Sometimes You Want a Classic

Deciding Between Classic 98 and T/9x: A Guide to Finding Your Perfect Match

As we celebrate the recent launch of Classic 98, we are thrilled to witness the wave of positive reviews rolling in from reviewers and the buzz generating within the industry. It’s clear that Classic 98 is not just meeting expectations but exceeding them, carving out its own special place in the hearts of audiophiles around the world. If you’re someone considering this model, but are wondering whether our longtime best seller in the category, T/9x, will better serve your needs, we thought we’d take a few minutes and walk you through the decision-making process that we’d  use if we were in your position. Who better to help you sort through this than the product designer, right? We know what both models can do and we have everything to benefit from providing helpful guidance. The  great news is that they’re both wonderful choices.

First impressions matter! It either hits you or it doesn’t (I refer to the styling). If you’re into vintage cars, vintage clothing, vintage decor, and furnishings that run toward the comfortable side of the street, stop debating and buy a Classic 98. and stop thinking. Sumptuous, all-natural walnut wraps 360 around the entire cabinet, not even a grille to distract, with black on black feet. It’s a feast for the senses. If you own a pair of 20+ year old wood speakers,it’s game, set, and match. Don’t forget, all performance characteristics being equal, the way something looks may be the biggest single differentiator among products.  

 Many(statistically most) will prefer the quiet, expensively detailed modern styling of our T/9x. In fact,pretty much every review of the T/9x starts by complimenting its styling and build quality. Since there’s no right and wrong here (beauty being in the eye of the beholder, and all that), let’s move on.

Sound quality? Okay, that’s far too broad a category – so let’s break it down. When it comes to subs, it starts with speed, moves on to the depth of bass (how real–world low does it go), next comes maximum output and the scale of sound; a subwoofer can play loud and even go down fairly deep but scale (ie:the “bigness” of its sound) is a unique property. And finally, quietness, as strange as that may sound.

  1. Speed: This one goes to the T/9x hands down. It’s simply the 2017-2019 Porsche Carrera 911 T, which , with slightly lighter weight and lower gearing is simply scaldingly quick once the tach swings around to 4500 rpm. By contrast, Classic 98 is more of a Morgan Plus 8 (please make mine a 2012-2018 version with the 4.4 litre BMW V8). It’s no slouch and a wonderful period piece. Pull up in one of these and see what gets more attention. Yes, the 911 will have its way with the Morgan on a twisty road, but that misses the point. Both Morgan and Classic 98 arrive as events unto themselves. Who builds a car using an ash wood frame? Who builds a bespoke, authentic late ’90s era subwoofer with updated reliability in 2023?  T/9x wins by a head.
  2. Depth of bass: Both go pretty damned deep, folks! And, while the T/9x outperforms Classic 98 by a single Hertz, what’s more meaningful is how they arrive at their numbers. Where the T/9x is pretty much pistonically linear perfection at this price, Classic 98 has this lovely swell of low bass that feels as though it carries lower than its numbers suggest. Whether this rich quality is of benefit has more to do with your speakers; already feeling as though they’re too plump? T/9x is your sub. Want a touch more fullness to the bottom end? Can’t go wrong with Classic 98. Let’s call this one a tie.
  3. Scale: Both units have an uncanny ability to sound bigger than they are. Partly because the down-firing driver on Classic 98 produces room-filling bass that seems to flow out till it hits every wall in the room, then folds back on itself reinforcing the sense of scale. In this category, Classic 98 ekes  out the narrowest of victories over the T/9x.
  4. Quietness: What we refer to here is the ability to go from full throttle to q-u-i-e-t quickly and completely. Somewhat related to its win in the speed category, T/9x has a startling ability to stop and go silent. Credit the FibreAlloy driver that is both (slightly) stiffer and better damped, asalloy damps better than paper. T/9x wins by a nose.

In the end, a few factors are going to come into play. The score looks like 2-1-1; two victories for the T/9x versus one clear win for Classic 98 and finally a tie in the deepness category. But that’s missing the point. Which one is going to bring you more joy? If you love theatre more, T/9x is your choice. If music is your primary pleasure and you want a super simple “set it down and it sounds great“ experience, then Classic 98 is your sub of choice. Own any speaker under $4,000– $6,000 (yes, with pairs, they can handle this chore) made with walnut? Then Classic 98 is a shoe-in. Ultimately, 80% of you will know within 30 seconds of seeing them which one pushes the right buttons. Personally, I’ve been looking for an excuse to audition a pair of the lovely Tannoy Autograph Mini’s in walnut and I love the idea of another fun system in our home, maybe in the master suite. After all, this hobby is all about having fun so why not a 4th system?

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September 15, 2023 - Posted in: System Thinking