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November
2001

Reviewed by
John Potis
REVIEWERS' CHOICE 2001




ACI
Titan II LE
Subwoofer


Features SnapShot!

Description

Model: Titan II LE subwoofer
Price: $1100 USD
Dimensions: 22.75"H x 16.5"W x 16.5"D
Weight: 69 pounds

Warranty: Five years labor and parts

Features

  • 12" proprietary "extreme long throw" cast-frame woofer
  • 250W amplifier (with discrete outputs and toroidal transformer)

Features (cont'd)
  • Level control
  • Speaker-level or line-level (RCA) inputs
  • Mono or stereo inputs
  • High-pass outputs (second order, 12db-per-octave filters set at 100Hz)
  • Line-level RCA outputs
  • Theater-direct input
  • Adjustable phase (0 to 180 degrees)
  • Current-sensing feedback loop
  • Protection circuitry
  • 30-day return policy
  • Optional finishes available

In the four years since I first reviewed the original ACI Titan subwoofer, it has remained my subwoofer of choice -- frequently bettering more expensive subs from more widely known specialty manufacturers. It has outlasted everything else in my reference system, and I still find it capable of taking its place next to any speaker I’ve listened to in my home.

While the original Titan has always enjoyed an excellent reputation for sound quality in both home theaters and dedicated music systems, its designer, Mike Dzurko, is the first to concede that it’s not the last word in ultimate sound pressure levels (SPL). This is because the Titan's enclosure is actually rather small given the 12" woofer used, and ACI has always employed some low-frequency contouring in order to achieve true 20Hz extension. At high SPLs, the driver eventually reaches its limits of excursion. Fortunately, thanks to some sophisticated protection circuitry, the driver never slams against its stops as it runs out of breathing room -- rather, it begins to politely compress the input signal and limit any further deep bass output.

But don’t confuse this with a performance flaw. In use, the original Titan was never a lightweight. To this day I’ve never wished for more output, and I’ve never noticed the sub audibly compress at the levels I routinely use. But the market being what it is, I suppose ACI began to lose some sales to subwoofers with higher stated outputs, whether users actually required them or not (and in large rooms, they may be required).

The Titan II LE

Enter the new ACI Titan II LE. While retaining the Titan name, it’s a completely redesigned subwoofer. For one thing, the new Titan utilizes two independently adjustable 12dB-per-octave filters. ACI says that, when used together, they yield a slope of 24dB, and the company recommends the independent tuning of each to allow extremely fine adjustment of the in-room transition to the main speakers. Where the original Titan had two-way phase adjustment (0 or 180 degrees), the new model features continuous adjustment between those two points. Additionally, it has two unfiltered inputs as well as two high-pass-filtered (bass-filtered) line-level outputs. A lot of this is handy stuff, but what really sets the new Titan II LE apart from its predecessor is what ACI calls the SV-12 driver: a cast-frame driver with "extreme excursion" characteristics, which ACI claims increases the output of the Titan II LE by almost a full 5dB at 20Hz.

If you were to take two of the original Titans and place them side by side (or at least within one wavelength of each other), you would net an additional 6dB of output. The new Titan II LE is said to play almost as loud as two of the originals. The new $1100 price tag, a $300 increase, buys you this additional output and the additional flexibility, as well as new and improved cosmetics.

Oh, and how they are improved! I’ve always liked the looks of the original Titan; its finish was spectacular and its understated design meant that it almost didn’t even look like a piece of audio equipment. But the new version is a beautiful piece of furniture that would look great as an end table or the like. The enclosure itself is finished in textured Nextel, but the top and the stylish legs of my review sample were done in an absolutely flawless satin-finished walnut.

Performance

I’ve had the Titan II LE in my care for quite a number of months. It spent time in various music systems with a wide variety of speakers while it waited on-deck for theater duties. It clearly demonstrated its lineage from the original Titan. But where the original Titan’s low-pass filter had a minimum value of 50Hz, the II LE has a more useful value of 35Hz, which allowed me to more seamlessly insert it under some full-range speakers. That may seem a little like overkill, but room acoustics and interactions being what they are, circumstances may well dictate that an otherwise full-range pair of speakers can still use a little help with the bottom octave or so. The 35Hz filter ensured that substantial low-bass reinforcement could be had without incurring penalties in the midbass caused by excessive overlap of sub and speakers. These penalties could otherwise include midbass bloat and out-of-phase-induced suckouts (depressions in the frequency response due to phasing problems). It was in these music systems that the new Titan’s continuously variable phase adjustment proved most valuable -- I usually landed on a setting somewhere between the original Titan’s 0 and 180-degree setting.

Once in the theater, the Titan II LE proved every bit the performer its predecessor was. Although my reference Silverline Sonatina IIs are full-range speakers, I wanted to isolate the bass to the Titan II LE. I programmed my processor by setting all the speakers to "small," which directed all the bass to the Titan II LE. As the sub was now substantially broken in, I dove right in and threw it to the wolves, so to speak. Among the first tests was Lost In Space. The opening battle scene is rife with bass effects, not the least impressive of which is the exploding Gen-tech battlecraft. The accompanying bass surge resulted in some major rattling of my theater room as all the windows and overhead lighting shook unmercifully. I couldn’t have wished for any more excitement from the Titan II LE.

Later on, as the Jupiter makes its first leap to hyperspace, the new Titan really strut its stuff. The bass effect was reproduced very powerfully and with exceptional speed and impact. In this scene you see the explosion off in the distance and you sense (as well as see on screen) the shock wave as it moves toward you. As the muted wave descends upon you, the entire system should seem to erupt as the shock wave finally engulfs you. Any timing errors or sluggish behavior on the part of the subwoofer, or any mismatch between speakers and sub for that matter, would destroy the desired effect. The Titan II LE held up its end of the deal by reproducing this scene with intensity. The remainder of the movie was replete with the usual bass effects: continuous background drone, more explosions and more starship blast-offs -- all deftly handled by the Titan II LE.

Next up was The Matrix and I went right for the throat: chapter 29, "Lobby Shooting Spree." This scene doesn’t really have all that much deep bass, but it’s absolutely loaded with midbass effects as required by the miscellaneous gunfire and sundry bedlam. Once the synthesized musical bass line comes up about halfway through the scene, the challenge for any subwoofer is in reproducing both music and sound effects without allowing one to be entangled or overshadowed by the other. The synthetic bass line must remain powerful, clear and musical in contrast to the chaotic gunfire and lobby demolition. With the Titan II LE, it does, which makes this scene sonically believable.

U-571 is a target-rich environment where bass testing is concerned, and I used it extensively to put the Titan II LE through its paces. We’ll get to the depth-charge explosions in a moment, but one unexpected thing that the new Titan really brought out of the mix was the howling wind during the surface scenes. To be honest, I hadn’t watched this movie in a while and I didn’t remember the use of all the low-frequency sounds in the storm sequences. The Titan II LE really brought them to the forefront, and they sounded impressive in the extreme, adding greatly to the sense of gravity of the situation on the screen. Of course, once the depth charges started exploding, the storms above sounded like the place you wanted to be! With the system peaking at about 92dB, even the distant depth-charge explosions were impressive. The newest Titan was putting out so much bass that, frankly, I had some concerns of my own as to whether it was going to hang together as the explosions got closer. It did.

As I didn’t have the means to accurately assess distortion, I didn’t think it important to get into just how loud the explosions would get and, frankly, I didn’t want to put my ears to the test either. But I will say that the explosions were loud. They were every bit as loud as I would ever want to listen, much louder than I do listen on a regular basis and much, much louder than my five-year-old daughter ever wants to hear this movie reproduced again. Not only were they loud, they had sufficient impact to be eminently satisfying, and they did a marvelous job of sending the foundation of my home -- not to mention its walls -- into some heavy-duty fibrillation. In my 300+-square-foot family room, I couldn’t ask for more.

Old or new

Should owners of the original Titan consider trading up to the Titan II LE? That's less clear-cut. The new Titan II LE, with its improved cosmetics and more extreme sonic capabilities, is a great-sounding subwoofer similar to the original, which I’ve owned for four years. I wish I could tell you that it’s a truly better sounding sub, but the fact is that the original is one great-sounding subwoofer -- a product that continues to delight me. However, there are three areas where the II LE is clearly better. It boasts additional output at 20Hz, increased flexibility, and the new cosmetics. I won’t argue with anybody who wants to step up to this great-looking sub. If you really think you need the additional low-frequency output and setup capabilities, there’s no downside to moving up to the II LE.

Conclusion

The Titan II LE is an even greater value than its predecessor was. You can find subs that play louder, but you'll have a hard time finding one with the combination of accurate output, great looks and overall performance for anywhere near the Titan's price. If you can find one, buy it.

Review System
Speakers - Soliloquy 6.5 (for two-channel use), Silverline Sonata II (mains), Silverline Sonatina II (surrounds), and Silverline Center Stage (center)
Processor - B&K Reference 30
Amplifier - Adcom GFA 7000
Source - Pioneer DV-525 DVD player
Cables - DH Labs BL-1 interconnects, D-75 digital interconnect, Monster Cable speaker cables
Monitor - Proscan PS36700 direct-view monitor
 

Manufacturer contact information:

Audio Concepts, Inc.
901 South Fourth Street
La Crosse, WI 54601
Phone: (608) 784-4570
Fax: (608) 784-6367

E-mail: sales@audioc.com
Website: www.audioc.com

 


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