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JBL Studio S310II Floor-Standing Speakers

May, 2003

Gabriel Lowe

 

Specifications:

• Maximum Recommended Amp Power: 200 Watts
• Impedance: 8 Ohms
• Sensitivity (2.83V @ 1m): 91dB
• Frequency Response (–3dB): 37 Hz – 20 kHz
• Crossover Frequencies: 850 Hz, 3.5 kHz
• High-Frequency Driver: 1" Titanium-laminate dome with EOS™ waveguide
• Midrange Driver: 4" PolyPlas™ cone
• Low-Frequency Driver: 10" PolyPlas™ cones
• Dimensions: 38" H x 13" W x 12.5" D
• Weight: 55 Pounds (25 kg) Each
• MSRP US: $379 Each

 

JBL

www.jbl.com

Introduction

The JBL S310II is a 3-way floor-standing speaker, measuring 38 inches tall, 13 inches wide, and 12.5 inches deep, and weighing about 55 pounds. Although I personally prefer a stained or natural wood finish for speakers, I cannot complain about the sleek black maple finish that these have. Coupled with the metallic gray/silver of the trim and drivers, the overall appearance is rather nice. Also included are solid black speaker grilles adorned only with a silver JBL logo at the bottom.

The tweeter is a 1” pure-titanium dome set in what JBL terms an Elliptical Oblate Spheroidal™ (EOS) waveguide. The oval shape of this enclosure is intended to increase the dispersion of the sound to create a larger soundstage. The midrange driver is a 4” PolyPlas™ (polymer-coated cellulose fiber or, to the layman, treated paper) cone, while the low frequencies are handled by a 10” PolyPlas™ cone mounted on cast-aluminum frames that help prevent distortion and allow for an increased power-handling capacity. A 4” port is located below the woofer. The terminals on the back are all gold-plated 5-way binding posts. Finally, each tower has four plastic 1” rounded feet.

The Setup

I connected the speakers to my Denon AVR-3803 receiver with 12-gauge Monster speaker wire using the banana plug connectors. I used a Sony DVP-S7000 DVD player for both CD and DVD playback, a Sony SCD-CE775 for CD and SACD playback, and an Echostar PVR501 satellite receiver (connected via optical digital cable) for television viewing. I auditioned the speakers as a standalone stereo pair as well as in my full 7.1 surround system. As I normally use a pair of bookshelf speakers for my mains, I adjusted the Denon’s crossover setting to 40 Hz.

The Sound

After allowing for some break-in time, I began my critical listening. I used a variety of musical styles as well as a few films. The first thing I noticed was that the S310IIs created a rather large soundstage. Although I don’t have that big a room to test them in, I felt as if the music extended well beyond the speakers. This was most apparent with orchestral music. Using the opening piece from the "Amadeus" soundtrack, Mozart’s Symphony No. 25 in G Minor (1st Movement), the power of the symphony is apparent immediately. The piece opens with strong, dire sounding strings, which sounded powerful through the JBLs. As the dynamics shifted to a much softer passage, the clarity and presence of the entire orchestra remained. The expanse of the music translated very well with these speakers.

Imaging was adequate. I was able to discern where various instruments were placed on the soundstage, however not with as much detail to which I am accustomed. In addition, it seemed to me that the speakers were very directional. For example, it made a big difference whether I toed the speakers in slightly versus leaving them facing straight ahead. Imaging improved when the speakers were facing in towards the listening position, but that may be simply because of the short distance between the speakers and the listening position. This might be something to take into consideration if you have a smaller listening area.

The detail these speakers produced was a pleasant surprise. I didn’t expect quite the level of refinement that I heard. One of my favorite recordings is Dave Brubeck’s "Time Out", because of the experimental nature of the music. I used the new SACD version and selected the stereo layer (it has a multi-channel one as well). This album features tracks that use unique rhythms and time sequencing, especially the third track, Take Five. The piano and drums sounded very accurate and crisp, something I always listen for when auditioning speakers. When the saxophone comes in about a minute into the track, it was reproduced perfectly. Cymbals are not the easiest sound to reproduce accurately, but the S310IIs did it with aplomb. I next listened to a recording of Paul Schoenfeld playing some of Scott Joplin’s famous ragtime tunes to further test the speakers’ ability to reproduce accurate piano. Again, the notes and character of the instrument sounded excellent.

Switching to DVDs (and a surround setup), the S310IIs continued to perform well. While not matched with my center speaker, the JBLs provided excellent front channel sound and power that blended fairly well with my system. As the speakers can produce bass down to rather low levels (37 Hz according to the specs), they handled explosions and LFE sounds easily (I switched off testing between sending the LFE signal to the mains and to the subwoofer). In the opening scene of "The Matrix", when Trinity takes out the group of cops who have come to apprehend her, the deep sound of Bullet Time could be felt as well as heard.

I also pay-per-viewed "Road to Perdition" in letterbox and Dolby Digital sound through the DISH PVR501. The score from this film is fantastic, and there are also some wonderful parts that exhibit a wide dynamic range. The JBLs continued to impress me throughout the film. In one scene, there is a montage where Tom Hanks’ character takes out an entire group of men with his Tommy gun. There is no natural sound at this point, just soft music. Then, as he begins to fire at the boss, natural sound suddenly returns, in a deafening barrage of bullets. The bass extension as well as clarity throughout the change from soft to loud was beautiful. I imagine that with the matched center speaker, this system would sound awesome for the price range we are dealing with here.

These speakers will also fit very nicely into a party environment. They can play very loud with minimal distortion, and the bass driver keeps up very well. However, at these high volumes, the midrange seems to fall slightly behind the upper and lower frequencies. The higher frequencies seem to be a bit harsh at high volumes, while the bass becomes more boomy than musical. While these conditions are not ideal for the individual listener, they are minor flaws that will not be apparent at normal listening levels, and definitely would not be noticed in a party atmosphere. Rather, the clarity that remains at these high levels would be a positive for such a situation. I played various Rap and Dance CDs at reference levels, and the JBLs exquisitely reproduced the beats. The bass extension is excellent, and at standard listening levels, it balances well with the rest of the audible spectrum.

Conclusions

Overall, I was impressed with the value for the money that the JBL S310IIs provide. They are suited to a variety of environments, from the college frat house to the home theater in your basement. In fact, I would rate them quite favorably for the home theater application. Detail and the ability to play loud while maintaining quality are the two best traits these speakers have to offer. If your budget is tight, and you don’t want to sacrifice the benefits of having full range left and right channel speakers, these JBLs should be on your list to audition.

 

- Gabriel Lowe -

 

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Primer - Speakers

 

 

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