JBL LSR305 by changeng
I came reeeeel close to getting the Equator five inchers with all the hubba-hubba this forum gives those things, then suddenly last week someone started screeching ecstatic about some new JBL's. Well, HEY! I'm a sucker for a good screech, and since the JBL's were $100 cheaper than the Equators, excelsior! Spend $300 instead of $400? You betcha!
So here they are. They are smaller than I thought (7 1/4 " W, 11 3/4" H, 9 1/4" D), which is fine. Actually, smaller than the Tascam VL-X5 pair these will replace. And on top of that, no real manual, just a quick start guide (yeah, I know - you don't NEED a manual for monitors, but I like to read).
At first they confused me. I've been using the Mackie's for about four years now and they always sounded a little congested to me. Sure, they have some bottom, but the highs were always kinda eh and well, I could get decent mixes out of them, but... time for something new.
The reason the JBL's confused me was because they first sounded REEELY piercing on the top end and WIDE. Much wider than the Mackies. As they settled in a bit, the piercing top subsided. I put on the Beach Boys' SMiLE album, since it has such a wide range of instruments and was recorded so well (at least for its time) and A/B'd for an hour.
No question - even though the Mackies' woofers are six inches and the JBLs are five, the JBL has more bass response AND it's sharper. SMiLE uses lots of contrabass, which sort of disappears in the Mackies. They are there in the JBLs - there's more pluck - more definition to the lower end.
There is also more definition in the upper frequencies - maybe too much. I made sure the HF switch on the back wasn't flipped to +2dB. I started thinking these things may have a built-in "smiley curve" eq. So when I switched back to the Mackies and noticed they were suddenly very two-dimensional. Sort of like that same 2-D sound you get using cheap console preamps. Don't get me wrong - they're very useable and can get the mix done - however the old cliche "lifting a veil off the sound" is true here when switching back to the JBLs. While the Mackies are supposed to be ruler-flat and really emphasize the midrange (at least mine do), that midrange is very *flat* sounding. Things jump out at you on the JBLs - the extra vocal bits from Heroes and Villains really show they were recorded on different days when listening on the JBLs; this should be a great advantage when blending tracks together.
The JBLs at first give the appearance of being top-driven and bottom spunky; once you settle in with them, you'll notice a very wide, clear midrange - you can step into these monitors. You can clearly hear the rooms the separate SMiLE bits were recorded in as well as the different applications of plate verb Brian was using. My apartment requires me to mix at lower levels (sometimes I briefly turn up loud just so my neighbors know I CAN) and even at the lowest levels, the JBLs translate clarity and 3-D-ishnessicity. Are they as round as their 8 inch big brothers? Of course not - however in a small studio setting (mine is 12' X 15') they get as low as you need, provided you have at least SOME room treatment. If you're doing a bunch of sub-bass work, you'll probably feel better getting a subwoofer - the lows are THERE, but they won't rattle your cattle. They're five inch woofers ferpetesake! Get a grip!
I ran several 40 Hz test tones, both constant and pulsing at my typical good-neighbor-apartment-level mixing volume (geez I hope I didn't hurt these things). At a certain point, they will break up - THEY'RE FIVE INCH WOOFERS. The Mackies held out longer with a slightly higher volume (being 6 inch woofers), but not by much. The difference between the two bore out what I've already heard; the Mackies go slightly lower and are rounder and "fluffier" down there (you could call it "woolly" too), but the JBLs retain a sharper edge down below. The 40 Hz is there, but I wouldn't use these things to pimp your next basement rave. I was impressed by how they handled the 40 Hz sine wave - ALTHOUGH it was on it's tippy toes to do so.
Considering that I've been using the Mackies for 4 years and the JBLs for ONE HOUR, I have to say I'm really impressed with the JBLs. Once they break in, I imagine that high end shrillness I initially noted (which is already loosening up) will mellow nicely. I probably should have gotten the 8 inch woofers in retrospect, but for my room, these are Swellsville. If you've been thinking about new 5 inch monitors, these are exemplary.
EDIT: For aesthetic reasons, I decided to put the JBL's on their sides, tweeters on the outside and woofers on the inside. It's a shock that this has only slightly dampened the sweetspot these things provide.