The inexpensive Studio series represents fine value for money

Not for the first time with inexpensive JBLs, we wonder how – if – they can possibly turn a profit. The Studio 190 offers outstanding value. In most respects this speaker represents familiar fare for a modern floorstander: the cabinet is a conventional tall, narrow box with rather resonant side panels; and the bass is reflex-loaded via a single rear-firing port.

   The Weave design of the front baffle JBL calls ‘bold and dynamic’, and that appears to be the sum of its purpose – to catch the eye rather than influence the sound. Its angular plastic mouldings could have a deleterious sonic effect, by adding reflective surfaces near the tweeter, but for the fact that the tweeter’s horn is a constant directivity bi-radial design, which probably narrows its horizontal spread. The tweeter itself is a 25mm dome using JBL’s CMMD Lite material, despite which our measurements show it displays a high-Q resonance within the audio band. This crosses over at 3.2kHz to a 100mm midrange driver with PolyPlas doped-cellulose fibre cone which, according to spec, works down to 800Hz where it crosses over to the two 165mm PolyPlasconed bass drivers, mounted much lower down the baffle.

   Our measurements show that these two drivers operate in parallel throughout their passband, while the midrange driver is only stepped down at 800Hz, contributing significantly until around 200Hz, below which it is rolled off more emphatically. Both crossovers are specified as being firstorder, 6dB per octave networks, suggesting that phase distortion through crossover should be low. Conventional wisdom has it that typical crossover phase distortion is inaudible, yet we find that welldesigned speakers with first-order networks often have a certain something about their sound.

   Four attached rubber feet are for use on hard floors. Their securing bolts are threaded internally for spikes; these can penetrate carpet to provide a firm foundation.

BASS HEFT

With the 190s turned outwards from the listening seat by about 15° we found they took on an appreciably warmer, fuller tonal balance and the stereo image filled out too. Any further and the sound was dulled. Although the treble still sounded less than fully resolved on cymbals and vocal sibilants, the fault was more of omission than commission and after a while we adapted to it.

   We also tried replacing the input terminals’ metal shorting bars with wire links from The Chord Company. This brought an improvement in clarity and crispness that also had a beneficial effect on rhythmical pulse. We used the HDtracks 24/96 download version of ‘Country Dreamer’ from Band On The Run for this comparison.

  The track also highlighted the 190’s extended bass. This speaker delves a good deal deeper into the lower octaves than many similarly dimensioned floorstanders of twice the price. What’s more, the 190’s bass is quite alert and responsive. JBL has traded off sensitivity to achieve this extra bass heft.

VERDICT

The JBL Studio 190 is a highvalue product. It delivers a lot of hardware for its asking price, and those components have been sufficiently skilfully combined to produce a sound matching that of many more expensive floorstanders of the same general format. All you need to do is align it a little off-axis, and replace those metal links.

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Originally published in the Yearbook 2011