[Review] MJ Acoustics Reference 1 Subwoofer

Discussion in 'Hi-Fi and General Audio' started by Robbo, Jun 20, 2003.

  1. Robbo


    Jun 19, 2003
    Likes Received:
    Berkshire, UK
    MJ Acoustics Reference 1 Subwoofer

    As some of you may know I have been using a REL Stadium (mark 1) sub over the last 9 or so years with varying degrees of success. I finally managed to get it integrated properly with my current speakers, the ProAc Response 1SCs. Even though it is pretty well integrated, there still appear to be a few resonances and suckouts that are noticeable from time to time.

    For a while now I have wondered what the more recent generation of subs on the market would be like and whether it would be worthwhile consigning my old REL to the scrapheap. A few weeks ago WM contacted me and wondered whether I would like to have an MJ acoustics Reference 1 sub on loan for a few weeks for review on behalf of Groovehandle. I was more than happy to accept the offer!

    The £800 Reference 1 itself is relatively compact and finished in a beautiful cherry veneer. There is a downward firing long throw 10.5†alumimium coned woofer which is reflex loaded and claimed to go down to 10Hz – very low for the size of the cabinet. It is claimed to be exceptionally rigid and so reduces distortion and it operates essentially as a piston over its working range. The sub is powered by a 120W RMS amplifier which has a Digitally Accurate MicroProcessor controlled crossover circuit (DAMP), incorporating a digital display so that the upper response limit can be set in variable increments between 30hz and 120hz. There are separate gain controls for high and low level inputs, a "straight-through" LFE bypass and an audibly transparent, "Automatic Speaker Protection" (A.S.P.) circuit which monitors the output stages for clipping and limits the cone movement if the amplifier is being over-driven. Finally the sub features a very useful variable phase control which enables the phase angle to be infinitely adjusted from 0 deg to 180 deg. This feature is makes for easier integration of the sub with the main speakers and can lead to a flatter system response.



    Well what does it sound like? First of all I had to tune it with the ProAc 1SCs. The sub was connected with the low level connection and after quick bit of fiddling and listening to some test tones I settled on a crossover of 33 hz with the gain at around 8 o'clock and the phase angle at 0 deg. I was really surprised at how quick and easy it was to integrate, much easier than my REL. listening to the test tones the response appeared to go as low as the REL (roll off around 17 hz ), but the response seemed to be a lot smoother without the suckout around 50hz and such a large peak at 30Hz. Maybe the Reference 1 has a higher order filter than the REL and rolls off quicker hence reducing response overlap with the main speakers.

    Listening to the system with the Reference 1 in place proved very interesting. The sub has a much faster, more tuneful quality compared to the REL which in comparison sounded slightly lethargic. Bass timing was excellent. Listening to Swim from Madonna's Ray of Light, The heavily mixed bass really strode along, keeping absolutely in time with the music and with real impact and dynamics and not sounding at all overblown. Excellent stuff! Another example of the superb timing was 'So You Say You Lost Your Baby' from Death in Vegas's Scorpio Rising. The bass guitar and drums are really easy to mess up and the sense of timing and rhythm gets lost. No problems with this track using the Reference 1.

    What about bass power? Shpongle's 'Are You Shpongled' CD has some real subterranean bass on a few of the tracks at very high level. Again, the reference 1 sounded dynamic, fast and clean and played these tracks at very high level with no trouble at all. Another example of high power handling capability is Aphex Twin's Drukgs. Again floor shaking bass was generated, really low stuff at 20hz and below with no problems. My poor Proacs bass drivers were rattling against their end stops on this album and I still couldn't get the sub to break into a sweat.

    In summary then, the Reference 1 has a clean, fast, dynamic and musical quality to its bass which matched the ProAcs speed very well. Over the last few weeks, no matter what I have thrown at it, I found that it integrated almost perfectly, something I have never managed to achieve with my REL (although, please note mine is a mark 1 version. Newer models may be better). Some people may find the bass quality a little on the lean side and prefer a richer bass quality. Personally, I liked the sound balance and felt that it gave the sense of speed and musicality which I look for. I would say that for £800, MJ Acoustics have produced an excellent little sub which should be on the shortlist of anyone who is looking for a sub in this price range and much higher. It really is rather good and I have thoroughly enjoyed my time with it.

    Robbo, Jun 20, 2003
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