It may be small, but this compact subwoofer is a force to be reckoned with
I first encountered the ForceField3 as part of a complete GoldenEar system last year and it left quite an impression. With 1,000W on tap, the ForceField3 has over twice as much grunt as many of its mid-priced competitors.
On its own, the ForceField3’s 8in driver might be a little outmatched, but it is boosted by a large quadratic planar infrasonic radiator that is mounted on the underside of the chassis. This effectively turns the underside of the sub into an extra driver and gives the ForceField 3 a claimed performance down to 18Hz – although this seems unlikely without a fair whack of roll off.
Around the back, a single LFE input is fitted alongside high-level connections (in and out) and controls for crossover and level. The build is solid enough but the ForceField3 doesn’t look or feel particularly special, unless you have a passion for black-clad trapezoids. The custom-designed drivers all seem impressively substantial, though, and the rubber feet should prove friendly to wooden floors.
If your sole requirement for a subwoofer is to make action films something that you feel as much as see, you could possibly skip the rest of this review and just go out and buy a ForceField3. Put bluntly, few of its rivals can match the absolute ferocity of this brash American upstart. For instance, the arrival of the tsunami in real-life disaster flick The Impossible (Blu-ray, DTS-HD MA 5.1) is the cue for the ForceField3 to unleash a truly staggering level of bass-fuelled terror. Even level-matched with the other subs, the GoldenEar simply has much more low-end extension. Given the size of the cabinet, this is a significant achievement.
And when switching to broadcast TV the GoldenEar continues to generate truly phenomenal levels – my favourite scene in an episode of Elementary, involving some pacemaker manipulation, has an oscillating bass note that really collects in the temples to give a sense of the distress of the unfortunate person being targeted. This is a woofer that frightens.
There are a few flies in the ointment, though. The GoldenEar can struggle to put its truly titanic output out into the room and during some test work actually started to move about, which is not ideal. Furthermore, while the bass that the ForceField3 generates is extremely powerful, some of the fine detail that other subwoofers can find in film soundtracks becomes lost in the sheer energy of its performance.
The biggest problem is with music, though. If you simply switch straight over from settings that are effective for film and TV, the ForceField 3 tends to dominate proceedings, feeling sluggish and tending to come in slightly after the point when you really needed it. If you're happy to run different settings for music and movies, the effect can be improved.
As such, the ForceField3 is a slightly specialised offering. If you are in the market for a woofer that is going to augment your film and TV viewing and you won’t be listening to music with it very often (or at all), this is an exceptional mid-priced performer with a usefully small footprint. It is not the most subtle device going, though, and is somewhat lacking in terms of musicality and poise. Not a true all-rounder, then, but still great fun.
GoldenEar ForceField 3
Price: £550 Approx
Highs: Immense low-end extension and power; usefully compact and solidly built
Lows: Can move around; some lack of fine detail and agility with music; quirky shape…
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