Phase Linear Aliante 12" Subwoofer
By Stephen Narayan
The Aliante 12 is the second best subwoofer made by Phase Linear. Phase who? No Im not talking about the Phase Linear brand that you can by at Circuit City or Best Buy. Although related they are two entirely different companies, but are owned and operated by Recoton International Holdings. This Phase Linear is a European division that had a vision of building high quality, high-end designs of speakers, subwoofers and amplifiers for the European market. They asked and were granted use of the venerable Phase Linear brand name with the intent of furthering the mark created by Bob Carver and others of the early Phase Linear brand of home audio devices from the 1970s into todays modern car audio industry.
The Aliante 12, joined by the Aliante 12 Limited and Aliante 10 and 8 woofers, are hand constructed using some obscure techniques compared to many modern subwoofers. They all feature a 10mm thick aluminum honeycomb sandwiched between layers of fiberglass and Kevlar to form a plat piston cone. The flat piston is attached to a cast aluminum frame by both a cotton/rubber surround and a cotton spider. The large backplate encases the triple stacked magnets and voicecoil. The backplate is machined out of heavy gauge stainless steel and features 14 1" cooling vents and two ¾" vents that circumvent the horizontal plate. Five way screw type binding posts are also machined into the backplate. Inside this visually impressive backplate features a vented magnet and motor assembly comprising of a huge 5" diameter voicecoil on an aluminum former, submerged in ferrofluid for superior voicecoil cooling under high power applications. Power handling is rated at 400Wrms. The Aliante 12 Limited features a larger 6" voicecoil had a quoted unlimited RMS power rating.
Other specifications also impress as the Aliante features an Fs of 19 Hz, 88 dB (1W@1M) 91 dB (2.83V) sensitivity, Vas of 165.2 L and a low Mms of 0.240 Kg. With a moderately high Efficiency Bandwidth Product (EBP) the sub will work very well in small closed, vented or bandbass enclosures.
Fit and finish was excellent as one would expect from a hand built design; all glued seams were neat and tidy. I was torn as to what the most appealing feature was at this point between the handsome backplate assembly and the unique flat piston.
I modeled the Aliante 12 using WinISD speaker design software available as freeware on the Internet (feel free to visit http://www.linearteam.org/winisd.html to get your copy) and decided on a 1.08 cu. ft. vented enclosure with a pair of 2" diameter x 10.5" long ports. Not having the means to build the box I had a local shop build me a carpeted enclosure measuring . Which I then cut holes for the ports and the subwoofer. I top mounted it to the baffle of the enclosure after securing 12 AWG high definition speaker wire to the binding posts and onto female disconnects to attach to the inside of the terminal cup of the enclosure.
All testing was completed in car, using standard installation practices. Power was supplied at first by a Lunar L100by2 100Wx2 amplifier wired in bridged mode giving a rated 400Wrms of power. The power from the amplifier was delivered via 12 AWG speaker wire directly to the rear binding posts on the enclosure. I set the amplifiers lowpass crossover at 88 Hz prior to sitting myself in the driver seat. I followed up with an Orion XTR800 2x200Wrms amplifier wired in bridged mode and capable of 800Wrms mono to test the subs high power handling capability.
Heading up the front stage to complement the Aliante was my DEI Studio series 3045 and 3064 3 way components establishing a well-rounded 4 way 7 driver installation.
Ive now lived with the Aliante 12 installed in my car for about 8 weeks and listened to many different types of recordings from my collection of Rock, Blues, Female Vocalist and Instrumental music. I also used my Boston Acoustics Rally Demo bass CDs for extreme bass and SPL testing. In addition to that I used some test CDs to get some crude SPL results with fixed tones and warble tones as well. As always I refer to my 7 year olds and wifes Pop and Dance CDs for a sample of more mainstream music.
Beginning with Jesse Cooks "Gravity" and "Tempest" CDs revealed that this sub a true SQ performer. Jesses tight percussive mix was easily reproduced without any overhang. The Aliante 12 is a good performer if your musical tastes leaned towards Classical, Jazz and the like. From instrumental I went to Rock featuring Metallicas superb S&M CD, Creed and most recently Godsmack as well as the Boston Acoustics bass sampler mentioned above. These CDs really gave the Aliante a workout, though it never bottomed out, a true test to how linear this motor design is. Even when powered by my Orion amplifier the sub continued to reproduce bass even when I got pretty crazy. Using my crude Radio Shack analogue meter and such CDs as well as some 40 Hz tones I was easily able to peak at 120+ dB. Pretty decent SPL for a SQ woofer with only 4.0mm of linear Xmax. In the box chosen although tuning frequency is at 35 Hz peak SPL was achieved with 40-50 Hz musical input signals.
I really like this woofer, enough to be waiting for another, which Ill try as a pair next time around in a small sealed enclosure. I never noticed any breakup no matter how much input power I gave it or how strong the reference signal was. It was a great all around performer for all types of music I listened to. If your tastes are more centered on SPL in the 130s, Id look elsewhere for a sub with a larger Xmax, however, if youre looking for a sound quality woofer than can handle a lot of power and one that very versatile, this is one you should seriously consider. It is easily a willing rival to the best-known subwoofers on the market.