Hot and Cold- The Subwoofer Which Requires The Most Consideration Before Buying...
Apr 14, 2004
Review by nick1326
Rated a Very Helpful Review
Before I even begin this review and start a fire, I'm going to approach this review from several different aspects in order to provide the most fair and objective assessment of what should be a great subwoofer, but in some cases is, and in alot of cases, IS NOT.
Recommend this product?
JL's "W7" series of subwoofers certainly popped up on everyone's radar quickly and by surprise when they were brought to market a few years back. The line has essentially remained the same- an 8, 10, 12 and 13 inch woofer are offered and I'm reviewing the 13 because by the obvious laws of physics, it plays the lowest and happens to be my favorite woofer in this line, although, as you probably observed from my tone in the opening paragraph, this woofer IS NOT infallable..
The 13W7 is an odd sized woofer- While most manufacturers offer 10 and 12, then 15 inch, JL chose a 13 because it fits in a more reasonably sized enclosure than a 15 just on diameter alone. (Ironically, enclosure size for all the W7's is NOT exactly reasonable, but we'll get to that later). The 13W7 is rated to play optimally at about 1000 watts of continuous (RMS) power. There's all types of power out there, from horrendous to fabulous- Watts come in all shapes and sizes. Having been involved in mobile audio for the majority of my life, and now an owner of a custom install shop, I've seen it done many MANY ways- however I'm not going to bother citing failure-stories of an idiot who tried putting a pyramid amp on a serious sub. In the case of THIS sub, a JL 1000/1, Van Gogh 1600.2 and a PPI PCX2400. All three amps are very good in terms of sound quality- and I'm sure if you're reading this you may already have an opinion on which is best- however I'll say from my own experience, the Van Gogh is absolutely the most superb sound-quality oriented, yet still punchy AND musical sounding amp line I've seen in a LONG, LONG time. All thee amps brought out different attributes in the woofer, yet the overall theme remained the same- keep reading, we'll get there.
First the specs: a Dual 1 1/2 ohm voice coil sub, the 13W7 is rated at 86.3 dB 1w/1m efficiency- not the most efficient sub ever dreamed of, but when designed to handle GOBS and GOBS of power, essentially on par. The sub is free-air rated down to 23.5 hz -> this is one example of misleading specs given by JL- Many people don't understand Qvas, Vas etc- all industry terms (specifically Thiele-Small paramters) Most technicians don't have a very solid understanding of Thiele-Small theory, and quite honestly who the hell cares- As an audiophile myself, I've always found that specs easily lie- however I'd be alot more satisfied if JL offered actuall frequency extension measurement within a given reference enclosure (JL DOES offer blue-prints on their recomended Sealed AND ported enclosures- so why not offer LFE (low frequency entension) within +/- 1.5dB there???!?!!?! This upsets me- ALOT of companies are doing this now- sticking misleading T/S measurements in- I've seen it in my own shop: A Guy walks in thinking a 13W7 will PLAY DOWN TO 23.5 hZ and I have to correct the poor guy before he blows the better part of a grand on a sub that WILL NOT DO THAT! The 13W7 will play down to about 32Hz in a sealed enclosure within about 2 dB- this is pretty damned solid- however it's also something that doesn't require a grand to do, so we'll get into price considerations later.
I've always favored Sealed enclosures over ported- I know most guys reding this are SPL (sound pressure level) guys- in case you're wondering what that is, SPL is a measurement of intensity or strength of bass- measured in decibels (dB) I've always been more interested in sound quality (SQ). JL reports that the W7 line is intended to deliver both- but in actuality its completely a SPL oriented sub and really misses the mark in terms of audiophile quality- before you get enraged, please keep reading- I'll prove it later...
The first major gripe I'll have to cite about this sub is the inconvenience factor: Price AND Enclosure size are both captured within the "Inconvenience factor". This is a 750 dollar sub! Give or take- but we get 750 a piece for these, and believe me, they sell quite well- regardless that I openly don't recomend them! Obviously, this is a special woofer- weighing in at almost 60 pounds, this is a beast of a subwoofer- infact, it even comes double-packaged and MOUNTED TO A PIECE OF MDF BAFFLE IN ITS OWN BOX!!! There are some very ingenious pieces of engineering in the subwoofer- and for that reason, it's able to produce intense SPLs given quality wattage- however its the lack of accuracy (AGAIN) which upsets me sooo so much with this line. A long while back I wrote a review on a W6 woofers- they were GREAT for the money and for the punch- however they were clearly NOT very accurate. JL corrected this with the V2 version of the W6- it was a MUCH better woofer- it also costs over double what a regular W6 runs, but nevertheless, JL delivered the best of all worlds. With the W7, they didn't. In addition to the high cost, the recomended enclosure size it behemoth! JL's optimal recomendation is 1 7/8 cubic feet!! WOW- that is a MASSIVE box- and it will easliy take up the majority of the trunk in any small or mid sized sedan- alot of space in a large sedan AND it will diminish volume quickly in any SUV, even the giants out there! JL cites 15 3/4 high, 16 wide and 19 1/4 deep!! DAMN, THAT is one BIG MOMMA of a box! They also cite 3/4 MDF as wall material- to me, I find this inexplicable- a sub of this magnitude should be in a 1 inch thick MDF box with bracing- IT IS A POWERFUL SUB- the simple fact is if you drop even the best subwoofer in a crappy box, it is going to sound bad. period. I've always built top-notch boxes for all sub-installs we've done- the W7 requires ALOT of effort- the better the box, the better your sound. Still, even with the most carefully crafted enclosures, it's tough to pull the accuracy and SQ properties out of this sub that you would expect, having just paid almost a grand! Sadly, this is the next major gripe...
Sound Quality (or lack there-of)... With all three amps on it, the W7 sounded powerful at all times- Different amps brought out differnt qualities. The JL 1000/1 was the most appropriate (ratings wise) amp for the application, delivering an even 1000 watts at the 3 ohm load resulting from a series-wired configuration on the 2 voice coils (standard setup, and how it is done with the W7's). The JL sounded punchy and clean, yet at super high volume, the clarity went out the window, as did all traces all musicality- the sub became a boom-monster and did not stay musical- the sub has been run with Boston Pro, Focal Utopia and Quart Premium & "Q" componets- all of the aforementioned can play VERY loud and VERY clean with good power- in all cases, the sub ran out of musicality long before the components came close.
The same applied for the PPI amp - The precision power is by and large a SUPER SUPER powerful amp. It's also a monster in terms of size- at over 30 inches in length, I'd say in fairness, the inconvenience factor is equally at play with the PCX2400 as it is with the sub!!! The PPI however BEAT UP the 13W7 - despite it's massive structure and behemoth appearance, the PPI is not to be underestimated- it has ALOT of power and it is seriously punchy and explosively deep sounding. Even with the gains lowered and the boost cut ALOT, the 13W7 couldn't resolve the ultra lows with clarity and focus- even in the sealed box, which again, is my choice because it plays cleaner and inherently faster (at the expense of a few dB) the sub lost the musicality even sooner than with the JL amp. I should also mention though, at medium volumes, the sub POUNDED- it sounded punchier and more assertive than with the JL- most likely not ONLY because of higher power ratings on the PPI, but because the character of PPI watts- they've always been known for being punchier and livelier. At medium to medium-high volume, the PPI brought out the best attributes in terms of attack and pucnh- Rock, Funk and R&B were most enjoyable at these volumes with the PPI on the scene.
The Van Gogh delivered the best all around mix of everything- it also maintained the most musicality on the 13W7 than any other amp- even though ultimately, again, distortion got the best of the W7 at super high volume as soon as the bass went low-low... Still, the Van Gogh made the JL come to life at all volumes- it sounded very musical and actually noticably more accurate - You can listen to the bass line on U2's "with or without you" and actually hear the notes turn flatter or sharper in the intro of the song depending on how good a box you build, the amp you use or any number of factors. Again- I'm gonna say it loud and clear: THE 13W7 IS NOT A SOUND QUALITY SUB- IT IS VERY MUCH AN SPL SUBWOOFER!!!
In terms of SPLs, clearly the 13W7 delivers- although the distortion it exhibits at hi volumes is disturbing- no matter what kind of power you throw at it. There are a few other things I'm not crazy about- the mounting system for instance, it is neat- and certainly clean- but you have to be careful about doing it- the screws are actually beneath the surround- you need to remove a trim-ring to access them- the surround is foam (not Butyl- THIS really upset me, on a 750 dollar sub!!!) and so you have to be cautious working with a screw gun that close to the surround, especially when you need to kind of peel it back to get to the screws.
Also, aside from the fact that the sub requires a MASSIVE enclosure, whether ported or sealed, the bottom line is this thing requires ALOT of watts. None of the amps I've listed could be called "cheap" in fact they're all MSRP'ing way over 500 bucks- street prices are around 550 to 700 for the amps I listed, so by the time you factor in building a box, installing the amp and getting everything set up, this simple subwoofer addition is going to be a 1500 to 2000 dollar project... I gotta tell ya, unless you competing for SPLs, there is NO REASON any logical person interested in SQ would opt to buy this sub- aside from the fact that it doesn't deliver SQ as I've written above, it's VERY EXPENSIVE and VERY short on value...
Its tough to try and stick a "stars" rating on this sub- in terms of uniqueness and ingenuity it's a 5 1/2!!! In terms of SPL its easliy a 4 1/2 ir not a 5 (call it 4 because of the distortion issue- just because a machine doesn't measure it, my ears do -and for christ's sake, I like my music LOUD! Lastly, in terms of Sound quality, I'd be hard pressed to give this any more than a 2, because with all the bells and whistles and ingenuity built, I'd expect a HELL of alot more- and this is considering I put good power on the sub, I can only imagine the dissapointment of someone who throws 400 or so mediocre watts on the inneficient power-hungry beast of a sub- I would be REALLY upset if I just paid that much to get that little...
Again- it's a very tough call to give a recomendation to this sub- It depends on your purposes and your wallet- for half the price, you could get 2 W6V2's and power them more easliy, get better sound quality and all the usable volume you'd ever need... NOT TO MENTION 2 OF THEM WOULD TAKE UP ABOUT THE SAME ROOM AS 1 W7!!!! How clear of an argument do you need? In closure, I'm gonna say this is a niche sub- strictly for those who compete and make money and trophies by making more DB's - but in terms of listenability and sound quality, this one's not getting any raves from me! Again- ALOT od consideration should go into buying this sub. Hope this helps you make a good choice- whether you opt for or against it...
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Amount Paid (US$): 750.00
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