A serious, big, black box
Even before you hear the PB12, you'll know that this isn't one of those poser subs; it's the real deal. This JBL is a fairly large, 40-pound cube, measuring 17.5 by 15.0 by 16.0 inches and finished in attractive, faux-wood, black vinyl. The PB12 has--you guessed it--a 12-inch woofer. More precisely, it's a pure-cellulose-fiber woofer, which is located on the bottom of the unit and fires down into the floor. An onboard 250-watt amplifier supplies the juice.
Hookup options cover every contingency. If you're using an A/V receiver, just flick the PB12's LFE switch, which bypasses the sub's internal crossover, and run an interconnect cable to the receiver's sub output. If you have an older receiver, you can connect speaker cables between the sub and the receiver. Either way, setup is a snap.
Rock the house
We mated the PB12 with a JBL home-theater speaker package, the , though it will likely sync up just fine with other brands of speakers. All our favorite workout DVDs--Saving Private Ryan, The Thin Red Line, and Men in Black--rumbled and quaked with real authority. The PB12 easily pressurized our large room with sound, but its definition was merely good rather than great. We noted that this sub has tendency to sound thick and muddy whenever we increased the volume.
We tried a few CDs with a lot of low bass, and the PB12 sounded fine. Moby's Play CD unleashed its mega-deep synth runs on "Rushing" with verve. Organ music wasn't particularly airy or clean; once again we felt that the PB12 was too soft and slow to replicate deep bass with articulate control.
The JBL PB12 carries a $479 price tag. That's not unreasonable, but in that range, we prefer Infinity's excellent , which does a better job of filling the room with bass while also communicating musical detail.