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Chane SBE-118 Subwoofer Review

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  • Chane SBE-118 Subwoofer Review

    As most of you have probably already surmised I get paid for the reviews I publish, and for the past two plus years I've had an exclusive deal with Home Theater Shack (HTS). The remuneration pales in comparison to the time and effort I put into these evaluations, but this is a passion of mine so that arrangement has proven mutually beneficial. Some might be asking "so why is he posting a review of a Chane product on their own website and not HTS?". Glad you asked.

    From my very first review I have done all the arrangements and 'legwork' that comes with securing products. Whether I'm dealing with a company rep, one of its owners or a PR firm, I'm the one making phone calls, writing emails and handling the minutia. The way I go about it is unlike any other reviewer I know, all of whom have their products brokered by the organization they write for. Not me; of the 36 evaluations I've published to date all but 2 are entirely of my own doing. The only part anyone sees is the end result, the review, but the work and effort to bring each of them to light has been staggering, so I'm pretty proud of the fact it's me 95% of the time. Having gone through this exercise for several years -- and with dozens of companies -- lead me to believe I had seen it all, but the SBE-118 arrangements threw me a new curve.

    While making plans with Jon Lane and Craig Chase for this eval I was unaware HTS was also working with them on a promotion and review for a complete Chane HT system, one that would ultimately feature the SBE-118. That's a problem because what outlet wants to pay twice for an evaluation on the same product, especially when they would be published almost consecutively? Since I ended up on the outside looking in my review seemed doom, over before it even began. I actually wanted to hear the SBE-118 for myself -- remember, this is my passion first and my 'side job' a distant second -- so after mulling it over I decided to do this one for free. After all, when I started writing no one was paying me so why couldn't I do it one more time?

    Fundamentally then, what does that mean? Simple; I did not get paid for this review. No one at Chane gave me a penny for my time or effort. It was pro bono, on the house, gratis. What follows are my words said my way, which is really no different then any review I have ever published quite frankly. Neither Jon nor Craig had any input or the right to redact, a non-negotiable stipulation of mine from the outset. Both agreed without hesitation, a stance I found to be refreshing. During the time I had the SBE-118 neither of them so much as sent me a "hey, how's it going?" email. I was left completely to my own devices, unless I reached out to them.

    I realize this is arrangement is a bit non-standard, so I just wanted to make the situation perfectly clear so nobody could impugn anyone's integrity. I'll step off my soapbox now so we can get back to our regularly scheduled program...
    Last edited by theJman; 08-22-2014, 07:39 PM.

    If you take yourself too seriously, expect me to do the exact opposite

  • #2
    Chane SBE-118 Subwoofer Review

    By Jim Wilson

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    The subject of this review is the Chane Music & Cinema SBE-118, a passive acoustic suspension subwoofer utilizing an 18" driver. The amp Chane supplied to motivate it was a Dayton Audio SA-1000, a rack mountable unit. It's rated at 950 watts into a 4 ohm load, and 497 watts at 8 ohms. Since the Chane driver is 8 ohms it was getting just shy of 500 watts. The cabinet measures 22.5"x20"x20" (HWD), which isn't terribly small until you consider the size of the driver. According to Chane's website it weighs "lots", but in reality tips the scales at roughly 90lbs. The manufacturer lists output numbers for various frequency ranges measured at 2 meters, but not an overall frequency response. They currently have an SBE-118 out for certification by a third party and once completed they will publish those numbers on their website.

    Chane is your typical ID (Internet Direct) company, so there are no surprises to be had when ordering an SBE-118; go to their site and select what you want. They do sell packages consisting of one or more subwoofers coupled with the correct amplifier, a wise move given the passive nature of their subs. The SBE-118 and SA-1000 amplifier combination being reviewed today comes in at $1,050, which includes shipping to anywhere in the continental US. With the size and weight of this combo that's a pretty aggressive price. Dayton Audio warranties the SA-1000 amplifier for 1 year, while the driver carries a 7 year warranty from Chane.

    The review unit came via trucking company, not the standard package delivery folks you're probably accustom to seeing when a subwoofer is delivered. That means you have to be home to accept the shipment in person because there's no option to leave it without a direct signature, which can be tricky for some people to manage. It also means the prospect for damage during shipping (should be) less, a good thing considering the only protection the subwoofer had -- other than the cardboard box it came in -- was a plastic bag. You read that correctly; Chane uses no foam protection whatsoever. Even though the subwoofer and amp boxes were securely strapped to a pallet, and shrink wrapped in a plastic sheet to protect them from moisture, I think eschewing protective foam entirely is not the best choice. In spite of my trepidations the review unit arrived unscathed but looking at the condition of the pallet, with one of the bottom support rungs ripped completely off, leads me to believe it may have had a rough journey. Alright, so maybe trucking companies aren't necessarily much better.

    When you liberate the SBE-118 from the shipping carton be sure to do so by cutting the tape on the bottom and not the top. Chane packaged the SBE-118 with the driver facing up, which turned out to be a smart move considering the top flap of the box was actually two layers thick so it provided extra protection. However, in order to safeguard against damaging the driver when flipping it over you might as well start from the side that's the back of the subwoofer.

    The amp is a factory sealed Dayton Audio unit, the exact same model you can buy from Parts Express. It was wrapped in plastic and had hard styrofoam blocks covering the entire top and bottom. I did write one interesting passage in my 'unboxing' notes, and I can't honestly say why it stood out in my mind. The amp was placed atop the subwoofer and between the two of them was a 1" thick piece of plywood. It wasn't a scrap or the typical junk grade you get at the local home center either, it was a really nice 2'x2' section of wood with cleanly cut edges. That has no bearing on the review of course, or the performance of the system, but for some reason I felt it showed a unique attention to detail. Who uses a nice piece of wood for shipping protection?

    Chane offers the now ubiquitous 30 day in-home trial period so you get to audition the SBE-118 for up to a month.

    Before I go any further I have a confession to make. At this point I've reviewed almost 3 dozen subwoofers, and among those were products that didn't necessarily excite me very much. Any reviewer who is honest would say the same thing, so I'm certainly not alone in that regard. I've never shortchanged a single one of them however, and have always given each my best effort and undivided attention during the evaluation, but along the way not all of them have stirred my soul. The bottom line is I do these write-ups mostly because I absolutely love this stuff - it's certainly not because there's any financial benefit to it. I have been an audiophile for decades, a person with an intense ardor when it comes to music. I suspect that's pretty evident by now, at least for anyone who has read my past reviews. So what has any of that to do with this particular evaluation? Allow me to explain.

    Every so often I encounter a product that allows me to have some serious fun, and the Chane SBE-118 subwoofer turned out to be one of those. What you see mentioned below in the Movie and Music sections is just a fraction of what I really played around with. And yes, I did use the word "play" because that's what it felt like I was doing. Truth be told, I had a rare free Saturday and decided to test this subwoofer in a manner like I've only been able to on a few occasions. I dragged out virtually every 'heavy hitter' blu-ray and CD I own and went through a multitude of scenes and audio tracks for hours on end, and after all that time what was the outcome? A stupid grin on my face and one really enjoyable day. The output, depth and sound quality this subwoofer is capable of is betrayed by the selling price, and ultimately you may have to reset your expectations about what a grand will get you. In this case it proved to be a lot. Was everything perfect? Of course not, but in spite of a stumble or two I really enjoyed my Saturday. And realistically, isn't that the goal? When all the research, number crunching, agonizing, tuning and adjusting is finally done, shouldn't you be able to sit back and enjoy yourself? That's precisely what I did.

    The company behind the SBE-118 is Chane Music and Cinema (CMC), an amalgamation of two different companies; The Audio Insider (TAI) and Chase Home Theater (CHT). TAI's primary focus was on speakers, while CHT offered both subwoofers and speakers. In 2013 they merged and formed Chane Music and Cinema. The founders of both TAI and CHT have been in this industry for years, so neither is a newcomer to audio.

    The SBE-118 comes with no documentation specific to itself. For someone like me hooking up a passive subwoofer is a piece of cake, but that isn't the case for everyone. Chane might want to consider including a single page guide with basic connection and configuration information, along with some tips on getting the best from their system. The SA-1000 comes with Dayton Audio's standard documentation, which isn't half bad really, so I suggest you use that as a reference. In short though, the configuration is similar to an active subwoofer; hook up an RCA cable from your receiver to the amp and then set things like the gain, crossover and phase. In this case the major difference is that you need to hook up the amp to the SBE-118 itself, but that can be accomplished using plain old speaker wire (at least 16 gauge would be my suggestion). You can also use cables terminated with banana plugs.

    The SA-1000 is equipped with an adjustable PEQ (Parameter EQualizer), so if your room has a troublesome mode -- and whose doesn't? -- you might be able to tame it with the PEQ. On the back of the amp there are switches for a Subsonic Filter, which will enforce a high-pass filter at 18Hz, along with one for Bass Boost, which raises the output level 3dB centered at 25Hz. The latter has a fairly wide 'Q' value of 1.4, which translates into a pretty hefty range. I found neither switch was necessary for the SBE-118 to do what I wanted it to, so both were off for the entire review. I never found need for the PEQ either, so I was running the most basic setup you possibly could.

    As is the case with several models of Dayton Audio amplifier I detected a slight hum emanating from the SA-1000, even when it was idle. That appears to be a characteristic trait unfortunately -- the SPA500 I have in another subwoofer does the same thing -- so I really wasn't terribly surprised. It seems to be a well known and long standing issue too, which makes you wonder why Dayton Audio hasn't addressed it already. The hum was only evident when there was nothing else on and the room was quiet, so it was never distracting. The auto-on functionality worked flawlessly; the amp never went into standby when it shouldn't have and awoke with little prodding. When it does come out of standby the SBE-118 produced a slight 'pop', but nothing that sounded harmful to the driver. More like an audible indication the amp was ready to go.

    The cabinet design of the SBE-118 visually appears to be nothing out of the ordinary, but in this case looks can be deceiving. The entire thing is constructed from HD MDF, which initially sounds like an oxymoron. After all, what exactly is High Density Medium Density Fiberboard? As it turns out there are different grades of MDF, and at least one of them truly is of a higher grade. Jon Lane described it to me thusly...

    All Chane subs are made by hand using ECC 4-11, Ansi A208.2-2009, California 93120 Phase 2 compliant high quality MDF, which weighs more and is denser and quieter than other types. Each cabinet has eight hand-joined, 100% coverage, glued-miter edge joints that are actually stronger than the surrounding lumber.

    He then went on to tell me the following...

    We also use multiple coats of catalyzed black semi-gloss paint. Our input terminals are nickel-plated, machined, high-grade, five way binding posts set in anodized aluminum plates. We do not use plastic cups, push terminals, tin posts, or any of the low grade hardware so many consumer grade economy subwoofers do. Even our hardware is stainless steel.

    So not only are the cabinets -- and the paint they're covered in -- seemingly a cut above the rest, but even something like the binding posts are. The latter has these handy little channels at the bottom to help guide the speaker wires into place, making it a snap to get the connections right the first time. Nice touch.

    The front baffle on the SBE-118 is a full 2" thick, while the rest of the enclosure is 1". Pretty impressive for what could rightfully be considered a 'budget' 18" subwoofer. However, even with all the elaborate material and care given to creating a solid cabinet I found some vibration was still being transmitted through the panels by the back-wave off the driver. When reviewing passive subwoofers I usually place the amp on top of the cabinet, but in this case I wasn't able to. During the most unforgiving parts of my evaluation the SA-1000 would literally walk across the top of the cabinet. On one occasion, when I wasn't really paying attention, it traveled far enough to unplug itself and shut down. During day-to-day usage I didn't have an issue, but I did when thrashing it. The SA-1000 is listed as weighing 20lbs, although it seems heavier to be honest. Either way, it takes an awful lot of bass to make something weighing at least 20 pounds move like that. The amps chassis would rattle on occasion too, so placing it off to the side was my only choice anyway. Trivia question; do you know who the lead designer of the Dayton Audio SA-1000 was? None other than Bob Carver, whose name is most closely associated to the company Sunfire today.

    Chane uses a .5" roundover at all panel intersections, which gives the SBE-118 a nice finished appearance. The paint is matte black and doesn't reflect light, so I was happy about that. Running my hand over the individual panels revealed a slight texture, almost as though it was painted in a dusty environment. It's not a bedliner finish by an means, but I get the sense it should have been smooth. When the paint was examined with an LED light I could see the wood grain where the bottom panel met the side panels, along with a slightly raised seam between panels on one side. A little more quality time with a sander was probably in order.

    In the grand scheme of things it's a pretty small enclosure for a subwoofer with an 18" driver, a fact which should work in your favor when the time comes to decide where you want to place it. The cabinet dimensions are such that the driver takes up almost the entire front panel, so Chane really couldn't have made it much smaller. They did opt to go 2.5" taller then it is wide or deep, which I think was a good choice. Visually it doesn't appear to be just a plain black cube that way.

    The driver is a proprietary 18" heavy duty unit with a long throw. It's sourced from Eminence, who may OEM more drivers then any other company, so Chane started in the right place for sure. It has a treated paper cone with a medium sized half role rubberized foam surround, cast aluminum frame, double slug ferrite magnet assembly and vented pole piece. Securing the driver are some of the largest machine screws I've ever seen anyone use. Unfortunately one of them spun in place when I tried to remove it so the only picture of the driver I have is a stock photo from Chane's website. I also wasn't able to get any shots of the interior because of that. I did remove the other 7 screws to take a peek inside and it appears the enclosure is filled with a synthetic damping material.

    A grill and feet were not included with the review unit, nor are they an option as of this writing, so be sure the appearance of the SBE-118 will be copesthetic with your 'better half' (read: WAF). Craig Chase did tell me they are contemplating an optional metal mesh grill, and the price target he mentioned sounds reasonable to me. Those 'face mask' looking grills have not gone over very well though, so perhaps something a bit more traditional might be in order instead. To me a simple cloth grill over an MDF frame seems more in line with the audience the SBE-118 is likely to attract.

    For those who like to buy products made in the US Chane has you covered; Eminence is located in Kentucky, the SBE-118 cabinet are built in Florida, and I've been told even the boxes they use for shipping are from the Sunshine State. The Dayton amp is made overseas, but that's not a Chane product - everything under their control is produced domestically.

    My living room is 13x17x8 (1768 ft^3), so it's not terribly large. The main seating position is approximately 11 feet from the subwoofer. All testing was done after the unit had been broken in for at least 15 hours.

    In this day and age virtually all acoustic suspension subwoofers have their frequency response curve influenced by DSP (Digital Signal Processing), signal shaping and/or equalization. The digital magic allows the manufacturer to tailor the sound to a specific target, which ultimately results in far better sound quality and driver protection mechanisms. No downside there, assuming it's done properly of course. But those benefits only apply to active subwoofers, ones with an internal amplifier/driver/cabinet size combination that has been tuned holistically. What about passive units, those that utilize outboard amplification of an unknown origin? All the benefits of tuning and protection mechanisms go out the window because you never know what the customer will use to drive your subwoofer. Since the SBE-118 is passive those potential drawbacks apply to it, yet even with that the sound quality with a generic Dayton Audio SA-100 was spectacular. I disabled everything -- PEQ, subsonic filter, bass boost, all of it -- and ran the SBE-118 with just the raw output from the amp, tuned only by Audyssey, and I never felt anything was lacking.

    I own several sets of bookshelf speakers in order to ensure I have something appropriate for every level of subwoofer I might be reviewing. My modus operandi (MO) is to look at the individual characteristics of the sub and then try to match it with speakers best suited to its capabilities. In this case I pulled out my primo set, the Bag End M6. These studio monitors have a concentric driver, so what you get from them is not necessarily the same as the typical HT or stereo speaker; they are designed to reproduce sound exactly as it was intended, warts and all. With good material they're phenomenal, but when the source is awful so is what you hear. Call them faithful or revealing, but either way they're one of my favorite speakers. I opted to use the M6's after a conversation I had with Jon Lane.

    I have known Jon for a while now and found him to be an absolute fanatic when it comes to precision and quality. Because he and I are kindred spirits in that regard Jon is one of the few people in this industry I trust explicitly, so if something passes muster with him then I don't envision a scenario where it wouldn't with me as well. Both he and Craig mentioned several times how they were confident of the SBE-118's sound quality, so I figured why not set the bar high and use the M6's. As it turned out that was a wise choice on my part; this speaker/subwoofer combination was easily one of the most dynamic and enthralling setups I have ever reviewed, a pairing that simply begs you to listen. High volume or low, it didn't matter - this combo just worked. Listening sessions lasting hours ended without the slightest hint of fatigue.

    One area my hearing seems to be particularly sensitive to is the 'chestiness' that can develop in male voices when a subwoofer is crossed over at 80Hz-100Hz and it isn't able to accurately resolve frequencies that high. To compensate all the speakers I own can ably handle 60Hz, and rarely will I exceed it. Because of how clean the sound is from the SBE-118 I did use 80Hz for a while and found nothing objectionable at all. Frankly, it could have been left there for the duration and I would have been fine with that, something I can't say about most of the other subwoofers I've reviewed. This means any subwoofer output occurring above the crossover region -- and there always will be some -- won't create any unpleasant artifacts, which makes for a seamless transition between speakers and subwoofer. That's certainly what I found.

    Can a subwoofer with an 18" driver coupled to a 1000 watt amp be called understated? Is it possible to use terms like "subtle" or "finesse" to describe its output? And if you can, would you be able to say those words without them being in jest? The answer is yes, yes and yes. The SBE-118 produces bass, not noise, and there is a huge difference between those two things. To an extent there's a bit of an industrial feel to this setup; an enormous driver stuffed into a smallish cabinet that has no grill or feet, driven by an off-the-shelf amp. The thing is even delivered on a pallet by a trucking company. One would be forgiven if they assumed this was going to be bass for the uninitiated, where BOOM! is valued more than precision, but it turned out to be for the discriminating individual instead. Not that the SBE-118 can't make things rattle -- it certainly can -- but it does so with poise. An iron fist in a velvet glove, so to speak.

    For movies this subwoofer was a blast, both figuratively and literally. It tends to disappear when not needed yet would roar back to life when called upon. Sharp and decisive, not sloppy or indirect. Deep bass was effortless, and I never got the sense of it being exaggerated. In a nutshell that's the holy grail for me.

    The Dark Knight Rises (blu-ray)
    This genre of movie is not among those I generally watch, but this particular one has something very useful for a subwoofer test; ferocious bass. I bought the blu-ray a few months back and have been saving it for a special occasion, which essentially means a sub that might actually be able to render the soundtrack in a believable manner. The forums are abuzz with rumors that this flick contains scenes where the bass reaches single digits (less than 10Hz), so only a precious few subwoofers will be able to reproduce it with authority. The SBE-118 isn't capable of going that low, but it made for a wild ride nonetheless.

    The first 10 minutes or so set the tone for the rest of the movie, from a soundtrack perspective at least. Most of it occurs inside a plane transporting prisoners, and this part is where your subwoofer takes its first beating. The roar from the engines is supposed to be visceral -- if you want to be truly engulfed -- and the SBE-118 had no problem doing just that, creating an almost freaky sensation. Note to self; I really need to do something about those blinds. It's times like this when I'm reminded they aren't sufficiently dampened.

    Scene 5 is another legendary one from this movie so I skipped there next in order to gauge what else the SBE-118 had to offer. By this point our caped crusader is being chased by Gotham Cities finest and he ends up having to drive his motorcycle (if you can even call it that) down an alley to escape them. Turns out to be a dead end unfortunately, so he has to swing around and come back out the same way. When he does Batman is no longer riding a motorcycle, but instead is straddling an aerial assault vehicle of sorts. The jet propulsion engines motivating this thing create an incredible roar, and if your subwoofer is capable, a pervasive tactile sensation to go along with it. The SBE-118 was capable enough alright, producing bass you could feel resonating in your chest. For me it wasn't the quantity of bass so much as the quality that was most noteworthy. I could care less how deep a subwoofer is able to play if the sound quality isn't commensurate. Not only was the bass intense and forceful, it was utterly clear. Thunderous, yet detailed.

    Lord Of The Rings: Return Of The King (blu-ray)
    Return Of The King is the third installment of the original Lord Of The Rings trilogy, essentially bringing the first series of movies to a close. In it Aragorn, the Ranger formerly known as Strider, finally ascends to the throne of Gondor. However, before any of that can happen a lot of mayhem and battling occur.

    Like all LOTR movies this one is lengthy; almost 3.5 hours, the longest of the trilogy. Because Peter Jackson loves to drag things out there aren't many individual test scenes one can use for a subwoofer evaluation, but more like sections of the movie you queue up and watch all the way through. There are a few such segments that can be used, but for me perhaps the best of them are scenes 28 (The Siege Of Gondor) to 37 (Battle For Pelennor Fields). The story lines between these 9 scenes are varied, and switch back and forth during that 40 or so minute stretch, but the battles are where your subwoofer is going to get some exercise. It was from here where I derived most of my notes.

    As the Morgul army begin their descent on Minas Tirith the sound generated from thousands of stomping feet, courtesy of the Orc and Uruk-hai, is supposed to create a sense of fear and the SBE-118 was certainly up to the task. The amount of bass being generated drew me right into the action. Once the kingdom has been surrounded the Uruk-hai begin launching boulders and flaming balls into Minas Tirith, all of which came crashing down to earth with authority. Flying overhead were the Nazgul, immense winged beasts that appear to be part dragon. Each of their wing flaps resulted in a potent 'whoosh', helping to create a sense of their enormity. The Morgul army mercilessly pounds Minas Tirith, pushing them to the brink of collapse. Just when all seems lost the Rohirrim, which are the horseman from the kingdom of Rohan, appear on the scene and flank the enemy. Their arrival seems to change the tide in favor of the good guys, but as the Orc's and Uruk-hai begin their retreat the Harad show up riding atop their Olephants.

    Olephants are akin to 10 story tall mastodons with enormous tusks, menacing beasts that are almost impossible to take down. As they approach the Rohirrim their footsteps are supposed to be thunderous, and boy did the SBE-118 get this part right; I could literally feel each of them pounding the earth. A fierce battle ensues, and while the Rohirrim suffer many causalities they ultimately prevail. One by one the Olephants are slayed, felled by the relentless onslaught of the Rohirrim, and as each succumb they crash down with a resounding thud. Waves of bass were sent coursing through my chair each time one hit the deck, with special mention going to the visceral sensation created when two of them collide on there way down. The SBE-118 created a riveting depiction of this battle and I enjoyed every minute of it.

    10,000 BC (DVD)
    Olephants and then mammoths, sense a theme here? There's no way around it, big ponderous animals sound best on big powerful subwoofers. I haven't used this one for a while so I figured perhaps it was time to break it out and see if I could trip up the SBE-118. If you've watched this movie before then you know exactly where I went first - scene 3, the mammoth hunt. Notice that my copy is a DVD and not a blu-ray? I've deliberately resisted the urge to upgrade because I want to keep something in my test arsenal that doesn't necessarily have the best soundtrack. This gives me an indication of how a subwoofer handles less than ideal material. Let me end the suspense right now and cut to the chase (sorry Craig, no pun intended); the Chane SBE-118 created one of the most convincing and enveloping renditions of this movie I have heard to date. It was not hard to conceive being witness to an actual stampede. The depth and clarity were very impressive.

    Before any of the bedlam occurs there is a prelude, with the mammoths simply milling about and grazing. As they meander through the grasslands each of their massive feet are supposed to create a physical sensation when they hit the ground, something the SBE-118 conveyed beautifully. Where I thought this subwoofer truly excelled was with the restraint it showed when not asked for magniloquence. As this scene unfolds the beasts are off in the distance, a fact identifiable by the muted sounds of their footsteps. The SBE-118 played along brilliantly and never over-embellished. As they drew closer the sound grew noticeably louder and more intense, just as you might assume it would were any of this real. When the stampede begins in earnest the SBE-118 sprang to life with resounding bass that made my blinds rattle (again). It actually felt like the ground was shaking, because in my house it really was. The presentation wasn't simply a bunch of clatter, it was a good balance between power and texture. Subtle variations were easily identified, making for a remarkable overall effect.

    Captivated by what I heard thus far I let exuberance get the best of me and replayed this scene at 0dB, but the SBE-118 was having none of it. Dynamics began to compress and a portion of the excellent sound quality I had become accustom to was no longer evident, yet in spite of that I never heard any disturbing mechanical noises from the driver. The SBE-118 had nothing left to give, and was clearly being asked for something it couldn't provide, but it didn't audibly protest by making any untoward noises (clunking, banging, bottoming, etc). In other words, it didn't self destruct. You can't ask for more than that.

    After all the testing (or was it abuse?) had concluded I checked the amp to see how hot it had gotten and it was barely more than warm. The 8 ohm load this driver presents doesn't seem to be a problem for the Dayton SA-1000, even though the red 'overload' light was flashing like a strobe during the more punishing scenes.

    The Chane SBE-118 proved to be a faithful companion that was skillfully able to play every genre of music I threw at it. Whether orchestral, heavy metal, rock-n-roll or blues it never put a foot wrong. Whatever your musical preferences are the SBE-118 should be up to the task.

    Pyrokinesis, Tony MacAlpine (CD)
    I find myself using Tony's self-titled 2011 CD frequently because of its take no prisoners approach to music, the rhythm section in particular. The bass guitar in most of these songs is pretty taxing, but the drumming tends to be almost violent. If your subwoofer doesn't have good transient response these songs will make it painfully obvious. Pyrokinesis might be the poster child for that sentiment.

    Featuring Marco Minnemann on drums this song opens with a series of kick drum triplets, and only gets faster and more dense from there. This is essentially a 4 minute assault of your sense -- a raucous, driving, heavy metal tune -- so strap yourself in. The staccato rhythm is a non-stop barrage of bass pedal, which would wreak havoc on lesser subwoofers. The SBE-118 simply laughed it off, unperturbed even when pushed to a ridiculous volume level. As Marco pounded away so did the SBE-118, creating a thrilling experience in the process. It was almost as though you could hear it saying "is that all you got?".

    Going Down, G3 Live In Concert (CD)
    For me a live show is the yardstick to judge a musician or group by. Succinctly put, if a band can't accurately perform their own songs on stage then I don't want to see them play. Period. Don't waste my time with 'canned' music or sloppy renditions of something I know and love. I've been to concerts from all three guitarist featured on this CD -- Joe Satriani, Eric Johnson and Steve Vai -- and each of them can definitely play their studio music live. Put them all together and I'm in heaven.

    G3 (Guitarists 3) is the brainchild of Joe Satriani, and it's a tour that features Joe and two additional guitarists. Among the other luminaries who have participated on the various tours are Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Yngwie Malmsteen, Michael Schenker, Tony MacAlpine (does that name ring a bell?), Gary Hoey, Brian May, Billy Gibbons, George Lynch and at least a dozen other top-flight musicians. G3 has never released a studio album -- these guys just get together to jam on stage -- but that's fine by me. The Live In Concert CD features the best trio in my opinion, and was recorded during the first G3 tour.

    Going Down is an old blues tune written by Don Nix. It's a rollicking song that has been covered by countless other musicians; think along the lines of The Kinks You Really Got Me or Blind Willie McTell's Statesboro Blues. This version was performed at the end of the concert, after each of the guitarists had done their own set, so it was basically a jam session featuring all three of them on stage at the same time. Satriani actually sings on this track, which is very rare. But that's not the draw here, it's those guitarists at their best just wailing away. Where can I get tickets?

    One of the things which constantly draws me to live music is the assault on your senses from thousands of watts pumped through huge stacks of PA cabinets. For some inexplicable reason I actually enjoy it. Recreating that type of onslaught at home is almost impossible for most of us, myself included, but since I was evaluating a subwoofer with an 18" driver it seemed fitting to at least try. The Chane SBE-118 provided a close approximation of that elusive sensation, and in the process a thoroughly enjoyable experience.

    The "G3 Jam", as the last portion of the show is affectionately known, often features Joe Satriani's rhythm section backing everyone up. That means Stu Hamm on bass and Jeff Campitelli on the drums. This song was cranked to 0dB, and in so doing both Stu and Jeff came alive (sorry, I couldn't resist). The bass and drums exploded out at me, similar to what you might get were you standing on the floor of a stadium. The SBE-118 seemed to relish the challenge and went about its business with nary a complaint, providing me with a rousing approximation of a live show. Think I might have played this song more than once?

    Throbberizer, Dub King (WAV)
    The Dub King, aka Mark Herringer, is a fellow writer I met a few years back. He used to produce electronic music designed to pummel a subwoofer, and because of that I have included a few of his tracks in the past. Of late my reviews have consisted of commercially available music but I decided to see if the SBE-118 could handle one of Marks extreme torture tests, so I dug into my collection to find something ruthless. Throbberizer fits that description.

    At only 3:30 long it may not seem to be a difficult hurdle to overcome, but in reality it's quite the workout for a subwoofer. Well, a sub that can extend low enough to do it justice anyway. There are a few passages that contain pulsating subterranean bass so deep it tends to make one think they're in the middle of an earthquake. Few subs are able to cope with Throbberizer, but the SBE-118 handled it with aplomb.

    I had Throbberizer playing in the background while I was writing this part of the review, when all of the sudden it seemed as though my living room started oscillating. Windows rattled in their tracks, thermostat vibrated on the wall, the whole nine yards. During a couple of past reviews a subwoofer was powerful enough to make the cabinets in my kitchen vibrate, so it was at this point I got up to see if that was happening again. Turns out it was. Who needs a masseuse when you have the Chane SBE-118?

    In the automotive world there is an axiom for engines that goes "there's no replacement for displacement", which loosely translates into "nothing beats a big block". A parallel in the world of subwoofers could be drawn, and by that I mean a larger driver is better. For the most part that's true. With cars you can add enhancers like a turbocharger to increase the output of a smaller engine, but once you have driven a big block -- something along the lines of Chevy's 454, Ford's 427 or Chrysler's 426 Hemi (nicknamed the Elephant, keeping with my Olephant/Mammoth theme!) -- you come to appreciate the value of brute force. For a subwoofer the performance enhancing equivalent of a turbocharger are things like DSP, EQ and extremely long throw drivers but in the end, just like with engines, those only forestall the inevitable. Physics will not be denied. In that light I give you the Chane SBE-118, the big block of subwoofers. A motor with a hot cam requires a bit of tuning to get the best from it, and you have to live with a 'lumpy' idle, so you better be in love with the power if you want to go that route. The SBE-118 is similar; it's a little rough around the edges, and lacks a few niceties like a grill or feet, but if you're OK with that then what you will get is big block V8 performance for your home theater. This subwoofer has prodigious output and can rattle your chair at will, but it's not simply a blunt instrument. It has a few idiosyncrasies but this $1,050 package is an excellent choice for the person who wants it all, yet doesn't quite have the funds to pay for some of the usual suspects currently available.
    Last edited by theJman; 02-11-2018, 01:55 PM.

    If you take yourself too seriously, expect me to do the exact opposite


    • #3
      Chane SBE-118 Pictures

      Last edited by theJman; 02-11-2018, 01:57 PM.

      If you take yourself too seriously, expect me to do the exact opposite


      • #4
        Chane SBE-118 Measurements

        These measurements were taken using XTZ Room Analyzer II Pro. The unit was indoors, physically positioned in the center of my listening room with no other speakers running. It was powered by a Dayton Audio SA-1000 external amplifier.

        Frequency Response: Green - Native, Blue - Bass Boost switch enabled

        Spectrograph: Native response

        Spectrograph: Bass Boost switch enabled

        Last edited by theJman; 02-11-2018, 02:12 PM.

        If you take yourself too seriously, expect me to do the exact opposite


        • #5
          Nice review of the Chane SBE 118. Big performance from a relatively small sub compared to some of the 15 in ID sub. Two subs should make for an awesome HT.
          Klipsch system: RF 7 mains, RS 35 Surrounds, RS 35 FW, RC 64 center, Chase SS 18.2,SS 18.1(2), (2) Berhinger I Nuke3000 DSP
          Pioneer Elite SC 35
          Acurus 200 x 5 amp
          Yamaha M 80 amp

          2 Channel System: Yaquin VK 2100 integrated amp/McIntosh XR 5

          Family Room: Sony STR DH 510, Klipsch VF 35, Epik Legend sub


          • #6
            J-man ... Thanks for taking the time to do this. The time and effort it takes for the level of detail you bring is hard to imagine. Well done !!!

            Derrick ... Just two ??? :D


            • #7
              Very nice review J, glad to see you on the forum. Now you know why I am so enamored...solid, quality preformace in a budget priced package! Jon & Craig are puting audiophile grade products within reach of us common nobody else!
              Last edited by Quenten; 08-23-2014, 12:28 PM.


              • #8
                Wonderful review, great read! I think I learned as much about the movies and music you audition as the qualities to listen to. I wish I sat with you during a new movie or sound track so I could ask you who/what/why questions, but I'd be a pia for it - sounds like you know your material inside out. Excellent quality info, elephant man (couldn't help myself)!

                It was fun to see you give the sub the hardest, deepest hitting content on hand, and were rewarded with the mix. I agree and translate with passive sub - to get optimum results, using an eq method and REW will help with any specific room, but it's neat to see that a stock no PEQ, or boost/filter setup worked for you.

                The Spectrograph plots are hard for me to understand for comparison with other reviews (they look peaky for a few freqs and time lengths), not sure why it was done in the center of a room rather than outside if that was the intent, or optimally located in room with Audyssey (XT or XT-32?). Is this sub response, or room interaction? I'll wait for ricci to do his expertise for that analysis.

                Thanks so much for a beautifully written and completely honest evaluation. Especially on your personal unpaid time - you are a true benefit to the audio hobbyist.


                • #9
                  Originally posted by sbdman View Post
                  Wonderful review, great read! I think I learned as much about the movies and music you audition as the qualities to listen to. I wish I sat with you during a new movie or sound track so I could ask you who/what/why questions, but I'd be a pia for it - sounds like you know your material inside out. Excellent quality info, elephant man (couldn't help myself)!
                  I shoulda seen that one coming... :p

                  Originally posted by sbdman View Post
                  The Spectrograph plots are hard for me to understand for comparison with other reviews (they look peaky for a few freqs and time lengths), not sure why it was done in the center of a room rather than outside if that was the intent, or optimally located in room with Audyssey (XT or XT-32?). Is this sub response, or room interaction? I'll wait for ricci to do his expertise for that analysis.
                  Josh measures things more than any reviewer out there, so I'm waiting to see what he comes up with as well. The graphs I include are just to give some objective indication really. I know what Josh charges to run those tests, which is why he's willing to drag stuff outside. ;)

                  I have an empty carpeted room where I do the tests. XTZ includes it's own sound generator, so the only thing the sub is hooked up to is that. No room EQ of any type is used, so you can always expect to get better results in your own house.

                  The spectrographs show essentially the same thing as the waterfall plots that you see on DB. It's an indication of 'ringing' as seen in the time domain. Intensity is determined by color, going from blue to green to yellow and then red (lowest to highest). The length of time a particular frequency continues going after the fundamental note has occurred is represented by the length of the bars, to the right. The longer the bar is the greater the amount of time. I set the vertical threshold at 50ms, but to be honest that's pretty stringent. For the frequencies a subwoofer makes 100ms is probably a better indicator - I very seriously doubt anyone could audibly identify the difference between a 50ms or 100ms ring, so realistically you should look for anything that extends to the right of 100ms. Very thin lines that go beyond 100ms are of little consequence; the narrow frequency range they represent would be nearly impossible to pinpoint with just your ears.

                  I never take a single measurement until after the review is done because I don't want my eyes influencing what my ears hear. Had someone handed me these spectrographs before I heard the SBE-118 I would have been able to guess that there would be some cabinet vibration due to the amount of dark blue areas. Using 100ms for both the SBE-118 and another sub take a look at everything to the left, all the way to 0ms. This other unit was transmitting less through the cabinet walls.

                  Click image for larger version

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                  Originally posted by sbdman View Post
                  Thanks so much for a beautifully written and completely honest evaluation. Especially on your personal unpaid time - you are a true benefit to the audio hobbyist.
                  Thank you for the kind words. I really appreciate that.

                  If you take yourself too seriously, expect me to do the exact opposite


                  • #10
                    Thanks, Jim. I know how much time and effort goes into these evaluations, and how much readers appreciate them.

                    We've worked out a shipping method we think benefits customers. By using LTL truck freight delivery, we avoid the virtual certainty that a quarter or more of these large products will be damaged or wrecked by common parcel carriers. Craig and I have learned this individually: You can overpack anything up to 150# and still find it suffering when there's any tumbling allowed. Unless we crate each unit - raising costs, prices, and delivery and unpacking issues - there's no insurance against chronic damage and loss except insurance itself, and eventually parcel carriers just stop honoring your claims.

                    LTL truck deliveries, especially by our chosen carrier, are virtually damage-free. The reason is that palleting these products makes it impossible to tumble them, and using guards like pallets and top plates also lessens the chance of any contact on the product package at all. The 375# carton and product bag protect the product's finish and breakable parts.

                    The best defense is keeping space around the shipment, and when it's bundled in overhanging lumber and prevented from bouncing around a parcel carrier's truck, odds of successful delivery rise to almost 100%.

                    The customer benefit is value. This method costs less, breaks almost never, and can't easily be stolen off the doorstep. All that serves a lower price, and that gets more good bass into systems.

                    The SBE cabinet uses a 2" thick driver baffle and 1" side and back walls. We use a better grade MDF, and the cabinet is internally braced with 3" crossmembers.

                    Thanks again and I hope we can do this again...


                    • #11
                      Thanks for another very thorough review, Jim. I'm glad you enjoyed the SBE-118.

                      Just imagine what two or more could do! :eek:


                      • #12
                        Beautifully written. One point of clarification, you can get these guys down into the single digits, you just need more of them. I have 8 and can get flat to 8hz or so at 120db. It is doable =}
                        LCR: Gedlee Abbeys for LR and Nathan for Center Surround & rear 4 x Sho10's
                        Subs: 4 x 18.2
                        Electronics: Marantz SR7002, Acurus 200x3 (LCR), PS3, HTPC, CDP300, Mits HC1500, Elite Peregrine 2.35 156" Acousticpro4k


                        • #13
                          Nice review. Car guy, so I love the analog.

                          I love how music can brighten up a bad day.


                          • #14
                            SBE-118 Price alert

                            Guys - After talking it over, Jon and I have decided to offer the SBE-118 for $450 plus flat rate shipping. A pair of these guys for $900 plus $350 for the Dayton amp will make for one amazing value at $1250 plus shipping.

                            A quad pack with the MQ-600 (soon to be model 3600) amp will sell for $2300 plus shipping.

                            Even the basic unit (single SA-1000 amp plus an SBE-118) at $800 plus shipping - typically about $150 for most places for shipping - is an unheard of value.

                            Units are ready to ship !! :)


                            • #15
                              As I have stated before, DIY makes little sense at prices like this! Makes me kind of wish I needed more subwoofers...