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JBL HDI-1600 Speaker Review

amirm

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#1
This is a review and detailed measurements of the JBL HDI-1600 two-way bookshelf speaker. They were purchased new and drop shipped to me for testing. The HDI-1600 costs US $900 for one.

Note: my company Madrona Digital is a dealer for Harman products such as JBL line (although we hardly sell any audio gear of this type). And I am personally friends with key people in the company. So feel free to read as much bias as you like in this review.

There is some style to the HDI-1600 but overuse of plastic degrades the image of having bought anything expensive:

JBL HDI-1600 Speaker Audio Review.jpg


Back panel binding posts are OK but the bi-wire shunt is thin and flimsy (does the job though):

JBL HDI-1600 Speaker binding posts biwire biamp Audio Review.jpg


Product is made in China.

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 anechoic chamber. In a nutshell, the measurements show the actual sound coming out of the speaker independent of the room.

All measurements are referenced to the tweeter axis with frequency resolution of 2.7 Hz.

Spinorama Audio Measurements
Acoustic measurements can be grouped in a way that can be perceptually analyzed to determine how good a speaker can be used. This so called spinorama shows us just about everything we need to know about the speaker with respect to tonality and some flaws:

JBL HDI-1600 Speaker CEA-2034 Spinorama Audio Measurements.png


That is one flat response from about 700 Hz to 9,000 Hz. There is a peak in bass which I actually prefer in past listening tests. The dip above 10 KHz looks bad but perceptually won't be that significant due to its high frequency.

The on and off-axis sounds are very similar to each other as indicated by the blue dashed line being rather smooth. This means the speaker is room friendly as reflections sound similar to direct sound of the speaker. And gives you flexibility to position the speaker angle as you like.

There is strong peaking near 20 kHz but most of us don't hear that far so I don't think it is an issue.

Predicted response in a simulated room shows what I just described:

JBL HDI-1600 Speaker CEA-2034 Spinorama Predicted In-room response Audio Measurements.png


Due to good summation of early reflections:

JBL HDI-1600 Speaker CEA-2034 Spinorama Early Window Reflections Audio Measurements.png


So don't go chasing myths on the Internet to absorb reflections.

Horizontal directivity (how well the sound drops off from on-axis) resembles very good studio monitors:

JBL HDI-1600 Speaker Horizontal Directivity Audio Measurements.png


Vertically is chewed up as is typical of many 2-way speakers:

JBL HDI-1600 Speaker Vertical Directivity Audio Measurements.png


Due to increased dip around crossover frequency (1.9 kHz) as you go below the tweeter, don't put the speaker on too high of a stand. Not a huge deal though.

Impedance response shows the typical dip below 4 ohm which nearly matches the honest specification from JBL of 4 ohm:

JBL HDI-1600 Speaker Impedance and Phase Audio Measurements.png


Speaker Distortion Measurements
Since I started to test speakers there has been a lot of complaints about them. So I decided to spend some time on them to refine the measurements. This added a ton of time to this review so hopefully it is worth it. Two key changes are made:

1. Speaker is driven at a calibrated level of 96 dB at 1 meter. This matches what soundstage uses. My measurements are actually at 1/3 of meter and then calibration compensated for 1 meter. This sharply reduces the effect of noise in the room at the potential expense of higher distortion from the microphone. Soundstage goes the other way around, measuring at 2 meters (at 90 dB which is the same as 96 dB at 1 meter).

2. I use the fancy processing in Klippel NFS to dial out the room effect. This makes the display smoother but gets rid of all the room modes especially in low frequencies. For some reason it boosted the distortion level a bit in mid frequencies which I am still investigating.

3. I worked on making the colors more visible (I have a very small selection of what I can choose from).

For this speaker, it required 11 volts input to get to 96 dB at 1 meter so pretty close to 10 volts I used to use. Here are the results:

JBL HDI-1600 Speaker Distortion Audio Measurements.png


We definitely have rising distortion at crossover frequency which could be the woofer/port at the tail end of its response, or a tweeter being asked to go too low. The range that is covered by higher distortion is middle of the road so definitely will be hit on with typical content. It is almost all second harmonic so masking will be more effective on them.

Waterfall Plot
I spent good bit of time on this also, using NFS filtering to dial out the room. Knowing what I was looking for, I managed to get a graph that showed the issues we already know:

JBL HDI-1600 Speaker CSD Waterfall  Audio Measurements.png


We see a resonance at 700 Hz which we had seen in the spinorama. And messiness around crossover frequency we saw in distortion measurements.

High Frequency Dip Investigation
We have seen that dip before in Kali speakers which the designer mentioned was due to waveguide diffraction. So I dug in with 3-D visualization to see if it is the same issue:

JBL HDI-1600 Speaker frequency Response dip visualization Audio Measurements.png


Left side is with the tweeter producing 5 kHz and we generally see one large projection from it (speaker is pointed at you with "nref" being tweeter center). When we go above 10 kHz however, the highest amplitude sound source is on the two sides. They mix together and due to phase difference the middle cancels out some. So it appears to be a diffraction issue but working backward to find problems like this from the visualization can be tricky.

Speaker Listening Tests
II put the JBL HDI-1600 on my typical test stand in my listening room with a single parametric EQ to dial out a room mode as I do with all other speakers (verified in this instance to definitely make a positive contribution). The sound from the JBL HDI-1600 in a word is stunning! That extra bass and very good power handling gives full satisfaction. The flat mid-frequencies means all the detail is presented as it should making for a delightful contrast with that bass response.

I put in a little filter to boost where the dip is. It made a tiny difference, providing just a hair more brightness and sparkle. I was OK with or without it.

The sound was so good I sat there listening to track after track. Sans nasty room modes, this is a speaker that is designed to give you the "target room response" without having to use a room EQ to get there.

With 1000 watts on tap and just a single speaker playing, I finally managed to get it to cry uncle and bottom out but that was quite loud. Funny thing, it produced so much bass that combined with its smooth plastic base, it slid back 1 inch on my metal stand!

I will test it later in near-field and see how it performs there.

Conclusions
The objective performance seems to at first blush paint a picture of very good but imperfect response. Closer look, confirmed with listening tests shows that such things as a boosted bass are likely designed in. Listening tests confirm one of the most delightful experiences I have had in small speakers. Price is high of course so you have to decide if that extra bit of performance is worth it to you.

Needless to say, I am going to put the JBL HDI-1600 on my recommended list. Can't wait to test the larger ones in the line.

-----------
As always, questions, comments, recommendations, etc. are welcome.

Have to drive 120 miles roundtrip tomorrow to return a couple of speakers. Would appreciate some gas money using : https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/how-to-support-audio-science-review.8150/
 
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napilopez

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#5
Great!

I'm actually quite impressed with the vertical performance too - notice how narrow the vertical discontinuities are, suggesting they have minimal audible impact.

Score puts it a fair bit behind the similarly priced R3 (and less-so, the ELACs), but to my eye I'd bet the balance from 700Hz to 9 kHz puts them more on par. They seem to have wider horizontal directivity than the KEFs too.

Good for me too, I get to see if my measurements match yours whenever these arrive at my doorsteps.
 
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Jon AA

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#7
Pretty good overall; I really like the horizontal dispersion. It looks like they sacrificed a bit of sensitivity for better bass which is probably an OK tradeoff for many users. Without that dip at the top end, it would have really hit it out of the park.
 

richard12511

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#9
Been looking forward to this review. A JBL that actually looks amazing.

Question for those more knowledgable: Would this be a good candidate for one of those speakers that gets underrated by the preference score, due to its imperfections being so high in frequency?

Man, I really want to buy these, but I need to stop.

Amir, when you say "quite loud" for the point that they started struggling, any idea what spls that was at?
 

MZKM

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#11
Seems a bit similar to a Studio 530 with a boost in the bass and treble?
Here are them (and the ELAC) compared with their predicted in-room responses (adjusted for target slope, so flat is ideal):
chart (26).png
 
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ctrl

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#13
A really impressive dispersion.
The edge diffraction of the 0.23m wide loudspeaker cabinet is hardly noticeable between 2-3kHz. The waveguide looks more like a horn due to the depth, which probably controls the radiation better. The "curved edges" that almost reach the waveguide are certainly an advantage.

We see a resonance at 700 Hz which we had seen in the spinorama. And messiness around crossover frequency we saw in distortion measurements.
CSD's a little screwed up.
Because the frequency response at 20kHz increases by almost 10dB due to resonance of the compression driver, the CSD scale should at least go down to 60dB or 55dB to see when the signals reach -30dB attenuation.

Maybe show the CSD only up to a frequency of 15kHz, then the rest should fit and it can be better compared to CSD's from other speakers.

It would be interesting to see how serious the delay in the 2kHz decay really is.
 

Absolute

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#14
Must say I'm a bit puzzled as to why the dip in the lower mids doesn't bother our host. Can somebody in front of a computer post a graph comparing the listening windows of M16, Kef R3, this and the Genelec?

I'd be interested in seeing if the area between 100-500 hz tells more than we give it credit for.
 
OP
amirm

amirm

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Thread Starter #15
Maybe show the CSD only up to a frequency of 15kHz, then the rest should fit and it can be better compared to CSD's from other speakers.
Unfortunately the CSD graphs has zero controls. It is all or nothing.
 

q3cpma

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#16
While I'd dislike the bass boost, it's a Harman product, so it makes sense to get it. But I'm not very impressed when KEF's R3 is basically the same price without those distorsion and resonance problems. Also, is it me, or that rounded baffle isn't very useful since the horn/waveguide already prevents diffraction from the cabinet sides? And on second look, that plastic support looks incredibly cheap (not bothered by the other plastic bits).
And to be honest, most studio monitor companies manage similar or lower prices while making their stuff in Europe, such an obvious coin grabbing doesn't open my heart nor my wallet.

Any horn expert can explain why the quite complicated design from the LSR/M2 (supposed to reduce or compensate diffraction, I think) got "simplified" into this?

Specific model aside, this was a good idea to give use the "Made in xxx" mention. Would it be possible to automatically derive the -3/-6 dB LF point for easy comparison?
 
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thewas_

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#17
Nice waveguide as all Harman designs, but some quite disappointing details for a $900 loudspeaker like the 700 Hz resonance and the 2% distortion at the psychoacoustically critical 2 kHz already at 96dB at 1 meter (many previous loudspeakers were measured at 10V which was often more than that).
 

sm5

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#18
When I listened to the more expensive model: Jbl HDI 3600 - I personally found them sort of lacking clarity in the high end and a mushy low end. Maybe it's because I compared to B&W Diamonds and Martin Logans in the same room/ended up buying Magnepan LRS's oddly enough the same day? I wanted to like the HDI 3600's as I like my 306 mkii's for the the price (in a 7.1 surround setup) but The HDI's were to me - the worst sounding I listened to that day :/
 

Absolute

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#19
Nice waveguide as all Harman designs, but some quite disappointing details for a $900 loudspeaker like the 700 Hz resonance and the 2% distortion at the psychoacoustically critical 2 kHz already at 96dB at 1 meter (many previous loudspeakers were measured at 10V which was often more than that).
We'll see about distortion numbers now that Amir has worked on that a bit. Right now there's nothing to compare to
 

StevenEleven

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#20
IMHO, we are getting to a level of quality where it’s DBT time. Otherwise, which among this higher-performing tier of speakers is more generally preferable involves an awful lot of conjecture and perhaps overly speculative interpretation of wiggly lines, numbers, and colorful diagrams. :)
 
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