Hands On: JL Audio Fathom f112 Subwoofer
The build quality, fit and finish of the JL Audio Fathom f112 Subwoofer are immaculate.
One of leading companies in the subwoofer category is somewhat new to home audio: JL Audio. This Florida-based manufacturer is well known in mobile audio, and its sophisticated home subwoofers - like the Fathom f112 - are winning respect from dealers, enthusiasts and competitors.
Considering its features and supreme build quality, the Fathom f112 is relatively compact, but heavy at 115 pounds. The sub incorporates a black piano-gloss finish and black grille cloth that cover a front-firing, proprietary design 12-inch woofer.
The f112’s sealed enclosure houses a full array of amplification and electronics, including 1,500watt RMS amp. JL says frequency response is between 21Hz to 119Hz. If that’s not enough, JL’s Automatic Room Optimization (ARO) equalization technology helps deal with problematic low-frequency room modes.
The front panel has several control knobs, including a low-pass filter, JL’s Extreme Low Frequency control, phase and polarity controls, light dimmer, slave/master switch and master volume. The rear panel features XLR and RCA inputs, and master and slave inputs.
I placed a pair of f112s on Auralex decoupling platforms. I set up the subs in two configurations: one with each sub running independently using XLR cables and a Y-connector from the back of my parametric EQ, and the other a master/slave setup.
I used the Y-connector to split the LFE signal from my EQ to the left and right inputs of the subs. I set the volume of the units at 12 o’clock, turned off the low-pass filter, set the light indicator, set the level mode to variable and the ELF, phase, polarity, and turned on the auto-signal sensing option.
After listening, I reset the volume to 10 o’clock, which blended better for music and movies.
Moving onto the master/slave setup I turned off my EQ and ran a single XLR to the master input of the right subwoofer. I ran another XLR from the right sub’s output to the slave input of the left subwoofer. I plugged the calibration mic into the master sub input and mounted it on a mic stand in my money seat. After setting the controls, I pressed the EQ button to start the equalization process, which took a few minutes to complete.
I’m not going to mince words about the Fathom f112: It may be the best sub on the market.
The subs showed an immense amount of detail and power. They articulated the low-end of Rush’s Snake’s & Arrows Live DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on songs like Malignant Narcissism - including Geddy Lee’s fretless Fender Jaco Pastorius bass and Neil Peart’s massive drum kit - without crushing detail, speed, accuracy and space within the mix.
I had the same experience listening to Jeff Beck’s Live at Ronnie Scott’s Blu-ray disc, which features Tal Wilkenfeld on bass and Vinnie Colaiuta on drums. On songs like Cause We’ve Ended as Lovers, Wilkenfeld’s solo felt nearly as impactful and visceral as if I was standing next to her bass rig.
Movies were no different. On chapter 18 on the Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, for example, the low-frequency content was loud and deep and didn’t overpower the mix.
Considering that it may be the best sub in the custom market, the question of whether the Fathom f112 at nearly $3,000 MSRP offers value is a no-brainer: yes.
There’s nothing critical I can say about the Fathom f112. Its build quality, fit and finish are immaculate; it’s easy to install; and its performance is superb.
Bob is an audio enthusiast who has written about consumer electronics for various publications within Massachusetts before joining the staff of CE Pro in 2000. Bob is THX Level I certified, and he's also taken classes from the Imaging Science Foundation (ISF) and Home Acoustics Alliance (HAA). In addition, he's studied guitar and music theory at Sarrin Music Studios in Wakefield, Mass. Have a suggestion or a topic you want to read more about? Email Robert at [email protected]
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