Review: Elemental Designs A5-350 Subwoofer
Elemental Designs went for acoustical efficiency and affordability when creating its massive A5-350 subwoofer.
January 26, 2010 by Stephen Hopkins

With home theater subwoofers it is said that any particular design can maintain a small footprint, be acoustically efficient, and inexpensive … but you can usually only pick two. Subwoofer design is obviously much more complex than this, with tradeoffs between enclosure types, driver designs, amplification requirements, and overall design goals all being thrown into the proverbial blender hundreds of times before a final product is derived. But final products usually do end up following that two-of-three rule. When Elemental Design was drafting the A5-350, they clearly picked the latter two priorities. 

Size rarely seems to be a major design consideration for the folks at Elemental Designs. Right in the middle of the ED line, compared to brick-and-mortar subwoofers in the price-range, the $800 A5-350 is a hulk (and $700 apiece if you purchase two). Its 24” x 24” x 19” dimensions are punctuated by its 105-pound weight. While many Internet-direct speaker manufacturers shy away from heavy items like this, ED has embraced the ID delivery method and uses it to its advantage. I can’t even imagine trying to get one of these monsters home by myself from a local dealer, but FedEx did most of the heavy lifting for me. I say most because I still had to get a pair of these up to my third-floor theater, but a good friend and a couple of beers later we were in business.

ED specializes in subwoofer design, both raw drivers in the car-audio and DIY world, as well as finished subwoofers for home theater. But design isn’t where ED draws the line. Drivers and cabinets are manufactured in-house here in the USA … in Newton, Iowa to be exact. This means their middle-to-higher end products are made to order, and custom finishes and designs can be constructed as well. 

My twin A5-350s arrived in the standard 4-step satin black finish. This proprietary finish is said to “provide a incredibly strong rugged finish that actually creates a skin on the cabinet.” If your tastes tend more toward furniture-grade, you can also contact ED for quotes on custom finishes including paints, laminates, and veneers. The standard textured finish does inspire confidence in its ruggedness. Its lack of high-gloss sheen also allows these monsters to fade away once the lights go down. 

The A5-350’s 15” driver, with a quoted 23mm liner excursion, dual 4” ports, and 500w plate amp also inspire confidence that this thing can move some serious air.  The amplifier is a basic but powerful, providing a specified 500w at 4 ohms. The front-firing driver and vents are covered by a simple, yet inconspicuous, black cloth grille. With the grille off, the A5-350 looks mean and imposing. With the grille on it, again, fades away as the lights go down. 

Just because the A5-350’s basic appearance doesn’t scream at you once the lights are off, don’t think it’s going to let you forget its there… not any less than a sledgehammer to the chest would. Thanks to the efficiencies inherent to a large vented enclosure along with the large surface area, long-throw driver and adequately powerful amp, the A5-350 reaches down in to the subsonic realm with relative ease.

While the sub’s F3 (point where anechoic frequency response reaches -3 dB) is rated at 18 Hz, in-room response can dig even lower. While my measurement equipment is somewhat rudimentary, from a single A5-350 I was seeing in-room extension down to around 16 Hz. When I added a second A5-350 into the mix I was able to see reference levels (dynamics up to 115 dB) as low as 14hz and total output reach as high as 117 dB. 

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Stephen Hopkins is chief technology editor for EH Publishing. He writes product reviews, features, and focuses heavily on 3D TV, iPhone and iPad apps, and digital content.

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