JL Fathom F113
Subwoofers are one of the most desired components for a home theater. Unfortunately, understanding of what makes a good subwoofer is far less sought after by the folks that I speak to everyday about their home audio system. The objective is typically bass output over quality of sound. There are a few things I have learned about subwoofers over time and I hope this article provokes you into giving more time and consideration to the positive effects your careful choice will give you over the long run. Subs have changed a lot over the last few years and size is no longer a key factor in achieving good bass.
I have worked with and sold many of the popular sub companies while doing system design for people and their home audio systems. Most companies do a decent job with their subwoofer designs but they are simply a compliment to their speaker and surround systems. Few companies have the ability or the focus to make one or more great subs. The complexity of sub design just makes a good subwoofer hard to come by.
So the topic of this is the JL Audio Fathom F113 subwoofer. I have been a complete supporter of the the JL Audio home line of subs since one was brought into my store several years ago to test and put through its paces. First thing you notice is the sheer heft. Trying to move the F113 is difficult. If you need to lift it up stairs plan on a day with a chiropractor afterward. Due to the massive amplifier and box design the sub is one of the most dense speakers available. You believe there is a lot going on before you even hook it up to your system. The build quality is second to none. Anyone that has listened to different subwoofers knows this is a huge departure from the norm before they get started.
The subwoofer itself does what you would expect of any high end piece of audio gear. It plays with accuracy, control, depth, dynamics, and neutrality. What is surprising is the control this sub has at any volume level. The F113 has excellent sonic abilities and can be used with any high end two channel system for accurate reproduction. For home theater the requirements can be somewhat different. Some people want the ability to play loud. The JL can do this with ease at extraordinary volume levels. I will caution you that with a properly set up system you may want more bass from your sub. But, to do audio right you need control in the lower ranges and the JL uses its massive 4" voice coil to make sure you get control and accuracy at all times. The large heat sinks ensure that there is little problem with prolonged playback. The weight of the JL and the feet material selected by JL allows for precision movement of the driver. Better sound with attention to details all the way down to the feet of this behemoth.
As humans we learn to use anything people design into a product good or bad. When a new design shows how awful the prior attempts have been you realize that you have been putting up with a less than acceptable solution. What am I getting at? The controls and set up for the Fathom are right on the front of the sub. If you have ever had to lean over the back of a sub to make adjustments you know what I am talking about. The design and engineering team at JL obviously saw this as a short coming of all traditional subs. Moving the controls to the front allows you to do the set up and make corrections and not move the sub to do so. Easy to read, easy to change.
This move to the front created some challenges that had to be over come. JL is a company that understands the issues created by this departure and has addressed any negative audible change to the output of the sub. Clearly JL has a focus on all of the details to build a better speaker. Their attention to detail and tenacity of engineering staff make this a stand out speaker design not just in the subwoofer world, but of all speakers.
Speaking of the people at JL, it has been my pleasure to have learned about the subs from one of the key members of JL Audio. Carl Kennedy knows audio and has a passion that comes through. His passion about his products and the company are from a culture that I believe comes right from the top of JL Audio, Lucio Proni. Lucio has been know from years of car and marine audio to take his time in developing and testing his products thoroughly before introducing them. I believe he sets high standards for the products he makes and has a culture of very passionate people around him.
I believe the passion shown by the people at JL will make you believe you should have one of their subs in your system. I have one in mine...