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JBL SRX828SP, Danley DBH 218, Yorkville LS808, and QSC KW181: An Audience's Take

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Peter J. Curtis:
So this might be a tad strange and an odd mix of subs, but it's what we've had available. Given the coronavirus has halted a great deal of events in Southern California, I've found myself with more time than usual and a wider variety of boxes just waiting to be rented. I've been wanting to do a different kind of review on these particular subs and I felt like now was a great opportunity. I've heard pro audio members make comments about these subs from time to time and how each of them have their own niche and unique qualities. I myself have experienced these subs first hand but most people in my line of work know the response graphs and how the subs sound too. However, I will not focus on any of that. Given that I've been fixing up and working with subs for a long time, I thought it'd be nice to know what regular folk think of these subs. These are the main clients I work with anyway and they pay the bills most of the time.

We have tons of gear in our inventory but it seems like these are the subs that seem to attract the most customers. Curious, I gathered a group of 15 people. Whether it be old high school friends, college roommates, or work associates; I found a mixed group of individuals of varying age and gender and did a sub shootout for them. These subs included the JBL SRX828SP, Danley's DBH 218, Yorkville's LS808's, QSC's KW181, and a Danley TH215 I just happened to have around at the moment. I know this might be a little odd, especially since two of these subs are powered, but I tried to make it as fair as possible since it seems like most people who end up wanting to buy these subs end up renting these to give them a test run. There were 2 Yorkville LS808's and 2 QSC's KW181's, so there were 2 18" woofers being used in every test except for the TH215 which had 2 15" woofers. Also each box had the original drivers in them. Funnily enough, I didn't learn until awhile ago that the TH215 had two different sets of woofers used in them during their lifetime. The TH215's had the Transparence drivers in them rather than the Eminence and I'm not sure which one is actually better or if they can even be used together (couldn't even find the specific Transparence driver spec sheet, since I believe it's been discontinued as well). In either case, it the TH215 just had the 2 Transparence drivers in them.

Now, for the test, I used an Itech 5000HD for all the passive models and did unprocessed and processed versions with them. The powered subs were left as is, with no tinkering. All of them were set with a 100hz crossover but nothing else. I probably should have set an HP but I didn't think it'd represent "out-of-box" performance that well. For the processed tests, I attempted to get each sub to play as flat as possible using the spec sheets I have on all of them and my personal experience with getting them to play in a more well-rounded manner. I guess the only issue is that I ran the DBH 218 with two four ohm loads, and without the proper wiring in the neutriks, this isn't exactly possible for a newbie. However, I figure that most people could watch a YouTube video or tutorial and find out how to wire the neutriks properly or just buy some that are already wired correctly. As for the sound itself, I played a variety of different tracks from different genres and spent about an hour with each person just playing tracks. If you want the list of tracks, I think I still have the playlist somewhere. I do remember most people's favorite track being "Under the Influence" by the Chemical Brothers though. This is probably the only downside to the test, since everything I used was digitally recorded audio, it might not be indicative of a bands true performance. However, since these are subs and not tops, I view this downside as a minimal one and I played enough rock n' roll, church rock, metal, country, and so forth to compensate. Listening distance was between 10-30m; I let them choose where they stood but they moved frequently to hear it in different locations and feel it in different places in the room. This was especially helpful because some of the subs don't hit you in the chest until you're a bit farther away.

Onto the data! I chose six main qualities for them to make decisions on. These are: Sound Quality, Loudness, Feeling, Box Design (including weight, and I let them move the boxes around), Price (to performance ratio), and Overall. I have abbreviated them as SQ, L, F, BD, P, and O respectively. They were only allowed to pick one sub in each category as a winner. I didn't do box design and price twice in processed for obvious reasons, they are the same as the unprocessed. I also didn't tell them a price on the TH215 because it's not available anymore; as far as I know, you can only get them used.

Unprocessed Results

SQ: 4, L: 0, F: 2, BD: 2, P: 8, O: 0

Danley DBH 218
SQ: 2, L: 14, F: 4, BD: 6, P: 1, O: 8

Yorkville LS808's
SQ: 1, L: 1, F: 4, BD: 1, P: 4, O: 2

QSC KW181's*
SQ: 0, L: 0, F: 0, BD: 5, P: 2, O: 0

Danley TH215
SQ: 8, L: 0, F: 5, BD: 1, P: N/A O: 5

Processed Results

SQ: 2, L: 1, F: 1, O: 2

Danley DBH 218
SQ: 8, L: 12, F: 10, O:10

Yorkville LS808's
SQ: 0, L: 0, F: 0, O: 0

QSC KW181's*
SQ: 2, L: 0, F: 0, O: 0

Danley TH215
SQ: 3, L: 2, F: 4, O: 3

* denotes no processing was ever used.

I want to leave this data up to interpretation. Be careful though, since I didn't give the subs many points to begin with, the point differentials don't tell the whole story; most of these boxes will be just fine for nearly any gig. For instance, the TH215 is like -3db to -6db from the Yorkville LS808's at their loudest (60-80hz) but it goes so much lower and so it sounds louder on many tracks in my opinion. Not everyone agrees though; the one guy who voted the Yorkville's as the loudest on the unprocessed liked the sound the most too, I think he was into car audio and loved how the 808's thumped. Weird, but not uncommon in an audience. So these results are more indicative of what an average listener/concert goer would think, and takes crowd diversity into account.

I also know it's a small sample size, but it actually comes quite close to my clients experiences with these boxes too, it's just that this was a tad more controlled, albeit minimally. This was just for fun and since I mainly just lurk the forums, I thought I could contribute with something different. The results of the TH215 did astonish me quite a bit though. I was expecting the DBH 218 to steal the show, but it turns out that unprocessed, the TH215 just sounds good. With or without processing, I'd have to say that the overall winner was the DBH 218 though. The only complaints were its weight and price. The weight was negated somewhat by wheels, but the price is what it is because it's only one box and it can perform like 4 LS808's max spl at 60-80hz on the entire range of 30hz-100hz. I understand that, but the average folk in my testing did not. The only issue that a few people said that the DBH was too loud. I was very surprised by those comments but I did explain that it's not meant to be used at high volume at your average house party, unless you feel like breaking all the dishes and picture frames.

Anyway, do with this what you will. If you have any questions about my testing, feel free to ask.

Luke Geis:
The results honestly don't surprise me. The one thing that did was how in the unprocessed test, the SRX was lauded, but in the processed test it dropped to an equal with the QSC that it was well ahead of before in the unprocessed test. The Danley results seem par for the course and supports what I tell most about getting passive units. You can get really good results, but it is highly dependant upon the user if you don't have the exact tools meant for them. A powered unit has 99% of the guesswork and safety already figured out. I feel a little bias started setting in on the second round as the results followed nearly exactly the price difference.

Fun stuff!! I would like to hear your thoughts more too though.

John L Nobile:
Curious as to why the DBH 218's didn't get 15 for loudness. Were people moving around the room and getting nulls and peaks at different spots? Or as you stated, they may have been miswired.

Interesting test though and I applaud you for the time and energy put into it.


Peter J. Curtis:

--- Quote from: Luke Geis on August 27, 2020, 12:09:43 AM ---The one thing that did was how in the unprocessed test, the SRX was lauded, but in the processed test it dropped to an equal with the QSC that it was well ahead of before in the unprocessed test.

--- End quote ---

A few of the SRX people ended up changing to the DBH. The guy who liked the LS808's ended up liking the KW after the processing. I think it was because my processing wasn't exactly standard; I went for an even response on the range that each sub could handle. More specifically, I attempted to get the range to play +1/-1db from its playable range. This was in an effort to maximize each sub on the the entire range it's capable of. This is why I believe the LS808's sounded horrid after, since they are quite literally one note boxes. I didn't touch the powered subs, so I think they got more light in the second test because some of the subs took a hit when I processed them. Even the DBH took a hit because I smoothed its response out down to 35hz.

--- Quote from: John L Nobile on August 27, 2020, 11:32:35 AM ---Curious as to why the DBH 218's didn't get 15 for loudness. Were people moving around the room and getting nulls and peaks at different spots? Or as you stated, they may have been miswired.

--- End quote ---

Edited: Most likely solution found.

What happened was that because I saved the DBH for the last in the unprocessed round and used it first in the processed round, the loudness of the DBH might've trickled off for a few because it was immediately quieter because of how I flattened the response and the SRX and TH215 are quite loud boxes too. The difference in SPL from the DBH to the SRX and TH215 should be about -6dB all around from my calculations. Which is noticeable, but still, all these boxes pump out over 130dB consistently, which is quite loud.

--- Quote from: Luke Geis on August 27, 2020, 12:09:43 AM ---Fun stuff!! I would like to hear your thoughts more too though.

--- End quote ---

My thoughts are, I really want to replace my DBH's with the LC version but the extra size might not fly with certain clients. Overall, for this test, I would never personally own any of these subs. To be fair, I wouldn't own any brand, I'd probably just build my own sub and tweak it to my liking. If I was forced to choose, then it depends on my budget. The JBL is my favorite in its price range, but if you had a bigger budget, then the DBH218. In multiples, the DBH gets further and further ahead too, beyond even the TH118's. This plays into its favor too, since the increases are in doubling the amount of speakers. So a stack of four DBH218's would require something like eight SRX boxes to match its spl and eight DBH218's would require sixteen JBL boxes. Double that amount if you want to match the DBH down low with the JBL's. So, you can immediately see the advantages to the DBH. However, with even four DBH218's, you'd probably need some big location. I think two DBH's would easily do smaller clubs, churches (not mega churches), smaller outdoor concerts (1000 people or less), ice rinks, roller skate rinks, and you'd probably be asked to turn it down if you decided to bring them to a prom or high school dance. I think most of the people in this "study" would recommend the DBH though.

Caleb Dueck:
The DBH is a great sub, but they are just starting to wake up in clusters of 4.  4 of them, flown in a center cluster, with a pair of Powersoft K20's fed with 240V, for an 800 seat church - was awesome!  A pair in a 500 seat church was just barely enough, but they were trimmed higher. 

Like the regular DBH, the -LC version needs to be in a cluster to really come alive.  Get enough of them together, which means a huge amount of truck pack gone - and they are incredible.  I'd love to hear 8 of them together sometime. 

I also like to power them with one driver per amp channel. 


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