In this article: We'll take a first look at Fusion's brand new Signature Series 3 12in marine subwoofer. We'll walk you through all of its new features, including Fusion's CRGBW LED lighting.
I can't think of a good stereo on a boat that didn't have a good subwoofer to go with it. Larger, full range speakers (like an 8″ or 6×9) will give you some base, but you really need a 10+ inch subwoofer in an open setting like a wakeboard boat to round out the sound.
Only a few years ago finding a high performance, high output marine grade subwoofer was actually a more challenging task than you would think. There was always a better performing, better sounding car subwoofer that was, in most cases, cheaper too! Manufacturers are catching onto the growing need for a high performing subwoofers for boats. As a result, it's actually getting a little easier to find one that'll perform the way you'd expect it to, and maybe even be a little more affordable than it used to be.. maybe..
Meet Fusion's latest addition to their line of marine subwoofers – the Signature Series 3 12″. Announced on Feb 12th, this subwoofer is a rendition of it's predecessor – the Signature Series (without the 3). Fusion has made a recent push to introduce some really competitive marine equipment with their Signature Series 3, including their Signature 3 Tower Speakers, Subwoofers and Interior Speakers. All of which have some fresh new features, a some refreshed looks and improved performance.
We were lucky and got our hands on one of these subs before they were on the market and in this review, we'll take you through our process of un-opening the subwoofer and give you our first impressions. We'll also walk you through all of it's key features, like Fusion's new CRGBW LED lighting. As always, we like to note that these First Looks are not a testing and tuning article. Check out our full stereo install on an Axis A22 for more details about the install and performance.
For those of you who may not know, Fusion is now a Garmin brand. In 2014, Garmin announced the acquisition of Fusion Electronics to add to it's growing line of marine and automotive products. Fusion was founded in New Zealand in 1998 by Sir Peter Maire as a home grown car audio brand and grew to be a global audio brand. As Fusion grew, they entered into the marine world extending their established audio tech into the world of boats. With over two decades of engineering and designing automotive and marine electronics, Fusion's focus is quality and acoustic excellence.
Unboxing & First Impressions
Maybe I'm partial to subwoofers, but I genuinely enjoyed every aspect of the opening of Fusion's Signature Series 3 12in subwoofer. From the box and the first thing you see when you open it – all the way through inspecting the hardware and subwoofer.
When you begin to open up the box, the first thing you'll see is the manual and an installation template. Believe it or not, I've seen a few good subs come without either one. The template, to me, is one of the first signs that they were thinking about the details. Underneath the manual and template is the top of the packaging. Once this is removed you get a good first look at the face of the subwoofer.
When you finally remove all of the inner packaging, you'll get to the subwoofer. It's facing forward for the ‘wow' factor when you get a glance and wrapped in plastic for protection. And immediately, you can tell by looking at the sub in the box that it's not an average size sub. This is an oversize subwoofer, similar to the JL M7 12IB, where the actual diameter of the subwoofer, including the grille is 14″, the bolt hole diameter is 12.81″ and the mounting diameter is actually 12″. You can see some of the comparison subwoofers' dimensions:
|Subwoofer||Overall Diameter||Bolt Hole Diameter||Cutout Diameter||Mounting Depth|
|JL Audio M7-12IB||14"||12.8"||12.1"||7.9"|
|Wet Sounds REVO 12 FA/HP||12.7"||12.2"||11.1"||5.3"|
|Rockford Fosgate M2D4-12IB/12S||13.9"||12.2"||10.9"||5.24"|
|Fusion Signature Series 3||14"||12.81"||12"||8.06"|
|Polk Audio MM1242||12"||N/A||11"||5"|
The two things that matter to me the most are the mounting diameter, which is closest to the cone diameter measurement in most cases and the mounting depth, which is a good indicator of excursion. Both of these measurements can be somehow or another related back to the volume of air that the subwoofer can push. The higher, the better in most cases for a subwoofer. So it's good to see that the Fusion is competitive with some of the largest 12″ marine subwoofers on the market.
The next thing I looked at was the grille, checking for strength and just overall looks. In this review, we looked at the chrome black sports grille but they also have a white sports grille without chrome. The design is aggressive but I would like to see some polished designs as well for the folks who don't favor chrome. Out of the box, the grille is fixed. Most likely because of the LED lighting and wiring that comes standard with all of the Signature Series 3 products.
Moving past the grille you'll notice the cone which has a woven fiber look. We'll get more into the details later in the article about the cone. But it looks very high-end and aggressive.
The casing, terminals, wiring, spider – these are all where you'll really see the difference between a marine subwoofer and an automotive subwoofer. Everything is well-sealed in the casing and you can really sense it was built and tested to be water resistant and to withstand the elements. The motor is pretty much completely sealed. Although I'm not able to tell if the rear side of the motor is sealed – there's a white perforated grille on the back side that looks like water would easily pass through it but I cant see behind that grille.
I don't normally mention anything about hardware, but I have to with this sub because they chose to include two deutsch plugs to simplify the wiring (you don't have to use a terminal plug or solder the wire to the terminal) and to create a reliable connection that's water resistant. Even the JL M7-12IB leaves exposed terminals for you to figure out how to make water and moisture resistant. Deutsch plugs are expensive! So the fact that Fusion added these in means they were really thinking about the end user and the environment that these subs are being put in.
What's In The Box
- 12″ Fusion Signature Series 3 Subwoofer
- 6 stainless steel mounting screws
- Installation template
- 1 2-pin Deutsch plug (male and female)
- 1 6-pin Deutsch plug (male and female)
Sound Features: Displacement, Power Handling, Excursion
Looks aside, Fusion's Signature Series 3 subs need to be engineered to perform in tough environments. They come in both a 10″ and now a 12″ model. It's worth noting that these subs are not Free Air/Infinite Baffle subwoofers which means they require a sealed or ported enclosure. If you're not familiar with what a free air subwoofer is and whether or not you require one, you can read more about it in this article. Let's dive into some of the design and engineering behind the sound-specific features.
The Series 3 Subwoofer's cone first strikes you as a woven carbon fiber material. But speaking with the Fusion folks, this isn't the whole story. It's actually a polypropylene cone, and it also doesn't have the CURV technology like it may appear to have. The giveaway is if you look behind on the backside of the cone you'll notice a black polypropylene cone – no woven material. I'm assuming the woven look is to match with the design and style of the rest of the signature series 3 products, but it's not actually a functional feature.
It's important to note also the oversized cone as well. I placed a table above with a few different subwoofer measurements for comparison. The one metric that I normally use to get a sense of the cone size without actually measuring it is the ‘cutout diameter'. This is more of an indicator than anything but what you'll notice is that the cutout diameter is larger than many of it's competitor's 12 inch subwoofers (11 15/16″). In many cases, the larger the cutout diameter, the larger the cone and cone-surround area. And the larger the surface area of the cone, the more air it'll displace and in theory the higher the dB output.
For power, you're going to want a bigger amp. The RMS for the Series 3 12″ sub is 700W at 4 ohms. This is among the highest power handling for a marine grade subwoofer that we've seen at this time. JL's M7 is a close 2nd with 600W at 4 ohms. But power handling doesn't always determine volume, although there's a correlation in most cases.
Excursion is the distance that the cone has to travel back and forth. Excursion is normally higher for speakers (like subs) that produce lower frequency sound. The Signature 3 Series has a total of 18 mm Xmax. When compared to the Wet Sounds REVO 12 HP's Xmax of 11.5mm, the Signature Series 3 has around 65% more excursion. Similarly, when compared to the Rockford Fosgate M2 series 12in sub which as around 15mm Xmax, the Series 3 has around 20% more. JL Audio's M7-12IB has the Fusion's excursion beat by .5 mm (at 18.5 mm), but as you can tell the Fusion has a high excursion when compared to some of it's competitors.
- Max power: 1400W
- RMS power: 700W
- Frequency response: 20 Hz – 2 kHz
- Sensitivity (1 W/ 1 m): 86 dB
- Impedance: 4 ohms
- Nominal voice coil diameter: 100 mm
- Amplifier power-rating recommendation: 200 to 1000 W RMS (while playing music)
- Min. mounting depth (clearance): 8 5/32 in
- Mounting diameter (clearance): 12 3/64 in
- Grille height form the surface: 2in
- Compass-safe distance: 181 in
- LED Supply Voltage (Sports Model Speakers only): 10.8 – 16 Vdc
- LED Load Current at 14.4 Vdc (Sports Model Speakers only): 300 mA
- Operating temperature range: 32 to 122F
- Storage temperature range: -4 to 158F
- Cone material: Polypropylene cone with rubber surround
- Water and dust rating: IEC 60529 IP65
- Sealed enclosure volume when fully filled with absorption material: >= 60L (2.12 ft.)
- Port (vented) enclosure volume when lined with absorption material: 250L (8.83 ft.)
- Port diameter: 101.6 mm (4 in)
Marine Specific Features
Like the Fusion's Signature Series 3 Tower Speakers, their subwoofers are designed to withstand the elements and have a number of marine-specific features.
- Polypropelyne cone
Corrosion & Water Resistant Protection:
- Polypropelyne cone with a rubber surround
- Stainless steel hardware
- Deutch connectors for concealed wiring
- Water tight motor design
- IP65 Rating – IP65 is protection from water, dust, salt, fog and UV.
New CRGBW LED Lighting
One of the differentiators between these subwoofers and the others on the market today is Fusion's innovative LED lighting feature. Fusion introduced a new enhanced lighting system that they claim is an industry first. For the folks reading this that are looking for the best, most customized look on the water at night this is for you!
Fusion is calling the Series 3's lighting CRGBW. Normal LED lighting on marine subwoofers like JL, Kicker, Wet Sounds and etc are a blend of 3 LED colors – red, green and blue (RGB). Fusion added two additional ‘colors' to the mix for a total of 5 LED colors – cool white, red, green, blue, warm white. The LEDs are mounted to the back side of the subwoofer's grille to fire the light towards the cone of the speaker.
Now, you can pretty much get all of the colors that you might think you want with a standard RGB LED lighting. Just look at the M6 series from JL. But what the added warm and cool whites will do is really enhance the spectrum and add a much wider range of color with richer color tones than the traditional RGB. We tested the colors out here to show you. Let's start by walking through some of the standard colors without the cool and warm whites added. For the sake of my time (and yours) I went through some of the key ones but you can really go through an even broader spectrum of colors. Take a look:
Using Fusion's CRGBW wireless lighting remote and module, I took the subwoofer through the entire range of colors. Wiring up LED module very straight forward – it tells you which color speaker LED wire goes where. Simply wire the speaker LED wiring to the matching label on the module, and then to a 12v power and ground. Note that you'll have to combine all of the LED wires from all speakers into one, then connect it to this module. For example, if you have 6 interior speakers, two tower speakers and subwoofer that all have the LED functionality, you'll technically have 9 of each colored wire (e.g. turquoise) to combine into one. Once they're combined you can secure them to the module.
The wireless lighting remote really makes it easy to tune the color to what you want. You can chose between 25 preconfigured lighting patterns or choose your own custom colors in a static or dynamic mode. It's touch control and color select wheel make it quick and intuitive to scroll through the spectrum and stop when you find something you like. This is nice if you're really looking for a specific color to match the interior or dash color of your boat.
To walk you through the remote image here, at the top you have the power control – turn the lights on and off. Below that is the color spectrum that you simply tap or scroll to get the color you want and the speakers will respond. Below the spectrum is where it may get a little confusing but once you figure it out it's smooth sailing.
On the bottom left you have the Warm White control. Click on the WW button to turn the warm white on, and then control the intensity of the warm white with the + and -. In the middle, use the “M” to turn on a cycling range of colors and the + and – above the “M” to adjust the speed at which the lights cycle through colors. On the right, the “CW” will turn on the cool white and the “CW” + and – will control the intensity of the cool white.
Here's what's important to note:
- With cool white (CW) and warm white (WW) turned completely off, you'll get your very dark, vibrant and traditional RGB colors.
- Cool white (CW) and warm white (WW) are additive to the traditional RGB colors. Think of it as turning another light bulb on that will change the look and shade of the traditional RGB colors.
- You can add in cool white (CW) and warm white (WW) separately or together.
- Depending on the intensity of each (or both), cool white (CW) and warm white (WW) will alter the shade of color – this is what sets this new CRGBW feature apart from it's competitors.
I was surprised at how wide the spectrum of colors really is. You can get almost any color you want when you combine a normal RGB available color with the cool and warm whites. I also wasn't sure how well the LED would reflect off of the woven subwoofer cone but the lighting and color is good. I think a more reflective cone like Kicker's KMTC cone would be a boost in how impactful the colors are though.
And like I mentioned earlier, the lighting module will enable you to connect to all of your speakers at once if you want, syncing up all of the speaker LEDs together to make a pretty incredible lighting experience if you have all interiors, tower speakers and subwoofer with CRGBW LED functionality.
All-in-all, I have to say this is a pretty cool feature if you like customization options. Here's a quick example of how the cool and warm white options works using a base color of red, but you can do this to any base color that you want. Note this was demoed on their tower speakers, but the concept is the same on the subwoofers.
Summary & Final Thoughts
When you pull the Series 3 12″ subwoofer out of the box you really get the feeling that these things will slam (we'll see when we install them). There's a lot of attention to detail that I like – the sealed enclosure, the woofer design and look to match the other speakers in the series 3 lineup, the specs and dimensions… They are stylish and have an aggressive grille but personally I'm not the biggest fan of the chrome. They also have a white sports grille as an option though, which has no chrome. I might sound like a wiring geek but I also really love the deutch connectors. I use deutch connectors whenever I can when I wire up a boat so this just really fits my wiring OCD mentality and shows that they weren't trying to really spare an expense.
These subs are really competitive with the best marine subs on the market too when you look at all the features and specs. Where the Signature Series 3 subs really ‘shine' though is with the CRGBW tech. Fusion made these speakers to put on a show at night and really brought a level of LED customization that's unmatched right now with their cool and warm white addition. I think if you're looking for a high end, oversized 12″ marine grade sub that's fit for a sealed/ported enclosure this is absolutely a great choice. In fact it's probably among the best on the market right now.
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