DB DRIVE EW9 12D
Part of the outstanding Euphoria range, this new 12-inch subwoofer is engineered to rattle and impress.
I confess that for all my other sins I’m a closet admirer of DB Drive. From the moment its first product was marched through the door years ago I was made instantly a fan. For despite the company saddling itself with a brand name reeking of all noise and zero finesse, DB Drive actually possesses considerable astuteness when it comes to the design, production and fulfilment of high performance and quality sounding equipment.
Over the years here we’ve reviewed a plethora of DB Drive components, from the outstanding flagship S9 component speakers through to the very impressive K9 series subwoofers. Just on the latter the K9 subwoofer was, and by many definitions still is, an awesome piece of kit. Nonetheless looking over its intrinsic design features one cannot help but get the feeling that although they’re pretty nice sounding, there’re still primarily designed for the sound pressure nuts as opposed to quality purists among us. Did you get that feeling too? I did, and DB Drive certainly did; for it has spent the last couple of years carefully designing the new Euphoria series to combat this misconception, and here today I’m about to give the new EW9 12D4 a run for its money.
The marketing blurb for the new Euphoria range states that they’re “exclusively designed for the traditional audio purist who likes to live life on the edge. Focused on accurate musical reproduction with the ability to perform at any volume level, the Euphoria subwoofers are true examples of DB Drive’s passion for perfor- mance.” Quite the inspiring blurb and one we’ve come to expect from most audio companies, but then DB Drive deliver the knock-out line with “Euphoria – setting the standard for all other woofers”. Now I’m not one to doubt before trial but, boy oh boy, you’ve got a rod up for your own back there DB Drive, for claiming they’re “the standard” for all others is one mighty claim. But before we delve too far into whether the performance can back up the aforementioned proclamation, let’s take a closer look at what make them worthy of such a lofty claim.
Sitting the EW9 12D4 on the desk before me and eyeballing its design, it’s not a massively imposing unit but standing at 179mm tall it’s no featherweight either. From the machined steel extended back-plate all the way to the
top it’s one very solid design. It’s built around a stamped steel frame, said material chosen for its resistance to resonance. This has been coated in black and finished with what resembles a Corinthian grain texture.
The frame is designed for aerodynamic transparency and includes eight large web fingers which offer terrific support while having air gaps large enough to not impede the substantial back waves. Immediately below these are eight parallel openings which upon first glance look like just another decorative set of web fingers. Closer inspection actually reveals that the second row of holes is, in fact, large air intakes for the over engineered cooling system.
DB Drive spent considerable time on the cooling system to ensure it could get plenty of air in and over both the voice coil and the former. These vents flow a titanic amount of air not only down the outer edge of the coil winds themselves, but also through various intake holes peppered into the voice coil former and cone brace. This allows the cool zephyr to flow inside the confines of the voice coil’s inner walls and through the inner core before exiting via the 35mm pole vent that’s been bellmouthed to eliminate flow noise and chuffing.
The primary reason for implementing this twin path ventilation system is conducive to the thermal conductivity of the materials. If you have a titanic amount of cooling air flowing through the motor then the surface area of the materials can be lessened and therefore lighter – and you guessed it – this means everything reacts faster and moves more fluently.
Speaking of moving bits, the twin 4-ohms round section copper voice coils are tightly wound onto a 75mm cardboard former that’s wrapped in a TIL film to protect it from physical and electric elements. The motor lives within the confines of a 140oz 50mm x 180mm double stacked strontium magnet that’s wrapped with a protective boot. This concentrates an immensely strong magnetic flux onto the voice coil and is positioned in such a way to offer the voice coil a one way Xmax of 15mm before it comes away from the densest flux points making radial float problematic. The top edge of the coil former joins a supporting brace which attaches firmly to the underside of the cone, actually forming the piston itself. When you turn your attention topside you’ll find the cone and dust cap are one item, constructed from injection moulded polypropylene and profiled with specific parabolic dimensions in order to offer extreme resistance against deformation during bone rattling transients. Surrounding the diaphragm’s perimeter is a butyl rubber EROM surround which works harmoniously with the flat rolled progressive polycotton spider below in keeping all the moving bits in strict alignment.
Attached to the side of the frame are twin sets of push-type terminals, one for each coil and these allow for serious gauge cables to be input, a certain prerequisite when you’re flowing up to 750 watts continuously. Despite being aimed squarely at sound quality enthusiasts the suspension system can still take a flogging. It’s able to withstand peak bursts of over 2000 watts before over-excursion and meeting an untimely demise at the hands of the back plate, become a risk.
When it comes to designing an enclosure, I started at a slightly different point simply because unlike many manufactures who tend to recommend enclosures that are way too small, DB Drive instead actually recommends an enclosure that will garner the best performance out of the subwoofer.
This equates to a recommended sealed volume of between 50 and 70 litres which will give you a truly deep roll off. However truth told you don’t need to go that large, an enclosure of 26 litres will return you an honest QTC of 0.707 which is ideal for the 6th- or 8th-order band-pass layouts that modern cars realistically present. I opted to run an enclosure of 35 litres sealed and mated the subwoofer up to a Hertz HP6001, because although it’s a sound quality subwoofer it still has quite stiff suspension which returns an efficiency of 86dB, thus dictating it likes a fair dollop of power to get it moving competently.
With the test vehicle enclosured-up and with subwoofer installed, the running-in process began running it at its resonant frequency of 31Hz for a few hours. This loosens up the suspension and is a step I sternly advocate, as the suspension is very tight when it’s first fired up and right out of the box. Sonically it will not only be unrealistic, it’s also going to sound restricted and artificially tight. Fast forward a few hours though and it’s ready to rock and roll, ergo without further ado, I jumped head long into my CD stack and headed off.
So revisiting that somewhat provocative claim above; could the EW9 12D4 actually live up to such vainglory? As someone who’s enjoyed many DB Drive components in the past I had a sneaking suspicion it might but, in the interests of honesty, let’s call a spade a spade. It’s a good subwoofer, very good in fact. But it’s never going to be ‘the’ subwoofer by which all others are measured sorry to say DB Drive.
That said, the EW9 12D4 is easily one of the best I’ve heard within the sub-kilobuck price region, to that end perhaps the by-line requires a little asterisk next to it to clarify. It’s a hard performance to criticise; comparing it to anything priced similarly you’re going to struggle to outdo it, period. Its bass reproduction is quite simply wonderful, with it outputting lower order subsonic notes with superb accuracy all the way through to playing the ultra-fast bass transients of metal and techno with stunning clarity. Even when you begin hammering it to within an inch of its life, making full use of the better part of 40mm peak-to-peak cone excursion, the parabolic diaphragm shape with its reinforcement ridges comes into a class of its own, certifiably ensuring your ears will submit long before the it does.
Overall and in all parameters the EW9 12D4 is a superb performer, easily handling each and every demand you can put to it. It’s one of those subwoofers whose strength doesn’t outdo its subtlety, offering a performance that’ll leave you with an ear-to-ear grin rather than a splitting headache.
If you do suffer the odd rush of blood to the head however, rest assured the EW9 12D4 is also capable of delivering a colossal level of noise and kick when required.