JBL Synthesis SSW Subwoofers: The Ultimate Solution for Multichannel Low-Frequency Reproduction
by Jim Garrett
Senior Director, Product Strategy & Planning
With CEDIA Expo 2019 just a few weeks away, we are excited about showcasing and demonstrating some great new JBL Synthesis products in Booth #1313. Part of the unparalleled performance of a JBL Synthesis system is our patented JBL loudspeaker technology. This will be on full display in the 9.1.6-channel system demonstration this year including selections from our compelling new range of SSW passive subwoofer solutions. Two of those models have only just recently begun shipping, so I’d like to share some of the background about what makes these products so unique. But before I do, let’s walk the path of how we got here.
Not so long ago, we began a quest to update every single loudspeaker in our JBL Synthesis portfolio. The original genesis of the idea was borne out of the fact that we had incredibly capable L/C/R main channel products that all used powerful compression drivers, but we didn’t have any compression driver loudspeakers that could easily be used as surround channels. That meant we had systems that were limited in their overall capabilities by the relative weakest link: the dome tweeters used in the surround channel products up until that time. With the patented technologies we had available to us in our High-Definition Imaging (HDI™) waveguides and JBL Professional “D2” family of compression drivers, we set about creating the most capable in-wall loudspeakers available on the market. The first two models in the newly christened range of “Synthesis Custom Loudspeakers” were the SCL-3 and SCL-4. The SCL products not only solved the output and dynamic capability problem, but they have redefined the performance expectation for in-wall products – winning a number of awards along the way. The SCL family has since been expanded to include the mighty SCL-2, and very soon the sensational new SCL-5, in a range of ultra-high-performance in-wall compression driver loudspeakers.
With a good handle on the full-range models for JBL Synthesis, we turned our attention to the low-frequency department. The first step was to take a look at a new overall strategy that would deliver products with extended low-frequency response, increased power handling, and greater overall SPL output capability versus their predecessors. In short, subwoofers that could match the performance of the SCL full-range models. We also wanted to create logical steps between the models while providing solutions for common installation applications. This included an expansion to a new smaller, less expensive solution that we have not had previously. In the end, we settled on a dual woofer approach for all of the models – something that gained us the performance improvements we required and allowed us some flexible enclosure configurations. This also allowed us to have a step-up solution for in-wall and built-in products.
As the smaller of the two in-wall products, the SSW-4 offers a compact solution that can be an easy retrofit thanks to its integrated back box enclosure design. The enclosure itself is less than 4-inches deep, allowing it to be used in standard 2×4-inch stud frame construction. Installation provisions include upper and lower dog-leg mounts as well as eight rubber-isolated wood screw mounting points designed to be fastened directly to the wood stud framing. Dual 8-inch front-firing drivers operate in a sealed design and deliver surprisingly solid bass performance from such a relatively small footprint. (-6dB is 36Hz on this model.) Connections are via a pair of spring-loaded terminals, guaranteeing a safe and reliable termination point. A paintable, zero-bezel, magnetically attached grille is provided for applications where the sub will be mounted in a more traditional architectural manner, or it can be left off in locations where the subwoofer is concealed behind fabric panels or similar acoustic materials. With its dual-driver configuration, the SSW-4 was designed to be used with a single 300W channel of the JBL Synthesis SDA-8300 amplifier. The SSW-4 is also the perfect companion to the SCL-4 – even sharing the same size zero-bezel grille and the ability to fit into 2×4-inch walls.
Staying within the in-wall solutions, the step-up SSW-3 provides greater all-around performance courtesy of its much larger, behind-the-drywall enclosure, and its powerful dual 10-inch woofers. Based on the sealed enclosure design of the outgoing S4S, the SSW-3 makes a number of improvements while maintaining the same footprint behind the wall. The 64-inch tall enclosure is constructed of 0.75-inch MDF with heavy internal bracing. It is designed to fit 2×6-inch wood stud frame construction and is secured via ten rubber isolation mounting points intended to help minimize sonic intrusion into the wall structure. While the back box enclosure is an evolution of the S4SBB, the baffle and drivers are a clean-sheet design. The most striking aspect of the SSW-3 is its heavily ribbed, compression-molded baffle. This ultra-rigid baffle provides a low-resonance mounting surface for the dual 10-inch transducers. Those two drivers feature cast aluminum frames, large 2.5-inch voice coils, and massive motor structures that help the SSW-3 deliver a -6dB point of 20Hz and power handling of 600W RMS. It was designed to be driven with a single 600W channel of the SDA-4600. As the larger of the in-wall models, the SSW-3 can be paired with any of the SCL in-wall loudspeakers.
Moving into the built-in category takes us to the SSW-2. This product was conceived as a replacement for the S2S-EX, but its ultra-low-frequency performance capability ended up making it a viable replacement for the older S1S-EX model. The dual 12-inch driver configuration allowed us to reduce the width and depth of the cabinet while growing its height. This aspect ratio makes it perfectly suitable to be used either vertically in a corner or horizontally underneath a screen. That positioning flexibility suits a wide range of installation applications where a larger single driver subwoofer simply would not fit. The SSW-2 enclosure is constructed from 1-inch MDF with extensive internal window-pane bracing resulting in a rock-solid foundation for the transducers. The 12-inch drivers are the most capable drivers ever used in a JBL Synthesis subwoofer. Based on a cast aluminum frame, each driver uses a massive 4-inch voice coil, powerful ferrite motor structure, and a long-throw cone/roll-edge/spider assembly. The drivers operate in a bass-reflex enclosure tuned with a pair of patented Slipstream™ ultra-low-noise front-firing ports. The SDA-4600 operating in bridged mode (2 x 1200W) is the perfect amplifier to drive one or two SSW-2 subwoofers. To complete the system for in-room applications, the SSW-2 includes a steel frame, magnetically attached, black fabric grille. The output capability of the SSW-2 makes it the ideal companion for the SCL-2 in-wall loudspeaker.
With these first three SSW models, we now offer logical steps in the dual driver configuration moving from the dual 8-inch SSW-4 in-wall (for 2×4-inch walls), to the dual 10-inch SSW-3 in-wall (for 2×6-inch walls), to the dual 12-inch SSW-2 (for built-in or in-room applications). All three models deliver serious low-end punch making them the perfect foundation for a JBL Synthesis multichannel audio system. All three models are now shipping. Talk to your sales representative today, or even better – plan to stop by and see us at CEDIA Expo 2019 in Booth #1313 to hear a system for yourself!