Loudspeakers

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Review: Mark Craven, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Apr 09, 2021
hfncommendedStyled after its classic 1970s studio monitors, but equipped with patented 21st century horn and compression driver technology, the 4349 is a not-so-compact fun factory

American loudspeaker company JBL has a 75-year history – and the work of founder James Bullough Lansing dates back even further. For HFN readers, who are in the know, it might seem odd that the brand is now more popular on the UK high street for its extensive range of affordable Bluetooth speakers and wireless headphones. Luckily for us the company still maintains a 'serious' side, and it's from there that its two-way 4349 monitor hails. A wide-baffle speaker with a compression mid/treble driver and 300mm woofer, it can trace its heritage all the way back to the company's first creations – and couldn't be more different from a pair of budget earbuds.

Review: James Parker, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Oct 01, 2021
hfncommendedPromising the 'iconic JBL sound' from modern cabinets, we hear the flagship HDI floorstander

Some speakers are large, but manage to conceal their bulk through clever styling, but the £4000 HDI-3800 flagship of JBL's 'High-Definition Imaging' series manages to do exactly the opposite. It may only stand 1.1m tall, yet the combination of width and depth – 30cm and almost 42cm respectively – and a particularly upfront driver array makes this a rather imposing speaker to have in the room, with echoes of the company's PA range.

Review: Nick Tate, Lab: Keith Howard  |  Jul 12, 2019
hfnedchoiceFirst launched in 1970, the L100 has been reimagined by JBL as the 'Classic' – a modern take on a speaker that's visually faithful to the original. Strap on your seat belts...

Behold this 'modern take on the all-time best-selling JBL L100 loudspeaker' with its classic retro styling. It's certainly something you'll not forget too soon. Yet why would JBL want to recreate such a whimsical thing, considering how far loudspeaker design has come in the past 50 years? The answer is surely more cultural than it is technological as, to a greater or lesser extent, our collective dissatisfaction with the modern world has encouraged us to revisit a generation or two back with rose-tinted spectacles firmly in place.

David Berriman and Keith Howard  |  Sep 25, 2009
The LS80 speakers by JBL are no shrinking violets, standing tall in the room at just over a metre high and weighing over 35kg each. The veneered sides are gently curved, as is the front. The wood finish for the side panels looks a bit dark for my taste and, as Henry Ford offered, there are lots of colours – provided you choose Dark Ebony, which is polished to a high gloss finish. The front, top and back are all in dark grey to black, so these speakers are quite sober in appearance.
Richard Holliss  |  Jan 22, 2015
At the pinnacle of JBL’s loudspeaker range, the Everest is a monster of a speaker weighing 142kg and priced at a whopping £35k each, its 250-litre enclosure 1110mm wide to accommodate two 15in drivers side by side. While it doesn’t require an enormous listening space, a room does need to be adequately wide in order to space a pair apart satisfactorily. The Everest has been JBL’s flagship ‘Project’ speaker for nearly three decades. Carried over from the out-going model are the speaker’s two horn-loaded beryllium compression drivers: the 100mm diameter 476Be high frequency unit and the 25mm 045Be-1 ‘UHF’ supertweeter, working up to a claimed 60kHz.
John Bamford & Keith Howard  |  Aug 14, 2010
When informed I had a pair of horn-loaded JBL floorstanders coming my way for auditioning I confess I wasn’t particularly enthralled. And I was quietly cursing as several of us groaned under the 73kg weight of each enclosure, man-handling them down the stairs into my basement listening den. Then I heard them. It was mid-afternoon when they were first fired up, powered by my resident Mark Levinson No.
Ed Selley  |  Nov 20, 2011
The inexpensive Studio series represents fine value for money Not for the first time with inexpensive JBLs, we wonder how – if – they can possibly turn a profit. The Studio 190 offers outstanding value. In most respects this speaker represents familiar fare for a modern floorstander: the cabinet is a conventional tall, narrow box with rather resonant side panels; and the bass is reflex-loaded via a single rear-firing port. The Weave design of the front baffle JBL calls ‘bold and dynamic’, and that appears to be the sum of its purpose – to catch the eye rather than influence the sound.
Keith Howard  |  Nov 30, 2011
Following the success of its keenly-priced Studio 1 models, JBL ups the ante with a no less distinctive Studio 5 range The company’s marketing philosophy is pretty simple: if you’ve got it, flaunt it, ‘it’ being JBL’s long and distinguished history in professional audio. Think PA speakers and you’ll probably envisage direct radiating bass drivers coupled with hornloaded midrange and treble units – exactly the image JBL wishes you to have and echoes in many of its domestic speakers which, fl ying in the face of fashion, continue to feature horns. Cue the new Studio 580, middle of the company’s new Studio 5 range which looks to build on the reception accorded JBL’s lesser Studio 1 series, which included bagging the recent EISA European Loudspeaker 2011-2012 Award for the high-value Studio 190 [see HFN Oct ’11, page 11]. Compared to the 190 [HFN May ’11] the costlier 580 might appear to be a retrograde step.
Ed Selley  |  Nov 17, 2011
This clever little speaker still sounds more than respectable An audio pioneer, Jim Rogers possessed real acoustic engineering talent as well as in electronics. The original Rogers folded corner horn may not offer true stereophonic reproduction, but it’s a fine room-filling beast. And as for the later flat-to-the-wall Wafer speakers, based on Philips drive units and measuring just 2in thick, these are surprisingly magicalsounding. Then there’s the JR149.
Review: Ken Kessler, Review and Lab: Paul Miller  |  Jul 09, 2021
hfnoutstandingAfter nearly a decade in production, KEF's iconic LS50 compact monitor has been comprehensively updated. We compare the original with the latest 'Meta' variant

Hardly a curse, but it's still a massive challenge for any manufacturer to improve on a smash hit. I don't care if you're talking about cars, cameras or cookers – whatever the classic, the follow-up is metaphorically referred to as 'that difficult second album'. KEF faced this with the LS50 which (terrifyingly) will be ten years old in 2022. In the interim, there have been active and wireless versions of the speaker, but the passive original [HFN Jul '12] is a much-loved default purchase in the under-£1000 sector. The new LS50 with the Meta suffix (£999) is KEF's The Godfather Part II. Yes, it's really that good.

Review: James Parker, Lab: Keith Howard  |  Dec 24, 2019
hfnoutstandingClearly inspired by its LS50W, KEF's tiny 'wireless' system in a box is a big triumph

There are active speakers and active speakers. Some models claim to be 'active' but are really just powered, with a single amplifier within the speaker cabinet driving the tweeter and mid/bass unit via a conventional passive crossover, sometimes even with a stereo power amp in one speaker driving both it and a slave partner.

Ed Selley  |  May 25, 2009
For readers whose knowledge of particle physics is as lamentable as mine, the muon is the name given to an important elementary particle and one that has a relatively extended lifetime of 2. 2µsec. Muons are difficult to create – something which unquestionably applies to these Ross Lovegrove designed KEFs too, whose superformed aluminium cabinet takes about 160 man-hours to manufacture the shining megaliths you see here. Numbers for the Muon are impressive even before you get to its £70,000 price tag (per pair).
Keith Howard  |  Apr 08, 2011
It might look like more of the same, yet this Q series loudspeaker boasts some new features at front and back The Q900 may be top of KEF’s brand, spanking new Q series – the meat and potatoes of its range – but to look at, inside and out, it appears in some ways to represent a step backwards, certainly in respect of KEF’s rich technological history. The Q900 effectively replaces the previous iQ90, a speaker which bowled me over when winning a group test just over a year ago [HFN Mar ’10]. One of the notable aspects of the iQ90 was its curved cabinet, a feature of more than aesthetic significance since it stiffens the enclosure, whereas the large side panels of a conventional box cabinet are prone to resonance. It was a surprise, then, to find the Q900 has what KEF rather grandly terms a ‘rectilinear’ cabinet – what you and I would call a standard, slab-sided box.
Review: James Parker, Lab: Keith Howard  |  Jul 09, 2019
hfnoutstandingThe flagship of KEF's new R-series combines the 12th generation of Uni-Q with 'aluminium skinned' woofers

Inspired by KEF's flagship Reference range, its recently updated and more affordable R series was heralded by the standmount R3 [HFN Dec '18] – a speaker that caused sufficient stir here at HFN that we were keen to explore what its tallest floorstander, the R11, had to offer. And here it is, selling for a surprisingly modest £3999 a pair, and looking impressive in a choice of three finishes – black gloss, white gloss or walnut.

Review: James Parker, Lab: Keith Howard  |  Dec 01, 2018
hfnoutstanding.pngKEF says 1000+ changes have gone into its new R Series, so how does this translate to the only standmount loudspeaker in the lineup? We listen to what the R3 has to say...

Who needs shifts in the weather when you can judge the time of year by hi-fi launches? Those of us who exist in the twilight world of hi-fi reviewing, and are strangers to Vitamin D, didn't need a chill in the air and the first signs of yellowed leaves swirling around to know it was autumn – instead, a flurry of press releases announced new or revamped speaker ranges, as the big names prepared for another season of long evenings and hunkered-down listening.

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