Velodyne DB-15 Subwoofer

hcchighreccomendThanks to its monster 15in driver, Velodyne Acoustics' new sealed subwoofer gives Mark Craven a taste of the low life

Long-term AV fans will remember Velodyne. Once the go-to for superior, face-melting subwoofers, the American company picked up awards left, right and centre for its range of bassmakers, particularly the flagship DD+ series, which peaked with a terrifying 18in model.

Then something very weird happened. In the mid-2000s, company founder David Hall – clearly something of a boffin – began experimenting with driverless car technology and developing LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) sensors. This proved to be highly successful: by 2010, Velodyne's LIDAR wizardry was being used in Google's prototype driverless cars, and in the following years the technology was picked up by companies including Ford, Nokia, Caterpillar and Tom-Tom.

All this, plus the marine division of Velodyne created by Hall to cook up self-balancing boats, seems to have put the subwoofer business on the back foot. The product cycles became longer, and new arrivals dried up (Martin Morecroft, boss of Velodyne's UK distributor Red Line, tells me the last 'proper' new Velodyne sub was the 2015 Impact MkII). Eventually, in 2016, Velodyne LIDAR became a separate operation to Velodyne Acoustics, and the latter was then sold to German company Audio Reference in 2019.

Now, in 2021, under the guidance of its new owners – which has employed members of the original Velodyne design team – it's back in business and back in the UK. A new Deep Blue subwoofer series (represented here by the 15in DB-15) has joined a revamped version of its compact MicroVee, and Red Line says other ranges are due before the end of the year. It's even promising new DD subwoofers in 2022.

The Deep Blue models are successors to Velodyne's previous SPL I range, and aim to be similarly compact thanks to sealed cabinets. I'm of no doubt the DB-8, an 8in model, is nice and slinky (and there are also 10in and 12in versions) but this 15in iteration is, obviously, fairly large at 42cm wide and 44cm high.

The weight, however, is an entirely manageable 23kg, which some might feel is indicative of where this woofer has been built to a price – SVS's SB16-Ultra, for example, tips the scales at over 50kg. Yet more money is surely being saved by the DB-15's basic specification. There's no app control, EQ or digital filtering here, with setup running to standard crossover and phase control.

The DB-15's new driver uses a reinforced polypropylene cone with quad-layer voice coil and a dual magnet assembly. Giving it its get-up-and-go is a 450W-rated amp. Somewhat unusually for a woofer, this is Class AB rather than Class D.

Throwing A Party
Installed as part of a system with Monitor Audio speakers and Arcam processing, the DB-15 proves to be a chip off the old block. Velodyne has lost none of its ability to craft a big, deep and – when needed – brutal bass experience. This is a sub that throws its weight around, and enjoys doing it.

Chapter 2 of Edge of Tomorrow (Blu-ray) begins with Tom Cruise's hapless military smarmball strapped into his dropship 'seat'. There's no overt low-frequency info in these opening moments (unlike the film's credit sequence, which had the DB-15's woofer jutting out its jaw yet still managing to stop surprisingly quickly), but the Velodyne still adds layers to the experience, bringing a pervasive sense of depth and scale to the soundfield, and conveying the size and heft of the craft as it rumbles through the air. Of course, its impact becomes ever more noticeable when the dropship is hit, the explosion that rips a hole in its side arriving with real slam.

The following beach battle sequence offers everything from tight, bassy impacts, deep thuds and longer, more reverberant swells. The DB-15 nails them all, its ability to maintain output with real low-frequency moments helping, in particular, the crashing helicopter than almost slices Tom's head off.