other than the obvious of not playing it too loud and trying to thump the base, what suggestions are there for avoiding damage to the subwoofer? never turn the bass above this setting? how to balance between maxxaudio, system, and media player EQ settings, etc.
Nope, not true. I've already got distortion issues at normal low volumes now from it going bad and that's with me not over cranking or trying to have a bass party. Some movies are heavy with bass, like Guardians of the Galaxy, and too much can overload the speaker. I'm in the process of replacing it and want to try to avoid a second time.
helpful tips from some audiophile types would be appreciated (short of only using external speakers, too much clutter already on my desk and too much hassle for traveling).
I agree with both of you. The speaker should be able to withstand normal use, but we do get reports of these speakers failing so they might be under engineered. If the speaker is simply not rugged enough for normal use I don't know how you can protect it other than by keeping your fingers crossed.