JBL describes the Studio 530 speakers as having a "dynamic, one of a kind look", and we certainly wouldn t argue. They re not the easiest speakers to imagine simply slotting in to your system, but the slightly retro design, is complemented by a sound that s just accomplished and distinctive.
The speakers use a 13.3cm mid/woofer design with a stiff, lightweight ribbed PolyPlas cone and a rubber surround, plus a 2.5cm compression driver for high frequencies, made from one piece of Teonex. JBL claims that clean, powerful bass, reduced distortion and improved clarity are key benefits. From what we heard when we first gave these speakers a listen, we can well believe that.
Weighty yet precise
The Studio 530s work best given a little bit of room from the wall, and slightly toed in towards the listener. This is partly due to their strength with sound dispersal. The XX always provide an expansive, roomy soundstage, and latest track Angels is given detail and space aplenty. Voices have texture and detail, while the reverb-laden guitar notes sound dynamic yet precise.
Play something more upbeat and while the midrange remains sweet, the livelier character that really defines the 530s comes to the fore. There s plenty of weight and power (provided they re not too close to the wall they shouldn t be overbearing) and even when pushed, in terms of both dexterity of notes and sheer volume the JBLs keep control.
Hans Zimmer s soundtrack for The Dark Knight Rises is a predictably stern test of dynamics and fidelity. The JBLs pass this test admirably, throwing in an extra dose of excitement and immersion thanks to impressive detail.
Versatile, exciting and, ultimately, simply an endlessly enjoyable listen, the JBL Studio 530 speakers are a must-audition, not least if an upbeat, bass-laden sound is up your street.
FOR Focused, detailed midrange; powerful, agile bass; good dynamic ability
AGAINST Striking looks will divide opinion
VERDICT The Studio 530s are superb all-rounders that excel with powerful, agile bass, delivering an exciting, enjoyable listen
Monitor Audio Silver RX2
Monitor Audio has a host of five-and four-star reviews to its name, and enjoys an almost unrivalled reputation for speakers that are built and finished every bit as well as they sound. And it s no different with the Silver RX2s.
Monitor Audio uses a gold dome C-CAM tweeter formed from a ceramic-coated aluminium/magnesium alloy thatgold-anodised to a specific thickness in order to be thinner, lighter and more rigid than before.
Therea fresh port design, too, with grooved-Monitor Audio prefers rifled edges to help shape the flow of air. The mid/bass driver eschews flat surfaces too, preferring a dimpled cone for extra strength. Round the back youfind a biwirable set of speaker terminals.
Punchy and expressive
In place they look great —as they should for this money —but they are no small undertaking: 37.5cm tall and 30cm in depth (and weighing 9.5kg), they need a fair amount of space in which to stand.
We listen to Nitin Sawhney & The London Symphony Orchestra, and the scale of which the Monitor Audios are capable is instantly apparent. Dynamic and able to send sound to every corner of your room, the Silver RX2 speakers motor along with plenty of power and presence. There s weight to bass notes, too, though we d be inclined to trade a little of that for a tauter feel to the bass.
Emelie Sande s soaring vocals on Heaven are clear and expressive, though the RX2s do have a tendency to make voices sound a little forward in the mix, and consequently a little detached. Treble, despite plenty of running-in, can sometimes have a shrill edge, too —which is more apparent at higher volume levels, naturally.
If you want a big and bold sound, the Monitor Audio Silver RX2s are well worth hearing. While we might prefer a smoother edge to voices and tighter bass at times, there remains plenty to enjoy.
FOR Big but beautifully formed; impressive bass weight; good dynamics and scale
AGAINST Occasional edge to voices; bass sometimes a little loose
VERDICT A lot of speaker and a lot of sound, there s much to enjoy in the RX2 s delivery
The latest addition to KEF s speaker line-up certainly has the ’box ticked. With KEF citing the company s range-topping ?20k Blade speakers as inspiration, it s perhaps no surprise.
The 25mm aluminium dome tweeter and 13cm magnesium/aluminium alloy mid/bass driver are the latest evolutions of long-running designs. The tweeter, which sits at the heart of the mid/bass driver in KEF s trademark Uni-Q design, boasts a tangerine wave guide to promote better dispersion, while the mid/bass cone is reinforced with creases to help rigidity. Inside, special damping techniques have been used to prevent unwanted internal vibrations.
And there s plenty more besides to help more than justify the price tag. Magnetic speaker grilles arenunusual, but the rotating binding post links on the back of the speaker certainly are. Turn them one way to connect the two sets of speaker terminals or the other should you want to biwire-so no fiddly connecting links.
Pumping out Skin by Grimes, the R100s are capable of impressive stereo imaging and a broad soundstage.
bringing the track to life and placing voices and sounds very deliberately in the room. Ita big, airy sound-and while it can t match the bigger cabinets here for scale, the track still fills the room while maintaining composure.
This scale and authority is matched by decent dynamic power and a good dose of precision, highlighted nicely by The Smashing Pumpkins Violet Rays from the band s latest album, Oceania. Voices and treble notes are clear and detail retrieval is decent, while bass-lines have impressive brawn for the size of the speaker (but can sound a touch overblown and lacking focus at times).
Regardless, the KEF R100s remain a compelling proposition. Compact and stylish, they deliver dynamics, punch and scale that belie their size.
FOR Compact; great stereo imaging; clean, clear vocals; impressive dynamics and scale
AGAINST Bass notes could be tighter at times
VERDICT KEF has delivered a level of performance we re not used to hearing from such small, yet beautifully formed, boxes
Tannoy Revolution DC6
The floorstanding versions of these speakers were last year s Award-winners at the ?800 level, and this is our first look at their stand-mounted siblings.
Tannoy s WideBand Dual Concentric driver layout makes a design and style statement, with the 2.5cm Titanium dome tweeter recessed just behind the middle of the 15cm treated paper pulp cone’mid/bass driver. It certainly looks the part; sonically, it should make for a better integrated, focused sound that excels at dispersion too.
Agile, entertaining and emotive
We certainly have no complaints when it comes to the quality of the DC6s’build. The silver trim around the driver and matching Tannoy badge are smoothly finished, while the biwirable speaker terminals feel well put together.
Reproducing The Chemical Brothers We Are The Night, the Revolution DC6 speakers are certainly fast. The driving kick drum skips along apace, while bass notes sound tight and punchy. Theredecent weight and depth for a cabinet this size, too. With plenty of layers to the track, the speakers do a fine job of pulling all the aspects together, making for a brilliantly integrated, solid sound, while at the same time giving each instrument plenty of room to breathe.
Bill Evans TrioNight and Day requires an agile, dynamic delivery, and the Tannoys show themselves very capable at stopping and starting on time for that sense of rhythm and excitement. And while theyfar from shouty, these speakers are entertainers, providing an absorbing listen. Vocals, as delivered by Adele, are smooth and expressive but again, nicely bedded in to the music, never sounding detached or forward.
We might have guessed that these Revolution DC6 speakers would be supremely confident all-rounders. Sure enough, theyeasy to listen to, endlessly enjoyable, nigh —on flawless speakers for the money.
FOR Great looks and topnotch build quality; great integration; detailed, fast, agile sound
AGAINST A bigger, bassier sound can be found elsewhere
VERDICT Detailed, dynamic and fast on their feet, these sound just as good as they look
Tannoy Revolution DC6
All the speakers here use wildly different techniques to deliver their sound-and all sound great. But it s the brilliant Tannoy Revolution DC6 that win us over...
If you re looking to take your entry-level hi-fi system to the next level or are simply lucky enough to have a decent wedge to spend on your first pair of speakers, then a ?600 pair of standmounters is a great place to focus your attention.
Here, two superb pairs of speakers we ve seen before are joined by two new pairs from companies with serious pedigrees to make for an extremely competitive, high-quality test.
While system-matching is always important when building a hi-fi system, all four of these speaker pairs are versatile all-rounders, albeit each with their own particular strengths. For ?600 you can rightly expect a high level of build quality and something thatfairly easy on the eye.
We re happy to report that there s no issue with build or finish on any of these speakers. That said, the different styling of the JBL Studio 530 speakers, with their quirky horn tweeters, won t be for everyone. Thankfully, the sound does its level best to make up for any indifference you may have towards the aesthetics. Theyjust a fun listen, delivering plenty of solid, agile bass coupled with focused and detailed midrange vocals.
We have no such aesthetic qualms with the KEF R100s, which look worth every penny in a gloss black finish with silver driver. The importance of compact dimensions here is not to be underestimated, making them a compelling proposition if you re short on space. They ll fill most rooms, too; decent scale and a solid, powerful sound are at the heart of the R100 sound.
Monitor Audio s Silver RX2 speakers are the only pair to rival them here when it comes to filling a room: the size of the cabinets gives them something of an advantage, mind. Big and dynamic, only slight issues at either end of the tonal spectrum hold them back.
But our winners come from Tannoy. The outstanding Revolution DC6s marry speed, detail and agility in an unrivalled package, and deliver superb sound from a beautifully put together speaker for ?600. In fact, we wouldnhave been surprised if theybeen pricier...
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