If you're hankering for the subwoofer that delivers the deepest, most-satisfying pants-flapping bass, trust us, bigger is always better. Sure, an 8- or 10-inch model occasionally surprises us, but too often, the little guys can't punch out much more bass than a decent bookshelf or tower speaker. No apologies or excuses are required for JBL's hunky 12-inch E250P ($449)--it has what it takes to raise hell down low.
Fashion-conscious buyers will likely stash the E250P in a dark corner; the subwoofer conforms to the classic boring cube shape. Resting on 2-inch-tall rubbery feet, this 43-pound beast measures 19.75 inches high, 14.5 inches wide, and 16.5 inches deep. You can get yours in a Black Ash, Beech (E250PBE), or Cherry (E250PCH) vinyl finish.
The E250P features a high-excursion, front-firing 12-inch woofer and a built-in 250-watt amplifier. Connectivity is fairly basic, but we were pleased to see that the sub's line-level inputs can bypass the onboard filter; that option delivers the best sound with A/V receivers. Additionally, the E250P provides speaker-level inputs, variable crossover-frequency and volume controls, and a phase switch. The Northridge series includes one other subwoofer, the 10-inch E150P; it costs $349.
We expected and heard room-shaking deep bass from the E250P, but what really impressed us was the sub's deft control on the lowest octaves. While the mighty kick drum on Neil Young's Red Rocks Live concert DVD can sound thick and boomy on lesser competitors, the E250P cleanly executed each gutsy thump. The subwoofer blended seamlessly with the Northridgetower speakers; together they produced a mammoth sound easily capable of filling rooms of 600 square feet and larger. The E250P proved its agility again when we put aside the E90s and installed a set of 11-inch-tall satellites. Most 12-inch subs don't sound so hot when paired with diminutive sats; the subwoofers have big bottom, while the little speakers don't make much bass on their own, so the units can't mesh. Generally, mini sats do their best work with smaller subs, but the E20/E250P combination clicked. The E250P is an incredibly versatile performer.