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JBL HDI-1600 Speaker Review

Sal1950

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Everyone seems to be “surprised” that JBLs sound as good as they do when there is no reason to be surprised…
Amen,
JBL has unfortunately been given a mostly bad rap by the high end review media.
But the same can be said of all speakers using horn (waveguide) type speakers.
My HDI 3600's sound incredible to me, imaging every bit as good as any Revels I've heard.
Response as smooth and glare free as I could ask for.
YMMV
 

Prolix

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Feels like a silly question but here we go... Is that huge top end spike something that could bother pets? Looks like it shoots straight off the end of the graph.
 

617

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Feels like a silly question but here we go... Is that huge top end spike something that could bother pets? Looks like it shoots straight off the end of the graph.
UHF are ultra directional and almost completely attenuated by any surface they come into contact with.
 

paulgyro

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I recently got a pair of HDI-1600 to try out. A few quick comments.
-They were very easy to setup. Put them on stands, toe them in, bam! Amazing imaging and sound stage. Phantom center was strong.
-No grain or grit to the sound at all.
-Highs were laid back for sure, too much to my taste and the reason the speakers will be going back.
-Dang they can go low! So low that Audyssey thinks they are full range speakers.
-They need a lot of power to get going.

Great speaker, just not enough high freq extension, and sensitivity too low thus taking too much power to come alive.
 

Sal1950

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Great speaker, just not enough high freq extension, and sensitivity too low thus taking too much power to come alive.
Just curious as to what sort of amp you were using.
Tube or SS and how much power do they have?
 

paulgyro

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Just curious as to what sort of amp you were using.
Tube or SS and how much power do they have?
SS,VTV Stereo Amplifier based on Hypex NCore NC252MP. Again, great speak but I should have expected what I got with the mid-80s db sensitivity.
 

Sal1950

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SS,VTV Stereo Amplifier based on Hypex NCore NC252MP. Again, great speak but I should have expected what I got with the mid-80s db sensitivity.
I had a pair around here for about 45 days, I really did love them but in the end I went for the HDI-3600's.
I don't play my music very loud anymore and live in a small place so I'm not sure exactly why but I just felt like I wanted something with more balls. Maybe just some leftover audiophilia nervosa because IMHO the entire HDI line are amazing speakers. LOL
 

paulgyro

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I had a pair around here for about 45 days, I really did love them but in the end I went for the HDI-3600's.
I don't play my music very loud anymore and live in a small place so I'm not sure exactly why but I just felt like I wanted something with more balls. Maybe just some leftover audiophilia nervosa because IMHO the entire HDI line are amazing speakers. LOL
I hear you man, so how does the 1600 compare to the 3600 in your view?
 

Sal1950

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I hear you man, so how does the 1600 compare to the 3600 in your view?
Obviously more&deeper bass and more dynamic sounding to me.
Otherwise about the same tonally.
 

paulgyro

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Obviously more&deeper bass and more dynamic sounding to me.
Otherwise about the same tonally.
Makes sense, certainly the biggest advantage of the 3600 is its bass response and increased sensitivity allowing for more dynamics.
 

polyphony

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These speakers were not really on my radar but I recently had acquired the JBL 530's on a whim because they were so cheap on sale. I was so pleasantly surprised that I wondered what kind of improvements might be had upstream in model lineup. Crutchfield currently has the HDI line on sale which prompted me to try a pair of the 1600's. I've only had them for a day but many of the preceding observations here seem to fit. Surprising bass for a bookshelf, good power handling and dynamics. I would also add that there is an impressive clarity and instrument separation which I really appreciate. Has anyone posted eq settings in this thread or elsewhere?
 

paulgyro

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Congratulations, they are great speakers. What do you think of the highs? I think about these speakers often as they hand many attributes I loved.
 

nick-v

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I was using HDI-1600s as surrounds in a 5.2.4 media room system. I replaced them with SCL-7 in-walls which provides a much cleaner look.

When I was selling my 1600s, I set them up in my desktop system and demoed them with some very well recorded music for the eventual buyer and I was blown away by how good they sounded. Exceptional holographic imaging and sounstage. Surprising bass output and extension (my desktop system is in a small, sealed room). It wasn't as obvious just how good these speakers are using them as surrounds in media room system, but using them in a desktop system for a week or two before they sold was very enjoyable.
 

Sal1950

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It wasn't as obvious just how good these speakers are using them as surrounds in media room system, but using them in a desktop system for a week or two before they sold was very enjoyable.
All speakers will provide at least a slightly different tonal balance and appeal to different preferences.
But I don't believe you can find a better stand mount 2 way when it comes to offering inner detail and dynamics at any price.
I had a couple here for close to 2 months and only returned them to get 4 of their big brother HDI 3600's and a 4500 center.
Just a great design all around.
 

polyphony

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Congratulations, they are great speakers. What do you think of the highs? I think about these speakers often as they hand many attributes I loved.
Out of the box a deficiency in the high frequencies was not something that grabbed my attention (I was probably more attuned to the bass and midrange detail) but the data clearly shows drop-off after 10k which is confirmed by the in-room measurements when I run ARC Genesis. Utilizing full range correction smooths out the response and makes an audible difference but I haven't experimented enough yet to decide whether to keep it or limit the correction to Schroeder.
 

Hexspa

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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:

View attachment 57804

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

View attachment 57805

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:

View attachment 57806

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:

View attachment 57807

Due to good summation of early reflections:

View attachment 57808

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:

View attachment 57809

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

View attachment 57810

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:

View attachment 57811

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:

View attachment 57812

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:

View attachment 57814

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:

View attachment 57816

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/
Are you totally sure that absorbing reflections is a myth? Ethan Winer makes reasonable counter points to Toole’s - and they know each other.


I did my best to understand this pdf and it seems to conclude that early reflections, particularly from the sides - more specifically 65deg or so - are preferable and add spaciousness. Ethan specifies how this preference can break down in listeners experienced with absorptive rooms.


For one, I can tell you that half my room is about 40% treated and the other half is about 5% treated and I definitely prefer talking in the absorptive half. It’s physically easier since I’m not fighting the reflected sound i.e. “talking over myself”. After several years, my girlfriend prefers it too.

I understand that, specifically regarding this measurement, you’re saying that the various reflections sum to create a beneficial response. In this case, it seems to reason that a balanced level of treatment would preserve this proportion yet also provide for a neutral critical listening environment.
 
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RichB

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Are you totally sure that absorbing reflections is a myth? Ethan Winer makes reasonable counter points to Toole’s - and they know each other.


I did my best to understand this pdf and it seems to conclude that early reflections, particularly from the sides - more specifically 65deg or so - are preferable and add spaciousness. Ethan specifies how this preference can break down in listeners experienced with absorptive rooms.


For one, I can tell you that half my room is about 40% treated and the other half is about 5% treated and I definitely prefer talking in the absorptive half. It’s physically easier since I’m not fighting the reflected sound i.e. “talking over myself”. After several years, my girlfriend prefers it too.

I understand that, specifically regarding this measurement, you’re saying that the various reflections sum to create a beneficial response. In this case, it seems to reason that a balanced level of treatment would preserve this proportion yet also provide for a neutral critical listening environment.

Without rugs and furniture, my living room sounds like a bathroom. After furnishing it, sounds good, something you can judge by conversing.
I put some sound proofing on the beam above the Voice2 that is mounted above the screen and that seems beneficial.

- Rich
 
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