Taking “Reference” To a New Level: MK Sound V12+ Subwoofer Review

Earlier this year, the legendary speaker brand Miller and Kreisel (aka MKSound) released their V+ subwoofer lineup. The V+ Series comprises three models: the V15+, V12+ and V10+. Each’s name corresponds to the size of its driver, so the range-topper has a 15-inch driver. The V15+ and V12+ have earned THX Certification too, meaning that given the right conditions, they can achieve professional cinema reference levels.

The V15+ achieved THX Certified Ultra status when used in a pair, while the V12+ is THX Certified Select. That means in order to hear pro-grade audio, you need to use a pair of V15+ in a room of up to 3,000 square feet in size, and the V12+ as a solo sub in a room of up to 2,000 square feet. For my home theatre, as it is only about 10 ft wide and 16 ft deep, the V12+ is more than enough for the room.

I have extremely high hopes for this subwoofer as my previous experiences with MKSound subwoofers (the X series) have been extremely positive. After all, they were the inventor of subwoofers. You read that right. Before MKSound, there was no such thing as subwoofer.

Their journey began in 1973, when Walter Becker of Steely Dan commissioned MKSound to design a studio reference subwoofer and monitoring system for their Pretzel Logic LP mixing sessions. The result was the world’s first balanced dual-drive subwoofer and Pretzel Logic went on to become a million-selling Top Ten hit and one of Rolling Stone magazine’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. At the time, the subwoofer was a passive unit requiring outboard amplifier to power it.  In 1977 the company released the Volkswoofer, the world’s first active subwoofer ever existed. So if anybody knows what a subwoofer supposed to sound, they are it.  

While I’m very familiar with their X series subwoofer, I can not incorporate them into my home theatre designs. Not because of the performance, but simply because they are too big of a size for my room albeit their phenomenal performance. So when they announced the much smaller and nicer looking V12+ subwoofer, I instantly ordered mine directly from Denmark in order to receive the very first V12+ subwoofer in Canada. Many months have past since then but now after playing with it for a month; I’m ready to start my review.

Setting up the subwoofer was as easy as A-B-C. In fact, the most difficult part is carrying the subwoofer to my basement where the home theatre is.  Its near-50 lbs weight is very heavy for my tendonitis ridden hands. And the smooth satin finish makes the subwoofer slippery. Very beautiful indeed, but slippery. The supplied white gloves don’t help as they only adds to the slipperiness of the sub. Once it’s in my home theatre, it sits on four IsoAcoustics Orea Bordeaux feet and the setup begins.

Because I ordered the subwoofer directly from Denmark, the subwoofer was set to 220V. A simple slide of a switch, it is now accepting North American electrical voltage. Note that when purchased from North American stores, you don’t need to do this. Plugging in my LFE output from the receiver directly to back of the V12+ (clearly marked as LFE input) and set the volume dial to twelve o’clock, and I’m done with the physical install.

Calibrating the subwoofer is extremely crucial and it used be a long and annoying process for me, even as a professional calibrator. So I usually use my DSPeaker Antimode 8033 subwoofer auto calibration module to ease my calibration process and turn it into an only 5-minute ordeal. It automagically set the EQ and phase as perfectly as possible for my room conditions with minimal effort. Mind you, that still means spending another $600-ish for an external auto bass EQ module.

Thankfully, the V+ subwoofers come with their own internal auto bass EQ processor.  All I had to do is to download the MKSound app from the app store, set it to integrator’s mode and do the calibration using the phone’s internal mic. However, since I have a custom tuned microphone for my phone, I plugged that in instead of using the phone’s internal microphone and the result was impeccable.  

All I had to do was download the app, and within the app, connect the V12+ using Bluetooth. Set the app to integrator’s mode and choose the auto EQ option and start the process. You can have up to three separate measurements and have those measurements averaged. I use 3 positions as follows: at the main listening point (MLP), 2 feet to the left of MLP and 2 feet to the right of MLP. Within less than 10 minutes, everything is done for both EQ and phase. No need for sub-crawl, no need for the steep-learning-curve REW that takes hours to learn and implement, 10 minutes and you’re up and running  

Unlike the DSPeaker 8033 bass EQ module, you can customize the EQ further using the internal 4-band parametric EQ and phase control supplied within the app’s integrator’s mode. I don’t feel there is any need to use these controls beyond the auto bass EQ calibration so I left them alone.

Moving on to the listening test, as usual, I tested the subwoofer in my THX specifications home theatre using Pioneer SC-LX704 as a pre-pro fed to five Marantz MA-500 THX Certified mini monoblocks powering MKSound S150 THX Certified satellites in 5.1.4 configuration with Revel C263 in-ceiling speakers for Atmos.

For those of you who are not familiar with the MK Sound S150, the speakers were originally released about 25 years ago and instantly were a hit by industry professionals including Disney, Lucasfilm, Paramount, HBO, Universal, DTS, Dolby even THX themselves use those speakers as their reference speakers and these speakers have win various awards even garnered five star ratings from various AV media outlets including various audiophile magazines worldwide. 

After calibrating the subwoofer, I calibrated the five MK Sound S150 THX Certified speakers (for the bed tracks) and Revel C263 in ceilings (for Atmos) using Pioneer’s Advanced MCACC with EQ turned off and further massaged the tuning with manual measurements of distance using a laser tape measure and speaker levels using calibrated microphone and AudioTools (paid version of the software).

For listening test I started with the legendary Edge of Tomorrow 4K UltraHD disc played on my Panasonic UB9000 THX Certified 4K disc player; the opening scene where the opening LFE is awesomely named as subwoofer killer. Using the AudioTools RTA functionality coupled with the said calibrated mic shows the subwoofer actually reached 17 Hz at -6 dB, 18 Hz at -3 dB, and 20 Hz at 0 dB. Very impressive indeed as testing using my previous subwoofer of a similar price, similar spec (on paper) never yielded anything below 20 Hz. My previous subwoofer didn’t even hit 20 Hz at 0 dB, in fact it only kicked 20 Hz only at -3 dB, which in retrospect, disappointing. I also used to use Butt Kicker for each of my seat to add tactile feeling for the “missing notes” from my older subwoofer, but that’s no longer the case. Even just using the V12+ is enough to make my seats rumble. Of course, to psychoacoustically add the illusion of an even larger bass, I still use my Butt Kicker, but now it’s turned down by a whopping 40%.

Movies after movies, concerts after concerts, have now been vastly improved by the V12+. Of course the MK Sound S150 THX Certified satellites helped with the imaging quite dramatically too.

The first thing that struck me when listening to music, the MK Sound combination of the S150 and V12+ is their amazing sense of imaging. The S150 are able to recreate a large soundstage but at the same time they provide an exceptional amount of accuracy and multi layered details. Every track from Emilie-Claire Barlow’s The Beat Goes On CD sounds alive. The vocal is forward and intimate without any hint of in-your-face brashness of many speakers of the similar price range. Double bass sounds emitted by the V12+ sounded like… double bass. Every bass drum kick I can hear not only the bass-drum frequency but also the mallet hitting the drum skin. Impressive from this small-ish subwoofer enclosure. Even more so from a subwoofer that is this affordable. The V12+ subwoofers produced a mind bogglingly realistic bass response that blended with the music without ever overpowering the performance. Details in the music were abundant and the V12+ just disappeared into the background.

I was constantly shocked at just how much bass was coming from this relatively small subwoofer. The V12+ had zero trouble producing incredible bass and grabbing my attention from scene to scene. From the mayhem of the chase scene in “Phantom Menace” (originally mixed using S150 and X12 sub at Skywalker Ranch), the crashing of buildings in “Inception”, to the pounding synthesizer bass lines and drums in Netflix’ “RRR” could be felt throughout the room, the V12+ managed to effectively recreate these movies in all their respective glory.

Playing movie such as “Aquaman” and “Ready Player One”, both in Atmos with lots of LFE action, I noticed a distinct enhancement in dynamic range over my previous set of speakers (I used System Audio Aura 30 towers for the left and right channels, PSB Image C5 as the centre). The tidal storm sequences from “Aquaman” (and there were many) where the massive wave unleashes hell on the New England coast and the opening racing sequence in “Ready Player One” exhibited unrelenting power and rumble to my seat, loud but clean with the subwoofer in “THX” (neutral) mode. If you want more oomph, you can simply open the app and set the EQ profile to “Movie”. I personally tried both and I prefer the “THX” (neutral) setting without the added bloat and a much smoother frequency response. For listening to music and/or watching concerts and musical, there is also “Music” profile but just like the “Movie” option, I prefer not to use them as they both added bass boost frequencies (albeit different) that are uncomfortable to my ears. This is not to say that I dislike my previous system, in fact I loved my old system so much that I was worried that I won’t hear enough gain in perceived sound quality with the MK Sound 5.1 set. In fact, if anything, it makes me want to upgrade my Revel C263 in-ceilings to MK Sound IC95 in ceiling speakers, budget permitting.

So, if you don’t know by now, I absolutely love my MK Sound V12+ subwoofer, especially when matched together with MK Sound S150 satellites. If you are like me, looking for the utmost in reference quality sound, I strongly recommend the V12+ subwoofer. It is small, it is taut, it kicks deep, yet remain to be pristinely clean. It takes the term “reference quality” to a new level.

Equipment list:

Kaleidescape Strato C and Terra 6 combo

JVC RS3100 8K eshiftX projector

Marantz MA-500 THX Certified monoblocks

MK Sound S150 THX Certified satellites
MK Sound V12+ THX Certified subwoofer

Panasonic UB9000 THX Certified BD player

Pioneer Elite SC-LX704 receiver in pre-pro mode

Pixelgen Design THX Certified HDMI cables

Revel C263 in ceiling

Stewart Filmscreen StudioTek 130 G4 THX Certified screen

Torus Power AVR 15 Plus

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