Review: JM Labs Diablo Monitor

Category: Speakers

JM Lab Diablo Utopia Review.
Hello music lovers and audiophiles, having some time I thought it would be nice to share some expierence on this speakers. I am sorry that review will not have much lyric, but rather concentrate on technical decription and practical sugestions which can serve when picking speakers or better integration in room .I am not profesional reviewer or dealer ,nor do i have other interactions to smash or glory speakers.

Last year i searched small speakers for my second (bedroom) system. Lastly I settled on two very diferent sounding models JmLab Diablo Utopia and Sonus faber Auditor M. theese are in quite diferent price level but I will review Jm Labs comparing them to Sonus Faber- that would make more sense I belive. Theese are quite diferent speakers,the only thing they share in common is soundstage size(both have one of the bigest projection of sound in monitor class) and placement.

First - Diablo needs lot of time to break in. At first they sound way too hard in lower treble/higher midrange and upper bass is muddy. The diference between new and broken in Diablos is significant. Auditor M sounds quite nice(not the best, but..) straight out of the box.

First it comes facts and some technical measurements, but i always first listen speakers and only then measure them(to prevent myself for "selfprograming" its hard to be Audiophile and technical person in one)
OK Lets start-
Tonality in lower region - voicing in uper bass/lower midrange(80-300hz) is rich/lush for both speakers. They need to be taken out of back wall at least 1.2meter. Listening position is also should be best far away back wall. Seems both speakers designed to work in not ideal damped rooms- in high or medium reflection room(exactly where most of us living or sleeping)

What is surpsised me at first its Auditor M extension and quality in bass- beeing almost twice smaller than Diablo it provided same and even better quality and quantinity in bass. It actualy measured more deep in lower bass (30-40hz) by 5db!. Diablo takes back being stronger by 6-7db in 55-65hz range.

There speakers similarities ends. Diablo have strong 3-4khz region, Auditor M -opozite- 3-4khz is recessed , in treble (7-17khz) Auditors have 4db lift which puts final point and divorce speakers even more.

Eficienty of both speakers basicaly similar (diablo is more eficient by 1.5db) are 86 to 84db/w/m and sensitivity 88-85db/2.83v/m(both are 4ohm speakes) Auditor falls down to 82db/w/m in 2.5-4khz) and goes up to 86db/w/m in treble.

Enought for technical things,lets listen some music. From the first notes of well known records (I use my refrence CD with 42 short tracks over 4 years so every note or track is known to pain on many speakers) is clear that theese spekaers have diferent characters and diferent music tastes. Auditors have very sparkling hights-it lively and transparent ,airy,crisp- you name it. I tried many diferent amps and this sonic feature stays. Records which is muddy shines with Auditors M. However records with excessive brightnes(many modern audiphile record count in as well) makes speaker too sibilant. basicaly all Jheena Lodzwik(XrCd), or Diana Krall sounds very fresh but "empty" - voice just hang somewhere in space(Its hard to describe that feature for me) it seems higher frequencies disturb balance to enjoy performance. Not with the Diablo. Now i hear usual tonality human voice i used to heard every day, and i can "touch" performer -high frequencies do not disturb midrange. Perfect balance. After swiching from Auditor M to Diablo or other speaker it seems somewhere dissapeared high frequencies and all speakers sounds muddy.Listening Peak Consult Empress I though that tweeters on them are dead. After some time ears get used. What I liked about Auditors -its clasical works- I listen to wind band orchestras, and many other clasical works. And that "extra freshnes" which prevented from good female voice reproduction here is bonus. with Diablo here i can hear individual inteuments and localize them, with Autitor I cant, BUT I can feel overal performance event- Orchestra,wind intruments just "breathes" . For clasical music, opera, some jazz, electronic music Auditor is more listenable. With Female voice, opera, jazz Diablo takes over. What I like in Auditor- its transients on dynamic peak on clasical music. even harsh or mudy records trasients sounds fresh and clear. With Diablo they sound more agressive.

Auditors strengt- its extra freshess added to music. Music sound incorect, but is very listenable. As stated ealier this stength is achiveved with incorect tonal balance.its more easy to do this than what Diablo have to offer however.
Bigest strengt of Diablo is neither bass or hights but... its seductive midrange. Where Auditors conservative Diablo takes or more corect "throw" you into midrange beauty.And does it without any aditional trick or noticeable coloration.In midrange they are MUCH faster. Much more detailed, and more have openess. Subtile niuanses in vocal can be heard. I just can not listen Diablo as background speakers- its invites me in music.

As for maching components- I wasnt able to make sound them very bad with any amp i tried. my recomendation is some muscle amp with good control in bass to control woofer if you want to listen clasical works closer to natural levels( and I bet you would want this as Auditors midrange come to life with more volume) otherwise woofer starts overbotoming.

Diablo is not so much gentelmen here- feeded with cheaper amps and thougth may ears will fall off- so much agressive sound was. it wasnt harsh but agresive to level where i wanted to swich off amp after few minutes.

I hope this information will help you pick up your poison. Happy listening :-)

P.S. If you are curiuos what i have chosen at the final for bedroom- it's.... Auditors! - Not because they are better, but from both speakers this speaker ofered what i wanted in my bedroom. Otherwise Diablo would be my choice in critical listening system.Even considering fact that 90% of my music is clasical and only few of them are vocals, blues genre.


excerpt from forum.

Diferencies. The problem is that in High-end audio there is no strict line betwwen big and small diferencies. One man's small is another man's huge. There is people who claim/hear huge diferencies between two furutech sockets made from the same material. I hear only subtile (if any) diferencies on things like this. Diablo still have Focal school sound- fast,transparent and very detailed and sometimes(with wrong recording or equipment) agressive. But I wouldnt call it sucessor to Micro Be-they are quite diferent. Its not like say.. watt puppy 7vs 8 sonic diferencies(where diferencies between these two I hear difers only in tonality, not primary speaker signature) I heard Diablo with some diferent gear(with my CD records) in 3 diferent places-

1)in my home they sounded best with pass labs xa amplification/Sonic frontiers DAC and Zendo cables- sound was balanced- no forward or laidback, quite "thick"(="fat") with lot of "bloom" in midrange and agressive only in very bad records.Bass tighness, details and "air around intruments" was not best from what diablo is capable but system had some musicality and involvement in sound which hapens rare on focal utopia speakers(IMHO).

2)at dealer show -with very expensive top of the line Ayre/esoteric/ and all nordost valhall'as cabling.(~200 000EUR) - dynamic, transparent ,fast and VERY detailed sound, resoliuton was very good. There can be heard some harshness on trasients on some claiscal works but nothing to worry about too much.

3)at friend's home with mid-to top Ayre /esoteric combo but also with Nordost Valhala cabling (again more expensive than speakers itself) inspite room acoustic problem and speaker placement(far from ideal) system sounded very good , maybe with slight excesive lower midrange which added some "liquidity" and "sweetness" to sound.

Some basic Diablo signature I noticed in all enviroments-

1)Big soundstage both in height and witdh- diablo sounds "bigger" than some floortanders and bigger than Micro for sure.
2) Detailed, open and fast midrange
3)very top end(15-18khz) lacked some energy in big clasical works. this was less noticebale with Nordost Valhalas and Zendo cables(zendo are not so fast as nordost but also transparent while smoother in mids) I would not consider this as flaw as its depends on mucic and speakers you are comparing. The same Sonus faber Auditor M have tons of "air" and are perhaps more enjoyable on clasical works like wind bands but unnatural in vocals(where Diablo is very natural and life-like)

Micro Be have the same tonality in this region ,if you like it, Diablo would not be problem as well. I felt Micro Be is more "right" speaker , while Diablo being slight "off" in exact tonal balance buts Diablo timbre is more enjoyable and "more interesting" to listener- less boring, more exciting.

drawback with Diablo IMHO is that being monitor it does not provide what small speakers should-
1) does not work with small(=cheap) components- I played with cheaper(with is small enoght to place in my bedroom where Diablo was instaled) amplification and I could not live hearing how much music I am missing. Diablo deserve amplification,sources and even cables which is more expensive than itself.
2) require some space from back walls and sounds best when took out of side/back walls quite much.
3) not so cheap (but not so expensive as magico Mini II either)