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Thread: Northridge JBL visit

  1. #1
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    Northridge JBL visit

    I have sold JBL for over 40 years but never had the time to visit their facility. So I made my bucket list trip from Iowa (over 30 hours driving time) to LA to JBL this week. Jim Garrett, Kevin Voecks and Chris (engineering) were all kind to spend time with me. All in all it is a very worthwhile and interesting visit. It does not appear that any particular person is in charge or dedicated to doing these tours. For this reason the presentation seemed slightly disorganized and fragmented. They had a smattering of vintage JBL and HK products there but I was expecting something closer to a museum feel showing JBL's timeline documented with their important products of the day. I think they should add an introductory AV presentation covering the history of JBL, their design philosophy and all of their milestones over the decades. This would be both informative and impressive. They already have a theater room to do this in if they wanted to.

    I listed to speakers in three different rooms.

    Room 1 (medium sized about 15 x 20) had the new ML 200 wpc integrated amp and the 4367's (which I already own) set up. It had serious room resonances in the bass of 10db or more. This caused other listeners that were there to be far less than impressed with the 4367's. They were left to wonder whether it was the speaker or the room. Being in audio sales my whole life this is never a good situation when you are trying to explain away problems by blaming the room. Perhaps it was just poor placement in the room as the speakers were close to being the same distance from the sidewalls as the back walls. Either way this room is doing them no favors as the S3900 had similar problems. They either need to find the sweet spot to minimize the resonances or use a different room.

    Room 2 was probably half again larger with the LSR models and the M2 set up here and sounded much better. The LSR-305 really impresses for the money. The M2 (the first time I have heard it) is obviously lower in coloration than the 4367 with far better bass linearity and extension. I expected the better bass etc from the M2 being active and EQ'd but did not expect it to be so much more natural sounding overall. Active speakers are the way to go. It's too bad they do not have any traction on the the consumer side of audio.

    Room 3 is their Synthesis home theater room. LCR Everest's biamped with 800 watt amps top and bottom plus 4 subwoofers total, one in each corner. They played the gunshot scene from the movie Open Range. They warned us about the SPL's but even so everyone flinched in their seats. I grew up hunting and know the sound of live gun fire. Even though the gun shots were EQ'd to make rifle fire sound more like a shotgun, they were still startling real. Absolutely no strain or distortion. We were told the system would actually play considerably louder than they played it for us.

    The speaker shuffle room was smaller than I expected and only allows mono (one speaker at a time) comparisons which are blinded with curtains. I did not get to hear or see an actual demonstration of the shuffle. A small disappointment. Using listener preference data from these blind listening tests, I was told that JBL designs to a frequency response curve that they claim is near universally preferred to flat response. A wild guess would be more mid bass gently built in. Being a purist I don't agree with this approach as I feel output should match input. If the general public wants to hear more bass, put in on the recording, don't alter the playback response of the speaker. However purposely building in some sort of speaker coloration is so common, even at the high end of audio, that I have accepted high quality EQ as my solution.

    One last observation. In stead of just thanking people for coming, JBL needs to have a mechanism in place to translate the enthusiasm and excitement consumers feel in the moment into sales on the spot. Perhaps they could offer special pricing to the customer with the actual transaction and delivery to be arranged through their closest local dealer.

    All in all a very fun day and highly recommended. Kudo's to all at JBL for taking time out of their busy day to make my day!
    Last edited by jpw; 01-29-2016 at 07:56 AM. Reason: SMPTE curve remark inaccurate

  2. #2
    Senior Member Ed Zeppeli's Avatar
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    Thanks for the insightful write-up!
    DIY Array, 2242 sub, 4408, 4208, Control 8SR, E120 Guitar cab, Control 1, LSR305.

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    That sounds like a great trip!

    And wow, Kevin Voecks, I have Snell E/IIIs that were made during his tenure at Snell after Peter died. I'd love to shake his hand.
    Currently: L300, C40 Harkness (030), DIY Cab'd Altec A7

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    Quote Originally Posted by jpw View Post
    ...Room 3 is their Synthesis home theater room. LCR Everest's biamped with 800 watt amps top and bottom plus 4 subwoofers total, one in each corner. They played the gunshot scene from the movie Open Range. They warned us about the SPL's but even so everyone flinched in their seats. I grew up hunting and know the sound of live gun fire. Even though the gun shots were EQ'd to make rifle fire sound more like a shotgun, they were still startling real. Absolutely no strain or distortion. We were told the system would actually play considerably louder than they played it for us...
    I've heard this one too. Crazy!

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    If you want to shake Kevin's hand, just make the trip. Kevin is very knowledgeable and friendly as were the other folks involved.

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    Senior Member grumpy's Avatar
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    Fun. It's was a worthwhile place to visit, perhaps it still is. Technical talks, manufacturing/assy areas, sneak peeks, and lab walk-throughs were the more interesting parts for me personally. Thanks for the descriptive virtual tour.

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    M2 Compared With Everest?

    Like you, I was fortunate to have been given a demo in Northridge (with a lot of help from my friends). I had the opportunity to spend a reasonable amount of time with the M2 system and found it to be spectacular. Sadly, I have never heard an Everest myself. I have been told by several people I respect that, ignoring the loudness question, the Everest is the best thing out there. What is your opinion of the contrast between the Everest, the M2 and the 4367?

    Quote Originally Posted by jpw View Post
    The M2 (the first time I have heard it) is obviously lower in coloration than the 4367 with far better bass linearity and extension. I expected the better bass etc from the M2 being active and EQ'd but did not expect it to be so much more natural sounding overall. Active speakers are the way to go. ... LCR Everest's biamped with 800 watt amps top and bottom plus 4 subwoofers total, one in each corner. They played the gunshot scene from the movie Open Range. They warned us about the SPL's but even so everyone flinched in their seats. ... We were told the system would actually play considerably louder than they played it for us. ...
    Last edited by NVGrampy; 01-30-2016 at 09:43 AM. Reason: I found a typo.

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    Quote Originally Posted by NVGrampy View Post
    Like you, I was fortunate to have been given a demo in Northridge (with a lot of help from my friends). I had the opportunity to spend a reasonable amount of time with the M2 system and found it to be spectacular. Sadly, I have never heard an Everest myself. I have been told by several people I respect that, ignoring the loudness question, the Everest is the best thing out there. What is your opinion of the contrast between the Everest, the M2 and the 4367?



    My listening time with the M2 at JBL was short and with unfamiliar material, so I am reluctant to go out on a limb comparing them beyond what was fairly obvious. On the contrary I have extensive experience with both the DD66 and DD67 Everest's, having owned both, and now also in addition have had some time with the 4367. I should say up front that I love my Everest's and am very biased toward them. The 4367's I am still on a learning curve with.

    Based on what I heard, the M2 images more like a conventional audiophile speaker, in that most would say it "disappears" better, and has excellent depth of field. This would likely be true particularly at shorter listening distances. It has a far narrower baffle than the Everest and also less horn area working for it here, plus all of the tricks that can only be done in an active speaker with digital signal processing. The Everest's have what I would describe as a focused wall of sound, sounding huge with enormous sense of scale when demanded. Which sounds more realistic to you may depend a lot on how the recording was made, the size of your room and the placement options you have, or what speakers you are used to listening to.

    The bass on the M2, with it's digital EQ etc, is far better than the 4367. As I have stated in some other posts, despite trying a number of different familiar rooms, the 4367's mid and upper bass range is a bit ripe and only good to around 50-60hz. With their low tuning frequency of 32hz they can easily and safely be EQ'd to flat, and so that no sub woofers are necessary. I am achieving excellent results this way. Compared to the Everest, I felt the M2 lacked some transparency, clarity, body and sense of ease to the bottom end. I should add that my Everest's are room corrected with a McIntosh MEN-220. The bass I get from them is some of the best I have ever heard.

    Driver blending is a strong positive for all of the speakers but I would give a slight nod to the M2 which comes close to sounding like a one way speaker, although the 4367 surprises here considering it uses a passive crossover. The Everest's UHF tweeter integrates best with a greater listening distance.

    The 4367 exhibits the most overall tonal coloration and sounds some what unrefined compared to the M2 or especially the Everest. It's treble is a bit rough subjectively and it has an overall more forward sound. Uncorrected the Everest's can be a bit heavy in the mid to upper bass but not to the degree of the 4367. The M2 is probably the most linear top to bottom, but it's tough to beat the clarity of the beryllium drivers in the Everest.

    Overall I would still rank the Everest's ahead of the M2 which is well ahead of the 4367. I was very impressed with the M2 though. To me it raises the tantalizing question of how much better an Everest could be if it was active and DSP'd like the M2.

    If you don't mind the inflexibility of a closed system like the M2, it really would not cost that much more than the 4367's, a good amplifier and possibly EQ. So it would be the better buy of the two for around $20k invested. If the budget allows, the Everest still reigns in my book, at least until a time when I can give the M2 a much more thorough listen under familiar conditions.

    I hope this helps..........

  9. #9
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    Well, look at it this way... the Everest II transducers are definitely superior to the M2 transducers...

    The only real problem with the Everest II is that it doesn't sound $55k better than the M2.

    The really cool thing about the M2 is that it sounds so astonishingly good.

    Being able to get the M2 components for DIY efforts is totally cheating - there isn't a loudspeaker system manufactured on this planet that can compete with that price/performance ratio.

    The 4367 has plenty of potential for people who want to play around with DSP with a system that arguably looks better than the M2.

  10. #10
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    Agreed that the M2 is clearly the value here. Although in actual street dollars the difference in price between the Everest and M2 is probably closer to $20,000 to $25,000.
    Given that you could buy a second M2 system for this difference, it really illustrates how good it is for the money. I love the retro look of the Everest but also think the M2 looks more than acceptable.

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