GoldenEar ForceField 40 Subwoofer Review

Posted on 1st June, 2023
GoldenEar ForceField 40 Subwoofer Review

Tony O' Brien gets into the groove with this powerful but affordable subwoofer…

GoldenEar

ForceField 40 Subwoofer

USD $1,200

GoldenEar Forcefield 40 Review

GoldenEar Technology is the brainchild of veteran loudspeaker designers Sandy Gross, Don Givogue and Bob Johnson. With their combined decades of experience with the likes of Definitive Technology and Polk Audio, they set out to create a range of high-performance loudspeakers for both movies and music.

Not only did they want to start a company that would be praised for the performance of its loudspeakers, but also one whose products would outperform their relatively modest asking price. Some fourteen years later – plus one global pandemic which saw the loss of Sandy to other interests, and an acquisition – Don and Bob maintain the core values that got them where they are today.

These same values are the driving force behind GoldenEar's new ForceField 40 subwoofer. Like many of the company's designs, it is engineered to provide big bass from a small enclosure. It sports a powered 10-inch long-throw high output driver working with an 11x13-inch Quadratic Planar Infrasonic Radiator, with a quoted surface area of 636.35cm2. The sub's Class D power amplifier puts out a claimed 500W RMS, with a quoted frequency response of 24Hz to 170Hz (-6dB).

GoldenEar Forcefield 40 Review

Mounted to the bottom of the speaker cabinet is a 13-inch, so-called Quadratic Planar Radiator, which is effectively an auxiliary bass radiator. Unlike traditional drivers which are electronically connected to an associated bass driver, the QPR is coupled to the powered 10-inch driver by the air pressure created inside the cabinet.

GoldenEar explains that this gives ForceField 40 several key benefits, including improved low-frequency response, greater low-frequency impact and minimal distortion. The design is said to approximate the near-perfect impedance of a well-tuned transmission line, but with more articulated and better controlled transient performance, the manufacturer says.

The company says that through the careful optimisation of the driver complement, its designers have avoided comprises inherent to bass reflex ported designs – such as port noise or chuffing. “It is very difficult to tune a small sub-box to low frequencies with a port that will be large enough not to have objectionable noises or small enough to fit in the small sub-box”, an engineer told me.

GoldenEar Forcefield 40 Review

UP CLOSE

My review pair of ForceField 40s came securely packaged, each stored in a soft, disposable bag, further covered in a plastic bag. The comprehensive user manual is a nice touch, one which is no longer commonplace. Standing at 373x337x465mm, this is one of the smaller subwoofers that I have reviewed, but by no means the lightest, weighing in at a reassuring 18.4kg or 21.1kg packaged.

Finished in satin black, it's handsome, if not somewhat unconventional in design. The lack of a gloss finish is a thoughtful touch, in my opinion, because it's less reflective than most rival products. Its most defining feature is a curved top, which gives the ForceField 40 a distinctive appearance. The front is fitted with a fixed metallic grille that covers all but the lower part of the subwoofer, which sports the GoldenEar logo. At the back of the sub, you'll find the necessary controls and connections, which consist of left and right inputs with a switchable LFE input.

Interestingly, while the ForceField 40 has tear-drop-shaped dials for both level and crossover, it lacks a phase control. With the comprehensive controls found in modern AV receivers and processors, it's hardly a deal breaker. The design also lacks adjustable DSP, but like the lack of phase control, it's hardly a handicap, given the adjustability available on other devices. If manual control is a must, look to the very affordable miniDSP, which adds all of this and then some.

GoldenEar Forcefield 40 Review

While unboxing the ForceField 40, I was surprised to discover detachable isolation feet. Like the rest of the subwoofer, they have been well-engineered, putting me very much in mind of the Isoacoustics Isolation Feet I use with my own subs. I opted to use The Spatial Audio Toolkit to level match the subs before running Dirac Live Bass Control. Modal responses aside, bass response after Dirac Live was reasonably flat until 27Hz before falling off a cliff at 24Hz. Naturally, much of this is dependent upon the room the ForceField 40s find themselves in and will vary accordingly.

Replacing my custom 10-inch VAF Gravitas subwoofers, the ForceField 40s were partnered with VAF Signature i91 front and centres and i90 rear and overhead speakers for a 5.1.2 Atmos layout. The remainder of the system consisted of a Sony VPL-XW5000ES 4K projector, Lumagen Radiance Pro 5348, Oppo UDP-203 4K Blu-ray player, Apple TV and a Severtson Cinegray 100-inch 16.9 projector screen.

GoldenEar Forcefield 40 Review

THE LISTENING

The ForceField 40 produces taut, agile bass free of any overhang or bloating. As polite as it is, though, it's also capable of producing snappy transients with superb tactile response and attack that belies its modest size.

Sporting what is arguably the best modern Atmos soundtrack available, Top Gun Maverick serves up a veritable smorgasbord of demo-worthy scenes. While I had planned on jumping straight to the valley scene, the opening chords of the Top Gun anthem had me putting the remote control right back down. With the ever-familiar beat, the ForceField 40s were lightning-fast performers, free of any bloat or overhang. There was a wonderful sense of transparency, with the little GoldenEars blending seamlessly with my other speakers and serving up plenty of natural-sounding extension.

However, what surprised me was the visceral impact these subwoofers produced, given their small enclosure. Still, it wasn't until the F-35 jet afterburners roared into life that I got a true sense of what the ForceFields were really capable of. The visceral impact they produced leaves some larger subs in the dust. As the F-35s wound their way through the valley for the final attack run, the jet engines punched hard. This made for an exciting movie-watching experience, with the pair of GoldenEars putting me very much in mind of the much more expensive JL Audio E-110 that I reviewed some time back.

GoldenEar Forcefield 40 Review

It's not just the punch-you-in-the-stomach dynamics where this subwoofer excels, as this duo was equally adept with finer things. Whether it's the guitar riffs of the Top Gun anthem or the beating wings of Jake and Neytiri's Mountain Banshees in Avatar, The Way of Water, the ForceField 40s lend a great sense of weight and realism. The extra extension gives the soundtrack another layer of dimensionality that draws you into the alien world.

With the opening of The Greatest Showman, the ForceField 40s put on an equally impressive performance. They won't plumb the subterranean depths, which is the work of much larger subs, but above 25Hz – where much of the visceral impact needed for an exciting home theatre dwells – they excel. While I favour the speed and tightness of smaller subs, they often lack the impact of bigger models. However, I had no such compunctions here, as the GoldenEar ForceField 40 provides the best of both worlds. Not only did I hear lightning-fast bass, but it was also highly transparent.

GoldenEar Forcefield 40 Review

THE VERDICT

While the GoldenEar ForceField 40 isn't going to plumb those last few octaves, which are the purview of bigger subs, it shows great extension for its size. With a level of performance normally associated with bigger and more expensive subwoofers, what you get here is outstanding value for money. If you're in the market for a small subwoofer, I think you'll find this hard to beat.

For more information visit GoldenEar Technology

Tony O'Brien's avatar

Tony O'Brien

As the owner of ‘Clarity Audio & Video Calibration’, Tony is a certified ISF Calibrator with over a decade of experience. Tony is an accomplished Audio-Visual reviewer specialising in theatre and visual products.

Posted in:Applause Awards 2023 Loudspeakers Subwoofers Home Theatre
Tags: goldenear 

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