Home Theater Systems Buying Guide
Home Theater Receivers Buying Guide
A lot of bass? Or TONS of bass? GoldenEar is no stranger to heavy, powerful, house rocking low end, and that expertise is clear in their ForceField 30 & 40 subwoofers. I’ve had the pleasure of living with these two subs for about a month, so let's dive into the deep end and learn about what makes these two subs special in the hopes to answer one question; Is this enough bass for you?
If you've never heard of GoldenEar before, here’s a quick history lesson. In the summer of 2010, Sandy Gross, co-founder of Polk Audio and Definitive Technology, announced the launch of a new speaker company, GoldenEar. As a brand, GoldenEar is highly focused on people who are looking for something more exciting and clearly more desirable than standard run of the mill audio gear.
The current GoldenEar lineup includes all the speakers you need for a home audio set up, including floorstanding and architectural speakers, and of course subwoofers.
When designing subwoofers. GoldenEar looks to blend two worlds of subs together. The ultra-compact category (like the SVS 3000 Micro) and the much larger high-performance category (like the JL Audio Fathom). Compact subs tend to play low frequencies as loud as possible for maximum impact and larger subs try to have as much bass response in the lower range of frequencies as possible. GoldenEar asks a simple question “Why not both”? Trying to maximize performance in as small a cabinet as possible. And they do this with a clever design concept using one active driver and one passive radiator. When the active driver pushes air out, creating a pressure wave, it sucks in the passive radiator on the bottom of the sub-woofer. And when the active driver pulls back in, it pushes the passive radiator out. This is basically allowing the sub to double up on surface area for more output without needing to power both drivers.
Right off the bat, you can notice two huge differences between the newer ForceField 40 and the older ForceField 4 subwoofers. Number one, the subs are no longer shaped like a trapezoidal prism. The new subs take on a much more appealing rectangular design with a curved top. The second thing you’ll notice is the metal grille instead of a cloth grille covering the front driver. This design change is much more reliable in the event of a rouge foot being misaligned and kicking the front driver. Soft cloth grilles look nice on some speakers but do functionally very little to actually protect the driver. All in all a lovely refresh on the design and aesthetics, with function to boot.
As a note, the ForceField 4 sub will be going away, but the ForceField 3 is staying as part of ForceField lineup for now as an entry level option.
The ForceField 30 has an 8" powered, long throw driver with an 9x11" passive radiator, and the 40 has a 10" powered driver with a 11x13" passive radiator. Each passive radiator is rectangular in design instead of circular to maximize surface area on the bottom of the sub. The 30 is equipped with a 1000W amplifier and the 40 has a 1200W amp. Each sub reaches below 20hz, which is really impressive. The 30 can reach down to 18hz and the 40 can reach down to 14hz. These aren’t levels of bass you hear, but it’s bass you FEEL.
On the back of the subs, there are inputs, a couple of knobs, and a switch to go from Left/Right in to LFE in. The two knobs on the back control volume and crossover. The keen eyed among you may have noticed the lack of a phase adjustment knob as well. Some other brands allow you to adjust the phase of the subwoofer to correct for any standing waves in a room - also known as bass hot spots and dead spots.
When I asked GoldenEar about this, they said since so many receivers have distance adjustment and you could just physically move the subwoofer, it wasn’t really needed. I can see why they would say that, but think about this: What if you had a two channel integrated amp that didn’t have any kind of distance adjustments and you were tight on space and couldn’t relocate the sub? It would be nice to be able to adjust the phase on the sub directly, to correct for any of those issues. I hope this is something that is revised if they release more subwoofers in the future.
For now, trying to position your sub in the best location will require the tried and true bass crawl. Set your sub down, listen to it, then relocate it until you're happy with the amount bass in your primary listening position. Another way to overcome that problem is to simply get a second sub! The more subs you have the more even the bass will be in the room. I always say 2 smaller subs are better than one big sub.
Living with these two subs for over a month, I have had PLENTY of time to come to know them. I’ve personally never added a subwoofer to my system in fear of bothering my neighbors since I live in an apartment. I did give them a heads up that I was bringing home 2 subs to try out, and I’m thrilled to say that I have yet to receive a noise complaint. (But, your results may vary.)
Since adding these subs to my system, I was able to experience a new dimension of audio, true deep bass, and perfectly reasonable levels of volume. With some subs, you have to crank the volume to get that deep rumble in your bones, but even with the smaller of the two here (the ForceField 30), I never needed to turn it up that loud to get what I was looking for. I tested these out with just about every type of content I could. Movies like Star Wars, streaming originals like Stranger Things, music of all genres, and I was pleased with the performance all the way through. The deep synth tracks of Stranger Things gave me chills, and every lightsaber swing had weight that I don’t hear unless I’m watching in a proper theater. And music, oh man...music. If you want to test sub bass, truly deep bass, I recommend the track "Summertime Magic" by Childish Gambino. When that bass hits...it hits HARD. It is always my go to track when testing out low end performance on any sound system. And the ForceFields made my jaw hit the floor, and then keep going to the basement. They are incredibly punchy subs, tight and fast. I can’t stand the sound of muddy, flabby subs, and I was so happy that wasn’t the case with the ForceFields.
In our Montgomeryville showroom, I tested the ForceField 40 with a few different surround sound systems, including the full 5.1 GoldenEar system we currently have on demo. It was still awesome. And, it really made me want to experience a system featuring two of these bad boys together.
In a market where every speaker company has subs to compete against, and giants like SVS, and JL Audio have some of the best performing subs on the market, how does ForceField cut through the noise? Well, price to performance is one reason, and their relatively small footprint is another. $899 for the ForceField 30 puts it in head to head competition with the SVS SB-2000 Pro, and it holds its own! I was really pleased to know that these subs stand on their own when stacked up against the competition, and honestly, I even preferred them. In my opinion, the passive radiator really helps with the overall output while remaining punchy and tight. Sealed subs are known for their punchy-ness and ported subs are known for their output and deep extensions. Subs with passive radiators are a happy middle ground, and honestly what my ear likes the most.
For $899 and $1,199, the ForceField 30 & 40 are a tremendous value with sound quality alone. Anyone looking for a new sub with performance on the mind, should consider these. Are there subs that are bigger and badder? Sure. Just remember that old saying, "There is always a bigger fish." Like anything in the world of audio, finding a happy balance between budget and performance is key, and these new subs from GoldenEar are walking that fine line perfectly. If you don’t mind digging around in the settings of your home theater receiver to adjust distance or physically relocating the sub until you get that bass locked in, then pick one of these up.
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