Sunday, November 9, 2008

Fall Shopping Guide to Affordable Subwoofers - Chrysalis Photon-8, Starfire-10, and BassMatrix-12

Chrysalis Photon-8, Starfire-10, BassMatrix-12 Subwoofers

Introduction to Chrysalis Subwoofers 

The football season is upon us, and although you might not be thinking about a subwoofer to reproduce the deep sounds of shoulder pads smashing into chest pads, you know you want one for those movies by fireside and nachos.

Back-to-School purchases for your kids may have brought you near the limits of your credit card, and you are trying to figure out how to get some boom, thud, and crash, but not spend so much cash? Right? Right.

If we backpedal to a few years ago, buying a small subwoofer really meant "Token Bass". You know, just something you could point to in the corner when your buddies asked you if you had a subwoofer.

Those days are over, and it's a shopping time we go.


  • Chrysalis Photon-8
  • Design: Sealed Enclosure
  • Driver: 8"
  • Magnet Structure: 12.7 Pounds
  • Amplifier Power: 1,000 Watts RMS (Class D)
  • MFR: 26 Hz - 120 Hz ±  3 dB
  • Inputs: Line-Level and Speaker-Lever
  • Outputs: Line-Level; 80 Hz High-Pass
  • Adjustable Low-Pass: 40 Hz - 120 Hz
  • Dimensions: 10.1" H x 10.4" W x 12.8" D
  • Weight: 30 Pounds
  • MSRP: $999 USA (Photon10 is $1,249)
  • Chrysalis Starfire-10
  • Design: Ported
  • Driver: 10"
  • Magnet Structure: 5.6 Pounds
  • Amplifier Power: 150 Watts RMS (Class D)
  • MFR: 32 Hz - 140 Hz ± 3 dB
  • Inputs: Line-Level and Speaker-Level
  • Outputs: Speaker Pass-Through
  • Adjustable Low-Pass: 50 Hz - 200 Hz
  • Dimensions: 13.8" H 12.8" W x 14.4" D
  • Weight: 25 Pounds
  • MSRP: $399 USA (Starfire-12 is $499)
  • Chrysalis BassMatrix-12
  • Design: Slot-Loaded
  • Driver: 12"
  • Magnet Structure: 5.5 Pounds
  • MFR: 28 Hz - 120 Hz ± 3 dB
  • Inputs: Line-Level and Speaker-Level
  • Outputs: Line-Level and Speaker-Level
  • Adjustable Low-Pass: 60 Hz - 150 Hz
  • Presets: Movies, R&B-Rock, Jazz-Classical, Games
  • Dimensions: 15.9" H x 15" W x 16.8" D
  • Weight: 50 Pounds
  • MSRP: $699 USA (BassMatrix-10 is $599)
  • Chrysalis Acoustics

Velodyne has always meant quality, and during their early years, it meant big bucks too. The technology for building high power and deep thud for a few hundred $$$ was just not available.

Well, now it's available.

For this review, we chose one of each of three new lines by Chrysalis (designed and manufactured by Velodyne for various markets).

These are the Photon-8, Starfire-10, and BassMatrix-12.

Design: Chrysalis Subwoofers 

The number in the various model names is obviously the size of the driver, but what are the other differences?

Well, the littlest one (Photon) has the biggest amplifier for one thing. And, the biggest price. Why? Because it takes heavy duty engineering, heavy duty drivers, and powerful amplifiers to get big bass out of a little box. And when you are talking about a box this small, it is really tough. Ergo, more bucks.

Below is a photo of the Photon-8 (it is also the one on the far left in the photo at the beginning of this review).

Chrysalis Photon-8 Subwoofer


















It has a sealed enclosure and a 1,000 watt RMS amplifier. The driver is front-firing. It will fit just about anywhere. MSRP - $999.

The Photon-8 amplifier panel is shown below. It has all the controls we expect from a flexible sub, including auto on/off, the ability to bypass the crossover (every modern SSP and receiver has crossovers built-in for the subwoofer), and phase adjustment.

Chrysalis Photon-8 Subwoofer Rear Panel 






















Next up on the list is the Starfire-10. The driver is forward firing, and there is a port on the bottom. Amplifier power is 150 watts RMS. MSRP - $399. Bought at a discounted price, you will be driving home with a big smile on your face and some green still left in your wallet.

Chrysalis Starfire-10 Subwoofer 



















Notice that there is no on/off switch. The sub is meant to be used as auto on/off. It turns on when it senses a signal. Switching amplifiers are the reason. They draw almost zero power when they are not playing any music. Other than that, just a few basic features. Spring clips for speaker-level in/out instead of binding posts.

Chrysalis Starfire-10 Subwoofer Rear Panel


And hither comes the BassMatrix 12. It is slot loaded, which means it has a horizontal slot along the front bottom. The amplifier is 200 watts RMS. MSRP is $599.

Chrysalis BassMatrix-12 Subwoofer 


















Here is the BassMatrix rear panel. It has a power on/off toggle and an Auto sensing switch. These days, the amplifiers in subwoofers are so efficient (Class D - Switching), I just leave all my subwoofers in the Auto-On mode. When I watch a movie or play some music, they power on by themselves, and when I finish, they turn off after a couple of minutes. It's a great feature.

Chrysalis BassMatrix-12 Subwoofer Rear Panel




















The crossover is different on each of these models, so you will need to pay close attention when setting up the subwoofer output on your SSP or receiver. In general, I like to have my SSP control the crossover, so if the crossover cannot be totally defeated on the subwoofer, you simply turn it to the highest setting, such as 200 Hz, and set the crossover frequency that you actually want to have, e.g., 80 Hz, in the SSP. Remember to always keep the volume control down when you are making changes to any switches. Turn it off before plugging in or unplugging cables.

The BassMatrix has a remote control that lets you select among several preset bass EQs, such as Rock, Jazz, and Games. This gives you extra bass punch just in the right places when you are listening to different types of music.

Chrysalis BassMatrix-12 Subwoofer Remote Control