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BIC America Formula F-12: Opinions?

 

Gold Member
Username: Exerciseguy

Fort Hamilton, NY United States

Post Number: 3509
Registered: Oct-04
The BIC America Formula F-12, a 12", 475W BASH fueled Subwoofer, can be had for about $200, and would seem to be quite the bargain. It has garnered some rave reviews, and I suspect for HT it might be the bargain of all bargains, but not having ever heard BIC before (I've always considered them a lesser company), I have no idea how this sub might perform in a music specific setup?

Opinions?
 

Platinum Member
Username: Jan_b_vigne

Dallas, TX

Post Number: 16916
Registered: May-04
.

What do you say when the reviewer claims to be "thrilled" by a subwoofer?



Other than, some people are easily thrilled.



Chris, it might be a really good subwoofer ... but I still don't think I'd buy it. BIC is a mass market line and mass market lines just don't have those rare gems all that often. For a few dollars more I'd just go buy a Hsu sub. I've heard their products and think they are worth the money. I don't know if their little STF-1 uses a BASH plate amp but what it does have are useful features like a -24dB per octave crossover to filter the sub's output. With a steep roll out the sub won't be contributing to the output of the main speakers, just adding the lower octaves. If the crossover filter is a second order (-12dB filter), a sub set to cross at 60 hz will still have a fairly strong contribution at 100Hz. Possibly that won't be objectionable to some listeners but I prefer the steeper roll out.

The Hsu also allows a crossover setting as low as 30Hz. For music I think many of us like to set the crossover as low as possible and then gradually work upwards until the sub begins to draw attention to its presence in the system. Then you can back of down a few degrees. Crossovers which don't have the ability to filter as low as 30Hz can be objectionable with certain speakers. That's a function of the plate amp and most BASH amps are pretty good with these features but BIC doesn't provide that information.

Maybe I'm missing them but I don't see specs for either of those features on the BIC. They do mention senstivity ... which is rather useless on a powered subwoofer.


I've worked with the Hsu folks and they are as good as they come. Never seen a bad review of a Hsu product. I'd say worth the money over just about any competitor till we're talking far more esoteric.


Possibly you could get something close to as good as the Hsu from Parts Express for a few less dollars, if you're willing to do some assembly, but I doubt it. And I know you're not much on assembly. Otherwise, you might give Planet 10 HiFi a call. They deal in very high quality parts, give them a call; http://www.planet10-hifi.com/

The worst they can do is recommend a sub from someone else.

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Gold Member
Username: Exerciseguy

Fort Hamilton, NY United States

Post Number: 3510
Registered: Oct-04
If I had an extra $200 to drop on a sub, I might give the BIC a whirl just to see what it's made of.

That being said, if I decide to pick up another sub, it'll be the Wharfedale SW300.
 

Gold Member
Username: Exerciseguy

Fort Hamilton, NY United States

Post Number: 3511
Registered: Oct-04
Using my Neanderthal logic, the 12" Wharfedale outweighs the 12" BIC by 16-lbs! All things being equal (more or less), I usual opt for the heavier electronics
 

Platinum Member
Username: Jan_b_vigne

Dallas, TX

Post Number: 16920
Registered: May-04
.

I typically suggest the only specs you need for audio gear would be "H/W/D" plus the weight just so you know whether to borrow your neighbor's pick 'em up truck to get the stuff home. That isn't necessarily the case with speakers and certainly not with subwoofers. Unless you can determine where the extra weight is being distributed, you might be making the wrong guess by chosing the heaviest speaker.

If the additional weight is in the cabinet, that would normally mean there is more mass to the enclosure. In the case of an exotic material such as Wison Audio uses, the material's density works to its advantage. Plain MDF cabinets though could lead to additional mass which, though more difficult to excite, holds on to a resonant tone for a longer time period. The contribution the cabinet would make to the overall sound of the speaker would then be somewhat smeared in time which would affect the attack and decay of the signal along with the overall tonality. With MDF the bracing of the cabinet to correct for resonant modes within the panels would be more important than shear weight or mass.

A few speaker designers prefer to opt for a fairly light weight cabinet material which might be somewhat quicker to be exicted but also able to more readily release a tone. The resonance of a lightweight cabinet will add its contribution to the overall sound more closely aligned in the time dimension than might the heavier enclosure. The lightweight enclosure will tend towards a sound which is lively and generally musical while the MDF cabinet has a tendency to sound somewhat slow and "non-musical" in comparison.

MDF works well for manufactured speaker cabinets due to its dimenesional stability in high and low temperatures and high and low humidity. Since it is a completely man made product assembled from scrap wood fibers and glues then formed under very high pressure, it is consistent in its physical dimensions and fairly easy to work with machines. A 4' X 8' slab of MDF is actually 4' X 8' and each piece is the exact same dimension which makes it easy to load into a computer controlled system. There are no voids or knots in MDF as you might find in a slab of "real" wood. So its benefits to a speaker builder would be its consistency and its stability along with its workability. Sound quality is not on the list.

Most powered subs use plate amps which are class D or some hybrid of amplifier topology which uses a switching type of power supply. Class D and similar amps are high efficiency units which do not require the typical heft of a class A or AB transformer and, therefore, do have the same relationship to weight as would a more traditional amplifier design. That's not to say a good power supply won't help a class D amplifier but, when you limit the amp's output to only three or four octaves of music, hefty transformers play a different role in the end result. The difference between a typical plate amplifier deisgned for subwoofer use rated at 300 watts doesn't necessarily have that different a power supply than a class D amp rated at 150 watts.

As far as the driver is concerned, I'm generally all in for heavy magnet structures. But as we know, there aren't many cases where you can find a free ride in audio and even heavy speaker magnets can have their own drawbacks - or at least not be telling you the entire story of how well the driver is built.

So when it comes to most other components in a system, CM, heavy is probably your friend. In speakers and subs, however, the answer is maybe, maybe not.





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Gold Member
Username: Exerciseguy

Fort Hamilton, NY United States

Post Number: 3515
Registered: Oct-04
All things considered, isn't 16-lbs a substantial difference given the relative parity (ok, the F12 is ported, the SW300 isn't) of these two subs?

I'm thinking a good part of that is magnet & frame.
 

Gold Member
Username: Exerciseguy

Fort Hamilton, NY United States

Post Number: 3517
Registered: Oct-04
All things considered, isn't 16-lbs a substantial difference given the relative parity (ok, the F12 is ported, the SW300 isn't) of these two subs?

I'm thinking a good part of that is magnet & frame.
 

Platinum Member
Username: Jan_b_vigne

Dallas, TX

Post Number: 16924
Registered: May-04
.

I wouldn't automatically assume that in a subwoofer. If one sub is ported and the other is sealed, then to achieve a similar F3 (a minus 3dB down point below system resonance) the designer would first need to use a different type of driver in most cases and a larger overall enclosure volume with the sealed system. This could easily make up for any measured differences in weight. And, more importantly, would make for more noticeable differences between the two subs than heft alone would take into account.

In a sealed system, the driver uses the spring action of the enclosed air being compressed by the back wave of the driver to assist in controlling the driver's motion and subsequent resonance. The acoustic stuffing of the enclosure can make the sealed cabinet appear to be virtually larger than it actually is so some fudging is allowed here where most vented systems tend towards a more strict mathematical formula for success.


Therefore, most drivers meant for low frequency use in a sealed cabinet do not by necessity require the largest, heaviest magnet structure as the enclosure supplies much of the needed control. Granted, heavy magnets are still to be considered a generally good thing in acoustic suspension designs but they play a slightly different role than in a vented system.

Without the support of the backwave compressing the enclosed air volume as it would in a sealed system, the vented system must rely more on the electrical/mechanical systems of the driver itself for control of the cones' excursion and resonance. So while a heavier magnet might appear on the vented system, it's real world contribution to better sound isn't obvious. A vented system must contend with the rear wave of the driver which exits the enclosure out of phase and not time aligned with the front wave unless some sort of variant on the enclosure type, say a Voight pipe or a quarter wave line, would be used. While adding to the common increase in system efficiency, the rear wave exiting the cabinet by way of a port can ultimtely add noise to the system. Chuffing noises from the port itself and comb filter effects on smooth frequency response are the result of the back wave of a long, low frequency pressure wave wrapping around to cancel the front wave's action at your ear. As a result the vented system will almost always, by theory, have a much steeper roll out of its low frequency response than you would find in a comparable sealed enclosure system.

A common vented enclosure will result in a -24dB roll off after system resonance. In other words, should the system reach its F3 at, say, 35Hz , the -10dB point for the system would be approximately 28Hz. A good designer can pull quite a bit of performance from a vented system but, IMO, all vented enclosures other than Voight pipes and quarter waves have a distinct "ported enclosure" sound.

Compare that to a sealed system which, first, sacrifices three dB of electrical sensitivity due to your ear only reacting to the front wave of the system. I generally consider -3dB to be not so consequential when I'm talking about most powered subwoofers. However, there is no port noise from a sealed system - duh! - and time and phase are all constant and consistent with any sealed system. Due to no rear wave acting as a cancellation to the driver's front pressure wave, the sealed system exhibits the same system rollout as would an infinite baffle system. In either case, sealed or IB, the system roll out would be a smooth -12dB below system resonance. Now, given a F3 of 35 Hz, the sealed system would have a minus 10dB point which falls closer to 20Hz. That might be an indistinguishable difference with most pop or rock music material but it can become a very noticeable improvement in other values related to low frequency extension. However, to achieve those same F3 points with both systems, the sealed encloisure will generally need to be somewhat larger - possibly as much as twice the volume - of the vented enclosure.

What you may be looking at is nothing more than the difference in enclosure volume/size. Without more information from the manufacturers, you really don't know much. You can check the dimensions of the two boxes and that will tell you a bit but weight alone doesn't do enough.

You might also be seeing the difference between the mechanical structures of the two drivers and not the magnets or the enclosures. A cheap stamped frame on a woofer would be less desirable than would a more solid cast frame. Without more information, you just don't know.


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Gold Member
Username: Exerciseguy

Fort Hamilton, NY United States

Post Number: 3518
Registered: Oct-04
BIC America Formula F12:15 W X 17 H X 18 1/4 D

Wharfedale (Evolution2) SW300: 15 W x 20 H x 18 D (curved-sided)

The Wharfedale features...

"The curved cabinets are constructed from MDF and are extensively braced throughout. All drivers are on cast chassis and the SW300 and SW380 feature 'Tri-Lam' cones. 'Tri-Lam' is a three-way, fibre glass – carbon fibre – fibre glass, sandwich offering extremely high levels of stiffness and pistonic performance."
 

Platinum Member
Username: Jan_b_vigne

Dallas, TX

Post Number: 16927
Registered: May-04
.

Ok, I've looked at both webpages;

http://www.wharfedale.co.uk/Products/Product/tabid/78/PID/28/CID/127/language/en -GB/Default.aspx

http://www.bicamerica.com/showpage.php?brand=2&type=8&spkrID=84


First, the SW300 utilizes a class AB amplifier rated at 300 watts - though there is no mention whether those are RMS watts or some other sort of watt. 300 watts "peak" - like for a nano-second at 1kHz into a math derived resistive load - would be somewhat different than 300 watts RMS into a driver for the duration of a likely low frequency signal. None the less, the power supply of this sort of amp would be quite different than the lighter ps of the BASH amp.

I haven't located a weight specification for the SW300. Can you lead me to one?



Other than the power supply difference and the slight increase in enclosure volume, there is no obvious reason for the additional weight of the SW300. So where do you think it's coming from, CM? There's no real reason for a manufacturer to fib about how much their product weighs. So, where, do you suppose, they could have put an additional 16lbs?


I would point out that the SW300's frequency response is listed as "boundary position" - though what "boundary position" they are referring to isn't spelled out. If the bondaries are two walls and the floor, then the low frequency boost from the tri-corner boundaries would be +9dB. If the boundary is only one wall, then the boost is +3dB. Either way, this is a fairly serious fudge of the specs on Wharfedale's part. It's similar to a speaker manufacturer stating a frequency response "in room" or "semi-anechoic". Looking at the spec then tells the reader nothing in particular. Wharfedale also states the frequency response claimed is at -6dB down points. While -6dB is commonly used for stating the "useable" response of a driver or a system, that would indicate the SW300's rollout begins at a substantially higher frequency. Remember, a sealed enclosure's rollout is -12dB per octave which, with a claimed response to 27Hz, would give the SW300 a system "resonance" and resultant rollout which begins in the mid to upper 40Hz range - in an unknown boundary position. There are so many unstated variables here that the Wharfedale could possibly not have an anechoic response beneath 100Hz/-3dB.


And, of course, the BIC is spec'd to 25 with absolutely no further information provided. That IMO is even worse than all the dancing around done by Wharfedale. It's like me telling you that my hair is a little longer than my sister's hair when you don't know my sister at all or how many "sisters" I might have and you can't make clear what "a little longer" means since you don't know whether my sister's head is shaved or she has hair down beneath her knees. This sort of meaningless spec was supposed to have been eliminated by Federal regulations back in the 1970's along with anything other than a stated RMS wattage/20-20kHz @ "X" THD into an eight Ohm load. This was meant to be a more realistic representation of the amp's capacity than just claiming "300 watts". But the manufacturers have wormed their way back to providing absolutely worthless information to keep uninformed consumers in the dark.




So, anyway, CM, where do you suppose the extra weight could be hidden in the SW300?



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Gold Member
Username: Exerciseguy

Fort Hamilton, NY United States

Post Number: 3520
Registered: Oct-04
Thanks for the education Jan, I really appreciate your effort to help me figure this out.

I came across the SW300's weight here: http://www.hometheater.com/content/wharfedale-pacific-evolution-series-speaker-s ystem-glance-ratings

Is it possible the SW300's magnet is partially composed of dwarf star matter?
 

Gold Member
Username: Exerciseguy

Fort Hamilton, NY United States

Post Number: 3522
Registered: Oct-04
P.S. I just realized the difference is actually 18-lbs!

I'm sticking with dwarf star.
 

Platinum Member
Username: Jan_b_vigne

Dallas, TX

Post Number: 16930
Registered: May-04
.

Even for a subwoofer an 18lb difference seems to be alot. The power supply difference might account for a few pounds and the magnet structure a few more but 18 is a stretch. But I suppose a company like BIC is turning out extreme mass market stuff so maybe they have a really pitiful magnet on their driver. I just noticed the quote at the top of the BIC webpage, it's from Stereo Review. Stereo Review stopped being and became another magazine in 1999. Just how serious are we supposed to take the current BIC products if they use a quote which doesn't refer to any of their current speakers? Plus the quote, "Few speakers would be likely to equal it, much less surpass it", could be referring to how absolutely horrible the old BIC line was in almost every respect.


The page you linked to gave the SW300's price as $1300. Comparing a $200 sub to a $1300 sub, dwark star matter might be right.


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Gold Member
Username: Exerciseguy

Fort Hamilton, NY United States

Post Number: 3524
Registered: Oct-04
Those prices are from many many moons ago (2005?). The few remaining SW300 can be had for about $400, the F12, $200.
 

Gold Member
Username: Exerciseguy

Fort Hamilton, NY United States

Post Number: 3525
Registered: Oct-04
A cursory glance at the weight of many mass-marketed 12" subs would suggest that many are in the 40-lbs range, so I don't think BIC is sub-par as it relates to their competition, but Wharfedale plays with the big boys.
 

Gold Member
Username: Magfan

USA

Post Number: 2614
Registered: Oct-07
If the lighter sub used a much stronger magnet material...say neodymium, it could be lighter and stronger with the attendent benefits to a subs performance. In that case, the price would also go way up on the lighter sub. That stuff is way expensive and going UP.
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