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Hands On: Niles Audio SW8 Subwoofer

The SW8 Subwoofer from Niles Audio provides big boom in a small package. If your project involves space restrictions or aesthetic demands, the versatile SW8 would be a sound choice.

Niles Audio SW8 Subwoofer

Niles Audio SW8 Subwoofer

Compact, design-friendly loudspeakers are en vogue, and even though my living room won’t win any style points our nightly viewing in it is set up with 5.1 surround sound.

I was eager to see how a compact subwoofer such as Niles Audio’s SW8 would fare teamed with KEF’s excellent T Series loudspeakers.

I liked this subwoofer right from its unboxing. The handsome piano-black cabinet measures just 12 inches cubed but packs an 8-inch active driver and two 8-inch passive radiators, which Niles says delivers frequency response of 36Hz to 200Hz. A traditional grille, with a Niles logo badge, covers the front-firing woofer while the dual side radiators are exposed.

My sub placement is toward the back of a sidewall, mostly out of convenience (coax runs through the basement and back up to a Sony A/V receiver in front). I connected the power cable, plugged into the LFE ports and set the turn-on mode to “signal sense” rather than “always on,” mainly for electricity’s sake. (Niles also accommodates Cat 5 and wireless transmission, for installation flexibility.) I set the crossover around 80Hz, just under Niles’ labeling of 100Hz as “normal,” and the phase control to 0.

After fiddling with the crossover and phase knobs during initial listening, I went back to the initial settings. I found the subwoofer, which handles 300 watts RMS and 1,200 watts peak, delivered tremendous punch for its size. I turned it on during an NBA playoff broadcast on ESPN HD and it thumped hard as the home crowd clap-chanted, adding palpable intensity to the action.

One thing the SW8 does not need is much gas. I had the volume knob around 11 o’clock (not quite halfway between minimum and max) and found myself moving it to 10, and then 9 in some applications. My Netflix-streaming Blu-ray player, for instance, comes across louder than cable broadcasts through my AVR. While streaming HD Breaking Bad episodes via Netflix, the SW8 meshed really well with the 2-channel audio to deliver nice fullness to Bryan Cranston’s deep baritone voice and extra thwack to the opening/closing credits music.

Niles SW8 Subwoofer Specs
Long-throw, Front Firing-woofer: 8”
Dual, Long-throw, Side-mounted Passive Radiators
Amplifier Power (Dynamic): 1200w
Amplifier Power (RMS): 300w
Frequency Range: 36-200 Hz
Fingerprint Resistant, Piano-like Finish
CAT5 Wiring Ready
OmniMount Ready
Wireless Ready
Power Requirements: Switchable 100-120v/220-240v, 50-60Hz, 2A
Dimensions With Grille: 10-3/4 H X 10-1/2 W X 12-1/8 D (27.3 Cm X 26.7 Cm X 30.8 Cm)
Shipping Weight: 16.5 (7.5 Kg)

I thought the bottom end added similar lush undertones to the soundtrack of CBS broadcasts of The Mentalist and TNT’s Perception, creating greater prominence to the background music and a more complete, enhanced viewing experience.

The SW8 does a good job of adding weight to round out audio, without overwhelming it. On concert DVDs like Phish’s Live in Utica, the SW8 produced firm low end without bloat to Jon Fishman’s kickdrum and Mike Gordon’s dark bass grooves.

The boom begins to muddy a little bit at loud levels, but there’s no need to crank it - several scenes in The Iron Giant, for example, like when he cannonballs into the lake, shook plenty through the SW8. I only wish there was a remote so I didn’t have to manually adjust the sub’s fluctuations in my system when switching sources. Based on what I heard, this sub could handle larger rooms while maintaining clean, solid bass. If your project involves space restrictions or aesthetic demands, the versatile SW8 would be a sound choice.

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News · Audio · Speakers · Niles · All topics

About the Author

Arlen Schweiger
Arlen Schweiger is managing editor of CE Pro and Commercial Integrator magazines. Arlen contributes installation features, business profiles, manufacturer news and product reviews.


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