There are two major fields of desire when it comes to subwoofers. One is the purity of sonic desire - what do you want to get, sound-wise? How loud? How low? And then there is what I term 'joy of possession.' This is when you get a frisson of pure pleasure just by owning a sub - even if that is only because of its implied performance.

Such is the sheer sexy good looks and cunning engineering involved in the James EMB1000 that I would feel some pleasure of possession just by having it in the living room, let alone knowing what it sounds like, as it oozes poshness. Our review sample was finished in Piano black high-gloss which kept me wanting to polish it all the time, so lovely is its smooth finish.

As a brand, I will confess James is new to me. Based on the US west coast, this speaker company has apparently been given the principal's middle name and kept singular.

Features

The EMB1000 comes with spikes or rubber feet and has what looks like a tough and well-suspended metal-coned speaker on the brushed anodised black aluminium front drop. There is no grille - it has gold-plated Allen headed bolts in each corner and a glossy badge underneath the cone. A 1,000W RMS BASH amplifier is within and breathes through vents on the back plate.

Connections comprise two sets of gold-plated screwdown 4mm banana post socket receptacles for left and right speaker level inputs and a set of stereo phono sockets for both input and stereo signal output for feeding another subwoofer. There's also gain and crossover point selection control dials (from 49Hz to 150Hz) and a button each for bypass/in-use status of on-board active 24dB per octave crossover and a phase 0/180° flip control.

Visually, what you are looking at is not the driver cone but what's known as a passive radiator. It looks like a speaker but has neither magnet nor coil assembly behind it. Speed of response is faster than a weighted cone plus coil, yet far more dampened than a simple port in terms of acoustic loading. Furthermore, the sealed chamber the speaker is firing out of, offers support to the driven cone's motion, loading it with major damping. The front pressure from this cone is what makes the passive radiator move in and out and provides the bass with such iron-grip like control.

I hooked up the signal feed from my Acurus ACT3 preamp and placed a 'Y' lead on the end to feed both sockets. That there is a kilowatt of efficient BASH amplification inside is undeniable; the cone on the passive driver generates a mighty, roomshaking bass-wave of huge power and vast dynamics, utterly beyond what one might expect from so small a pot.

When playing loud enough to make your windows wobble, it still has enough power to suddenly upscale to lunatic levels. It pumps SPL unlike almost any other sub I have tried; the bass convincingly reaches the 15Hz zone. I have seen other designs where one face of a subwoofer wears a driven cone and another the passive radiator, and I have seen totally bandpass designs where the entire output comes from the port (Polks and some B&W designs), but I have never seen this combination before. It means that although it takes a kilowatt to do it, it makes a fair fist at imitating the output of a much larger cubic capacity product.

If compact, posh and blingy is your thing, this model is one hell of a new contender.