By the Numbers
The PB10's amplifier was the least powerful among the three subwoofers in our tests, with an honest continuous power capability of just 54 watts. Nevertheless, the speaker belted out more volume than the Cambridge SoundWorks BassCube 10, and that's ultimately what matters. Frankly though, all of the subs we tested here produced enough low end to fill a typical living room.
JBL's vinyl-covered cabinet looks astonishingly close to real wood veneer. On the rear are the usual level and crossover-frequency settings, plus a control that lets you switch out the low-pass filtering. This is an advantage if your receiver already has a filtered output that sends only the bass frequencies because it prevents the sound from being filtered twice. Gold-plated speaker terminals provide an alternate way to wire up the subwoofer if you lack a surround sound receiver. An additional high-pass filtered set of terminals lets you connect your main speakers while protecting them from low frequencies that could cause distortion or damage.
The JBL does its job with skill. It was effective at adding that last, deep octave to our full-range speakers and at bringing in the whole low-frequency end to smaller satellite speakers. With music such as Rebecca Pidgeon's recording of "Spanish Harlem," this subwoofer was the only one of the three to reproduce the lowest bass note accurately and with absolute purity. We were literally on the edges of our chairs as the JBL handled with ease the almost-subconscious low-end rumble that adds to the underlying suspense in The Bone Collector.
Would we mind shelling out the $349 list price for the PB10? Not in the least. In fact, the JBL bests the Klipsch and Cambridge subs in every area, making it our top pick for a 10-inch subwoofer. If you've got an extralarge listening room or need to shake the pictures off the walls, you should go for a 12- or 15-inch model. But for the rest of us, this one will do fine.