- Written by Jim Clements
- Published on 19 May 2014
JL Audio E-Sub E112 Powered Subwoofer Review Highlights
SECRETS is well-known for their subwoofer reviews, and over the past 20 years we have reviewed over 100 subwoofers with varied technologies and price points. I particularly like them, and have reviewed a number of them for SECRETS.
This review of the JL Audio subwoofer was an opportunity to audition one of the new line of affordable subwoofers that JL Audio designed for the home. Called the "E-Subs", they feature a sealed box design with high excursion drivers driven by powerful Class D amp modules. They offer multiple hook-up options to include low and high level inputs with a 24 dB/octave high pass filter on the RCA outputs. The E-Sub e112 has a 12" driver and a 1,500 watt amplifier. These subs are made in the USA and are individually verified and tested at the factory.
This subwoofer took a little more effort to set up than other subs I have reviewed in the last few years. Once set up and dialed in, this sub showed its best stuff with cinema material.
Here is a summary of what I found:
- • The bass was deep and powerful, just right for bombastic movie sound tracks.
- • The music listening experience with the e112 was at times quite enjoyable, particularly with pipe organ and electronically synthesized music.
- • The bench test results were very good for a medium sized sub that retails in the $1,900 - $2,100 range (depending on finish).
- • If you are looking for a compact and nice looking sub for your home system, the E-Sub e112 is worth serious consideration and the very accessible price point makes it an even easier choice.
Introduction to the JL Audio E-Sub E112 Powered Subwoofer Review
JL Audio is best known for their no-compromise mobile audio speakers and amplifiers. That's where it all started for them. But they also made a name for themselves with a line of extreme powered subs for the home market. The first JL Audio home subwoofers (the Gotham and Fathom) were big and bold. They ranked among the best subwoofers you could get at any price and they have been very well received by the audio press and consumers alike. We reviewed several of the Fathom subwoofers including the Fathom-f110 and the Fathom f112
JL Audio E-Sub E112 Powered Subwoofer Review SPECIFICATIONS
- Design: Acoustic Suspension (Sealed)
- Driver: 12"
- Internal Amplifier: 1,500 watts RMS Short-term, Class D
- MFR: 22 – 118 Hz (± 1.5 dB)
- Inputs: 2 RCA Unbalanced and 2 Speaker-level
- Outputs: 2 RCA Unbalanced (Filtered)
- Weight: 73.5 Pounds
- Dimensions: 16.23" H × 15.50" W × 18.39" D
- Finishes: High Gloss Piano Black and Black Ash
- MSRP: $1,900 - $2,100 USD
- JL Audio
- SECRETS Tags: JL Audio, Subwoofer, Powered subwoofer, Subwoofer Reviews 2014
Now, JL Audio is taking what they learned with these statement products and releasing scaled down subwoofers at more accessible price points through a new line called the "E-Subs". There are two models of E-Sub, the e110 and the e112. I requested the larger e112 for this review. It is a lovely sealed box design with a 1,500 watt Class D amp and a quite substantial 12" high excursion driver. Let's see if the trickle-down technologies will equate to a worthwhile product for your next system.
Design of the JL Audio E-Sub E112 Powered Subwoofer
JL Audio's E-Sub powered subwoofers incorporate numerous technologies that have been developed and refined over the years. These proprietary and patented design elements carry some pretty beguiling names – "DMA" (Dynamic Motor Analysis), "VRC" (Vented Reinforcement Collar), "FCAM" (Floating Cone Attach Method) and the "Engineered Lead-Wire System" (no acronym). These features are important keys to a well designed sub, but there is even more than this packed into the E-Sub cabinets.
Let's start by talking about the driver. This E-Sub e112 sub is a sealed design with a custom-built long-throw 12" driver. The most obvious peculiarity is in the driver's depth. This massive driver nearly fills up the cabinet due to its deep motor structure. There are several reasons for this depth: First, the motor structure is designed to support the driver's substantial 2-1/2" peak-to-peak excursion with excellent linearity. Another reason is that the depth allows for the dual spiders which are spaced 6" apart. The additional spider prevents twisting of the voice coil under the demanding acceleration-induced forces that come into play at higher SPL's or during quick transients.
JL Audio's DMA system is a mature Finite Element Analysis package they use to design woofers with a precise and reliable pistonic motion. Unlike similar systems, the JL Audio system not only analyzes driver forces and movements but it also takes into account the system behavior under varying power inputs as well. To this point, their research has indicated that the magnetic field of the magnet is not static as assumed in most other FEA models. Instead, the magnetic field fluctuates considerably in reaction to the flux generated by the voice coil. So JL Audio claims that their DMA system accounts for this additional variable. Their designs subsequently benefit in greater linearity at high excursions.
JL Audio also uses their FEA system when designing the surrounds and this leads to optimal surround geometry for each custom driver.
The e112 sub is powered by a 1,500 watt RMS (peak) switching amp with a regulated power supply. This architecture is claimed to hold the rail voltage steady even under heavy current demands. The amp module is protected by an isolated case which can be seen in the cutaway view.
JL Audio wanted this subwoofer to have much the same installation flexibility you get with their larger subs so they included some high value features. There is a ground lift switch that is handy for quickly isolating a ground loop. The sub has a 24 dB/octave high-pass filter on the line outs. There is also a high-level input on a removable plug for those whose setups lack a line level hookup option.
They didn't skimp on the cabinet, either: It features ¾" MDF sidewalls and donut bracing. Finishes are either gloss black or black ash.
Every E-Sub is precision-built in JL Audio's U.S. factory and individually performance-verified and tested.
Setup of the JL Audio E-Sub E112 Powered Subwoofer
I placed the sub in the front left corner of my listening room. This is where I place all subs. My own tests have shown that I get exceptionally flat response without equalization when subs are placed in this spot.
I connected my surround processor's unbalanced subwoofer output to the e112's line level input. I set everything on the sub to the nominal settings – crossover off, phase at 0° and gain at the midpoint. I then set up the crossover (80 Hz) and gain in my surround processor. As has been my current trend over the last year or so, I did not run Audyssey room correction and left the processor in the pass through mode.
It was to my honest surprise that the bass from the e112 started out sounding weak and indifferent. This is not what I was expecting. Since I will always make every reasonable effort to get the most out of each product I review, I pulled out my surround processor's mic and ran the Audyssey routine. Once it was done, I found that the bass improved dramatically and benefitted the upper ranges of the audible spectrum significantly. In the case of the e112, I preferred Audyssey's flat curve over Audyssey's proprietary EQ curve and both were light years better than the unequalized set up.
Please take note that JL Audio recommends 2 - 4 subwoofers for the best results in most set ups. And they offered to send me a second one for this review. I did not do this as my room is not well suited to the proper placement of more than one subwoofer. Another point is that the corner placement should be ideal for a subwoofer, but the JL Audio e112 sub just did not sound its best without equalization. I am at a loss to explain this, but you can rest assured that most modern surround processors and receivers have equalization capabilities that can overcome the type of room-sub interaction problem I encountered.
My advice is do not give up too easily on new equipment you get even if it doesn't sound quite right at first. It may need to be tweaked, adjusted or broken in to get the most from it. Please do what you can to get the best of your gear. The e112 sub is a great example since the post-eq'd performance was balanced and dynamic, winning me over in just a matter of minutes.
The JL Audio E-Sub E112 Powered Subwoofer In Use
Once I got the system set up and dialed in, it was time to settle in and begin the listening sessions. I started with "Black Swan" on Blu-ray. For the first hour or so, I didn't obsess in the least over the bass. I just sat back and enjoyed, becoming immersed in the movie. The early parts of the film include a few heavy bass effects as in Nina's dream sequence that opens the film.
Then a bit later in the movie when Nina goes out on the town with Lily, the bass in the music at the night club seriously shook the sofa. This was different from most subs I've had in my system as the shaking took place across a wider cross section of frequencies. So this was cool, but the bass didn't really take off until the movie started the run up to the climax. In the stages where the metamorphosis was really taking hold, the wholeness of the bass sent chills up and down my spine with every beat of the black swan's wings.
David Crosby's new album is simply called "Croz" and I wanted to put on the CD because this whole album is a very good test for low bass. It answers the main questions - is the bass connected, is it bloated, distorted? How is the timing? I tried listening with the EQ on and off to verify that *on* was the way to go. Then with the EQ engaged, songs like "The Clearing" demonstrated the slam and the subtlety of the E-Sub.
Switching back to cinema, I put on a movie that is something of a low bass showcase/torture test – "Inception". This movie is full of ample low bass effects (that were too prominent at first which meant that I needed to adjust the sub's level which made me most thankful that the volume knob was on top of the sub's cabinet!) And once I got the balance right, the whole performance in the bass was so much better coupled to the actual proceedings. The effects gained coherence and a proper tonal balance. The bass was still felt in my bones it just was not disproportionate anymore. Take the sound of the track vehicles in the snow in the third dream sequence - they had a very believable growl now. Then on the movie's final "kick" the bass supported the action with no audible compression.
I needed to try some organ music with the e112 because sometimes you just have to. I'm getting "into" high resolution downloads these days and that is where I got the 176/24FLAC version of Felix Hell's "Organ Sensation" album. Pipe organ is one instrument where a sub can actually enhance the realism (not just the impact) of music. In this case, the e112 sub reinforced the sense of space as it should.
But of course you are wondering if the e112 sub was able to produce the entire frequency range of the pipe organ. The answer is a resounding "yes"! The e112 sub filled in the fundamentals produced by the lowest pedals as heard in the final third of "Guilmant Final" or the opening bars on "Liszt Prelude & Fugue on Bach".
It's time for another movie and why not the most exciting sci-fi movie of the last year, "Gravity"? I feel that the low bass effects during the opening space walk are over-accentuated on this Blu-ray. But this is just based on my intuition. In any case, I turned down the bass at the beginning of the movie and then turned it back up later.
The particular scenes that benefitted from the fuller bass setting were where Bullock enters each space station and on the closing re-entry scene. During these moments, the deep bass was a major asset with both the music and the effects. This was an all-around scintillating performance by the JL Audio E-Sub.
I'll wrap up my subjective analysis with a fun and exciting CD choice – "Texas Sheiks". The bass was balanced, extended and supported the rhythm the way it should on songs like "Fan It". And, once properly set up, this sub added the lowest bass in a much more subtle and beneficial way with better than average pitch integrity. This was apparent on "Hard Time Killing Floor" where the bass was felt and heard. This may be about the best bass I've ever heard on this song.
The JL Audio E-Sub E112 Powered Subwoofer On The Bench
All the below measurements are in-room response. The distortion measurements are performed on-axis in the near field to mitigate any room boundary effects. The frequency response tests are performed at 1-meter on-axis.
At 80Hz and 120dB, the distortion (THD+N) was 1.60%.
Tested at 50Hz, the distortion dropped and measured only 0.76%.
The 31.5Hz plot showed more pronounced harmonics, but the measured THD+N was still well below the threshold of audibility at 3.57%.
Tested at 20 Hz, the e112 sub hit the level of audible distortion (10%) at 113 dB.
This is the same test, but the test tone was at 16 Hz. This brought about audible distortion at 103 dB. This is an excellent result for a small subwoofer.
The plot above is the standard in-room frequency response test. This result shows the pronounced boundary and room-induced modal effects of the unequalized e112 subwoofer.
Conclusions about the JL Audio E-Sub E112 Powered Subwoofer
The JL Audio e112 subwoofer impressed me with its output capabilities and tuneful nature. There is no question that this driver, amp and cabinet system represents a holistic subwoofer system that is designed and focused on delivering high octane thrills. It did take some effort to get optimal results in my system. This effort was not unreasonable considering that all subwoofers require a certain amount of love and attention to show their best stuff.
Every sub I test speaks with its own individual voice. The E-Sub is full and rich sounding - not the tautest response I've heard but clean and powerful. So if you are looking for a compact and nice looking sub for your home system, the E-Sub e112 is worth serious consideration and the very accessible price point makes it an even easier choice.