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JBL Conceal C83 Invisible Speaker Review

Rate this speaker: (do not need to be an owner to do so)

  • 1. Poor (headless panther)

    Votes: 90 66.2%
  • 2. Not terrible (postman panther)

    Votes: 38 27.9%
  • 3. Fine (happy panther)

    Votes: 7 5.1%
  • 4. Great (golfing panther)

    Votes: 1 0.7%

  • Total voters
    136

amirm

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This is a review and detailed measurements of the JBL Conceal C83 "invisible" speaker. It is on kind loan from a member and costs US $1,100.
JBL Conceal C83 Invisible Speaker Home Theater Review.jpg

As the name indicates, this is basically a flat surface that you cut out in the wall and "tape and mud" the edges. Once painted, it can be made to look just like the rest of the wall and hence "disappear." In the inset, I am showing the stock photo from JBL showing a center woofer and dual higher frequency transducers. All work to excite the front panel.

These type of speakers are high desirable in higher-end stereo, ambient and home theater applications where you want a completely hidden audio system. They require careful project management with the builder/trades to make sure accommodations are made for them during the construction phase of the house. It is highly advised to use appropriate limiter/protections in the amplifier driving them as if you damage them, repair requires ripping them out of the wall to fix! Having heard a number of them, the perceptional effect is quite magical in the way the sound radiates from somewhere in the space with no clues as to where it could be.

These speakers come with a back box meaning the speaker is fully sealed so is not dependent on the wall cavity that you install them on. For easy of testing, I tested the unit as stand-alone speaker instead of building a customer baffle for it. I compared testing this way vs baffle measurements when I tested the JBL Conceal C62 and results were almost the same.

As regular readers know, I use Klippel NFS scanner to measure speakers. The enemy of the system is complexity of the soundfield. The more complex, the more sample points needed. The more sample points, the longer measurements take. With three drivers interfering, the soundfield gets very complicated requiring very high order basis functions to represent it. Anticipating this, I upped the measurement points which requires a 4 hour scan. Even with this, accuracy dropped above 6 or 7 kHz. Klippel NFS makes redundant measurements to compute this. Here is the on-axis actual vs computed one:
JBL Conceal C83 Invisible Speaker Home Theater Klippel NFS Error Measurement.png

We see that the computed measurement in blue (what you normally see in my measurements) starts to separate from actual (red) around 7 kHz. It under represents the energy there by quite a bit when you get above that threshold. To give you an idea of how complex the soundfield is, I captured the 3-D radiation computed by NFS at 10 kHz:
JBL Conceal C83 Invisible Speaker Home Theater Directivity Baloon at 10 kHz Measurement.png

Beautiful acoustic art, isn't it? :) Anyway, keep this in mind as you read the measurements below.

NOTE: our company, Madrona Digital is a dealer for these products. Indeed, owner sourced this through us (unsolicited). So feel free to read whatever you want in my commentary.

JBL Conceal C83 Speaker Measurements
Let's start with our usual frequency response measurements:
JBL Conceal C83 Invisible Speaker Home Theater frequency response Measurement.png

As with C62, response is extremely variable as the three drivers fight with each other, creating many resonances and cancellations. Letting the reflections sum together acts as a smoothing function:
JBL Conceal C83 Invisible Speaker Home Theater early window frequency response Measurement.png


But there is no escaping the fact that we have anything but a smooth response:
JBL Conceal C83 Invisible Speaker Home Theater Predicted In-room frequency response Measurement.png

Equalization is a must to a) make the variations smaller and b) give it the proper slope.

The highly variable response makes distortion graphs look bad as well:
JBL Conceal C83 Invisible Speaker Home Theater THD Distortion response Measurement.png

Seems a lot of the troughs in the response have peaks in distortion which makes the relative THD graph look, really, really bad:
JBL Conceal C83 Invisible Speaker Home Theater relative THD Distortion response Measurement.png


Note however that power handling was far superior to that of C62. With that speaker, I could not even get to 86 dBSPL and here, I went to 90 dB. Sweeps had some audible issues but not bad.

Directivity measurements are highly variable as well together with some beaming due to use of dual high frequency drivers:
JBL Conceal C83 Invisible Speaker Home Theater horizontal beamwidth Measurement.png

JBL Conceal C83 Invisible Speaker Home Theater horizontal directivity Measurement.png


JBL Conceal C83 Invisible Speaker Home Theater vertical directivity Measurement.png


Impedance graph is unlike any other speaker out there (sans the C62):
JBL Conceal C83 Invisible Speaker Home Theater Impedance and phase response Measurement.png


Waterfall shows resonances we know about:
JBL Conceal C83 Invisible Speaker Home Theater CSD Waterfall response Measurement.png


Step response is not usually informative but here it shows two distinct pulses indicating lack of integration between woofer and high frequency drivers:
JBL Conceal C83 Invisible Speaker Home Theater Step response Measurement.png


I didn't see much point in listening to the speaker.

Conclusions
While building a fully transparent speaker is an achievement in itself, I am left wondering what effort was put into designing the C83. The complex interactions between the three drivers would not lend itself to simple modeling in a speaker design program. Full 3-D FEA would be needed to optimize the design (location of drivers, crossover response, material choices, etc.). The market for these products is too small to justify such level of design but hopefully that will happen one day. Until then, the compromises here are so numerous that I can't recommend the JBL C83 if you have any priority for excellent sound. Would be interesting to see the in-room measurements before and after automated EQ to see if it can be salvaged in use.

The C62 had the same issues but also couldn't handle much power. So if you are going this route, I highly suggest using C83.

------------
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/
 

simnick

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I asked for a test, I got a test. Now I have live with this knowledge...
(This is my speaker that I am about to embed into my wall in my house)

This is a remarkable complex speaker, and a remarkably detailed set of analysis. Thanks Amir for your thorough work.
 

DWPress

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Monkey coffins certainly still have their place it seems.
 

Waxx

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I never heared such a speaker sound good, from any brand. I got the question from some who wanted to build a HT room with build in speakers and went research some including this one, but did not found a solution yet. We will probaly end up with regular speakers build into the wall. The space is now an empty concrete box that reverbs in all bad ways possible, so we will have to build a room into a room anyway to make the acoustics work

But this is bad, very bad to be honest.
 

Koenjer

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I never heared such a speaker sound good, from any brand. I got the question from some who wanted to build a HT room with build in speakers and went research some including this one, but did not found a solution yet. We will probaly end up with regular speakers build into the wall. The space is now an empty concrete box that reverbs in all bad ways possible, so we will have to build a room into a room anyway to make the acoustics work

But this is bad, very bad to be honest.
Did someone try the electrovoice Evid C8.2 series?
 

MacClintock

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I asked for a test, I got a test. Now I have live with this knowledge...
(This is my speaker that I am about to embed into my wall in my house)

This is a remarkable complex speaker, and a remarkably detailed set of analysis. Thanks Amir for your thorough work.
You could still install additionally some nice visible speakers if you want to have good sound, just saying.
 

simnick

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Honestly, when I hooked these up to make sure all of them worked, they sounded perfectly reasonable to my ears, but I don't claim to have particularly trained hearing. I actually wonder if there is so much going on with those graphs that actually exceed the ability of human hearing to perceive the faults. I do worry that those faults may still cause long term hearing fatigue, or loss of definition that distinct to very specific sonic elements.
Once I get these installed in the wall in the next few weeks, I am going to measure them pre-mud using the PC version of Audyssesy, and then post-mud, to try to settle the debate of the impact of drywall compound on these sorts of speakers. Hopefully I can share that back here in the next 2 months.
 

Yasuo

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A remarkable complex speaker?
 

ZolaIII

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I thought I would at least vote, but I'm sorry I didn't see it.
 
OP
amirm

amirm

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Honestly, when I hooked these up to make sure all of them worked, they sounded perfectly reasonable to my ears, but I don't claim to have particularly trained hearing. I actually wonder if there is so much going on with those graphs that actually exceed the ability of human hearing to perceive the faults. I do worry that those faults may still cause long term hearing fatigue, or loss of definition that distinct to very specific sonic elements.
The frequency resolution of our hearing is not that great so narrow ups and downs are likely not audible. So i think it is correct to say that subjective experience is better than what is measured.

Here are the Manufacturers Specifications:

IMG_0616.jpeg
 
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Doodski

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The frequency resolution of our hearing is not that great so narrow ups and downs are likely not audible. So i think it is correct to say that subjective experience is better than what is measured.
That is very intriguing to read because when I used the very narrowly adjusted Q on an old analogue parametric active car crossover in my living room at about 18kHz decades ago I was realizing very fine detail improvements in the musical instruments far upper top end frequency response. It was so sharply defined after the Q was dialed in tight that people told me to back it off because it was too much for them but I loved it. It sounded like JBL Titanium Series tweeters on steroids but it was the usually very smooth KEF Reference Series tweeters.
Once I get these installed in the wall in the next few weeks, I am going to measure them pre-mud using the PC version of Audyssesy, and then post-mud, to try to settle the debate of the impact of drywall compound on these sorts of speakers. Hopefully I can share that back here in the next 2 months.
Upon mounting them up and setting them firmly in place they will take on a very different sound. I think as long as they are firmly mounted to a baffle/gyproc with or without mudded gyproc they should sound the same. I think they are acoustic suspension design for the wall?
 
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ocinn

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I know nothing about products like these, but I have to assume that any filler/paint over the front surface will seriously affect the performance.

Is the front baffle/mesh/cover a hydrophobic weave or something to allow small holes for sound to pass thru or is it truly intended to be homogeneously painted over?

Doubt it, because holes would be clearly visible. Either way, nice product for people who are filthy rich and need something better yet less visible than a soundbar for their living room tv. For 99% of us this is a joke.

Regardless of the intended use case, it’s interesting to me that jbl with all of their R&D funding and world class engineers, made such basic errors such as the driver alignment, on a very expensive product. Did they even measure it?
 
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wwenze

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Probably need a paradigm shift and make the panel a driver (ie voice coil and spring and stuff) instead of just a layer for hiding the woofer and tweeter.
 

GXAlan

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The frequency resolution of our hearing is not that great so narrow ups and downs are likely not audible. So i think it is correct to say that subjective experience is better than what is measured.

I recall you have Dirac. Can you run a single microphone measurement and just do a full range correction to see how it works? I bet it would sound better than expected with full range Dirac…
 

Talisman

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Thanks Amir, a very honest review considering you sell them.
For my part I would not be attracted to this type of speakers even if they had good performance, I love the look of the speakers in my living room, there are things I like to see and not just hear
 
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