JBL and Harman – AXPONA 2017

by Rafe Arnott

Every time I hear the word “JBL” mentioned I instantly think about their behemoth David Smith-engineered 4435, and 4430 Bi-Radial studio monitors that were introduced in 1981. These were the longest-running professional speaker in production from JBL (1981~1999), and also one of the company’s most successful designs. I had a mild obsession with them for a few months, and devoured as much information on them as I could. I scoured the Internet for used pairs, but they would always be thousands of miles away, usually somewhere in the United States (I’m in Canada), and in need of repairs – never mind the shipping costs (and risks) – so price-wise they became a bit of a bugaboo for me because they would require a significant investment up front just to purchase, and ship them… and then significant investment in acquiring replacement parts, and finding someone who was qualified to service/repair them. Alas, that’s when my fervour for them began to wane, and I moved on to other loudspeakers, but I never forgot the unrequited love affair I had with JBL those years ago. So when I walked into the Audio Solutions room at the Westin O’Hare during AXPONA and saw JBL’s flagship Project Everest DD67000 horn-loaded loudspeakers ($35,000 USD) being fed intravenously by a pair of Mark Levinson No. 536 power amplifiers (400 watts into eight Ohms, $30,000 USD/pair) I was stopped dead in my tracks.

These were (in a sense) the updated/modified reincarnation of the 4435/4430 in my mind, and so I had to pay respect.

While of fairly high sensitivity, JBL transducers typically like power, so the No. 536 power amps had the pair well in hand, and a stack of Levinson electronics including the No. 519 Audio Player ($20,000 USD), which was in charge as the digital source while I was in the room sounded transparently happy. The JBLs are simply massive, weighing in at more than 300lbs apiece, the cabinets boast twinned 15-inch bass drivers, are rated at 96dB, and pressurize rooms in wavelengths of 30Hz to 50KHz. They are a joy to look at, and I have to say I wasn’t the only in the room with a lustful eye upon them. These are big speakers for a really big sound, and this combination didn’t disappoint as they easily filled the space with a huge sound stage, and a sense of scale to instruments, and voices that was proportionately life-size in weight, presence, and realism. Finesse, power, visceral slam, and speed made this a noteworthy system in Chicago.

For those about to rock (with JBL), I salute you.


8 thoughts on “JBL and Harman – AXPONA 2017

  • May 8, 2017 at 1:50 pm

    For that system I would have torn off the clothes and danced nude in some hedonistic fashion!

  • May 9, 2017 at 5:01 am

    the JBL might be good…………..Mark Levinson…………..yikes !

    • May 10, 2017 at 12:54 pm

      The Mark Levinson No. 326S is one of the best preamplifiers ever.

      • May 11, 2017 at 7:14 am

        you gotta listen to Chord preamps……….sonically, they don’t exist…….i bet even Gamut would be easily better than Mark Levinson…………

        • May 11, 2017 at 8:16 am

          I’m sure they are great and technology keeps advancing, but the fact that the 326S was introduced many years ago is important. In my opinion it will be a classic just like their famous 25W per channel ML-2 monoblocks.

          • May 16, 2017 at 5:33 pm

            My Realistic Coronet 500 all in one system beats the pants off JBL, ML and Chord

        • May 11, 2017 at 5:55 pm

          Fook Me Running, have you heard the ML electronics referenced in this article? I’ve a friend who wants to sell his Chord 3000 since he heard my system.

  • May 11, 2017 at 5:53 pm

    Fook Me Running, where did you here the ML electronics referenced in this article? I’ve a friend who wants to sell his Chord 3000 since he heard my system.

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