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A Helpful Home Theater Subwoofer Review: BIC America F12 vs. Polk Audio PSW505

aznnp77 1,876 265 August 16, 2012 at 08:31 PM in Tech & Electronics (11) More Newegg Deals
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Last Edited by aznnp77 September 24, 2012 at 09:38 AM
Hopefully this helps someone out, because these seem to be the two most popular subwoofers on this site because of their price point and value. I apologize in advance if this is in the wrong forum.

My new home theater is a SD/NewEgg special containing only Polks. I have two Polk Monitor 70s ($137 each open box), two Polk Monitor 60s for rears ($100 each new), and a Polk CS2 center ($92 open box). I checked the Newegg open box section every 2 hours for like 2 months to get this stuff. I just recenty got a used Denon AVR-590 used off ebay.

I spent a week reading every thread on the internet I could find between the Bic F12, Polk PSW505, and the Energy S10.3 . I came to the conclusion that since I had a larger room, I would shy away from the 10" Energy sub even though it appears to have the best sound quality of the 3, while still having pretty good output. I didn't think a $200 10" subwoofer would fill a 26x20 room. I also was weary about the build quality considering the annoying front light dies for everyone within a few weeks.

Anyways, on AVS forum and most of the internet, most people picked the BIC F12. However, there is a large following for the PSW505 on Polks forum (go figure), and on SD. The kicker is Amazon accepted a trade in on some old calculators and gave me $20, so I ended up choosing the BIC.

I ordered it on a Tuesday morning, it shipped on Wednesday, and I received it on Thursday, lightning fast. Here are my thoughts, and I am not an audiophile. I had some cheap KLH speakers I spent bottom dollar on and loved them for 10 years.

First thoughts were that this thing is really, really loud. It is also really, really big. You're suppose to leave a foot of space for the backfiring port. This was an issue for me. Sitting flush against the wall was the only way it could line up with the rest of my stereo. I had to move it to the side pretty far so I wouldn't have to hop over it every time I walk by.

I wasn't impressed impressed with it musically. It didn't sound bad, but it didn't sound great either. Home theater was pretty good. It gets pretty deep, and like I said, very loud. Maybe I got used to it, but it didn't seem as loud the following days. I was coming from an older JBL 12" that I realize now was very weak compared to the BIC.

The day after I bought my BIC, I was browsing NewEgg open box, and a PSW505 showed up for $124! I couldn't help myself because I knew it wouldn't last, so I bought it. I just hooked it up today, so I can finally do a direct comparison.

I switched the audio cable back and forth between them while playing loud rap music. They both sounded the exact same for the first 30 minutes or so. I had the gain set on both at 12 oclock. After 30 minutes, I realized that the PSW505 had more kick/boom to it bass wise. You could hear it rumble noticeably more than the BIC. I did however notice a little bit of port chuffing on the Polk, but you can only hear it if your ear is right next to the port. I doubt anyone would ever do that. The BIC doesn't chuff much because of their special port.

So I think wow, this is great, the Polk has more output and was cheaper! This was confirmed with Home Theater. The Polk had noticeably more boom when I watched Transformers. My Denon is calibrated for the BIC by itself, but you could hear much more bass in the fight scenes. An explosion that you could barely hear from the BIC made a BOOM from the Polk.

So I sit back think about getting dual PSW505s (2 open boxes @ $124 each) and returning my BIC (1 for $200). While I was watching the movie for like an hour though with only the Polk on, I realized that despite the extra ooomph the Polk was giving, I wasn't really enjoying the movie. I went back to the BIC F12 and really listened. Again, although the F12 was not as loud as the Polk at the same gain, I realize the BIC sounded much clearer than the Polk. It had crisper sounds.

Conclusion:
I think people would be happy with either subwoofer. They sound pretty much the same with rap music. If you switch back and forth repeatedly, you'll hear a difference though. The Polk is rated higher in wattage, so that's probably why it's louder at the same gain and probably louder in general. For me, I've decided to keep the F12. Due to the cheap price, I'm also considering keeping the PSW505 as well. I'm a bass head and while a single sub is probably enough for most, I might want to help fill out the large room more.

I'm attaching some side by side photos of the F12 and the PSW505. Notice that the PSW505 has broken pegs on it. Yes, the grill came broken, but Polk will send you replacements rather easily, which is a big deal for me.

The F12 is aesthetically pleasing with its black cabinet and the gloss silver cone. The Polk looks kind of ugly with the silver face next to the series II monitor series that is all black cabinets and faces, but behind a grill you'd never be able to tell.

Bottom Line: With them both costing the same price, I would recommend the F12 over the PSW505. I think the boominess and extra output of the Polk would get tiring after a while and you would want something a little clearer, even at the sacrifice of a little output. If you will be listening to 100% rap music, you may actually like the Polk more cuz I kinda did.

I hope that this Joe Schmoe review helps many Slickdealers with their future home theater and subwoofer purchases

The F12 is $197 on Amazon right now, $3 less than what I bought it for last week.It has been about $200 for the past 5 months or so. Likely not moving any time soon.

The PSW505 is regularly on sale for $199 shipped on Newegg.

P.S. I actually caught a second PSW505 tonight and purchased it. I canceled it like an hour ago, so it will probably be back tomorrow morning for those that want one. For $123 shipped it's a freakin steal you shouldn't pass on. I just don't need a third one and this stuff doesn't go for much locally on CL surprisingly. I added a poll for fun and a couple of extra pictures. The F12 is really wide. That is my monitor 70 and the sub is leaned up against the wall, the M70 isn't. The Polk isn't much smaller, and I realize that if I keep both I will need to relocate one of them somewhere else in the room.
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13 Comments

1

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#2
Thanks for the review. I am currently getting by with a little Pioneer subwoofer in my makeshift basement home theater. A larger sub will have to wait until I finish the basement and work some other items out such as the projector. But I have had my eye on the F12 so it was helpful to read your review and comparison with the 505.
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#3
Your "Joe Schmoe" review was one of the most helpful reviews I've ever read. Since I'm in the market for a nice entry level subwoofer, I've been on the fence about these two subwoofers. Thank you very much Smilie
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#4
I have also been trying to decide which one of these to go with. I think I'll probably go with the F12, unless I can also get a sweet deal on the PSW505.
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#5
Thanks for the review. I have owned the polk psw505 earlier and actually I did not find it boomy at all. And this is after owning a KEF sealed sub before the polk and owning an SVS now. I did not calibrate that sub manually, instead let Audessy multieq xt do it for me. In fact most folks on avs forums find the bic a bit boomy if you fail to calibrate it incorrectly. The only real shortcoming of the polk that I found was that the output fell real quick below 30Hz.

A few questions:
How did you calibrate the Polk sub? Did you increase the gain on the polk after calibrating?
What was the LFE crossover set for both the subs?
Did you use corner loading for both subs?

Ah! and one more point. You mentioned:

Quote :
The Polk is rated higher in wattage, so that's probably why it's louder at the same gain and probably louder in general.
Actually that is not necessarily true, since the BIC has almost double the volume(size) as the Polk, so the extra volume should compensate for the lesser amp power, rest everything else remaining the same(refer to Hoffman Iron Law).

I have not heard the F12 but I don't expect it perform lesser than the polk, albeit with a given larger dimension.
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#6
Quote from tojo_m View Post :
Thanks for the review. I have owned the polk psw505 earlier and actually I did not find it boomy at all. And this is after owning a KEF sealed sub before the polk and owning an SVS now. I did not calibrate that sub manually, instead let Audessy multieq xt do it for me. In fact most folks on avs forums find the bic a bit boomy if you fail to calibrate it incorrectly. The only real shortcoming of the polk that I found was that the output fell real quick below 30Hz.

A few questions:
How did you calibrate the Polk sub? Did you increase the gain on the polk after calibrating?
What was the LFE crossover set for both the subs?
Did you use corner loading for both subs?
Sorry for the late reply, didn't see it until today.

I used the Denon Audyssey calibration microphone to calibrate both subs. Per the manual, I set the crossover on both subs to max, then set the gains halfway to the max. I did use the LFE crossover for both subs. I believe I have everything crossed over at 60hz.

On my initial testing I tested them in the same spot in order to keep a control. I have since moved the BIC to the front Left and the Polk to the rear right.

I did eventually end up keeping both subs. Newegg customer service was great, and they offered me a partial credit on the already discounted open box price, so I figured I might as well keep it.

On an important note, I brought the PSW505 for a buddy to audition it when I was still deciding. He has hardwood floors as opposed to my carpeting. In his room, the port noise was much more pronounced, and it was rattling his room (floors) pretty badly. This was at mid volume.

Because of this, I would recommend that people not get the PSW505 if they are using it with hardwoods. My carpeting seems to muffle the port and vibration noise to an acceptable level, but on the hardwoods it just sounded awful.
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Last edited by aznnp77 September 24, 2012 at 09:39 AM
#7
Did you place them in the same location for your listening tests? Subwoofer placement matters a great deal for the frequency response you hear at your listening position in room.
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#8
Anymore recommendations for a low priced 12?
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#9
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#10
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#11
I just purchased the F12 on Amazon. It came quickly, was a breeze to install and sounds great. I'm hardly an AV pro but my house shakes while my kids are watching Transformers or Lara Croft. Its a huge improvement over my 12 yr old Sonance Sub-woofer. I hook it up directly the sub out on my Yamaha RX-V671. This thing really rocks the house and my home is over 5,000 sq ft.
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Last edited by DavidS2181 July 6, 2013 at 12:00 PM
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#12
Wow, I just randomly checked this post I wrote a year ago to see if there were any more replies.

I don't really have much to add from my original review. I think I explained it thoroughly, but will reiterate.

I think the average user would like both subs. It's kind of like a plasma vs. LED discussion almost. In a head-to-head comparison, I found that the BIC F12 was noticeably clearer, but the Polk was noticeably louder and boomier. It's like the contrast pop that an LED gives (yet washes out some of the colors), vs the eliminated motion blur and better true colors (yet dimness) of a plasma. Just depends on what your prefer. It's also like a Samsung vs. a different reputable brand. Samsung probably looks better side to side in the store, but if it's on it's own in your home, it will look fine.

If I had to keep one, I would probably have kept only the F12. My open box Polk PSW505 did have port noise, and apparently it's a pretty common problem. Because I got the open box for $120, I kept both of them.

When I was younger, I had subwoofers in my trunk. I bought these audiobahns that were loud as crap but had no clarity. I eventually graduated to JL 12W3s because I wanted that better sound quality as I got older. If you just care about getting loud movie explosions and playing rap music for parties, I think you'll love the PSW505. It hit those rap bass notes really well with my stereo.

The PSW505 gets more attention because it used to go on sale all the time. The F12 has stayed pretty consistent on amazon for years now.

Probably won't reply to this thread for a while again. Good luck with your subwoofer choices.
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Last edited by aznnp77 July 11, 2013 at 09:46 PM
#13
Thanks for the review on both subwoofers.
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#14
Quote from aznnp77 View Post :
Sorry for the late reply, didn't see it until today.

I used the Denon Audyssey calibration microphone to calibrate both subs. Per the manual, I set the crossover on both subs to max, then set the gains halfway to the max. I did use the LFE crossover for both subs. I believe I have everything crossed over at 60hz.

On my initial testing I tested them in the same spot in order to keep a control. I have since moved the BIC to the front Left and the Polk to the rear right.

I did eventually end up keeping both subs. Newegg customer service was great, and they offered me a partial credit on the already discounted open box price, so I figured I might as well keep it.

On an important note, I brought the PSW505 for a buddy to audition it when I was still deciding. He has hardwood floors as opposed to my carpeting. In his room, the port noise was much more pronounced, and it was rattling his room (floors) pretty badly. This was at mid volume.

Because of this, I would recommend that people not get the PSW505 if they are using it with hardwoods. My carpeting seems to muffle the port and vibration noise to an acceptable level, but on the hardwoods it just sounded awful.
Why did newegg give you an additional refund?
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