Before Part II fittingly goes stereo, a brief comment on ease of placement. As any owner of truly full-range speakers knows from painful experience, finding the one spot that excites room nodes the least is not only trying but a matter of persnickety precision down to the very inch. Granted, stand-alone subwoofers don't need to image. The options of nailing down that elusive inch multiply. Still, without variable EQ to notch out peaks or fill in dips, quality woofing still requires strategically mapping out the room to find the optimum location. An old trick is musical chairs. The sub is placed in your listening position, you walk the room until you find yourself in the spot with the most even, powerful bass.

By virtue of their hidden-driver design, the Magellans were far less critical in this regard, perhaps the closest thing to drop-and-forget subbing I've come across yet. While I don't recommend to stuff 'em in a drawer, that's already been done - and at a show no less, with apparently admirably results. No matter where I placed them (well, within the constraints imposed by the lengths of speaker cable on hand) the results remained constant as long as I observed symmetry relative to the stage set by the main speakers. The Magellans nicely avoided the unnatural pressurization phenomenon that transforms certain bass notes from free-flowing to an obvious clash of sound waves. This always conjures up a tangible perimeter of surrounding boundaries that lock into place. The observing ear/brain discerns the spatial signature of the room and the illusion is spoiled. I've never favored so-called room lock for that very reason. Note even the semantics. It's not the music that locks into place but the room. I for one don't want to hear the room.

Another area where the Magellans excelled beyond their obvious speed or room interface nonchalance? Brute-force designs, in amplifiers as well, are said to exert ultimate control. That sounds like a good thing to have, control - whips and chains and the lot. But think about an orchestra in the throes of passion, and a conductor attempting to resume control. Things regress from freely gushing to a clear sense of rhythmic restraint - like a horse reigned in too tightly. The astute listener senses the build-up of a counter-resistance, wishes for the orchestra to just let 'er rip, screw the control freak at the helm. Mutiny on the Mozart.

Please note that I'm not referring to sloppiness, or advocating loose bass. To the contrary. I'm hinting at something more subtle - the difference between musical flow and restraint. By virtue of its superior speed and concomitant timing precision, the Magellan bass epitomizes the former quality. It unlocks the innate pulse of even complexly syncopated, slyly shifty tunes to generate that old Naim thing of pace'n'rhythm when sovereign mastery bops along far more on the button than off - but without the accompanying sense of beginner's effort. A perfect example? The off-kilter fusion group BalkanMessengers, stationed out of Marmaris/Turkey, resort jewel of the Bosporus. Jan and Radi Kazakov on drums and bass guitar respectively dish out devilishly tricky Bulgarian-style high-speed rutchenitsa beats, compound odd-metered affairs that'd trip up any but the hard-boiled specialists - especially when Neshko Neshev and Nedim Nalbantoglu overlay this rocking madness with melodious, hum-along dance motifs on their accordion and violin.

With the Magellans, this clash of the fiendish and the elegant, the complicated and the easy, gained a fleetness of foot, a lightness of character, that was very becoming and had me tap my foot on the -- asymmetrically offset -- marks without thinking about it. I'm making a big deal about this for the reverse reason that I had originally purchased my 0-to-60mph in 3.7 seconds Kawasaki Eliminator ZL1000. I never even came close to living up to that dragstrip monster's specs. Rather, I suffered from its lousy handling on the road and was only too happy to eventually trade it for the BMW Paris-Dakar Enduro whose ground clearance carved the corners on Mount Tam in Marin far better. Subwoofer specology goes all bleary-eyed over flat-to-15Hz claims at 120dB. Truth is, unless you're an organ enthusiast or do Arnold at insane Dolby levels, such specs mean nothing in the real world of music that contains little data below 30Hz.

If it's music you're after, not rocket launches, you need speed, precision, articulation, finesse. Clearly, there are subwoofers that go lower louder. Are there subwoofers that, in perfectly adequate Rolls Royce speak, go low enough, with this kind of speed? Without having a premium REL or Audio Physic in-house for a direct A/B, I won't be trapped into a definitive statement - except to say that, most designs clearly won't keep up with the VBT Magellans. They're the Arabian stallions among the quarter- and drafts horses of the subwoofer world. You don't hitch 'em to farming equipment, you saddle them with the lightest jockey you can find - to win races, not lead the beerwagon parade.

Discern some enthusiasm in this description? Bloody right. I'm as impressed with these VBTs in my own known environment as I was at CES in a clearly sub-optimal hotel room. What I want to know now -- besides the stereo question which shall be answered shortly, the second amp en-route to Arroyo Seco as of today -- is what'd happen if I strapped something like the bridged eVo 200.4 to these passives? While plenty good enough with the VBT200S cube, I can't help but wonder. How would a truly deluxe amplifier with requisite crossover provisions transform the minor dryness inherent in the stock's BASH circuitry?

Mind you, that's the inveterate tweak speaking. With my head screwed on straight rather than spinning, the VBT Magellan VIII, as is, deserves special recognition as the perfect music subwoofer, and, due to its modest size and immodest placement options, the perfect NYC or Tokyo apartment dwellers' answer on how to transform their bandwidth-limited monitor speakers into full-range wonders. Hats off to the designers. I'm not engineer enough to verify their technical explanations. But I'm enough experienced music lover to verify that the firm's performance claims are smack on target.

Despite its diminutive cabinet volume and baby driver stroke -- or, more correctly, because of those -- the Virtual Bass Technology Magellan VIII is a true heavy-weight when it comes to the key elements that matter when music is foremost on your mind: Explosive rise times. Triple-caliper brakes. What more to say? Olé. Opa. Phat. Cowabunga. You get the idea.

Manufacturer's website