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JBL Studio L Speakers: L890 Floor-Standing Towers, LC2 Center, L830 Bookshelves, and L8400P Subwoofer

Part II

June, 2006

Adrian Wittenberg

 

The Sound

A great catch phrase to go along with these speakers could be "Stop and Listen". This is because their presentation literally draws you into the world of sound that is created by the musicians or the sound designer. All too often while I would demonstrate particular scenes of movies, my guests would become rowdy when I wanted to switch discs because they were already drawn into the movie.

Several things I like specifically about the total sound are an even balance which allows the listener to explore the different textures of the soundstage, an exceptionally clear upper range that is very smooth and airy, a midrange that is warm and full, and a bottom end that is powerful but not overstated.

Overall, the combination of the paper-based mid and low drivers and the ultrahigh drivers makes for an aural combination that I grew very fond of very fast.

The following are some specific notes.

Movie Performance

Star Wars Episode III Revenge of the Sith: During the intro scene of the galactic cruiser flying through space, my living room rumbled with the deep sounds of the cruiser's engines. The bass was strong and was felt in my gut, yet it was not boomy or bloated.

As the movie progresses, the next thing that struck me about the sound was plenty of subtle detail that was present in the upper range. As action panned from speaker to speaker the sound was precise and clean, and movement from speaker to speaker was literally seamless. Everything sounded very ethereal. Laser guns were almost three dimensional as they moved from front to back.

Highlighting the center channel speaker for dialogue critique resulted in excellent results as well. Voices had a natural sound which was not nasal or chesty. The clear upper range also made dialogue crisp and intelligible. Overall, I liked both the tone and the detail.

Lord of the Rings - The Fellowship of the Ring: In the scene "A Long-Expected Party", the action came to life with the screaming sounds of the fireworks. The sound of the whistling rockets was sharp and crisp but not edgy. The large dragon that whooshed into the town had a pronounced sound that was both full with bass material as well as treble information. The balance of the two was perfect, as one didn't overpower the other.

Music Performance

I began music listening with the delightful pop opera DVD entitled Amici Forever in Concert. This DVD features the vocal talents of five classically trained opera singers backed up by orchestral and new age instruments. Specifically, there are two female sopranos, two male tenors, and one male bass baritone, and together they are billed as the first opera band. This DVD would make for a great sound quality test, as human voice reproduction is something that audiophiles demand to sound natural. In this case, five human voices would give some nice variety for my listening. I'm going to cut to the chase and say that the sound was magnificent with exceptional tonal balance and a lack of coloration. The sound was open and airy, and the rich detail of the voices was played with remarkable accuracy as well as having a broad extension into the upper range. The lovely soprano's voice came across with a tone that was both natural and pure. Most important, was that the sound was never brittle, brash, or edgy, even when playing the very high notes of the soprano's performances. The sounds of the orchestral and new age instruments that accompanied the singers sounded very full and were not lacking in any one particular band.

I shifted gears and threw in a Led Zeppelin concert DVD. I was very impressed with the clear upper range that made Jimmy Paige's high velocity guitar solos come through with fantastic articulation. I also loved the tone of the guitar that the speakers created. There was warmth and presence in the sound, and on tracks such as track seven, the acoustic guitars were open and airy, and the entire sound had a lovely seamless texture as it played in my living room. The Studio Ls were making an impression on me that they were a system that could give music lovers a pure connection into the passion of music listening.

Next up was the DVD audio recording of Steely Dan's Two Against Nature album. This disc uses tight compressed bass drums, and the recording is very state of the art. Bass reproduction was very tight and even, mid -bass was clear and pronounced, and the highs were open with exceptional clarity and smoothness. The electric bass guitar is an important part of Steely Dan's music as it has its roots in funk and rhythm and blues. The bass performance from the Studio Ls was wonderful. The sound was ultra-smooth and never overstated or bloated. In fact, this balance helped to make textures within the bass material easily identifiable. The sounds of the conga drum and other percussion instruments were also easily identifiable on the soundstage because the balance was exceptional. and no one frequency was overpowering another. Bravo to the sound quality.

Conclusions

The JBL Studio L speaker lineup is fantastic and does every sound medium complete justice in its intended reproduction. The sound is exceptionally balanced, and both movie and music playback is top notch. As I imagined returning these review speakers back to JBL, I envisioned the scene in Castaway where Tom Hank's character loses his volleyball friend, Wilson, to the waves of the ocean. I imagined myself running down the street calling after the shipping truck "Studio Ls" and parting with the wonderful sound I had come to enjoy.

The bottom line is that I bought them for myself and would not hesitate to recommend them to anyone as an excellent investment in home theater and music listening enjoyment.


- Adrian Wittenberg -

Copyright 2006 Secrets of Home Theater & High Fidelity

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