fiberboard which is denser and tougher than the standard medium-density fiberboard that most sub enclosures are made of. A nice side effect of enclosure stuffing is that it can help to lower the system resonant frequency. The feet are some stiff rubber cylindrical pieces with the Arendal logo molded into the bottom. The 1961 enclosures are built like boulders which is what I have come to expect from Arendal. These subwoofers feel very solid, and their size belies their weight. Just trying to lift the 80 lbs. 1V sub brings home the reality of their mass very quickly.

The overall design and construction of the 1961 subwoofers fall in line with the other products from Arendal that I have encountered. The quality of materials and workmanship are well above average, even here in their entry-level subwoofers. The construction doesn’t go as far over-the-top as the 1723 series, but that is to be expected.

Music Listening

I was interested in how the 1961 subwoofers could balance the light bass touches against the moments when the full low-frequency force of the pipe organ could kick in. While the subwoofers’ integration with the speakers is mostly a matter of calibration, the quality of the subs is still important in achieving a good blend. On this count, the Arendal 1961 subwoofers made for a seamless fusion in sound with the main speakers. Both the 1S and 1V proved to have a delicate enough touch to reproduce the more full-throated moments of the lower frequencies with verve without overdoing the softer bass that comprised the majority of this album. On the tracks with heavier deep bass, the subs could help to simulate a space much larger than my actual room size. They could recreate the sound of this massive pipe organ with authority and were able to convey the size and scope of this, the “king of all instruments.” 

If there are no size restrictions, the 1V is the one to get regardless, since it will naturally have an advantage in deep bass on account of the port. However, if size is a concern, the 1S is hardly a compromise at all for organ music in my experience in listening to this album. There is no doubt that both subs are fine choices for pipe organ music.     

I selected a dark ambient album from the Cyclic Law label entitled “Syvys” by Otavan Veret. This album is comprised of four long-form pieces using a variety of sounds that employ deep bass to varying degrees. There are timpani-type drums, drawn-out basslines, atmospheric drones, and distant rumbling noises, so there are plenty of sounds for a subwoofer to feast on. The 1961 subs were able to keep track of the multitude of low-frequency sounds on this album without blurring them together or lumping them into an ambiguous mess. The sound never bifurcated into a “sub/satellite” divergence that cheap systems can have, and the album was reproduced as a cohesive whole. While I have to give the 1V a slight edge in reproducing this album, either sub is sure to please anyone looking for some deep bass assistance in this lower-key type of music.     

Both subs could throw a serious punch. While they weren’t able to get louder than I could actually tolerate, they were able to get as loud as I would ever listen to this album for enjoyment, and that is pretty loud. Bass drops and kick drums could be felt as well as heard. I cranked the volume, and neither sub exhibited any signs of over-driving nor did they produce any audible distortion. The sharp attacks of the kick drums showed a seamless merging of subwoofer and loudspeaker, and I didn’t detect any sluggishness or extra decay from either of the subs. 

Anyone who thinks that sealed subs have some kind of inherent transient superiority over a ported sub should give these subs a close listen to dispel that delusion. As was heard on some other content, the 1V did give a meatier presentation in passages with deeper bass, but the difference was not huge, and both subs made this album sound great. 

Movie Watching

The 1961 subwoofers had no problem recreating the tumultuous conditions of the stormy Atlantic. Blake Neely’s bombastic music score was also a point of low frequencies for the film, and the Arendal subs did a good job of keeping the music separate from the effects sounds. Rewatching the first skirmish and switching between the two subs, the 1V did give more full rendering of the battle noises. It was notably more forceful and gave the scene a more violent depiction. That is, of course, predictable, given the design differences between the 1V and the 1S, but that is something that should be kept in mind for those who might think that these subs are close in their capability. They can hold a rough parity in performance in mid-bass, but not in deep bass, and there was lots of deep bass in “Greyhound.” This isn’t to say that the 1S gave a poor showing. On the contrary, it acquitted itself well, but there is only so much a small sealed subwoofer can do below a certain frequency range. If you don’t have the room for a larger sub like the 1V, the 1S really doesn’t embarrass itself, even on heavy-duty bass content like this movie, but if the large size can be accommodated, there is no doubt that the 1V is the sub to have for a more lifelike recreation of deep bass effects sounds.

Measurments

Check graphs and read more about measurements here.

Conclusion

There is so much to like about the Arendal 1961 subwoofers that it isn’t easy to make a list of their weaknesses. It might be said that there are subwoofers of a similar pricing that have more SPL headroom, but there is always a trade-off in this respect. You can have more output in the 1V, but the cost is a larger cabinet and likely a less well-constructed sub with a lesser feature set. What is more, for a medium-sized subwoofer, the 1V is already quite heavy at nearly 80lbs. Increasing its size by 50% would easily tip it over 100 lbs, as well as making it too large for many people’s tastes. Arendal is trying to squeeze a lot of performance out of a well-built and modestly sized enclosure, and that is what they do here. So complaints about SPL headroom versus subs that are twice the size are missing the point.

That brings us to discussion of their strengths, which are many.

If you need a subwoofer that brings serious bass performance to your room but isn’t huge, the 1961 subs are a great choice. They are also a terrific choice for those who don’t wish to sacrifice fidelity even at very high drive levels, so if you like the idea of the subwoofer keeping its composure in all circumstances, the 1961s are well worth consideration. 

Their overall performance is very good, with clean 110dB+ mid-bass punch combined with solid extension to well below 20Hz in the 1V’s case. The 1S staves off over-driving artifacts to lower frequencies than most sealed subwoofers. The group delay performance of both subs is better than average, so if you want a sub that is sure to be free from any overhang or sluggishness, these will fit that criterion nicely. They would make for a great low-frequency base for a two-channel system for those who are hypercritical about sound quality.

Outside of the performance, there is the exceptional build quality that is characteristic of everything we have seen from Arendal so far. They just don’t take shortcuts anywhere in the design of their products and these subs are true to that convention. The styling of the subs is simple yet smart-looking, and they should fit in almost any room’s decor because of this. The finish is fairly smooth yet also durable and fingerprint resistant, unlike true satin or gloss finishes which are fingerprint magnets. The amplifier is packed with far more features and tweakability thanks to the innovative user interface with the LCD screen. 

In the end, I would say that the 1961 subwoofers are well-conceived and well-executed subwoofers. There isn’t anything that is particularly lacking with them, and they are solid well-rounded products. In this sense, they are boring in that they don’t give me anything to complain about. However, if you or other household dwellers don’t want a gigantic sub eating up a big chunk of your family room or bedroom, the 1S or 1V is sure to provide a rock-solid foundation to the entertainment system of the room, and I could easily recommend them for any situations like that. 

If I had size restrictions to deal with, they would be among the top of my list of subs to choose from.

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