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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

dtaylo1066

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Nice work on the testing, Amir. Very insightful. I understand the desire or need for some to put these type of speakers in their home, and if you fall into that category that is great and it is cool that someone is trying to make that work better for you. But for me in wall speakers result in too much of an audio performance sacrifice, so I will keep my speakers a few feet out from the wall and enjoy them. Let's hope the JBL's of the world keep improving this technology.
 

DanTheMan

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Pretty much every time you read a DAC power cord hearer talk about a speaker lifting veils or better yet “wet blankets”, they have some sort of acoustic anomaly like a treble spike or a directivity error that’s performing the ‘magic’. If you prefaced a listening session with this speaker using the right intriguing hyperbole, I’d bet a DAC power cord hearer would proclaim these devices an unprecedented bargain. Has Absolute Sound reviewed these yet? Anyone invited GRresearch to Seattle?
 

Doodski

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Anyone invited GRresearch to Seattle?
RFLMAO... Yeah, but I thought GRresearch accepts guests only into his sound room stuff and not the other way around. He needs to be in full control of the sound room. His sound room.
 

Matt_Holland

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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?
They, and other invisible speakers, are designed to work best with the skim coat of plaster and paint. The additional mass reduces sensitivity and dampens the peaks of the multiple resonant modes of the panel.

JBL didn’t make any engineering mistakes. Those were all made by Stealth Acoustics from which this is an OEM re-brand.

And to be fair, having designed invisible speakers in a former life for Amina Technologies, the ingredients are terrible, but the end flavour can be more than acceptable considering the huge benefit invisible sound brings to projects that must meet certain aesthetic requirements.

Other brands of invisible speakers:
Sonance
Amina
Monitor Audio
Nakymatone
Stealth Acoustics
Cerasonar
 

Cbdb2

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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.
The usual way, if a projector is used, is to put regular speakers in the wall behind a perforated screen. You can probably get away with using these for surrounds.
 

testp

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JBL Conceal C83 Invisible Speaker Home Theater Directivity Baloon at 10 kHz Measurement.png
wow...! this almost looks like a Jackson Pollock's..
 

Mikig

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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.
View attachment 356481
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:
View attachment 356482
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:
View attachment 356483
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:
View attachment 356484
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:
View attachment 356485

But there is no escaping the fact that we have anything but a smooth response:
View attachment 356486
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:
View attachment 356487
Seems a lot of the troughs in the response have peaks in distortion which makes the relative THD graph look, really, really bad:
View attachment 356488

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:
View attachment 356489
View attachment 356490

View attachment 356491

Impedance graph is unlike any other speaker out there (sans the C62):
View attachment 356492

Waterfall shows resonances we know about:
View attachment 356493

Step response is not usually informative but here it shows two distinct pulses indicating lack of integration between woofer and high frequency drivers:
View attachment 356494

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.

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Amirm,
I'll ask you a question since I think I understand that you do audio and audio/video installations:

about projectors. I'm thinking about a nice laser TV, or rather a UST. but the question I ask myself is: if I wanted to use a home cinema system, where can the central channel be positioned, given that the projector is right at the base of the screen?
Could this speaker be the solution for central?

installed behind the screen itself, recessed into the wall, and not covered in paint and plaster, would it be okay?
Thank you
 

fordiebianco

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Thank you for another insightful review, @amirm. From what I understand reading your and the other lads' anecdotes the gist is 'Don't care about the sounds as long as reproduction is out of my face' vs 'repreduction is all that matters, whatever visual damage the spakers/gear might incur'.

As ever there are no black/white decisions, but only grey (compromises), particularly when it comes to haggling design vs reproduction with a SO.

Good to know though that these things exist. I remember vaguely that there was a paper showing our hearing accepting inferior reproduction quality in sourround speakers, so they might be acceeptabe for such purposes. As long as your SO is still happy with those Wilson Master Chronosonics framing the TV, you're golden.
 
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amirm

amirm

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installed behind the screen itself, recessed into the wall, and not covered in paint and plaster, would it be okay?
It would be but if it is not seen, I would get a normal in-wall speaker that also mounts flush to the wall. The JBLs are for scenarios where there is nothing in front of them and you want to not see any speaker.
 
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amirm

amirm

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Thank you for another insightful review, @amirm. From what I understand reading your and the other lads' anecdotes the gist is 'Don't care about the sounds as long as reproduction is out of my face' vs 'repreduction is all that matters, whatever visual damage the spakers/gear might incur'.
My pleasure. These are actually "high-end" solutions in this space so deserve a bit more credit than that. :) But yes, visual aspects need to be non-negotiable before you go into solutions like this.
 

KenA

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You‘d want a decent amp.
 

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Jasperous

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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.
My condolences
 

valerianf

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Clearly this technology of invisible speaker has its shortcomings: poor fidelity, needs of a powerful amplifier to accommodate the low indictive impedance.
And, as I specified in the other thread, it is highly sensitive to the mounted process and the painting.

The obvious advantage is the magic effect in outdoor applications: the sound is coming from a flat surface insentive to rain or durst.
Long time ago I made street demos with a PlayStation: soccer games and car racing games were fun.

But in no way it is a high quality sound transducer.
 

anphex

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That's one "spiky" speaker for sure in every measurement.

I wonder if such a speaker combined with an integrated DSP you could theoretically shape it's behaviour a lot.
 

ta240

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The usual way, if a projector is used, is to put regular speakers in the wall behind a perforated screen. You can probably get away with using these for surrounds.
I'd assume someone that was interested in hiding their speakers would have a screen that retracts.
 

ta240

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If I was having a house built I could definitely see putting these in a few of the rooms. Probably not in a room where I'd be watching movies and doing critical listening but in many others, sure.

It has already been stated that finishing over these should smooth them out and also that the jagged stuff there is likely already inaudible.
 

ta240

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If JBL wants to seel more of these to high-end HT customers, they should make it a combo invisible speaker and wall safe.
When installing and opening, one should play the relevant Pink Floyd song.

81TQ2YipwSL.__AC_SX300_SY300_QL70_FMwebp_.jpg
6549273_sd.jpg;maxHeight=640;maxWidth=550
so, a safe you plaster over?
 
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