An audiophile dilemma


A friend of mine just bought the JBL PRX635 stage speakers and they sound just great!
These are not the typical high end speakers that are in demand among audiophiles and they cost far less than their high end siblings.
Sometimes I wonder if all the money is well spent, because for far less $$ someone can become an owner of a pair of these JBL's and be happy for the rest of his life.
Are those high end (and very expensive) speakers really better than the JBL's?

Chris
dazzdax
Is a Corvette better than a Camaro?
Compared to the typical audiophile manufacturer JBL/Harmon have massive amounts of resources devoted to R&D. Because of this they are capable of producing very high quality, cost effective components. I would recommend highly their current production passive 3 way studio monitor (LSR6332) costing slightly over $3k. Honest performance at a reasonably price. Why wouldn't that appeal to audiophiles?
Which is the Corvette and which is the Camaro?
Unless you desperately seeking the approval of others, you should buy what you like. (Even if you admit your likes and dislikes are swayed by popular audiophile opinion, you should still know that you'll never get 100% consensus -- there will always be some audiophiles who think you're an idiot for choosing any particular piece of gear.)

The problem is there are endless variables to consider in speaker design. The characteristics that impress me may be meaningless to you.

That's not to say you shouldn't remain open to new ideas, but just don't accept them automatically because someone said so.

So, give the JBLs several good, long listens. If they still impress you as the best option in that price range for you, go for 'em.
There is no dilemma in an absolute sense; far more capable (and yes, far more expensive) speakers are abundant.

The dilemma may be fiscal, prompting a desire to believe that inexpensive or cross-application (these JBL's are for P.A. applications with plywood cabinet and Class D - I'm sure not too svelte - amps) speakers are every bit as good as elite products. :)
If it's a match for your system & you like it, keep it. Don't worry about others opinions. I still have a pair of JBLs, which I had through college, I really cannot believe they still work! The grills still reek like smoke.
I always try to get good bang for the buck. I will listen to folks opinions, read a lot of reviews and hit the various boards; but I always trust my own ears in my listening environment. Hence, your comment has puzzled me as well.

I like fooling around with lowish-powered amps and high impedance, high efficiency speakers, which often provide excellent sonic results. For example, I recently purchased a used Almarro MK II for a little over $600. I paired this 5 watt integrated with Tekton Lore and Tekton 4.5 speakers with an older Sony DVP S9000ES and Eastern Electric DAC with Shuguang Black Treasure 12au7 tube. Sonic results are way, way above its cost. Cabling is good quality Silnote, Goetz, Cardas at various times. Speaker wire has been 8TC, PS Audio Statement, Goertz A1, and Jeff Day's White Lighting home brew. 16x14 listening room. Now, that's music, and all for less than than $3,000. Oh, must often tube swap as well. Best for me, Mullard EL84, NOS 7189, Ei EL84, Tubestore Preferred EL 84. For the 12ax7, have substituted GE 5751-WA blck plate, Sylvania 5751 3m black plate and Telefunken with great success.
I'm sure the JBLs work fine. But don't expect them to be the last word in resolution- from what I have seen of them (I use them in the studio and with my band) and heard they are good but resolution is not their forte.

High end audio speakers usually put a premium on resolution, often sacrificing efficiency (but not always) to do so. We run a set of High Emotion Audio monitors in our shop and you can hear the difference in speed and detail over any JBL in a heartbeat. But the JBLs are easier to drive.
To follow-up Onhwy61's comment on JBL/Harmon, I always wondered why some of their product such as the Infinity Prelude Compositions (which I own) didn't do better in the Audiophile market. Robert Harley gave them a great review while driving them with the Cary CAD 300B SEI with great success. I also own that same Cary 300B and agree with Harley's review. A 96db speaker, 6 Ohm nominal impedance with a self powered sub built in that went down to 25Hz. Robert Harley bought the review pair. Great HT as well as 2 channel, cost about 3 grand. I was surprised that more SET folks did not jump on these speakers. My only complaint was that I would have preferred an 8 ohm impedance, not that I have any real problems as is.
Chris,

My brother auditioned speakers in Swiss (Geneva) audio store. Sales guy presented smaller speakers first and my brother liked them a lot. Then he switched to more expensive larger speakers and my brother liked them even more to finally play the largest, most expensive speakers of this line that sounded absolutely excellent. They took break and talked for a while about prices and options. Seeing hesitation salesman offered one more audition of not very expensive but a "gem" of a speaker. My brother liked it as much as the last big speaker. "That was the first speaker you heard" salesman said. My brother left store with pair of those.
The OP doesn't say that the stage monitors are every bit as good as some expensive audiophile speaker. Instead he talks about being happy with the stage monitors. His question is whether the audiophile oriented products are better than the JBLs. Related to that question is whether everyone really needs all the speed, low resonance, detail and resolution offered by modern loudspeakers. It's not like everybody wants a 600HP car.
Kajinki - what a great story! Did his customer right and made a righteous sale.
What's the dilemma?
If the JBLs sound better to you and they are cheaper, isn't that a good thing?
Are those high end (and very expensive) speakers really better than the JBL's?

All things considered, NO! The media we are playing was not recorded by God. None of it sounds live. So why spend a lot of your hard earned money trying to reproduce imperfections mo better! I am considering JBL myself. I have owned JBLs model: L-150 and 4311 and LX-44. loved them all.
cheers
Generally cheapr items can always suprise one and sound pretty good.
Once you stack them side by side with great stuff though, you can hear the deficiencies.
'Once you stack them side by side with great stuff though, you can hear the deficiencies.'

Only if you can see the equipment, will you be able to 'hear' the imagined differences / deficiencies. Put everything out of sight and NO ONE can tell or hear a difference. Not wanting to revisit this 'sensitive' subject, except that there might be new people here who do not know the history of blind testing. I am primarily speaking of electronics.
Cheers.
09-14-12: Rok2id

'Once you stack them side by side with great stuff though, you can hear the deficiencies.'

Only if you can see the equipment, will you be able to 'hear' the imagined differences / deficiencies. Put everything out of sight and NO ONE can tell or hear a difference. Not wanting to revisit this 'sensitive' subject, except that there might be new people here who do not know the history of blind testing. I am primarily speaking of electronics.

You have to be joking. I don't have to see what amp is hooked up to know what it sounds like. Out of sight, out of mind... LOL.

A lot of blind testing was done with a strange system, and in a strange environment. That "Carver Challenge" years back, would have had totally different results if it was done in their home, and using their own system, in my opinion.
09-14-12: Rok2id

'Once you stack them side by side with great stuff though, you can hear the deficiencies.'

Only if you can see the equipment, will you be able to 'hear' the imagined differences / deficiencies. Put everything out of sight and NO ONE can tell or hear a difference. Not wanting to revisit this 'sensitive' subject, except that there might be new people here who do not know the history of blind testing. I am primarily speaking of electronics.

You have to be joking. I don't have to see what amp is hooked up to know what it sounds like. Out of sight, out of mind... LOL.

A lot of blind testing was done with a strange system, and in a strange environment. That "Carver Challenge" years back, would have had totally different results if it was done in their home, and using their own system, in my opinion.
YEah Rok2id, we are actually all just pretending to be able to hear any differences...
That is good philosophy. Keeps one form bothering to spend any real money on stereo equipment...
So your philosopy is an all in one rack from, say Yorx, is all anyone needs...
And we are NOT writing about electronics, we were writing about SPEAKERS dude.
Let me give you some additional information: I'm an owner of Soundlab A-1 PX speakers. Prior to the Soundlab I had Dunlavy SC-V's.
So I'm quite familiar with "high end sound".
I know you can't compare apples to pears but I have heard with my own ears how the JBL PA speakers sounded. They sounded unlike the typical PA speakers. Yes, they are capable of sounding loud and dynamic but they also have a natural sounding treble and midrange (although the bass is a bit murky in my ears, but this could be related to room acoustics).
I would like to say that even PA speakers can sound excellent today even when audiophile criteria are being used.
I feel that the gap between this kind of speakers and the real "high end" ones is closing. What do you think?

Chris
I can't taste the difference between a lemon and chicken if I cannot see my food. I guess all our senses don't work if we can't see what we are trying to taste, hear, feel or smell.

Nuts Rok2id.......think about what you are saying.
It's annoying to see this straw-man debate over and over.

Yes, there is often an audible difference between two pieces of equipment. But, we're all human and therefore our perception is influenced by non-audio factors. These include visual aspects, brand, comments from others, our mood, surroundings, and so on.

Both factors are always present to some degree. That's why "enormous" differences often shrink substantially when the non-audio influences are removed or reduced.

Our ego, however, likes to think our own perception is the penultimate standard. This often leads people to belittle those who don't hear as they do.

The problem with non-audio influences is the subconscious factor that heightens one person's perception may be meaningless or even a negative for another.

So, yes, you should buy what you like and not someone else's preference. Then enjoy it, but don't expect the world to bow before your sublime and sophisticated taste.
'YEah Rok2id, we are actually all just pretending to be able to hear any differences'

AHA!! just as I have always suspected!

And don't trash YORX, I plan to upgrade to a YORX system one day, once the kids are outta college.
A lot of blind testing was done with a strange system, and in a strange environment

So? Are you saying you need familiar surroundings to be able to tell the difference between a $129 dollar receiver and a $20,000 'high-end' amp?
So? Are you saying you need familiar surroundings to be able to tell the difference between a $129 dollar receiver and a $20,000 'high-end' amp?
Rok2id (Threads | Answers | This Thread)

I wasn't aware that anyone compared a $129 dollar receiver to a $20,000 amp.

Enjoy your Yorx!
So? Are you saying you need familiar surroundings to be able to tell the difference between a $129 dollar receiver and a $20,000 'high-end' amp?
Rok2id (Threads | Answers | This Thread)

I wasn't aware that anyone compared a $129 dollar receiver to a $20,000 amp.

Enjoy your Yorx!
Interesting 'blind test'. I like to watch those Hell's Kitchen reality shows. (even though i hate cooking)
In them, the cooks are at times blindfolded, then have to identify which food they taste.
Curious, many cannot do well. But a few, who Chef Ramsey says have great tasting, can always identify a food blindfolded.
I would say audio is the same way. many have a problem really being able to just hear, (blindfolded in a sense) but the fact is, some folks CAN tell.

And IMO, it is the folks incapable of being able to tell, who try to say no one can.
thank you.
'And IMO, it is the folks incapable of being able to tell, who try to say no one can.
thank you.'

Well hush my mouth.
.I wasn't aware that anyone compared a $129 dollar receiver to a $20,000 amp..

they don't now, they did back in the day of honest researchers.. I think the brands were pioneer and Krell, but I can't be sure.

why do you say everything twice?
R2K - For years you've been making these nonsensical comments about audio gear, you DO realize this is a site dedicated to audio, don't you? Obviously the answer is yes, so the question than becomes WHY have you been hanging on this site for so long if you have such a negative view about it all? Here's why:

"In Internet slang, a troll is someone who posts inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community, such as a forum, chat room, or blog, with the primary intent of provoking readers into an emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion".
"Only if you can see the equipment, will you be able to 'hear' the imagined differences / deficiencies. Put everything out of sight and NO ONE can tell or hear a difference. Not wanting to revisit this 'sensitive' subject, except that there might be new people here who do not know the history of blind testing."

But this isn't at all accurate. Harman in particular has done a lot of controlled blind comparisons of loudspeakers, and not only can panelists hear the differences, all but those with hearing deficiencies rank them in the same relative order, whether they're audiophiles or not. Some other speaker manufacturers, including high end manufacturers, use blind listening tests as well.

I gotta wonder, on the basis of your earlier comment, whether you've actually heard a great speaker.
I gotta wonder, on the basis of your earlier comment, whether you've actually heard a great speaker.

Read my post

'primarily speaking of electronics'. But does apply to speakers to a lesser degree.
Rok2id, you said, at the beginning of this thread:

"Are those high end (and very expensive) speakers really better than the JBL's?

"All things considered, NO! The media we are playing was not recorded by God. None of it sounds live. So why spend a lot of your hard earned money trying to reproduce imperfections mo better! I am considering JBL myself. I have owned JBLs model: L-150 and 4311 and LX-44. loved them all."

And my response to that is what I said -- have you ever actually *heard* a great loudspeaker? Because I can assure you, what they do isn't just a matter of reproducing imperfections better. And while I could describe in great detail what they do better, it shouldn't be necessary, because it's so obvious to anyone who listens.
'And my response to that is what I said -- have you ever actually *heard* a great loudspeaker'

That's a impossible question to answer. First, there would have to be widespread agreement on a 'great' speaker, and as I have said on many occasions, I have not detected any widespread agreement about anything, on this site. Please take this oppoutunity and list a few speakers you consider great.

I think my Polk Lsi15's are great speakers. (git that sneer off yo face!) :)
Rok2id, you are a frequent contributor to this site. If you cannot figure out what are commonly considered great speaker, then there is little hope for you ever moving past you preconceptions.
Onhwy61
I have read a lot of posts where any number of speakers have a cheering section and loyal fans. They all think their speaker is a great speaker.

My problem is this:
This is a mature industry. The design principles that consitute a state of the art speaker should be well known to all engineers. Which to me means, all speakers should look similar and have a lot of common features and design cues. If one speaker costs $1,000 and another cost $20,000, then that difference in price should be readily apparent and obvious to any audiophile. This is not the case.
For instance, why does a Vandersteen, which I am sure is a fine speaker, cost tens times what my Polks cost? Do they know something Polk does not know? Do the components cost more on the Vandy? How much can a driver or crossover cost? Do they drive the price up by $12,000 dollars? The Vandys 'sound' better? WHY?
It should be a science. Not magic. In spite of all that I would try a lot of them if it wasn't for the high cost. Lastly I live in an Audio desert, so I will never hear the top of the line stuff. BTW, of all the speakers I have owned, I never heard any of them before purchase. No regrets so far.
Cheers.
For instance, why does a Vandersteen, which I am sure is a fine speaker, cost tens times what my Polks cost?
I can't answer on the price differential you mention & I have no idea which Polks you use & which Vander you are referring to, BUT, between a floorstanding Polk (9? It has 6 drivers, reflex loaded) & a Van 5, I must admit the Vand was much-much better for music.

* better high frequency, the V seemed to go much higher;
* better timbre, the Polk sounding shrill on a specific FR (upper violin notes);
* Van had bass extension and resolution vs the Polk stopping at midbass;
* far better resolution overall;
* the fee of dynamic impact was quite good on the Polks;
* Generally speaking, with the Vand I had musical coherency that I didn't have with the Polk. The Vand reproduced a coherent simulation of an orchestra, the Polk sounded small & tinny by comparison;
* Note, I listen to classical i.e. natural un-amplified instruments, so results could differ with other music.

AFAIK Polk is a very serious company, so the speakers I heard were probably designed for HT use rather than to play Mahler.

(The thing is, I'm one of the few people in the world who don't actually like the Vandy. Admittedly, they produce good speakers & value for money as these things go.)
Rok2id -- You did mention your Polks further up. Sorry, I hadn't noticed. The model I heard is the 9.
Gregm
Your comparison of the polk and vandy was very interesting. Having never heard the vandy or the polk 9, I cannot comment further.

I used the Vandy and Polk in my example just because they are two well known speaker brands. One highly thought of on audiogon and one not. Many other speakers could be subsituted in their place.

The point I was trying to make is this: If great speakers are being made, then the knowledge exist, so why don't all producers make great speakers. What makes a speaker great, and how much does it cost to make one? I used the price thing to show the wide differences in price and wondered what was the cause of this. I implied that surely crossover networks and drivers cannot account for this difference.

I used the mature thingy to say that are some down right weird designs out there in the market. What accounts for that? After all this time, don't the engineers have it down pat?

I get the 'price point' marketing thingy. And of course, speakers should be judged and priced based on how they sound.

Thanks for your response.
One loudspeaker can cost significantly more than another for the same reason a Porsche cost more than a Subaru. Both have four wheels, the same style engine, disc brakes, etc. The Subaru even has 4WD, something only the more expensive Porsches feature. While there definitely is an element of luxury goods present, there also are engineering differences between the two cars that could easily justify a large price differential. It's in the details.

If you've never heard better quality loudspeakers, then why such a strongly held opinion against them? Also, we're not talking about state of the art, we're talking about great loudspeakers. I'm thinking along the lines of Totem Model One, ProAc 2, Vandersteen 5, Magnepan 1.6, Quad 63, Gallo 3.5, Harbeth 40 or Sonus Faber Cremona.
The analogy between autos and stereo equipment continues on this site, and it's like apples and oranges. Not the best analogy. We are talking of how something is preceived by ONE of our senses. The sense of sound. A car affects almost ALL of our senses.

But I will say this about autos. Engineers thru the years have conceeded that Ford got it right with the models T/A. The lastest top of the line Lexus has the same lay out, plus a lot more. A blind man could see the difference. Now my speakers (polk) are the model T and yours are the Lexus(fill in a name). Now tell me why yours cost $100,000 dollars more.
BTW, I do not have a opinion against high end speakers. What I feel towards the high end stuff is envy!! And if I thought the sound justified the price, I would have a pair.
Cheers
Rok2id, you seem very comfortable with your envy and lack of knowledge of high end loudspeakers. If you're happy, then I'm happy too.
Is that your answer?
Chris compared to the 2 speakers you mention;what is the JBL lacking in your opinion that would make them equal to a soundlab or dunlavy;I presently own Soundlab m2;'s and had dunlavy sc III's.If I had to guess it would probally be what Ralph mentioned.
Rok2id, Why don't you just travel and hear some more systems. This will tell you what you want to know. No one can explain it to you. You must listen for yourself. Go to RMAF or some other audio show. If you live near an audiophile society go check them out.

If you still don't think it's worth seeking out higher performance equipment after that then at least you will not have to waste time with this hobby anymore.
'If you still don't think it's worth seeking out higher performance equipment after that then at least you will not have to waste time with this hobby anymore.'

Thats good advice, but my hobby is the music. I'm not wasting my time, jusr trying not to waste money. Music has always played a big part in my life.
You don't have to spend lots of money to enjoy music. You are obviously curious about quality sound production or you would not be here. I'm just saying the only way to satisfy that curiosity is to experience it for yourself. Then you can make your own value judgement's.
Sorry, meant to type 'quality sound reproduction'.
When a person moves into a hobby and the primary goal is preservation of their money - that is, they will not "invest" into the development of the hobby in their life in any serious way through travel, expense for education, equipment, etc. - the result is an under-developed hobbyist. For them beginner to Novice level is all they will attain, regardless of how advanced they think they are.

Anyone who has been in audio or any other itensive hobby knows that IT is a lot more involved, costs more time, and is FAR more gratifying than a beginning effort.

An example...
I used to visit a lady who as crazy for African Violets. She was quite involved in the African Violet Society! Her entire basement was converted into a greenhouse, with shop lights hung from the floor joists above and table after table of potted flowers - all African Violets. She manned booths at shows, sold them, and had them all over her house. She had variegated types and had come up with a couple of her own hybrids, I believe. She was REALLY into African Violets.

You, Rok2id, are not like that woman. You are like a person who goes to a gardening store, buys an African Violet and thinks they have a lot of experience with African Violets. :(

If I am badly mistaken with the following assessment, please forgive me. I am guessing that your audio system is your first serious effort (or very close) at making a high end rig. It would explain why you are so dogmatic about defending inexpensive gear. When I was younger with no disposable income to speak of, no experience, and a firmly established ceiling on component cost, I was just like you. I wanted desperately for it to be true that the inexpensive stuff was every bit as good, and if it wasn't every bit as good, it was close enough that I could laugh at those who spent so much...

It wasn't.

Thankfully, opinions change with experience and maturity. :)

Now, maybe you have spent twenty years flipping $500-1,000 gear. In that case you are not much further ahead than the other scenario. :(

This is to say nothing of the value of enjoyment of the music. It is a legitimate decision for lifestyle to preserve ones financial picture as opposed to injuring it with extravagant expenditures such as audio gear. If you have not the means to "go big" then it is great blessing to be content with whatever level you can achieve in your hobby!

But that in no way means it is the same experience as more serious enthusiasts have. :)
Well-stated, Doug.

Best,
Roy