JL AU­DIO FATHOM F112V2 SUB­WOOFER

Australian HIFI - - CONTENTS -

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 EQUIP­MENT

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’.

CAL­I­BRA­TION

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.

CON­CLU­SION

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.

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