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Need opinions about JBL speaker choices

Discussion in 'Speakers' started by Richard Moya, Mar 24, 2003.

  1. Richard Moya

    Richard Moya Well-Known Member

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    After reading a dizzying array of posts I have decided to go with JBL speakers. My current setup is the once popular but older Kenwood HTB-503. I've been very happy with the system, but as many told me early on, once I get bitten by the upgrade bug--Im going to want to upgrade. Well, its time.
    I would like to keep the amp and sub for now. To me it seems adequate. Minus the DLPII the amp is good.
    Here are the choices:

    Option 1: JBL NSP1II
    Good system, but not too good for music. Sounds great for home theater setup, but I was looking to get something that I can listen to music with as well.
    Im not too sure, but it seems to me that this system would only be a marginal step up from stock speakers I get with the Kenwood.

    Option 2: JBL N-Center, N26 mains, N24 surrounds
    I think this would step up the deep punch for music and still sound great for HT. Only suspect here is the N24 for surrounds. Do they have the required punch for surrounds?

    Option 3: JBL N-Center, N28 mains, N24 surrounds
    Basically same as above except N28s. Is it worthwhile?
    Again, are surrounds weak point here?

    Option 4: JBL S-Center, S26 mains, N24 surrounds
    This is my favorite. However I am concerned with using the N24's again. You think they jibe with studio series? I would love to go S26's around, but room config and budget does not allow. I HAVE to hang the surrounds from the ceiling so Im kinda tied to the S24s. Ive looked at the S36s but I havent seen a cost efficient way of doing a ceiling mount bracket for them.



    Having said that, I am leaning more towards option 2 or 3 because of cost and room logistics even though I would prefer option 4.

    A little about my listening habits:
    I love to watch movies. I love the realism of the sound. One major downfall of the Kenwood has been the center channel. Dialogue is terrible. I have to crank it to really hear it sometimes. The mains have been fair, but fail when listening to music. The surrounds are only good for certain movies. So basically I want the setup that is going to enhance my HT experience PLUS music listening.

    Opinions, comments and questions would be appreciated
    Thanks
     
  2. Phil Iturralde

    Phil Iturralde Well-Known Member

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    Although I don't recommend mixing the N-Series 3/4" Titanium Composite Dome Tweeter and S-Series 1" Pure Titanium Dome Tweeter, ... many have, due to reasons similar to yours - room location / space, etc.


     
  3. Phil Iturralde

    Phil Iturralde Well-Known Member

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  4. Jeffrey_K

    Jeffrey_K Well-Known Member

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    I have S38IIs as mains and N24s as surrounds in a 20x12 room and they absolutely rock. I use them for movies and music, about 50/50. All types of movies, all types of music. I don't think you could go wrong with any of your choices as you outlined them above. Good luck and have fun!
     
  5. Mike Up

    Mike Up Well-Known Member

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    Well, here's my thoughts. These are my opinions and therefore probably aren't shared and aren't meant to offend anyone.

    I would go with the N26 or Northridge series over the Studio Series.

    I have done many auditions at different stores trying to see if setups were just not correct.

    The Northridge series directly competes with Polk's budget R series and Infinity's(another Harman International company)budget Entra speakers. These speakers have one thing in common, not very good imaging. The reason is because of the crossovers. Imaging is determined on keeping all the signals in phase or in time with one another. More accurate electronic components will determine how well this is accomplished. These are all budget speakers and therefore, are going to have crossovers to reflect that.

    These speakers do image alright but in a fuzzier nature than the upper series offerings. A good example I heard was with female vocals. The woman's voice wasn't confined to a center spot where you'd visualize a person standing with your eyes shut. Instead, that spot was widened and fuzzy, less precise. Now not all of her vocal syllables would be placed in the same spot. They would jump to different spots within the sound stage and SSSSSSSSS seemed to come directly from the speakers and not between the speakers at all. With the higher speaker lines, a woman's vocal syllables would all come from the one tightly focused spot. This made the sound very believable. If you were to close your eyes, you would feel as there was a woman actually standing there, singing. With the budget speakers from JBL, Infinity, and Polk, it just didn't sound as someone was actually there.

    The upper model lines that image very good were JBL Studio series, Polk RTI series, and Infinity Alpha series.

    Overall, I felt imaging on JBL was slightly below Polk and Infinity in both upper and budget lines.

    Now that I've said that, I actually prefer the Northridge series over the Studio series even with the N series worse imaging. The reason is that the Studio series is very bright and fatiguing for some reason. The tweeters are of different material on the S-series and could be why. It could also be the way the S series were tuned. Perhaps a higher resistance in the resistor on the tweeter would had brought the tweeter's sensitivity more in balance with the other drivers. I don't know. I do know that the S series' brightness is unbearable IMO. The N series is more tonally balanced and smooth. However the fuzziness in the imaging on the N series can make it sound muddy, where the S series sounds much more dynamic and clear in the midrange and highs(without the help of the overbearing treble response).

    I have a friend who has the N24s all around and it sounds good and relaxing. While not a precision speaker for imaging, it does sound good.

    I heard the N26II and they sound great IMO. Couldn't believe the bass these little speakers put out.

    I would go with go with N series speakers. With either the N24 or N26, you'll still need a subwoofer. The N24s are small and easy to wall mount but have a plastic cabinet that "could" degrade the sound. The N26s for $200/pair are a good deal. They put out good bass for such a small speaker but that bass isn't adequate enough to do most music or movies justice IMO, you still need a subwoofer.

    Since the S series are so bright, they just won't match well with N series. I feel that these 2 lines are not compatible with each other when trying to voice match. BTW, I found the S36 to sound absolutely horrid, with poor imaging to boot. The S38 sounded completely different, not just in the bass. The S36 sounded this way at many stores. Not that it matters to you, but the S26 would surely be a much better speaker than the S36 IMO.

    If it were me, I'd go with option 1 or 2, which ever you can find the better deal on PLUS a subwoofer. I'm partial to Velodyne [​IMG] .

    I'd also recommend auditioning the Polk R budget series and Infinity Entra series. For sonic characteristics I think Infinity is the best, then Polk, and then the JBL N series. The Polk and Infinity speakers have gone on sale at Crutchfield and Circuit City lately, but are still a bit more than the JBLs. I personally just bought Infinity Entra Point5 satellite speakers to be used as surround back channels, to compliment my higher end RS series speakers that are used for main, center, and surround . Point5s sound very good for such a small speaker. I then put my Infinity SS2001 speakers, that were a bit to big for that application, in my bedroom.

    Good luck.[​IMG]
     
  6. Mark Hedges

    Mark Hedges Well-Known Member

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    D'oh!

    (Person who just bought a pair of S36's and an S-Center to upgrade his HTIB system)


    Mark
     
  7. David King

    David King Well-Known Member

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    N VS S
    I have both an S Series and N series setup. The Northridges seem to be more fickle about placement. The front tweeters MUST be at ear level to really get the full effect. Anything higher or lower than a foot and it really really starts to sound muddy. The S series is not as bad about that. The N is warm while the S is Bright as mentioned a million times over. The N series is also obviously cheaper.The S series may be a little more pinpoint on imaging as mentioned, but I wouldn't consider it a huge factor. I love both and don't think I could choose one over the other.


     
  8. David King

    David King Well-Known Member

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    Also, It should be noted that everything I just said is on the originals, and not the II versions out now. That may make a difference.
     
  9. Camp

    Camp Well-Known Member

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    Just out of curiosity (I don't mean to sound like an audio snob) but why did you decide upon JBL?

    I realize there's a value factor in JBL but why choose JBL over Paradigm, Energy, Polk, PSB, etc.? JBL's 1970's era styling alone would turn me off. Their K2 speakers are phenomenal for HT but I can't say I've heard anything beneath that level. How do the "normal" JBL's compare to the above mentioned competition?
     
  10. Phil Iturralde

    Phil Iturralde Well-Known Member

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    Quote:



    ... why did you decide upon JBL? ... How do the "normal" JBL's compare to the above mentioned competition?





    JBL N- & S-Series IS A Product that utilized the same leading-edge testing and design technologies included in their TEC Award Winning Professional Series LSR Linear Spatial Reference Studio Monitors. It was Dr. Floyd Toole that recommended the inclusion of the LSR design technologies in the JBL N- & S-Series Consumer Speakers.

    Dr. Floyd Toole is known for his groundbreaking work in Canada's Ottawa's National Research Council back in the '80s, where his lab-controlled listening tests made Energy, Paradigm and PSB a success!


    Quote:



    (Excerpt from Stereo Review SEPT. 1998 pg. 112 by Corey Greenberg "The High End" article) ...
    The ripples of Dr. Floyd Toole's groundbreaking work on lab-controlled listening test at Ottawa's National Research Council in the 1980s can be found today in the rapid dominance of such NRC-inspired Canadian speaker lines as Energy, Paradigm, and PSB.

    Dr. Toole joined Harman International's new state-of-the-art speaker laboratory in Northridge, California back in 1991, and he's since brought aboard many of his ex-NRC assistants such as Sean Olive and Allan Devantier. These imported Canadian's best loudspeaker minds were given the job to jump-start JBL.

    LAB-CONTROLLED LISTENING TEST
    In launching the new Harman Consumer Group Acoustical Engineering Lab, Dr. Toole has built an NRC-inspired "home away from home" where the Harmanized Canucks can continue to practice their special blend of subjective- and objective-based speaker design. That's the genius of the NRC and now Harman's Listening Lab: by using not just measurements but also rigorously controlled listening tests with both audiophiles and civilian listeners, engineers can better correlate measured performance with subjective sound quality and push their designs in directions that listeners repeatedly prefer.





    SUCESSFUL?
    (excerpt from Corey's Stereo Review article)

    Quote:



    "To call Harman's Listening Lab the best speaker-evaluation setup I've ever heard is selling it short.

    In fact, the Listening Lab has already borne fruit. In a day spent listening to JBL and Infinity flagship models, the most impressive demo I heard was of JBL's new (remember this article is 1998) HLS610 two-way minispeakers. Despite their size, the pair I heard sounded bigger and better than most of the megabuck high-end speakers I heard this past January ('98) at the Consumer Electronics Show."(end of excerpts)





    Auditioning a speaker (HT set) is the key priority before purchasing. I don't claim that a $500.00 speakers set is better than one that cost $1,500, but what makes Tom Nousaine Standard Speaker Benchmark(s) for Sound&Vision meaningful is the fact that Under IDENTICAL Test Conditions (Location, Calibrated MIC, Test Software, etc.), . . . you can easily compare and determine the speakers characteristics ability between them in the S&V IN THE LABS benchmarks. Yes Tom Nousaine says to audition, but note that his benchmarks will reveal the speakers SPL limitations and abilities vs. location / angles, sometimes noted by the actual Speaker Subjective Reviewer (Reviews and Lab Bench Marks are done separately).

    Another JBL plus is that you don't have to purchase the most expensive speaker within their N- & S-Series to get the products top-line, Best Tweeter, like some other Speaker Manufactures. No matter which Series you choose, ... they use the same High Frequency Dome Tweeter across the entire Series line, from the lowest cost to top models respectively - making each line timbre-(voiced)-matched. If you review some of the other Top Line Popular Speakers high frequency tweeter driver, they are made of metal (titanium, aluminum or composite metals).

    Here's some quote's from some of the Professional Reviews which highlights & show the characteristics of the JBL S-Series (they all use the same 1" Pure Titanium Dome) as well verify that JBL accomplished its goal to provide accurate sound heard by the pros to the consumers.

    SUBJECTIVE REVIEW/COMMENTS:

    November 1999 - Daniel Kumin for Sound&Vision Mag. JBL S38 bookshelf (review no longer on-line)

    Quote:



    As I expect from almost any JBL speaker, but especially one with "Studio" in its name, the S38 sounded just plain terrific when played loud. ... Considering that in my room the JBLs were fully 6 dB more sensitive than the wickedly insensitive Platinums, the result was some pretty rocking output. I fell back on an old "loud test" standard - Thom Rotella Band from dmp Records - and it sounded first-rate, with the chest-thumping snare backbeats and hair-fluffing kick-drum you get from good, full-volume playback, all the while maintaining timbral balance and definition virtually unchanged.

    The S38s came across with impressive clarity and effortless dynamics, a deep spatial presentation, and more than respectable bass extension....sounded terrific, revealing the JBL speaker's ability to reproduce dense acoustic timbres naturally and effortlessly, with excellent transparency and definition.





    Robert J. Reina, June 2001 wrote - JBL S38 loudspeaker ...

    Quote:



    But there were two areas in which the JBL S38 performed better than any speaker under $2000/pair I've ever heard:

    First was its ability to play at extremely loud volumes without coloration or strain. If you want to set up a disco in your basement for your teenagers, look no further than the S38.

    Second, the S38 had the widest dynamic contrasts of any budget speaker I've heard. Just in case you were beginning to think that it's only a rock speaker, I found the S38's low- and high-level dynamic performance on dramatic orchestral works to be jaw-dropping.





    January 24, 2000 - Mark Fleischmann for etown S312 floorstanding...

    Quote:



    Performance:
    Going counterintuitive for the first moments of serious listening tests, I threw tracks from John Eargle's Engineer's Choice II (Delos) at the JBLs, which metaphorically is a little like playing chamber music for an audience of bikers in leather jackets and riding chaps.

    The speakers threw back a coherent series of orchestral and chamber sounds, spotlighting little details, but not bending anything unduly out of shape. A group of acoustic guitars were precisely separated, the titanium tweeters delivering all the woody quality of the instruments. A violent orchestral passage by Shostakovich pumped away powerfully but didn't get too boomy -- the speaker's 12-inch woofer is obviously designed for accuracy, not gut-whomping impact.

    Speaker designers got away from broad-fronted speaker enclosures like this one as a way of reducing sound-muddying "diffractions" (sound bouncing off the front of the speaker). Even so, I wouldn't say the S312 sounded muddy. Credit for this may go to the fancifully named Elliptical Oblate Spheroidal (EOS) waveguide -- a little recess that focuses the metal tweeter's powerful output. The waveguide creates a "window" of +/-15 degrees vertically and +/-30 degrees horizontally, thus minimizing room reflections that might come back to hit the speaker.

    Bottom line: This is a homely speaker that sounds pretty good.

    Value: The quality of the custom-designed drivers, the accessories with which they're packaged and all the useful (if oddly named) design ideas add up to a desirable, yet humongous, speaker package. Considering that my only other experience with a big speaker this size (a Jensen tombstone) was disastrous, I have to give the S312 and its designers credit for producing good results, including well-proportioned bass, at a not unreasonable price.

    If you still go two-channel periodically, and want some big speakers to flank your projection TV, the JBL S312 is worth taking seriously. Just don't expect it to produce the outsized and more adjustable bass available from a powered tower (like JBL's step-up S412P, $1699/pair list). Though it may appear to appeal to a headbanger mentality, this speaker has obviously been designed by, and for, people who actually listen to a wide variety of music. I was pleasantly surprised by its performance.





    Wayne Garcia - Amazon.com Editorial Review S412P Speaker Package

    Quote:



    The sound on this speaker is clear, detailed, and punchy. If you like to play your music and movies loud, this is the speaker for you. It sounds good at low levels, but we found that it sounded better the louder we cranked it--especially when we fed the speaker a low-frequency (subwoofer) output from our amplifier.

    Pros:

    • Clear, powerful sound
    • Natural frequency balance
    • Plays very loud without distortion
    • Great bass response





    Oct. 28, 2001 - Mark Knight - JBL S-Center & S36 Speaker Review ...

    Quote:



    I was instantly very impressed with the S36 and S-Center studio series from JBL as they are accurate, neutral sounding speakers. I am also impressed with the clarity and crispness these speakers offer with high's that do not fatigue at all even at very loud listening levels.





    Jeff Koch Los Angeles, CA (HT Forum member email to me) ...

    Quote:



    Phil,
    One of my pro friends is now using JBL S38s as near field monitors for production mixing in his studio!!! I demonstrated "Gladiator", "Titanic", and those great new classical recordings in DTS from the "Fantasia 2000" dvd. He was absolutely astounded, especially when I told him what I paid for my system (internet prices) and he just couldn't believe it. He has been mixing on ultra expensive studio monitors.





    So, JBL S-Series have garnered a lot of positive Subjective Remarks by the Professionals and consumers, but subjective, is subjective, ... just opinions, ... based on peoples favorites and bias. The following Objective Benchmarks verify why many different reviewers wrote what they wrote ...

    OBJECTIVE BENCHMARKS:

    November 1999 - Tom Nousaine for Sound&Vision Mag. JBL S38 bookshelf

    Quote:



    FREQUENCY RESPONSE: 80 to 20 kHz ±3.8 (Averaged over a ±30° window, with double weight given to the most common listening angle, 30°.)





    May 20, 2000 - Home Theater Mag. Objective Benchmark reveals why Clint wrote "JBL Studio ensemble offers excellent bang for the buck"...

    Quote:



    This graph shows the quasi-anechoic (employing close-miking of all woofers) frequency response of the Studio series' S26 mains/surrounds ...

    On-axis response of the S-Center center measures +2.7/-2.0 dB from 200 Hz to 10 kHz. The -3dB point is at 76 Hz, and the -6dB point is at 60 Hz.

    On-axis response of the S26** L/R measures +1.7/-1.4 dB from 200 Hz to 10 kHz. The -3dB point is at 48 Hz, and the -6dB point is at 43 Hz. [​IMG] (mine! - for Fronts & Surrounds)





    **WOW - Studio Monitor like unequalized flat-frequency response (+1.7/-1.4 dB from 200 Hz to 10 kHz; -3dB point is at 48 Hz) in the critical lower-mid to midrange!!!

    Anyway, ... add the above quasi-anechoic results to Tom Nousaine (double weight given to the most common listening angle, 30°) JBL S38 Objective Results, and the JBL S26 & S-Center reaches at the very least 20 kHz ±3.8.

    BLIND TESTS:

    "OBJECTIVE SUBJECTIVITY" By Scott Wilkinson for Electronic Musician, Jul 1, 2001 ...

    Quote:



    During a recent visit with several other audio journalists, I participated in a sample test run in the MLL, which was conducted by Sean Olive, manager of subjective evaluation for Harman International. Three consumer speakers were mounted behind the grille cloth: a Boston Acoustics CR8, a B&W DM601, and a JBL S26. At the end of the testing, we learned that most of us had ranked the JBL S26 as the best speaker on most clips, which certainly pleased our hosts.





    JBL PRO R&D influenced speaker design , rigorously controlled listening tests with both audiophiles and civilian listeners have paid dividends for bargain hunting consumers that want the best bang for their buck, ... since JBL has accomplished their design goals based on the 'subjective' and objective' reviews, ... to let us enjoy the same neutral, uncolored, detailed and spatially accurate sound quality heard by the pros like my JBL S26 - On-axis response of the S26 L/R measures +1.7/-1.4 dB from 200 Hz to 10 kHz. The -3dB point is at 48 Hz.

    AWARDS:

    CEA Innovations 2000 Design and Engineering Award Winner = JBL's Studio Series S38 and S412P loudspeakers.

    For more JBL N- & S-Series Speaker INFO & Reviews w/links, see my web page Why you should add JBL N & S Series to your audition list!.

    NOTE: Because my website is 'FREE', hosted by GeoCities, if too many HT enthusiasts visit, GeoCities will shut it down for an hour or so because it exceeded the specified 'freebie' Data Transfer Rate. Sorry about that, just bookmark it and visit my site an hour later or when everyone has gone to bed!

    Phil
     
  11. greg baker

    greg baker Well-Known Member

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    I have S 26II's all around and they do a great job. I think using the N series for the rear would be fine. I will say that great deals can be fund on these speakers. I bought 2 pr. of s26II's and a S center channel for $504 delivered through Etronics. J and R has very good deals too.

    Greg
     
  12. Camp

    Camp Well-Known Member

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    Geez, Phil...you should be offered a job at Harmon PR just for the skill & time you took to format that post. [​IMG]

    Good stuff...I guess you (over) answered my query.
     
  13. Mark Zimmer

    Mark Zimmer Well-Known Member

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    The Studio series is brighter than the N series, but I like my speakers brighter. As I've mentioned here before, I liked the sound of the N series better in the store, but in my house I was losing all the upper register brightness. Switching over to the S series at home made all the difference (I wound up with the S312s as my mains). So your own preferences and what your room treatments are like will make a big difference, and no one here is going to be able to tell you what you'll like better. Find a store with a flexible return policy and try one of the options (I'd start with #4 myself, but that's just me). If it makes you happy, you're done. If not, try #1 or 2. [​IMG]
     
  14. Jeff Koch

    Jeff Koch Well-Known Member

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    Every time I play a new 5.1 dvd or CD I am astounded. It's like hearing the mix as it was recorded in the dubbing theater or scoring stage. The quality of sound reproduction is unbelievable. I'm using four JBL S38s, two for the mains, two for the surrounds, S-Center and PB12 sub. I've heard other systems that cost hundreds, even thousands more but I still keep coming back to mine as the best sounding. I purchased another pair of S38s (still in the box) for a future upgrade to 7.1.

    Best Buy has an extremely liberal return policy. You can pick and choose speakers, take them home, check them out and return them within 30 days if you don't like them for any reason. But I think you will! [​IMG]

    Jeff
     
  15. Marcel_V

    Marcel_V Well-Known Member

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    I went with a northridge 7.1 setup with the NSP-1 package that has the n-center and 4 n24 surrounds. For my mains I went with the N38's which are three way 8" towers and I LOVE them for music and ht. Something about having towers and their big speaker sound really gets the movies and music going. I personally prefer N38s over s26s for either music or HT.

    Im not sure what you've priced out online, but I got the nsp-1 package for 240 shipped and the PAIR of N38 towers for 279 total shipping free from jandr.com. They are authorized by jbl as well. Whatever you end up doing, if you are going to go with some parts northridge in your setup I would suggest you get the nsp-1 package even if you dont use all the speakers, because its just so darned cheap. A n-center and a pair of n-24's individually purchased alone are at least 200 plus shipping, so you might as well get the package and have extra speakers for a 7.1 someday, or if you break a speaker.
     
  16. Richard Moya

    Richard Moya Well-Known Member

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    Is the NSP package definitely a step up from the kenwood pack I have now? If there is not a noticeable enough difference, I would opt for n26 mains, n24 surrounds, n-center. Also, if anyone had a sure-fire, inexpensive way to ceiling mount (with a speaker mount of some kind) some n26's I would do it in a heartbeat.

    Thanks all for your help!
     
  17. Chris Tsutsui

    Chris Tsutsui Well-Known Member

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    I'm suprised a lot of ppl prefer N series over the S series.

    IMO, Klipsch are bright speakers. The S series simply play more high frequency information and detail than the N series. The N series "lack-of" highs is probably what some ppl prefer. By lack of highs, it doesn't mean the frequency responses are different. I think the N series have highs that are muffled and "blend" with eachother while the S series sound clearer and more defined.

    The N-series uses the same Titanium dome tweeter technology as the S-series, only the N series uses a 3/4" dome as opposed to 1" and it's also not as sensitive.

    When I critically listen to two speakers, I don't just pay attention to what speaker sounds the brightest, but I try and hear for things that the other speaker fails to play. Reason is because the receiver and room reflections play a huge role in the perception of "bright" sounding speakers.

    I know that some ppl may prefer N over S, I just don't want ppl to think the N series is better than the S series and miss out on some of the detail and richer/fuller sound.
     
  18. Phil Iturralde

    Phil Iturralde Well-Known Member

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    I agree w/Chris Tsutsui comments but when we're @ my vacation house up in the Sierra's (45 mins to Kirkwood Ski Resort), ... we don't miss my JBL S26 (x4), JBL S-Center & SVS 25-31PCi when watching / listening to my JBL NSP1's / AudioSource SW15!! [​IMG]


    JBL brand manager Paul Bente summed-up the differences nicely when he said ...
     
  19. Tom Tubbiola

    Tom Tubbiola Well-Known Member

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    Ok, based on everything I've read here and elsewhere I just ordered a pair of S38IIs from JandR. These will be as a replacement for my Klipsch RB-5s which migrated from my bedroom to my living room as surrounds for my HT.

    I'm now at the point of waiting impatiently as they travel across the country. . . [​IMG]

    Hopefully they will live up to the reviews and I'll be [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]
     

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