JL Audio Fathom f113v2 Subwoofer and CR-1 Active Crossover

A Great Subwoofer Made Better

Equipment report
JL Audio Fathom f113v2
JL Audio Fathom f113v2 Subwoofer and CR-1 Active Crossover

Every time I’ve added a subwoofer to a system I’ve felt that the available adjustments were relatively crude tools that allowed me to get close to ideal integration with the main speakers, but involved some guesswork, trial and error, patience, and just plain luck. The CR-1 is an entirely different story. This device provides extremely fine control over the critical hand-off between subwoofer and main speakers. The damping controls, in particular, give you an ultra-precise adjustment over how the sub and main speakers sum at the crossover point. In a remarkably short time, I had dialed-in the CR-1 so that the entire system was perfectly seamless from top to bottom. It’s amazing that it took so long for the industry to create a device like this; once you use it you’ll find it indispensable.

As I mentioned previously, the CR-1 confers a big advantage by splitting the frequency band with a true high-pass and a low-pass crossover. There’s very little overlap between the subwoofer and main speakers around the crossover point, eliminating the unpredictable result of having two different sources reproducing the same frequency band—the range of frequencies below the crossover point but above the lowest frequency the main speakers will reproduce. The combination of the high-pass and low-pass filter lets you decide, by listening, how much of the bass range is reproduced by the subwoofer and how much by the main speakers. If your main speakers have marginal bass quality below 100Hz, use a higher crossover frequency so that the main speakers never operate below 100Hz. Usually, a higher crossover frequency results in a more audible discontinuity at the crossover point. But the CR-1’s extensive controls provide seamless integration even at higher crossover frequencies.

I should mention that there are respected proponents of allowing the main speakers to run full-range and feathering-in the subwoofer so that it simply augments the main speakers’ output. Indeed, I’ve heard such systems sound superb. Although this approach can work well under ideal conditions, you have very little control over how the subwoofer integrates with the main speakers, with less-than-predictable results. Moreover, running the main speakers full-range erases the advantages mentioned earlier of freeing your main speakers and power amplifier from the burden of reproducing bass and the attendant increase in dynamic headroom.

Finally, the CR-1 has an extremely useful knob that very slightly shifts the balance between the main speakers and subwoofer. After you get the subwoofer’s level set at what you think is the right volume, the CR-1’s “Sub/Sat” adjustment provides fine tuning of the relative levels between subwoofer and main speaker. The sensitivity of all these adjustments is perfectly tuned; a tiny turn of the knob doesn’t produce too much change, yet the knob’s entire range is greater than would ever be needed. Between them, the Fathom and CR-1 provide a huge range of adjustments; getting them right is paramount to realizing the products’ potential. Fortunately, the two owner’s manuals are unusually comprehensive and well-written, guiding you through the set-up process.

The JL Audio Fathom f113v2 is a significant improvement over what I already considered to be the “go-to” subwoofer in the price range. In one sense the Fathom isn’t inexpensive; you can find lots of subwoofers for under $1k. But in another sense the Fathom is an amazing value, delivering reference-class performance for a far less-than-reference-class price. I wouldn’t hesitate to add a Fathom f113v2 and CR-1 to the most demanding playback system.

In addition to the specific sonic qualities described, the Fathom and CR-1 greatly elevated the system’s overall sound, not just the bass. The system opened up, with a cleaner midband (the result of removing midbass bloat), punchier dynamics, and an effortless quality on peaks.

I don’t know how much improvement the v2’s revised driver and increased amplifier power rendered, but I can tell you that the new DARO room-optimization system is a vast improvement over its predecessor in the original Fathom both in sound quality and ease of use.

If you’re thinking about adding a subwoofer to your system, I encourage you to audition the Fathom f1112v2 or f113v2, with and without the CR-1 crossover. If you own any brand of subwoofer, you need to hear what the CR-1 will do for integrating the sub into your system. And if you’re thinking about upgrading your speakers, you may want to first hear how adding a subwoofer can transform the sound of your existing speakers. In my view, no subwoofer anywhere near the price approaches the Fathom f113v2’s sound quality, build quality, engineering prowess, and value.

Specs & Pricing

Driver: One 13.5"
Loading: Sealed
Frequency response: 20Hz–86Hz +/–1.5dB; 18Hz–127Hz +/–3dB
Integral amplifier power: 3000W RMS short-term
Inputs: Stereo or mono or dual RCA jacks; stereo or mono on dual XLR jacks
Adjustments: Level, low-pass filter in/out, filter slope (12/24dB per octave), polarity, phase, extreme low-frequency (ELF) trim (–12dB to +3dB at 24Hz)
Calibration: Digital Automatic Room Optimization (DARO)
Dimensions: 16.5" x 19.25" x 19.25"
Weight: 133 lbs. (net)
Finish: Gloss black
Price: $4500

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