Just when you think you’ve seen it all when it comes to subwoofer enclosure design, some clever engineer comes up with an innovative new design that makes you wonder, “Why didn’t I think of that?” Case in point, the new H.O. (High Output) ported systems from JL Audio. By virtue of an ingenious and patented (U.S. patent #6,625,292) “chamber-coupled port design”, the H.O. Series of subwoofer systems deliver not only the sound quality we’ve come to expect from JL Audio, but phenomenal output as well. Manville Smith kindly sent us a sample of the 10” single woofer version for us to check out.
The JL Audio H.O. 110RG-W3v3 subwoofer system comes complete and ready to play, and costs about $429.95 in the U.S., and slightly more in Canada. The enclosure is constructed of CNC cut, perfectly fitting MDF, in 5/8” and 3/4” thicknesses. The joints are well sealed and strong with a liberal application of adhesive prior to assembly. This particular model is a moderately sized enclosure, measuring approximately 29.5” wide, 13.5” tall, and 12” deep. Interior volume is about 1 cubic foot, and the exterior of the enclosure is nicely covered in medium gray fuzzy automotive carpet. For contrast, the woofers mounting baffle is covered in a pure black carpet, and to protect the woofer from damage, the enclosure incorporates three solid aluminum round bars to form a clean, unobtrusive, but stylish and strong grille.
The design uses an angled back panel that is designed to fit against the trunk to passenger compartment divider or back seat, with the woofer and port firing rearwards.
But the real genius of this enclosure is how the output of the port is introduced, in an area right alongside the woofer. The woofers mounting baffle is recessed into the front of the enclosure, and a slot type port inside the chamber exits just to the left of the face of the W3v3 woofer. This arrangement solves the old problem of the output of the cone and port firing in different directions, and seems to have a positive effect on acoustic coupling. The port outlet has plenty of area as it is basically the full height of the front of the enclosure, but the way the cosmetic treatment of the enclosure is done, you don’t even realize there is a port there. Clever and really cool!
Of course every good enclosure needs a good woofer, and the H.O. system has a great one in the form of JL’s renowned 10W3v3. These woofers have been around for a while, and have garnered a reputation for sonic excellence as well as rugged dependability. The 10W3v3 woofer is built around a high strength stamped steel basket, and features a 2.5 pound magnet assembly which drives a six layer copper clad aluminum voice coil, wound on a Kapton former. A progressive type spider locates the voice coil assembly on the lower end, while a synthetic rubber surround handles the suspension and centering duties on the outside edge of the mineral filled poly cone. To keep things reliable, JL’s patented VRC (Vented Reinforcement Collar) provides reinforcement at the critical cone/spider/voice coil junction, as well as improving air flow onto the voice coil windings. The collar thusly improves both mechanical and thermal performance over a conventional design. And of course the woofer also uses one of the cleanest looking custom trim rings in the industry, which can even be removed and painted a custom color to match your install theme.
I’ve been a fan of the JL Audio W3v3 woofers for years, and so I was looking forward to listening to this factory designed system. I connected it to my reference system, and drove the 2 ohm woofer with a 500 watt amplifier. A bit of tuning and level matching was needed, because the High Output system certainly earns the name! I had to reduce the amplitude of the subwoofer amp to prevent the woofer system from overcoming my components. Settling on a crossover frequency of 80Hz at -12dB/Oct., I sat down to do some serious listening. Truth be told, the listening was anything but serious, because I don’t think I stopped grinning for the whole session. Not only does the H.O. system haul the mail, but it sounds exceptionally good doing it. Sound quality was easily among the best I’ve heard from a vented design in recent memory. The bass was low, and had incredible impact and authority. Detailed passes from plucked stand-up bass in Imelda May’s fantastic “Johnny Got A Boom-Boom” were reproduced faithfully, and you could even hear the resonance of the upright bass. One of my favorite bass solos is the late great Wayne Pedzwater’s solo found in the Thom Rotella track, “Friends”. Listening to Wayne slap the La Bella strings on his ESP bass on this subwoofer system was verging on ethereal. While many vented designs can suffer from ringing and “overhang” the JL Audio system sounded tight, articulate, and certainly authoritative. While the system is rated for 500 watts, I found that my 500 watt amp was a bit of overkill, in that the system is so efficient you could easily get away with half the power and still have killer sounding bass.
If you’re thinking about building yourself a really high output vented enclosure, and dropping in a high performance, great sounding, reliable woofer, don’t. Save yourself the time and energy, and check out one of the JL Audio H.O. systems first. Because unless you have the decades of experience it took to develop their system, it’s unlikely that whatever you came up with would be able to outperform this masterfully executed system for anywhere near the same price.