DB DRIVE EW9 12D

12-inch sub­woofer

InCar Entertainment  - - CONTENTS -

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.

EU­PHORIC BLURB

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.

BEST EN­CLO­SURES

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.

CON­CLU­SION

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.

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