Proficient Audio Protege FDS-12 Triple 12” Subwoofer Review
Tony O’Brien tries out this compact but capable subwoofer for size
Protege FDS12 Triple 12” Subwoofer
AUD $1,495 RRP
Proficient Audio is not exactly the first name that springs to mind when it comes to subwoofers. At least it wasn't for me until a certain press release came across my desk. Better known in its home country, the US-based manufacturer has twenty-plus years of experience with speakers. A visit to its website reveals that it makes models for every application – from music and home cinema to architectural and outdoor. It also just happens to have the same parent company as the now-extinct Sunfire Audio - a brand more well-known for its range of highly revered subwoofers back in the day.
It is the very same technology that has found its way into Proficient Audio's subs. With no less than eight models bound for our shores, they start at 8” and go up to 15”, including a dual 8” in-wall sub. Further broken down into two ranges, Proficient Audio offers the entry-level Protégé and the more expensive Signature Series. The former is designed to offer high performance and excellent value for money. The Protégé FDS-12 incorporates three high-excursion 12” polypropylene drivers – a front-firing active driver and two side-firing passive drivers.
The manufacturer tells us this design was chosen to provide enhanced efficiency and performance without some of the compromises associated with ported subwoofers. The drivers have been fitted with oversize magnets, and are powered by a Class D 600W (peak) amplifier. It's all housed in a rigid cabinet that has a mix of 20mm and 30mm MDF and internal bracing to minimise vibration.
Like all Proficient subwoofers, the FDS-12 is able to connect wirelessly with the addition of the optional PAS-WIR-SUB-KIT-INT wireless subwoofer kit. It has a stated frequency response of 24 to 160Hz (+/- 3dB) and is ideally suited to rooms of up to 80m2 naturally, although the environment will heavily influence the final response. A two-year warranty is given.
Double-boxed, the two subs that I received were securely packaged and stored within a plastic bag, nestled safely within packaging foam. Free of its packaging, the FDS-12 weighs a reassuring 17kg. Befitting its Sunfire heritage, which was based on the ethos of creating big bass from small boxes, this is on the smaller side. Measuring 375x393x394mm, it will be easy enough to accommodate in all but the smallest spaces.
This is a conventional subwoofer design, with the front of the cabinet dominated by a removable cloth grill. Its side-mounted passive radiators are, however, covered in non-removable grill cloth. The amplifier plate at the back has a dedicated LFE output and stereo (left and right) outputs. It's here that you'll also find controls for power on/off/auto, volume, crossover, phase, and a USB Input for the wireless subwoofer kit.
The FDS-12 lacks any DSP; however, much like the phase control – which only offers two positions – it's hardly a handicap given the adjustability available on modern AVRs and processors. If manual control is a must, look to the very affordable miniDSP, which adds all of this and then some. Four sturdy, nigh-on indestructible rubber feet are mounted to the bottom of the FDS-12. Overall, then, Proficient has successfully pulled off the difficult balancing act between cost and build quality. Nothing's been overlooked, and try as I might couldn't fault it.
Replacing my own Ascendo SV-12s, for this review the two FDS-12s were connected to a JBL Synthesis SDR-35 receiver and SDA-7120 power amplifier. Speakers consisted of VAF Signature i91 front and centres and i90 rear and overhead speakers for a 5.1.2 Atmos configuration.
I used a combination of Dirac Live Bass Control and The Spatial Audio Toolkit to calibrate the FDS-12s and the other speakers. Dirac showed reasonably smooth bass response – room interaction aside – before taking a nosedive at about 30Hz. Naturally, the final bass response will be dictated by the room in which the FDS-12 finds itself.
Surprisingly polite for the most part, the FDS-12 produces tight, agile bass – but it's still able to bark when called for and has enough bite to make the most of modern action blockbusters. Arguably the best modern Atmos soundtrack available, the Top Gun Maverick 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray serves up a veritable smorgasbord of demo-worthy scenes. With the opening chords of the Top Gun anthem, the two FDS-12s produced fast, tuneful low frequencies.
This subwoofer does not offer the same speed and transparency as more expensive models but still performs excellently. Not only is it fast on its feet, but it packs a punch. As the Top Gun F-35 jets wound their way through the valley, my review pair of subs delivered a pleasing amount of tactile response. They didn't rearrange the furniture, or indeed my innards, yet they delivered the goods with this reference soundtrack.
Moving to the excellent 4K Blu-ray of No Time to Die, I could feel James Bond throwing his Aston Martin around corners and the impact when it scraped along walls. As Spectre's henchmen go to work on Bond's car, there was a pleasing amount of LFE slam as the one-eyed gunman fired his shotgun. It was no different with the DTS-HD Master Soundtrack found on the Scream 4 Blu-ray. As exciting as the little FDS-12 is though, it couldn't quite fill out the film score's bottom end – sounding a bit thin by comparison. Yet, to be fair, this was at least partly down to my room's response.
Proficient Audio's FDS-12 is a subwoofer that understands its limitations, yet does what it's designed for extremely well. While it didn't dig quite as low as I would have liked, the tactile response we all crave is still well within its capabilities. This agility makes the sub sound more expensive than it actually is. So, if you're looking for over-inflated, noisy bass, this isn't for you, but those seeking quality over quantity should listen.
As the owner of Adelaide based ‘Clarity Audio & Video Calibration’, Tony is a certified ISF Calibrator. Tony is an accomplished Audio-Visual reviewer specialising in theatre and visual products.
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