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JL Audio Subwoofers and Active Crossovers - CR1, E-Sub, Fathom, Gotham and IWS
by ct_acoustic_frontierJuly 06, 2022
Who are JL Audio?
JL Audio made their name in the car audio business. Unlike some other subwoofer manufacturers they make all the components that go into their subwoofers, including the W7 driver, enclosure and amplifier, in house in Miramar, Florida, USA. In 2007 they released the Fathom and Gotham subwoofers for home use. The IWS In Wall Sub series followed in 2009 and the E Sub in 2013. The CR-1 active crossover followed in 2014. Forthcoming are the Dominion and Fathom v.2 series.
JL Audio make some of the best subs in the world. The cabinets are small relative to their SPL output capabilities, the drivers are extremely well built, and most importantly the bass produced is tight and tuneful. The glowing reviews for all of their subs speak for themselves.
Models - E Sub
“I'm excited to offer JL Audio's new E-Sub series subwoofers to my clients. These subs are truly high performance pieces that combine proprietary long travel drivers with high power amplifiers in compact, nicely finished sealed enclosures. But the thing I really love is that they have proper bass management capabilities - in the form of a variable high pass output - that will allow me to perfectly integrate them with any speaker system out there.”— Nyal Mellor, Founder Acoustic Frontiers
JL Audio E-Sub subwoofers combine a state-of-the-art JL Audio subwoofer driver and electronics/amplifier package within a highly optimized enclosure to deliver an exceptional listening experience in your home theater or home audio system.
The subwoofer driver in the E-Sub subwoofer system is capable of outstanding linear excursion without distress or audible distortion. This purpose-engineered driver enables the E-Sub to reproduce powerful low-frequency events with stunning impact and outstanding accuracy. The E-Sub drivers offer peak-to-peak excursion capabilities well in excess of 2.5 inches (E110) or 3 inches (E112) to comfortably handle the dynamics of the most demanding program material.
To get the most from this long excursion driver platform, the E-Sub incorporates a precisely engineered switching amplifier. The E-Sub amplifiers are capable of unclipped output voltages equivalent to 1200W (E110) or 1500W (E112) RMS power, allowing us to take full advantage of each driver’s full excursion envelope.
The beautiful cabinet enclosing the workings of the E-Sub is also the result of careful engineering. To contain the pressures created by the E-Sub driver solid, CNC-cut, MDF material with extensive internal bracing features is utilized together with advanced assembly techniques.
The E-Sub's also include an on-board 2-way active crossover, permitting them to support a conventional 2-channel audio system by providing a high-pass filtered output to the main speakers’ amplifier, while delivering a low-pass filtered signal to the internal subwoofer amplifier. A polarity switch and phase control are provided to aid in achieving an optimal acoustic transition between the subwoofer(s) and main speakers. Inputs are via a pair of line level stereo RCA inputs or speaker level inputs.
JL Audio E110 Subwoofer:
10" driver; 2.5" peak to peak excursion
1200W short term RMS amplifier
13.5" (W) x 14.2" (H) x 16.5" (D); 53 lbs
$1500 Ash, $1700 Gloss
JL Audio E112 Subwoofer:
12" driver; 3" peak to peak excursion
1500W short term RMS amplifier
16.2" (W) x 15.5" (H) x 18.4" (D); 74 lbs
$1900 Ash, $2100 Gloss
Models - Fathom & Gotham
Equally good in high-end audiophile two channel systems and home theaters, these subwoofers are definitely some of the best on the market. Incorporating JL Audio's proprietary W7 driver and a powerful amplifier, this is a tour-de-force in sub design. Here is a summary of their features:
Switchable mono or stereo operation
Unbalanced RCA and balanced XLR inputs
ARO (Automatic Room Optimization) measures your room and counteracts the main modal resonance by implementing a parametric EQ filter in the analog domain
Ground lift switch to counter potential ground loop issues
Phase continuously variable from 0 to 280 degrees
Variable or fixed volume level control
Low pass filter variable from 30Hz to 130Hz with 12dB and 24dB slopes
Possible to completely switch off low pass filter for use with home theater pre-processors using internal bass management
F112 - 12" driver, 1500W amplifier, -3dB at 19Hz, $3500
F113 - 13.5" driver, 2200W amplifier, -3dB at 18Hz, $4300
F212 - 2 x 12" drivers, 3000W amplifier, -3dB at 19Hz, $6700
The Gotham is two 13.5" drivers in a custom made fiberglass cabinet at $12000.
Models - In Wall Subs
JL Audio released an in wall sub in 2009. They have two models - the IWS1 and the IWS2. The IWS1 is a single subwoofer cabinet driven by a 1000W outboard amp whilst the IWS2 is two separate cabinets driven by a 2000W outboard amp. Both systems are configurable and come as three parts: the amp, the driver and the cabinet / grille. Cabinets are available to fit into wall cavities from 3.5" to 6".
The IWS is THE best in wall sub on the market. The output of one sub is equivalent to a Fathom F112. The cabinet is extremely robust, made of a matrix CNC plywood assembly. The gimbal mounting method is also unique and significantly reduced vibrations coupled into the structure from the sub.
In wall subs are a great way to free up floor space and reduce clutter in your listening room or home theater. They are also an option with much higher 'SAF' (spouse acceptance factor) since all you see once they are installed is the grille (which can be painted for a completely custom look)!
1000W short term RMS amplifier
$4500 IWS1, $7500 IWS2
Models - CR1 Active Cross Over
The CR1 is an extremely high quality analog active crossover that enables integration of one or two subs into a high end audio or recording studio monitoring system. We're very happy that JL designed the CR1 because it is a perfect solution the common challenge of sub integration and bass management. Take a look at our blog article for more details on how to integrate a sub into a two channel system using an easy to use acoustic measurement package.
The lucky few who have heard a well-integrated subwoofer in a great audio system know that the subwoofer's effect is profound. While everyone expects the bass extension to improve, most are shocked at the transformation that occurs in the main speakers. They simply open up, delivering improved dynamics, superior imaging and more low-level detail. Many describe it as the greatest speaker upgrade they have ever made.
The CR-1 Active Subwoofer Crossover has been designed by audiophiles, for audiophiles. It offers a powerful combination of subwoofer/satellite tuning features, and a complete commitment to analog signal purity. To minimize distortion and noise, CR-1 employs top-grade component parts in its all-analog audio circuitry: 1% precision resistors, JFET-input audio-grade op-amps, polypropylene ﬁlm-and-foil capacitors and metallized-polypropylene ﬁlm capacitors, to name just a few. We also build CR-1 right here in the U.S.A., to ensure top quality and dependability.
Another of CR-1's unique and powerful features is a pair of rotary controls that control the damping of each ﬁlter bank. These damping controls dramatically improve the acoustic summing through the crossover region, by compensating for each speaker system's frequency response. At the center of the front panel, a single intuitive, rotary control permits quick adjustment of the relative level between the subwoofer(s) and main speakers.
CR-1's input-output design makes it equally adaptable to studio, mastering suite or audiophile two-channel playback environments. To accommodate dual-mode systems, we also include a bypass feature that engages a pass-through from a dedicated "Managed Bass Input" on the rear panel, to the CR-1's subwoofer outputs. This makes it convenient to switch from two-channel to multi-channel mode.
RCA, TRS and XLR inputs and outputs
Crossover frequency: 30-150Hz with independent main / sub crossover points
Crossover slopes: 12 or 24dB / octave Linkwitz-Riley with independent main / sub control
Ability to mono sub output
Bypass for integration into a home theater
Ground lift switch for combating ground loop issues
Much confusion still exists about what a room correction product does, what problems it can (and cannot) solve and therefore its 'place' in a modern high quality sound reproduction system. Part of the challenge of understanding room correction is that it requires a reasonable level of understanding of sound quality, acoustic science, acoustic measurement and psychoacoustics (how humans perceive sound). The majority of the articles I have read online or in print magazines do not cover the fundamentals in enough depth to allow the curious and committed reader a chance to understand room correction on anything more than a cursory level. By the end of this article I hope that you will have learnt enough to judge for yourself what room correction can and cannot do and how best to apply it in the context of a world class music or home theater system.