JL Audio Gotham Subwoofer and CR-1 Crossover

New Dog, Old Trick

Equipment report
JL Audio Gotham g213
JL Audio Gotham Subwoofer and CR-1 Crossover

First, there are high-precision 12dB/octave and 24dB/octave Linkwitz-Riley filters, which, unlike the crossover built into the Gotham, work high-pass and low-pass. Both of these independently adjustable filters employ “multiplying DACs with monolithic ratio-matching to adjust the analog circuit’s filter frequencies.” If you think this means that the CR-1 digitizes the signal, think again. All it means is that digital technology is being employed, outside the signal path (rather in the same way it is used in certain ultra-high-end-preamplifier volume controls), to ensure the absolute accuracy of the Linkwitz-Riley filters’ crossover-notch-point settings and its slopes. (When the CR-1 is used with any JL sub, including the Gothams, the subwoofer’s own built-in low-pass crossover must be turned off via the LP switch on the sub’s control panel.)

Second, in addition to these individually adjustable, precision low-pass and high-pass filters, the CR-1 has a subwoofer/satellite balance control that allows you to add more sound from the sat and less from the sub (or vice versa) to fine-tune the blend.

Third, the CR-1 has individual damping controls for the sub and the satellite that allow you to adjust the Q of the filters, both low-pass and high-pass, through the crossover region. (If, for instance, the crossover region sounds “thin,” you can create a rise in response near one or both of the filters’ cutoff frequencies. If, on the other hand, the crossover region sounds “thick” or exaggerated, you can reduce response, creating a softer corner around the filters’ cutoff frequencies.)

Outside of power, muting, home-theater bypass, and output mode (stereo or mono) switches, these are the only controls that the CR-1 offers, but, trust me, in combination with the ARO, level, phase, and extreme-low-frequency trim controls built into the Gotham, they are quite sufficient to the task of achieving a seamless blend between the Gothams and your mains, provided that you follow the set-up procedure I outlined in my review of the e110 (for which, see the sidebar on setup).

Indeed, when I commented at the start of this review upon the shocking “invisibility” of these giant subs, I was also commenting on the manifold positive effects of the CR-1, which, once again allowing for proper setup and adjustment, gives honest-to-God new meaning to the words “seamless blend.” Outside of the aforementioned reduction in slam and image size (in the bass), I thought I’d gotten the best combination of a subwoofer and a satellite I’d ever heard via the e110’s built-in high-pass/low-pass crossover, but the unvarnished truth is I didn’t really know what I was talking about, because I didn’t yet know what was possible with the Gotham and the CR-1 in the loop. With the proper adjustment of the Gothams’ own controls (including ARO) and those of the CR-1, these giant subs no long sound like subs. Rather they sound like exceptionally deep-reaching, incredibly fast, powerful, and hard-hitting, super-high-resolution woofers that were engineered for and built into the main speakers. In other words, they do their ineffable thing without touching the transparency, resolution, speed, and timbral signature of the mains.

Well, maybe not entirely without touching the mains.

The Gothams and the CR-1, as transparent as they are, do slightly alter the sound of the satellites. Part of this, of course, is simply the sonic and psychoacoustic effect of adding tremendous low-end power, extension, refinement, and resolution to speakers that don’t offer the fullest measure of these things on their own. With the addition of two or three marmoreally solid bass octaves, overall timbral balance is bound to change—warming up, darkening, ripening—simply because the upper midrange and treble are less nakedly “exposed.” Part of this is also a matter of the Gotham’s enclosure design. Like the e110, the Gotham’s twin 13.5" woofers are housed in a sealed box, i.e., there is no port and therefore there is no port boost (or steep roll-off after port resonance). To my ear, sealed-box bass is a superior way of doing the bottom octaves (faster, higher in resolution, lower in distortion, inherently more extended), but if you’re used to a woofer in a bass-reflex enclosure you may find what I judge to be the Gothams’ incredibly refined and discerning bottom octaves to be a touch “polite” or “over-damped.” Of course, you can markedly change the damping of the Gotham’s woofers by fiddling with the CR-1s damping control, effectively adding a “port-like” boost at the crossover frequency, if you so choose. I do not. Added slam achieved at the price of higher resolution and a smoother blend is, IMO, the last thing these subs (or any subs) need.

The bottom line on the Gothams and the CR-1 is this: This sub and crossover are nothing like the subs and crossovers of the Bad Old Days, when adding such items was tantamount to throwing a blanket over your main speakers—the veiling, noise, and loss of transient speed were that marked. As far as I can tell, with the Gothams and the CR-1 any veiling of detail, any elevation of the noise floor, any loss of transient speed is so exceedingly slight that, for all intents and purposes, it is virtually non-existent.

For those of you with the space and the dough, those of you into low bass (and who isn’t with the right music?), those of you with decent main speakers looking for a ticket to the Big Leagues at a Minor League price, even those of you with ultra-high-end loudspeakers that already have outstanding bass, the Gothams and the CR-1 are the paths to a full-range bliss you’ve never before experienced, because, in my own experience, it’s never before been available at this level of unalloyed satisfaction. Both the Gotham subs and JL’s CR-1 crossover, obviously, get my highest, most unqualified, most enthusiastic recommendation. I just wish all of you could hear them!


JL Audio
Miramar, FL 33025-3962
(954) 443-1100
Price: Gotham subwoofer, $12,000; CR-1 crossover, $3500

JV’s Reference System
Loudspeakers: Raidho D-5, Raidho D-1, Avantgarde Zero 1, Avantgarde Trio/Basshorn, MartinLogan CLX, Magnepan .7, Magnepan 1.7, Magnepan 3.7, Magnepan 20.7
Linestage preamps: Soulution 725, Constellation Virgo, Audio Research Reference 10, Siltech SAGA System C1, Zanden 3100
Phonostage preamps: Audio Research Corporation Reference Phono 10, Constellation Audio Perseus, Innovative Cohesion Engineering Raptor, Soulution 725, Zanden 120
Power amplifiers: Soulution 711, Siltech SAGA System V1/P1, Constellation Centaur, Audio Research Reference 250, Lamm ML2.2, Zanden 8120, Odyssey Audio Stratos
Analog source: Walker Audio Proscenium Black Diamond Mk V, TW Acustic Black Knight, AMG Viella 12
Tape deck: United Home Audio UHA-Q Phase 12 OPS
Phono cartridges: Clearaudio Goldfinger Statement, Ortofon MC Anna, Ortofon MC A90, Benz LP S-MR
Digital source: Berkeley Alpha DAC 2
Cable and interconnect: Crystal Cable Absolute Dream, Synergistic Research Galileo LE, Ansuz Acoustics Diamond
Power cords: Crystal Cable Absolute Dream, Synergistic Research Galileo LE, Ansuz Acoustics Diamond
Power Conditioner: Synergistic Research Galileo LE, Technical Brain
Accessories: Synergistic ART and HFT/FEQ system, Shakti Hallographs (6), Zanden room treatment, A/V Room Services Metu panels and traps, ASC Tube Traps, Critical Mass Maxxum equipment and amp stands, Symposium Isis and Ultra equipment platforms, Symposium Rollerblocks and Fat Padz, Walker Prologue Reference equipment and amp stands, Walker Valid Points and Resonance Control discs, Clearaudio Double Matrix SE record cleaner, Synergistic Research RED Quantum fuses, HiFi-Tuning silver/gold fuses

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