Being in the custom installation business, we constantly run into one new issue after another. These are almost exclusively issues on the installation side: plaster walls, old log cabins with solid exterior walls, mice, interference from the transmission plant across the street, etc. But we never met a home installation problem where deciding on the equipment was the issue. We sell equipment from the most basic to the exotic and fitting a product at or below a customer’s price point was never an issue, until recently.
Our customer had a limited budget and a BIG room. No big deal, we sell Paradigm Monitors, or so we thought until we saw the room – an old church rectory to be used for home theater next to the pastor’s home. This wasn’t a home theater, so we recommended some quality commercial installers. But our customer insisted he’d talked to some and they didn’t know home theater, even if they sold consumer products as well. He wanted an acoustically designed theater, with a sub $15,000 budget.
No speaker in our product line could fill this room on this budget, leaving enough for acoustic treatments and every other component, plus installation costs. So we decided to check out the world of high efficiency, large room speakers. The closest we came in the world of consumer speakers were JBL and Klipsch, but for various reasons we eliminated both as options that would really blow away a listener in a room this size. So we turned our attention to commercial speakers and in the sub $1,000/speaker range we ran across the JBL 3677 (small thanks to Andrew Robinson’s recent review on his blog [see first post for link]).
Taking a hard look at the specs, you will see they are NOT rated above 15 kHz and being big music fans this had us concerned. But this customer wasn’t interested in music, except dance music for parties, and was planning on spending most of his time watching movies. The other issue with these speakers is they are ugly, and nothing anyone would want to look at and must be hidden. An acoustically transparent screen is a great way of hiding the three front speakers, but what about the surrounds? Luckily a large column with its front covered in speaker cloth and a built in shelf was within budget to hide the surrounds. It also worked nicely to break up the long flat walls.
With a low cost Yamaha RX-V673 in place, a sub $100 Sony BluRay player, Epson 6020 and 130” Seymour AT screen, wires, carpentry and installation, we had a simple home theater completed well under the customer’s budget.
The 3677’s do not have binding posts, just simple screws to lock in the speaker wire (see pictures in post #18). These are heavy speakers, but not floorstanders, so you will need to make speaker stands (there is nothing commercially available) to withstand their weight.
All our listening tests were done in our own showroom, which is significantly smaller than the installation we described above, but probably a LOT closer to the average AVS user thinking of installing these in their home. Our showroom is 16 w x 23 l x 10.5 h (average height), for a little under 4,000 cu ft. All tests were done AFTER we calibrated the speakers using ARC (see post #19 for ARC graph). Also, our surround speakers were the JBL Pro 8320’s, not the 3677’s used in the installation (absolutely no room for 3677’s as surround speakers in our showroom).
This review is not going to be a detailed magazine review, which talk about every album they listened to with specifics about how the speakers made them feel. We will say, listening to jazz, classical, rock and country, the JBL’s are good speakers. They did the music justice, but compared to Paradigm Studio 100’s, they do not have the incredibly smooth midrange or sweet highs. At less than ½ the price we didn’t expect them to, nor will some of you care, because when it came to action movies, these speakers have a dynamic impact that will put you into the back of your seat. Their high efficiency make them so easy to drive that our Anthem amp that never got past warm powering Studio 100’s, didn’t go past cool driving these JBL’s. We’d go so far to say that ANY A/V receiver sold today can drive these speakers to ear bleed level in any home theater. That’s a big savings that can be used for anything else you may need, especially acoustical treatments which are so badly needed in rooms with only hard wood floors and drywall walls.
What these speakers are NOT good for – a completely untreated room. They have very wide dispersion and an untreated room will bounce this sound all around.
Remarkably little above 15 kHz is in music recordings and even less in movie soundtracks, but these aren’t speakers for critical listening. They are for fun, dynamic movies that can be purchased at under $900 each that fill a need for larger home theaters without breaking a small budget. If you want to feel like you’re in the middle of the fight during an action movie, these speakers will fill that need with aplomb. Highly recommended.