2016 Editors' Choice Awards: Subwoofers $3,000+

Equipment report
JL Audio Fathom f112,
JL Audio Fathom f113v2,
JL Audio Gotham g213 v2,
Paradigm Ref Sig Series SUB 2,
REL Gibraltar G1
2016 Editors' Choice Awards: Subwoofers $3,000+

JL Audio CR-1 Crossover

Designed to augment (rather than replace) the manifold controls already built into JL’s subwoofers, this all-analog crossover allows you to fine-tune the transition between your subs and your mains with a precision, subtlety, and effectiveness that JV has never before experienced. The result is a truly seamless blend that, as far as JV can see, can be achieved in no other way. A little masterpiece of truly useful audio engineering—and a must-try if you already own one of JL Audio’s larger subwoofers, such as the Fathom or the fabulous Gotham. 

JL Audio Fathom f112/f113v2
These two subs—identical except for woofer size (12" vs. 13.5") and amplifier power (1500W vs. 2500W)—raise the bar in subwoofer performance with their unlikely combination of brute-force power and tonal and dynamic finesse. Capable of delivering high SPLs at very low frequencies without strain, the Fathoms are equally adept at resolving the pitches, dynamics, and tone colors of an acoustic bass. Reference-quality performance at a reasonable price. 

REL Gibraltar G1

The powered G1 draws so little attention to itself that it may be the ideal subwoofer for those who heretofore have shunned subs. Sporting a 12", long-throw, carbon-fiber driver driven by a 600W amplifier, it offers substantial gains in low-end extension and impact, even when mated with full-range loudspeakers, and improves soundstaging performance by replicating more of the hall. 

Paradigm Ref Sig Series SUB 2

The Paradigm Sub 2 may be one of the few subwoofers that can be properly mated with planar loudspeakers. Its lightning speed and ability to project front, rear, and sideways mean that its presence and positioning are simply impossible to detect. The SUB 2 features what Paradigm calls Vibration-Canceling Design Architecture, and the design clearly delivers the goods. The hexagonal cabinet can make it hard to install, but once in place the Sub 2 can deliver a crushing 112dB at 10Hz. 

JL Audio Gotham g213 v2

This subwoofer really leaves former subwoofer-hater JV at a loss for words. It is so good at what it does—which is deliver power, clarity, color, texture, and sheer oomph in the bottom octaves—that he’s never heard anything that can beat it in the bass, either in a subwoofer or a full-range floorstander. Using its own controls and/or the CR-1 outboard crossover, the Gotham can also be made to disappear more seamlessly than any other sub, which is truly amazing considering its sheer size (two 13.5" woofers per side in huge rounded-off boxes) and 350-pound bulk. Thanks in part to its sealed-box loading, the Gotham has zero overhang, thickness, and bloat. Note that JL recommends deploying the Gotham in stereo pairs.