Until recently_ JL by keara


									               JL Audio Fathom f112 and f113
               Martens         Powered Subwoofer

               Subwoofers of the Gods

                               ntil recently, JL    down Main Street with neon run-      Impressed, we decided to review
                               Audio was known      ning lights aglow? No, thanks.       JL Audio’s smallest subwoofer,
                               primarily as a         But man was I wrong. As it
                               builder of ultra-    happens, the JL Audio guys are         FA C TO I D !

               robust, high-end car-fi compo-       serious audiophiles who have
               nents and for this reason I was      both the technical know-how and          JL Audio holds eight patents on
                                                                                             core woofer, amplifier, and
               at first skeptical when I learned    manufacturing wherewithal to
                                                                                            enclosure technologies used in the
               the firm planned to enter the        build world-class subwoofers. In
                                                                                           Gotham/Fathom subs.
               home audio marketplace with          short, JL Audio strives to produce
               a series of high-performance         no-compromise subs that offer
               subwoofers. My thought: Did I        deeply extended bass response,       the Fathom f112, plus a pair of
               really want my listening room to     high output levels, terrific         larger Fathom f113s, which were
               sound like a tricked out Honda       transient speed and control, and     evaluated by The Absolute
               Civic Si “boom-booming” its way      very low levels of coloration.       Sound Editor-in-Chief Robert
                                                                                         Harley (It's good to be E-i-C).

                                                                                                  About the f112 and f113
                                                                                                  The Fathom f112 is a
                                                                                                  compact, 1500-watt
                                                                                                  powered subwoofer
                                                                                                 whose 12-inch woofer is
                                                                                                 capable of—picture this—
                                                                                                 three-inch excursions (by
                                                                                                 comparison, many
                                                                                                 woofers can move only
                                                                                                 fractions of an inch). The
                                                                                                 similarly-sized f113 sports
                                                                                                 a 2500-watt amplifier and
                                                                                                 a 13.5-inch woofer. Visu-
                                                                                                 ally, the f112 and f113 are
                                                                                                 gems, albeit gems that
                                                                                                 weigh a staggering 115
                                                                                                 and 130 pounds, respec-
                                                                                                 tively. Build quality and
                                                                                                overall fit and finish are
                                                                                                superb. But what’s really
                                                                                                impressive are the massive
                                                                                                JL Audio bass drivers
                                                                                                whose frames and motor
                                                                                                structures look almost like
                                                                                                they have been built to
                                                                                                                                 PHOTO CREDIT

                                                                                                military standards. Both
                                                                                                the f112 and f113 feature
                                                                                                faceplate-mounted controls
                                                                                            for master volume levels,

      76       February 2007   The Perfect Vision
                                                      JL Audio | (954) 443-1100 | www.jlaudio.com

crossover frequencies and slopes,    low-frequency test discs, and        f112 caught the almost seismic
polarity, phase, extreme low         found the f112 went lower, with      pressure wave generated when
frequency EQ trims, operating        greater output and control, than     the drum is struck, then the taut
modes, and JL’s Automatic Room       any other subwoofer I have used.     skin sound of the drum head
Optimization (ARO) system. The       On “Regular Pleasures” from          resonating, and finally the
ARO system includes a calibra-       Patricia Barber’s Verse [Blue        shuddering, modulated rumble

                                     [                                                                 ]
tion mic and provides auto-test/
EQ functions that help the
woofers compensate for the
                                        Through the f112, bass guitars, low winds and
primary resonance modes of              brass, low percussion, bass synthesizers, and es-
listening rooms.
                                        pecially pipe organs had the majestic power
The f112 in Action                      and clarity that they do in real life.
I sometimes advise TPV readers
that modest woofers are “not the     Note], for example, there is a       heard as each note decays.
last word in low-frequency           strong, recurrent concert bass       Through the f112, low-frequency
extension.” Well, let me begin by    drum theme, which the f112           instruments of all kinds—bass
saying that the Fathom f112          reproduced with floor-shaking        guitars, low winds and brass, low
pretty much is the last word in      power and surprising textural        percussion, bass synthesizers,
low-frequency extension, offering    subtlety. Many woofers produce a     and especially pipe organs—had
substantial output down to 20Hz. I   big, bloated, indistinct kerboom     the majestic power and clarity
tried the woofer with a variety of   on this track, but in contrast the   that they do in real life. The only

                                               1/2 Page

                                                                  www.theperfectvision.com    February 2007     77
     audio review: JL Audio Fathom f112 and f113

     catch, and I am not raising this
     point facetiously, is that that the
     f112 is so powerful that it can
                                                                    Robert Harley on the JL Audio Fathom f113
     expose anything in the room                                    I recently installed a pair   wall, and huge chunks         from subwoofers, and one
     that’s prone to buzzing or vibra-                              of JL Audio’s Fathom f113     of rock hit the ground        that greatly enhanced the
     tion—including (gulp!) sheetrock                               subwoofers in my system       with a thud. Through the      music and home-theater
                                                                    and was absolutely blown      pair of Fathom f113’s the     experience—a sense of
     panels not properly fastened to
                                                                    away by their perfor-         ground-shaking impact         solidity, and of hearing
     wall studs.
                                                                    mance. This subwoofer         was literally ground-shak-    the bottom end cleanly
        Film buffs sometimes ask if                                 delivers copious amounts      ing in my theater room.       without the impression of
     having true low-bass capabilities                              of extremely tight and            The Fathom’s extremely    a cone flapping back and
     adds much to movie watching                                    well-defined bass,            taut, quick, and tuneful      forth. The Fathom makes
     experiences, and the answer is                                 with superb transient         bass was evident on the       other subs sound loose
     that it does in both large and                                 characteristics. Unlike       concert performance of        and sloppy by contrast.
     small ways. In the famous “Under                               most subwoofers that are      John Mayall and the              Finally, I must com-
     Attack” scene from Master and                                  sluggish and bloated, the     Bluesbreakers on the oc-      ment on the Fathom’s
     Commander, for example, the                                    Fathom f113 reproduced        casion of Mayall’s seven-     exceptional build
     f112 gave the cannons distinct                                 transient bass signals        tieth-birthday celebration.   quality, uncompro-
                                                                    with explosive impact,        This long-running band        mised execution, and
     “voices” with downright subter-
                                                                    and then stopped just as      has a rhythm section          extensive feature set.
     ranean underpinnings. As a
                                                                    quickly, with no overhang     that’s sharp as a tack. The      The JL Audio Fathom
                                                                    or smearing. The result       Fathom not only didn’t        is of reference quality,
                                                                    was a greater sense of        put a drag on the beat        and a benchmark by
          The Last Word                                             power and definition. A       (as many subwoofers           which all other subwoof-
                     • Seemingly bottomless bass                    good example from mov-        do), but fully conveyed       ers can be judged. The
                       extension                                    ies is the gate siege from    the energy and excite-        fact that it’s relatively
                     • Phenomenal output
                     • Bass clarity is a revelation
                                                                    The Lord of the Rings: The    ment behind this band.        compact, and not over-
                     • ARO system really works                      Two Towers. An explosion          The Fathom f113 had       the-top-expensive, is
                                                                    blows up part of the castle   a quality I rarely hear       icing on the cake.
                     • Reveals everything in the room
                       that buzzes or vibrates
                     • You may need two for bigger
                     • Extremely heavy (ouch, my back)

          Fathom f112 powered subwoofer
           • Driver: 12" long-throw woofer
           • Integral power amplifier:1500 watts
           • Dimensions: 18" x 15" x 18.63"
           • Weight: 115 lbs.
           • Price: $2600–$2700, depending on finish

          Fathom f113 powered subwoofer
           • Driver: 13.5" long-throw woofer
           • Integral power amplifier: 2500 watts
           • Dimensions: 19.5" x 16.5" x 19.75"
           • Weight: 130 lbs.
           • Price: $3200–$3300, depending on finish

      JL Audio Fathom f112
      (rated in comparison to cost-no-object subwoofers)

      Bass Extension

      Bass Pitch Extension

      Bass Dynamics


      0      1   2     3    4    5     6    7     8        9   10        Model f113
          Poor                  Good              Excellent

78   February 2007              The Perfect Vision
                                                                   audio review: JL Audio Fathom f112 and f113

                                                 JL Audio's Fathom f112 and
                                                f113 subwoofers share these
                                                extensive, faceplate-mounted
                                                   controls. We wish more
                                                subwoofers followed the same

result, the cannon fire not only sounded deeper,
but much more frightening and ominous. Yet not
all of the benefits of the f112 involved big,
spectacular scenes. Early on in V for Vendetta,
for instance, the sound designer uses subtle low
frequency effects to underscore the sound of V’s
boot heels echoing in passageways as he walks
at night after curfew. Through most woofers the
boots make an empty “click,” but the f112 reveals
an extra layer of low bass that makes V’s footfalls
sound more purposeful—and threatening.
                                            The bottom
                                                                                    1/4 Page
    INSIDERS TIP:                        line is that JL                             RIGHT

   Follow JL Audio’s woofer placement    Audio’s
    guidelines, and then use the ARO     Fathom f112
    calibration process to fine-tune the offers
     f112’s sound.                       benchmark
in terms of bass extension, power, transient
speed, and clarity. It is beautifully made, easy to
use, and gives surefire results on music and
movies. The only limiting factor involves output,
where—depending on your room and listening
tastes—you might need to use two or more f112s,
or to step up to the larger Fathom f113 or Go-
tham g213. But setting aside questions of abso-
lute output, the f112 is about as good as subwoof-
ers get. TPV

                                                                               www.theperfectvision.com   February 2007   79

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