JBL subwoofer is too boomy, not a good buy
Jan 11, 2005 (Updated Feb 17, 2008)
Review by dave_corbitt
Rated a Very Helpful Review
A few years ago, I needed a subwoofer to fill out my home theater system. JBL seemed like a trustworthy name so I shopped around and picked out a JBL powered subwoofer that seemed reasonably priced. I figured it had to be good since it was a JBL. Wrong!!!!! Here's what I've learned since my naive purchase and why I no longer am a fan of this model.
Recommend this product?
Some Background on Subwoofers
Most loudspeakers on the market these days will do a decent job of reproducing highs, mids, and upper low frequencies but those gut pounding sounds known as LFE or low frequency effects just will not come through with any power if at all from most speakers. Modern surround sound sources such as DVD for home theater incorporates an LFE channel for the rumbling noises of earthquakes, explosions, subway trains, jet aircraft, and the low bass sounds of music. Now, the way our ears perceive sound, very low frequencies can be heard but their directional orientation cannot be detected. So in true engineering terms, if it cant be detected, there is no reason to create it. What sound engineers have done is to isolate the LFE sounds and route them all to a single speaker that can be placed just about anywhere in the room and the listener is perfectly happy and feels the sound is completely natural. So in surround terms, the LFE stuff is just very low frequencies and will be the .1 designation of a 5.1 or 7.1 surround system. The 5 or 7 are the number of full spectrum channels feeding speakers placed all around the listener to create the surround sound. The low frequency sound can come from just one subwoofer and satisfy all but the pickiest of audiophiles.
To be a good subwoofer, you need POWER, and a smooth but limited low frequency response. Ideally, the subwoofer should reproduce all the lowest sounds the ear can hear and be able to push them out with high power levels from approximately 20 Hz to 150 Hz. The subwoofer should have adjustable volume and phase and cutoff (upper) frequency adjustments to make a good match to the rest of the speakers in your system. Most surround receivers will manage the bass (called Bass Management) to steer the bass or low frequencies that go below what your surround speakers can handle to the subwoofer. So the subwoofer will get the LFE channel as well as the lower frequencies recorded for the front, center, and surround channels. If you have huge surround speakers, this part isnt necessary but most systems nowadays utilize the nondirectionality of low frequencies to allow the listener to have smaller surround speakers and cut down on costs without sacrificing sound quality. Subwoofers truly add a reality factor to sound that was difficult or very expensive to achieve in the past.
Subwoofers can run the gamut from poor to excellent. Many are not flat in their response creating a peaky bass that is not very musical and will sound tubby. To be an effective and accurate reproducer, the power must be there and flatness must be there so all low frequency sounds are reproduced with equal power.
The TLXPS10 looks OK (not great) but a little cheap and generic. Black vinyl clad cabinet with a black grill cloth cover in front on a snap on plastic frame. The 10 inch driver faces forward with a port above the speaker. The amp in mounted on the back of the box, all pretty standard things these days.
You can bring in your subwoofer feeds in several different ways:
1. Line Level Right and Left RCA input. Most AV receivers will have a single RCA output for line level. You can connect to both the R/L inputs with a Y connector.
2. High Level inputs connect directly to the amps R/L speaker output connectors. You then connect your left and right speakers to the output terminals on the subwoofer.
1. Volume. This is a standard analog pot to adjust the overall subwoofer output level relative the incoming signal.
2. Crossover Frequency. This is another analog pot to adjust the upper frequency cutoff to match your other speakers. Labeled for 60 to 160 Hz crossover frequency.
3. Phase. This is a two position switch to switch the phase between 0 and 180 degrees to correct for phase errors in low frequencies relative to your other speakers.
All the above is pretty standard with most subwoofers in this price range.
Performance and listening test
Here's where this baby falls apart. This box just doesn't have the power to deliver good hard hitting low end bass. The response curve is peaked at around 110 Hz and drops off to -6dB at 90 Hz. Not very good at all for something with a 10" driver. What that means to the listener is the lowest octave or two is diminished in power and will not create the kinds of rumbling sensory gut feel you expect from a really good subwoofer. Listening to this sub in my system is like having ordinary big speakers but not the pedal tone reproducing wall shaking rattle of a really big low end pushed out by a 32 foot pipe in a grand pipe organ. And that's what I expect from a subwoofer. I want an end of your senses low low THOOONK that hits your chest like the Grand Finale at the Fourth of July fireworks, not a wimpy, TOOOK. Not too impressive for those who like 20Hz sounds, thumps and thuds or well defined acoustic bass in jazz music. It is basically a poorly tuned port, tuned too high in frequency, with the low end rolled off. Bass is too tubby and boomy with little or no definition. I should be able to hear those acoustic bass strings wagging back and forth, not some muddy approximation of a washtub bass with no distinct notes. To my likings, a subwoofer should give good response down to at least 30 Hz with minimal roll off. I'm not keeping this one although I've put up with it for a couple of years. I'm shopping right now for a replacement and am pretty sure which one I want. Keep your eyes on my pages for that review in a week or two.
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Amount Paid (US$): 300
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