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JL Audio E-Sub e110: The best small subwoofer yet

The Audiophiliac give the lowdown on the stupendous JL Audio E-Sub e110.

This is my first review of a JL Audio subwoofer, which is odd because the brand's subs have received raves from the audiophile press for 10 years. The wait was absolutely worth it!

I have their new 10-inch E-Sub e110 here, but there's also a larger 12-inch e112 sub; those two are the least expensive models offered by the company. The engineers managed to maintain most of the unique design features of the more expensive Fathom Series subs in the E-Subs, and someday I'd love to spend time with the top of the line Gotham g213 sub that sports twin 13.5 inch woofers and a 3,800 watt power amp. I'll need a little help unpacking the g213, it weighs 360 pounds! That bad boy runs $12,000, but I have to say JL Audio's "baby" e110 sounded like a heavyweight to me.

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JL Audio E-Sub e110 JL Audio

The e110's ten-inch woofer is the company's first to be designed exclusively for the home market, the older models drivers were also used in JL Audio's car and marine divisions subs. The e110's woofer, as you can see in the photo is unusually deep, its rear end almost touches the interior back wall of the cabinet. A JL Audio engineer explained that deep drivers are more mechanically stable than shallower designs when the woofer is delivering loud, deep bass. The e110's woofer can maintain low distortion at extremely loud playback levels, which can definitely happen on movie soundtracks with lots of special effects.

The e110's unusually powerful 1,200 watt class D power amplifier and electronics are designed in JL Audio's Phoenix, AR facility; that's rare for a subwoofer manufacturer, they usually source power modules from outside suppliers. The e110's driver and the rest of the sub are assembled and tested in the company's plant in Miramar, Fla.

The e110 has speaker- and line-level RCA stereo inputs. I hooked up the speaker-level inputs to my stereo hi-fi system, and the RCA inputs in my two-channel home theater. The 52.7-pound sub measures a compact 14.25 x 13.5x16.5 inches, small enough to comfortably fit in even medium sized rooms. Cabinet construction feels rock solid.

If I had to sum up the e110's sound in one word it would be precise. Bass notes start and stop on a dime, drum beats sound like sticks hitting a drum head. Most subs sound slower and less distinct, the e110 totally transformed the sound of my Zu Druid V tower speakers. The sound now has weight and gravitas that the Druid V never achieved on its own. The speakers' sound isn't overshadowed by the e110, but listening to Nine Inch Nails' "Hesitation Marks" CD, which has lots of low, low bass, the e110 revealed newfound textures and definition. I've had a number of great subs passing through my home, but the e110 is the best I've tried.

I popped on the Drive-By Truckers' "Live from Austin TX" CD, and cranked the volume way up. Yeah, that's what I'm talkin' about! The e110's contributions were felt as much as they were heard. Shonna Tucker's nimble bass lines feel liberated, then I felt more of Brad Morgan beating on his drums, and when that happened the differences between recorded and live music got a lot smaller. So even with a big tower speaker like the Druid V a great sub can bump up the sound and take it to the next level.

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Interior view of the JL Audio e110 subwoofer JL Audio

I'm not aware of the bass coming from the e110, it seems to be coming from the Druid Vs, but it's not. Switching off the e110 makes that obvious in a hurry, the foundation drops out, and the Druid Vs sound a little thin. I next hooked up the e110 in my two-channel home theater with my Onkyo TX-SR805 AV receiver, Oppo BD-105 Blu-ray player and KEF LS50 monitor speakers. I had the receiver's bass management set to an 80 Hertz crossover, and I used the e110's RCA input. The sub's tight-fisted bass control and visceral power made the Avatar and Gravity Blu-rays' sound come alive. Other subs, including some of my favorite Hsu Research subs are still great for the money, but the e110's bass clarity and definition put it in a different class.

The E-Sub e110's US price is $1,500 finished in black ash, and $1,700 in Gloss Black; check the company's website to locate domestic US dealers and international distributors.