JL Audio Dominion d108 Subwoofer Review 
Home Theater Loudspeakers Subwoofers
Written by Andre Marc   
Wednesday, 30 March 2016

JL Audio, based in Miramar, FL, is without question one of the handful of top tier subwoofer manufacturers in the world. Some of the best-sounding and lavish systems I've heard had JL Audio subs in place, even with full range loudspeakers. JL Audio is actually quite diversified, producing not only subs, but full systems and components for cars, boats, and custom applications.

Audiophiles, however, know JL for their impressive-looking, audiophile-grade subwoofers like their mighty Gotham V2 flagship model, which costs $15,000. The Gotham V2 goes down past 20 Hz, and weighs a back breaking 372 Lbs! Next in line is the Fathom V2, followed by the E-Sub line, and now the recently designed entry level models, the Dominion Series.

The Dominion series allows audiophiles entry into JL’s famous designs at a fraction of the cost, but with little compromise, according to the company’s design notes. Dominion subs come in two flavors -- d108 and d110. The d108 has an eight inch woofer and an onboard 500 watt amplifier, while the d110 has a ten inch woofer and 750 watts of power on tap. I received in for review, not one, but a pair of the d108s in a stunning black gloss finish. Black Ash is also available. The Dominion d108 sells for $899 in Gloss, and $799 in Ash.

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Features

According to JL Audio, the Dominion series employs proprietary “DMA (Dynamic Motor Analysis) technology to produce higher output levels with reduced distortion, as well as improved dynamic tracking and resolution. As a result, Dominion™ subwoofers are capable of peak-to-peak excursions well in excess of 2.5-inches (63 mm - d108), and 2.7 inches (68 mm – d110), without distress or audible distortion. Dominion™ amplifiers utilize an advanced Class D design in order to extract the most from the long-excursion driver platform. This design features a tightly regulated switching power supply, allowing the amplifier to generate prodigious amounts of unclipped output voltages. These technologies ensure that the Dominion™ powered subwoofers remain in their comfort zone, which is well beyond the point where most small subwoofers run out of power or driver capability.”

Other features include:
  • Onboard low pass crossover with 24 dB/octave Linkwitz-Riley alignment.

  • Phase and polarity controls are onboard to aid in achieving the optimal acoustic transition between the subwoofer(s) and main speakers.

  •  Flexible input options are on-hand to accept either line-level or speaker-level signals. Connect a -JLINK™ TRX system (sold separately) to the onboard Wireless Link port and enjoy the freedom to position your Dominion™ almost anywhere, up to 100 feet (30 meters) away from your source unit.

  • Cabinet is carefully engineered and constructed using solid, CNC-cut, MDF material with extensive internal bracing and advanced assembly techniques.-Built in JL Audio’s U.S. factory
The Dominion d108 in person is beautifully finished, and solid as a rock. It comes equipped with a power cord, informative manual, and adaptors for speaker line input. The driver is protected with a cloth grill that features JL Audio’s logo at the bottom. Four solid support feet complete the picture


Set Up

Here is a little secret. Having used subwoofers years ago with smaller satellite speakers, I grew tired of trying to integrate them, and gave up. I opted instead for larger, fuller range speakers that had satisfying bass. Having recently moved into a new house with with a listening space with high ceilings I began to wonder if the addition of a subwoofers to my Bryston Mini T stand mounts would make a difference. The Mini T has an eight inch woofer and according to Bryston goes down to the 33 Hz, which pretty decent extension. In other words the Brystons are not bass shy.

http://www.avrev.com/images/stories/equipsubwoofers/JLAudio/jlaudio_dominion_d108_subwoofer_rear.jpgIt just so happened the opportunity to review the JL Audio Dominion subs came about as I began to question my anti-subwoofer policy. I used the review samples in several configurations in two separate rooms. In my office system, I used them with Spendor S35/R monitors, an Aric Audio Expression tubed preamp, a variety of power amplifiers, and a Simaudio 280D streamer/DAC. In the main system, the speakers were as mentioned, Bryston Mini T, the just reviewed Rogue RP-5 preamp, a Simaudio 760 power amp, and a Bryston BDP2/BDA-3 file player and DAC combo.

There are several ways to set up subwoofers. One is with outboard calibration gear, which includes microphones, software, and DSP. And another way is by ear. It can get as complicated as you like it. I chose the “by ear” method. Also, with most subs, you have a choice of either using speaker level input, or line level input. Speaker level input means you run your speaker cables directly into your subwoofer, then an additional run of speaker cable to your main speakers. Line Level input means the sub receives the line output from your preamp or integrated amp, and you will use either your preamp/amp’s onboard bass management, or the controls available on the subwoofer. In either case, your speakers run full range.

In both my systems, I ran a stereo set of RCA cables from my preamps, both which have dual sets of variable stereo outputs, one for an amplifier, and one for a sub. The Dominion sub takes the stereo input and sums it to mono. After some experimentation, I set up each sub, in each system, just behind the left speaker. In the office system, I ended up with the crossover set at 60 Hz, and the gain control set at the reference point, twelve o’clock. In the main system, I ended up with the crossover at 40 Hz, and the gain backed off, set at roughly 9 o’clock. I experimented with, but ultimately did not change the phase and polarity settings. After using one each in two systems, I combined the Dominions in the main system for a stereo sub setup.

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Performance

Listening to a variety of music, I did not specifically seek out bass-heavy stuff, but definitely material with high quality bass content. I called on one of my very favorite albums, System, by Seal. The near perfect blend of acoustic guitar, electronica, and moody grooves was great for helping dial in the Dominions. Stellar tracks like “Dumb”, “Amazing”, and the title track allowed me to hear the nice shimmering top end and mellow midrange with the Dominion’s low end reinforcement.

A recent remaster I have been enjoying -- Michael Jackson’s Off The Wall, 24/96 FLAC -- is full of amazing melodies, dazzling poly rhythms and, of course, classic bass lines. The Dominions allowed the entire mix to breathe, and the weight of the bass lines to propel the tracks forward. Shutting off the subs decreased the sense of drama and reduced the scale of the music.



As I streamed numerous albums, the Dominion subs were extremely precise, quick, and nimble. I was quite surprised how well they integrated with the Brystons' eight inch woofers, and just how much they aided the Spendors. To be clear, I don’t look for subwoofers to provide “bass” for a system, what they do is add weight, and gravitas, adding lifelike solidity to the lower end that makes the presentation more believable and more anchored. In my opinion, a subwoofer should provide a foundation, but not be asked to do beyond what it was designed for, which is augmentation. But that augmentation is critical for a satisfying presentation.

A word about stereo and mono setups. I very much enjoyed the stereo set up, one sub on each side of the room. There was a “rightness” about the presentation and localization of the subs seemed not be an issue. Since program material can have bass specific information mixed to one channel or the other, a stereo set up is generally more accurate. However, even with one Dominion sub in system in a summed mono set up, the added weight, low bass augmentation, and the blend between the main speakers was excellent.

I have known fellow audiophiles that have spent weeks, and even months dialing in their subwoofers. As I said, it can be as complicated or stress free as you make it. Because the JL Dominion subs are so clean and quick, it was much easier than I anticipated to integrate them seamlessly. Of course it is possible, I could have gotten even more satisfying results with sophisticated DSP calibration, but I don’t have the patience or the budget for high quality calibration gear. “By ear” is the way I roll, and the very responsive controls on the Dominion let me do that.

I should note I used no special tweaks on the Dominions aside for swapping out the stock power cord mid way through the review with Shunyata Venom power cords, and I situated the subs on Auralex subwoofer platforms. I can’t say I really heard much of a difference with the aftermarket power cords, but I did feel the Auralex platforms did make a difference in taming floor resonances. At around $60 each they are worthy accessory.

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Conclusion

The Dominion subs, once dialed in, essentially disappeared and ended up being indispensable additions to my system. When they were turned off, it was quite noticeable. Noticeable to the point that I feel my system is better of with them.

Here is a huge bonus: if excellent sonic performance was not enough, Dominion subwoofers are made right here in the USA in JL Audio’s Florida factory. How JL Audio does this and prices the Dominion starting at $799 is beyond me. It must be economies of scale.

If you are looking for the last missing piece for your system -- the sense of lifelike weight and scale -- and don't want to break the bank, I can’t possibly recommend the JL Audio Dominion subwoofer series highly enough.

Specifications



JL Audio Dominion Subwoofer: $799 Black Ash / $899 Gloss Black
www.jlaudio.com
  • Unbalanced Inputs: Stereo or Mono (two RCA jacks)
  • High-Level Inputs: Stereo or Mono (removable plug)
  • Level Control: Variable – full mute to +15 dB over reference gain
  • Power On/Off: Automatic Signal-Sensing only
  • Low-Pass Filter: 24 dB per octave with Linkwitz-Riley alignment
  • Low-Pass Cutoff Frequency Range: Variable – 25 Hz-130 Hz
  • Polarity: 0 or 180 degrees
  • Phase: Variable from 0-280 degrees, referenced to 80 Hz
  • Enclosure Type: Sealed
  • Drivers: Single 8-inch (nominal diameter)
  • Frequency Response (anechoic):
  • 31-112 Hz (+/ 1.5dB)
  • -3 dB at 29 Hz/119 Hz
  • -10 dB at 21 Hz/143 Hz
  • Input Impedance:
  • Line Inputs: 20 k ohms
  • High-Level Inputs: 4.4 k ohms
  • Amplifier Power: 500 watts RMS short-term
  • Dimensions (HxWxD):
  • 37 in. x 10 in. x 13.23 in.
  • 289 mm. x 254 mm. x 336 mm.
  • Net Weight: 26.4 lbs. (12 kg)
  • Cabinet Finish: Black Ash Vinyl Veneer
  • Built in USA with imported and domestic components


Review System 1


DAC: Simaudio 280D
Tape Deck: Revox A77, Revox B77
Server: Bryston BDP-2
Preamp: Rogue Audio RP-5, Aric Audio Unlimited
Amplifier: Audio Research VS55, Simaudio 760A, Rotel RB-1590
Speaker: Bryston Mini T
Cables: Stager Sound, Acoustic Zen, Element Cable, DH Labs, iFi, SVS
Accessories: Symposium Rollerblocks and Svelte Shelves, Shakti Stone, Bryston BIT-15, Salamander rack

Review System 2


Music Server: SOtM sMS-100 w/ Battery XPS
Preamp: Aric Audio Expression, Belles Soloist 3
DAC/Streamer: Simaudio 280D w MiND
Power Amplifier: Onkyo M5000R
Tape Deck: Sony TC-350
Speaker: Magnepan MMG, Spendor S35R
Cables: Stager Sound, Transparent, DH Labs, SVS
Accessories: Cable Pro Noisetrapper, iFi iPower, Audience aR6






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