Ivette is nobody's hifi geek. Au contraire. Many a loaner had to endure severe castigation/castration for "boring old men" looks. But spying the just landed white/chrome MusikBass on her way to the bathroom, she volunteered "now that's pretty. What is it?" I explained. More unbidden compliments followed. I had to agree. Even though I'd seen photos, even a very dim memory of a physical encounter at the Munich 2019 show, seeing it now in the gleaming acrylic rang my belfry like Hemingway's For whom the bells toll. In it, Ernest said "I loved you when I saw you today and I loved you always but I never saw you before." Given our combined reaction, I don't think one need be a twisted techno geek to find this sub unusually handsome. It's also blessedly lightweight. I easily schlepped it upstairs and might have managed two in the same go were the staircase wider and didn't turn so sharply. Alas, the beaut was very hard of hearing. Damn, I had to run the 250wpc Kinki amp wide open and still didn't have enough output. Meanwhile the Zu amp's pot sits at ~9:00 so only 1/3rd up. Head scratching followed. Soon a short grey hair came out and with it the solution. Instead of running the main amp wide open and setting the autoformer passive at -20 to -30dB, I bumped up the latter by 10-15 clicks, then backed off the AMP-13R by the same amount. Now ModalAkustik saw more voltage, sound|kaos less. Problem solved, proper balance achieved. I put the hair back in. Someone's counting.
Here's the first setup. With remotes to mute/change respective volume on bass and main amps plus master volume on the preamp, I had a full parameter grab from the chair. Muting the mains and closing my eyes to hear just the bass, I could easily make out its stage-right location. Directional bass? You bet. Of course considerable overlap with the mains meant that once those ramped back up, proper stereo cues down to 40Hz reestablished. I was ready to get opinionated. It's what reviewers do.
Here it was child's play because I knew this system intimately and had only changed it across a very narrow bandwidth. The immediate verdict? Bass had lost some otherness and fat. Zu's downfiring woofer hits the floor plus two walls instantly. That creates room-pressure effects. Those can betray a slight textural discontinuity with the higher bands in two ways. One is a form of extreme kick/shove different from how the monitors' sidefiring woofers load the room. Think of transient crack like a jackhammer. It's hard and clipped. That's how notes start. The other otherness is a certain bloom. That you can visualize like a big rock dropped into a pond. It splashes. It seems bigger but rings a bit. That's how notes end. The MusikBass dropped the same rock into a sand pit. No splash or bloom, ergo a drier texture more continuous with the upper bands. No splash meant no echoic fat so a leaner contour. In short, the ModalAkustik was a bit gentler on the attack but far better controlled on its low notes' end. So the comings and goings between these two subwoofers differed. Writing this whilst on my work desk on the ground floor, I noticed how more of the bass stayed in the room. There was less leakage, bleed and wall transmission – Peter Parker your friendly neighborhood sub.
Muting the monitors back inside the room again, I noticed how the bass no longer connected to the walls. It just showed up out of nowhere like a ghost. It was demonstrably less interactive with or dependent on our acoustics than the far bigger box sub. By the same token, it didn't benefit from the gain aspect of the Zu's typical room interaction. Weaker output necessitated the already described gain adjustments. On the clear plus side, the MusikBass's music bass registered as rhythmically more nimble. It stripped away overhang. It stopped faster. That had it step back in line with the remaining bandwidth. It no longer stood out. Good-bye otherness. The bass' glossy lipstick had come off. It had gone au naturel. At first blush, that seems less spectacular. But if you prefer the gal next door to the glamour vixen, you'll love the German. Most of this of course was already predicted/promised by the design concept. Deliverance without any shock value. To hear it translate into action simply confirmed pretty theory thus truthiness in advertisement.
"Okay" you allow reluctantly. "Linear non-boomy bass that stops on time. Great. I'm half in. But… can it go really low?"