I’ve reviewed two of JBL‘s hi-fi audio system earlier than, the L82 and L100 Basic — audio system I loved for his or her nice sound and retro aesthetics. Over the previous month or two, I’ve been in a position to take a look at one of many firm’s extra forward-looking audio system, the $1,800 HDI-1600. After placing it by way of its paces in my lounge and the take a look at bench, it’s clear the HDI deserves its spot within the crowded $2,000 value bracket.
The HDI-1600 is a bookshelf speaker with a 6.5-inch woofer for the lows and a 1-inch compression driver quite than your typical dome tweeter dealing with the highs. A compression driver is theoretically in a position to play louder than a normal tweeter with much less distortion, nevertheless it requires a rigorously designed waveguide or horn to form the sound. So That fancy-looking trim across the compression driver is not only a design flourish — it makes essential contributions to the speaker’s tonality and soundstage.
Talking of design, the HDI-1600 isn’t actually my cup of tea, what with its ‘squircle’ form and plastic trims. Aesthetics are clearly private, however I’d not less than wish to see some extra selection in selections for various properties. A lightweight wooden or white end, as an illustration, would go an extended solution to making the audio system be a greater match for my condo. The everyday walnut veneer seems to be ‘outdated’ in my e book and shiny black is overused and drab. The gray oak shade stands out not less than, however I really feel prefer it requires a really explicit aesthetic to work in.
General, the design doesn’t actually appear all that worthy of the worth tag, nor do the seems to be stand out for the retro-ness as with the L82 and L100. I do not less than like that deep waveguide although. And aesthetic opposition apart, the speaker is hefty and does really feel solidly made.
After all, one buys costly audio system primarily for his or her sound, and the HDI-1600 delivers in spades. Out of the field, the prevailing impression is one in all neutrality — virtually every thing simply sounds ‘proper.’ To me, that’s what defines a fantastic speaker: not ‘exuberant’ highs, a ‘luscious’ midrange, ‘quick’ bass, or no matter poetic superlatives we audiophiles like to pin on audio system.
A really nice speaker simply lets the recording shine with out getting in the way in which, and the HDI-1600 principally does simply that. Within the case of the HDI-1600, there have been simply two deviations from impartial that stood out to me.
The bass response was barely boosted, so in the event you’re not utilizing room correction, you would possibly need to watch out about positioning these close to partitions, which can additional reinforce the bass. However generally, I truly discover that is typically a great factor with bookshelf audio system — it helps ‘fill out’ the underside finish, as few bookshelf audio system lengthen all the way in which into the sub-bass. The enhance additionally helps the HDI-1600 attain right down to 40Hz (-6dB) anechoically, and in my expertise, the speaker nonetheless has audible vitality into the 30s in my room.
That is truly among the many finest bass efficiency I’ve seen from a passive bookshelf speaker, and although I all the time suggest including a subwoofer to the speaker setup if doable, the HDI-1600 fares higher than most with out one.
The opposite, smaller element that stood out to me was that the speaker appeared to lack a bit little bit of sparkle or ‘shimmer’ in its prime octave. It will in all probability solely be noticeable if you’re a youthful listener and may nonetheless hear properly above 10kHz, nevertheless it was noticeable to me as I switched between the HDI-1600 and the Focal Chora 806 that’s my traditional reference.
Tonality apart, the HDI-1600 has standout soundstage and imaging efficiency. It’s notably good at sustaining a secure ‘phantom heart,’ that candy phantasm of getting a singer or instrument float between the 2 audio system. The soundstage is just not notably large, however width and ‘sharpness’ are sometimes a tradeoff. I personally are likely to lean in direction of one thing a bit wider, as is discovered within the L82, however the instrument separation and general sense of realism on the HDI-1600 is superb.
Lastly, the HDI-1600 maybe differentiated itself most from competing audio system with its dynamics. Reality be advised, I’m in all probability not even the perfect purchaser for this speaker — it actually shines at loud volumes when different bookshelf audio system begin to wrestle, and I very hardly ever pay attention all that loud.
It sounds simply pretty much as good at affordable SPLs, however the few occasions I made a decision to hazard annoying my neighbors, the audio system didn’t appear anyplace close to straining — a possible advantage of the compression driver.
What the information says
Though I usually hearken to audio system earlier than placing it on the take a look at bench, it’s price noting that within the case of the HDI-1600, I had already seen some measurements for the audio system, so it’s doable my impressions have been coloured by these. Nonetheless, my listening impressions are backed up by my very own measured knowledge.
Beneath, you’ll see a form of graph known as a ‘spinorama,’ so-named as a result of creating it includes rotating a speaker to seize its sound at 70 angles. That is necessary as a result of what we hear in a speaker is not only the direct sound, but additionally the sound that bounces off our partitions. Distinctive audio system may have a flattish direct sound, which adjustments easily as its efficiency is captured additional off-axis.
The Spinorama summarizes a speaker’s on-axis and off-axis sound in a single graph, serving to us separate the great audio system from the unhealthy ones. The HDI-1600 is an efficient one:
- The On-Axis (Inexperienced) and Listening Window (White) curves symbolize the ‘direct’ sound of the speaker earlier than any reflections, and they need to be comparatively flat. The On-Axis is measured with the speaker aimed immediately on the microphone, whereas the Listening Window is a median of 9 measurements inside a ±30° horizontal ±10° vertical window. This accounts for the actual fact most individuals don’t sit completely nonetheless or centered, so it’s typically the extra necessary of the 2. As the primary and loudest sounds to reach at our ears, the direct sound has a big impact on our notion of tonality.
- The remainder of the curves deal with the oblique, or ‘off-axis’ sound — the sound that can replicate off your partitions. The Early Reflections curve (blue, prime) is especially necessary, as it’s a median of a number of angles that estimate the very first bounces off your partitions, flooring, and ceiling to succeed in your ears. These reflections contribute considerably to our impressions of tonality and soundstage (the latter being notably affected by horizontal reflections).
- The ER curve ought to typically tilt down a couple of dB from 20Hz to 20kHz; how a lot will depend upon the speaker’s directivity traits. An important factor is that its form roughly matches the direct sound, indicating the mirrored sounds are comparable in character to the direct sound.
- The Sound Energy curve (crimson, prime) represents a median of the speaker‘s sound in all instructions. It’s not as helpful as the opposite curves for audio system that principally radiate sound ahead, nevertheless it ought to typically seem like a good steeper model of the ER curve.
- The Predicted In-Room Response curve (purple) estimates how a speaker will measure in an actual room by combining knowledge from the LW, ER, and SP curves. It’s, in a manner, a refinement of the ER curve. For almost all of audio system, the PIR curve seems to be very much like the Early Reflections curve however tilting a tiny bit extra, so it’s typically omitted.
- The Directivity Index (crimson, backside) and Early Reflections DI (blue, backside) curves inform us how comparable the off-axis sound is to the direct sound. These are calculated by subtracting the Sound Energy and Early Reflections curves from the Listening Window, respectively. Easy DI curves recommend the off-axis and direct are comparable, which bodes properly for the soundstage. Good DI curves additionally indicate a speaker will reply properly to equalization.
- Although not a normal a part of the Spinorama, the Horizontal ERDI curve (yellow) consists of solely the horizontal part of the ERDI curve. This permits us to separate a speaker’s horizontal and vertical directivity, as the previous is crucial for soundstage efficiency. This needs to be a easy line.
- Bumps that persist by way of all the highest curves are indications of resonances — artifacts that may adversely shade the sound.
- You typically don’t have to fret about what occurs above 10kHz, as most individuals can’t hear a lot up there and music tends to have little content material on this area anyway.
The HDI-1600 demonstrates wonderful efficiency all through.
The on-axis and listening window curves development in direction of flat, hinting on the impartial tonality I heard. Likewise, you’ll be able to see the marginally elevated bass round 100Hz and a dip within the response between 9 kHz and 15 kHz, possible the trigger for the slight lack of ‘sparkle’ I described. There’s a slight scoop within the higher bass and decrease mids, however I can’t say I observed it in my room. Your mileage could fluctuate.
Likewise, the anticipated in-room response tilts down whereas sustaining the same general form because the direct sound, suggesting that tonality is maintained listening in a typical lounge setup, and whereas the ERDI curve will get a bit jagged round 1-3kHz, the Horizontal ERDI stays easy, predicting the spectacular soundstage efficiency I discussed earlier.
The spinorama tells us most of what we have to know, however I wish to look extra deeply on the horizontal efficiency. Right here is the response from 0 to 90 levels:
That is principally wonderful efficiency; we are able to see how the response form principally adjustments easily with every 10-degree increment.
For the speaker nerds, the gallery under consists of quite a lot of different directivity measurements, principally additional breakdowns of horizontal and vertical directivity. Specifically, not how properly managed many of the vertical directivity is, regardless of the speaker not utilizing a coaxial driver.
JBL does it once more
The HDI-1600 carried out admirably in each listening and measured exams. At $1,800, its biggest downside is that audiophiles are already spoiled for alternative within the $1000-2000 value bracket with such nice choices because the KEF R3 and LS50 Meta, Buchardt S400, Polk L200, and Focal Chora 806 providing worthy challenges.
However I’m not complaining — it’s a reasonably nice time to be an audio fanatic. Although the aesthetics aren’t proper for me, HDI-1600 stands out for its soundstage prowess, deep bass extension, and implausible dynamics, and needs to be a very compelling choice in the event you wish to pay attention loud. If these are qualities you’re searching for in a speaker, the HDI-1600 needs to be close to the highest of your checklist.
Do you know we’ve got a e-newsletter all about shopper tech? –
and you can subscribe to it right here.
Printed April 5, 2021 — 22:39 UTC