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JBL Studio Series 5 - The Magic Guaranteed

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 
Recently I've reviewed the new breakthrough class seven D Pioneer SC-61 receiver. http://www.avsforum.com/t/1417558/pioneers-reasonably-priced-sc-61-class-d-receiver/0_60#post_22271495
There I wanted to give a corresponding recommendation for selecting a high-performance yet value speaker. Then how to properly set-up the system without instantly jumping into the auto-calibration.
For requirements, the speaker had to be able to take advantage of the SC-61's bi-amp capability and in reality set a new baseline. I've found the answers in the JBL Studio Series 5.

I'm felt compelled to post my observations (and that of others) here so you may share in the thrilling rediscovery of your music and movie collection.
It's understandable that JBL speakers have not been taken seriously in America (like Bose) excluding a very high-end niche segment. That is about to change with the British (rather ironically) first accurately identifying the American breakthrough in affordable and wide-ranging horn technology.
Be sure to read through the review and listen to the You-tube video to see if you want this new, exciting and pleasurable technology. Oh yes, just remember to remove them grills!

System Matching the High Value Pioneer SC-61 Class D Receiver
It is well established that the SC-61 Class D offers a precise, effortless wide dynamic range and immersive soundstage which optimally should be exploited to allow for the professional-level of dynamics and articulation of digital commercial movie theaters. For that we need to match to a line of speakers.

In past decades JBL restricted their best speaker technologies (horns) to the well-heeled high-end market segment. Given the increasingly frugal economic conditions and the shrinking of that segment, JBL is seriously targeting the quality and value consumer marketplace. This is good news for you and me! The common goal is to seek a magical realism in our home theater system without breaking the bank.

I bought into JBL’s first attempt to gain broader acceptance at reasonable prices with the Studio SL80 series:http://www.jblsynthesis.com/downloads/products/prod_97_634484108436718358_brochure_JBL_LS_English.pdf. These horn speakers use titanium diaphragms and neodymium magnets and have exquisite cabinets. They are also difficult to locate, audition and purchase. From experience the LS80 with dual 8” woofers is designed for large American rooms.

JBL latest high-value design is the Studio 5 series designed by Chief Engineer Greg Timbers, who developed the acclaimed Everest, K2 and Project Array systems high-end speakers. All can be bi-amped. For 5.1 surround systems the Pioneer 7.1 SC-61 can bi-amp the front main speakers to increase the dynamic range.

The Series 5 bi-radial horn uses neodymium magnet but substitutes a Dupont Teonex film diaphragm. This technology “represents a significant breakthrough in dielectric film technology for Flexible Printed Circuitry. The distinct advantages of Teonex PEN Film films combine to meet the special demands imposed on the dielectric substrate during each production stage and ultimate end use.” http://www.pleo.com/dupont/xm020.htm. JBL claims this material is stiffer than conventional materials and delivers ‘tighter, more precise mid and high frequencies’. Well shall see as I have a pair of 570’s arriving shortly. I plan to, bi-amp, fine tune the speaker position and toe-in and then look at what the Pioneer Advance MACC can make any improvement, especially the x-curves.

Looking back at the Harmon/Infinity/JBL consumer lines, I never cared much for the previous CMMD (ceramic metal matrix diaphragm) dome tweeters. The Series 5 new technology eliminates the dome super-tweeter. The results are a two-driver design with all but one incorporating dual woofers. Technically it is significant that the horn crosses over at 1.5Khz an octave lower than usual. From the picture the typical degradation from the grill to the mids and treble is removed. The fully exposed horn accounts also accounts for the unique appearance.
The Youtube video explains the technology behind the JBL horns. Pay particular attention to the drum sound difference between JBL horn and conventional drivers and decide if this is the type of sound you want to explore.

Here are some positive reviews from (god save the queen and British loudspeakers!) England:
Reviewer Keith Howard gives excellent technical insight pointing out the 580 is best suited for larger rooms:
The 590 overwhelms the smaller German rooms:

Price and Availability
The Series 5 is available at many retailers and directly from the Harmon on-line shop. All at the same street price.
The 570 does not appear to be available outside the USA. http://eu.jbl.com/studio-5-series-eu/brand_jbl/home_audio/home-series/studio-5-serie.html
It is available at a discount from the http://www.harmanaudio.com/search_browse/reconditioned.asp. Experience tells its being discontinued. Must be too cheap!
post #2 of 7
Thread Starter 
The speakers arrived. First impression is the 570 is a midget floor standing speaker. At 34” it’s less than waist high. It might prove beneficial to mount on a sturdy 7-8” base.

First major ordeal solved: I was wrong in assuming the Studio 5 grill would be transparent. From the pictures it appeared that the grill didn’t cover up the horn. There was an initial rather nasty brightness/pinching irritation, which after a couple of hours of intense experimentation was traced to the grill. I removed the grill and then was able to determine what the mysterious included curved glass filled ABS piece was for (without reading the owner’s manual!). Removing the grill and installing this “leaf” maximizes the controlled directivity. Just like the skin of an aircraft, a smooth flared surface everywhere is extremely important for high performance air-flow. High fidelity is getting quite refined. Impressive but did the other reviewers miss this?

The series 5 horn is mounted vertically which i recall was determined to be better than horizontal mounting. The horn is very large in proportion to the speaker, just like the professional gear. The step down model Studio 190 horn is dinky in comparison).

Confirmed the speaker is inefficient. Reviewer Keith Howard explains it best:
“Horn loading used often to be regarded (and still is) merely as a means to enhance a speaker’s sensitivity. But when you combine a horn-loaded tweeter with direct-radiating bass-mid units, as JBL does here, there’s only so much of this potential you can exploit because the latter will inevitably determine the speaker’s overall sensitivity. So JBL deploys horn loading to different effect: to reduce distortion and increase dynamic range, and to control directivity. As JBL puts it in the Studio 580 product leafl et, ‘Controlled directivity at ear level of seated listeners minimizes unwanted HF interaction with walls and furniture’.”.

The pioneer SC-61 provides a total of about 300 watts bi-amped into the rated six ohm speaker impedance. The Series 5 woofers are designed for excellent transient response and gradual low-end fall-off, which mate exceptionally well with a sealed box sub-woofer. Bi-amping is best but bi-wiring offers most of the benefits.
The bottom line is the speaker is performing just as the reviews stated. It is very dynamic (read loud), well balanced and almost full range, coherent with strikingly low distortion. It’s a breakthrough of sorts, especially for home theater. It will be a welcome addition to one of my surround sound installations. The taller 42” 580 is better suited for main speakers. I might also be purchasing the 520C center for maximum speech legibility.
Here is another good chart explaining the series 5 advantages:
post #3 of 7
Thread Starter 
I listened to the bi-amped 570 speakers again using music sources. The overwhelming observation is one of being able to hear the smooth, uniform constant "spray" of sound out of the horn for a wide range of frequencies (1.5KHz up). Its as easy to hear as it is to see, as depicted in the you-tube garden hose nozzle example.

This perfect pattern eliminates an untold number traditional speaker design limitations, interference, coloration's and distortions. Its a remarkable listening experience!

The magical sound can be yours too by mating the series 5 horns to an excellent sealed-box 12" (or larger) sub-woofer and the powerfully dynamic and low distortion Pioneer SC-61 Class D receiver.
post #4 of 7
Thread Starter 
This as a battle of three leading technologies. The British coaxial speakers (Kef), the American JBL horns, and the German Heil Air Motion (AMT).

Presently JBL wins competition as the British and German entries are hugely more expensive. Even if price were removed as a consideration, the JBL would win in sound quality with higher dynamics and lower distortion. I have not heard the Kef. The Heil AMT treble would be more refined.
More importantly the JBL is simply the most fun to listen to!


Adam Audio (Heil Air Motion):

post #5 of 7
Thread Starter 
Just for fun here is the 1% horn solution:

Lets see what the wife says about two of these German babies in the family room!
post #6 of 7
so how do they compare to the LS series?
post #7 of 7
I wonder what they think of this commercial speaker entry over in the DIY Speaker forum here on AVS? Many over there are fond of the SEOS waveguides. Were he still alive, I'd love to hear what ZilchLab would've said because he was a big JBL fan as I recall.
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