As most of you know, I had a pair of one the world’s most expensive speakers in my demo room at the AXPONA 2014 show in Chicago. It turned out to be a great thing and problematic at the same time. There were plenty of attendees that made their way to the Madison Ballroom to experience what was billed as “one of the most expensive demonstration setups ever assembled”. And it probably was. I certainly heard from a large number of people that visited the room because they heard about the price tag. They sat and listened to the AIX Records tracks and left with an opinion.
The folks that sat in the sweet spot were very favorably impressed. One visitor posted the following at the Stereophile website:
“AIX records, again, had one of the most impressive displays of product. The views of Mr. Waldrep again educated and elucidated the points of the debate on the past, present, and future of recorded media for music playback.
[NOTE: I must say that I prefer “educated and elucidated” a whole lot more than “egregious presentation”…and “harangued” as stated by Jonathan Valin.]
…Finally, I compliment Mr. Waldrep on presenting his music at a realistic and sane volume level. Far too many Axpona exhibits are in a volume arms race. I curtailed visits to, or avoided completely, the rooms where excessive volume, possibly at ear-damaging levels, degraded the experience.”
Others were less enthusiastic about the sound of our room.
But hearing the JBL M2 Reference Monitors during my visit to Harman at 10% the cost of the German Physiks speakers we had in Chicago, got me thinking about what dedicated audiophiles should look for in a speaker. Is it really worth spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on exotic speakers and amplifiers, when the studios that produce the music don’t use that type of equipment?
My studio is an exception to the rule when it comes to speakers. I have a Bryston 9B amplifier driving a matched set of B&W 801 Matrix III speakers. I love the sound of my room…and I’ve had other prominent engineers rave over the sound. But I made a conscious choice to equip my mixing room with consumer speakers rather than studio speakers. The other studio in the building has a 7.1 set of PMC speakers, for example.
Unless your prime criteria for speakers includes beautiful piano finishes, unusual industrial design and paying for the very expensive advertising campaigns that promote them, I would highly recommend that you avoid the usual brands one finds at audio trade shows. Why not think about getting the same equipment that the mixing and mastering engineers use?
If there is a trend to provide end user’s with playback “as the artist intended”, then it makes sense to use the same gear that was used when the artists heard their album, right? And I can guarantee you, they didn’t hear their mixes on Wilson, Magico, German Physiks or B&W speakers.
The M2 speakers that I experienced during my time at Harman were absolutely incredible! I’m looking forward to getting a pair in my own studio and take a listen to my own recordings. Dr. Sean E. Olive played a variety of tracks (including Nora Jones) from a Mac Laptop through a USB connection to a Benchmark DAC1 and then to a set of Crown amplifiers. The sound was crystal clear, very dynamic and well balanced from the extreme low end through the top. This is the “absolute sound”.
JBL Professional Products shouldn’t restrict their marketing efforts to professional studios and post production facilities. These speakers would best anything that I’ve ever heard regardless of price. I’m hoping to have a set here at the studio and perhaps next year at the AXPONA 2015 show. I’ve already seen the room that we’ll have and there will be more room than ever!