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JBL 4312M II 3-way Studio Monitor Review

Rate this studio monitor speaker:

  • 1. Poor (headless panther)

    Votes: 267 92.1%
  • 2. Not terrible (postman panther)

    Votes: 13 4.5%
  • 3. Fine (happy panther)

    Votes: 1 0.3%
  • 4. Great (golfing panther)

    Votes: 9 3.1%

  • Total voters
    290

amirm

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This is a review, listening tests, EQ and detailed measurements of JBL 4312M II 3-way compact studio monitor (passive speaker). It is on kind loan from a member and I think costs US $1,000 for a pair.
JBL 4312M II Compact Monitor Speaker Review.jpg

Without its ordinary looking grill, the 4312M II definitely has that vintage vibe but with added "beauty" of that white woofer. Those were the days where drivers were positioned to look good. Speaker is a bit heavy for its compact size, which imparts a feeling of quality which its standard box does not impart. Here is the back side:

JBL 4312M II Compact Monitor Speaker back panel Review.jpg

What did the originals have? Screw terminals?

Let's measure it to see if these old ideas of speaker design were any good and whether if any faults have been remedied.

Note: I am the founder of Madrona Digital, a company that specializes in custom installs of electronics in homes and business. We are a dealer for Harman and hence JBL line although I am pretty sure we have never sourced any of these speakers. Objective measurements are as they are but feel free to read bias into my subjective remarks.

If you are new to speaker reviews on ASR, please watch this video understanding speaker measurements.

JBL 4312 MII Speaker Measurements
Let's start with the frequency response measurements of the 4312M II:
JBL 4312M II Compact Monitor Speaker back panel anechoic frequency response measurement.png

Story starts pretty good with that smooth response up to 1 kHz and then it looks like a high-school kid with no speaker design experience was told to slap a tweeter and midrange drivers together! What on earth is going on? A clue may be the super messy driver responses:
JBL 4312M II Compact Monitor Speaker back panel nearfield frequency response measurement.png

We have so many resonances that I lost count. I don't even know what the midrange is doing (some of it could be bleeding from adjacent driver). Predictably, things don't get better off-axis:


JBL 4312M II Compact Monitor Speaker back panel anechoic early window frequency response measu...png


Resulting in very odd predicted in-room response:
JBL 4312M II Compact Monitor Speaker back panel Predicted in-room frequency response measurement.png


Horizontally placed midrange and tweeter create interference pattern between them as you go off axis in either direction:
JBL 4312M II Compact Monitor Speaker back panel horizontal beam width measurement.png


JBL 4312M II Compact Monitor Speaker back panel horizontal directivity measurement.png


It looks better vertically so perhaps that is the way you want to use them:
JBL 4312M II Compact Monitor Speaker back panel vertical directivity measurement.png


With uneven frequency response, setting a level for distortion tests was non-trivial. I tried but I think I played them a bit louder than 86 dBSPL:
JBL 4312M II Compact Monitor Speaker back panel relative THD distortion measurement.png

JBL 4312M II Compact Monitor Speaker back panel THD distortion measurement.png


At that 86 dBSPL, I could hear the speaker squealing indicating distortion products that we can clearly see, especially those resonances.

Resonances naturally show up in waterfall plot:

JBL 4312M II Compact Monitor Speaker back panel CSD waterfall measurement.png


Impedance shows the same:
JBL 4312M II Compact Monitor Speaker back panel impedance and phase measurement.png


Even the usually information-free step response shows anomalies:
JBL 4312M II Compact Monitor Speaker back panel Step Response measurement.png


JBL 4312M II Listening Tests and Equalization
I didn't want to listen to the speaker given the seriously poor measurements but decided to do anyway. You would think that the response would make your phone speaker proud but it is not so. It doesn't sound nearly as broken as you would imagine. Why? Because the response is actually pretty good up to 1 kHz. A lot of music spectrum that is important is carried in that region. Alas, those resonances can make the speaker sound bright even though overall treble response is shelved down.

You have to be a masochist to attempt to create an EQ by eye here but I tried anyway :):
JBL 4312M II Compact studio Monitor Speaker equalization.png


Without the EQ, the sound would quickly become tubby and lacking air (depending on content). And again, bright at times. With EQ, the ambiance around female vocals came back and some of the brightness taken care of with those two notch filters.

Alas, with or without EQ, more than half of my reference tracks were either not pleasurable or sounded annoying. This is just not my idea of a high fidelity speaker. I mean these are extremely well recorded tracks that are used to showcase systems and here, they just don't sound right/good.

Note that due to high sensitivity, I could not get the woofer to distort so playback dynamics was actually quite good for such a small speaker.

Conclusions
My impression of these JBL speakers was that they borrowed the look of the classic speakers but updated the parts/design to make them sound good. Clearly I was mistaken. By any standard, the 4312 M II is broken. I don't know how the marketing person with a straight face chose to call them "studio monitors." Heaven forbid anyone using them to create content!

I can't recommend the JBL 4312M II unless you want to put it on the shelf to just look at to bring back old memories....

------------
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/
 

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amirm

amirm

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Yes, I know. A lot of reviews in the new year with bad outcomes.... I am as depressed about them as you are....

In case anyone is interested here are the Specifications:

IMG_0545.jpeg
 
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Sokel

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The great value of this review is that it shows that sometimes a good brand name and reputation is not enough and companies,even that big,must prove themselves time and time again.
That was an unfortunate outcome.

Thanks Amir!
 

Lopsided

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Attached is a Italian review I stole from one of our members here (sorry forgot who:(), and correlates with Amir’s result quite well. No low pass filter on the woofer?
 

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  • 4312m2_audiorevit.pdf
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antcollinet

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Going to show why continuing to review reputable brands is valuable.

Not all reviews are "just more of the same with excellent measurements"

We cannot afford to buy stuff just because most of the similar kit from that manufacturer is good.
 

DSJR

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Lol, now we all know why after all LS3/5a and other BBC clones were not such a bad choice these days...
Properly doped bextrene cones and careful crossover design back in the mid 70's was very much better than the imported paper coned squawkers and/or screechers we had to try.. We may have lost ground nowadays, but I maintain the UK was well ahead of the game all those years ago, the original 4311/L100 was an absolute joke on speech reproduction...
 

martijn86

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How on earth does Harman let something this bad go out the door? :facepalm:

Lifestyle speakers sell like hot cakes in a world with internet shopping based on pictures and marketing. Still I'm also annoyed that they didn't even attempt to improve the design for a better response. A big low extrusion paper woofer is still great but inset the other drivers a little to mitigate comb filtering and for $1000, add some active DSP tuning.
 

Sokel

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Where on earth are they sourcing the tweeter and mid-range, a landfill? You can get better results from $5 drivers even if you design the crossover while blindfolded.
Woofer and mid seems ok,tweeter and x-over on the other hand not so much.
Looks like is somehow broken.
 

fredoamigo

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Woofer and mid seems ok,tweeter and x-over on the other hand not so much.
Looks like is somehow broken
This speaker has a problem I can't believe in such a disaster..
 
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