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Infinity Reference 253 Review (speaker)


Staff Member
CFO (Chief Fun Officer)
Feb 13, 2016
Seattle Area
This is a review and detailed measurements of the Infinity R253 tower speaker. I purchased this months ago with one of those crazy sales prices JBL often has. Right now is one such occasion with the cost dropping to US $160 from list price of $400.

Considering what you get, the retail cost is hard to believe:

Infinity Reference 253 Review.jpg

Dual woofers, mid-range, and tweeter in a nicely finished box for just $200? Stunning.

Back panel shows dual ports:
Infinity Reference R253 Review.jpg

Measurements that you are about to see were performed using the Klippel Near-field Scanner (NFS). This is a robotic measurement system that analyzes the speaker all around and is able (using advanced mathematics and dual scan) to subtract room reflections (so where I measure it doesn't matter). It also measures the speaker at close distance ("near-field") which sharply reduces the impact of room noise. Both of these factors enable testing in ordinary rooms yet results that can be more accurate than an anechoic chamber. In a nutshell, the measurements show the actual sound coming out of the speaker independent of the room.

The system performed over 1000 measurements which resulted in error rate of more or less 1%.

Temperature was 61 degrees F.

Measurements are compliant with latest speaker research into what can predict the speaker preference and is standardized in CEA/CTA-2034 ANSI specifications. Likewise listening tests are performed per research that shows mono listening is much more revealing of differences between speakers than stereo or multichannel.

Reference axis is the center of the tweeter. I also tried it at mid-point between midrange and tweeter but it made no difference.

EDIT: something had gone wrong physically with my measurement mic in the original review. The cap on it had come loose and then proceeded to rotate 45 degrees, hanging by a thread! It was not that way when I started the measurements but somehow ended there. That changed the high frequency resonances of the mic, resulting in peaking that we had. I have remeasured the speaker and edited the data in this review now.

Infinity 253 Measurements
Acoustic measurements can be grouped in a way that can be perceptually analyzed to determine how good a speaker is and how it can be used in a room. This so called spinorama shows us just about everything we need to know about the speaker with respect to tonality and some flaws:

Infinity Reference R253 Spinorama CTA-2034 Frequency Response Measurements.png

The on-axis response is pretty good from 100 Hz to about 1.5 kHz. Then it becomes a bit messy followed by shelving up starting at 4 kHz. Deviation is not huge but likely going to make the speaker sound bright without the delicious detail I like to hear around 1 to 2 kHz.

Directivity (how similar on and off axis response are) is good so equalization should work.

Because directivity is good, early window reflections show same issues:

Infinity Reference R253 Spinorama CTA-2034 Early Window Reflections Frequency Response Measure...png

Putting the two together tells us what we already know about predicted in-room frequency response:
Infinity Reference R253 Spinorama CTA-2034 Predicted In-room Frequency Response Measurements.png

We like to have more of a tilt than what we have here as otherwise the speaker will sound bright. Reduction of bass energy between 50 and 100 Hz will accentuate this brightness.

Here is the near-field response:

Infinity Reference R253 Measurements  nearfield driver.png

The tweeter level is higher but doesn't peak the same away. Perhaps that bowtie guard keeps it from doing this when measured in near field?

Distortion levels were disappointing as well:

Infinity Reference R253 Measurements Relative THD distortion.png

Infinity Reference R253 Measurements THD distortion.png

Inclusion of midrange provides good directivity:

Infinity Reference 253 horizontal beamwidth.png

Infinity Reference 253 horizontal directivity.png

Other than that dip around 2 kHz, that is excellent response.

Here is our vertical response:

Infinity Reference 253 Vertical directivity.png

You have much more degrees of freedom as compared to 2-way bookshelves. Still, best to stay at or below tweeter axis as otherwise you get more of that 2 kHz dip.

Impedance graph shows a couple of resonances although I don't see a sign of the first one in the spin:

Infinity Reference R253 Measurements Impedance and phase.png

Infinity R253 Speaker Listening Tests
In the original review, I failed to get rid of the brightness in this speaker despite using my measurements as a rule. The new measurements show why I went wrong as we just need a broad shelving filter to get rid of the brightness:
Infinity Reference 253 Equalization.png

I then boosted up the mids around 2 kHz and that provided a bit more detail in that critical region.

I really liked the sound so I started to click to my playlist only to be greeted with my Mark Levinson No 53 shutting down again. :( Powered back on and bam, it happened again. Switched in an old Infinity bookshelf speaker. No problem whatsoever. Put the R253 in, turn up the volume and shut down again. Switch to my Revel Salon 2 speakers. No problem with even ear bleeding levels. Something in this speaker is causing the protection in my amplifier to turn on. Having tested nearly 100 speakers with the same amplifier, it definitely is not due to the amp being overly sensitive.

EDIT: Well, it turned out (later) that one of my Mark Levinson amps driving this speaker was indeed failing (gradually). It proceeded to get worse so this should NOT impact this speaker's performance and review.

If it had stayed running, I would have likely added in some bass to level the 40 to 100 Hz as that worked well before.

The Infinity Reference 253 is one hell of a package. You couldn't build one quarter of it for what they are selling it for right now. The new measurements show excellent performance, sans two bits: a dip around 2 kHz and too much treble energy. Both were easily fixable with EQ. Alas, I could not listen for long due to it not getting along with my amplifier. How much this issue translates to others using the speaker, I don't know.

The faults above keep me from recommending the Infinity R253 even though it can be a killer speaker if you use EQ and it doesn't shut down on you. You have the data to decide for yourself.

EDIT: with the fault now identified to be the amp, I am going to move to giving a recommendation to Infinity RS253.

New spin data is enclosed.

As always, questions, comments, recommendations, etc. are welcome.

Any donations are much appreciated using: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/how-to-support-audio-science-review.8150/


  • Infinity R253 Spinroama 2.zip
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Maybe your ML#53 amp was simply upset at being asked to power so many cheap speakers that it finally decided to take a stand against them. After all, the MSRP of that Infinity (with tax and shipping) is far less than the sales tax alone on the amp. ;) Even distant familial relations couldn't save that pairing.
It is not shown in Harman spinorama dating back to 2014.
For comparison:

All Harman Spins for the lineup show a rise >18kHz or so, but the R162 & RC263 measurements Amir did didn’t show this.

If you look at the R263 SPIN:

It doesn’t even make sense how the LW is louder than the on-axis over pretty much the whole range, and the ER being louder than the on-axis up to ~300Hz.

here is a measurement done by HomeTheaterReview:


Also shows the 3kHz dip & 5kHz peak on-axis, but the “average” response looks normal (doesn’t have vertical info, but still).

Company needs to provide an answer why retail units are not matching their measurements. Or show where my measurements are wrong.
Anyone know the best way to contact Infinity/Harman?
Found the customer support email

Not sure if you have yet been made aware, but your R253 tower was recently reviewed/measured by Amir of AudioScienceReview:

As pointed out on the review, the tweeter is not measuring as expected, especially as he had also reviewed/measured the R152 & RC263 and neither had this issue. It also of course is looking nothing like the published Harman Spinorama in the tweeter region.

If someone from the design team could get in contact with Amir to figure out why his personal unit is behaving as such, that would be fantastic.

I just purchased the R263 towers and I am hoping it performs as expected once it arrives.

Thank you,

I just bought the R263 & RC263 (~$590 shipped + tax) today while knowing how this R253 measured (Amir measured it and sent it to me yesterday), as I’m assuming it’s a fluke. Hopefully their return process is smooth if in-room measurements prove otherwise.

Alas, after a clip or two, my Mark Levinson No 53 amp went into protection as I turned up the volume! My heart sank that it had just decided to fail. A power cycle got it back to life and all was well until a track later and the amp shut down again. :( So I switched speakers and drove my Revel Salon 2 speakers and to my relief, the amp powered them with no trouble to much higher levels. It smells like there is something going on with the R253 response that is causing the amp to go into protect mode. Maybe the phase angle goes nuts in higher frequencies.
At 120Hz or so the EPDR is likely 3ohm or even lower; too bad no one here knows the formula to calculate it.
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Where can I get this for $160?

@Dennis Murphy

crossover or tweeter mod and bam!

Winner winner chicken dinner...

$160/each if that wasn't clear.

Units left as of writing this
R12: 694, R152: 532 pairs, R162: 250 pairs, RC252: 336, RC263: 585, R253: 898, R263: 214
They also has the RS152 bipole surrounds, but they ran out.

The tweeter faceplate is so unique that I wouldn’t know how you could install a 3rd party unit. But again, I am assuming this is a vast outlier, as the R162 nor RC263 showed this behavior.
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Speaker must be defective.
For comparison:

All Harman Spins for the lineup show a rise >18kHz or so, but the R162 & RC263 measurements Amir did didn’t show this.

Anyone know the best way to contact Infinity/Harman?

I've reproduced the very high freq rise on my in-room M16/F35 measurements (as seen in Harman's spins). It seems to be related to either the measuring distance or the vertical axis. My side surrounds show it very clearly, they're around 6.5 feet from the mic and the tweeter is around 1' above the mic. The front soundstage either doesn't show it or greatly reduces it, they're around 8.5 feet from the mic and tweeter is level with it. I use a boom mic stand and a cross spectrum UMIK1 with their 90 degree profile.
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Something has to be wrong.
I have three pairs of Infinity R series and nothing like this.
Sending that amp into protection?
Bad crossover. Bad something.
I suppose you don't have a second one. Hmmm, no way this speaker is as intended.
Something has to be wrong.
I have three pairs of Infinity R series and nothing like this.
Sending that amp into protection?
Bad crossover. Bad something.
I suppose you don't have a second one. Hmmm, no way this speaker is as intended.
If someone is buying these for $320/pair + tax in the next 3hr while the sale is active, maybe they can have it shipped to Amir, assuming Amir is game.
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