JL Audio Fathom f110v2 Subwoofer Review Page 2

Controls are hidden away behind a removable cloth grille on the subwoofer's front, but are easily accessed. They include a power switch (on/off and auto), low-pass filter (20-130 Hz) and variable phase (0-270 degrees) dials, a 0/180 degrees polarity switch, e.l.f. (Extreme Low Frequency) trim knob, and a master level control. Rear panel connections include stereo balanced XLR and RCA inputs and a balanced XLR output.

Double Trouble
My theater is approximately 5,000 cubic feet and screams for multiple subs, so I was thankful that JL Audio sent two of them. Setup took a bit longer than normal because I wanted to experiment with different placements of the compact subs—something that the lack of room size constraints gave me the freedom to do. I decided to use XLR cables for the connection between my Anthem AVM60 preamp/ processor and the f110v2 as well as to link the two subs together. AudioQuest was kind enough to provide two 8-meter Husky XLR interconnects for this review, and the well-built cables didn't disappoint.

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Following the guidance in JL Audio's user manual, I ended up placing both subs at the front of my room about two feet from the side walls beneath my M&K S150 L/R studio monitors. Outside of placing one of the subs behind me (an option vetoed by "She Who Must Not Be Crossed" since it blocked a walkway), these locations offered the smoothest response. The auto room correction was a breeze to use—plug in the mic, place it at ear-level in the money seat, press the Calibrate button on the Master sub, and the software starts to do its thing, with the entire process taking about 3 minutes. The before/ after results that I measured with REW (Room EQ Wizard room acoustics software) showed a bump in the 20-25Hz range but a 2dB dip at around 35Hz. If the subwoofers were being permanently installed, I'd take the time to do an EQ myself using REW and a MiniDSP, but that would take substantially longer than 3 minutes and the results wouldn't be a huge improvement. Need- less to say, D.A.R.O. will be more than adequate for the vast majority of listeners.

Performance
John Wick is a movie that gets better every time you watch it, especially on Ultra HD Blu-ray. Also, the plethora of gunshots and other bass-heavy effects in John Wick's Dolby Atmos soundtrack makes it particularly good for evaluating subwoofers. In the film, Wick has to come to grips with a new reality, one that forces him to literally dig up his past by breaking through a slab of concrete in his basement to retrieve a cache of weapons. Every strike of the sledgehammer is not only heard but felt in this scene, and the pair of f110v2s were more than up to the challenge. While my reference subs deliver more output below 20Hz in comparison, they don't measure up to the quality of bass I heard from the JL Audio drivers. These babies hit hard, really hard: Every impact from the f110v2 pair was precise and realistic, with a visceral quality that I felt in my chest.

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Next up: Hacksaw Ridge, one of my favorite movies of the last 10 years. Not only is this an inspiring story about a World War II hero, but it has an Atmos track to die for. I queued up a sequence where our boys are about to hit the battlefield for the first time and the Navy destroyers off the coast join in the fray. Average subwoofers can't handle this intense scene at reference level and end up bottoming out, but the pair of f110v2s didn't shirk their duty. When the guns moved into position, the subs proved able to shake my subfloor. And when the overhead barrage began and all hell broke loose, I was transported straight to the battlefield with explosions rocking the room. I used this sequence as an opportunity to turn the sub's e.l.f. Trim setting to +3dB, and I ended up leaving it there for the rest of my audition—that extra 3 dB really helped with low-end impact, and it also didn't cause any negative audible effects that I could detect.

Some of my go-to music tracks for subwoofer testing include "Fidelity" by Regina Spektor, "Blank Space" by Taylor Swift, "Baby" by Justin Bieber, and "Sleep Like a Child" by Joss Stone. These songs each test a subwoofer in a slightly different way, and I was impressed with how the bass on each of them was conveyed by the f110v2s. I was also impressed with how well the subs blended with my reference M&K S150 studio monitors (crossed over at 80Hz). I wrote down the following in my notes: tight, fast, clean, quick, deep— all the qualities you look for in a subwoofer.

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Conclusion
I've been impressed with 10-inch subwoofers in the past, most notably JL Audio's own D110, but for me there's now a new pint-sized sub champion. I was blown away by how well the f110v2 performed, and while $3,500 is undoubtedly expensive for an average consumer, you will get what you pay for if you can afford it. I was never left wanting when listening to even the most strenuous and LFE- intensive movie soundtracks, and I also heard plenty of bass heft and weight in the 20-50 Hz range when listening to music. Furthermore, the f110v2 might just be the fastest-sounding woofer I've ever encountered, and it was able to move a ton of air for such a small footprint. This experience has whetted my appetite to hear how JL Audio's larger offerings perform—I wouldn't object if the company sent me a pair of its F113s to test (hint-hint)! If you can afford the high cost of entry for one or, better yet, two f110v2 subwoofers, you won't be disappointed. This subwoofer's small size and great looks give it a high spouse acceptance factor, and having the ability for two units to work in tandem is a powerful bonus.

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COMMENTS
brenro's picture

I use two subs in my listening room but I calibrated them separately rather than calibrate one and slave the other to the same settings. One of the main benefits of two subs is to tame the rooms peaks/nulls so why would you want the second sub calibrated to the position of the first sub? Am I missing something?

jeffhenning's picture

There are a few reasons to do two subs together if in mono (both at the same time) or do them individually if they are in a stereo setup. Both are valid, but the results will vary on the room and the calibration algorithm.

Did I miss the part about porting one subs response to another? I didn't see that.

Regardless, no, porting one subs correction curve to another will not usually be optimum.

brenro's picture

In other words why would you want the frequency response curve of one sub woofer ported to a sub in an entirely different position in the room?

jeffhenning's picture

You would not want that. The only way that might work is if the room was perfectly symmetrical and the subs' placement were mirror imaged in the room. That, then, brings up a whole 'nuther set of problems.

jeffhenning's picture

Sorry, but that is insane. It may be the best 10" sub on the planet, but that price is wack.

You could buy six Rythmik L12 subs for less and have more clean bass than you can stand at 20Hz. For room correction, spend a few extra bucks on a MiniDSP Dirac processor if it's not already in your pre/pro.

This is the much smaller brother to that monstrosity by Magico that had a 21" sub driver and cost over $20K.

Both are absurd.

drny's picture

I use three 10" sealed subs to tame my open concept family/media room. The room is 3k cubic feet, but opens in one side to the kitchen and living room (an additional 4k cf). The main reasons to use 10" seal subs are two fold, compact size and value for the dollar. At $3,500 the Fathom f110 are most likely aimed at audiophile two channel stereo music enthusiasts. REL subs rule that market. For $3,500 there is a monster called JTR Captivator S2. Two 18"woofers on one sealed cabinet enclosure. I don't have the space (the wife said so), but I would jump on those if I could afford them.

David Vaughn's picture
It should also be mentioned that $3500 is the MSRP of these subs. Street prices through your dealer may be substantially lower. As for the JTR Captivator S2, the WAF of that sub is somewhere close to zero :)
mns3dhm's picture

You could buy 2 SVS 3000 subs for this price and have a lot of money left over.

David Vaughn's picture
When you use the room correction when the subs are in "slave" mode, it measures the response of both subs in the room and creates an ideal curve with them working together. As for the price, I get what you're saying, but you're discounting the WAF with these subs. These are very small and compact subs catered to a very specific market that none of the larger subs mentioned above would ever get consideration in. Fortunately, my wife will let me have mostly what I want in my room , but that's not always the case. I know people who have been told they need to "hide" the subwoofer in the room, which means it needs to sit under an end table. Finally, the JL Audio drivers are extremely impressive and have a very distinct and clean sound (and quite powerful for their size). They sound quite a bit bigger than their size, if that makes sense.
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