Re(al)view: NuForce W-1 Subwoofer

We have talked a bit about Nuforce here before. We love their design for its minimalism and its refined detailing. A few months back we took a look at their now famous Icon with S-1 speakers. These little full range drivers are small but very accurate in their sound reproduction. The problem is that they generate very little bass on their own, so we knew we needed to add a bit to the low end with a sub...

Who would expect more, really? These are two inch diameter drivers and are like bringing a hair pin to a knife fight… a very refined and beautifully designed hair pin. They are ideal for those who like to listen to music in a small office or bedroom but they lack the bottom end required for enthusiastic Friday afternoon soundoffs (WTH is a soundoff?).

When we pointed out the shortcomings in the last article, we were immediately contacted by Nuforce to let us know that there was a forthcoming subwoofer entering the market, the NuForce W-1 Subwoofer. The first thing I thought was “Great, a band-aid to cover up a problem that should be solved by better engineering.” I recently built a subwoofer that would probably fall under this category. That is DIY stuff so I have an excuse. What’s their excuse? I had rump-shaking business to attend to so I forgot about it until I received a small package in the mail a week or so later.

First thing I experienced upon opening the box is an orange stretch-velvet cover surrounding what looked to be a recently dug archeological artifact. Relieved of its blanketing, an unassuming satin black box is revealed. Nothing special in terms of looks, though certainly well-proportioned, the W-1 is meant to be hidden under or behind something. Out of the way, its 5” woofer’s sound waves are able to reach full propagation by the time they reach your ears so yeah, keep it under your desk. I found that it was much easier to tune with it about 6’ away or more.

Of course, we are still using the entire Nuforce setup with Icon and S-1 speakers to prove out the W-1’s viability so we plugged it into the back of the line-out on the Icon.

A side note here: When I was growing up, I might have considered buying a subwoofer from one company and speakers from another. I figured that I would get the best I could afford in each category and not think much about how they went together. Perhaps it was just that “subwoofers” were the trend and their integration was secondary to their thump. …The thing is, you listen to enough Bass Mechanic in the back of an ’85 GTI then you start to hate bass. I want to feel it every now and again, but otherwise, I don’t want to think about it.

So it was important to me that this system be a family- That everything work in harmony- it’s music, after all. Nuforce has come through in this department. You want the volume in the sub to rise proportionately to the volume increase in the speakers. This is something that would be easy to fudge up- especially if you are buying from several different companies with several different volume curves. Nuforce got this just right. Once you find the proportion of bass that you want in your music, the Icon delivers just the right amount of signal and the W-1 amps it up to just the correct level to keep up with your speakers. In a word: Integration.
With the W-1, you have three major points of control. You have a phase knob, a volume knob, and a cutoff knob. With these three you should have no problem getting the sub to become part of your system. I kept the volume nice and low and left the phase switch at 0. The real trick is finding where in the audio spectrum to cut it off so that it all sounds like one speaker. I decided that leaving it up near the 170 mark was ideal for my listening conditions. You can go as high as 180, but I found good blending around this point.

The bass generated by the 5” woofer is tight and clean. And now the statement that I only make to avoid the one commenter who always points this issue out. “Sub”woofer is a misnomer in this case as the frequencies do not extend below 40hz.

In the end this system became one. Sure, you could just go out and buy a totally integrated boombox type mp3 player and get everything in one form factor, but you wouldn’t have the ability to adapt to so many different conditions if you did. The W-1 is the glue that holds all of these components together. The sum is now greater than its parts.

NuForce W-1 Subwoofer

  • Woofer: 5.25-inch paper cone
  • Frequency response: 50Hz-150Hz+/-3 dB
  • Line Input: RCA and 3.5mm stereo
  • Line Output: RCA
  • Volume Control: ±10 db
  • Crossover Frequency: Variable 40Hz – 180Hz
  • Phase: Variable 0-180
  • Auto On/Off Mode Select Switch (music detection 0.2v/10 minute)
  • Power Requirements: 90-264VAC Input Switching Power Supply
  • Tuned Port Enclosure
  • Display: LED On (Blue), Standby (Red)
  • Enclosure Construction: MDF (Medium Density Fiberboard)
  • Finish: Black
  • Amplifier Power Rating: Class-D AMP 50W Max
  • Dimensions: 268.7 mm (h) x 190mm (w) x 240mm (d) = 10.6" (h) x 7.5" (w) x 9.45" (d)
  • Weight: 6 kg (13.2 lb)