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BIC America V-1220 12-Inch 430-Watt Down-Firing Powered Subwoofer
The BIC V1220 is a 12″ powered subwoofer that adds a solid low end to music and home video setups without making the sound heavy or boomy. My main speakers, a pair of restored Dyanco A-25s, have very smooth bass and go down to about 60 Hz. I was looking for a subwoofer that would fill in the lowest frequencies without muddying the sound of the A-25s. The V1220 does so nicely.
The BIC subwoofer adds impact to movie sound effects — even unexpected things like when Dorothy’s house falls into Munchkin Land have a surprising impact, while the earthquake at the beginning of “Lora Croft Tomb Raider: Cradle of Life” rattles my windows. All in all, movie sound effects are handled well. Movies aside, the subwoofer also does very well with music recordings. The string bass on Dave Brubeck’s “Take Five” (from Time Out) has a solid impact when first plucked, yet the twang of the vibrating string is not obscured by boominess. The big bass drum at the end of Telarc’s recording of “The Firebird Suite” rattles my windows as much as Lora Croft’s earthquake. As a bonus, the fact that the subwoofer is not in the same location as the main speakers seems to smooth out the bass response of my listening room.
With the subwoofer in the center of the front wall, a Radio Shack sound level meter shows the subwoofer has useful response down to 31 Hz (it would go somewhat lower if the speaker was in a corner). 31 Hz may not seem very low, but is actually good response for a real speaker in a real room — as opposed to ideal test conditions, though pipe organ enthusiasts may want to look elsewhere.
Setup is quite flexible, with continuously-variable adjustments for volume level and crossover point (40-180 Hz), a two position switch for phase, and a switch for Dolby 5.1 or Dolby Prologic receivers. There are both line level and speaker level inputs. The setup instructions are clear and should give good results if followed closely.
The V1220 is relatively large (18 1/2 X 17 x 14 inches) and weighs 41 pounds, so this is not a shoebox you can hide under a piece of furniture. The tradeoff in size is very smooth and powerful bass. The speaker is finished in black wood grain laminate, and seems well-made. The bass port is on the side, so the speaker can be positioned against a wall without obstructing the vent. Another reviewer was concerned that the spike feet might damage floors. I have hardwood floors and agree that the spikes, though rounded, could do damage if dragged over floors. I positioned the speaker first, then gently lowered it without dragging.
The BIC V1220 does everything I wanted: impact on movie sound effects, plus a solid non-boomy low bass with music recordings. The subwoofer does its job without drawing attention to itself — it’s there when it’s needed, and not there when it’s not needed. At just over $200, it’s a bargain.
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Note: Believe it or not, I’ve cut this review almost in half (I’m long winded, especially when it concerns audio). There is an excellent article on subs (and dead zones) that explains these issues much better than I: [...]
This is the first subwoofer I have owned (it was a Christmas gift from my son), so I’m not what you’d call an expert on this particular subject. However, I’ve owned high-end audio equipment since the 70s, and I try to keep informed. I admit that I was very hesitant about an inexpensive subwoofer. How can a sub at this price be anything but trouble, or worse yet, a headache? I do not like (actually, I despise) boomy, muddy or distorted bass. Now that I’ve gotten the basics out of the way, let’s talk about BIC and this subwoofer … and there is a lot to talk about.
BIC America (formerly known as British Industry Corporation) has been around since the 60s, first as audio distributors, then began designing and manufacturing speaker systems in the early 70s. Matter-of-fact, I remember when BIC’s first speaker systems hit the market. They were known for solid sound on a fairly tight budget back then, and apparently that may be the case today.
My BIC V-1220, although designed in the U.S.A., was built in China (there is no escape…). It is an 8 ohm, 12-inch down-firing design that is rated from 23 Hz to 180 Hz (but no plus/minus dB range was given). The 23 Hz spec came as a big surprise, but omitting the dB range left me suspicious. It comes with a 200 watt RMS continuous power BASH-designed amplifier (430 watt RMS peaks). This too was a big and very pleasant surprise, especially for a sub in this price range. The fit and finish (it’s darker than what is pictured, at least mine is) is certainly good, but not exceptional (there are many subs with beautiful cabinetry work and wood finishes, which obviously ups the price accordingly). I consider the enclosure size on this model about medium sized or a bit below. It weighs in at just over 40 pounds, which makes it fairly easy to handle. It comes with coned feet to help isolate the sub and keep vibrations at a minimum when placed on hardwood floors. This sub is not magnetically shielded, so it’s a good idea to keep it a foot or two away from your TV.
Besides this 12-inch model, BIC also has 8, 10 and 15-inch models in the V-series line, and all have what BIC designs and calls a “Venturi” vent (eliminates port noise). BIC warranties these speakers for 7 years (2 years on the amplifier). I found the manual (that covers the 8, 10 and 12-inch versions) to be clear and concise and their customer service responsive (they immediately answered all my email queries).
The V-series comes with a fairly wide range of inputs and controls. There is an RCA sub input port. This is what I and most people will use with a receiver’s sub output port (often referred to as an LFE or Low Frequency Effects port). There are also speaker wire connections (often referred to as high level inputs) to connect from one’s receiver and out to one’s front speakers (for those that may have older receivers without a sub output port). There is a volume or gain control as well as an adjustable variable crossover control (from 40 Hz to 180 Hz). It comes with an “off”, “auto” (automatic signal sensing), “on” toggle switch (I use auto signal sensing mode). There is a two-position toggle switch for one’s receiver type (Dolby Pro-Logic or Dolby Digital/DTS 5.1, 6.1, 7.1). Also included is a simplistic two-position Phase Control switch (“0″ or in phase or 180-degrees out of phase). One may need to use this depending upon speaker and sub placement, as well as crossover overlap. Have someone toggle between the two settings as you listen.
So how does the BIC V-1220 sound and feel? First realize that speaker selection is highly and personally subjective, far more so than any other component or piece of electronics. And what I like and you like can be quite different (which is why I don’t like recommending speaker systems, that and my audiophile days are behind me). What I’m saying is, audition any speaker system (if you can) before buying. You also need to realize that this sub requires a break-in period (suggested by owners to be around 40 to 60 hours) because of the butyl rubber in its surround construction (butyl rubber, while very flexible and more resistant to aging and weathering than other materials, is obviously heavier and denser than the foam used in many surrounds). I was surprised that BIC does not mention a break-in period, but anyone owning a BIC speaker system will tell you not to judge it until you’ve used it for several weeks or more (I’ve owned this sub for over a month now).
Once I went through the break-in period (which took a little over two weeks), and once I experimented with the location (and dead zones), the gain and crossover (which took another…
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