Harman International: Infinity, JBL, Revel impressions

Discussion in 'Speakers' started by Kevin C Brown, Jul 6, 2003.

  1. Kevin C Brown

    Kevin C Brown Producer

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    I just read all the white papers here:

    http://www.harman.com/wp/index.jsp?articleId=122

    Now I'm interested to learn more about the actual speakers that Floyd E Toole has had input into.

    Me, myself, and I: these are my uneducated impressions:

    JBL- I actually had a pair of 4311b studio monitors a long time ago. My current impression: JBL makes loud, "rock and roll" speakers that aren't that accurate. But I also remember a relatively recent review that actually gave a set of JBLs a very excellent review! (The reviewer tried hard to get across that within all of JBLs lines, there are some quite good speakers, as opposed to maybe what they used to make.)

    Infinity- My only impression here is that some of the current models may perform OK, but they are kind of ugly. Infinity has RABOS for their subs, right?

    Revel- Don't know much about these other than that they tend to be more high end than Infinity and JBL.

    ??

    If I was looking towards my next 7.1 set of speakers (a year or two from now), and I was shooting to start with the mains at say $2k street ($2500 list?), what brand/model should I be looking at? Floorstanding, -3 dB point near 30 Hz.

    (Obviously, my impressions are my own, but I'm curious as to what y'all thought between these three. Trying to *get* educated.)
     
  2. Chu Gai

    Chu Gai Lead Actor

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    It's really tough to listen to a set of speakers and not be influenced by what we've heard, what others have said, and of course peer pressure. It's my opinion that reviewers would be much much more guarded and less ebulient if they weren't aware of what they were listening to.

    That said Kevin, I think all the above brands as well as a host of others bear some sort of consideration. Part of the reason for why we may like or dislike certain brands have to do with a myriad of things. Some brands give a very focussed image that may well depend upon you being very constrained as to where you can listen. Others have greater horizontal dispersion. And of course, some rooms and decoration schemes lend themselves better towards certain type as opposed to others.

    Up in Canada they've got, maybe still have?, a pretty sophisticated testing facility. You can read more about it here. There are many benefits to having a good testing facility and trained listeners to the designer as goals can be more quickly zeroed in on cutting r&d time signficantly.
     
  3. Phil Iturralde

    Phil Iturralde Screenwriter

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    Quote:



    Now I'm interested to learn more about the actual speakers that Floyd E Toole has had input into.

    ...My current impression: JBL makes loud, "rock and roll" speakers that aren't that accurate. But I also remember a relatively recent review that actually gave a set of JBLs a very excellent review! (The reviewer tried hard to get across that within all of JBLs lines, there are some quite good speakers, as opposed to maybe what they used to make.)





    I'll just comment on JBL, since I took an interest with their titanium line of speakers starting in the mid 90's (JBL pioneered titanium domes way back in 1984).

    (partial excerpts from Stereo Review - SEPT. 1998 (pg. 112) by Corey Greenberg "The High End" article)

    Quote:



    "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?
    "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)

    **Acoustical Engineering Lab is called the Multichannel Listening Lab (MLL), and the entire MLL facility and procedures are based on research conducted by Dr. Floyd Toole, an acoustical expert and Harman's vice president of engineering.

    The JBL N- & S-Series designs were developed by going back to the hey-days during the 70's when JBL L100 was the best-selling loudspeaker system of the decade. The L100 design were based on their successful 4300 series Studio Monitors in the 1960's, which 4310 and 4311 became the Industry Standard.

    Dr. Floyd Toole recommended the inclusion of the same leading-edge testing and design technologies included in their TEC Award Winning Professional Series LSR Linear Spatial Reference Studio Monitors. JBL's goal was to allow home listeners to enjoy the same neutral, uncolored, detailed and spatially accurate sound quality heard by the pros.

    The following 'subjective reviews**' verify that JBL accomplished its goal ...


    **SUBJECTIVE REVIEWS:

    November 1999 - Daniel Kumin for Sound&Vision Magazine: 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. In Taberna, Part II of Carl Orff's Carmina Burana (Robert Shaw, Atlanta Symphony, Telarc CD-80056), is very difficult to reproduce convincingly, with its massed shouting chorus and cacophonous battery of percussion. Small, inexpensive speakers usually compress, congest, or crap out completely. But the sense of ease with which the S38 reproduced this bombastic music reminded me more of the sound of my Alón V Mk.IIs ($5500/pair) and Alón Circes ($12,000/pair) than it did of any other affordable speaker I've heard.





    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:

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





    • Bob Pletka / "EUROTUBES" - ("musician and tube Hi-Fi enthusiast")

    Quote:



    ...a good friend of mine Brian Hadley had just purchased the smaller S26's and couldn't wait to test drive them with the JJ amps. We threw everything we had at the little S26's from Thomas Dolby to the very rare 1961 pressing of Michael Rabins Paganini concerto No.1 in D with the Philharmonia Orchestra and the little JBL's handled everything with ease. They were also able to play at volumes that I've rarely heard from an 8" two way! Needless to say we were very impressed, in fact I was so impressed that I made a few phone calls and set myself up as dealer for these speakers so now you can find the Studio series speakers on my price list at a VERY discounted price! You can't touch the sound quality of the JBL Studio series with speakers that cost two to three times what the JBL's cost. These are not a mid-Fi speaker, they are truly Hi-Fi.





    HT Forum members ...

    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 - an email addressed to me [​IMG] ...

    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.






    OBJECTIVE BENCHMARKS:

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

    Quote:



    FREQUENCY RESPONSE: 80 to 20 kHz ±3.8





    o NOTE: S&V Speaker testing NOTES:

    Quote:



    IN THE LAB NOTE:

    The left/right front speakers were averaged over a ±30° window, with double weight given to the most common listening angle, 30°.

    Sound delivered to the listener's ears from surround speakers will be reflected from room surfaces, so their response was averaged over a ±60° window with double weight given to the widest off-axis angles. (If the speaker) system uses identical speakers for the front L/R and surround channels, the variations shown here simply reflect the different weightings.

    The center speaker's response was averaged over ±45°, with double weight directly on-axis, where the primary listener will sit. - Tom Nousaine





    Based on the JBL S38 benchmark, all the S-Series will reach 20 kHz ±3.8 since they use the same identical 1" Pure Titanium dome tweeter w/EOS™ waveguide. ( Averaged over a ±30° window, with double weight given to the most common listening angle, 30°.)

    How will the S-Center or any JBL titanium dome tweeter w/EOS™ waveguide bookshelf perform?

    Well, no other JBL S-Series were Benchmarked by S&V, but they did benchmark the bargain basement, highly successful performing JBL N-Series.

    *** The N-Series ALL use the 3/4" Titanium-laminate dome with EOS™™ waveguide, and since the higher cost JBL S-Series larger 1" Pure Titanium dome also utilize the JBL TEC Award Winning LSR Pro Studio EOS™™ waveguide, we can make assumptions that they will at the very least perform as well, if not better due to the larger Titanium tweeter with EOS™™ waveguide

    JAN 2001 - Daniel Kumin JBL NSP1 & PB10 Sound&Vision Mag. Review1 (four N24 / N-Center) - all use 3/4" Titanium-laminate dome with EOS™™ waveguide - (using the Same Standardized Speaker Testing Objective Benchmarks by Tom Nousaine) ...

    Quote:



    Frequency Response
    N-24 front left/right... 89 Hz to 18.9 kHz ±2.7 dB
    N-Center................ 89 Hz to 20 kHz ±5.5 dB
    N-24 surround........... 89 Hz to 18.4 kHz ±3.2 dB





    So, we can assume that the S-Series in the Surrounds locations, can at least reach 20 kHz ±4.3, ... based on the N-Series Objective Benchmarks. (Fronts = 20 kHz ±3.8 [S38 / S&V] - both use EOS™ waveguide.)

    For the S-Center, @ least 20 kHz ±5.5 dB though the S-Center is actually much smoother when you add-in Home Theater Magazine's Objective Benchmark to our assumptions ...

    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.





    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 S-Center reaches at the very least 20 kHz ±3.8.


    BLIND TESTING:

    The following on-line Electronic Musician article "OBJECTIVE SUBJECTIVITY" provides more in-depth description of the Harman built blind-testing room (MLL). In the article, a sample test run in the MLL where three consumer speakers were mounted behind the grille cloth: a Boston Acoustics CR8, a B&W DM601, and a JBL S26 were ranked during the blind tests by several audio journalists including the author of the article, Scott Wilkinson. Scott wrote of the results ...
    Quote:



    At the end of the testing, we learned that most of us had ranked the JBL S26 as the best speaker on most clips, ...





    So, I always recommend adding JBL latest offerings to a consumer's audition list, since it's documented subjective, objective and blind-testing performance has proven it's worth vs. cost in real life use.

    Infinity and Revel also has access to HK Acoustical Engineering ML Lab and within their own Design Engineering goals, have used HK's MLL to produce successful excellent performing speakers like JBL's PRO and Consumer speaker lines.

    Dr. Floyd Toole said ...
    Quote:



    "Here at Harman we have a company that is committed to producing the best possible products at every price level. It's a company that's large enough to afford state of the art engineering facilities and it's a company that's broad enough to impact the audio industry at every level. It impacts how recordings are made for music entertainment and how film soundtracks are made. It also impacts how music and film sounds are reproduced for our entertainment in homes, in cinemas, in concert halls, and more personally in cars and even through headphones. Any improvements that we can make to the technical side of capturing and storing and reproducing musical and film sounds will benefit the consumer on the broadest possible basis."

    "Of course, Dr. Toole has his favorite listening spaces. "The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences theatre is an absolute spoiler. It is simply a technical state-of-the-art system and it's the best system we at JBL Professional know how to build. That theatre and the one at the Director's Guild are the reference systems for the industry and the best I've ever heard."





    Phil
     
  4. Angelo.M

    Angelo.M Producer

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    I didn't read through Phil's post. Did he reference the (quite positive) review of the S38 from Stereophile?

    At any rate, I don't place a lot of stock in these reviews.

    I've owned JBL speakers of various vintage over the last 20 years or so, and I've always been impressed with them from the standpoint of price/performance. I've owned much more expensive speakers which didn't offer proportionately better performance or, to borrow a phrase, a 'sonic unveiling' when compared with JBL's stuff. I have the S38IIs in a 2-channel setup and they are very sweet.

    And if it's mid-fi? Well, then I'm happy with mid-fi.
    [​IMG]
     
  5. Chu Gai

    Chu Gai Lead Actor

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    So much of mid-fi equipment is put through grueling tests that limited production esoteric brands can't hope to match. I think that's why some hi-end stuff is so revealing...it's revealing of design shortcomings [​IMG]
     
  6. Mark Hedges

    Mark Hedges Second Unit

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    I have JBL s-36's and a S-center and am pleased with them. The bass response is good and imaging is pretty good, although I would like to have the vocals a little tighter. This may be due to my room setup more than the speakers though. I waffle back and forth between keeping the S-36's or upgrading to S-38's but so far I have done nothing. Right now I am leaning towards not upgrading but maybe next week I will change my mind again!

    All of the tests that I have seen of JBL's studio series speakers actually show very flat behavior. I can't really say how that translates into the real world though.

    Mark
     
  7. ChrisWiggles

    ChrisWiggles Producer

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    Revels are nice, and their cheapest speaker, the M20 starts at 2K/pr. Still, they are very nice, I've only heard good things from the few Revels I've heard. They are textbook high-end speakers that are designed to "match" with Mark Levinson, which, seems to me anyway, that they are somewhat conservative in their presentation. They don't take a lot of risks in impressive soundstage and the like, whereas some Dynaudios I've heard do, and for less money. Some people like that, some people don't. So overall if you've got the cash (and a lot of it) check out revel, they're nice. [​IMG]


    edit: can't beleive I wrote their as they're. guh.
     
  8. Kevin C Brown

    Kevin C Brown Producer

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    Phil- You rock. [​IMG] (I'm printing this out for future reference...)

    The Revel's are waaaay nice, but yes, kind of expensive. But I like their (Floyd's...) design philosophy of designing a speaker for actual playback in a room, and not an anachoic chamber.

    And then Infinity's Kappa series. (Don't want powered subs in the main speakers.)

    Yeah, I think it was the 1999 JBL S&V review. (I usually try to keep reviews of good components. Need to try and dig that one up.) Obviously, I need to read up on JBL. I didn't even look at the Pro offerings they have. Thanks again!

    Chu- Yeah, there's also the NRC in Canada too. In fact, the Mirage Omnipolars are also high on my list (Energy too). Ahhh, see you make a good point of "influence" on a purchasing decision. That's why this thread. [​IMG] To set the record straight if any of my impressions are "out of date" or just plain wrong...
     
  9. Chu Gai

    Chu Gai Lead Actor

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    Should be a fun time for you Kevin. If the JBL thing throws you, they can always be renamed LBJ's. Very good for southern music.
     
  10. Dave Moritz

    Dave Moritz Producer
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    Hello Kevin C Brown,

    Have you considered or checked out Klipsch? I am looking into upgrading my current speakers as well. But I am looking to match everything to my vintage Altec Lancing Voice Of The Theaters. With a friends help I will be building custom JBL speakers with there pro componenets.
    I am looking at a center channel with dual 10's and a HF horn driver. I am not certain what size drivers will go in the rear speakers? But I am looking a one JBL 18" sub woofer to start off with. This may be followed up by a addition of a second JBL 18" woofer later?

    Buckel up because Kansas is going Bye Bye, LMAO.

    And with a upgraded reciever or pre/pro and a video projector this system should kick major A__, ROFL. Audio is very subjective so all you can do is buy what sounds good to you and leave it at that.
     
  11. Angelo.M

    Angelo.M Producer

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    Kevin:

    Update us once you've listened/auditioned/bought your speakers.
     
  12. Kevin C Brown

    Kevin C Brown Producer

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    Angelo- Will probably be a while. Have only had my Vandersteen mains for about 10 months, and the complete 7.1 setup for maybe 4 months. I'm just starting my research on what to get next, early. [​IMG]

    Dave:

     
  13. Dave Moritz

    Dave Moritz Producer
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    Infinity Kappas are inefficient but sound sweet. Have you concidered the Klipsch speakers IMHO they use the JBL philosophy. I realize that JBL uses titanium dome tweeters but Klipsch uses horn style loaded tweeters just like JBL pro line. What is your budget for your speakers if you dont mind me asking? It never hurts to look at all you alternatives in order to make the best desision.

     
  14. Chu Gai

    Chu Gai Lead Actor

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    Are those 2Ce's that you've got elevated to get the tweeter into a better position? I have heard that they're particulary with respect to alignment. Could be though Kevin that you're looking for a speaker with greater horizontal dispersion.
     
  15. Kevin C Brown

    Kevin C Brown Producer

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    Chu- I do have the stands they came with, and at least according to the excellent instructions in the manual (they effectively make you measure your ear height, speaker height, distance to the speaker, and then the angles involved), I'm OK. I do remember when I set them up, that I needed a lot less toe in than the DT's they replaced to get what I thought was good sound. Might have to experiment some more... (Hee, hee, also have a laser pointer now and can directly measure the angle to the listening position...)

    I would hate to give up good speakers just because I haven't spent the time to set them up properly... And then I would really hesitate to replace direct radiators with another set of direct radiators, because it might just be that I got so used to the bipolar Def Techs, that no monopole can make me happy. That's why I'm looking at the Mirage Omni's so heavily. Hey, can I ask, what do you have?


    Dave- I need to look at Klipsch someday. Yuppers: horiz dispersion. Oh, I just went through about 1/2 the speaker reviews I've saved from mag reviews over the years. (I always save the reviews from well reviewed gear.) Know what manufacturer "popped" out? Monitor Audio. Dang, have to look at them now too. [​IMG]

    I'm probably still about a year away, unless I come across a "good deal" sooner, plus since for example the Kappas are relatively new, gives a chance for more places to review them. Top end of my budget is (actual cost) $2k for floorstander main L & R, $500-750 for the center, and $250-400 each for the four bookshelf surrounds & rears. Probably wouldn't touch my sub...
     
  16. GlennRB

    GlennRB Auditioning

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    Just a quick comment on the Infinity Intermezzo 1.2S subwoofer, which does have the RABOS system.

    I replaced a Velodyne HGS12 with this sub after the Velo was stolen. Although I am not too keen on the look of the Intermezzo, it outperforms the HGS12 in all three important areas for a sub - it reaches down to 22Hz in my room (as opposed to 25 for the HGS12), it blends amazingly well with my Totem Staaf main speakers, and the bass that the Intermezzo produces sounds like it is supposed to. By that I mean it isn't just about visceral impact (more important for movies), but it is more accurate. Low E notes on bass guitars (thats about 40Hz I think) sound like a low E on a bass guitar and not like a synthesized bass.

    I believe that the REVEL subs also use the RABOS eq system but I don't know of any else. I highly recommend any sub that uses this, particularly if you have a less than ideal room like most of us.
     
  17. Kevin C Brown

    Kevin C Brown Producer

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    RABOS equals (more or less) a Behringer DSP-1124p. But I think the BFD has more flexibility. Just a little harder to set up. [​IMG]

    I'm actually surprised that more companies don't offer "complete solutions" like Infinity...
     

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