Until recently, JL Audio was known primarily as a builder of ultra-robust, high-end car-fi components and for this reason I was at first skeptical when I learned the firm planned to enter the home audio marketplace with a series of high-performance subwoofers. My thought: Did I really want my listening room to sound like a tricked out Honda Civic Si “boom-booming” its way down Main Street with neon running lights aglow? No, thanks. But man was I wrong.
As it happens, the JL Audio guys are serious audiophiles who have both the technical know-how and manufacturing wherewithal to build worldclass subwoofers. In short, JL Audio strives to produce no-compromise subs that offer deeply extended bass response, high output levels, terrific transient speed and control, and very low levels of coloration. Impressed, we decided to review JL Audio’s smallest subwoofer, the Fathom f112, plus a pair of larger Fathom f113s, which were evaluated by The Absolute 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 slightly larger f113 sports a 2500-watt amplifier and a 13.5-inch woofer. Visually, the f112 and f113 are gems, albeit gems that weigh a staggering 115 and 130 pounds, respectively. 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 military standards. Both the f112 and f113 feature faceplatemounted controls for master volume levels, crossover frequencies and slopes, polarity, phase, extreme low frequency EQ trims, operating modes, and JL’s Automatic Room Optimization (ARO) system. The ARO system includes a calibration mic and provides auto-test/EQ functions that help the woofers compensate for the primary resonance modes of listening rooms.