Monitor Audio Anthra W12 Subwoofer

Get More Than What You Paid For

Thirty five years ago, in a galaxy far, far away, I purchased my first subwoofer. It was a JVC subwoofer designed, manufactured and marketed only for the Indonesia market. That thing has travelled with me and survived more than 10 moves across 3 countries and multiple cities. Surprisingly enough I still use it today even after half a dozen fuse changes. It adds so much depth and dimensionality to recordings and movie viewing starting from a simple (then) two-channel tracks to (now) multi-channel immersive spatial audio recordings. Subwoofers can improve sound so much I’m surprised not more people take subwoofers more seriously. Well, actually not that surprising because too many subwoofers out there that can only produce a lot of boom yet unable to reproduce anything of subtleties.

Good subwoofers tend to be big, bulky, ugly, and expensive. Plus when they are not setup properly, they can sound horrible and distracting. Those are the reasons many people hate subwoofer.

Because of my long-time familiarity with the Monitor Audio brand, when they announced a new series of sealed subwoofer named Anthra, I immediately requested a unit to borrow for review. I chose the Anthra W12 with its 12 inches long throw sub driver although they are also available in 10 inches and 15 inches. The reasoning behind it is that it’s not too big for most applications and still be able to hit 20 Hz with no roll off in a relatively small enclosure for a 12 incher and with the more impressive measured in my reference room with 16 Hz reach with only -6 dB roll off. Something that’s not usually you can get with a 12 inch subwoofer.

I was surprised on how heavy this sub is (32 Kg) albeit the tiny 374 mm x 374 mm x 374 mm dimensions. Looks can definitely be deceiving. As for fit and finish, it looks as what a Monitor Audio product should look like. A perfect cube with what I can hear from knocking, as about 1-inch wood material which reminds me of the JL Audio’s rigidity with piano finish that to my eyes (I used to own an actual Yamaha baby grand) actually look like a piano. This is literally the first time in my A / V career that I can say the piano-finish actually look like a piano. Mirror like, glossy, completely flat surface with zero imperfections. I love it.

The Anthra Subwoofer Series offers a range of connectivity options which include RCA with LFE for daisy chaining up to four subwoofers, as well as XLR inputs for balanced audio installation options, which I highly recommend if you’re using more than one subwoofer as the balanced cable protects the low-level signal best against EMI and RFI.

A full-colour display and a rotary dial on the back panel allow users to access the setup selection menu, simplifying the setup procedure and integration of the subwoofers into a home theatre system. So, the MaestroUnite app is not really necessary although it does more than what you can do with the back panel controls alone.

All three models in this series can be used individually or in combination. The flagship model, the Anthra W15, features a 15-inch RST II C-CAM high-excursion driver powered by a Class-D 1,400 W amplifier. The Anthra W12 uses a 12-inch driver and a Class-D 900 W amplifier, while the very compact Anthra W10 utilizes a 10-inch cone driven by a 425 W amplifier.

Note: for those who are not well versed in Monitor Audio technologies, the C-CAM cones. These cones offer a higher resistance to bending stress, resulting in improved fidelity across the entire operating range and a more precise, dynamic, fast and lifelike sonic presentation. In a first for Monitor Audio set of subwoofer, the series also incorporates Rigid Surface Technology II (RST II) on its subwoofer cones. This innovative technology significantly enhances cone rigidity, preventing distortion by resisting mechanical bending forces that can distort conventional driver cones.


Setting it up
Monitor Audio’s proprietary MaestroUnite setup app further enhances the user experience by enabling a more advanced and deeper-menu configuration of the Anthra subwoofers according to personal tastes and system requirements. For systems utilizing multiple subwoofers, the app allows the same settings to be delivered across all units simultaneously. Which while not necessary, any time saved is always a welcome in the world of installation.

I then connect the subwoofer to the MaestroUnite app using its internal Bluetooth transceiver and did some manual calibration in the custom EQ setting (there are three slots for custom EQ). Or if you just want to plug and play, you can choose Movie mode for bigger bass sound (but not to the point of being bloated) or Music mode for more impactful bass without the bloat. Being a snob, I use my own calibration based on the reading on my Studio Six Digital Real Time Analyzer app captured using my US $1,200 calibrated microphone connected to my iPhone 13 Pro Max, applied SMPTE curve, and saved it to one of the Custom modes. Too bad, however, there is no auto EQ for self-calibration, something that’s been demonstrated by companies such as Sonos, MartinLogan, and MK Sound, amongst others, to be highly effective, even at the crudest point. No fret, however, I’m simply being nit-picky.

Let’s Get to It
For this product review, I opted for the 4K UHD physical media version of Oppenheimer with its superlative non-Atmos soundtrack and more specifically I watched the explosion scenes. The soundtrack is THAT dynamic and deep that most subwoofers will be having problem reproducing it. But not this sub. It kicks quickly and deeply. Even subtleties between one explosion to the next were reproduced distinctly with great details as opposed being simply loud loud loud when heard in the commercial cinemas. The same can be said with my usual Netflix 6 Underground bombastic bass during its first 20-minute opening scene, or the opening scene of Evil Dead Rise from Kaleidescape. The bass were loud enough yet very detailed; something that most people don’t realize that sub bass region can have a lot of textures and details.

Last but not least, I watched the opening scene of Saving Private Ryan. For the opening sequence, the low-end action started from the very beginning as the marine boats approached the beach and the German artillery shells were exploding on the water surface with the Anthra W12 offering a small glimpse of what is about to come. When the Allied soldiers reach the beach, the real barrage of sonic fun begins. There is so much low-end action in the whole sequence that it is very hard to distinguish specific moments but it is amazing how the sonic assault of a subwoofer made me smile. And I’m not even a bass-head.

The subwoofer didn’t lose a single moment and reproduced the terrifying rumble of the tanks with great authority. The shaking felt real as if a tank was right outside my theatre. Tank fire had the necessary weight while ordnance explosions and weapons fire had a very naturalistic tone to them.

Of course, no review is done until I tried multiple scenes from Star Wars The Phantom Menace, the pod race scene thumped in an impactful way but with subtleties intact. Of course, the vibration created by the Anthra W12 is not as big as what a 18-inches or 21-inches subwoofer can do, but then again, I prefer clean bass over the rumblings of uncontrolled bass. And the Anthra W12 sounded like most 15-inches subwoofers albeit the 12-inches size.

Scene after scene, movie after movie, song after song, this subwoofer never disappoints. It’s powerful, big sound, and dynamic all at the same time makes this sub a perfect companion even for something as mission-critical as a mastering studio. No, it won’t be waking up the neighbour, but then again that is not the type of crowd the Anthra W12 is geared towards anyway.

All in all, I have nothing negative to say about the W12. If anything, I wish Monitor Audio adds a bass auto-cal even at the cost of adding a bit more to the price. This will make an already studio-grade performance subwoofer to have even better value. The adage you get what you pay for is not valid where the W12 stands. With the W12, you get a lot more than what you paid for.

Price: $3,799

Warranty period: 5 years, parts and labour
Distributor: Kevro International Inc., T. 905.428.2800
Review Equipments
Panasonic, UB9000 THX Certified UHD Disc Player

Pioneer, Elite SC-LX704
Marantz, MA-500 THX Certified monoblocks x5
MK Sound, S150, V12+ and IC95 THX Certified Speaker System
JVC, RS3100 THX Calibrated 8K Projector
PixelGen, THX Certified HDMI cables
Stewart, Studiotek 130 G4 THX Certified screen
Vermouth Audio, Speaker Wires and Interconnects