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JBL Array 880 Review (Center Speaker)

Rate this speaker:

  • 1. Poor (headless panther)

    Votes: 24 13.0%
  • 2. Not terrible (postman panther)

    Votes: 82 44.3%
  • 3. Fine (happy panther)

    Votes: 69 37.3%
  • 4. Great (golfing panther)

    Votes: 10 5.4%

  • Total voters
    185

beagleman

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I have read some places, that somewhat narrow dispersion of the center is a good thing,
Contrary to what we are mostly saying in here.

If creates a pin point image that is centered in one location only, even if it suffers a bit from angles left and right of center.



I
 

sarumbear

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I have read some places, that somewhat narrow dispersion of the center is a good thing,
Contrary to what we are mostly saying in here.

If creates a pin point image that is centered in one location only, even if it suffers a bit from angles left and right of center.
Those places were wrong.
 

beagleman

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That and those bi-amping terminals the back panel really give off a look like this is a all business speaker. Bi-amping terminals on a center channel speaker is far out there.

Bi amping terminals on ANY speaker, is mostly a marketing thing.
When manufacturers make speakers, they will often share parts.

It is far cheaper to buy 10,000 bi amp terminals than to buy 9000 bi amp, and then 1000 single input just for the center.
 

beagleman

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Those places were wrong.
Originally I would have agreed with you for sure, but now after experimenting with a few center speakers at home, I am not so sure.

I am somewhere in the middle. I can see the theory of why wider might be better for sure, but in practice, in some ways actually preferred the sound localization of my one center that does NOT have wide dispersion.

I will have to experiment more.
 

MarkELong

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Anchoring the center probably requires narrower beam width.

This was one of the thoughts behind vertical versus horizontal horns and the Arrays were built in the era of DVD-Audio and SACD MultiChannel so wide dispersion would have ruined the pinpoint imaging for the MCh single listener experience.

One of the best setups in-room but as I noted above, really massive* and the soft touch surface does deteriorate with exposure to UV.
I find it to be fantastic on Mch sources dvd audio and sacd’s and Blu-ray concerts that are mixed well . It is very large and beautifully constructed a little imposing to look at even across the room but I’ve found it to disappear when engrossed in movies or music . With that being said Iam still playing with it and trying things out with it . I do find it really locks in the dialogue on movies really nice . There was a bit of eq applied in my room as it’s very reflective in nature . Next year I hope to add the HDI 3800 or the array 1400 to my front stage .
 

MarkELong

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Originally I would have agreed with you for sure, but now after experimenting with a few center speakers at home, I am not so sure.

I am somewhere in the middle. I can see the theory of why wider might be better for sure, but in practice, in some ways actually preferred the sound localization of my one center that does NOT have wide dispersion.

I will have to experiment more.
I have to agree with this thought at least with this speaker. I’ve had several that were wider myself . This center seems to project a very high sound stage into the room almost like putting the vocals about 3 foot closer to me and almost 3-D and very clear and powerful.
 

sarumbear

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Originally I would have agreed with you for sure, but now after experimenting with a few center speakers at home, I am not so sure.

I am somewhere in the middle. I can see the theory of why wider might be better for sure, but in practice, in some ways actually preferred the sound localization of my one center that does NOT have wide dispersion.

I will have to experiment more.
You are mistaken or don’t know how sound waves work. Imagine the speaker a spot light with flaps. Open flaps fully and look at it from the side. Set the side flaps at 90 degrees and look again. See the difference.
 

JRS

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I have read some places, that somewhat narrow dispersion of the center is a good thing,
Contrary to what we are mostly saying in here.

If creates a pin point image that is centered in one location only, even if it suffers a bit from angles left and right of center.



I
That was what I was wondering in an earlier post; I choose to believe that otherwise it would never have been released as part of a top drawer cinema system. But one never knows with centers which always strike a compromise.

I'm just going on tuition that a widely dispersed center is going to degrade stereo image pretty much everywhere except on the extremes or head on. But here to learn as one of these days I plan to go immersive.
 

thewas

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I have read some places, that somewhat narrow dispersion of the center is a good thing,
Contrary to what we are mostly saying in here.

If creates a pin point image that is centered in one location only, even if it suffers a bit from angles left and right of center.
Like you say narrower vs wider dispersion can be discussed and also depends on many boundary conditions like listening distance and number of listeners, so I also wouldn't categorically automatically decline it, but what has to be definitely criticised is a poor, ie. not smooth horizontal directivity like it has:

index.php

Source of above plot: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/...-880-review-center-speaker.27911/#post-966033
 

Odradek

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I'm guessing here, but couldn't the orientation of the midrange horn explain the narrow directivity between ~1 to 8 kHz? I mean, if the horn was rotated 90°, could the directivity in this area be wider? Could it maybe cause some other problems in the crossover regions?

Edit: it could also partly explain the better vertical directivity
 

JDS

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This is a review and measurements of the JBL Array 880 center speaker. It was purchased and drop shipped to me. It is new old stock as it is discontinued. I see new ones on ebay listing for US $1,600.

The 880 is the nicest finished and looking speaker from JBL that I have seen:

View attachment 163944

That corner of my room is quite dark at night when I took the picture and doesn't do justice to the gorgeous dark glossy coating with subtle woodgrain. It is a type of finish that would be at home on the dash of a Mercedes Benz or Audi. At the same time, it is adorned with matt finish on top and elsewhere giving this a serious look, ready for insertion into a home theater setup.

At nearly 50 pounds, it is also quite heavy and stout speaker. Here are the specs:

View attachment 163945

Very unusual configuration with the large "midrange" horn taking over at a high, 1000 Hz and going up to 8 kHz where a small horn tweeter takes up the work. The former spec is a cause for concern for a center speaker.

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 opted for a higher resolution scan than normal to the tune of 1,200 measurement points in 3-D space. Despite this, as I guessed, the sound field became quite complex due to interference between the two horns around the crossover. Here is the error for the on-axis response relative to computed on:

View attachment 163946

Given the unusual configuration, I set the reference axis to slightly above the center of the midrange horn.

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 Synthesis Array 880 Center Speaker 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 163947

Wow, I must say, I was not ready for such a flat and precise on-axis response. This is as good as top notch DSP speakers yet this is a passive one! Yes, there is an interference where the two horns fight with each other but per intro, the actual trough is narrower than it seems here. So likely not very audible.

Sensitivity is around 90 dB which is excellent and right on the money as far as company specifications.

Early window reflections though show some messiness:

View attachment 163952

Look at the side-wall reflections as a sign of a problem to be elucidated a bit further down in the review.

Predicted in-room response is still very good given the beautiful on-axis response:
View attachment 163953

Unfortunately I am about to rain on this parade by posting the horizontal beam width:

View attachment 163954

Ouch. The classic "MTM" configuration of dual woofers causing narrow directivity attacks us here to cause the beam width to narrow considerably. Usually this is not a problem in "3-way" speakers but this is not a normal 3-way speaker in that the crossover to the "mid-range" is quite high. This forces the dual woofers to produce the response below 1 kHz and with the wide acoustic centers, causes narrowing of the response. We see this just as dramatically in our color coded graph:


View attachment 163955

As an aside, that is some work of art! Should make a poster of it and hang it on a wall. :) Unfortunately visual beauty doesn't equate sonic beauty here for a center speaker.

Typical of MTM speakers, vertical directivity is excellent, and much better than a 2-way:
View attachment 163956

Back to some good news namely the superbly low distortion that dual woofers bring:

View attachment 163957
View attachment 163958

And this is an attribute we want to have in a center speaker which carries most of the work in a surround home theater environment (it carries what is on screen from dialog to effects).

Back to directivity, we see the mid-range horn doing a wonderful job there:


View attachment 163959

Forgot to post the near-field response of the drivers:


View attachment 163960

The microphone was at an acute angle to the woofer due to its configuration which I think allowed the mixing of the other woofer and sloping down. So hard to make sense out of that part of the graph. We do see the couple of resonances of the woofer though. Otherwise, absence of a port means no interior resonances which is nice.

Switching to more mundane measurements, here is our impedance and phasae:

View attachment 163961

Waterfall:
View attachment 163962

And impulse response:

View attachment 163963

Speaker Listening Tests
I setup the Array 880 center as you see in the above picture and listened on-axis from about 3 meter/10 feet away. You know how it is when you eat a perfectly seasoned meal at a great restaurant? And how your hand never reaches for any condiments? Such was here. From first moment on, the tonality was perfect. And so was the dynamics especially above bass. I could get physical resonances in my body and my seat in guitar strings! Not bass, but guitar strings! I had no need to reach for EQ. Just sat there and enjoyed track after track.

There are some other considerations:

1. Directivity. The sound seemed quite focused in the center of the speaker. The halo around it was maybe a foot or so. No, it was not like you cupped your hand around your mouth to simulate a "horn." It just was a more focused sound which I think is part of the reason it can project high amount of power in mid to upper frequencies. To confirm that I was not imagining this, I switched to Revel C52 speaker which I own. The C52 had at least 2 to 3X larger halo around it than the Array 880.

2. Narrow horizontal directivity. Measurements don't lie. Mover over one seat and tonality shift was definitely there. It hollowed out the sound but not nearly as bad as some other MTM speakers. Still, there is no denying of this fault. In sharp contrast, the Revel C52 almost did not care where you sat.

3. No sub-bass. The closed enclosure sacrifices deeper bass you can get from a ported speaker. You need to have a subwoofer which thankfully exist in every home theater.

Comparing the overall sound of the C52, the Array 880 blew it away in dynamics and openness of the sound. I looked up the C52 measurements and found a trough around 1 kHz (?) which I fixed with EQ. That made the match more even as far as tonality. But I simply could not get the C52 to play at dynamically as the Array 880 no matter how much I cranked it up with hundreds of watts on tap. I think so much of the energy from C52 is spread around the room as opposed to focused by the Array 880 to create this differential.

Overall, the on-axis response of the Array 880 is wonderful. Off-axis, directivity problem exists to a medium level.

Conclusions
The left and right version of Array 880 was used in Harman blind testing when I took the test there. It was the one that sounded the best to me and almost everyone in the room. For that reason, I was anxious to test this speaker. On-axis response of the center version explains again why I liked it so much. Unfortunately as a center speaker, it doesn't deliver the goods beyond on-axis. Otherwise, it is one of the most perfect executions of a speaker in this size I have heard and measured.

I can't recommend the JBL Synthesis Array 880 speaker as a center speaker unless you only care about one seat in which case, it gets one of my highest recommendations.
When a horn is wider than it is tall, so is its dispersion pattern, right? So can there be any justification for mounting the midrange horn vertically, but the tweeter horn horizontally, other than "that's how we fit them into the box"? I note that horizontal beam width *increases* above 7kHz, presumably because that horn is mounted correctly. As is, this seems like the perfect speaker if your home theater listening position is a bunk bed.
 

beagleman

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You are mistaken or don’t know how sound waves work. Imagine the speaker a spot light with flaps. Open flaps fully and look at it from the side. Set the side flaps at 90 degrees and look again. See the difference.




You are mistaken or don’t know how sound waves work. Imagine the speaker a spot light with flaps. Open flaps fully and look at it from the side. Set the side flaps at 90 degrees and look again. See the difference.
I said I somewhat preferred the sound localization of my one center that has fairly narrow dispersion.

That may be a preference or simply that it sounds good in my set up.
 

NTK

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...
I note that horizontal beam width *increases* above 7kHz, presumably because that horn is mounted correctly.
...
That is because this speaker crosses over to a super tweeter (another horn) at 8 kHz. The super tweeter horn is oriented horizontally.
 
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Haint

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I have read some places, that somewhat narrow dispersion of the center is a good thing,
Contrary to what we are mostly saying in here.

If creates a pin point image that is centered in one location only, even if it suffers a bit from angles left and right of center.



I

A center with a narrow pinpoint image will likely sound terrible to most people with TV/Film content. I would expect most music and music vocals will sound great (due to their use of judicious reverb), but the dry sound booth recordings so many TV/Films use for the dialogue tracks will likely sound awful. A very unappealing mono point source sound. Large first reflection absorbers have this effect on wide dispersion centers as well.
 

pseudoid

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So, what gives around 6700 Hertz? Is that suck-out a result of the cross-overs overlapping? Audible?
The 880 is the nicest finished and looking speaker from JBL that I have seen:
I got nostalgic when I saw the re-issue of the orange JBL L100s and wonder how they would perform.
I refuse to look for "reviews" elsewhere!
 

Kvalsvoll

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When a horn is wider than it is tall, so is its dispersion pattern, right? So can there be any justification for mounting the midrange horn vertically, but the tweeter horn horizontally, other than "that's how we fit them into the box"? I note that horizontal beam width *increases* above 7kHz, presumably because that horn is mounted correctly. As is, this seems like the perfect speaker if your home theater listening position is a bunk bed.
Just to try to clarify some misconceptions on horns - when the dimension of the mouth becomes small compared to wavelength, it no longer maintains pattern control, the sound will now diffract around the mouth and start to radiate wider, as can be seen in this speaker, where the horizontal beam widens considerably down towards 1-2KHz. At higher frequencies the pattern becomes quite narrow, as the angle of the horn is quite steep.

In the vertical direction, where the horn has a much wider mouth and wider angle, the directivity is much more constant across a wider frequency range.

This is not necessarily a flaw, it may well be intentional.
 
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Kvalsvoll

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Originally I would have agreed with you for sure, but now after experimenting with a few center speakers at home, I am not so sure.

I am somewhere in the middle. I can see the theory of why wider might be better for sure, but in practice, in some ways actually preferred the sound localization of my one center that does NOT have wide dispersion.

I will have to experiment more.
It is possible to have a sort of narrow pattern, and still have equal tonality off-axis. If the frequency response is reasonably flat inside at least +-30 degrees, a reasonably large seating area is covered. Outside this area, the radiation can fall off.

Then you have the advantage of narrow, and still good tonality across the listening area.

To design such a speaker, one would start with a requirements specification that defines the radiation pattern, not how the speaker should look like.
 
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