JL AUDIO FATHOM F112V2 SUBWOOFER
This is a smooth, immensely powerful and highly musical subwoofer that doesn’t take up too much space!
Heavy. Really heavy! Whatever JL Audio’s Fathom f112 v2 subwoofer may lack in size—and it only measures 384 4×470×451mm, so is relatively compact so far as high-end subwoofers go—it more than makes up in weight. It’s 53kg. Wow!
The Fathom f112v2 presents as a rather beautiful deep, lustrous black gloss cabinet that is completely sealed and sports a very high-quality 300mm driver (as you can see from the exploded diagram included in this review). The small, sealed cabinet volume means that as the driver cone moves to and fro, alternately rarefying and compressing the You can cover the entire front panel with the supplied grille, but I liked the look of the Fathom without it.
The balanced inputs on the rear are the combo XLR/ TRS sockets found on professional gear. air inside the enclosure, the forces opposing the cone movement are enormous, so JL Audio has provided an amplifier rated at 1,800-watts to drive the cone and built the enclosure to an astonishing level of rigidity… which explains the weight.
If you don’t like the look of the Fathom f112v2’s front control panel, you can cover it with the supplied grille, but I liked the look without it. The panel holds (from left to right) a power switch (On/Off/Auto), Calibration Microphone Input, ‘Demo’, ‘Defeat’ and ‘Calibration’ buttons, Input Mode indicators (Master/Slave), Level Mode Control (Reference/Variable), Master Level Control, Lights (Off/Dim/On), Low Pass Filter (Off/12dB/24dB), Low Pass Filter (30–130Hz), extended low frequency trim (–12dB to +3dB), Phase Control (0–270°) and Polarity Switch (0/180°). I’ll go into more detail about these later.
The rear panel has both balanced and RCA inputs accepting both stereo and mono inputs. The balanced inputs are the combo XLR/TRS sockets found on professional gear. (TRS means Tip/Ring/Sleeve and is identical to a 6.35mm headphone connection except that the tip and ring are the signal and return wires, while the sleeve is for shielding.)
Much of the F112v2’s 53kg weight can be attributed to the massively constructed bass driver. There is no speaker-level input. A switch is provided to lift the system from the earth should there be any hum problems. Another switch selects between Master and Slave operation, because you can daisy-chain up to ten of these subs together. If you do this, the first one becomes the ‘master’ and all control settings from it are ‘passed-on’ to the ‘slaves’.
Digital Signal Processing is integral to the operation of the Fathom F112v2 and to make best use of it there’s an automatic calibration system (a microphone and cable are provided) to tailor the response of the F112v2 for best performance in your room. JL Audio’s Digital Automatic Room Optimisation (DARO) system is exceptionally easy to use. You plug in the microphone lead, press the calibrate button, dash back to your seat, hold the microphone where your head is and wait three minutes while the test tones are run and the system does its work, via an 18-band equaliser.
If you have any doubts about whether the equaliser (it’s all done via DSP, so the horrors of old-fashioned analogue EQ are neatly avoided) is worth it, you can use the ‘Defeat’ button to switch back and forth to see which one you prefer. For me? Oh, yes, yes, yes! Unfortunate room modes were wiped out. Bass guitar scales actually became even in level, rather than variable according to note.
IN USE AND PERFORMANCE
For those who don’t think really deep bass is important, try listening to some of the great Bach organ works with—and without—a subwoofer. Bach was not reluctant to use the pedals in his music. His Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor finishes each section on the bottom C pedal. On Telarc’s recording using the Great Organ at Methuen (with its 6,000+ pipes), the fundamental frequency of that note is 16Hz. On lesser organs it’s 32Hz. And unlike a piano, an organ pipe produces a lot of energy at 32Hz!
The Fathom f112v2 couldn’t quite reach 16Hz, but it certainly filled the listening room with near-infrasonic energy conveying that space, making my listening room a hall in Massachusetts with a 20-metre high ceiling, the other dimensions similarly generous. There’s something about very deep bass, just on the edge of one’s levels of perception, which acts on one’s sense of where one is and what one’s surroundings are. This subwoofer delivered that without reservation.
As each section of music concluded its descent through the C minor scale to the deepest bass note, the whole room throbbed—just as it does with a real organ in a real church. More prosaically, a subwoofer combined with high-quality compact speakers—I used models which perform beautifully to below 60Hz—improves the sound quality and performance of those speakers by relieving them of the burden of delivering capacity-sapping deep bass… and the sound produced by the Fathom f112v2 integrated so well with that of my main speakers that it was as though they were part of those very speakers.
A variety of recordings in a wide range of genres—including gorgeously recorded jazz works from Blue Coast Records on DSD, pop, rock and some fairly hard stuff—was auditioned in succession, and the result was the same with all: an appropriately deep bass underpinning the work of the main speakers, closely matched in timing and tone, but with a seeming limitless ability to reach any crescendo required by the music.
In the tracks Wrapped Around Your Finger and Tea In The Sahara (from ‘Synchronicity’, by The Police), the fundamental tones of Sting’s bass guitar were as one with the upper harmonics, with no sense of separation between the frequencies delivered primarily by the sub and those by the main speakers. The timing was impeccable… as it also was with faster material, such as the self-titled album from Rage Against the Machine (oh, that opening riff of Bullet in the Head!). Smooth, deep and powerful bass without any reasonable limit. And, it should be needless to say… but I will anyway… the Fathom f112v2 did a superb job with movie soundtracks as well.
If you’re after high performance subwoofer that will deliver the bass you’re probably presently lacking, the JL Audio Fathom f112v2 is a smooth, powerful and highly musical subwoofer that’s right up there with the best of them.