Unlike everyone who seems to gush over these speakers, I certainly did not. I've also learned not to trust what hifi mag since they raved about these. They weren't offensive sounding, but really not great at all. They do have a nice treble and good integration between mid tweeter but the problem is with the mid/bass. There is just no body, no sense of scale. I really wanted to like them.. I really did!
JBL Studio 530: About as good as it gets, or, the Willie Nelson of bookshelf speakers.
“Looks like you’ve got a couple of big va-jay-jays there,” said the missus.
“A couple of what?” I asked, hoping I hadn’t heard her quickie assessment correctly.
“Va-jay-jays. Your new speakers look like the Mound of Venus, a bread box, lady flowers, a beav…”
“Okay, I’ve got it,” I interrupted, trying to keep her stroll down Synonym Street from scorching a static scene in my synapses. Too late. Once seen it cannot be unseen. Our new JBL speakers now and forever look like the Notorious V.A.G. And, thanks to my darling corn niblet, an old joke moves to the forefront every time I see them. I’m saving it for later.
First, allow me to cut to the chase: The Studio 530’s are the best speakers I’ve owned. And now allow me to offer some personal provenance, pedigree which might serve to qualify that judgement. I’ve been an audio-video junkie since the early days of disco. In those four-plus decades I’ve parlayed that interest into a career in video production, a sizable portion of which has been spent on location and in numerous audio suites learning about, and working on, the craft of sound. Am I a rank authority? Nope, but thanks to the teachings of numerous patient engineers, mixers, sound editors, sweeteners, and Foley artists, I think I know a little bit about the difference between what sounds right, what sounds wrong, and what speakers do (how they’re designed) to call attention to themselves (marketable sonic traits) in order to convince us listeners they’re the chicken’s tongue.
No speakers I’ve owned over the years—Mirage M series, Celestion, Energy, Apogee, Thiel, Wilson—have done everything as well, or have given me as much listening pleasure, as these Li’ l Debbies.
And now allow me to further qualify my assessment by listing models the 530’s have been recently tested against in our living room: Aperion Intimus 5B, Ascend Acoustics Sierra, Audioengine P4, Axiom Audio M22, B&W 683 & 685, Dali Mentor & Icon, Dynaudio Contour & Focus, Epos Epic 1, GoldenEar Triton & Aon, Linn, NHT Classic 3, Magnepan MMG & 1.6, Monitor Audio Silver RS6 & RX1, RSL CG4, Revel F12, and Tekton Design Model 4.5.
What caused so many of these well designed (and reviewed) speakers to fail where the JBL catchers mitts succeeded, to be more Little Elvis than Virginia Bell? The specific sonic trait(s) the engineers designed in to their models quickly became the primary sound (sonic signature) that stood out. In other words, each of those models caused me to dissect and analyze the audio--how punchy or love-humped the bass was, how layered the midrange was, how wide or narrow the soundstage was, how strident or glassy or etched the tweeters were, how much sound the crossovers swallowed, how quick and controlled the ceramic, metal, doped, or Kevlar cone was, how the driver materials were coloring the sound, yadda-yadda—instead of just sitting back and hearing clean, accurate sound.
Is it just one big slice o’ cherry pie with the 530’s? Is there a fly on the bald biscuit? A burr on the brillo? A kink in the deep pink? As my favorite theology professor was wont to say, “You bet your bippy!”
My experience with JBL customer service has been downright laughable. My primary question had to do with recommended stand height, as these Pandora’s boxes are classified as bookshelf speakers. The first attempt to get an answer was by phone. It was clear I was speaking with a man in a land far, far away, and English was definitely not his first language. My question was first met by a long silence, then an audible flipping of pages, then the answer, “Six-to-ten feet.” Knowing he was speaking about distance apart for stereo recreation, I re-phrased, attempted to adjust and simplify my request and define a speaker stand as “what I should place these on in order to hear them correctly.” Another long pause, more pages flipping, then, “They must be place on floor.”
In all my years I’ve never known a head catcher that liked it on the floor. Two e-mails later I received info that because of the speaker’s dimensions and weight JBL doesn’t recommend placement on a stand, but if I must use a stand the tweeters should be at ear height. (Cue the contemplative music) Thank you, legal eagles, for adding insult to injury.
JBL, take note: If you’re going to farm out your customer service division to an underpaid and poorly trained overseas office, at least have the temerity to educate your personnel on the idiom of the market. Failing to do so screams and shouts that you just don’t give one flying fu*k about paying customers. For the record, 18-24” stands work best with the 530’s; the heavier the better.
If you’re wondering where the 530’s excel, what they do right or wrong, what certain kinds of music, movies, or TV shows sound like, how they mesh with certain components, buy a pair and give ‘em a test. What I hear through my ears in my living won’t resemble in any way what you hear in yours. (JBL gives you 30 days to decide and even pays for return shipping, just in case you can't trust your own ears) I will say that no matter what’s gone through them—TV, Blu-Ray flicks, CDs from a wide variety of musical genres—they constantly and consistently impress me with their rightness. Fidelity is the defining hallmark of these jelly rolls.
About that joke. A woman walked into a bar, hopped up on the counter, lifted her skirt, and displayed two fresh tattoos high on the insides of each thigh. She straddled a drunk, pointed to her paint and asked and asked, “You see Elvis up here?” He steadied, fixed his focus and replied, “Nope, but the dude in the middle is Willie Nelson.” Thanks to my darling corn niblet, that’s the noise I hear every time I fire up these amazing baby cannons.
The JBL Studio 530 caught my eye due to it's style and the horn loaded tweeter. I had avoided horn loading of tweeters on affordable speakers due to brightness I have heard. I had also read good things about JBL's top of the line speakers with vertical horns. The price was right so I had to give them a listen.
To be honest my expectations were low. I opened the box and removed the speakers. I knew the speakers used 3/4 inch cabinet walls and were braced so these were not light speakers for their size. I also noticed the top of the speaker sloped back and the side walls angled in towards the back of the cabinets. This will be my first speaker with no parallel sides. The speakers are bi-wired and my better cables are internally bi-wired so all was good. The only cost savings I can see is the vinyl wrap of the cabinets and assembly in China. I should mention that my Monitor Audio RS6's and Mobile Fidelity OML1's were also assembled in China.
My room is 12 ft. by 15 ft. and the speakers sit in front of the 12 ft. wall. I am using Sanus SF 22 stands to support the speakers. The speakers are toed-in more than the other speakers I own. They are low in efficiency rated at 86 db at 1 watt and I am using them with an integrated amp rated at 150/300 into 8/4 ohm. The crossover from woofer to tweeter is claimed to be at 1,500 Hz. The speakers come with a full length grill completing the geometry of the horn and covering the mid/woofer or a half panel the completes the geometry of the horn and leaves the mid/woofer exposed. I felt the sound was more transparent using the half panel to complete the horn.
The first attribute of the speaker I noticed is it did not sound like the tweeter was horn loaded. Or should I say without the negative effects I had attributed to horns. The sound is smooth and detailed. Imaging is very solid and good depth of soundstage. The mid/woofer is recessed and it looks like the two drivers might be time aligned. Regardless these are the best speakers at presenting the soundstage I own. I think in my small room the dirctivity of the horn reduces the problems with early reflections.
In the past I would play music that I did not get. When I put the Studio 530's in the system they presented the music in proper time. Music that was jangly and confused was now enjoyable and made sense. One cd that comes to mind is the Hot Club Of Detroit's "night town". I listened to it a few times and did not get it. Played through the Studio 530's I would groove with the music. I have listened to a wider range of music through the JBL's.
If you like solo piano this speaker will blow you away. The hammer hits the string to create the note and for the first time in an affordable speaker I hear the sound of the resonating strings. The violin will sound how it is being played and it can go from sweet to strident depending on the music being played. Recordings of acoustic guitars will keep you in your chair because you have never heard such presentation at this price.
Vocals are incredible be it solo or massed choirs. I had a few recordings that vocals became a little confused and tough to follow but not through the Studio 530's. I am listening to Ella right now and may she R.I.P. but for now she is in my living room.
Bass notes and textures are well represeted by the small mid/woofer and the trade off of efficiency for bass was well chosen. The small,light and fast mid/woofer does a great job for bass such as the opening of "Show Biz Kids" on a Rickie Lee Jones recording.
All in all a good speaker for the money. It works well in smaller rooms where positioning of larger speakers could be difficult. It is true to the music and the timing of the music. I have not heard the large floor standing models but if they are even close in performance to the bookshelf model you will have a winner.