Woodard Audio Pro 12 Sport
started out selling do-it-yourself (DIY) loudspeaker kits, but they have recently begun
selling their own line of finished speakers and subwoofers. They design all of the speaker
systems that they sell, and will work with buyers to ensure that they purchase the
speakers best suited for their spaces and applications. Woodards products are
available only online, at their website, www.woodardaudio.com, and come with a good audition policy: If a
customer decides that the speakers are not right, he or she can return them within 30 days
for a refund or credit.
So, what do we have here?
The Woodard subwoofer I was sent for review was the Pro 12
Sport ($299 USD). As subwoofers go, the Pro 12 is on the small side: 18" high by
14" wide by 13" deep. In comparison, my Axiom Audio EP175 subwoofer is shorter
(13.5"), but slightly deeper (14.25") and considerably wider (17.5"). In
smaller spaces, those few inches can make the difference in being able to place a sub
exactly where you want it to go. The Pro 12 weighs 40 pounds; while you wont want to
be moving it around every day, its not as unwieldy as other subs Ive had.
The Pro 12s enclosure is made of heavy MDF, and while
the finishing job is adequate, the result is not the most attractive subwoofer Ive
seen. The front is dull gray, mostly covered by a grille of black cloth. The sides, top,
and rear are black, and there are places along the seams where better sanding or more
careful gluing could have improved the subs appearance. This level of finish is
acceptable for the Pro 12s cost, but it cant compete with the other two subs I
had on hand, the Axiom EP175 and the PSB 6i Subsonic. The Pro 12s amplifier
is rated at 110W into 8 ohms and has a frequency response of 30-180Hz. In comparison, the
Axiom EP175 is rated at 175W and 32-150Hz, the PSB 6i at 225W and 29-150Hz. But the
latter two subs are much more expensive than the Woodard: $530 and $699, respectively.
The Pro 12 Sports rear-panel controls are laid out in
an easy-to-use manner. On the top left are two switches, one above the other. The top one
inverts phase, allowing the user to choose settings of 0 or 180 degrees. Changing the
phase can help with subwoofer placement: the correct choice is the one that produces
better bass response in your desired location. Under this is the power switch, which
toggles among Off, Auto, and On settings. Set to Auto, the Pro 12 will turn itself on only
when a musical signal is present. To the left of the power switch is an LED that lets you
know if the power is on. I think it would have made more sense to place the power switch
on top, but that may just be my personal preference.
Next to these two switches are knobs for the crossover and
output-level settings. The Crossover knob has only two labels, on the far left (40Hz) and
far right (160Hz). It would have been helpful had there been more markings along the
spectrum (both of my comparison subs have such markings). The Level knob, too, has two
labels, Min and Max. Again, more markings along the spectrum would have been helpful in
setting the subs level. Finally along this top row are two sets of female RCA jacks,
for line-level input and output.
Below this row are two sets of speaker connectors that can
accept banana plugs, pins, or bare wire. The left-hand set is labeled Hi Level Out, the
right Hi Level In. Below this is a heatsink that spans the control panel, and below that
is a switch to set the subwoofer to 220-240V or 110-120V. Finally, there is a receptacle
for a power cord; you can use the stock cord supplied with the sub, a fancy aftermarket
cord, or simply a longer one if the sub position you choose requires one.
The first thing the user needs to decide is whether to use
the Pro 12 Sports line-level inputs or speaker connections. Using the line-level
input requires that your preamp or integrated amp have a variable line-level output. If it
does, then simply connect it to the Pro 12s line-level input and move on to the next
stage of setup. If your amplifier lacks such an output, youll need to run one set of
speaker cables from the amp to the subs Hi Level In inputs, and a second set from
the Hi Level Out outputs to your speakers. This may be obvious to most readers, but the
documentation I received with the Pro 12 didnt describe how to set up the Sport
using the speaker connections. In two separate places it states that the line-level input
is the preferred hookup, but never is the user told what to do if that is not possible.
Once you have the Pro 12 connected to your electronics and
placed where you want it to go, youll need to adjust the crossover and level. One
way to get close to perfect placement for your sub is to place it where youll be
sitting, then walk around the room listening for the best bass response. Once youve
found that spot, place the sub there. Of course, this is not always practicable, so you
may just want to start with the sub along the same wall as your speakers. Your main
speakers will determine the crossover setting. The idea is to get the subwoofer to merge
seamlessly with the speakers output so that all three units (two speakers and the
sub) present one seamless aural picture. Youll want to set the crossover higher if
your speakers frequency response doesnt extend too low. The Level adjustment
sets the volume for the subwoofer; again, youre trying to match your speakers
level so that the bass is not too loud or too soft to complete the sound.
Shall we give a listen?
I used the Pro 12 Sport in two systems with the same
electronics -- a Rogue Audio Tempest integrated amplifier and a Denon DV-2900 universal
audio/video player -- and different speakers: Quad 21Ls (35Hz-24kHz) and Axiom Audio
M22tis (60Hz-22kHz). The cables were all Audience Conductor designs, except for a 20
Monster Cable subwoofer cable.
The Pro 12s performance was, naturally, dependent on
the speakers I paired it with. The Quad 21Ls seemed to strengthen the illusion of a real
performance taking place in front of me, but this was not a dramatic change. Instead, the
soundstage seemed subtly deeper. This intrigued me; it opened my mind to the idea of using
a subwoofer in a two-channel system, even with main speakers that are nearly full-range.
With the Axiom speakers, the insertion of the Pro 12 was much more noticeable -- it added
considerable weight to the sound, and made recordings sound much more lifelike. If your
speakers are full-range or nearly so, the addition of the Pro 12 might not make a
night-and-day difference -- but the subs small size would nicely complement a pair
of bookshelf speakers. The rest of this review describes my impressions of the Pro 12
Sport when paired with the Axiom speakers.
Many people, I imagine, want a subwoofer so that they can
enjoy music that makes prominent use of low frequencies, such as dance music or hip-hop.
My first stop was at Jurassic 5s Power in Numbers [CD, Interscope
0694934482]. On such tracks as "Whats Golden," the Pro 12 Sport clearly
pulled its own weight. Not only was the bass much deeper and fuller, but this added to the
overall depth and realism of the presentation. My greatest concern in using a subwoofer is
that it might bloat the bass and the music would thus lose definition. I worry that,
instead of a changing bass line, a sub would present me with a deep, thunderous bump-bump-bump
without definition. But listening to Björks "Army of Me," from Post
[CD, Elektra 61740-2], with the Pro 12 alleviated my concern: with the Woodard in the mix,
the bass was not bloated, but focused and tight throughout the songs more complex
However, not everyone enjoys dance and pop music; keeping
the bass tight and focused during more acoustic music might prove more difficult. To test
the Pro 12s re-creation of symphonic music and acoustic jazz, I played the recent
reissue of the Star Wars soundtrack [CD, Sony Classical S2K 92950] and The Great
Jazz Trios Someday My Prince Will Come [Eighty-Eights/Columbia 092819].
My general impressions remained the same as with the pop and electronic music Id
listened to earlier, but the Pro 12s contributions to acoustic jazz and orchestral
music were much less visceral. It seemed to improve the imaging, thus making it easier to
discern instrument placements, and it obviously deepened the bass, but that seemed less
important with this music. With electronica and hip-hop I found the subwoofer an integral
part of the listening; with acoustic music I was much less aware of the subs
contributions, which I thought were not as essential for an enjoyable musical experience.
Others may hear it differently. If bass is really important to you, then my observations
about musical genres may not matter.
The other subs I had on hand improved the music in similar
ways, but the PSB 6i Subsonic was far and away the best of the three. Of course, to
get the PSBs level of performance, youd need to spend more than twice the
Woodards cost, and at 46 pounds and measuring 15" x 20" x 20", the
PSB comes with considerable constraints in weight and bulk. However, its front-panel
placement of the crossover and level controls makes it easier to set up (I didnt
have to climb behind the sub or twist my neck to see just where the settings were).
The differences between the Axiom and the Woodard were less
noticeable at normal listening levels. At higher volumes, the Pro 12 seemed to lose some
focus, but, again, the $231 price difference is considerable. If youre looking for a
compact, inexpensive subwoofer, Woodards audition policy means it wont hurt to
take a look at the Pro 12 Sport.
The Woodard Audio Pro 12 Sport does what it was designed to
do: provide an audio system with deep bass at a very reasonable price. Aesthetically, it
cant compete with the Axiom or PSB subs I had on hand, and those models offered
cleaner sound -- but theyre also much more expensive than the Woodard. Whether or
not you want to add a subwoofer to your system will depend on what sort of music you
listen to, and what is important to you in listening to it. The size of the Pro 12 Sport
makes it ideal for small spaces, and its price makes it ideal for those on a tight budget.
College students living in dorms or those who live in small apartments but seek deeper
bass from their systems may want to take advantage of Woodards audition policy.
Price of equipment reviewed