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Monday, November 26, 2012

Home Cinema/Audiophile Review:
Legacy Audio Metro Subwoofer
Dual-Radiator Active Bass System

Legacy Powered Subwoofer


Brevis...
Price: $1,795 (direct order)
Likes: Build quality, clean bass extension
Dislikes: I would be quibbling
Info: Legacy Metro

by John Gatski

  Legacy Audio has produced custom-made, USA manufactured hi-fi speakers for 30 years, earning a high-performance reputation with big cabinet transducers, such as Focus, Whisper and Classic. I’ve owned a couple of pairs myself. However, the company also has produced smaller speakers that are just as impressive in their performance.
  The new Metro subwoofer fits the space-=conscious category. This compact,  powered subwoofer offers low-down bass at generous levels — via a smartly designed, 12-inch active driver/15-inch passive radiator. As a small-to-medium room bass delivery module for music and home cinema. the Metro has to be considered a prime choice.

Features
  The Legacy Metro powered-subwoofer generates its bass through a 12-inch, active front-fired woofer and a 15-inch passive radiator, bottom-firing driver. I have always been a big fan of passive radiator subs — in that they can enhance the bass response in a small cabinet. It is a more advanced tuned port than the typical ported enclosure — with an actual radiator being moved by the pressure created by the active driver motion. Back in the late 1970s and early 1980s, passive radiators were all the rage in larger book shelf speakers, and they performed well. In the 1990s, Velodyne made the VA-1215 active/passive radiator sub, which I reviewed for Audio magazine and found its performance to be superb, considering its size.
  The Metro is equipped with an aluminum cone, 12-inch active driver with neodymium motor. The passive driver is made of a composite material that enhances its motion, yet remains stiff enough to ensure uniform extension. The Metro is powered by a 500-watt Class D amplifier that is clean and dynamic, especially for the small and medium rooms the sub is designed for.


  The Metro offers welcome simplicity in its hook up: a pair of RCA line-level inputs and a set of high-pass speaker jacks for use with separate speakers. The crossover is adjustable from 40 Hz to 150 Hz. Controls include output level and up to 180 degrees of phase adjustment. The filter slope is 18 dB-per-octave. The MDF cabinet is very stiff and well braced to prevent any mid-bass coloration. My gloss black tester Metro looked great: modern, compact and much more high-end than its $1,795 would indicate. The sub sits on rubber decoupling isolating feet, and the front grill is removable.
**Spec wise, the Metro listed frequency response is 20 to 150 Hz — with no tolerance given. The Metro is more of a 30 Hz+ sub than a 20 Hz sub at meaningful room levels, but it does have output below 30 Hz. There is no amp or system distortion rating, but the Metro sounds extremely clean at levels up to 100 dB or so.
  The Metro foot print is a modest 16-inches tall x 16-inches wide  and 16-inches front to back. Weight is a manageable 68 pounds. It comes in three finishes: black, oak and walnut.

The setup
  I used the Legacy Metro as a standalone subwoofer in my home theater room and as an audiophile bass extender in my audiophile suite, matching it with the Legacy Studio HDs — the company’s crown jewel for mini-speakers. The sub has just enough adjustment flexibility to match it to satellite speakers, and its Class D power ensures its performance in most listening rooms.

The Studio HD smooth, detailed midrange and top end, with excellent width and depth, and the Metro's clean bass extension at loud levels, delivered music in a most convincing fashion.

  In my home cinema room, I routed the .1 bass from my system to the Metro. located in the room’s typical sub position, which is next to the left wall. The speaker system included Westlake Lc 8.1 L-R, Westlake Lc2.65 center channel and NHT-One dipole surrounds. Source gear included Oppo BDP-95 BD player, AudioControl and Onkyo receivers, and MIT speaker cables. AC was handled through Essential Sound Products Essence II power cord and power strip.
  My normal subwoofer is the marvelous Paradigm Sub 15, a much larger subwoofer that easily extends to under 20 Hz. For the review, I used the Metro, instead, to handle all of the low-bass duties. The Legacy crossover was set to 60 Hz and I routed all the individual channels low bass to the subwoofer via the receiver, matched the levels and sat down for the audition. I also ran an Audio-Control real-time analyzer to monitor the bass output in real-time.

The audition
  I played numerous Blu-ray movies, including Sum of All Fears, U571, Avatar, and Monsters Vs. Aliens, to test the low bass output. I also sampled several music Blu-rays to see how the sub integrated with the neutral tone character of the professional-caliber Westlakes. In the WWII flick, U571, the relentless depth charges explosions are a good workout for a subwoofer. Less capable subs cannot handle the relentless succession of explosions that are highly percussive and dynamic — with portions of the bass that go under 25 Hz. Less-capable subs blur the bass and with an overhang character instead of the sound of separate explosions. High-end subs like my Paradigm Sub 15 handle this soundtrack with no audible strain.
  For a compact box and with the benefit of the passive radiator, the Metro handled the U571 effects pretty well. The RTA did not show as much bass under 30 Hz as the Paradigm (a much bigger box), but it did a very good job of delivering the 30 Hz to 60 Hz aspect of the depth-charge explosions to levels nearing 100 dB (as loud as I can stand it in my cinema room). I could hear the window panel rattle, and a few other room side effects were noticeable.
  This little sub kicks down pretty good. With real-world measurements and test tones, its lowest level with significant output was about 32 Hz near the wall in my room. And unlike many small subs that claim low extension and high level, but cannot do it cleanly, the Metro delivers its bass frequencies with good clarity. The Metro does not go as low as my Paradigm Pro 15 (a much more expensive, and larger subwoofer), or play as loud under 30 Hz, but it still delivered the bass fundamentals. For 95 percent of home cinema fans, it will do just fine. The crossover was seamless from the Westlakes on movie soundtracks and music.
  With high-res music on the surround system, kick drums, organ and electric bass were convincing, as was the bass on Telarc’s now out-of-print Superbass II jazz SACD recording. The Metro was perfect: tight, fast and plenty deep — with no trace of boominess in the upper part of its delivered bass.For the music lover.
**The Legacy Metro later went into my audiophile room, where I matched it with the aforementioned Legacy Studio HD two-way ribbon tweeter speakers. The Studio HD is one of the best compact monitors on the speaker market and has solid bass down to 45 Hz. However, I wanted to see if this compact sub combined with the small Studios could make an even better sub/sat speaker system.

The passive radiator is a more advanced, controled tuned port than the typical ported enclosure — with an actual radiator being moved by the pressure created by the active driver motion.

  I mounted the Studio HDs on Apollo speaker stands in the middle of my listening room, placing the subwoofer in between. The sub was connected to a Pass Labs X350.5 amplifier via Alpha-Core solid-conductor speaker cables, and then the sub’s speaker outs were connected to the Legacy. After some basic adjustments (crossover set at 60 Hz), I played numerous samples of 24-bit and SACD music, as well as my own 24-bit jazz guitar recordings, through the sub/sat system. Playback components included the Oppo BDP-95 universal player, Benchmark DAC1 Pre and a Coda preamp.
  As soon as I started pumping music through the speaker system, I heard how seamlessly integrated they were. I did not hear three individual speakers; I heard music coming from a three-speaker system. The Studio HD smooth, detailed midrange and top end, with excellent width and depth, and the Metro's clean bass extension at loud levels, delivered music in a most convincing fashion. The high-res detail made it that much more enjoyable.
  With Classical music, the Metro handled cello, organ and kettle drum without straining. It even played the cannon shots from Telarc’s infamous 1812 Overture without getting out of shape. It may not go as low as bigger subwoofers, but with most music, you do not need any more sub than this. Pop  or Jazz music performance was just as good.
  Even on mid-bass heavy Hip-Hop music, the Metro low end was not exaggerated, but could pump out the jam. Of course, my middle of the room placement and solid, carpeted concrete slab floors, keeps speakers from interacting negatively with the room. When I moved the sub closer to the wall in a corner, the midbass did peak higher, but it was more a function of the room boundary reinforcement.

The verdict
  As a fan of passive radiator subwoofers and speakers, the Legacy Metro is one of the better ones I have auditioned. It can play loud, goes fairly deep and can be seamlessly integrated with satellite speakers — or even used as a standalone home cinema sub in a small-to-medium room. If I were a customer looking for full performance from a speaker system, and had limited space, I would strongly consider the Metro and a pair of the Studio HDs. If you already have a good pair of small speakers that you want to enhance the bottom end, then you could just buy the Metro. No matter how you use, it is a worthy subwoofer for our Everything Audio Network Stellar Sound Award.

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