This review examines the performance of the JWM Acoustics Alyson AML loudspeaker designed as a reference level transducer.

Designer Joshua Miles has succeeded on many levels in creating the Alyson AML and bestowing on it a seductive, lovely voice that sweeps the listener away to joyful late-night listening sessions.

JWM Acoustics Alyson Tweeter

Highlights

JWM Acoustics Alyson AML Loudspeaker

  • Alyson AML features Custom, hand -built drivers
  • Exotic wood species for cabinet
  • Hybrid Band-pass/Transmission line cabinet loading
  • Pure silver solders
  • Custom stands included with Alyson AML
  • Modified D’Appolito driver alignment

JWM Acoustics Alyson Mids and Tweeter

Introduction

The JWM Acoustics Alyson AML is a transducer designed to serve as a reference for sound engineers and discerning music lovers. JWM Acoustics hand crafts each speaker, and every component of the design is individually checked for superior performance. The Alyson began as a true monitor for recording engineers, but the design has been re-done for home music listening. The original Alyson was front ported so it could be accommodated in a recording studio monitoring booth. For home use the port has been set to the rear of the speaker. The design is the culmination of designer Joshua Miles 30 years of building speakers for bands, home audio, and pro audio use. JWM Acoustics is a small company located in Hawaii, and Austin, Texas.

JWM Acoustics Alyson Back

JWM Acoustics Alyson on Stand

JWM ACOUSTICS LOUDSPEAKER REVIEW SPECIFICATIONS
Frequency Response:

35-35,000Htz

Short term max. power:

600 Watts

Long term max. power:

450 Watts

X-Over frequency:

2,500Htz

Impedance:

4 Ohms

Sensitivities:

89dB SPL

Recommended amplifier:

40-400 Watts

Dimensions:

H: 22 7/8” Speaker on Top of Stand 46”
W: Front of baffle 8.1/2” Cabinet: 9 3/8”
D: 16 1/2”

Speaker stand base:

13 ½” W X 21” D

JWM Acoustics Alyson MSRP:

$8200-$8500 depending on finish. (Includes stands)

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JWM Acoustics, Alyson, Loudspeaker, Speaker Reviews 2017

Links to other material on Secrets Site

JWN Acoustics Karen 6 Turntable Review

Design

The JWM Alyson AML is a two-way design utilizing a modified 1 inch Scanspeak tweeter and two 7.5” Scanspeak midrange/bass drivers. I have favored two way designs in the past for the coherence that they offer. With a two-way the speaker has less drivers to blend, less complex crossovers are needed, and the result is usually a more natural reproduction of sound.

The drivers are mounted in a D’Appolito alignment on the baffle. I asked Joshua Miles about the off-set tweeter. He said that during the design stage of the speaker, he was not happy with the way the drivers were blending. When he tried moving the tweeter closer to one edge he found that he not only liked the way the speaker drivers blended, but he found that he improved the soundstage as well. This happened by placing the loudspeakers with the tweeters to the inside of center. The diffraction from the outside edge gave a wider soundstage to the sound.

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The drivers are sourced from Scanspeak in kit form and Joshua hand assembles the drivers to his spec. With careful craftsmanship Joshua can maximize the basic driver design and shape it to the sound he desires. His crossovers are hand-tuned for his finished drivers and cabinet.

During one of the visits I had with Joshua Miles he explained how he designs the crossovers and chooses the components in the crossover. All his choices in the components and parts are done with extensive, critical listening. Said Joshua, “ It is like a dance, except that I am on my hands and knees. I cue the record or CD I will use for evaluation. Then I go to my crossover design box and make the adjustments or changes, and then I go back to listen to the sound.”

The cabinet is tuned as a transmission line and bandpass to achieve the best performance from the modified drivers.

JWM Acoustics Alyson In System

Setup

When I took the Alyson’s into my listening room I placed them about 18” from the back wall just inside of where the Klipsch Cornwalls are located. I had ordered a Rotel RB-1552 MK2 amplifier to compliment my Rotel RC-1590 pre-amp. Excited to hear them I tried the Alyson’s with my 3.5watt SET tube amp. I put on Joni Mitchell’s Court and Spark album (Asylum 7E-1001 LP), an album that I have enjoyed over the years. What I heard surprised me in a good way. The sound reminded me of the time when I was listening to the album in the late 1980’s on the original Infinity RS 1 monitor speakers driven by Audio Research tubes.

Older audiophiles will remember the Infinity’s as a state of the art contender. It was a smaller version of the monstrous Infinity IRS. Like the IRS the RS 1 had four towers, two for the servo controlled woofers, and two for the panels that held the famous EMIM midrange and EMIT tweeter driver arrays.

I was reminded of the Infinity RS-1 speakers because of the transient speed I was hearing from the JWM Alyson speakers. The original Infinity EMIM and EMIT drivers were an attempt to deliver the transient speed of electrostatic speakers but with better dispersion and more power handling capability. At that time, I thought they were just awesome sounding. Eventually I moved from my Rodgers LS 3/5A monitors and Acoustic electrostatics to a pair of Infinity RS IIb. I kept this speaker as my reference for some years.

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I was struck by the similarity to the Infinity’s because I do not hear this kind of transient speed from dynamic cone speakers. The ability of the Alyson to deliver this kind of speed made for a very lifelike and compelling audio experience. I was also surprised that I could get satisfying levels of sound with the small tube amp. I did not try to push the sound too much and with less dynamic material, but I felt I got a good taste of what this speaker is about right away.

When I received my Rotel amp I took my Klipsch Cornwall’s out of the room and I continued my critical evaluation. A few weeks later Joshua Miles stopped by to pick up the JWM Acoustics Karen turntable and to see how the Alyson’s were sounding at my home. We adjusted the speaker location slightly, but overall Joshua was pleased with the sound. He brought with him some recordings from MA records that he uses for evaluation. One of the LPs was a beautiful flamenco music recording that was recorded in a large warehouse that somehow had water on parts of the floor. Surprisingly through the Alyson’s I could hear the echo and wet feel of the venue.

Joshua was quite impressed with the sound. In fact he was very surprised at how well the Rotel amp/pre-amp sounded. I know they are not as good as Joshua’s top of the line BAT tube electronics, but I like how musical they sound and Joshua agreed. Good job Rotel!

During Joshua’s visit I commented that I thought the speakers had healthy output into the 40-30hz range. Joshua said that he has been able to get output to a flat 25hz in certain rooms. I decided to test this out. With the aid of one of my buddies from the River City Audio Society, we performed a frequency sweep of the speakers in my room.

JWM Acoustics Alyson in Home System

On the Bench

I wanted to verify that the Alysons were indeed putting strong content in the 35Hz range in my room. With the aid of one of my many audiophile friends from the River City Audio Society, Matt, we were able to get a measurement in my listening room using new soft-ware from REW Room EQ Wizard. The following are screen shots of the frequency response. The unique sonic signature of my room aside, I was surprised to find that we measured a lower response from one speaker (this is due to room acoustics and speaker placement).

JWM Acoustics Left Speaker Response

The Left Alyson had strong bass to 25Hz. Very impressive indeed!

JWM Acoustics Alyson Right Speaker Response

The Right speaker had strong bass output to 32Hz, still very respectable.

JWM Acoustics Alyson Combined Response

This image shows the combined response of both Alyson speakers. Carefully placed I would think that the potential owner of the Alyson’s should get full range performance in their listening room.

Listening

Mozart Violin Sonatas

Mozart “Violin Sonatas”

Enjoying the easy naturalness of the sound I decided to try Mozart Violin Sonatas on CD (Deutsche Grammophon B0004771-02 CD). Featuring two youthful female performers, Hilary Hahn and Natalie Zhu, this CD is both delightful and inspiring. The JWM Alyson’s showed just how deft Ms. Hahn is on her violin and how Ms. Zhu’s fingers fly on the piano keys.

For critical evaluation I like to hear how a component presents the sound of a piano. Aside from the piano being one of my favorite instruments, I also sing in a choir every weekend and I am blessed to hear talented players on a grand piano. In addition, my son and his girlfriend from next door play our piano almost every day. So, if a speaker does not do a convincing job on piano no matter what else it does well, I just dismiss it. I had in house a bookshelf monitor recently from a respected high end manufacturer that although it did many things well, they had problems reproducing the continuity of tone in the upper registers of the piano. This alone made the speakers unacceptable for me.

So how did the JWM Alyson’s do? Fabulous! There was a sense of weight and the piano sounded like it was one organic, connected instrument. A highlight was how the Alyson’s reproduced each note in space while Ms. Zhu was flowing though the music. It showed just how incredible of an artist she is. I could hear the strike of the hammer on the strings and then the ring of tone that is produced from the string as it reverberates in the body of the piano and onto the top board. It was if I could see the delicate hammer strikes coming from Ms. Zhu’s fingers. Violin tone meanwhile was sweet and resonant. The vibrato from Ms. Hahn’s finger work on the fret board made the notes soar. All the while, the speakers also reproduced the acoustic space in which the recording was made. The Alyson’s proved themselves as superior transducers of acoustic music.

Auvergne

Auvergne “Songs of the Auvergne”

I pulled out an old audiophile classic, Songs of the Auvergne featuring Netania Davrath. My copy is the Analogue Productions (APC 002 LP) reissue. On the LP the beautiful orchestration was illuminated by the Alyson’s. In high school and college, I played string bass with the orchestra.NT

I thought the Alyson’s did a superb job of delivering the weight, heft and most impressively the tone of the string basses. Ms. Davrath’s voice and her wonderful technique was gorgeously reproduced. On the opening track the music is thrilling. It has a dance like cadence and on the Alyson’s the beat is jaunty and lively. Most of the music on this LP has a dreamy quality and in a relaxed way I could follow each musical line. As I listened to the album I kept thinking how exquisite the sound was from the orchestra and the soloist. It was like a well-made meal where very bite reveals something new and delightful. What a treat to listen to this music on the Alyson’s!

Los Lobos

Los Lobos “La Pistola y El Corazon”

Los Lobos album, La Pistola y El Corazon (Slash/Warner Bros. 9 25790-2 CD) features a type of music that I have heard since I was a young boy growing up in El Paso, Texas. The album features energetic performances by the band and the JWM Acoustics Alysons showed this off very well.

On the track El Gusto the rhythmic flamenco strumming is rendered so you can hear not only the strings but the fret board and the top body of the guitar. David Hidalgo’s violin playing is fluid and floats in its primitive, non-classical style. On my favorite tracks, El Canelo and La Guacamaya, David Hidalgo soars on his requinto guitar. The bird-like chirping sound of the requinto is remarkable on the Alyson’s. You can hear the initial strike on the string as well as the ringing harmonics afterward on each successive note. On lesser speakers this effect is blurred, but on the Alyson’s, it is so distinct that it sounds like Mr. Hidalgo is playing faster. As I listened I thought the whole ensemble is sounding like they are playing with more pep through the Alyson’s. The sound brought back memories of my grandmother’s Rompope (Mexican eggnog) and Mexican Coco. Through the Alyson’s this music had an infectious bounce that added such snap and joy to the music that it was delicious.

King Crimson

King Crimson “20th Century Schizoid”

I have been a big fan of King Crimson since I first heard their great hit, 20th Century Schizoid Man on the radio. I was barely teenager then, but throughout high school I continued to buy their albums which I still have!

As the years passed Robert Fripp reissued their earlier albums of which Islands is one of my favorites. When it was announced that Fripp was reissuing the back catalog for a 40th Anniversary edition on CD and DVD audio, I had to have it. Even though I have 4 different copies on 2 different mediums. Crazy I know, but I love this music. So I ordered Islands (KCSP4), and if you are a fan you should too.

On Formentera Lady I could immediately hear an improvement on the sound. The bowed string bass sounded like it was played with searing intensity. Harry Miller’s opening string bass solo announced that the band was not kidding around, there was a sense of urgency to the playing. The bowing sounded like it was carving out the low notes as the stings buzzed resonantly on the fret board. The flute was sweet, piano gorgeous. Mel Collin’s singing was immediate with good sibilance. I had no problem understanding Pete Sinfield’s lyrics. When the drum came in the snare had brilliance. When the bass was plucked there was no muddy overhang (which was a terrible problem with an earlier remastering). There was much improved clarity and I could hear the dense layering of sound that King Crimson created for this brilliant album. As the song progressed I felt like the lyric, “Odysseus charmed for dark Circe fell”. Except I was falling charmed for the exceptional sound reproduction of the JWM Acoustics Alyson AML. The sound of the 40th Anniversary Islands reissue is spectacular on the Alyson’s. By the time the title track ended I was convinced that this is the definitive re-issue of this classic.

Conclusions

JWM Acoustics Alyson Speaker Outside

Although I have heard larger, more expensive speakers THE JWM ACOUSTICS ALYSON AML is certainly the most musically satisfying speaker system I have ever heard..

Likes
  • Beautiful cabinet
  • Detailed, musical sound reproduction
  • Full range sound
  • Ability to play loud without strain
  • Great dynamic capability
Would Like To See
  • Larger version/model

As a reviewer, I try to temper my enthusiasm for an audio product and I try to be as objective as I can. It is easy to become attracted to something new or different. With the Alyson’s this was no different, but I found myself smiling in joy when listening to them. From the first time, when I heard them at Joshua’s home in Austin till the time they arrived at my home I was drawn into the music.

The JWM Acoustics Alyson AML have some unusual strengthens. As I spent more time with the Alyson’s I came to the realization that the Alyson’s are the most coherent speakers that I have ever heard. They sound even more coherent than full range electrostatics. I think that is because they present a consistent tonality across the frequency of the music being reproduced. Coupled with the superior rhythmic timing and the terrific dynamics of the JWM Acoustics Alyson AML design the music is presented as a complete organic whole. The speaker is elegant in its reproduction of harmonics.

The JWM Acoustics Alyson AML offer full range sound, stunning transparency, and wonderful musicality. They play loudly without strain, they have a nice boogie factor, and they allow you to feel they rhythm of the music. Are the JWM Acoustic Alyson speakers the best I have heard? In many respects, yes! There are larger speakers that in larger rooms will give a bigger presentation. Big horn speakers will of course edge them out in dynamics. However, the JWM Alyson speakers are the most musically satisfying speakers I have ever listened to. They also represent a superb value at their asking price, especially when you consider the workmanship and the sound. I highly recommend the JWM Acoustic Alyson’s to dedicated music lovers. They are a joy to experience.

  • Javan Pohl

    Is that price per pair or each?

  • Joshua W. Miles

    This is for the pair and stands included.

  • disqus_ZoTkgnnndJ

    Having twice heard the Alysons(in different venues), I can attest to the “immediacy” of the music they produce, as well as the solid, tight bass impact. Congrats, Josh!

  • Carlo Lo Raso

    Very much enjoyed these when I heard them at RMAF a couple of years back. Beyond the sound tough, the cabinetry is also drop dead gorgeous! Great review!

  • Todd Cooperider

    Great review Francisco, thanks for taking the time! I always enjoy reading about lesser known audio manufacturers, particularly when they perform so well like the JWM’s did.

  • Jim Milton

    Wow! To own a speaker with my initials carved into them…sweet!

  • Francisco Licon

    Thanks Carlo! I agree with your comment that the speakers are gorgeous. My pictures really don’t do them enough justice. They are very impressive in person.

  • Francisco Licon

    Thanks, glad you enjoyed the review. Our industry is filled with maverick, independent audio enthusiasts that start out in a garage (Arnie Nudell/Infinity) or tin work shack (Paul Klipsch/Klipsch) and these individuals create the most amazing products. Many of the great audio marquees began as unknowns or lesser known manufacturers. Joshua Miles is sure making a case for himself and I wish him well in the future.

  • Francisco Licon

    You would be so lucky to have a pair of these!