Energy AS-180 Subwoofer Review, Repair & Info
One of Energy's First Products; Very Little Info Available
I came across my pair of Energy AS-180s in Attleboro, RI. I bought them off of a fellow who was selling his whole setup. I picked up a pair of Energy AS-180 subs (with sequential serial numbers in the low 0200's), along with a pair of the original Paradigm Studio Monitors and an NAD pre-amp/surround processor. I got a great deal on the package, but the Energy's made a horrible crackling sound whenever I turned the gain and low-frequency pass adjustment knobs. Occasionally, the knobs would make noise even when they weren't being turned.
Another problem with the AS-180s is that I found very little info online about them. I was able to track down the manual pretty easily, but there was nothing I could find reviewing the speaker's sound quality, price, or anything else.
I decided to replace the panpots (panoramic potentiometers - the resistor that actually causes the volume to go up or down when you turn the volume knob). My first call was to Energy, where I was transferred to their parts & repairs department. The guy on the phone told me that the AS-180 was one of Energy's first products, and from what he had heard it was a high-quality piece of equipment. He said that it was made before Energy was purchased by Klipsch. He said the AS-180 was also made before Energy decided to focus on the big-box-store market and began outsourcing their manufacturing to China. Sure enough, my AS-180s have "Made in Canada" stamped proudly on the back. Could it be I had stumbled upon a well-made vintage jewel?
I was also informed that neither Energy nor Klipsch had panpots for the AS-180.
I eventually found panpots at You Do It Electronics in Needham MA, and replaced them. Now I have two great-sounding, truly vintage subwoofers that have excellent wiring options. All I need to do now id get rid of my Paradigm Studio Monitors, since they are the only speakers I have ever owned that don't benefit from being paired with a subwoofer. :)
I hate boomy sounding bass, but I love deep bass, so a properly tuned subwoofer is an important part of my stereo and home theater. In fact, I prefer to use two in my stereo - with each one playing the left or right channel only, as opposed to both playing a blended mono signal of both channels.
Before the AS-180s arrived, I was using the CSW SW1 and Slave, which are excellent-sounding subs that went for about a thousand dollars back in the 19080's and early 1990's. They are acoustic suspension designs, which is rare for subwoofers, most of which make use of at least one tuned port. But the SW1 and Slave sound excellent, and reach the depths as well, making them a tough act to follow.
The AS-180s stack up against the SW1 and Slave quite well, actually. I didn't notice any bumps in the bass response, which is what I expected because the AS-180s make use of two tuned ports, firing backwards. These are a good example of how tuned ports can actually work to flatten a speaker's response curve.
I didn't find the bass sloppy, either. I like to listen to Stevie Wonder or other bass-heavy, high-production recordings in order to test a subwoofer's accuracy and range. The low organ notes and slap bass came through deep and clear. Best of all, unlike my SW1 and Slave, which combine the left and right channels into a single mono signal, my Energy AS-180s were actually contributing to the stereo soundstage. That REALLY made the low bass pop, especially with Stevie Wonder, who does a lot with panning, and sometimes has his organ panned all the way into the left channel, and the bass guitar all the way in the right. Having the lowest notes of those instruments collapsed into a mono signal is an affront to the music. But having the lowest notes panned properly in a stereo image is awesome. I love that about these subs.
The only "problem" is that so far I have only used the AS-180s with my Paradigm Studio Monitors, which really don't need subs. Once I pair the AS-180s with my Klipsch Heresys or McIntosh XR-14s, it will be easier to tease out their performance. But they merged excellently with the Studio Monitors. I haven't heard anything with that wide of a frequency range, such flat response from 25 to 18,000 Hz, and such richness and effortlessness. The AS-180 certainly contributed to that sound.