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JBL Stage A130 vs A180

cavedriver

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Exactly. For A190 they say "The mids are really clear and colorful here, and the bass is serious. So, if you’re a fan of thumping and bumping music, it could be the best JBL floor standing speaker for EDM available." As i own A190, there is no serious bass and thumping/bumping music, voices are perfectly clear. So these "review" sites have never actually heard those speakers. Waste of time reading those reviews.
I wouldn't say there is no serious bass, it's just not subwoofer frequencies (so yes, not thumping). I think the speakers do play down to the rated high 30's Hz range, and do produce slightly floor-shaking bass, and it's not horribly distorted, perhaps a little lacking in detail (dull, vague) but clear and at levels consistent with the recordings.
 

fieldcar

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Haha, you know I assume many of these "review" sites never actually touch the products they review- they just search the internet (either manually or with software tools) and "build" a review out of content that's already out there. I don't know if this reviewer is legit, but it almost sounds like they read this forum...
C'mon. AI generated articles are the future! ;)
 

ROOSKIE

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I see this is a resurrection of an older thread, but with the recent sales on the Harman website lots of people I think are buying the A180 and A190. I have a pair of each that I'm demo'ing right now. My initial reaction is a certain harshness or distortion at the lower end of the treble range that could be coming from the tweeter but I'm not certain yet. I particularly hear it in soprano vocals, which apparently are around 1000 Hz and not the 2k I expected. Compared to my two pairs of older Snells (one with silk tweeters, other with aluminum, probably a bit tired), these speakers are very bright so I'm also adding an equalizer just to make sure I can get to an apples to apples comparison. Certainly the imaging with the tweeter baffle is better than my old Snell rectangles. FWIW I'm driving them with a Hypex 502MP digital amp, but also testing them on either of two Onkyo AB amp receivers.
Just saw Erin's review of the A130's and it's quite negative (and disagrees with Amir's data). I also spent the day listening to the 180 and 190 and just can't find a way to like these speakers. Yes they are worth the recent sale price ($200/pair for the 180's, $250 for the 190's), but definitely not their list price. Yes, they play some of my reference tracks like Hendrix and Thorogood fairly well, with plenty of energy and enough speed, and they play them quite loud if desired. They also just hurt to listen to. It's fatiguing to listen to them. Too much distortion from that tweeter I guess. I had about 2 dB pulled out above 10k but did not use a mic to check the in-room. If the tweeter's being asked to play out of it's range down between 2k and 3k and it's causing distortion then I won't be able to fix it with equalization anyway. The bass also doesn't have any texture. The volume is there, and the lower frequencies played by the 190's exceed the range and power of my old Snell's with their single 8" woofers, but they can't compete for personality with the woofer in the Elac DBR-62's (a speaker I ultimately rejected despite the wonderous bass performance of that carbon fiber woofer). They can play quite loud though. Unfortunately what I thought was good imaging in my semi-nearfield space earlier is just a fair amount of off-axis response. When I set them up in my bigger room where the speakers are on the longer wall and I can best judge imaging, I find it's not all that great. Another complaint I had arose when listening to Kleiber's live version of Beethoven's 6th. Not the best quality recording ever, but the mood should be happy, almost spring time. The first movement was instead stiff and woody, unmusical if I could use an even more fuzzy word. I was so perturbed I had to switch back to my Snells and listen through again- much better, and the emotion was back again. I hate writing such vague and unsupported comments but I wanted to get them written down while they're fresh and before more reviews bias me back again. Obviously YMMV. I will be very interested to see what Amir's review finds. I do see that his review of the A135C is quite critical, and that his company is a Harman dealer so he may need to hedge his comments a bit.

You may be used to a darker tonality.
The waveguide is designed to a number of things and one is to broaden the the dispersion in the treble. You may just not be used to actually hearing more realistic highs. I doubt the tweeter has that much distortion to be the culprit unless you listening very loudly.
It is a very cheap button tweeter and yet most people vastly overestimate what levels of Harmonic Distortion distortion are audible. It is an easy parameter to measure so everyone does it. The reality is that is highly masked and it is very likely you are hearing something else you don't like. Also some design such a compression tweeters and waveguide have HD due to the shaping of the waveform and surface of the guide and not due to the driver having any issue at all nor presenting any audible distortion at all.

It could even be the recording themselves. There is noting more disappointing at 1st when a formerly perfectly decent recording is played on a more revealing system and it sounds bad. You are used to the Snells and that is good but is not a indication they are more accurate to the source. They may or may not be.
It is also not usual for some folks to just need darker highs, some people just don't like high energy in realistic presentations. Think of how intense a horn instrument can be in person or an electric guitar that is reproduced by brash speaker live - that brash speaker is part of the instrument in an electronic tune and therefore Hendricks maybe ought to sound a bit harsh even on neutral speakers as that is how he would sound in person connected to PA "instruments".

That said most or my testing of the A130 revealed a tweeter that was not bright at all to me, though it did have a SPL limit. I did drop the midrange peak down about 2-3 DB leaving a slight peak. Excellent sound for the money.
At high SPL, the tweeter starts to sound hard. It simply can not reproduce very high SPL cleanly. This is true of many speakers and why for folks who like high SPL I'd recommend the always on sale studio 500 line as the that compression tweeter can handle extremely loud SPL with ease.

Take Erin's or anyone personal opinion with a lot of gains of salt. I love his reviews and he seems like a good guy, that said his personal take is only that it is nothing more.

If you don't have the ELAC's anymore you be fantasying about their bass. I thought they had a really dull and uninteresting sound (have some salt here). The biggest factor in bass in any room is room interaction with the speaker and room. from 20hrz-300/400hrz the speaker and room and highly interwoven.
If the JBL's are overloading the room a bit and even just exciting a couple modes that makes the whole bass region sound off for many of us. The room may also be causing male volcals to be a bit chestly with a larger speaker.

You must smartly use some form of DSP/PEQ below the transition area (at least 200hrz and below) even just a few manual tweaks to the biggest room mode peaks can vastly change the the sound. This changes the entire tonality of the presentation in many cases.

Imaging is a bit like one of those paintings that is all dots and focus on it in different way eventually you get a 3d image. Once you get that 3d image it getts faster and faster to bring it into focus. Remember though, your brain has to make it up. New speakers and new spaces create a challenge of breaking you brain in and ears in.

Anyway if you get some PEQ going you will no longer be at mercy of room modes and can also shave a peak here or there that you don't like, or even add a small high frequency shelf to a speaker to get a certain treble response. I recommend not over doing PEQ and just using the basic and minimum amount.

Of course it always possible the A190's are just not that great and especially not your personal jam.
 

cavedriver

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You may be used to a darker tonality.
The waveguide is designed to a number of things and one is to broaden the the dispersion in the treble. You may just not be used to actually hearing more realistic highs. I doubt the tweeter has that much distortion to be the culprit unless you listening very loudly.
It is a very cheap button tweeter and yet most people vastly overestimate what levels of Harmonic Distortion distortion are audible. It is an easy parameter to measure so everyone does it. The reality is that is highly masked and it is very likely you are hearing something else you don't like. Also some design such a compression tweeters and waveguide have HD due to the shaping of the waveform and surface of the guide and not due to the driver having any issue at all nor presenting any audible distortion at all.

It could even be the recording themselves. There is noting more disappointing at 1st when a formerly perfectly decent recording is played on a more revealing system and it sounds bad. You are used to the Snells and that is good but is not a indication they are more accurate to the source. They may or may not be.
It is also not usual for some folks to just need darker highs, some people just don't like high energy in realistic presentations. Think of how intense a horn instrument can be in person or an electric guitar that is reproduced by brash speaker live - that brash speaker is part of the instrument in an electronic tune and therefore Hendricks maybe ought to sound a bit harsh even on neutral speakers as that is how he would sound in person connected to PA "instruments".

At high SPL, the tweeter starts to sound hard. It simply can not reproduce very high SPL cleanly. This is true of many speakers and why for folks who like high SPL I'd recommend the always on sale studio 500 line as the that compression tweeter can handle extremely loud SPL with ease.
Thanks for all the feedback and insightful comments. If you have the A130, it looks like it uses the same tweeter only with a slightly shrunken waveguide. If the waveguide design is producing some HD wouldn't it be likely you would notice it in the 130's waveguide? I'm just thinking it seems that explanation is unlikely unless the slightly larger waveguide in the 180/190 somehow compromises the design because I assume you are not finding much distortion in the 130's design.

I don't think it's the recordings because, while the old Lata recordings have horrible fidelity that is really brought out by these speakers, I also have a pair of Sennheiser HD600 headphones running through a small Hidiz DAC that I use as a reference for the various sources. I assume you would agree that these should produce a good reference for all the content in a song? Also, on simple at-home hearing tests (using the Sennheisers) I think my hearing cuts out around 15k these days.

On the breakup thing, could we be hearing the fabled break up mode of the aluminum dome, even though this is supposed to happen up at 30k or something like this? Countless people describe aluminum tweeters as fatiguing to listen to, which pretty well describes what I'm hearing here. I haven't really dug around here on ASR to see what the collective opinion of the concept is or where it might show up in audible measurements. Again, I do expect that the answer will be distortion between 2 and 3k once they're measured.

I definitely did listen to them at high volumes. I didn't measure it but based on other reference sounds I would say over 90 dB for stretches for sure, but probably not over 100.

When I tested the DBR62's, besides the Snells, I also had 6 other pairs of bookshelf speakers, including the Elac Debut 2 6.0's, Monitor Bronze 2, Dali Oberon 1, Micca RB42, Jamo S803, and Pioneer BS22. Granted none of those speakers are expected to have the bass quality of the DBR62, but at least I was able to rotate through all of them in an apples-to-apples comparison and it was clear the DBR had the best quality bass output of the group by a comfortable margin. I was particularly impressed with the detail and texture that it gave to bass. Of course the texture part could have been a flaw but I assume it had to do with the design of the port and any time difference that produced, or perhaps the construction and bending behavior of the cone during travel, but who knows. It just sounded very, very good for a 6" ported woofer. As a side note, I was not happy with any of those speakers and returned all of them, except that I later got the Pioneer's for $80 a pair and did Dennis' mod on them which has made them at least nice. I still can't explain the "short tunnel" effect on the DBR62's but was enough of a flaw to really bother me and I had to return them. I almost tried to convince Dennis to mod them but what would he fix??
 

ROOSKIE

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Thanks for all the feedback and insightful comments. If you have the A130, it looks like it uses the same tweeter only with a slightly shrunken waveguide. If the waveguide design is producing some HD wouldn't it be likely you would notice it in the 130's waveguide? I'm just thinking it seems that explanation is unlikely unless the slightly larger waveguide in the 180/190 somehow compromises the design because I assume you are not finding much distortion in the 130's design.

I don't think it's the recordings because, while the old Lata recordings have horrible fidelity that is really brought out by these speakers, I also have a pair of Sennheiser HD600 headphones running through a small Hidiz DAC that I use as a reference for the various sources. I assume you would agree that these should produce a good reference for all the content in a song? Also, on simple at-home hearing tests (using the Sennheisers) I think my hearing cuts out around 15k these days.

On the breakup thing, could we be hearing the fabled break up mode of the aluminum dome, even though this is supposed to happen up at 30k or something like this? Countless people describe aluminum tweeters as fatiguing to listen to, which pretty well describes what I'm hearing here. I haven't really dug around here on ASR to see what the collective opinion of the concept is or where it might show up in audible measurements. Again, I do expect that the answer will be distortion between 2 and 3k once they're measured.

I definitely did listen to them at high volumes. I didn't measure it but based on other reference sounds I would say over 90 dB for stretches for sure, but probably not over 100.
Cool.
I would be very surprised if the whole "A" line did not use the same button tweeter.
It literally is a $1 tweeter to an OEM, though that is a very nice waveguide line they are using it in.
You can make great stuff with budget parts.

Headphones are never a reference for loudspeaker fidelity IMHO. Maybe, and I say maybe tonality but how could that be? The scale is tiny and in your head to a huge degree, there is not visceral bass to speak of and no sound waves hitting your body. There is no stereo effect only and L or R effect and all sorts of skewed distance perceptions. I definitely like a much darker headphone sound vs loudspeakers and never get all that excited about headphone sound in general. YMMV of course.

I also don't think the high frequency cutoff of your hearing is really indicative of what treble sounds like to you and how your brain uses the small frequencies to create a sonic landscape and sense of space. This is all very psychological and prolly not easily reduced. It is subjective almost all the way home with some helpful signs posts to guide you.

Measure your SPL, do you have an iPhone or a decent Android? Download an app. Some are not all that accurate but even if you are off by 5db at least you can get the idea.
100db average levels are extremely loud by the way, that would be louder than a great many speakers can play cleanly in the farfield.
You may also be hard clipping your amp on peaks as only powerful amps can drive those levels farfield unless your speakers are very efficient or your room very small.

Some of the smoothest most listenable tweeters I have ever heard have been metal domes and some of the harshest, brashest tweeters have been soft domes. The material is not important. The quality and implementation are.
The metal dome in my Revel M126be is absolutely never brash or harsh even when the music calls for screaming high energy peaks.

As I said a lot of folks like a darker sound or less vibrant, less realistic treble.
Treble has various qualities but "bright" is often used universally to describe what is more granular.

I like photography so some of this is photography analogy. It is not a complete list of treble related adjectives by any means at all nor is it universal just what I can do to clarify and these can be combined mix and match and add yours.

"Bright" = overexposed, blown out highlights. details are lost as everything is just trebble with no air. Turning down the trebble helps this unlike "brash" below.
"Dark" = underexposed highs, a dim room that doesn't hurt your eyes but details are either obscured or muted. The details do appear if you look they are not blacked out or in the case of music they present if you "lean and listen, or go into the music"
"Dull" = like above but even when leaning in there is no detail no vibrancy. It is not mellow but rather lifeless.
"Vibrant" = filled with energy and a sense of realism, big yet sounding and feeling good to listen to despite being very present. You don't need to lean in but rather the treble comes and gets you but in just the right way.
"Over Saturated" = like the above but starting to feel embellished rather than real, still good sounding but close to the next one which is..
"Brash" = treble stands out to much to often in a way that perhaps would be "vibrant" but something else just isn't working such as low quality tweeter or poor implementation. You want to lean away or turn it down but often that brash quality stays as it is not tonal but rather something else.
"Harsh" = Like the above but less obvious at 1st and then starts to grow after it is to late - this is headache city for some folks. Often this is a bad recording meets a brash and/or bright tweeter.

and many more...

When I tested the DBR62's, besides the Snells, I also had 6 other pairs of bookshelf speakers, including the Elac Debut 2 6.0's, Monitor Bronze 2, Dali Oberon 1, Micca RB42, Jamo S803, and Pioneer BS22. Granted none of those speakers are expected to have the bass quality of the DBR62, but at least I was able to rotate through all of them in an apples-to-apples comparison and it was clear the DBR had the best quality bass output of the group by a comfortable margin. I was particularly impressed with the detail and texture that it gave to bass. Of course the texture part could have been a flaw but I assume it had to do with the design of the port and any time difference that produced, or perhaps the construction and bending behavior of the cone during travel, but who knows. It just sounded very, very good for a 6" ported woofer. As a side note, I was not happy with any of those speakers and returned all of them, except that I later got the Pioneer's for $80 a pair and did Dennis' mod on them which has made them at least nice. I still can't explain the "short tunnel" effect on the DBR62's but was enough of a flaw to really bother me and I had to return them. I almost tried to convince Dennis to mod them but what would he fix??

"Monitor Bronze 2, Dali Oberon 1, Micca RB42, Jamo S803, and Pioneer BS22." None of these are speakers that have particularly great bass. I am not surprised you appreciated the ELAC more. The ELAC 2 6.0 has pretty good bass though IMHE and some have said there is little to no difference between the 6.0v2 and the DBR62 in the bass, they measure fairly similarly all ways there as well. I am not saying you did not hear differences.

My advice is try a REVEL M16. Try the KEF R3. Try the M106, try the JBL l82 with is treble adjustment pot, if you like Dennis try the BMR(though really high SPL is in ? there), try that KLH model 5, which I have never heard but everyone seems to like. Try some better loudspeaker gear. So far you are working the budget realm. Great values to be found there for sure but are they actual gems? Don't miss out.
 

cavedriver

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Cool.
I would be very surprised if the whole "A" line did not use the same button tweeter.
It literally is a $1 tweeter to an OEM, though that is a very nice waveguide line they are using it in.
You can make great stuff with budget parts.

Headphones are never a reference for loudspeaker fidelity IMHO. Maybe, and I say maybe tonality but how could that be? The scale is tiny and in your head to a huge degree, there is not visceral bass to speak of and no sound waves hitting your body. There is no stereo effect only and L or R effect and all sorts of skewed distance perceptions. I definitely like a much darker headphone sound vs loudspeakers and never get all that excited about headphone sound in general. YMMV of course.

I also don't think the high frequency cutoff of your hearing is really indicative of what treble sounds like to you and how your brain uses the small frequencies to create a sonic landscape and sense of space. This is all very psychological and prolly not easily reduced. It is subjective almost all the way home with some helpful signs posts to guide you.

Measure your SPL, do you have an iPhone or a decent Android? Download an app. Some are not all that accurate but even if you are off by 5db at least you can get the idea.
100db average levels are extremely loud by the way, that would be louder than a great many speakers can play cleanly in the farfield.
You may also be hard clipping your amp on peaks as only powerful amps can drive those levels farfield unless your speakers are very efficient or your room very small.

Some of the smoothest most listenable tweeters I have ever heard have been metal domes and some of the harshest, brashest tweeters have been soft domes. The material is not important. The quality and implementation are.
The metal dome in my Revel M126be is absolutely never brash or harsh even when the music calls for screaming high energy peaks.

As I said a lot of folks like a darker sound or less vibrant, less realistic treble.
Treble has various qualities but "bright" is often used universally to describe what is more granular.

I like photography so some of this is photography analogy. It is not a complete list of treble related adjectives by any means at all nor is it universal just what I can do to clarify and these can be combined mix and match and add yours.

"Bright" = overexposed, blown out highlights. details are lost as everything is just trebble with no air. Turning down the trebble helps this unlike "brash" below.
"Dark" = underexposed highs, a dim room that doesn't hurt your eyes but details are either obscured or muted. The details do appear if you look they are not blacked out or in the case of music they present if you "lean and listen, or go into the music"
"Dull" = like above but even when leaning in there is no detail no vibrancy. It is not mellow but rather lifeless.
"Vibrant" = filled with energy and a sense of realism, big yet sounding and feeling good to listen to despite being very present. You don't need to lean in but rather the treble comes and gets you but in just the right way.
"Over Saturated" = like the above but starting to feel embellished rather than real, still good sounding but close to the next one which is..
"Brash" = treble stands out to much to often in a way that perhaps would be "vibrant" but something else just isn't working such as low quality tweeter or poor implementation. You want to lean away or turn it down but often that brash quality stays as it is not tonal but rather something else.
"Harsh" = Like the above but less obvious at 1st and then starts to grow after it is to late - this is headache city for some folks. Often this is a bad recording meets a brash and/or bright tweeter.

and many more...



"Monitor Bronze 2, Dali Oberon 1, Micca RB42, Jamo S803, and Pioneer BS22." None of these are speakers that have particularly great bass. I am not surprised you appreciated the ELAC more. The ELAC 2 6.0 has pretty good bass though IMHE and some have said there is little to no difference between the 6.0v2 and the DBR62 in the bass, they measure fairly similarly all ways there as well. I am not saying you did not hear differences.

My advice is try a REVEL M16. Try the KEF R3. Try the M106, try the JBL l82 with is treble adjustment pot, if you like Dennis try the BMR(though really high SPL is in ? there), try that KLH model 5, which I have never heard but everyone seems to like. Try some better loudspeaker gear. So far you are working the budget realm. Great values to be found there for sure but are they actual gems? Don't miss out.
One of my references is an actual sound meter that I bought a while ago and that has A and C weighting options, I just haven't bothered to break it out. But nice idea on the app, easy to leave running so i don't have to try too hard to see where it's at during highs. Checking now I'm seeing my phone mic seems to be getting software limited at 88 dB, so using my actual meter and using A weighting to focus more on the treble, I'm seeing that my "loud" listening level has sustained 87-90 dB output at ~4' from the speaker, with peak stretches between 95 and 100 dB, so pretty much what I estimated. Obviously this volume is unpleasant and not sustainable unless you're half deaf or hosting a party, but also loud enough to hear the tweeter reach it's limit. I would be ~10' from the speakers to briefly enjoy blasted music at this volume.

I like that you've added a lot of colorful descriptors in there, ironic for someone on ASR focus so much on descriptive evaluation of musical reproduction quality that doesn't seem to be getting directly connected to certain measurements. Not that I disagree that speakers can be described (I did it), but in this case I think what I'm hearing *should* be possible to correlate to a measurement, even if it's "60% of listeners describe speakers as fatiguing when the tweeter's break up mode is measurably being caused by the music under test". There is some discussion of tweeter dome break up in some speaker reviews and discussions on other sites, like where a woofer's cone break-up frequency can be seen as a rise in freq response or a change in impedance, but it doesn't seem to be a regular part of Amir's or Erin's comments in their reviews. Distortion is measurable so I expect to see info on that in the reviews.

The headphones are for learning content in the music, not creating a sound field that a speaker would. So for example, is this singer's voice recorded well in this recording? What is that little sound in the background and should I be able to hear it? Should that guitar sound more liquidy or crispy? That was the context I brought them up in.

The Revel M126 "be" is exactly what you might guess- a speaker with a beryllium tweeter. Beryllium is possibly the best possible material out there for tweeter construction because it's incredible stiffness-to-weight ratio significantly exceeds aluminum and it's breakup mode can be kept well above 20kHz. I would not describe that speaker's performance as representative of what can be done with aluminum tweeters. Of course "good" aluminum tweeters can be made, but as you point out, the JBL's very likely use a very cheap tweeter and my opinion of aluminum dome tweeters is most likely based on hearing many mediocre tweeters. (I do appreciate tweeter costs, the Dennis-mod to the Pioneers uses a $15 Vifa, and replacements for my Snells are only $25 each, and are also Vifa's iirc). I have heard enough higher end speakers to know what medium-good can sound like, including Totem's, the old B&W Matrix 800's (and more recently the 804's and 702's), Coincident's Total Victory, various sizes of Magnepans, Dennis's new BMR's, and countless other speakers at audio stores for shorter periods of time. That said I'm in process of re-doing all my listening arrangements and will be listening to more higher-end stuff this time. The JBL's were just to play with.

Picking on a same song again at the same high volume, going back to Hendrix's Voodoo Child/Slight Return, the shriller peaks on the guitar at 20-30 seconds turn harsh on the JBLs, but can still be perceived as at least a little liquidy on the Sennheisers, but at equivalent volume on the headphones it's not a level you can listen at and enjoy. These notes are probably much lower - even the high notes on his guitar would be around 500 Hz as I read electric guitars only go to ~1kHz, so either it's harmonics or maybe it's actually the woofer running up to 2kHz that's bothering me. If I back the volume down so the loud stretches stay below about 90 dB things get better but earlier sessions at even lower volumes produced the fatigue so I'm not prepared to call ~90 dB a happy limit, just that the distortion is less immediately apparent.

The bass on the Debut 2.0's sounded like crap honestly. Lots of distortion at volume, quite a bit of "warble", cone flex I suppose. Not at all as good as the DBR's.
 
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ROOSKIE

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One of my references is an actual sound meter that I bought a while ago and that has A and C weighting options, I just haven't bothered to break it out. But nice idea on the app, easy to leave running so i don't have to try too hard to see where it's at during highs. Checking now I'm seeing my phone mic seems to be getting software limited at 88 dB, so using my actual meter and using A weighting to focus more on the treble, I'm seeing that my "loud" listening level has sustained 87-90 dB output at ~4' from the speaker, with peak stretches between 95 and 100 dB, so pretty much what I estimated. Obviously this volume is unpleasant and not sustainable unless you're half deaf or hosting a party, but also loud enough to hear the tweeter reach it's limit. I would be ~10' from the speakers to briefly enjoy blasted music at this volume.
That is about what I listen at for my rock out sessions which I do frequently. I have a calibrated mic and average SPL is 85-90 with 95-105db peaks. I am about 11-12 feet from each speaker and my levels are measured there - so loud indeed.
Make sure you have plenty of power. You could easily be clipping your peaks, especially peaks that correlate with low impedance areas in the speaker.
If you like this level like I do I recommend checking out some of the more expensive options. I have the M126be, JBL 4309 and JBL L82 as examples right now. All three of these speakers have tweeters that can easily handle extremely loud levels with no signs at of any hardening or change in tonality. The 4309 in particular can play extremely loud with ease. If budget is an issue the used market can be awesome.
I like that you've added a lot of colorful descriptors in there, ironic for someone on ASR focus so much on descriptive evaluation of musical reproduction quality that doesn't seem to be getting directly connected to certain measurements. Not that I disagree that speakers can be described (I did it), but in this case I think what I'm hearing *should* be possible to correlate to a measurement, even if it's "60% of listeners describe speakers as fatiguing when the tweeter's break up mode is measurably being caused by the music under test". There is some discussion of tweeter dome break up in some speaker reviews and discussions on other sites, like where a woofer's cone break-up frequency can be seen as a rise in freq response or a change in impedance, but it doesn't seem to be a regular part of Amir's or Erin's comments in their reviews. Distortion is measurable so I expect to see info on that in the reviews.
Yah, I though of about 20 more after I wrote that but for ASR what I had was likely enough.
I am slowly designing some speakers and have tried several dozen over the last few years and COVID really helped fuel that with the extra time I had.
I love measurements and respect them. That said after listening to so many speakers and quite frankly having no fanboyism or agenda other than to learn some things just don't show up in the measurements. Or they are in the measurements but are the result of several things combining and are difficult to imagine without actually hearing and pondering the real effect. Other times I have noticed folks trying to correlate things in the measurements with what they heard that IMHO don't or that even have been "proven" not to correlate well. Some times embarrassingly so (and I know not long ago I was surely doing some crazy things - likely still am)

If all we needed was measurements then a speaker could be designed without hearing it at all, and actually some companies do that now. (even Andrew Jones has done that and discussed in a video) Even if that is possible in the design phase a listener has to be able to correctly interpret data that has absolutely no meaning at all unless you have a lot of context and listening experience.

I have heard many speakers now and I agree with the other smart folks who say the measurements get you to 80some% and the rest is subjective and situational. Meaning by measurements alone you can get a pretty decent speaker. What something amazing and personally right, that 100% awesome sound? Better listen a lot and prepare to handle subjective reality with all the vulnerability and humbleness required.

We don't see IMD distortion and other types of distortion measured. Even the compression test Erin runs is a sweep which tells you nothing about how the speaker handles music with many frequencies playing at once. Harmonic distortion is thought to be shockingly benign. Even if a person thinks they can hear it at percentages that have not stood up to blind testing with music the measurement is missing all sorts of essential information and the masking of musical content is likely enormous. HD is harmonic so should simply change the tonality a little bit unless very high in % . It is likely nothing like the tonal issue of frequency response issues, the hardening of compression, the murky chaotic distortion of high IMD, the horrendous sounds of hard clipping, the myriad of room related issues.

In terms of IMD/Dopplar distortion imagine a 15" woofer moving a single millimeter with a 40hrz note and playing up to 800hrz and 6" high excursion woofer moving 10mm to move the same amount air at 40hrz and also playing up to 2.5krz. Also the possible thermal effect of 8watts being applied to the 15" to hit 98db and say 80watts to a low efficiency 6" to hit 98db.
Picking on a same song again at the same high volume, going back to Hendrix's Voodoo Child/Slight Return, the shriller peaks on the guitar at 20-30 seconds turn harsh on the JBLs, but can still be perceived as at least a little liquidy on the Sennheisers, but at equivalent volume on the headphones it's not a level you can listen at and enjoy. These notes are probably much lower - even the high notes on his guitar would be around 500 Hz as I read electric guitars only go to ~1kHz, so either it's harmonics or maybe it's actually the woofer running up to 2kHz that's bothering me. If I back the volume down so the loud stretches stay below about 90 dB things get better but earlier sessions at even lower volumes produced the fatigue so I'm not prepared to call ~90 dB a happy limit, just that the distortion is less immediately apparent.

I will try that track on a few speakers this weekend.
I will say all bets are off on the frequency range of electronic guitars, with all the variations, tunings, distortion pedals, compressors and who knows what else. The distortion pedals add a ton of harmonic's. I did a quick search and found 80-6000hrz as a good estimate of the range of electric guitars when accounting for many variables.

If you get up for trying another pair of bookshelf speakers, try the JBL 530's if you haven't yet. $240 on sale and free returns. The tweeter is far from perfect, though it is my favorite midpriced/budget priced speaker tweeter. I'd be interested to hear what you find. I deff preferred it to the A130.
 

cavedriver

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That is about what I listen at for my rock out sessions which I do frequently. I have a calibrated mic and average SPL is 85-90 with 95-105db peaks. I am about 11-12 feet from each speaker and my levels are measured there - so loud indeed.
Make sure you have plenty of power. You could easily be clipping your peaks, especially peaks that correlate with low impedance areas in the speaker.
If you like this level like I do I recommend checking out some of the more expensive options. I have the M126be, JBL 4309 and JBL L82 as examples right now. All three of these speakers have tweeters that can easily handle extremely loud levels with no signs at of any hardening or change in tonality. The 4309 in particular can play extremely loud with ease. If budget is an issue the used market can be awesome.
Not worried about clipping. The one room is running a Hypex 502MP board, so over 300 W/ch into 8 ohms, while the other room is an Onkyo 805, which is a 50 lb beast with ~130 wpc. At 90 and 91 dB the JBL's are actually fairly efficient anyways. :)
 

Jmudrick

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If you get up for trying another pair of bookshelf speakers, try the JBL 530's if you haven't yet. $240 on sale and free returns. The tweeter is far from perfect, though it is my favorite midpriced/budget priced speaker tweeter. I'd be interested to hear what you find. I deff preferred it to the A130.

As I prefer it to the A170.
 

cavedriver

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interesting, definitely closer to Erin's overall rising output trend. Definitely not +/- 1.5 dB, but seems to be within +/- 3, but with that rising trend you need some broad equalization. I think I have about 2 dB taken off from 10k up right now, seems I could do a little more.
 

ROOSKIE

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interesting, definitely closer to Erin's overall rising output trend. Definitely not +/- 1.5 dB, but seems to be within +/- 3, but with that rising trend you need some broad equalization. I think I have about 2 dB taken off from 10k up right now, seems I could do a little more.
Some folks would take the standpoint that 10k+, while quite audible and annoying in tones for most of, in music is starting to get toward the "airy" zone and is at the point where human hearing starts to become extremely non linear in terms of audibility vs required SPL. It needs to be much louder compared to the midrange even for young ears. By 20k you need very high SPL just to have a chance of hearing it in the traditional sense of hearing.*
(* I did play a very loud 20-22hrz tone around my GF. She did not hear it per say, neither of us did, but she got a bit sick to her stomach and I also had a weird feeling/sensation. I definitely think some people are sensitive to ultrasonic sounds. Of course this was a test tone and not musical stuff. She had no idea what I was doing until afterwards so no chance of psychosomatic stuff. I mean there are devices designed to keep teenagers from loitering that produce ultrasonic noises, an office downtown used one and I used to hear it audibly when I was a younger 20 something and it would make me feel sick to be around it )

In my research high frequency hearing is not super well researched in audio due to potential hearing damage.

I really think folks need to get a PEQ to explore what is what. You could for example Shave the entire frequency range off at 15k and see what happens or create all sorts of other situations.

If I was messing with these with my PEQ and that is anechoic data and hoping the directivity is decent enough I would want to flatten those small peaks at 700,1300,5000. Those all have the potential to sound a bit "bright" or peaky especially with the spacing they have and all 3 being heavily involved in music with great energy.

Drop each one by about 2db.
Then I would till the whole spectrum 200hrz - 20000hrz so it drop 1 or 1.5 db in total in an even tilt to bring it more into alignment with the 100-200hrz zone.
They maybe mess around with 10k+, but over reducing that region can suck the air and vibrancy out of the music and might even make it sound more harsh rather then less. Harsh cords with no vibrancy or spatial cues or air really bother me. Test tones are different, music has little content up here(10k+) that is usually spatial cues and when it does have content up here in force it is stuff that ought to sound intense like symbol crashes and crazy techno lasers.

Who knows...
 

CardiganB

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Amir, it’s all your fault, with that enticing review of the A130. So I have two Stages and subjected them to what testing I could to see if there were any differences worth fretting about. Bottom line, basically there were not. The A130 is IMO a terrific product, still available from Crutchfield for $200 shipped.



Both speakers’ specs can be found @ https://www.jbl.com/speakers/ The A130 is a simple two-way design; the A180 a 2.5 way. The A130 has a waveguide of 17 in^2 and is crossed over @ 3.2 kHz. The A-180’s waveguide is 31^2; the crossover to the top woofer is @ 2.0 kHz. Which woofer will start beaming earlier? Will the lower woofer of the A180 and the more complex 2.5 way crossover network create some problems the A130 is free of? I have no idea a priori; so let’s do an informal comparison.



First, any differences I heard were very subtle. Unsurprisingly, both speakers are equally good. Second, I participated in Dr AIX’s test about audible differences between Redbook recordings and high-res ones he himself had done . My score was about 45% correct. Keep that in mind about any differences I heard (or might have.)



Photos of the disposition of the Stages and REW measurements below. The graphs represent an average of 5 mic positions in my rather suboptimal 2,186 ft^3 listening room. The speakers were placed side by side as in the photo and positioned at least 3.5 ft from any wall. Tweeters a bit below ear height. These graphs don’t tell me much; a squiggle here, a squiggle there, and that’s how you do the frequency-response hokie-pokie. On the recording of Mozart’s Clarinet Quintet on the BD described below, there is a C# on the cello, about 72 Hz. It was weaker on the A-130 than the A-180. This was apparent on comparison, but in normal performance practice it would have been within the discretion of the cellist. The A-130 is an impressive speaker, still available for $200 shipped from Crutchfield and perhaps others.



Listening suggests that the A180 does better with men’s voices, notably bass-baritone Robert Holl, along with a bigger, deeper soundstage. Generally the A180 gives a bigger soundstage, and the A130 ever so slightly better dynamics. Could it be that the narrower, slightly more focused soundstage gives the impression of better dynamics? Would squeezing in the soundstage make the individual voices more prominent? The A130 also seems ever so slightly to bring out the different registers of an instrument, while the A-180 just a bit smoother.



There is one problem with these impressions: REW measures the efficiency of the A130 as 70.3 – 70.6 and the A180 as 73.0 – 73.7. I could not match up the efficiency exactly. If the A130 were 3 notches higher than the A180 it sounded a bit better. If 2 notches, not so much. This is a good indication of how similar the speakers are and the importance of level matching – and finding the precisely right volume for each individual recording, as Gordon Holt used to say.



I listen with Dirac, along with a pair of Rythmik L12 subwoofers. For these speakers I set the crossover point at 90Hz in the NAD T758v3 AVR, a fourth-order Linkwitz-Riley filter. Dirac screen below. It only operates up to 500 Hz. This should take the deep bass out of the comparison. The last track of Christian McBride’s album Getting’ to it is a very good test since his various bowings, pluckings, and uses of the bow stick and fingerboard, like consonants in speech, are all very different sounds and might reveal weaknesses of a speaker. I could not tell any consistent difference speaker to speaker. (I have heard him live, FWIW.) Another great test disk is Mark Waldrep’s Blu-Ray of Mozart clarinet and horn quintets and an early string quartet with the “Old City” (now Dover) Quartet. Get your copy while you still can. It is unadulterated 96/24. AIX records 86065. The visual element is very helpful as it primes you to expect to hear the sound of the instrument you are seeing the same way you did in live concerts. The clarinet and the horn are very different and fill a room in different ways, the horn deeper and darker. Again no or little difference in speakers. But I noticed something rather interesting. Listen to the first bit of the Clarinet Quintet and then go to the Horn Quintet. It is striking how much darker the sound atmosphere has become. Could the players have darkened their tone to blend in better with the horn? Of course. Notice that the micing and the seating of the players are different too. Could Mark Waldrep have contributed to this? Yes, of course. I mention this in part to justify listening tests, as I wonder what conceivable measurement could have picked this up.



So for me the A180s are now the main speakers and the A130s surrounds, with Dirac and a 90Hz xover . I could perhaps have reversed this, but with the A180s up front I don’t need speaker stands or have to find a spot for floor-standing surrrounds.
JBL Stage A series are a triumph of both architecture and engineering (and it should be noted, a triumph of conscience ie., is it really believable that companies with unlimited resources are not designing flawed sonics into their entry level speakers?). So.....the A130 sound quality variance is a crossover polarity error. After being disgusted long enough with the muddy effect of my RX-V1900 bass dial I decided to switch things up at the posts. That was all it took to hear what JBL thought they were selling. Mine were purchased in 2023 from JBL. Prior to this I was passing up the Yammy in favor of a preamp combo, having some luck in unwittingly correcting an errant frequency profile at my speakers. Now the Yams is back in business like never before with NEC 650 and Musical Hall 25 for spinners.
 
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Buckster

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JBL Stage A series are a triumph of both architecture and engineering (and it should be noted, a triumph of conscience ie., is it really believable that companies with unlimited resources are not designing flawed sonics into their entry level speakers?). So.....the A130 sound quality variance is a crossover polarity error. After being disgusted long enough with the muddy effect of my RX-V1900 bass dial I decided to switch things up at the posts. That was all it took to hear what JBL thought they were selling. Mine were purchased in 2023 from JBL. Prior to this I was passing up the Yammy in favor of a preamp combo, having some luck in unwittingly correcting an errant frequency profile at my speakers. Now the Yams is back in business like never before with NEC 650 and Musical Hall 25 for spinners.

do you mean you reversed the overall polarity on both speakers ? (I can't see how that would make much of a difference - except when considering the whole system but then might not have been the speakers fault) - or one was wired out of phase ?

or one of the bass or tweeters was wired up incorrectly (this would require changing at the crossover though not at the binding posts ?)
 

CardiganB

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I am not opening them up as they are stellar now. I merely swapped at the binding posts on both units and the flawed sonics that left a negative impression with many were replaced with astonishing texture and crisp treble. No more mid bass boom and the somewhat veiled vocals came out from hiding. My first thought after the transition was that JBL set out to emulate headphones and boy did they succeed.
 
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CardiganB

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It's a phase error. A130 were designed with the sonic properties of headphones but somebody screwed up bad. JBL drivers apparently are oddities in that their movement is reversed.
 

CardiganB

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Yes, this speaker's alignment is very much polarity dependent.
 
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