My JL Audio sub is dead. What exactly happened?


So at my wife's request, I hooked up a Roku to my main system. Roku is a device for internet streaming movies and tv. The connection between the Roku and my preamp, a Meridian G68, was a 12 foot optical cable.

The first night, I hook up the Roku and it works perfectly.

The next night, I move some cables around, then I hook up the Roku again, exactly the same way as the previous evening. I get picture but no sound. Weird. I pondering what I might have done wrong when out of the speakers... POP. POP! POP!!!

Uh oh.

I dive for the amps, switch them off. The POPs stop immediately. But...

Now there's a TERRIFYING HIGH PITCHED PULSATING NOISE coming from somewhere in the room. I finally realize it's coming from the sub, a JL Audio Fathom 113. I dart across the room, switch it off.

I stand frozen, savoring the final moments of the fantasy that maybe things aren't that bad.

Here are some questions in no particular order...

1. I suspect the amp in the sub is fried. Does that sound right?

2. Where did those POPs come from? Could a damaged optical cable do it? Or maybe the optical cable wasn't fully seated?

3. Do I really have to ship this 150 pound sub to Florida? Or do you think there's any chance of finding someone local to fix it? (I'm in L.A.) The sub is out of warranty, btw.

4. I tried to take the panel off the rear of the amp (I know, lethal voltages inside) with the thought that maybe I would just bring the amp portion of the sub to someone local to fix. I removed about 12 screws from the rear panel and still it doesn't budge. Why can't I open this thing?

If you have any suggestions, I'm all ears. If not, thanks for reading.

Bryon

P.S. The rest of the system appears to be fine.
bryoncunningham
Bryon,

Sorry for your loss.

I would say if its the sub that has died, it is most likely to be the amp section. The woofer would be very hard to destroy.

Normally the amp in a sub is sealed with a gasket. So it will take a fair amount of leverage to release the amp section. Especially considering the weight of the amp section.

Give JL a call. They will give you guidance.

As to a cause, without looking myself it would be impossible to say. Unlikely to be the optical cable. If it came lose the clock would stop and you may get a brief bit of white noise.
I heard a similar story and the individual just changed the fuse in the sub and had it work again, not sure how its done or if that could be your problem but its something to know, I also have a f113.
good luck!
Hi Chad and Tesseract - Thanks for your condolences. :-)

Chad - I agree that it's hard to see how the optical cable could do this damage.

I talked with the folks at JL. They agree that the amp is blown. As to the cause, they don't know. They speculated that it could have been a major voltage swing on my power lines. But I don't think that's it. My power is pretty stable here.

I did read in another forum about a guy whose F113 did the same thing (high pitched noise, no obvious cause), except his system was off at the time, which is even stranger.

I'm currently investigating the possibility of getting the sub fixed locally. Getting the back panel off might be tricky, because of the gasket you mentioned. The JL people said that, over time, the gasket fuses with the paint, in effect glueing the rear panel to the cabinet.

I'll let you know how things turn out.

Bryon
Hi Bryon,

My sympathies on this also. Hopefully it will just turn out to be a fuse, as Tesseract suggested.

Is there any sign of life from the sub, such as LEDs illuminating? Or is it totally inert, as if an AC line fuse is blown?

Do you use the sub in master or slave mode? If you are using it in slave mode, with the Meridian processor implementing the level and crossover functions, it would presumably have been more sensitive to an input that went berserk for some reason.

Can you test the Roku's optical output, and the optical cable, on something other than your main system, that is inexpensive? I wouldn't rule out the possibility that one of those things was the root cause of the problem, especially given that symptoms were present in the signal path to the main speakers as well as to the sub. Also, can you test the optical input of the processor using some other optical source and cable?

Best,
-- Al
YOU KILLED IT MAN !
Is there any sign of life from the sub, such as LEDs illuminating? Or is it totally inert, as if an AC line fuse is blown?
When you turn the sub on, you get the same high pitched screech that I heard when it blew. This is true even with just the power cable attached (i.e. no signal cable attached). So it's not the fuse. And it's not the signal input.
Do you use the sub in master or slave mode? If you are using it in slave mode, with the Meridian processor implementing the level and crossover functions, it would presumably have been more sensitive to an input that went berserk for some reason.
I use the sub in master mode, but I don't use the crossover. Instead I use the digital crossover in the Meridian. Come to think of it, I don't recall whether there is a way to actually defeat the sub's crossover or if I just turned the sub's low pass to the highest available frequency.
Can you test the Roku's optical output, and the optical cable, on something other than your main system, that is inexpensive? I wouldn't rule out the possibility that one of those things was the root cause of the problem, especially given that symptoms were present in the signal path to the main speakers as well as to the sub. Also, can you test the optical input of the processor using some other optical source and cable?
As you can guess, I'm totally paranoid about plugging ANYTHING into the Meridian's optical input at this point. If that's the source of the problem, I don't want to damage something else. I don't ordinarily use the Meridian's optical input. I use the coaxial inputs. I just used the optical with the Roku because that is the only S/PDIF output the Roku has.

I've abandoned the idea of using the Roku on my main system. Yesterday I ordered the just released Oppo BDP-103 to replace my first generation Pioneer Elite blu ray player. The Oppo has streaming capability, so I'll be able to make the wife happy without taking another chance on that **** Roku.

That is assuming that I decide to keep the Oppo. Everybody raves about the picture quality, but I recently bought and returned a high end Panasonic that everybody raved about also. I returned it because its picture quality wasn't as good as my Pioneer Elite, even though my Pioneer is roughly 5 years old. Everybody says the Oppo is the cat's pajamas. We'll see.

Bryon
Hopefully, whatever the problem is is isolated to one device but I wonder why there was NO sound including from the speakers?

Might the sub have been mainly a victim of something else upstream? If you jostled wires in the process the second time, I would say speaker wire connections are most exposed and vulnerable and the first suspect usually. That would most likely effect speakers and/or sub and/or amp. Amp might have a blown fuse. Check those if you have not already.

HArd to outrule anything for me at this point until isolated via regression tests piece by piece somehow.

I hate when these things happen so I empathize with you.
Hi Mapman - Thanks for your empathy. I agree it's a puzzle. I don't think it was a speaker wire mishap, but I can see why you would speculate that. It's a little strange that the only thing that got damaged was the sub.

Now that the JL people have told me that the gasket for the rear panel is probably fused to the paint, I'm going to make another attempt to open the sub. First I'm going to drill holes in the external heat sinks and thread a wire or a bolt through, to create improvised handles so I can get some leverage.

I'll let you guys know if I manage to get it open, and if so, what I see.

Bryon
Careful drilling holes in heat sinks. I suspect that metal is brittle.

Is there not a way to slide out the front panel then use a long lever to push back plate off?

Or even remove the woofer to do same idea?
Hey Chad - I was careful drilling and nothing broke. I threaded bolts through the holes, which gave me enough leverage to pull the back panel free from the gasket.

I removed the entire back panel from the sub, which includes the amp and the transformer. Nothing is obviously fried. I guess I was hoping to see something burnt to a crisp so I could simply replace it myself. I know that's silly.

The folks at JL are graciously trying to help me find a local repairman who can diagnose and fix the problem.

I'll update when I know more.

Bryon
Same problem here. I purchased a Fathom F113 subwoofer from Cherry Creek Audio in Denver Colorado. The subwoofer made this noise as soon as plugged in and turned on. No input cables attached.

Cherry Creek audio said that it was a blown amplifier in the subwoofer and they offered to fix it - FOR A FEE! And I would have to pack up the 130lbs. sub and bring it back to the shop for repairs. Shouldn't it be covered by warranty? I returned the subwoofer to Cherry Creek Audio and picked up a F112 instead. Never got to hear the F113 in my system but am happy with the F112.

I do not recommend purchasing anything from Cherry Creek Audio in Denver - terrible customer service.

Here is a recording of the sound that the broken sub made:
https://soundcloud.com/songaday/fathom-sub-noise
Sorry to hear about your experience, Rob. Like you, I now have a new JL Audio sub. I replaced my F113 with a F110. Hopefully this one won't blow up.

I've been given a quote to repair my F113 by JL's factory approved Los Angeles technicians... $1000. Ouch. It's still sitting at their shop, as I haven't made a decision about whether to repair.

Bryon
Bryon - did the JL repair shop in LA tell you what needs to be fixed and/or replaced?
New amp.
Byroncunningham's adventure here illustrates one advantage of using a separate subwoofer amp that goes on a shelf like your other components: no scary surgery or huge shipping cost required if the amp has a problem.

Duke
OMG. Could be tsunami or hurricane.
Although JL Audio Subs are indeed GREAT subs, if you are inclined to purchase one, I would at the very least, buy the LONGEST warranty that you can find, as they CANNOT fix these subs!!! My F112 went out after 4 years, and I called Barry @ JL Audio and was told that they DO NOT fix these, but instead want to charge approx. $1200.00 for my F112 and I'm sure much more for the bigger ones because they can only replace the whole Amp section. I was in disbelief that they had no fixes for these subs. My advice would be to forget about buying a used one completely, and in my case, I would not even buy another JL Audio Sub, as in the end, you are going to spend way TOO much money when it dies. Look at other reliable companies, SVS, Paradigm, etc!!!
Just repaired one.
The manufacturer has apparently used very low quality capacitors from CapXon. They are also 85deg.C caps, lame.
Not sure if this is intentional by JLaudio, or if they just did not know how bad caps the Chinese manufacturer used.

Deadness is specifically due to a 100uF 35V cap at the standby power supply failing.

I replaced all CapXons with high quality caps, like 125deg.C ones, Panasonic FC, Rubycon ZL and some Sanyo ones too.

The Bipolar cap were still fine in the one I fixed, but I am thinking about replacing them at the same go.

Also getting the amp module out is a bit tricky.
You have to remove the driver (screws are under the surround of the woofer) and then carefully hammer out the sub module with a mallet and sturdy piece of wood as an extension. It is very heavy, do not let it fall.

I have lots of photos of how to do this, I cannot attach them here but maybe on DIYaudio.


85 deg C caps from Chinese CapXon. Wow this is pathetic. JL need to do a recall or owners need to do a class action to force them to do a recall. This is a faulty design that is bound to fail.
Yes, it is horrible.
If the 4000€ sub was 5€ more expensive it would work 3x longer.

It is else very sturdy and the PCBs are of excellent quality!
So there is potential.
If I find some suitable contact information I can try to talk to them.
My goal in life is not to complain, but rather try to make things better.

But those who spent big money on these I can understand that they are angry.

I want to help people who want to repair theirs. It takes a couple of hours, but good caps like the ones I used cost around 30€, so you are not ruined. Even the 105deg.C ones I mentioned will work for very long in this sub! The most critical ones I used 125deg.C though.

Funny is that some of the originals are also 105deg.C, but not the one at the standby power supply. Which is for certain the most critical one!

These subs have been in production for over 10 years and since nothing lasts forever and these use micro chips I would just say age related failure could be a factor. I have noticed many complaining about costly sub-woofers having amplifier issues. It is a hard environment for electronics and transducer a small box with massive power and a driver with massive excursions. Heat vibration mechanical movement  in abundance. Placing amplifier in cabinet with transducers kind of asking for it. I also would asume the driver was damaged by the massive excursions and heat to VC caused by the amp failing and owner replicating the failure.

The JL Audio are excellent subs, while they’re working. Not saying that they aren’t very good products.

But they are expensive new. And buying used is always a bit of a crap shoot. And, shipping on >100 pounds ends up being a couple of hundred dollar proposition nowadays as well.

Sub internals and structures do take a beating, and just goes with the territory of producing bass. Not to mention the enclosed amp heat as johnk and jlithen describe.

I have chosen the SVS 13" Ultras because of cost, good performance, and really the clincher of SVS’ unconditional 5 year warranty.

I had 2 E112s die after very little use, less than one year each and used infrequently.  The only reason I had two was JL replaced the first one (under warranty).  The new one then died.  In their favor, customer service was great.  But I will not be buying JL anymore.  Great performance though. 
This is a real shame as they have what I consider among the very best sounding auto-eq systems. Not becuase of high-tech necessarily but the choices it makes.

Guess I'll stick to my Hsu + miniDSP!
My E112 did not respond when I was watching a movie tonight. I then stop the movie to see what's the problem until I bend over to the subwoofer and that when's I hear a soft knocking sound. I decided to switch off the power and waited for 10 mins later I switch it on the same dound could be heard. What could be the problem?
I woke up Saturday to a loud hum in my living room. I found the noise coming from my JL audio F112. Power off still hums. Changed outlets and still hums. I have a power conditioner and found no issues on my grid.  I had no idea that these things had these type of issues. I pray I can get it fixed over here on the West coast. I'm not shipping to Florida. Its 5 years old and for the price I paid should have lasted allot longer. Disappointed and interested to see what JL says. 
My F113 blew and was fixed on warranty.  Same thing happened (loud horrible noise when plugged in but switched off), now off warranty.  Suspect its due to those cheap caps having blown.  jlithen, did you post your photos of the fix anywhere?