Velodyne SPL-1200 Ultra review

Velodyne's sporty subwoofer knows how to dominate a room

Velodyne SPL-1200 Ultra
Velodyne's SPL-1200 is seen here without its garish front plate

TechRadar Verdict

Easy to set up and great to listen to, this is seriously good sub


  • +

    Slick design and finish

  • +

    Useful auto calibration feature

  • +

    Tight, powerful bass


  • -

    Few added benefits over the step-down model

  • -

    Could punch harder

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Velodyne's SPL-1200 Ultra subwoofer is specifically designed not to get shunted behind the sofa or disguised as a coffee table.

The Californian bass specialist designs boom boxes that stand out from the crowd, and its UK distributor Redline offers custom finishes in whatever colour you want for an additional fee. On test here is the daddy of the SPL-Ultra series, in an equally unsubtle Ferrari red.

But appearances are deceptive. The cabinet, although bigger than the SPL-1000, is still surprisingly compact. Its agile 12in cone can convey the slightest murmur as well as rising to the occasion when the volume goes up. What's equally impressive about the Ultra series, though, is the generous feature set that's been crammed into its glossy MDF cabinet.

Setting up a subwoofer is something of a dark art. If you don't get it right, it can sound very wrong. Thankfully, with the SPL-1200 Ultra, you simply plug in the bundled mic, stand it in your viewing position, and press EQ on the remote. A series of bass sweeps are emitted that allow the sub to set its own equalizer to give you the best bass performance.

You can still choose the volume, phase and crossover frequency yourself, of course. It's best to set the crossover higher, between 80-100Hz, if your speakers are small or if you're using THX post processing, and lower if they are large, to get the smoothest transition to your sub.

A large LED display keeps you abreast of settings, changeable via the usual Velodyne credit card-sized remote zapper. These include volume, night mode and four listening presets.

So, this is an easy sub to set up, and with its wide frequency range it's flexible, too – in a mid-sized room it slotted right into a family of compact M&K speakers with little tweaking.

A relatively big 12in woofer like this takes a lot of driving, hence the fairly potent integrated 1,200W class D amplifier, which holds a reserve of power so it never runs out of steam. What you notice is a very smooth transition from a subtle whisper to a thumping explosion.

Velodyne spl-1200 subwoofer

NEW BODYWORK: Redline's custom finish elevates the SPL-1200 into a thing of beauty

I put this agility to the test with the DTS-HD Master Audio of Valkyrie (Blu-ray), which packs everything from ambient music to exploding shells. I've tried bigger subs that manage more rumble for your money, but few that are so quick to deliver a punch and so accurately. You can turn this red devil up to 80dB with the remote control and it'll still sound in control – even while it's making your trouser legs flap. Impressive.

Heats up music

During its quieter moments, the 1200 manages to convey (heavy) footfalls with the same accuracy, and it's just as happy applying its fast response to music. It'll add warmth to any 5.1 musical score and get your feet tapping by punctuating the bass lines. Michael Jackson's Thriller on Super Audio CD sounds even more infectious than usual.

It's worth experimenting with the four preset sound modes at this point too. Perhaps surprisingly, I found the Jazz setting yields the best results, but it's nice to have other options.

This excellent sub's only real competition comes from its younger brother, the SPL-1000. Both models manage a similarly precise performance, perhaps because they share the same amplification, and the features are identical too, so you're really paying more for the bigger bass driver and cabinet. This gives a little more extension and would better suit a larger room. My advice is to audition the smaller sub first, but be prepared to trade up.

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Jim Hill

Jim is a seasoned expert when it comes to testing tech. From playing a prototype PlayStation One to meeting a man called Steve about a new kind of phone in 2007, he’s always hunting the next big thing at the bleeding edge of the electronics industry. After editing the tech section of Wired UK magazine, he is currently specialising in IT and voyaging in his VW camper van.