Blogging on Audio
- Written by Hans Wetzel Hans Wetzel
- Parent Category: BloggingOnAudio BloggingOnAudio
- Created: 28 January 2023 28 January 2023
From Microsub to Tactical Nuke: Living with Perlisten's D15s Subwoofer
A few months back I wrote about the system in my new living room, which includes an NAD M10 V2 integrated amplifier-DAC, Focal’s 1000 IW6 two-way in-wall loudspeakers, and KEF’s KC62 microsubwoofer. I love the KC62 because it’s perfect for my use case: a tiny 10″-cubed footprint married to extension and control below 30Hz. It looks unobtrusive in my room while still offering proper audiophile performance. If there’s an asterisk to this heroic little subwoofer, it’s the matter of output. Above a certain volume its extension begins to roll off to ensure that the little-sub-that-could doesn’t blow itself to pieces, and no matter how accomplished the hardware or DSP is, there is no replacement for displacement (as they used to say in the car world).
So when Perlisten’s R7t arrived for review earlier in the year with a 100-pound-plus subwoofer—Perlisten’s $4995 D15s (in USD)—also on the shipping pallet, two thoughts quickly worked their way through my mind: No one from Perlisten told me this thing was coming, so what am I supposed to do with it? And man, installing this thing in my living room system would be the greatest kind of overkill I can think of.
As I wrote in a profile of the company’s founder, Dan Roemer, earlier in the year, Perlisten has a deep engineering pedigree and deadly serious ambitions. They were borne out in the R7t, whose achievement I wrote “instantly ranks Perlisten among the most impressive audio debutants of the last decade.” Enlisting the assistance of my older brother to unbox and set up the 101-pound D15s in my living room certainly suggested that this was not a me-too SKU intended to fill out Perlisten’s product line. The Piano Black sub has a 2.4″ touchscreen to access the top panel’s controls, which are also accessible via an easy-to-use iOS app (an Android version is also available) that works via Bluetooth. Connections include balanced (XLR) and unbalanced (RCA) input and output jacks, a trigger input, and a USB service jack. The sculpted, matte front baffle lends the D15s a subtler look than your average gloss-black sub, while the bespoke 15″ carbon-fiber woofer promises subterranean extension and massive sound-pressure levels.
Spec-wise, the D15s is a monster. It’s THX Dominus–certified—the organization’s most stringent standard—and features a 2kW RMS amplifier. There’s a 48-bit Texas Instruments DSP engine that helps maximize the unit’s extension and linearity, a ten-band parametric EQ, and configurable bass extension. The stock THX EQ is listed as 20 to 320Hz, the Cut EQ (for smaller rooms) is 24 to 320Hz, and the Boost EQ (for larger rooms) is 16 to 320Hz, all at -6dB. As you might expect for a 101-pound subwoofer with a 15″ woofer, the D15s is rather large, measuring 20.8″H × 19.7″W × 19.7″D. Enlist help when maneuvering the Perlisten sub in your room.
Swapping out the Perlisten for the KEF was as simple as unplugging the RCA LFE cable and IEC power cord from the latter and plugging it into the former. The app, with its nested menu system, includes the expected controls over crossover points, 12V trigger, input gain, polarity, phase, slope control, and auto turn-on sensitivity. That last one was useful, as my NAD M10 V2 doesn’t put out the highest-voltage signal, which sometimes leads to me having to turn the volume of my system up before my KEF sub will kick itself into action. Not so with the Perlisten, which turned itself on immediately when music began to play, no matter the content or system volume.
Maybe this is naïve, but I wasn’t expecting a notable gulf in performance between the two subs in my living-room system. For one, I don’t listen very loudly. And two, while there’s no substitute for displacement, the KEF has more than earned its reputation as not just an accomplished microsub, but an accomplished subwoofer, period. This is evidenced by the little guy earning EISA’s 2021 to 2022 Best Product: Hi-Fi Subwoofer award, a Reviewers’ Choice award from our own Gordon Brockhouse, and a Pioneering Design Achievement award from SoundStage! to round out 2021.
And yet, from the moment Perlisten’s D15s played its first notes, it was instantly clear that the big sub was a masterpiece. Any concern I had about a 15″ woofer lacking dexterity evaporated. I’ve always had issues with integrating subwoofers into a system—no matter the promises by the manufacturer, or the amount of effort I put in crawling awkwardly around my listening room to dial a sub in just so, I could never make it truly disappear. And while the D15s didn’t quite vanish into the ether, it proved to be a dramatic improvement over my little KEF. The evidenced control, meanwhile, was staggering. On my high-excursion electronic material, the KC62 always sounded fast and tight. And yet the D15s made it sound like a fat, harrowing mess.
On my various mashup compilations from The White Panda, with their clever combination of various musical genres and styles spanning the past 30 years, the Perlisten provided immense control, with stop-start alacrity right off of the top shelf. It pressurized my large-ish living room beautifully, no matter where I was sitting, standing, or walking. And perhaps most impressive was its utter lack of effort while doing so. It was like using a chainsaw to cut a matchstick, or a firehose to snuff out a candle; it’s not just better, it’s laughably, absurdly ill-suited for the task at hand. How delightful.
And so it was for the entirety of the time that the D15s spent in my living room system. Streamed movies and TV shows, from dramas to action to sci-fi, all had flawless low-frequency reproduction, matching my Focal 1000 IW6 in-wall speakers, each with a fleet-footed beryllium tweeter and high-end W-material composite midrange-woofer, note by musical note. Further exploration of my musical collection, from rock music like P.O.D. with thumping kick drums and Rage Against the Machine’s powerful, driving drum work was at once powerful and incisive, full-bodied without being overwrought. Perlisten’s D15s was, quite simply, the most impressive subwoofer I’ve ever heard.
As if I needed any additional evidence of the big Perlisten’s excellence, reinstating the KC62 into my living room system should have reminded me about the KC62’s virtues—of which it has many. But all I kept thinking about was Perlisten. Talk about leaving an impression. And there are two models above the D15s in the company’s line. What a time to be alive.
Senior Contributor, SoundStage!
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