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JBL 4349 Review (Studio Monitor Speaker)

amirm

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#1
This is a review and detailed measurements of the JBL 4349 2-way Studio Monitor (passive). All of you were too cheap to buy one so I had to do it myself. Out of my own money no less! Luckily I got a discount from the retail cost of US $7,500 for a pair.

Note: our company, Madrona Digital, is a dealer for Haman, parent company of JBL. So feel free to read as much bias as you like into the following review.

The 4349 has the familiar look of "giant studio bookshelf" of the past:

JBL 4349 Review Professional Speaker.jpg


The walnut finish though makes it more suitable for domestic use especially if you leave the woofer grill on (I took mine off for all of my testing as you see above). Typical of many Pro products there are a couple of trim controls but they only act on the tweeter. Response will be shown in the measurement section. The main measurements are with the dip switches at 0 dB setting.

As you can see above, this thing is not small. It is also not light. It took us to lug it around and with just the ports as handles, it was not easy!

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.

I performed over 1400 measurement which resulted in error rate of less than 1% until 10 kHz where the error started to linearly climb. So don't go by micro detail of the response in that region.

Testing temperature was around 69 degrees F.

Reference axis for measurements was the center of the tweeter (by eye). Grill was not used in either measurements or listening tests.

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.

JBL 4349 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:

JBL 4349 frequency response Measurements.png


I must say, I did not at all expect this kind of response from any product coming out of Harman. The dip at the crossover? I finished the measurements late at night and was miserable till I listened to the speaker today. Clearly a shelving boost is implemented for the tweeter. Fortunately if you turn the dip switches to -1, you should be able to knock that down:

JBL 4349 Trim Control HF UHF frequency response Measurements.png


The big trough occurs in my measurement "lab" when the mic is aligned with tweeter axis. I moved the mic down to the logo between the tweeter and woofer and the dip shrank to what you see in the spin data. So ignore that.

Back to crossover issue, here is our near-field measurement:

JBL 4349 near field frequency response Measurements.png


Looks to me like the woofer response is drooping too much before the tweeter gives it a hand and hence the dip there. Not sure if the tweeter could handle the load there. There are also a couple of port resonances that interfere with the response.

Our early window response is similar to on-axis which bodes well for ability to EQ:

JBL 4349 early window frequency response Measurements.png


The dip gets worse with floor and ceiling reflections. I am lucky in having a super thick carpet (4 inches or so) and tall ceilings.

Edit: forgot the PIR graph:

JBL 4349 Predicted in-room frequency response Measurements.png


The star of the show is the tweeter and its directivity:

JBL 4349 Horizontal Beam width Measurements.png



JBL 4349 Horizontal Directivity Measurements.png


Have we seen anything this pretty? It looks textbook correct. Shame about the crossover dip before it.

Vertically, you are better off being at or below tweeter axis. I sat below it for listening tests:

JBL 4349 Vertical Directivity Measurements.png


An excellent supporting cast is the ultra low distortion in bass:

JBL 4349 THD Percentage Distortion Measurements.png


This thing is as good as many excellent headphones at 86 dBSPL as far as distortion!

JBL 4349 Relative Distortion Measurements.png


Strange though to see the tweeter complain at higher amplitudes.

Waterfall shows some resonances due to the port:

JBL 4349 CSD Waterfall Measurements.png


I felt the cabinet during music and it was solid as a rock so these are acoustic ones.

Finally, impedance is substantially higher than typical 2-way speaker at 8+ ohm:

JBL 4349 impedance and phase Measurements.png


JBL 4349 Listening Tests
I must say I was in bad, bad mood before listening tests started. Had the bad measurements on top of killing myself dragging this speaker up to second floor where my listening test is. Turned on the music and wow, there was hardly much to complain about! Speaker was highly efficient and was able to pump out dynamics that were startling at times. There was a bit of brightness despite me sitting lower than the treble so I dialed in the dip switches to -1 and -1. Standing up I could hear more highs but it would be tricky to balance the clarity I was hearing versus increase high frequency energy.

I wanted to see the effect of that crossover dip so dialed in an EQ for it:

JBL 4349 player equalization eq.png


As with headphones, I could here a slight opening up of the sound and more forward/pleasant representation of female vocals I was listening to. Overall effect though was small due to the bandwidth being low (1 kHz or so). The eye was bleeding due to the graphs far more than the ear seemed to care! :)

I had to put in the dip at my usual 105 Hz to tame a room mode. It was not necessary for the JBL 4349 but was in what to come: comparison to my Revel Salon 2 next to it. Figured one of you rascals would ask me about it so I figured I do the work now! Immediate reaction was wow, the Salon 2s have far deeper bass. Visual impression of 4349's massive woofer (compared to Revel's) makes one think there is a ton of deep bass but there is not. To match the Salon 2 would you need a sub. That on the other hand meant that the 4349 didn't activate the room modes much so had a light, tight and dynamic bass.

Beyond the bass the impression of the two speakers was so different. The salon 2 was producing a smooth, highly integrated sound column. The 4349 seemed to have a dual character where it would be come extremely lively with high frequency dynamics. This was super pleasurable but less refined than Salon 2's reserved but excellent reproduction. My thought during the whole affair was that you really wanted both of these speakers and use them based on mood and music.

This is one of few good sounding speakers that don't have the "Revel sound" to me. It is a different way of solving the same problem.

Conclusions
As indicated above, objective test results left a sour taste in my mouth post measurements. It was not until I listened to the speakers that I got what this speaker is all about:

1. Marketing says you have to have a huge woofer and tweeter. Don't care what else you do but it has too have this retro look.

2. Engineering says so they want to compete with a party speaker. Let's build the least broken, best version we can.

So no, the 4349 is not objectively perfect. That crossover dip pushes it out of the running compared to any modern studio monitor. What it is, is re-implementing an old speaker configuration with the best know-how they could put in there. An active version would have dealt with the deficiency there but the formula did not allow it. Fortunately we can put EQ in front of the speaker and remedy that.

A side note. I hardly ever come home from a show thinking of replacing my speakers with anything I see there. The only exception was a set of large horn speakers that had dynamics that I could not replicate with my Salon 2s. The 4349 allowed me to get there and so points to high efficiency mattering. People routinely underestimate how much power it takes to reproduce dynamics well. Even my high power amplifier struggles to push the Salon 2 there. But with 4349, that struggle disappeared with a bunch of headroom left.

I am going to put the JBL 4349 on my recommended list. Go ahead and hate on me due to objective measurements above. I am ready to take it! :)

------------
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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Ron Texas

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#3
Very interesting review and perspective. Perhaps some nostalgia in the design. The Toole and Olive preference score does not take into account how loud a speaker can play or dynamics. Some call it the big sound. I guess these are scaled down from the JBL's with a 15" woofer at half the price. Thank you for the measurements and analysis @amirm
 

MZKM

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Luckily I got a discount from the retail cost of US $7,500 for a pair.
The new 4309 is the 6.5” baby brother and is $2,000/pair. Quite the price difference.
Crossover performance will likely be better, specs show -4dB sensitivity, 10Hz less extension, and 4ohm.
 
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Nemo

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#6
There is something special indeed to high-efficiency speakers: there is no way to fit these type of speakers to my family lifestyle, but I understand you: enjoy them!
 

MZKM

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A side note. I hardly ever come home from a show thinking of replacing my speakers with anything I see there. The only exception was a set of large horn speakers that had dynamics that I could not replicate with my Salon 2s. The 4349 allowed me to get there and so points to high efficiency mattering. People routinely underestimate how much power it takes to reproduce dynamics well. Even my high power amplifier struggles to push the Salon 2 there. But with 4349, that struggle disappeared with a bunch of headroom left.
What happened with JTR? Did contact fall through?

The 212RT ($6600/pair) that Matt Poes measured had a pretty good spin and high sensitivity (101dB; oddly the 215RT is 97dB), only potential downside is narrow dispersion:
https://www.avnirvana.com/threads/jtr-noesis-212rt-review-and-measurements.6779/
 
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amirm

amirm

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Thread Starter #9
What happened with JTR? Did contact fall through?
No, there has been follow ups. COVID, et.c got in the way of their production and finishing some of their designs they wanted me to test.
 

Rja4000

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#11
Hi
Thanks for this honest (if a bit subjective) feedback.

I fully agree with your comment that dynamic capacity of a system is very important.
For me, the capacity to reproduce dynamics "as real performance" is essential. And real life instruments (even voice) may generate a serious amount of acoustic power.

So how could we objectivize that ?
I guess it's about max SPL for "full" frequency range?
Also distortion versus SPL ?
But also power needed to drive to a certain SPL in bass and trebble ?

What could we use as a "dynamic capacity" score ?
 

ROOSKIE

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#12
Extremely good measurements for such a design. This is really impressive to me.

The distortion is amazingly low and even that 2nd order HD in the tweeter at volume is expected. It is an artifact of the waveguide and compression design. So far it seems I tend to like that.

I think I would really like these. Way above my budget.
I am very interested in the smaller 4309. 2k is workable for me.

Thank you so much for spring for them and testing, hopefully you bought a bunch of DODGE before New Years. I meant to and never got around to it... geez the stories I would have.
 

Vintage57

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#15
I think you should spend a little longer listening to these.
I has the 4367’s and all they gave me was ear bleed after an hour of listening.
The tweeter midrange reduction helps but overall, not for my money
Harman rosy earmuffs required.
 
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A few months ago I read a comment by a Stereophile reviewer which essentially said that a new piece equipment takes several days to "settle in" (my paraphrasing) and only then it starts to sound "right". What it says, in my opinion, is that the listener took that long to adjust to the new sound. Human hearing is very good at adjusting to new sounds (think of how long it takes you to start understanding speech by a person with a new accent, but then it is perfectly understandable). Not a perfect analogy, but indicative. I am saying all of this to illustrate how hard it is to do a "perceptual" evaluation of loudspekers. Broad spectral dips and peaks, unless truly egregious, completely disappear after a while. And what we are used to, is the yardstick, with all it's idiosyncrasies. In this case, given that the "sound" is so different, (Revel vs. JBL) I suspect one falls back to the measurements do determine which is "better", and after a while, spending significant listening time with both, one could determine which is more "likeable". Both can be very individual, as some are more sensitive to some deviations from perfection, and others to different ones. Amir, you do an admirable job trying to balance those, especially given the amount of time you can devote to such endeavors. Thank you!
 

Billy Budapest

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That 3dB response dip in such an important frequency region for such an expensive speaker is unforgivable, IMHO, even though some of the other measurements are good. I hope JBL/Harman/Samsung/whoever-is-running-the-show-over-there-these-days’ engineers fix this. It can’t be that hard to revise the crossover and tweak the drivers. Otherwise, meh.
 

Robbo99999

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This is a review and detailed measurements of the JBL 4349 2-way Studio Monitor (passive). All of you were too cheap to buy one so I had to do it myself. Out of my own money no less! Luckily I got a discount from the retail cost of US $7,500 for a pair.

Note: our company, Madrona Digital, is a dealer for Haman, parent company of JBL. So feel free to read as much bias as you like into the following review.

The 4349 has the familiar look of "giant studio bookshelf" of the past:

View attachment 125315

The walnut finish though makes it more suitable for domestic use especially if you leave the woofer grill on (I took mine off for all of my testing as you see above). Typical of many Pro products there are a couple of trim controls but they only act on the tweeter. Response will be shown in the measurement section. The main measurements are with the dip switches at 0 dB setting.

As you can see above, this thing is not small. It is also not light. It took us to lug it around and with just the ports as handles, it was not easy!

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.

I performed over 1400 measurement which resulted in error rate of less than 1% until 10 kHz where the error started to linearly climb. So don't go by micro detail of the response in that region.

Testing temperature was around 69 degrees F.

Reference axis for measurements was the center of the tweeter (by eye). Grill was not used in either measurements or listening tests.

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.

JBL 4349 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:

View attachment 125316

I must say, I did not at all expect this kind of response from any product coming out of Harman. The dip at the crossover? I finished the measurements late at night and was miserable till I listened to the speaker today. Clearly a shelving boost is implemented for the tweeter. Fortunately if you turn the dip switches to -1, you should be able to knock that down:

View attachment 125317

The big trough occurs in my measurement "lab" when the mic is aligned with tweeter axis. I moved the mic down to the logo between the tweeter and woofer and the dip shrank to what you see in the spin data. So ignore that.

Back to crossover issue, here is our near-field measurement:

View attachment 125318

Looks to me like the woofer response is drooping too much before the tweeter gives it a hand and hence the dip there. Not sure if the tweeter could handle the load there. There are also a couple of port resonances that interfere with the response.

Our early window response is similar to on-axis which bodes well for ability to EQ:

View attachment 125319

The dip gets worse with floor and ceiling reflections. I am lucky in having a super thick carpet (4 inches or so) and tall ceilings.

The start of the show is the tweeter and its directivity:

View attachment 125320


View attachment 125321

Have we seen anything this pretty? It looks textbook correct. Shame about the crossover dip before it.

Vertically, you are better off being at or below tweeter axis. I sat below it for listening tests:

View attachment 125322

An excellent supporting cast is the ultra low distortion in bass:

View attachment 125323

This thing is as good as many excellent headphones at 86 dBSPL as far as distortion!

View attachment 125324

Strange though to see the tweeter complain at higher amplitudes.

Waterfall shows some resonances due to the port:

View attachment 125325

I felt the cabinet during music and it was solid as a rock so these are acoustic ones.

Finally, impedance is substantially higher than typical 2-way speaker at 8+ ohm:

View attachment 125326

JBL 4349 Listening Tests
I must say I was in bad, bad mood before listening tests started. Had the bad measurements on top of killing myself dragging this speaker up to second floor where my listening test is. Turned on the music and wow, there was hardly much to complain about! Speaker was highly efficient and was able to pump out dynamics that were startling at times. There was a bit of brightness despite me sitting lower than the treble so I dialed in the dip switches to -1 and -1. Standing up I could hear more highs but it would be tricky to balance the clarity I was hearing versus increase high frequency energy.

I wanted to see the effect of that crossover dip so dialed in an EQ for it:

View attachment 125327

As with headphones, I could here a slight opening up of the sound and more forward/pleasant representation of female vocals I was listening to. Overall effect though was small due to the bandwidth being low (1 kHz or so). The eye was bleeding due to the graphs far more than the ear seemed to care! :)

I had to put in the dip at my usual 105 Hz to tame a room mode. It was not necessary for the JBL 4349 but was in what to come: comparison to my Revel Salon 2 next to it. Figured one of you rascals would ask me about it so I figured I do the work now! Immediate reaction was wow, the Salon 2s have far deeper bass. Visual impression of 4349's massive woofer (compared to Revel's) makes one think there is a ton of deep bass but there is not. To match the Salon 2 would you need a sub. That on the other hand meant that the 4349 didn't activate the room modes much so had a light, tight and dynamic bass.

Beyond the bass the impression of the two speakers was so different. The salon 2 was producing a smooth, highly integrated sound column. The 4349 seemed to have a dual character where it would be come extremely lively with high frequency dynamics. This was super pleasurable but less refined than Salon 2's reserved but excellent reproduction. My thought during the whole affair was that you really wanted both of these speakers and use them based on mood and music.

This is one of few good sounding speakers that don't have the "Revel sound" to me. It is a different way of solving the same problem.

Conclusions
As indicated above, objective test results left a sour taste in my mouth post measurements. It was not until I listened to the speakers that I got what this speaker is all about:

1. Marketing says you have to have a huge woofer and tweeter. Don't care what else you do but it has too have this retro look.

2. Engineering says so they want to compete with a party speaker. Let's build the least broken, best version we can.

So no, the 4349 is not objectively perfect. That crossover dip pushes it out of the running compared to any modern studio monitor. What it is, is re-implementing an old speaker configuration with the best know-how they could put in there. An active version would have dealt with the deficiency there but the formula did not allow it. Fortunately we can put EQ in front of the speaker and remedy that.

A side note. I hardly ever come home from a show thinking of replacing my speakers with anything I see there. The only exception was a set of large horn speakers that had dynamics that I could not replicate with my Salon 2s. The 4349 allowed me to get there and so points to high efficiency mattering. People routinely underestimate how much power it takes to reproduce dynamics well. Even my high power amplifier struggles to push the Salon 2 there. But with 4349, that struggle disappeared with a bunch of headroom left.

I am going to put the JBL 4349 on my recommended list. Go ahead and hate on me due to objective measurements above. I am ready to take it! :)

------------
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
Wow, the 308p Mkii speaker which I have has a significantly better spinorama than that! However the distortion results at 86dB are very very impressive vs the 308p, but also the results at 96dB are starting to get out of hand for the speaker in this review, and in the more sensitive treble regions. This speaker also has quite a nice down slope to the bass (rather than falling off a cliff) that might work quite well with room reinforcement to increase the bass response without it getting out of hand. 308p has way better spinorama and better directivity, so I'm kinda surprised this expensive speaker wasn't able to match that, particularly the crossover dip.
 

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