I’m not sure how useful it is to compare two 12" subwoofers to a single 10" model, but the latter is what I’ve been living with for the past several years, so here goes. I was most interested in seeing how the different subwoofers integrated with the main speakers—that’s what makes or breaks a subwoofer in a hi-fi system. The JL Audio Fathom f110 subwoofers sold for $2200 when last produced. They’re finished in beautiful piano gloss black lacquer and rest on three very shallow conical rubber feet. Like the SLF870s, the f110 is an acoustic-suspension design. Since it has a 10k-ohm input impedance, less than the minimum recommended by my linestage manufacturer, I use a Benchmark DAC with an analog input as an impedance buffer. The Benchmark has a sufficiently high input impedance to satisfy the linestage, along with a very low output impedance that has no trouble driving the JL Audio. The f110 has a very flexible assortment of controls, although you must pry your butt off the couch to manually adjust them. After lots of experimentation, it was obvious that the steepest available crossover slope, 24dB/octave, was optimum in matching the subwoofer output to the main speaker. In the SLF870, that decision was made for me—one less thing to obsess over.
Through the fast JL Audio subwoofer, the bass on “Folia: Rodrigo Martínez” integrated well with the extremely fast main speakers and projected deep bass with speed and detail, but the SLF870s went noticeably deeper and gave up little, if anything, in matching the main speakers. The Saint-Saëns’ Organ Symphony recording isn’t particularly detailed, so the extra energy the SLF870s projected made their portrayal of this piece much more enjoyable. When I played music with no deep bass, the SLF870s didn’t intrude: There was no audible contribution at all—which is as it should be. In other words, there was no artificial boost to the bass frequencies.
It should come as no surprise that the 12" drivers in the SLF870s could project substantially more power at lower frequencies than the single JL Audio 10". What surprised me is that I was able to achieve equally good integration with the SLF870s. There was no murky, lumpy bass, just powerful, punchy, detailed bottom octaves that altered (in a good way) my impression of what certain recordings sounded like. Case in point: Bass on Just a Little Lovin’ was deeper and punchier, as the Syzygy reproduced bass guitar and kick-drums more powerfully.
The Syzygy SLF870 wireless subwoofers aren’t the only wireless subs available today; they are quite popular in home-theater systems, especially those using soundbars instead of discrete channel speakers. REL offers a wireless connection in its very high-end subwoofers, although at a considerably loftier price. Several other subs offer computer-assisted setup. And in setting up the woofers, I found the technology wasn’t effortless, so I had to call for help. But once the subs were dialed in, they just worked without having to diddle with them. Even when I unplugged them to change equipment, the subs “remembered” the settings. But all those techy features are pointless if the subs don’t sound good, and fortunately, they weren’t just good—they were superb. I was able to achieve a seamless transition, so the subs sounded like a continuous extension of my main speakers. I worried that the wireless connection might cause dropouts, and while I carefully monitored the sound to detect any possible problems, I never heard a single one. That’s how technology should work. Style-wise, they may be rather plain, but who really looks at subwoofers? Very highly recommended and a great value for the price.
Specs & Pricing
Type: Wireless subwoofer
Connections supported: Line-level RCA wired connection or proprietary 2.4GHz wireless connection
Driver complement: 12" proprietary woven-cellulose-fiber diaphragm in sealed enclosure
Integral amplifier power: 1200 watts BASH
Dimensions: 15" x 15" x 15"
Weight: 39.8 lbs.
Speakers: Affirm Audio Lumination speakers; JL Audio Fathom f110 subwoofer
Amplifiers: Berning ZH-230 stereo amplifier
Preamplifier: Audio Research LS28 linestage
Digital Sources: Toshiba Satellite laptop computer running 64-bit Windows 10 Home Premium and JRiver Media Center Version 22 music server software; SOtM sMS-1000SQ network music player with sPS-1000 power supply; QNAP TS-251 NAS; PS Audio
DirectStream DAC with Torreys operating system; Mytek Brooklyn DAC (for review)
Interconnects: Audience Au24 e balanced, CablePro Freedom unbalanced, Crimson RM Music Link, High Fidelity Cables CT-1
Speaker cables: Crimson Cables Crimson RM Music Link loudspeaker cables
Power cords: Purist Audio Design Venustas, Blue Marble Audio Blue Lightning, Clarity Cables Vortex, Audience powerChord e, Au24 SE LP powerChord
Digital: Audience Au24 SE USB
Power conditioner and distribution: Audience aR6-T