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Author Topic: Martin Audio SX210, Dual 10" Subs  (Read 366 times)

Gordon Brinton

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Martin Audio SX210, Dual 10" Subs
« on: April 28, 2024, 09:17:27 AM »

Why Little Subs?
Right out of the gate, I want to say that I am not pushing for anyone to downsize to smaller subs. I had only purchased these boxes in an attempt to solve a problem for myself. You see, I am a one-man company and frequently load in and out myself. Most of my gear is either on wheels or can be moved with a hand truck. I do have a nice trailer with a rear door that becomes a ramp, so I usually don't need to lift much. Unfortunately, the problem begins when I have smaller gigs in the city and cannot maneuver or even park the trailer near the venue. For those gigs, I choose to take everything by pickup truck which means dead lifting all of my gear up to the tailgate. (BTW, I know that one man can flip a double 18 into a truck bed, but my truck bed isn't very big. I was trying to find a happy medium between compact portability and excellent sound quality.)

The SX210 is a passive dual 10" front loaded bass-reflex design. It has pretty darn good specs for a baby sub and comes in at a mere 44 lbs. I mean, hell's bells! Even my 105 lb wife can lift that up.

I do know that these are not necessarily intended for front main stack duty. I think they are more so marketed as smaller fill type speakers for limited spaces, but they just so happen to meet my needs as mains. (So, tough titties! I'm using them anyway.)

Are They Capable?
There must be a thousand Internet arguments over which are better, larger or smaller subs. I knew going in that smaller drivers wouldn't go as low in frequency. That didn't bother me as I mix exclusively for two very similar rock/variety cover bands. With the exception of a few rarely used keyboard patches, there isn't much on our stages that goes below 40Hz. If I recall, the open Low-E string on a bass guitar is somewhere around 42Hz. So to me, unless I am providing sound for an EDM Rave show, (which I never do,) everything below 40 is basically just unwanted rumble. Even when I use my larger subs, I often high-pass them at about 40Hz to tidy up the low end and conserve amp power. So, why pay for it if I'm not going to use it? Besides, I understand that several of these small boxes clustered together can reach lower than the published specs of a single box. That's why I purchased four of the cute little buggers. Okay, I'll admit…If I ever mix for a band that has a 5 string bass, then I may need to bring bigger subs, but until then, these meet my needs for rock bands in small to medium venues. Call me a wimp, but I think that guys who brag about how low their subs can go are just chasing specs. As Shania Twain once said, That don't impress me much.

If you're old school, you may not realize how much smaller drivers have improved over the years. We are seeing drivers with better and better specs every few years, such as Xmax and sensitivity. The greater the Xmax, the further the speaker cone can move, resulting in bigger pressure waves. The higher the sensitivity, the less amp power it takes to reach desired levels.

When I mix a rock band, I am looking to get that sought-after "punch" out of my subs. In the heat of the night, when the kick drum punches you in the chest and the bass guitar sounds big and full, that's an experience that the audience seems to love. That is, they always move closer and face the abuse. That punch sensation comes about by moving a lot of air, very rapidly, with a lot of force. In my opinion, a cluster of smaller drivers working together has an advantage because there are more drive motors each pushing smaller and lighter cones. Think about a motor boat with 4 or 5 outboard motors on the back. Multiple propellers will clearly provide more traction than a single large motor with only one propeller. That punch in speakers is a function of transient response. In simpler terms, it's how fast a speaker can react and recover from abrupt peaks in signal level. Thus, it's not always about how many square inches the cone has, but more about how quickly the cone can be moved and how forcefully it can push the air. Smaller and lighter cones are easier to push around than heavier ones. Of course, you still need an adequate amount of cone area to reach the level of performance you desire.

The physical size of these Martin cabinets is very compact. Two of these boxes stacked are only slightly larger than a typical single 18 cabinet. An 18" speaker cone has approximately 254 square inches while, in nearly the same amount of floor space, (x4) 10" cones = 314 square inches. The advantages of double stacking these small boxes are twofold: more driving motors and more cone area. The disadvantage is that, (unless you have a big amp capable of 2 Ohms,) it takes two amp channels to power two 4 Ohm boxes. Thus, rolling in with 4 passive boxes will use up two stereo power amps. With everything else being equal, the setup with the most cone area should also be louder. (This is all my opinion, of course. I have not yet measured it.)

The Power Amps:
I am driving these little subs with two QSC GXD8 power amps, (one channel per box). Each speaker box is rated at 500 Watts Continuous and 2000 Watts Peak, and offers a 4 Ohm load. The power amp advertises 1200 Watts Continuous and 2250 Watts Peak @ 4 Ohms. In my opinion that's a fairly good match up as long as it's kept under control. I keep mine under control by using two types of limiters in my system, one is in my speaker management box, fast attack for short term peaks measured at 85 Volts (roughly 1800Watts), and one slower attack for sustained tones at 40 Volts (roughly 400Watts) in the power amp DSP. To the best of my understanding, I should be safe with those numbers.

At my typical bar gigs, I run the subs loud enough to feel them pounding in the chest at the dance floor and the amps are basically just idling. With a speaker sensitivity of 103 dB, this means that I could get them up to 120 dB with a mere 100 Watts or so of amp power and (theoretically) 130 dB with 500 Watts. …And that's only measuring one box! I think 4 of them, clustered together, can provide more level than I will need in a small to medium sized barroom, and probably smaller outdoor gigs too.

I have not yet gotten the power amps up to 1/8 power and probably never will. I did a simple test with only two subs playing music from the mixer. (I eliminated the top boxes.) During most bass notes, my SPL meter was bouncing between 118dB and 124dB at 1 meter out, (C Weighting, Fast Response). My power amp was drawing around 2 amps at the wall outlet.  I don't know how loud you guys run your subs, but again, I bought these to solve "MY" problems.

How Do They Sound?
My first show with the new Martin subs was with one of my exclusive clients, a really good variety rock cover band. This particular venue was roughly 50ft X 50ft and had maybe 150 - 200 people attending. I only used two subs for this show because the second pair on order had not yet been delivered to my home. I always cluster my subs together; sometimes center and sometimes off to one side. I always try to avoid the power alley effect. I started out going easy on the level, 90ish dB at the FOH position, (near the center of the room,) because I didn't know how well they would perform. I was quickly surprised at how efficient they were. The power amp meters were barely moving. I slowly pushed things up as the night wore on and the audience became livelier. They totally kept up with my RCF NX45a tops, albeit, I wasn't pushing the entire system all that hard. By night's end, I had the kick drum and bass guitar pumping at a pretty healthy level. You could feel the subs pounding on the dance floor. The output meters on the power amp were dancing at less than half way up to the line that indicates limiting, which happens to be my slow 40V limiter. (See Image) The meters are not labelled in dB, but I am guessing this must have been somewhere between 100 and 200 Watts if it's linear. At any rate, I had plenty of lush sounding low-end all evening long with headroom to spare. At no time did I ever see a peak light.

All notes from the bass guitar were sounding out fairly evenly. What I mean is, they didn't have one certain frequency that jumped out and annoyed everyone like the one-note horn-loaded subs I once used years ago. They were pretty even across the band. (That's what I like about front loaded speakers.) I tend to give a little EQ bump for kick drum at around 75 or 80Hz and that's right about where these subs do their best work. They do slope off below 45Hz, but again, I'm fine with that. The kick drum, floor tom, and bass guitar were all well supported and sounded fat enough (for me) down to 40Hz.

Using one Sub:
I did happen to have one gig at a super tiny bar. I mean this place was tight with no stage. The room was only big enough to hold about 60 or 80 people seated at tables and a long bar. They moved two or three tables and told the band to setup in that spot. The band was practically ass-to-elbows on top of one another. Anyway, I brought two subs to the job, but decided to leave one in the truck due to lack of floor space. Once fired up, I was totally impressed at how well a single dual 10" sub filled that room. Again, I had more low-end than I needed. At no time did I feel like I was over working that little box.

Now Using 4 Subs:
I wanted four boxes because summer is coming up and I do have a few outdoor gigs on my calendar. The second pair has finally arrived and is in the garage. I'll let you know how well they perform, but I am not worried at this point. I do have single 18" subs, but they are not that great. I am betting that 4 of the 210's will probably out perform them.

Man, I am here to tell you that they really deliver. For as tiny as they are, they really kick some royal buttage. For smaller or medium bar gigs, 2 of these guys will be plenty. (I know that I started this post saying that I only wanted something lighter for bars in the city, but now that I know how well they perform, I want to use them for a lot more shows.) I've had more than enough low-end in all of the rooms I've used them in so far. They sound great, have that power punch, and have solved my truck loading problem. What more can a small operator like me ask for?

If you are interested in giving them a go, contact one of the dealers here on the forum, they can usually give you pricing far better than those advertised by retailers. Mike Pyle has treated me well and I am completely satisfied with my purchase. (Thanks again, Mike.)

BTW, if you are uneasy about using 10" subs, Martin Audio also offers a 12" version, (SX212) that is pretty similar in specs to that "other brand" 212 that everyone loves, but for about half the price.

So it seems that smaller and lighter gear that performs well is finally becoming a reality. Maybe more companies will start to offer high performance subs in this weight range.

- Super lightweight. They only weigh 44 lbs. I can easily lift them into the pickup truck.
- Very efficient/good SPL.
- They are not perfectly flat, but then, what subs are? The natural hump in the frequency band is right where I want it, between 60 and 100Hz.
- They will play good and loud up to 150Hz, so I could conceivably use them with much smaller tops at a higher crossover point if needed.
- They trailer/truck pack nicely. When standing on end, they are the same height as my RCF NX45a tops.
- As far as size and performance goes, other than hitting those lowest notes, four of these are as good as or better than two really good 18" subs, and that's exactly what I wanted out of them.
- They were darn cheap.
- Nobody makes covers for them, (to my knowledge). Having four covers custom made can get a bit pricey.
- The handles being at the rear corners make them very easy to carry. (Sweet!) However, beware! The easiest way to carry these things is to grab both handles with the grills facing downward. If someone were to set them down that way in rough stones or on an uneven surface, the grills could become scratched up or dented. I remedied this by adding more rubber feet onto one end of each cabinet. Now I can dolly them or even deploy them standing on end. I just wish that those handles were at the front corners.
- The finish. It looks great, like your typical truck bed liner coating, but it seems brittle and chips very easily. While moving them around, if you happen to tilt them wrong, it can chip up the corners or edges. I would rather pay a few dollars more for a higher quality protective finish.
- They don't offer a powered version, but that doesn't bother me. I prefer lighter weight boxes anyway.
« Last Edit: April 30, 2024, 06:19:56 PM by Gordon Brinton »
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Martin Audio SX210, Dual 10" Subs
« on: April 28, 2024, 09:17:27 AM »

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