Executive System like JVC EX-A1

I was in an audio store recently and heard an executive system that sounded surprisingly good: it was the JVC EX-A1. It has a price to match, I think $550 list. It's the one with wooden speaker enclosures and also wooden diaphram in the speaker, very unusual. While most small systems sound, to my ear, pretty unpleasant, this one sounded very articulate and clean, even a little warm.

I'm wondering if anyone has extensive experience with this unit, or has found a similar sized executive system that they are very impressed with in terms of audio quality?

Different category, but I travel with an Onkyo executive system ($250) which I run with Chord Carnival wire and Totem Mite speakers on 24" stands. It sounds very respectable for the money invested.

Listen again, before purchasing the JVC EX-A1. The EX-A1's claim to fame is that the speakers' cones are made from wood soaked in saki ... that "feature" and the associated "Bose like" marketing accounts for its high price. Checkout the amp's specs and you will see that the amp has a THD of 10% ... that's right ... a boombox quality amp for 5 bills. The sound is extremely lightweight ... listen to something other than the lite jazz CD that JVC uses to promote the system and you will see how just noisy and average sounding this JVC system is. The JVC is aimed at business travellers (like me), who often find themselves reading the in-flight catalogs.

For the money, you are better off going with the TEAC H550 mini system which you can find for about $575. You would still need to add speakers and there are plenty of $200 per pair candidates out there ... NHT SB1; PSB Alpha; Wharfedale Diamond 8.1 (which Buy.Com has for $130 a pair); Axiom; etc. So all in, you are talking about $800.

I just went through auditioning small sized systems with a very good friend (not an audiophile by any stretch) and we were both very disappointed with the JVC, as well as other smaller systems like the Denon M31. She went with the 2 piece TEAC and some NHT SB1's and the sound is very impressive.

Regards, Rich
Well, my curiousity has overwhelmed me. And I'm figuring that no in store demo will replace a home trial. How many pieces of gear have I loved at home but hated in the store, or visa versa...

And some pieces that I love have had the stupidest marketing gimmicks....

I found one at a good price, minimal risk : - )

I'm gonna do my break-in process on the speakers (even the greatest speakers without adequate breakin always sound thin to my ear), and I'll add isolation, proper power strip, etc. And my Rel Strata III sub : - o

If this JVC can sing at all, I'm gonna find out.


ps: What, are you hinting that having a driver made of "sake soaked wood" is not obviously a major technical breakthrough! (Or perhaps it's the listener that needs to be "sake-soaked". Will let you know : - )
Actually the amplifier in the JVC is a great amplifier -- its the same digital amplifier as used in the other JVC receivers that plenty of people are using in primary systems. If interested in these, come on over the audiocircle.com and read a few dozen pages of information. Keep in mind that few were impressed at first, and that 100% of people found transformation at approximately 300 hours. No not placebo, not adjusting, but a very changed amplifier.

For the digital and hybrid amplifiers, don't read the specifications as you are used to, and don't use them outside of their limits.

As for the speakers -- yes, quite a bit of marketing speak....but for any audio magazine reader, Audiogon reader, or person who has read any audio literature at the high-end of the low-end, this may catch you eye, but if it does any more than that, you should get out of the hobby, as you'll end up broke and most likely unhappy.

I haven't heard the little speakers, but regardless of claims, I wouldn't be expecting much from any speakers packaged with amplifier and marketed as an office system, regardless of maker at that price.

But if you pick of one of their HT receivers and are patient on break-in and thus judgement, you could be very happy if you buy a pair of speakers seperately. Say a JVC receiver and a pair of Fostex based speakers.

Based on the specifications of the speakers and the limited background that's to be found on them, I would assume they would require quite a break-in, but even so, they don't seem like the ideal match for the amplifier they pair it with...which is odd as well.

If I had not listened extensively to the JVC in 3 high traffic stores on 3 separate occasions, for about an 40 minutes each time (6 audition hours total), I could almost accept the 300 hour "burn-in" claims. The 3 stores were all in NYC ... Sharper Image (Rockefeller Center); Harveys Electronics; and J&R Music ... so these units saw some decent burn-in time by the time that I got there.

If you compare the specifications of the JVC to the highly popular and well regarded digital amp (Panasonic SA-XR 50), you will see that the JVC, spec wise, is really not up to speed in the THD department. This would tend to support my experience of the JVC as a noisy amp ... digital design considerations not withstanding.

Output Power: 30 watts x 2 channels, min RMS, driven into 4 ohms at 1kHz with no more than 10% THD.

Panasonic SA-XR 50
Output Power: Stereo Mode 100W per channel (20Hz - 20kHz, 6 ohms, 0.09% THD)

I owned the SA-XR 50 for a while (sold it to a buddy) and one exceptional quality about the amp was how clean and clear sounding the amp was out of the box (paired with both NHT and Omega (Fostex based) speakers). The JVC was not in its league. On just about all types of music, it was a noisy, congested affair ... I don't see how burn-in would help with the noise.

I don't have any gripe with the JVC. I was just very disappointed with it, everytime that I heard it.

Regards, Rich
Well I am puzzled indeed. I played this unit out of the box for around an hour, and I found a complex mix of characteristics. The midrange and bass and overall spaciousness of the sound were exceptional for it's size, but the treble and perhaps upper midrange were extremely harsh and extremely un-natural. (Is this what you mean by "noisy"?)

I did not enjoy the sound of this piece at all.

As for why it sounded great to me in the store, well, it could indeed be that they were demonstrating it with a cd that lacks treble information. I did not pay attention alas. When I played such a cd in my home I was mostly satisfied with the unit.

I know that I could try to break it in, and experiment with different speaker cables, but I've done this with a LOT of gear and I feel I have some sense of how much change one can expect. And, I don't have that level of commitment to this piece.

In retrospect, I think that overall naturalness is the reason that high end amp manufacturers avoid feedback; perhaps I should have been skeptical of the amp given it's bragging in the literature about high use of feedback.

I am returning it, at a loss of round trip shipping.

BTW, I did my testing with cds only, I did not try DVD's or DVD-A for example. Since my intended purpose is largely cd's I tested it for my own purposes.

And it does seem to me that you would do substantially better in sound quality per dollar by putting together an inexpensive system piece by piece.


Sorry about the JVC. I have become a skeptic of any of the "giant" killers that quickly become darlings of Audio Asylum. When I began to read about how people were buying up these (and other) JVC's mostly because they were digital amps, claiming that they were "great" amps, and then trying to say that 10% THD is totally acceptable ... what can you say, other than there are alot of people who just don't know what to listen for when it comes to stereos.

The JVC EX-A1 was boombox annoying with CD's. Also, the tuner seemed unable to pick up any FM station cleanly, while the Tivolis that were next to it, had no trouble picking up any station. You had to hear the BS the salesman at Harveys was serving to explain that away.

You may want to look at the TEAC 500 mini-system for about $580. You can pair this with the NHT SB1 for $200. This is the system that I put together for my friend and it absolutely rocks.

Regards, Rich