Outlaw Ultra-X12 Subwoofer – Rocking Low
In July of 2014 I wrote an article here called Audiophile on a Budget which went into the details of building a high end audio system while not breaking the bank. What I didn’t add into that article was that I auditioned quite a few different subwoofers to get the full sound out of the system I was after. I tried several Klipsch, SVS, Polk and one JBL. I tried a mix of sealed subs and ported subs and discovered that I definitely prefer ported to sealed – even though sealed subs are typically more musical (quicker response and go lower). I think it’s just a matter of preference of the sound I like. None of them were perfect in all musical scenarios but I landed on an SVS PB10001 which seemed to deliver the closest sound to what I was after in a form factor I had room for. I listened to the system for months with that sub on it and there were a lot of times the bass would just get lost in the room or the sub just was unable to deliver the sound I wanted. I tried moving the sub around and that didn’t help a lot. So one afternoon I put my old Polk PSW-5052 back into the system (in place of the PB-1000) and was shocked that it performed quite well in the areas the PB-1000 I found to be lacking. I left it on the system for a while but again I found there were many tracks I love to listen to that rendered very boomy and loose sounding bass from the Polk – even though it did deliver that hit you in the chest bass I love on other tracks. Again I was in a subwoofer quandary.
So I went in search of a sub that could do it all for my music only ‘audiophile on a budget’ system. I did a lot of reading about HSU and Rhythmic subwoofers – but one night I got a wild hair up my well, you know… I was on the AVSforum reading in “The Official Outlaw Audio Subwoofer’ thread and people were talking up the new Outlaw Ultra-X12. A redesigned version of their older subs (LFM1-PLUS and the LFM1-EX) with a brand new amplifier (Audera class HD – designed by former BASH amplifier engineers) and a brand new cabinet totally redesigned internal bracing system and new port setup allowing incredibly low bass (down to 17hz) in a smaller form factor than their previous subwoofers. At 66lbs it’s build like a tank! So I admit I had a couple glasses of wine in me, but my gut said ‘this is the sub for you’. I have nothing but good things to say about my Outlaw 950 pre-amplifier and anyone I talk to who owns any Outlaw audio gear says they love it. So I whipped out the plastic and ordered the Ultra-X12. At just over $600 + shipping this would be the most expensive single device for my “budget audiophile” music only system. The next morning I was having some buyers remorse – thinking I am stabbing too wildly in pursuit of the sound I am after – the grass is always greener, etc. I decided to pump the brakes a bit on that feeling and to wait and listen before I got too upset about my impulse buy. I am glad I did!
The Ultra-X12 arrived quickly and expertly packaged in a double box config with giant cushy foam in all corners. There was an install kit that came with it which had the carpet spikes, threaded rods, hardwood floor safe metal disks (dimple on one side and soft-grip material on the other), a power cable, a port plug, and a manual. Installing the spikes was very easy but getting those lined up with those hardwood floor disks was a bit of a pain – and moving it around once you have it sitting on those disks is also a bit of a chore. Before I started serious listening I tried moving it all over the room (the “sub walk”) but I found the ideal spot for room aesthetics happened to be the second best sounding spot – just to the left of my speakers and amps. The bass filled the listening area perfectly and the kitchen – which is were the two areas I had to have good bass response. So once I got that all out of the way I started doing some serious listening. I put the sub into ‘maximum power’ mode, set phase at ‘0’, gain at about 1 o’clock, turned the frequency knob to max (basically letting my pre-pro handle bass frequency management) and fed the amp with both left and right channel inputs (vs a single channel LFE). The gain knob is really easy to see on the back in the dark even – which is nice. As I noted earlier I put the amp into ‘max power’ mode. There are two modes ‘max output’ and ‘max extension’. Max output is the most powerful mode (delivers 120db!) and both ports on the bottom are left open. With ‘max extension’ mode you plug one of the ports with the provided port plug and the sub will hit lower notes (17hz vs 19hz) at the sacrifice of some audible sound output. While I prefer ‘max output’ mode now I haven’t spent a lot of time listening in the other mode.
- Driver Type: Down Firing, 12″ Long-throw Woofer
- Ports: Dual
- Amplifier Power Rating: 350WRMS
- Frequency Response: 25Hz. -180Hz. +/- 2 dB w/o Port Plug
- 17Hz.-180Hz +/-2dB w/ one port plugged
- Crossover Type: 4th Order Low Pass Network
- Crossover Frequency: 60Hz to 120Hz and Bypass
- Phase: 0 to 180 Degrees
- SPL: 120dB (subject to placement and room gain)
- Dimensions: (HxWxD) 21.25″ x 16.0″ x 23.0″
- Weight: 66 lbs
I threw on some tracks I knew very well and the basic sensation that struck me was I hit pay dirt. This was the sound I had been after. Low, punchy, tight, musical – at times you can’t really tell where the bass is coming from – it doesn’t draw attention to it’s self – but then one of those low notes kicks in and sends a tingle of joy up your spine and through your whole body. Oh my! The sound is great at low and at high volumes without having to adjust the gain and or sub trim on my pre-pro (which I was doing constantly with the other subs depending on the music I was listening to). The precision which this sub drives low notes is just unreal. It’s so quick, so powerful, able to go so low while holding tight detailed control, and seamlessly integrating with sound of my Energy RC-703 mains. There was only one problem though. I had rattles all over the kitchen I hadn’t heard before. I did my best to put felt pads on cabinet doors and put liners under glassware but that only did so much.
So I decided to buy a subwoofer isolation mat. As luck would have it Auralex recently released the Gramma v2 which has a nice low 1.75″ profile and the base dimensions (23″ x 15″) were a perfect fit for the Ultra-X12. It’s such a good fit it seems like these two were made for each other. Installing the mat also solved the issue of needing those metal disks to protect the hardwood floor from the carpet spikes. That was a great relief because I really didn’t like being forced to use those. Once I got the mat installed noticed two things. One, it changed the sound, and two it also did reduce the rattles quite a bit. At first I wasn’t so sure I liked how it had changed the sound though and I got really antsy to remove the mat but I decided to enhance my calm (John Spartan! … “Is it cold in here?” … “Good memory!”) and just leave it to listen for a while. After a day of listening I came to the delightful conclusion that it actually improved the sound. It just took a little bit for my ears to adjust but it brought even more detail out of the bass while lowering the raw output of the sound just ever so slightly.
The build quality of the Ultra-X12 is absolutely beautiful. The top has a clear plexiglass insert with a black background making the appearance of a back lacquer top. The smooth mat finish with rounded corners is very pleasing. At 66lbs in this small of a package it feels like carrying around a tree stump when moving it about. It’s the best sounding tree stump you’ll every find though. The input sensitivity of the amplifier is refreshingly normal. With other amps I have had to push the sub gain up a lot and also turn the trim on my pre-amp up to 5 at times to get adequate bass out of the system. Not with this one. Normally it sits at zero, but I sometimes have to back it down to -2 but at zero I get a very good balance for all listening levels with 90% of my music. The music I listen to consists of a wide variety of rock, alternative, trance, house, and lounge. I have recently discovered Justin Timberlake’s music having some of the most intense bass I have experienced. I am using two of his tracks “Suit and Tie” and “What Goes Around / Comes Back Around” as bass benchmarks now. These tracks have some serious and I mean SERIOUS bass. Not just thud thud thud, but a nice variance of rumbling pulsing low tones with nice punchy repetitive bass-lines in other parts. My other to-go tracks also include Dire Straights “Money for Nothing”, ZZ Top “Rough Boy, Type O Negative “Christian Woman”, Korn “All in the Family” (Sowing the Beats mix with Fred Durst), Daft Punk – Random Access Memories (whole CD), Sky Ferreria – Ghost EP (whole CD), Lord – Pure Heroine (whole CD), Above and Beyond presents Ocean Lab Sirens of the Sea (remixes – whole CD) and more… I like a good mix of rock and electronic. This sub handles everything with ease. Every time I listen to it I appreciate it more and more… and MORE.
I spent a couple weeks listening to everything. 70s, 80s, 90s, as well as music from this century! With a good mix of trance, lounge, alternative, rock, and pop. I have found that the Ultra-X12 performs admirably in just about all musical situations. I say “just about all” because sometimes while playing at moderate volume the bass can suddenly become little overwhelming with certain recordings. When that happens I feel like I need to back the trim down a bit. It doesn’t happen often though. There used to be areas in tracks I played frequently where I would internally cringe because the either the bass went too boomy and loose or it just got lost in the room. So there were parts of my audio library I found myself avoiding after a while because the other subs just couldn’t handle bass well. That used to really bother me but it’s a thing of the past. This sub really brought the enjoyment of my audio system to a whole new level. Now I can play everything and it sounds awesome. The bass isn’t always hitting you in the chest, especially at low volumes, but it’s there filling the 60hz and down area of the spectrum with incredible detail. When I turn it up this sub will shake and I mean SHAKE the whole house and your pants. It hits low notes with authority, precision, and detail. I used to think my headphones delivered some good bass. They don’t have nuthin’ on my main system now which makes me smile every day.
So that about wraps this up. Outlaw has done an amazing job with this sub. It’s the only large sub they offer now in their smallish lineup of audio gear. They seem to abide to the quality not quantity rule and the Ultra-X12 follows that to a T.
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