JL Audio E-Sub E110 10” Active Subwoofer Review
Want a compact, high quality subwoofer that sings with both movies and music? Tony O’Brien says this is the one for you…
10” Active Subwoofer
AUD $2,995 (Ash) $3,495 (Gloss)
JL Audio may not be the first name that springs to mind when you think of US-manufactured subwoofers, yet the company has accrued a slew of awards and accolades since entering the home audio market in 2004. Although that year also marked the brand’s entry into home theatre with the release of the much-revered Fathom subwoofer, it was far from its first rodeo. With a history dating back to the nineteen seventies no less, this company was already a respected name in both car and marine audio.
While 2004 may not seem that long ago to some of us, we’re here to review one of the JL Audio’s more recent offerings – the e110 E-Sub. Sporting a 10” driver and priced at $2,495 (black ash) and $3,495 (gloss black), it’s a more expensive proposition than many homegrown and foreign offerings. For example, the e110 is roughly $1,000 more than my own Custom 10” VAF Gravitas subwoofers and a few hundred dollars more than the larger 13” SVS SB-3000 reviewed back in May. No pressure to perform, then…
Keen to find out what – apart from the price – distinguishes the e110, I did a little investigation. Just like the SVS and Gravitas, the JL Audio has a sealed, infinite baffle enclosure, the benefits of which usually include tighter bass, albeit at a loss of lower-end extension and/or efficiency – particularly when smaller driver units are used. The specifications, however, are far from shabby; for example, the e110 with its forward-facing driver has a stated anechoic response of 25–116Hz (±1.5dB), which should be wide and flat enough for most.
JL Audio eschews the use of bought-in, off-the-shelf components, choosing instead to develop its own drivers, enclosures and electronics in-house. Each model starts with a purpose-built subwoofer driver and a predetermined size and power rating in mind. Rather than using a single suspension element (spider), the e110’s deep, open, cast aluminium chassis has dual spiders. This, claims the company, prevents the driver from rocking at high excursions, allowing for a tight motor gap and preserving correct pistonic motion at high power. The chassis is bolted to both the front and the rear of the cabinet, and the front baffle is part of the aluminium driver chassis, for improved rigidity.
Coupled with a larger motor, this enables the e110 to achieve a claimed driver excursion that the company considers exceptional, 2.5” no less. Naturally, such a design is going to need hefty amplification, so a Class D power amplifier stage capable of delivering a claimed peak of 1,200 watts RMS is fitted. This proprietary unit uses discrete output devices and a post-filter feedback configuration for improved linearity and damping factor, the company says.
While the e110’s modest 343x362x419mm dimensions can easily be characterised as svelte – at least in the world of subwoofers – its weight of nearly 24kg is anything but. Indeed it’s a very sturdy product, one that you wouldn’t want to drop on the cat. Understandably perhaps, it arrived double boxed, and this opened up to reveal the e110 inside a soft synthetic bag to protect its finish. Fully unpacked it was clear that it had a beautiful finish, in striking high-gloss piano black lacquer. I liked this very much indeed, but its reflective nature could be distracting in a dedicated theatre if that’s where you plan on using it.
The sealed cabinet – with an internal volume of 2.1 litres – has tapered edges, rather than the rounded edges now commonplace with many manufacturers. While notably different, this does give the sub a slight octagonal appearance. Removing the cloth speaker grille reveals the driver which has both the JL Audio logo, and a somewhat concave appearance. The rear is dominated by a grille, below which reside line-level inputs and outputs and high-pass inputs. The controls are on top of the cabinet at the back of the sub. It’s here that you’ll find a two-way low pass/high pass active crossover for integration into stereo systems that lack bass management. The e110 also offers a variable crossover from 25 to 130Hz, and 0- to 280-degree phase control for use when connected to an AVR’s subwoofer output. Volume and power controls, as well a switch to defeat the sub’s internal crossover, complete the picture.
Notably absent in the e110’s list of features is a parametric EQ, although I imagine most users will look to their AV receivers or processors for this. Should it take your fancy, the recessed brushed silver control panel can be concealed by the included cover, which bears the JL logo and blends rather nicely with the rest of the design. It’s this sort of attention to detail that very much characterises the excellent build quality.
Having a hardwood floor, I was thankful for the sturdy rubber feet provided on the base of the sub. With limited placement options, the e110 was located in the left-hand corner of my room, roughly a metre from the back wall and 520mm in from the sidewall. The subwoofer’s internal crossover was turned off, and the e110 connected directly to the sub output of an Anthem MRX-720 AV receiver. All room correction (EQ) was performed directly from the latter courtesy of ARC Genesis. ARC also worked its magic on the other loudspeakers in the system – VAF Signature i91 front and centres and i90 rear and overhead speakers, making for a 5.1.2 layout. Video was handled by a Sony VPL-VW270ES 4K projector, and Panasonic UB-9000 4K Blu-ray player images projected on to a Severtson Cinegray 100” 16.9 screen.
The e110 is going to find fans among those who like their bottom end fast, tight and articulate – indeed it actually dignifies itself by an apparent lack of bass because it is so well controlled compared to many others on the market. Yet full credit to this little sub, its bass could be shockingly visceral when it really needed to be. Given the e110’s compact size, it can’t dig quite as low as rivals with bigger drivers – but this little guy has got it where it counts.
The 4K disc of Aquaman has a superb Dolby Atmos soundtrack with some serious rumbling down below, with one of the more memorable instances taking place as sharks slam against the glass of the aquarium at the beginning of the film. It is during moments like this that the little e110 delivers in spades, defying its small size and often polite bass. Here the JL Audio served up a seriously impactful bottom end, powerful enough to fully open a door left slightly ajar in the listening room. Also, when the first shots ring out in the opening of Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk they are produced with whip-sharp accuracy and a startling amount of impact. Likewise, this subwoofer made its presence both known and felt as the Stukas bombed British soldiers and ships alike.
What often distinguishes the e110 from many subs, is a notable absence of bass. At first thought, this may seem counter-intuitive but it speaks volumes about its ability to produce lightning-fast bass that doesn’t linger on beyond its use-by date. It’s this sort of performance that sends shivers down your back as Freddy takes the stage at Live Aid in 2018’s Bohemian Rhapsody. Here the sub’s responsiveness allowed the main speakers to do their thing without a hint of overhang, and a tunefulness that was hard to beat. The e110 has, as our American friends would say, the ability to “stop and start on a dime”.
Unsurprisingly, this sub’s compact 10” bass driver isn’t able to delve quite as deep to retrieve the lower octaves as the bigger 13” cone onboard the SVS SB-3000. Most of that slam that we often crave in our home theatre systems takes place further up the spectrum however, and it’s here that the e110 revels. Take the superb Dolby Atmos soundtrack found on Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner 2049, for example. The opening scenes contain a frenzy of bass activity, and many lesser subs can turn the pulsating bottom end into a one-noted mess. The e110 had no such issues, with the sound of K’s ship making its way overhead having clarity that most subwoofers struggle to match, without losing visceral impact.
JL Audio’s e110 subwoofer produced some of the tightest and most powerful bass that I have heard in my listening room for a long time. It is so grippy and controlled that it would be happy in systems used for serious two-channel music listening, yet is equally at home in a movie-focused environment where real visceral impact is needed. So if both quality and quantity are on your wish list, you owe it to yourself to audition this.
For more information, visit JL Audio.
As the owner of Adelaide based ‘Clarity Audio & Video Calibration’, Tony is a certified ISF Calibrator. Tony is an accomplished Audio-Visual reviewer specialising in theatre and visual products.