Electro-Voice combines slick modern design with excellent features across its entire line of loudspeakers and PA subwoofers. The EKX line holds a comfortable spot within its lineup as a good upgrade option over its entry-level lineup. In this review, I check out what the biggest PA subwoofer in the EKX line offers.
18-inch PA subwoofers are an excellent addition to any setup where you need additional low-end definition and rumble. These monsters of deep bass can drastically change how your gigs sound and are often a wise investment.
The EV EKX-18SP is a bold and powerful PA subwoofer with great features. But selecting an 18-inch subwoofer for your needs isn’t always as straightforward as it seems. Let’s dive in to see if the EKX-18SP is right for you.
The Electro-Voice EKX-18SP ticks the right boxes in the sound department. Often, large subwoofers can suffer from some muddiness as they push air around to deliver deep bass. But the EV EKX-18SP keeps everything smooth and defined with good character.
The punch in the low end is substantial, and the tonal characteristics of various sub-bass elements are rich and dynamic. As with much of the EV lineup, I find this subwoofer works best with pre-recorded music, especially bass-heavy genres.
The extension is solid, with the EKX-18SP able to get as low as 35Hz at a reduction of 10dB. This is a noticeable improvement over the smaller 15-inch model and ensures you can get smooth and punchy bass across small and medium-sized gigs.
“Aggressive punch with warm tonality and no distortion”
A pair of these is also a good option for larger spaces, but there is a slight issue at play. The limiter on the EKX line is a little aggressive for my liking. On the one hand, it does an excellent job of protecting the unit, but it prevents you from cranking this monster up.
For most gig situations, it should still be ample even with the slightly overprotective limiter, but if you are establishing a full-scale club setup that demands maximum power, you’ll be better off moving into a higher price bracket.
For mobile DJs with an existing pair of high-quality tops, the EKX-18SP is an excellent addition to provide warmth and punch to your gigs.
I’ve had the ability to test out a lot of PA subwoofers, and Electro-Voice stands out as one of the best choices for small to medium-sized gigs. Punchy, warm, and delightfully rich in tonality.
In all my years of testing out gear, there has never been a time where Electro-Voice products have let me down. The EKX-18SP is just the latest in a long line of EV products I’ve put through my stringent and sometimes over-demanding testing, and it passes with flying colors.
The rigid 15mm plywood cabinet is up to the challenge of frequent transportation. It also features additional internal bracing for maximum dependability. The EVCoat is equally fantastic and doesn’t scuff easily.
Electro-Voice develops all their woofers in-house.
The front grille matches the high quality of the rest of the unit and features 18 AWG steel with a powder-coated finish. It features an attractive pattern and holds up well to minor bumps. I’ve come across front grilles that dent at the slightest touch, so I’m happy to see that is not the case here.
Interestingly, I noticed that the EKX-18SP doesn’t suffer from the grille rattle problem I encountered with the 15-inch model. While testing the smaller model, I might have met one that slipped through the QC cracks. Or it could be that the 18-inch model features two reinforced bars for the grille instead of the solitary bar on the 15-inch model.
“Excellent quality from a brand with a track record of developing high-quality products.”
Moving to the unit’s rear, everything is as expected. High-quality connection points, a satisfying and robust master control knob, and a clear screen for DSP control.
As with all audio gear, I suggest you buy from a reputable dealer just in case you encounter an issue. But from my experience and the reports I’ve seen online, few people encounter problems. Electro-Voice is a brand I’ve come to trust, and I hope it stays that way for the foreseeable future.
The Electro-Voice EKX-18SP features the same power configuration as the 15-inch model. The Class D amplifier features 1,300 watts of Peak power that drives the EVS-18C woofer.
It’s prudent to highlight that the listed power value is Peak, not continuous. As is often the case, it can be difficult to ascertain true power potential just by going off this rating.
The EKX-18SP appears to have a high reach but has an aggressive limiter.
What highlights output more clearly is the maximum SPL of 134dB at Peak. For small gigs, you’ll have ample headroom. It will also perform well for medium-sized gigs, but be aware of the limiter. This unit cannot sustain very high volume levels and will cut in sooner than some might like.
The full frequency range at -10dB is 35Hz-180Hz, with a response of 40Hz-150kHz at -3dB. It’s a good range, but some subwoofers punch slightly lower. Despite this, I found minimal difference in practice and was more than content with the reach and depth that the EKX-18SP offers.
As for crossovers, you’ll have access to an adjustable crossover with 80Hz, 100Hz, 120Hz, and 150Hz options. Supplementing this is a range of presets for EV loudspeakers to streamline setup further.
The entire EKX line of PA subwoofers features a comprehensive DSP control menu. The screen at the rear gives you instant visible access to a deep menu. The screen is bright, clear, and legible, even in bright environments. Navigating the menu is easy and intuitive, with the Master Volume knob doubling as a control dial.
You can access MODE presets that include Music, Live, and Club within the menu. The Music setting is the default catch-all setting, and it works well, but if you want some extra oomph, the Club preset performs well with bass-heavy electronic music genres, albeit with less refined sound.
The DSP is straightforward to use and offers multiple options.
Diving further into the menu opens up the LOCATION option, which can set the unit to Cardioid mode. Reducing subwoofer output on stage by directing the bass forward and cutting rear output by up to 35dB when you have multiple subwoofers available is fantastic.
The crossover settings are also easily accessible within the LOW PASS menu, with ample choices to tailor the crossover point. Completing the options is a selection of options that control the LCD screen brightness and contrast, along with the ability to switch the LED light off.
It’s a solid selection of options that ensures the EKX-18SP can adapt to a variety of situations and various loudspeakers, whether they are from Electro-Voice or another brand.
Electro-Voice makes some of the best-looking products on the market. Excellent aesthetics for what is essentially a big black box. The angle on the front grille and the pattern give the unit a modern yet industrial aesthetic that I like a lot.
The EKX-18SP features a pole mount connection point.
The EKX-18SP also features a pole mount point for easy integration with speaker poles and tops. It also features small grooves for stacking woofers. Convenient metal handles help with transportation, but I’d suggest a trolley for a subwoofer this size.
If I were to nitpick, the only thing missing is the ability to have this subwoofer as part of a flight installation. But considering the target market, I’m not surprised that there are no flypoints present.
There is no way to sugarcoat things in this department. The Electro-Vocie EKX-18SP is a large subwoofer that can be awkward to transport. That’s the case with most 18-inch subwoofers, but it is still something to keep in mind if you are a solo artist or don’t have much room in your vehicle.
The EKX-18SP is a large subwoofer that can be awkward to transport.
Continuing in the transportation theme, the EKX-18SP comes in at 72.4 lbs. (32.8 kg). While this is not overly massive compared to some other 18-inch subwoofers, it’s still rather hefty. Once again, I suggest a hand trolley to make things easier.
The back of the unit is simple, with a small selection of connection options. You’ll have access to two input XLR/TRS combo jacks and two XLR output connections. It’s simple and exactly what you would expect from a PA subwoofer and allows you to chain multiple units together for a comprehensive setup.
A standard selection of professional connection options.
Note, as with all PA subwoofers, you’ll need to supply your own cables, and this is one area I suggest you don’t cheap out on, as poor-quality cables can have a negative impact on sound quality.
One of the most appealing aspects of the EKX lineup and the EKX-18SP is the excellent value it offers. It might not be the cheapest in its class, but a solid balance exists between performance and build quality.
I want to mention this is where it is critical to assess your current and potential future needs. Opting for a larger subwoofer is a safe bet for future-proofing, but if you do primarily play smaller spaces, you can look at the smaller 15-inch model if you want to save yourself some money.
On its own, the EKX line is in a good spot within the overall Electro-Voice ecosystem of loudspeakers and subwoofers. It’s a nice upgrade from the ELX range but far more affordable than the top-of-the-line ETX range.
The EKX range of loudspeakers and PA subwoofers consistently receive top scores from customers worldwide. Four and five-star reviews are the norm, with only the occasional lower score. More often than not, this relates to the limiter I’ve discussed. Still, the vast majority have found that the EKX-18SP has provided them with precisely the level of output they needed.
Crowd Size Matters
The number of people at a venue can significantly impact the perceived loudness of loudspeakers and subwoofers.
As the crowd size increases, the sound waves produced by the speakers are absorbed and dispersed by the audience, resulting in a decrease in perceived loudness. This is because sound waves encounter more obstacles (people) in their path, causing them to lose energy and become less intense.
Large crowds absorb more sound.
A larger crowd can also create a higher ambient noise level, which masks the sound produced by the loudspeakers and subwoofers, making them appear less loud. These two factors can rapidly make it feel like your output level is insufficient and send you racing to dial up your system.
However, if you don’t have a system with enough headroom, you can rapidly begin to engage the limiters on your gear, so if you do play larger gigs, opt for multiple large subwoofers like the EKX-18SP.
As mentioned in the intro to this review, selecting the right PA subwoofer can be challenging. While the EKX-18SP is a solid choice, there are alternatives worth exploring. Below, I cover some other 18-inch subwoofer contenders.
EV ELX200-18SP Review
If you are not quite ready to jump up to the more expensive EKX line of subwoofers, the ELX range from EV is an enticing budget alternative.
- Solid output with a respectable 132dB Max SPL.
- Impressive build quality for a PA subwoofer at this price point.
- It requires some tuning if you intend to use it for live sound.
Mackie DRM18S Review
One of the most popular challengers to the EKX-18SP is the DRM18S from Mackie. This powerful and punchy PA subwoofer offers superb output and performance features.
- Loud and well-defined bass tonality with a high volume ceiling.
- Modern design aesthetic and multiple installation options.
- Noticeably heavier than the EKX-18SP.
PreSonus ULT18 Review
PreSonus is another trusted brand in the live sound market, and the ULT18 is one of the best 18-inch PA subwoofers available. It’s a fantastic investment with high-quality sound.
- Very loud output potential with 2000W peak power and 1000W RMS.
- Ultra-tough cabinet and grille for maximum peace of mind.
- Higher price point than the EKX-18SP.
Should You Buy?
EV’s run of delivering high-quality products continues with the EKX-18SP. I’ve had the chance to test both the loudspeakers and subwoofers in the EKX product line and I’m impressed with what this lineup from Electro-Voice offers for both beginners and pros.
While the overall output power might not be enough for some people, the vast majority will find the EKX-18SP a powerful and capable PA subwoofer with lush and inviting bass tonality. There is little to complain about when you factor in the excellent build quality and approachable price. If you want to buy an 18-inch subwoofer at this price point, the EKX-18SP is among the best.