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JBL Stage A180 Loudspeaker Review

JBL Stage A180 Loudspeakers

The JBL Stage A180 audio system abound with options one wouldn’t anticipate on this worth vary.

The engineering that goes into most modestly-priced audio system is usually conspicuous in its absence, however from the moment you open their cartons, the JBL A180s show high quality and efficiency far past what you’d anticipate. The engineering assets of the Harman group have been utilized generously to the Stage A180s and people efforts are clearly audible.

Highlights

JBL STAGE A180 LOUDSPEAKER

  • The JBL A180 audio system embrace a crystal-clear horn-loaded tweeter
  • The bass vary might be tuneful, tight, and prolonged
  • The midrange readability provides even complicated music a really detailed presentation
  • The audio system picture properly from quite a lot of totally different positions
  • Woodgrain vinyl is out there for many who don’t look after industrial black
  • Twin-terminals with jumpers permit for bi-wiring or bi-amplification
  • Each carpet-piercing spikes and rubber ft are included
  • Elective outriggers are included

Introduction

JBL Stage A180 Loudspeakers L40s

I’ve a mushy spot in my coronary heart for JBL audio system. The very first pair of “good” loudspeakers I purchased was bought within the day when one had to decide on between “New England Sound” as personified by Acoustic Analysis audio system, or “West Coast Sound” as personified by JBLs. As a younger man in my off-campus condo, I opted for the enjoyable of the California sound, and purchased an oak pair of JBL L40 audio system (with the burnt orange grills). I nonetheless keep in mind the odor of the new-sawn cupboard wooden, the best way that the audio system spruced up the seems to be of my modest house, and the best way that my buddies and neighbors got here by to admire the audio system and luxuriate in their sound.

JBL STAGE A180 SPECIFICATIONS

Description:

2.5 means, twin 6.5″, 1″ aluminum tweeter flooring standing loudspeaker

Woofer/Midrange:

2 x 6.5″ (165mm) white polycellulose low-frequency woofers

Tweeter:

1″ (25mm) Aluminum Dome Tweeter with new Excessive Definition Imaging (HDI) Waveguide

Beneficial Amplifier Energy:

20 – 225W

Frequency Response:

40Hz – 40kHz

Sensitivity:

90dB @ 1M, 2.83V

Nominal Impedance:

6 Ohms

Crossover Frequencies:

1.4kHz, 2.0kHz

Enclosure Sort:

Bass-Reflex by way of Rear-Firing Tuned Port

Dimensions (W x D x H):

230 x 295 x 1000mm (9.1 x 11.6 x 39.four inches)

Weight:

38.03 lbs (17.25kg)

Worth:

$349.95 every (USD)

SECRETS Tags:

floor-standing speaker, jbl, tower speaker, 2018, 2.5 method, Audio system Review 2018

Linkbacks

I’m completely satisfied to say that in any case these years, the thrill of the “JBL sound” continues to be with us. In fact, the JBL Stage A180 tower audio system are technically much better than my L40s have been, and in each approach. The A180’s horn tweeters lack the brightness peak of the sooner JBLs, the midrange is extra refined, and the bass extends far deeper. And better of all, adjusted for inflation, I feel that the brand new A180 towers truly value much less!

Design and Setup

The JBL Stage A180 tower loudspeakers got here in bins with delivery injury (no shock, and no fault of JBL – ALL shippers appear to wreck about 50% of all giant packages). However regardless of the broken bins, the JBL Stage A180 audio system inside have been in good situation. This was my first indication that Harman Worldwide used greater than the standard diligence within the design and packing of their audio system.

And I need to say that I used to be pleasantly stunned by the cool white woofers, harking back to the basic JBL L-100 studio screens!

JBL Stage A180 Loudspeakers L100s

The subsequent shock I received was when attaching the outriggers to the underside of the audio system. Most producers, together with these whose audio system promote for 10 occasions or extra the worth of the JBL A180s, present a flat outrigger that have to be aligned with the holes on the underside of the speaker earlier than attachment. The JBLs, nevertheless have a slight round indentation routed into the speaker backside the place the attachment bolts are to go, and the plastic outriggers have an identical raised round floor that “catches” within the speaker backside. This not solely supplies straightforward and listed alignment, but in addition good centering for beginning the attachment bolts of their holes. It’s a small comfort, however it’s indicative of the additional design care utilized by JBL for these A180 audio system.

JBL Stage A180 Loudspeakers Outriggers

The JBL Stage A180 audio system additionally supply twin speaker-wire binding posts with detachable jumpers between the terminals. Which means the jumpers could be eliminated ought to one want to bi-wire or bi-amplify the audio system. The terminals are well-made and have brightly coloured pink and black thumbscrews, making certain that the speaker wires gained’t by chance be put in out of part, even in dim mild.

The JBL 1” metal-dome tweeter resides in a shallow horn (or a “High Definition Imaging Waveguide,” in JBL-speak) for higher dispersion. And this tweeter is among the main strengths of the JBL Stage A180 speaker. Many “audiophiles” flip their noses up at horn-loaded tweeters, considering of them as solely good for public-address and “mid-fi” use. Nevertheless, a number of the costliest audio system on the earth, particularly the Magico Final III ($600,000 per pair, until they’ve gone up once more since I checked) use horn tweeters. And I’ve but to satisfy any “audiophile” who claims that these Magico audio system are “mid-fi.”

I’ve all the time favored the sound of horn-loaded tweeters myself, together with the antediluvian Electro-Voice T-35. These tweeters produce a extra lifelike brass cymbal sound than do the overwhelming majority of metallic dome tweeters. The latter typically appear to have an excessive amount of excessive treble “air” and never sufficient lower-treble emphasis, though a lot of that notion may be resonances (pay attention to only about any metal-dome-tweeter to listen to this impact).

The horns within the JBL Stage A180 audio system get the treble proper. They hit precisely the candy spot between horn articulation / accuracy and horn brightness. The dispersion is outstanding, and the treble is properly balanced from nearly any affordable listening place or speaker orientation within the room.

The bass of the JBL Stage A180 audio system is harder to characterize. When powered by my (usually impartial) Arcam FMJ AVR550 receiver of roughly 100 watts per channel, the audio system sounded very, very outstanding within the bass and never terribly tight. I attempted shifting the audio system towards and away from the again wall, however in every location, the heavy bass was nonetheless evident.

I then related the A180s to my Emotiva XPA-2 (era three) energy amplifier, with out altering their room positions, and immediately the bass growth disappeared whereas the audio system have been now considerably extra able to resolving bass notes’ pitch definitions. However with these enhancements got here a noticeable lack of low-bass. The truth is, with the Emotiva amplifier, I opted to additionally hearth up my PowerSound Audio subwoofer. It offered the bass that the Emotiva-JBL combo lacked. Don’t get me improper – in a smaller room the Emotiva-JBL combo could be an ideal match, however in my largish listening room, that pairing simply sounded barely bass-thin.

I speculate that the A180 could also be considerably extra delicate to amplification than most of the different audio system I’ve reviewed. Notice additionally that I make this remark even though I usually pay attention at considerably decrease volumes than most.

The JBL Stage A180 audio system additionally include each rubber ft and spikes. Both of those may be hooked up on to the bottoms of the audio system or inserted within the (provided) outriggers for larger stability.

JBL Stage A180 Loudspeakers Rubber Feet

JBL Stage A180 Loudspeakers Carpet Spikes

My assessment pair of audio system was completed in Industrial Black, however a woodgrain choice is accessible that I contemplate much more engaging.

JBL Stage A180 Loudspeakers Woodgrain Finish

There’s additionally a suitable group of JBL encompass sound gear together with middle channel, encompass, and subwoofer choices to match the A180 do you have to want to mix the stereo and residential theater features.

JBL Stage A180 Loudspeakers Home Theater System

Related gear used on this evaluate:

  • Apple Mac Mini used as a music server and with an exterior USB drive the place the music resides
  • jRiver Media Middle 24 software program with jRemote on an iPad for management
  • Mytek Liberty DAC
  • Emotiva Stealth DC-1 DAC (used as a DAC & preamplifier)
  • Arcam FMJ AVR550 AV-receiver (used as receiver & preamplifier)
  • Wharfdale Evolution 40 loudspeakers (occasional comparability)
  • Thiel 1.6 loudspeakers on customized Birks-Place stands (occasional comparability)
  • PowerSound Audio S3601 twin 18” sealed subwoofer
  • RL Audio middle channel speaker (films solely)
  • Audioquest wiring (principally)
  • Room Equalization Wizard (REW) software program for measurements

Designer Feedback

I had the chance to contact Mr. An Nguyen, one of many designers of the JBL Stage A180 loudspeakers. He revealed to me that JBL carried out double-blind listening checks to match the Stage collection audio system to rivals of their worth class. Profitable this in-house competitors was thought-about a main design aim for the A180s, and Mr. Nguyen said that they thought-about the objective met. Would that each one producers took such a comparability under consideration for high quality management of their merchandise!

When requested concerning the “2.5-way design,” Mr. Nguyen stated, “In the 2-way design, the two mid-bass/woofers are on until the crossover frequency to the tweeter (is reached). This design would save cost in the crossover network (fewer components), but this design would not yield a smooth sound power and directivity at a given crossover point. In the 2.5-way design, the lower woofer would be turned off early and the upper woofer would be turned off at crossover point to the tweeter. By doing so, at lower frequency, two woofers are working to produce low frequency, and only one woofer is producing mid-frequency at and near crossover point. At a given crossover point, there is only one woofer working which helps to reduce beaming effect and smooths out the sound power and directivity. This design would cost more since it requires more components in crossover network.”

And eventually, I requested concerning the tweeter design, that appeared to me to exceed the efficiency of different horn-loaded tweeters that I’ve heard. Mr. Nguyen replied “The waveguide technology in the A180 is derived from our HDI (High Definition Imaging) waveguide/horn technology in the our JBL M2 studio monitor system (from our JBL professional division). It has a wide coverage angle (120 degrees horizontal) and also helps to smooth out the transition between woofer to tweeter. The tweeter is a conventional design with Neo magnet and Aluminum diaphragm. Since the waveguide helps to increase efficiency at and near crossover point, the tweeter/waveguide assembly does not require a lot of power to play loudly, which yields low power compression and better dynamics in music and movies.”

In Use

In contrast to many audio system that I’ve tried just lately, the JBL Stage A180s simply didn’t very similar to my Arcam FMJ AVR550 receiver. I do know it’s an actual winner with most different audio system, however it one way or the other didn’t gel with the JBLs. The Arcam’s DAC and preamp sounded inferior to each the Mytek Liberty DAC and the Emotiva Stealth DC-1 DAC. Because the DC-1 has its personal preamp, I ultimately did most of my listening utilizing the Emotiva as a DAC/preamp mixture regardless of that, to my ears, the Mytek Liberty sounded marginally higher.

In fact, for encompass sound and films, the Arcam was indispensable and carried out with its standard verve. I discover that when my visible sense is being stimulated, the audio is much less critically perceived than it might be have been I listening to “just” stereo.

Bass

JBL Stage A180 Loudspeakers Cello CD

Charlie Rasmussen “Joseph-Marie-Clément Dall’Abaco – 11 Caprices”
One among my favourite bass-quality check CDs is the terribly well-recorded “Joseph-Marie-Clément Dall’Abaco – 11 Caprices” by cellist Charlie Rasmussen on Centaur Data’ CRC-3649. If the instrument doesn’t sound as if it’s within the room with you, there’s one thing improper together with your system. You may as well hear any peaks or dips within the response of your system.

Offered that your room is able to producing clean bass, this music may be intoxicating. The JBL Stage A180s did an satisfactory job with the Arcam AVR driving them, however actually got here into their very own with the Emotiva XPA-2 energy amplifier. I couldn’t say why the distinction was so radical with the JBL audio system, however there it’s.

With suitable amplification, the JBL Stage A180 audio system crammed my giant room with punchy, articulate, and pitch-perfect bass. I feared that the 2 6.5” woofers would lack enough output, however they stunned me with their capabilities at each decrease and better volumes, given the suitable amplification.

And since solely one of many two woofers is lively within the midrange, I had considerations that I’d be capable of hear the crossovers the place the “bass-only” driver handed off to the “bass-and-midrange” one. Nope. Attempt as I’d, the transition was inaudible.

Treble

JBL Stage A180 Loudspeakers Twisted Sister

Twisted Sister “We’re Not Going To Take It!”
A favourite for cymbal veracity is the Twisted Sister anthem “We’re Not Going To Take It!” The “brass” of the cymbal on this specific minimize ought to put you entrance stage with completely little question as to the best way the cymbal “rides over” the roar of the singers and amps. I’ve heard comparable music performed over a much more costly system (demoed at a regional audio salon) consisting of a Wadia DAC, Audio Analysis preamp with tube mono-block amps, and B&W audio system.

The cymbals have been pathetic. There have been loads of excessive frequency overtones, however the system badly missed the brass fundamentals. Once I inform you that the modestly-priced JBLs stomp everywhere in the fancier rig on this area, you need to consider it! And the Stage A180 treble goodness was constant whatever the amplifier I used. Bravo JBL!

Midrange

JBL Stage A180 Loudspeakers Pentangle

Pentangle “Light Flight”
I like complicated music to see if a speaker system can separate out the totally different melodic strains. Certainly one of my favourite check discs for midrange separation is two-disc launch of The Pentangle’s “Light Flight” anthology on the “Castle Music” label (CMDDD1283). The music produced by the Pentangle is usually complicated and until audio system have distinctive resolving energy, the presentation can devolve into “audio mush.”

I’m completely happy to say that the JBL Stage A180s have been exceptionally good at resolving element and permitting one to “hear into the recording.”

Imaging

This was one other space the place the JBLs stunned me. I attempted the audio system with their backs parallel to the again wall, with the audio system toed in towards the listener at quite a lot of angles, and even with the face of the audio system barely toed out from the listener! It doesn’t matter what I attempted, the audio system imaged properly and though they lacked the “holographic” soundstage that I’ve heard from some point-source radiators (such because the KEF LS50), the imaging was higher than nearly all of audio system that I’ve heard. Would they carry out as properly in a room that was not symmetrical from proper to left? In all probability not, however that’s what room correction software program is for. For my listening, by the best way, I did NOT incorporate any correction or frequency equalization.

JBL Stage A180 Loudspeakers Movies

Films

As soon as once more, I selected the award-winning La La Land for its clear soundtrack and Arrival for its fabled low-frequency results. The JBL Stage A180 audio system (even and not using a subwoofer) delivered the clear and intelligible sound that I anticipated from La La Land and the thundering bass that I anticipated from Arrival and not using a hitch. The JBLs additionally blended gracefully with my (non-JBL) middle channel speaker and surrounds.

Weaknesses

As talked about earlier than, the bass efficiency of the audio system assorted greater than standard relying on the amplifier used. I wouldn’t say that this was essentially a “weakness,” however I might say that an audition prior to buy (ideally with the amplifier that you simply’re planning to make use of) is perhaps prudent.

A second artifact that was sometimes noticeable was that, whereas some recordings had correct “presence,” different recordings sounded as if the singers have been barely farther again within the soundstage than they need to be. Is that this an artifact of the recordings, or of the audio system? To check the idea, I attempted two different pairs of audio system (the Wharfdales and the Thiels) with the identical recordings. The Thiels very not often displayed the “recessed vocalists” artifact that I might inform, whereas the Wharfdales did barely extra steadily, however nonetheless not as typically as did the A180s. Go determine! I’d perhaps once more attribute this to system matching, however because the impact just isn’t frequent and could be very minor, I’m prepared to disregard it. And in any case, such artifacts are widespread, to at least one extent or one other, with most ANY speaker, no matter worth.

On The Bench

To guage the JBL’s frequency response, I used a calibrated UMIK-1 microphone and “Room Equalization Wizard” software program, the next curves have been completed with the mic one meter from the entrance of the audio system (grills off), and on the vertical and horizontal middle of the cupboards.

JBL Stage A180 Loudspeakers Frequency Response

JBL Stage A180 Loudspeakers Phase Response

Viewing the curves, I might conclude that the speaker has good bass extension with audible output as little as 35Hz. There appears to be a slight resonance band within the tweeter at about 17KHz. This isn’t uncommon for metallic dome tweeters and isn’t audible when listening to music.

Conclusions

The JBL STUDIO A180 TOWER LOUDSPEAKERS characterize a mix of 1970s enjoyable and 2018 know-how. Aggressive with some other speaker in its worth vary!

Likes

  • Development is best than most, particularly at this worth level
  • Treble is best than anticipated, rivaling ribbons for readability
  • Outriggers are included
  • Each rubber ft and spikes are included

Would Like To See

  • Some strategy to scale back and tighten the bass for smaller rooms
  • Magnetic grills as an alternative of the post-and-hole mounting
  • Extra end choices (though the wooden vinyl does look engaging)

How Harman Worldwide manages to pack a lot audio goodness into the JBL Stage A180 audio system for therefore modest a worth simply amazes me. The approximate $1,000/pair worth vary of the loudspeaker world is turning into increasingly crowded. And I’ve but to listen to a bad-sounding pair of audio system on this class. However regardless of that, the reality stays that not a single pair of $1K audio system sounds the identical as some other. Delicate variations abound. However the particular virtues of the JBLs can’t be ignored. Their wonderful treble and skill to play cleanly and loudly even in giant rooms have to be thought-about.

The 2 greatest audio system that I’ve heard within the $1K per pair vary thus far can be the Emotiva T2 audio system and these JBL Stage A180s. A slight benefit to the Emotivas for his or her unbelievable ribbon tweeter and midrange element, however a slight benefit to the JBLs for his or her worth. You possibly can’t go mistaken both approach!

I’d additionally level out that the JBL-branded audio system are typically discounted by retailers, so the listing worth could be bettered by considered purchasing.

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