V IS FOR VOLUME
Within the competition arena, 40 year old American company JL Audio, colloquially known as JL, is either the crown upon your head or the thorn in your side depending on which side of the fence you’re seated on. Tenacious owners of early JL products still rave about them, and I too harbour fond memories of these weapons from decades past.
The first generation W6 – retrospectively called W6v1 – was a hearty beast. The absolute pinnacle of sound quality subwoofers in its day, it was a serious force to be reckoned with. After years at the top JL chose to rework the W6 range, much to the dismay of many including this author. Not to say the evolved W6v2 didn’t improve upon its predecessors shortcomings; it’s just that some of the nostalgia and avant-garde prestige seemed to vanish with the original design. Yet despite the ensuing success an ever-proactive JL took the design back to the garden shed.
After spending many a late night with hammer and tong reworking the design JL Audio has now emerged with the powerhouse loveliness that is the new third version; the mighty W6v3! The W6v3 range is comparatively sparse comprising of only a 10in and 12in model, the latter of which we’ve opted to review. On the subject of diametrical girth it ought to be mentioned that while it’s nominally a 12-inch driver, in actuality it’s around 12.5-inches – rest assured that this is no accident.
If you examine your standard large surround 12-inch subwoofer you’ll discover its cone can measure as small as 8.5-inches. Given the cone is the primary physical element exciting the air molecules, this presents a unique hurdle to designers. The most common way of combatting this conundrum is to use what’s called an EROM surround which with its extended height allows for further excursion without impacting the cone’s working diameter. However many would argue that EROM surrounds don’t offer as much radial influence as traditional semi-circular shapes. Therefore if you want high output, while at the same time retaining some semblance of control, you’re only left with one realistic solution; you need to make your subwoofer a tad bigger. This is exactly what JL has done and to that end the 12W6v3 offers an effective cone area of 75.3-inches2. Let’s continue with the design intricacies. JL is an absolute master of its trade and the vast technological developments it’s achieved – many of them patented – can be found here in abundance. However, rather than frisbeeing a heap of acronyms at you, let’s explain this superb piece of subsonic engineering in plain English.
Starting at the bottom; the 12W6v3 begins with an enormous matt black cast alloy frame which has been meticulously machined in order to be as aerodynamically-transparent as possible. As mentioned, its somewhat oversized proportions measure 318mm wide with a healthy mounting depth of 191mm. Secured to the bottom is an enormous 178mm double stacked, Y35 grade strontium ceramic magnet. JL has paid considerable attention to the magnet shape and its positioning in relation to the DMA optimised motor structure.
Dynamic Motor Analysis, or DMA for short, is a proprietary system developed by JL during 1997. It scientifically analyses the motor’s intrinsic relationship with the magnetic flux and, through this technology, JL has carefully scrutinised the real world effects of fluctuating power and linear excursion upon the magnetic