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JBL Stage A130 Review (speaker)

amirm

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This is a review and detailed measurements of the JBL Stage A130 bookshelf speaker. I purchases these online but can't find the receipt. They normally cost US $300/pair but the place I bought them from has them for $209 right now.

The A130 looks plain until you take off the grill and then looks handsome:

JBL Stage A130 Review bookshelf speaker.jpg


I like the rounded corners which are easier on the hands and reduce diffraction:

JBL Stage A130 Review two-way bookshelf speaker.jpg


On the other hand, I did not like the binding posts that were too close to each other and to the back of the cup:
JBL Stage A130 Review back panel port bookshelf speaker.jpg


Fortunately you only deal with them once.

I did not show the grill but it has metal pins and took fair amount of energy to pull it off. So someone was thinking of longevity given that the budget did not allow magnetic mount.

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 performed over 1000 measurement which resulted in error rate mostly below 1%.

Temperature was 64 degrees F. Measurement location is at sea level so you compute the pressure.

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.

The grill was off and measurements were referenced to tweeter center.

JBL Stage A130 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:

JBL Stage A130 Measurements Spinorama CEA2034 Frequency Response.png


Ignoring the three prominent peaks, on-axis response is actually quite flat. The cause of those peaks is quite evident if we measure each radiating surface at close distance:

JBL Stage A130 Measurements Near-field driver response.png


Starting at the right, the tweeter is clearly peaking at around 15 kHz. Coming down we see the peak around 1.3 kHz which I think is caused by the port resonance (orange). There is another peak around 870 Hz which may be from the woofer itself or combination with the port.

Early window reflections show quite a similarity (for good or bad) with the direct on-axis sound:

JBL Stage A130 Measurements Spinorama CEA2034 Early Window Reflections Frequency Response.png


Putting the two together gives us a predicted response that is slightly smoothed over version of on-axis:

JBL Stage A130 Measurements Spinorama CEA2034 Predicted In-room Frequency Response.png


From experience I know that the peaking from 900 to 2 kHz can actually be pleasant and far better than dips in that area. The final resonance likely is not very audible due its very high frequency and narrowness.

Here is our impedance plot which shows the resonances as well:
JBL Stage A130 Measurements Impedance and Phase.png


The fancy trademark JBL waveguide does it job well in controlling directivity:

JBL Stage A130 Measurements horizontal beam width.png



JBL Stage A130 Measurements horizontal directivity.png


These are active, professional monitor class directivity and not something we often see in bargain speakers.

I was pleased that we had more wiggle room vertically, making the height of the speaker less critical:

JBL Stage A130 Measurements Vertical directivity.png


Most impressive was the low amount of distortion:

JBL Stage A130 Measurements Relative THD Distortion.png


If those resonances were not there around 1 kHz and at 15 kHz, this would look even cleaner.

JBL Stage A130 Measurements THD Distortion.png


We can see our 50 dB reference line is barely exceeded until we get very low in frequency. Did not expect this.

JBL A130 Listening Tests
I started to listen to the A130 as is and as I suspect, the sound was pretty pleasant. Yes, the upper mid had the accentuation that I expected. This actually makes female vocals sound more detailed and more airy. But it was a bit much so I reached in my EQ tool and knocked those two resonances down plus the one at 15 kHz:

JBL Stage A130 equalization.png


Not only did the first two notches clean up the response but it made the sound of the speaker super clean and effortless. There was a level of fidelity that was giving me goosebumps! I can only envision the cause being reduced distortion to go alone with the better response. The third filter made a very subtle difference but was still worthwhile.

Once there, I started to crank up the volume and this little speaker can play and play loud! Despite me using a single speaker, it had no trouble playing as loud as I wanted. My speaker killer track with deep bass and zero effect on it. Bass played as if it is no big deal producing a level of fidelity that I rarely see, err hear, in speakers let alone a budget one.

Conclusions
Out of the box the JBL A130 gets a lot of things right but leaves us with basically two resonances that are issues. Fortunately the peaking there is not as bad as it seems to the eye. As it was the A130 was more than listenable. Dial in the simple EQ as I did and this speaker outperforms many speakers. It has a fluid, effort-free sound with excellent neutrality that was a joy to listen to across all kinds of music. It simply did not care what I threw at it -- it performed.

I can recommend the A130 even if you don't have an EQ. If you can apply EQ, then the JBL Stage A130 gets one of my highest recommendations. It is a great example of how we can fix one or two minor flaws in a speaker with EQ and create a hybrid solution that is nearly untouchable in its price range or even higher.

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

Had stored the last batch of Japanese shishito peppers saved up and figured I make a snack out of them:
Shishito peppers.jpg


With a touch of lemon juice, soy sauce and salt they were wonderful as always. Normally you only see them in green but I left them on the plants for too long and tehy turned red/orange and a bit sweeter. Yum!!!

Any donations are much appreciated using: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/how-to-support-audio-science-review.8150/
 

Attachments

  • JBL Stage A130 Spinorama.zip
    88.4 KB · Views: 312
Last edited:

witchdoctor

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That is a GREAT recommendation. I own the JBL 230's which also uses this wave guide design. For anyone thinking about getting the 130 the sound when you have a pair is like having a phantom center channel. The vocals lock right in and I also found the 230's too be a little sensitive to amplifiers. I initially used a Parasound Zamp v3 but when I took the power up a notch using a Carver AV 505 the speakers really opened up.
 

bigjacko

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Nice review! Now here is the new king of low distortion budget speaker. If they put in a bit more time to design the wave guide and make perfect directivity and sell for 500, it will be the benchmark of book shelf speaker.
 

whazzup

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The grill was not quick to take off so I left it on. Alas even with a flashlight I could not see where the tweeter was. So I eyeballed it and I think I got it a bit wrong. See measurements below.

Just want to clarify, the measurements are with grills on or off? In the graph it says 'no grills'.
 

A Surfer

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Nice to see these results. Attractive speaker. I like the brown finish and it looks sweet on the stands. Nice work JBL.
 

Beave

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Just want to clarify, the measurements are with grills on or off? In the graph it says 'no grills'.

I think that's leftover text from a previous review. It doesn't apply here, ie, grilles off.
 
OP
amirm

amirm

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Just want to clarify, the measurements are with grills on or off? In the graph it says 'no grills'.
Sorry. Cut and paste error. No grill.
 

witchdoctor

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Amirm, how does the JBL 130 compare to the other Harman speaker you recently reviewed that is around the same price, the Infinity R162?
 

A Surfer

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I can't imagine grills making that specific or enough of a difference. No need, we have equalizers for sometime now and that is what they are for.
 

thewas

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Those passive entry models from Harman were always great value for money, I hate Harman though for their incredibly bad distribution in Europe where it seems you cant buy them (only some stupid low budget bluetooth loudspeakers and headphones) and its even very hard to get any Revel and even harder to find a dealer where you can audition them...
 

DerRoland

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Great work as allways, Amir!

But can't find them anywhere in europe, but in asia, india and australia. Have Jbl fear of all the berlin loudspeaker brands?
 

whazzup

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I can't imagine grills making that specific or enough of a difference. No need, we have equalizers for sometime now and that is what they are for.

At least for my monitor audio bronze speakers, i remember the metal tweeter grilles did cause some differences in REW measurements. Anyway just curious.
 

okok

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they got many in this series, all budget, a190, 180, even 12" subs

btw, what's that eq software..
 

Maiky76

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Hi,

Here is my take on the EQ.
The raw data with corrected ER and PIR:
Score no EQ: 5.05
With Sub: 7.41
Spinorama with no EQ:
  • Not bad except the resonances
  • The HF peak may make the speaker sound "thin"
JBL A130 No EQ Spinorama.png

Directivity:
Horizontal pretty good thanks to the waveguide.
Better stay at tweeter height
Horizontally, better toe-in the speakers by 10/20deg and have the axis crossing in front of the listening location
JBL A130 2D surface Directivity Contour Only Data.png

JBL A130 LW Better data.png

EQ design:
I have generated two EQs. The APO config files are attached.
  • The first one, labelled, LW is targeted at making the LW flat, pretty good that one maybe better if you listen ON
  • The second, labelled Score, starts with the first one and adds the score as an optimization variable, come back closer to the bare speaker, maybe better if you toe-in
Score EQ LW: 5.78
with sub: 8.03
Score EQ Score: 6.29
with sub: 8.54
JBL A130 EQ Design.png

Code:
JBL A130 APO EQ LW 96000Hz
December102020-135648

Preamp: -0.6 dB

Filter 1: ON HPQ Fc 37.8 Hz Gain 0 dB Q 0.87
Filter 2: ON PK Fc 148.5 Hz Gain -2.17 dB Q 1.5
Filter 3: ON PK Fc 931 Hz Gain -3.5 dB Q 4.21
Filter 4: ON PK Fc 1349 Hz Gain -3.18 dB Q 4.06
Filter 5: ON PK Fc 1806 Hz Gain -2.2 dB Q 2.11
Filter 6: ON PK Fc 5738 Hz Gain 0.72 dB Q 5.21
Filter 7: ON PK Fc 10000 Hz Gain -1 dB Q 3
Filter 8: ON PK Fc 15000 Hz Gain -5 dB Q 10

JBL A130 APO EQ Score 96000Hz
December102020-140817

Preamp: -0.2 dB  

Filter 1: ON PK Fc 37.8 Hz Gain 0 dB Q 0.88
Filter 2: ON PK Fc 153 Hz Gain -1.92 dB Q 1
Filter 3: ON PK Fc 925 Hz Gain -3.05 dB Q 4.07
Filter 4: ON PK Fc 1352 Hz Gain -3.35 dB Q 5.53
Filter 5: ON PK Fc 1795 Hz Gain -1.41 dB Q 2.86
Filter 6: ON PK Fc 10000 Hz Gain -0.75 dB Q 2
Filter 7: ON PK Fc 15000 Hz Gain -6.2 dB Q 7.5

Spinorama EQ LW
JBL A130 LW EQ Spinorama.png

Spinorama EQ Score
JBL A130 Score EQ Spinorama.png

Zoom PIR-LW-ON
JBL A130 Zoom PIR-LW-ON.png

Regression - Tonal
JBL A130 Regression tonal.png

Radar no EQ vs EQ score
Nice improvements
JBL A130 Radar.png


The rest of the plots is attached.
 

Attachments

  • JBL A130 APO EQ LW 96000Hz.txt
    435 bytes · Views: 121
  • JBL A130 2D surface Directivity Contour Data.png
    JBL A130 2D surface Directivity Contour Data.png
    262.4 KB · Views: 81
  • JBL A130 3D surface Vertical Directivity Data.png
    JBL A130 3D surface Vertical Directivity Data.png
    471.8 KB · Views: 76
  • JBL A130 3D surface Horizontal Directivity Data.png
    JBL A130 3D surface Horizontal Directivity Data.png
    464 KB · Views: 76
  • JBL A130 Normalized Directivity data.png
    JBL A130 Normalized Directivity data.png
    474.4 KB · Views: 98
  • JBL A130 Raw Directivity data.png
    JBL A130 Raw Directivity data.png
    835.4 KB · Views: 80
  • JBL A130 Reflexion data.png
    JBL A130 Reflexion data.png
    260.2 KB · Views: 78
  • JBL A130 LW data.png
    JBL A130 LW data.png
    250.7 KB · Views: 75
  • JBL A130 APO EQ Score 96000Hz.txt
    395 bytes · Views: 154
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