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My review of the JBL S312 II s (3 Viewers)

James W. Johnson

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A week or so ago I posted my initial impressions of the JBL S312II speakers , I was quite enthusiastic about them
but had'nt really done any critical listening.
I am not going to compare these with my Adire Kit281s because a fully assembled pair of Kit281s is just under $1.9K shipped, while the S312s are around $600-$800 shipped.
Right out of the box they are quite harsh in the top end and I thought it had went away but it had not.
I have auditioned these for about 20 hours so they are not broken in yet, but the basic characteristics of the loudspeaker are not going to change all that much more.
I have had a chance to play some Jazz, Rock , pop and Techno music and several DVDs.
The first thing I have to say about these is that they are very detailed and revealing.
The mids and highs on these speakers are too harsh.
I cannot really put my finger on it but all I know is 1 hour of listening to these speakers even at low volumes gives me a mild hearing ache no matter what the material is...they are extemely fatiging. Everything is just too in your face.
The bass on these speakers is really good, they extend deep and accuratly not boomy at all.
Which brings me to the next point, these are room placement friendly no matter where I put them in my small
room the bass never became boomy.
They are quite fun and exiting to listen to for a short period of time but they are fatiging speakers and
not good for a guy like me that listens to many hours of music every day.
The deal breaker:
No matter how hard I tried I could not become lost in the music because they had a hard time holding an image and just when I would start to get into something my ears would tell me to shut them off.
I think these would make a fantastic party speaker , they go very loud and stay clean..but you best wear some ear plugs if you are close to them when you crank em'.
These would also make a great HT speaker/music speaker in a very large room ,you would have to sit at least 20 feet away from them ..the back of my room is right about 15ft from the speakers and they are still too harsh for me.
Sorry guys I really wanted these speakers to work out for me considering I got them at cost.
I paid $435 w/tax for the S312s, this is Best Buy's cost on these speakers. And you know what?...I still feel ripped off because I don't have any use for such a speaker.
(but hey I felt more ripped off when I bought some Paradigm Monitor 7s and PSB Image 4Bs too so don't get mad at me JBL owners.:))
BTW I see the JBL S26 speaker totally different. I purchased them on a whim and I feel like I hit the
speaker selection lotto.
I use these as nearfield monitors for my computer and I can listen to them all day long.
I put them out in my living room on top of the S312s
and they sounded really good but not as good as they
sound for my application. They are nearly perfect in every way.
 

Dustin B

Senior HTF Member
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Mar 10, 2001
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Interesting James. Have you also pulled the 312 appart, are the tweeters different or essentially the same? If the tweeters are essentially the same what do you think is making the 312 so much more fatiguing? The higher crossover frequency to the tweeter, the difference in baffel size, something else?
 

RobertGeo

Agent
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Mar 14, 2002
Messages
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james, couldnt you just back off the treble a little? could a eq help out this kind of problem? i remember phil saying it could take 3 months for the speakers to work in. maybe you need some more time?

what kind of music do you listin too? you say you have the s26's. i thought all the s series had the same tweeter(?) thanks for your feedback james, rob
 

Chris Tsutsui

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Feb 1, 2002
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I'm suprised someone with 281s would downgrade to s312s. So do you want to sell them? :)
I loved the S312iis over the S38ii when I auditioned them at BB.
 

James W. Johnson

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I'm suprised someone with 281s would downgrade to s312s. So do you want to sell them?

>>>.

I did'nt get rid of my Kit281s . I have had as many as 6 different pairs of speakers at one time because I like trying out speakers. Most of the time I sell them for a loss.

The S312IIs are on Ebay already.

Guys I never heard the old S312 so it could be just as bad as the new series. I don't think much has changed besides the midrange driver.

Its not just the tweeter that is contributing , the mid is too pushy as well.

Its almost like the mid/tweeter are 6-10dbs louder than the bass driver, this could be done via the crossover .

Quote from Robert:

>>>james, couldnt you just back off the treble a little? could a eq help out this kind of problem? i remember phil saying it could take 3 months for the speakers to work in. maybe you need some more time?
 

Phil Iturralde

Screenwriter
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Oct 7, 1998
Messages
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The prized component in these JBLs is the titanium tweeter, which could create a very clean, precise sound. Cymbals, trumpets, saxophones and violins were reproduced accurately without any hint of colouration. Notes started and stopped without hesitation; JBL has made one of the best-sounding tweeters around.
as JBL pioneered titanium domes way back in 1984. JBL says you'll need some 120 hours of work to get the drivers up and running, but from experience, I'd say 3-4 months is much more to the point. It will be the titanium tweeter which will take longest to really settle down to its true sound.
James W. Johnson - Thanks for your honest assessment! If everybody loved JBLs, why have B&W, Klipsch, Paradigm, NHT, Boston Acoustics, ... anyway you get the point! Its a smorgasbord of Speaker Manufactures, and then add the DIY's Kits, ... there is enough speaker sounds to go around.
What I like won't necessarily mean another person/consumer will like it, especially if that person/consumer auditioning, any said speaker(s) had permanent hearing damage from constant exposure from a Live Rock Concert or excessive SPLs using headphones. For example, before listeners can evaluate speakers in Harman International built blind-testing room called the Multichannel Listening Lab (MLL), they must pass a hearing test and a series of computer-controlled training exercises designed to teach them how to be human spectrum analyzers. Those exercises (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.
One reason why I like seeing, objective results, if its available.
I personally like the flat monitor sound my JBL S26s (since FEB 25) provide me in my application. ;) I'm listening to Diana Krall "When I look in you eyes" CD, 2-CH w/SVS right now, and IMHO, she sounds like she's in my living! Uh, ... maybe I should get dress for work?? :b
Phil
 

James W. Johnson

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Quote::
The prized component in these JBLs is the titanium tweeter, which could create a very clean, precise sound. Cymbals, trumpets, saxophones and violins were reproduced accurately without any hint of colouration. Notes started and stopped without hesitation; JBL has made one of the best-sounding tweeters around.
>>>>>>>>>>.
JBL did not make this tweeter, it was made in France by a company called Audax. http://www.audax.com/
Now listen , I know Audax makes fine speakers so
I think it is in part due to the tweeter and more
importantly the crossover.
Some people believe the crossover is the single
most important element in a loudspeaker.
Quote:::
I quoted a European 2000 JBL Ti 600 3-way floorstanding loudspeaker Review RobertGeo. He wrote ...
quote:
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
as JBL pioneered titanium domes way back in 1984. JBL says you'll need some 120 hours of work to get the drivers up and running, but from experience, I'd say 3-4 months is much more to the point. It will be the titanium tweeter which will take longest to really settle down to its true sound.
----------------------------------------------------------->>>>>>>>>>>>>>
Apples to oranges, the Ti600 are a different speaker
and may well use a tweeter made by JBL also they cost
several thousand dollars a pair.
I have looked into more of their lines and you simply cannot compare the Northridge and Studio series to their high end line and professional line of speakers.
They say they have used technology from the pro studio series speakers.
The only thing I can find is the Elliptical Oblate Spheroidal (EOS) Waveguide...big deal this is simply
a little horn for the tweeter.
Take a look at the amount of testing that was done on the
LSR28P http://www.jblpro.com/pub/recording/lsr28p.pdf
Where are JBLs detailed specs and graphs on their home speakers?
It would help sell speakers if they did this, however JBL took a different aproach to selling their mass products.
Here is what they say about the S312::
This 3-way 12" floorstanding loudspeaker with MDF enclosure and Elliptical Oblate Spheroidal™ (EOS) waveguide reproduces sound with unparalleled spaciousness and definition.
• The pure-titanium tweeter and the midrange transducer are mounted on a Linear Field Proximity™ (LFP) bezel that ensures a seamless transition between the middle and high frequencies. The PolyPlas™ (polymer-coated cellulose fiber) cone woofer features traditional JBL engineering, the same technologies used in JBL's Professional equipment that can be found in stadiums, music halls and movie theaters around the world.
• Shielded components allow placement near video monitors. High-temperature, oversized Kapton® voice coil and HeatScape™ motor structure allow these speakers to effortlessly play all types of movies and music. The woofers are built on cast-aluminum frames, which reduce distortion and increase power-handling capability. A low-diffraction IsoPower™ baffle directs the sound power into the room, reducing distortion caused by cabinet vibration. The lock-mitred, computer-designed enclosure requires no bracing. The FreeFlow™ flared port increases bass response without adding unwanted port noise. JBL's custom-designed drivers allow the use of simple, Straight-Line Signal Path™ (SSP) crossover networks with high-quality electrical components that minimize processing that could degrade the signal. All Studio Series loudspeakers are equipped with all-metal, 5-way, gold-plated binding post speaker terminals.
HeatScape™ motor structure!!! So the driver has a vent! WOW!!!!
"A low-diffraction IsoPower™ baffle " ???? I don't see
anything special about the baffle execept its very wide
and very prone to diffraction.
The FreeFlow™ flared port>>>There is absolutly nothing special about this port its flared on the outside slightly
nothing else is special about it.
Straight-Line Signal Path™ (SSP) crossover networks with high-quality electrical components that minimize processing that could degrade the signal
I don't know what this is but I would like to get a
crossover expert like Dan Wiggins over here.
Based on everything else they have said to this point its
probably another load of trash talk.
Why did'nt they use this driver in their home line?
This sounds genuinely impressive to me:
The neodymium 12" woofer is based on JBL’s patented Differential Drive® technology. With the Neodymium structure and dual drive coils, power compression is kept to a minimum to reduce the fatigue of spectral shift as power levels increase. An added third coil between the drive coils acts as a dynamic brake to limit excess excursion and reduce audible distortion at the highest levels. The cone is made of a graphite/polypropylene composite forming a rigid piston supported by a soft butyl rubber surround.
I think JBL spent some serious time on their pro line and not too much on their mass consumer line because in
general the masses don't know any better and in most
cases could care less. If they look good and play music
and are reasonably price then they will work.
Quote::
I personally like the flat monitor sound my JBL S26s (since FEB 25) provide me in my application. I'm listening to Diana Krall "When I look in you eyes" CD, 2-CH w/SVS right now, and IMHO, she sounds like she's in my living!
>>>>>
I agree the S26 is a great speaker I do not understand what happened with the S312.
 

Phil Iturralde

Screenwriter
Joined
Oct 7, 1998
Messages
1,892
James - now that you gave us your detailed feelings about the Consumer JBL Line vs. their PRO Line, please explain a little more on your previous statement above ...
... Elliptical Oblate Spheroidal (EOS) Waveguide...big deal this is simply a little horn for the tweeter.
The EOS Waveguide did help the 'little' JBL N24 to achieve ...
N-24 surround.... 89 Hz to 18.4 kHz ±3.2 dB
(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.**)
FYI: N-24 front left/right.... 89 Hz to 18.9 kHz ±2.7 dB
(The left/right front speakers were averaged over a ±30° window, with double weight given to the most common listening angle, 30°.**)
** by Tom Nousaine for Sound&Vision Magazine.
Now, using the same Speaker Testing Process, let's compare that to
1) Energy Take 5.2
Take 2.2 front left/right.... 110 Hz to 16.3 kHz ±4.5 dB
Take 2.2 surround............ 110 Hz to 13.2 kHz ±3.2 dB
2) Klipsch Synergy System 6
KSB 1.1 front left/right..... 91 Hz to 14.2 kHz ±3.5 dB
KSB 1.1 surround............. 91 Hz to 12.5 kHz ±5.5 dB
3) Polk Audio RTi Series
RT25i front left/right....... 88 Hz to 15.2 kHz ±3.0 dB
RT15i surround............... 94 Hz to 11.4 kHz ±5.6 dB
4) B&W 303 Home Theater Speakers PKG
DM 303 front left/right...... 85 Hz to 15.0 kHz ±3.9 dB
DM 303 surround.............. 85 Hz to 14.2 kHz ±3.5 dB
5) PSB Image HT Spkr System
IMAGE 4T (left/right front):. 36 Hz to 20 kHz ±4.4 dB
IMAGE 1B (surround):......... 73 Hz to 18 kHz ±4.0 dB
6) Klipsch Reference Series HT
RB-5 front left/right........ 86 Hz to 17.5 kHz ±3.3 dB
RS-3 surround................ 99 Hz to 14.8 kHz ±3.6 dB
The little JBL N24 may not play as loud as the PSB or Klipsch REF Series, but within its designed frequency power range, the 3/4" Titanium Composite Tweeter and EOS Waveguide performed its designated purpose, by providing a flat, wide and even distribution of the musical frequency - not bad for a speaker I bought for approximately $44.60 each ($223 for the JBL NSP1 HT Package, four N24 & one N-Center, w/Mounting Hardware - APR 2000)
Our JBL S26, actually raises the performance bar with its 1" Pure Titanium Tweeter (by Audax ?) vs. a direct comparison to the highly regarded JBL N24s, ... and though the S312 was a disappointment to you, the Flagship S412P (tower speaker with a built-in 150-watt powered subwoofer) and the JBL S38 (modeled after JBL's critically acclaimed LSR 32 professional recording studio monitor) was recognized by winning the prestigious Innovations 2000 Design and Engineering Awards from the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA).
Are you by any chance curious about the Divas??
Phil
 

Saurav

Senior HTF Member
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James,
Interesting review.
If everybody loved JBLs, why have B&W, Klipsch, Paradigm, NHT, Boston Acoustics, ... anyway you get the point! Its a smorgasbord of Speaker Manufactures, and then add the DIY's Kits, ... there is enough speaker sounds to go around.
 

Phil Iturralde

Screenwriter
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Oct 7, 1998
Messages
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I hope you aren't suggesting that James probably suffers from hearing damage because he doesn't like the same speakers that you like Speakers are very much a personal taste thing, IMO, and two people with completely unimpaired hearing can end up choosing completely different speakers based on their musical and sonic tastes.
No I'm not suggesting that because James was impressed with the JBL S26s. :emoji_thumbsup:
JAMES - That Comment Was NOT DIRECTED TOO YOU!!! :b
My comment is a general statement that everyone should keep in mind, ... that everyones "Humble Opinion", is just that! Their "Humble Opinion"!!!
I don't know them personally, ... the newbies don't know them personally, ... the HTF veterans may not know them personally, ... etc.
Its the same case @ Harmon International. Not everyone will qualify to to participate in their Subjective Testing Process, because of one of the more important pre-requisite requirement - hearing test.
So, personally listening to the Speakers on your auditioning List, is the best recommendation, ... but if there is a S&V objective test available for that speaker, I personally feel you can correlate your subjective findings vs. the frequency graph.
Phil
 

Saurav

Senior HTF Member
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Messages
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but if there is a S&V objective test available for that speaker, I personally feel you can correlate your subjective findings vs. the frequency graph.
I wonder. There's a lot more that goes into the sound of a good speakers than its frequency response. The FR will tell you if the speaker might sound bright or warm. It won't tell you how cleanly it handles dynamics, whether there are phase errors at the crossover points which prevent the drivers integrating seamlessly, if the impedance curve has unusual dips or spikes which change the sound when driven with certain amplifiers, and so on. Of course, the FR is certainly the best place to start, but I still think the best test is to go listen for yourself. When this isn't possible, I agree, one should rely on a good mix of objective test results and subjective opinions.
 

Phil Iturralde

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Listening fatigue. said:
Your correct, the accompanying subjective test descriptions should help here and to a certain degree, adds to the visual Graph. But like you pointed out, your personal audition will fill-in those various questions. I do find at times, the subjective tester has his or her own expectations and writes something totally different or contrary vs. the Calibrated MIC / Computer Generated Speaker Graph display. So, the final decision, should be based on your personal audition, and that, along with all the researched INFO at your disposal (if available), should be your final purchasing determining factor.
Last interesting observation though, back in 1999, the rave of the speaker world was the Energy Take 5 HT Set (still is here), and prior to purchasing the JBL NSP1s, my research revealed that though highly recommended, the Take 5s did NOT play or sound like a Cinema Theater and you could easily blow a driver if pushed to what I would consider glorious Live SPL Levels! Hence, I bought the JBL NSP1s ignoring the accolades read here @ HTF and other forums. I basically used my previous JBL J-Series (w/Titanium Tweeters) dynamic experience and the available Energy Take 5 on-line reviews to form my decision, and you know what?? I'm glad I did!!! :)
Phil
 

Saurav

Senior HTF Member
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I do find at times, the subjective tester has his or her own expectations
Agreed. That can cut both ways - it can be a good thing if the reviewer's expectations and tastes match yours, and it can also get in the way of an unbiased review.
 

Dustin B

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Right. But technically, even though he liked the S26, he could still have very poor hearing, right? OK, now I'll stop messing with James
Well I don't know if James has ever went to get his hearing checked. But I do remember a thread a while ago on HTT where James was after a speaker design that could do 130dB cleanly in his room and stated that he semi regularly listened to music at around 120dB.

Some people there, including me brought up the issue of hearing damage at those levels. I seem to remember James making a comment in that thread along the lines of, "you mean that ringing in my ears after a listening session is bad?" Followed by some concern as to whether he had damaged his hearing or not.

James may have just been playing with us in that thread, or he may not have. Were you James? Did you ever actually go get your hearing tested?
 

Michael R Price

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Jul 22, 2001
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Funny how your results match what I thought after 5 minutes listening in Best Buy. Odd... It seemed normal but the sound wasn't very 'full'.

James, do you consider the 281s to be neutral? I mean, the 312s were brigher, but compared to other speakers what do you think the tone of the 281 is like? Is it brighter than the S26?

Also IIRC the TM025F7 tweeter in the JBLs is almost exactly the same as the F1 in the 281. Impressive for JBL.

Maybe they designed the 312 with less bass because they expected people to crank it up? Strange, but stranger things have happened.
 

James W. Johnson

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Hey guys I have been gone all day because I am overhauling a 1971 1.1L Opel engine ..what a piece of crap :)
Anyways I see you guys have been capping on me all day long.:) See if I ever give another honest review.
I hear great and there is no reason I should go have it tested.
Let me point out something, often times the S312s sound louder with a given input and a/b testing them with the Kit281s but 9 times out of 10 the Kit281s were louder according to the SPL meter.
I can listen to the Kit281s for 8 hours straight , I have done this many times.
Yes I crank them very loud on occation (maybe 1 hour a week recently).
I crank them loud because they sound good loud, your ears tell you when its too loud , I can run the Kit281s along with some heavy bass produced by my dual Tempest sub and get peaks of 110dbs or so and my ears are perfectly happy.
Kit281s without a sub I can play them to 100dbs before my ears start telling me to turn it down.
The S312s without a sub I can get to about 90dbs (for a short while) anything over that and my ears are bleeding.
All this means I can run my Kit281s twice as loud than the S312s without hurting my ears.
At these high volumes most of the SPL is bass. Like I said, your ears tell you when its too loud.
Now when I listen to the Kit281s for extended periods of time the volume is usually around 70dbs, 99% of my listening is done at these levels.
I crank it up for testing , showing off and an occational rush, thats it.
So now you might be thinking...Hmm the Kit281s are twice as loud yet the S312s sound louder, the bass must be overblown or somthing on the Kit281s.
The bass is clean and natural as hell on the Kit281s .
Honestly I cannot explain it , I have no idea where those SPLs are.
 

James W. Johnson

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James, do you consider the 281s to be neutral? I mean, the 312s were brigher, but compared to other speakers what do you think the tone of the 281 is like? Is it brighter than the S26?
>>>>>>>>>>>
I do not think the Kit281s are 100% neutral but they are
still better than anything I have come across in the last
3 years(within a reasonable cost).
Also I am alot more picky than I used to be.
The Kit281 lack abit of detail, its still there but you have to listen for it.
I have a theory that this particlar characteristic is what makes the Kit281s image so well...but I could be way off here.
Tradeoffs man, its all about tradeoffs.
Also IIRC the TM025F7 tweeter in the JBLs is almost exactly the same as the F1 in the 281. Impressive for JBL.
>>>>>>>
Yes that is why I have to call this a crossover problem.
I had no problem with the F1 on the Kit281s from the get go.
Dan even offers an upgrade that pads down the tweeter 2dbs or something like that.
Apparantly some people have complained about the Kit281s being bright...good lord man, you have not heard a bright speaker until you have heard the S312s.:)
Most people do not think this about the Kit281s and personally I can't understand why someone would say this.
 

James W. Johnson

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That is true. The impression of "too loud" comes more from hearing a speaker/amp distort and compress, rather than a reaction to pure SPL.
>>>
I agree that this would be for most people but I feed my speakers enough power, I am sure the Kit281s compress alot
when pushed hard. They are not compressing at low volumes though which is where the majority of my listening takes place.
The impression of too loud with the S312s is not from underpowering them or compression..even listening at 70dbs for extended periods of time you ears began to say "STOP TURN THEM OFF!!!"
Some people who own huge horn speakers which can easily play 100dB+ keep SPL meters handy, because it is very easy to damage your hearing by playing such a system at too high a volume.
>>>>>>>
that makes sence, but this would never the case for me because I think it would be hard to mix up 70dbs with 90dbs :).
But it would be fun to crank them up hard and see what the SPLs are verses how loud they seem.
I gotta get me some horns for my next speakers.
Have you found any that are reasonably priced..say
 

Saurav

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Feb 15, 2001
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I think I'll end up with horns as the end of the journey. Right now, my living room cannot accomodate horns, so I haven't really looked. I've found horns for under $1000, certainly, but I haven't evaluated them as being potential purchase options for me.
Go to www.audioasylum.com and search through the High Efficiency speaker forum. Pi Speakers have their own forum at AA, they make some pretty inexpensive horn speakers that are supposed to be excellent for the price. I've heard of the Horn Shoppe, Busch Horns, and so on. I don't have URL's handy, I'm sorry.
If you really want to experiment with horns, I would strongly recommend getting a good tube amp, or even the DIY class A SS amp that someone mentioned in the other thread. You're really not doing justice to horns unless you drive them the way they were meant to be driven.
 

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