News & ReviewsReviews
JBL 4367 Studio Monitor loudspeaker1/5/2023
One day in the mid-1990s, my friend J and I sat sprawled on the carpeted floor of a hi-fi shop in lower Manhattan, playing records. J, who was employed there as a salesperson, had dimmed the lights and locked the door of the listening room behind us to make sure we wouldn't be disturbed by actual customers. Earlier, he had lugged in a pair of homemade speakers that an elderly woman brought to the store, hoping to sell some of her late husband's gear. The cabinets were made of thin, unfinished plywood and resembled floor fans. Mounted at the center of each box was a late-1960s 10" Tannoy dual-concentric driver. We knew these must sound as chintzy as they looked and set them down carelessly on the carpet a few feet in front of us before hunkering down to listen to Dark Side of the Moon.
When the first notes blasted out of those plywood boxes, we turned toward each other, the what-the-f**k expression on J's face mirroring my own. The music sounded explosively dynamic, textured, present, vast, and effortless. The notes seemed saturated with a kind of Kodachrome glow and held our attention complete-y. I've never been a fan of that Pink Floyd record, but the Tannoys turned the experience of listening to it into a kind of Technicolor spectacle that offered sonic and musical thrills.
The far wall of the listening room was crowded with inventory: slender, beautifully finished floorstanders, some with five-figure price tags. That afternoon, we listened to them all, and in comparison to the old lady's speakers, they played music in a tentative and uptight way, like A-students fretting about getting into a good college. Listening to the homely Tannoys felt like dancing at a favorite dive bar, three drinks in.
"I'm buying them," I yelled, not even having asked the price. "No you're not, because I am," J shot back. He worked there. He had dibs.
Later that week, I tracked down a vintage audio dealer in the UK and placed an order for a clean pair of late-1960s Tannoy IIILZs. Since then, I've lived with a number of speakers, vintage and contemporary, but that afternoon lingers in my mind as the moment when I heard music reproduced in the way I'd always wanted.
These days, I live with a pair of 1966 Altec Valencias. Each time I listen, they reward me with some of that sprawled-out-on-the-floor excitement. I've even grown to enjoy their wood-lattice grilles, which somehow look both midcentury futuristic and church-basement dowdy. The sound of their horn-loaded compression drivers and paper-cone alnico-magnet woofers lends recorded music a sense of presence, richness, and drama that I find difficult to live without. As Mike Pranka of Dynavector USA, another Altec owner, remarked recently in an email, "Anyone who doesn't appreciate the way music dances through the Valencias is to be pitied."
The notion that vintage audio designs may have something to teach us is widely accepted in Europe and especially Japan, where classic components from the likes of Tannoy, McIntosh, Klangfilm, and Western Electric often command higher prices than new gear. The pages of Japanese audiophile publications like Stereo Sound are rife with lavishly photographed examples of the Marantz 8B amplifier and the EMT 927 turntable. Nevertheless, here in North America, many of us seem to have settled into a belief that year after year, audio products follow a steady asymptotic curve toward perfection. The late and sorely missed Art Dudley used Altec Valencias (and later the nearly identical Flamencos) as his reference speakers, but it's no secret that some of his readers, and even fellow contributors, considered his choice quixotic. When I began writing reviews for this magazine, the editor, Jim Austin, emailed to politely ask whether I was planning to evaluate new, perfectionist audio equipment using 55-year-old speakers that you connect to speaker cables with tiny, slotted-head screws.
I wrote back explaining that while a lot of factors went into the complex phenomenon of musical engagement, what mattered most to me about the sound of a hi-fi was dynamics. Anyone who's stood next to a drum kit when someone begins playing it knows how startling live instruments can sound. To me, the ability of a hi-fi to startle is the main source of drama in reproduced sound.
There can be no doubt that since the heyday of the Altecs, speaker designers have learned to achieve more linear frequency response and more precise imaging, and to pay more attention to things like horizontal dispersion and controlling cabinet vibrations. In the 1970s, the heyday of speakers like the LS3/5a, it became popular to disparage older designs for their "colorations": sonic manifestations of an uneven frequency response. At the same time, many commercially produced speakers became not only smaller and less sensitive but also, on the whole, less dynamically capable. Their accuracy often came at the cost of excitement. From the vantage of the present day, it seems obvious to me that dynamic compression is a coloration, too—potentially a more meaningful one than frequency-response peaks and valleys. Dynamically inert speakers are at best musically limited: Try playing loud reggae on typical minimonitors. At worst they can sound downright dull.
Following our exchange, Jim and I had several wide-ranging conversations about speakers, both vintage and contemporary. We didn't always agree, but I found these conversations thoughtprovoking and enjoyable. Eventually, Jim proposed that I review a series of contemporary speakers that hopefully would share some of what I loved about the Altecs with fewer sonic compromises. The idea struck me as potentially instructive: From time to time, it's useful to hold one's convictions up to the bright light of reality. What if my love of vintage speakers turned out to be a result of confirmation bias or, worse, some kind of Jetsons decor fetish? What if a pair of contemporary speakers made me want to finally break up with my Altecs?
The JBL 4367 Studio Monitor
To round up a candidate for the first review, I spoke to people in the industry and audiophile friends and read reams of articles and reviews. When I mentioned unrestrained dynamics, a speaker that kept being mentioned was the JBL 4367 Studio Monitor ($16,500/pair). On paper, the JBL shares a surprising amount of DNA with my half-century-old Valencias. Both are large, two-way designs with a horn-loaded compression driver, a 15" woofer, and a simple crossover. Altec Lansing and JBL are named after the same person (JBL is an initialism of founder James B. Lansing's name). And the 4367's model designation and blue baffle is a nod to nearly 50 years of extremely cool-looking JBL studio monitors, many of which show up in the pages of Japanese audio magazines, usually shoehorned into confoundingly small rooms and driven by tube amplifiers. In a white paper, JBL describes this lineage as "increasingly louder speakers of steadily greater dynamic capability." That sounded like fun.
What turned out to be not so much fun was extracting the 119lb 4367s from their cartons and heaving them into place. Their big-boy woofers, horns, and chunky, front-ported, walnut-veneered cabinets may suggest that the JBLs are meant to appeal to a retro sensibility. But taking a close look behind the grilles (which I did not use because I wanted to keep those denim-blue baffles visible) revealed that there's nothing retro about their engineering.
Above those ports and the woofers—which feature "Aquaplas-treated Pure Pulp cones," dual voice-coils, and neodymium magnets—there's a horn (JBL calls it a waveguide) connected to a high-frequency compression driver with two polymer diaphragms, each with its own voice-coil, neodymium magnet, and motor. The wide, rectangular waveguide—intended to allow for wide dispersion while minimizing floor and ceiling reflections—is made from a dense composite. Just below its mouth are two dials for controlling output levels in the high-frequency (from 660Hz to 9kHz) and ultra-high-frequency (from 4kHz to beyond 20kHz) ranges, allowing adjustment from –1dB to +1dB in 0.5dB increments. On the back of the cabinets there are two sets of gold-plated binding posts connected by jumpers, which can be removed to allow for biwiring or biamping. The 4367s rest—heavily—on four low-profile brass spikes with optional cups to protect wood flooring. Their claimed 94dB sensitivity suggests that they'd be suitable partners for low-powered tube amplifiers, but the published impedance graph leaves room for doubt (footnote 1). More on this later.
More from JBL Specialty Audio
Developing the JBL Stage XD Series All-Weather Speakers Harman says its new JBL wireless turntable
doesn't skimp on audio quality HARMAN Luxury Audio to Showcase ARCAM, JBL, Mark Levinson, and Revel Brands at Audio Advice Live 2/1/23 ISE 2023: Harman Describes JBL Synthesis
Demo Theater With SCL and SSW Lines 1/1/23 JBL HDI-3800 Floorstanding Loudspeakers:
RECOMMENDED GEAR LIST 2023 2/1/23 ISE 2023: Harman Details New JBL Stage 2 Range
of In-Wall and Ceiling Loudspeakers 2/1/23 JBL has announced both a ‘classic’ and Bluetooth turntable for 2023 1/5/2023 JBL 4367 Studio Monitor loudspeaker 2/1/23 ISE 2023: Harman Features New
JBL Stage XD Indoor-Outdoor IP67 Loudspeakers 1/30/23 Harman’s JBL Stage 2 Architectural Series Loudspeakers and Stage XD Series Loudspeakers win 2023 Design Meets Tech Award 1/30/2023 JBL 4349 2-Way Loudspeaker Review 1/8/2023 CES 2023: JBL intros cool speakers, earbuds, sound bars 1/7/23 JBL Rocks Two New Retro Turntables for 2023 1/7/2023 The Best Speakers, Headphones & Audio Gear of CES 2023 1/6/2023 Best audio tech at CES 2023:
next-gen soundbars, headphones and earbuds: 1/5/23 Harman Debuts New JBL Classic Series Integrated Amp, Streaming Media Player, CD Player, and Turntable 1/5/23 Harman Highlights Performance with a Retro Twist 1/4/2023 CES 2023: HARMAN Debuts JBL L10cs Classic Series Subwoofer 1/4/23 The coolest new tech and gadgets from CES 2023 Day 1: JBL 4329P Studio Monitor powered loudspeakers 1/4/23 HARMAN Luxury Audio To Unveil
JBL SPINNER BT Turntable At HARMAN Explore 1/4/2023 Forbes: Harman Unveils Beautiful New Retro Audio At CES Featuring Innovative New Technology 1/4/2023 JBL mixes classic hi-fi with modern tech at CES 2023 – and pumps up its Dolby Atmos soundbar power 1/4/2023 CES 2023 - Interview with Harman International 1/4/2023 HARMAN Luxury Audio to Unveil JBL SPINNER BT Turntable at HARMAN Explore in Las Vegas 1/4/2023 JBL's first Bluetooth turntable offers aptX HD wireless streaming at an affordable price 1/4/2023 JBL L52 CLASSIC BOOKSHELF SPEAKER REVIEW: Home Theater HIFI 1/4/2023 I tried JBL’s retro-cool wireless active speaker, and it rocked 11/25/2022 CES 2023: JBL 4329P Studio Monitor Powered Loudspeakers Unveiled at HARMAN Explore 10/18/2022 JBL L52 Classic Review - Big Sound in a Small (Retro) Package by AVS Forum 10/18/2022 JBL L52 Classic Review - Big Sound in a Small (Retro) Package 10/16/2022 JBL 4349 Studio Monitors | REVIEW 10/16/2022 Part Time Audiophile on the JBL 4349’s: "The 4349 Studio Monitor forges its own path and bucks the flavor of the month design of current industry trends. I applaud JBL’s choices and the 4349 Studio Monitor is worth a listen and, in my opinion, an instant classic." 9/30/2022 CEDIA EXPO 2022 ARCAM – SHOW REPORT – BY CARLO LO RASO 9/30/2022 Marketscale Jim Interview CEDIA 2023 9/29/2022 JBL’s Deep Dive: Synthesis Speakers & Subs 9/29/2022 CEDIA: JBLs You Can Put In the Wall 9/29/2022 CEDIA Shares: Harman Luxury Audio 9/29/2022 Check out the BIG THINGS from JBL Synthesis and Arcam at CEDIA 2022 9/29/2022 HARMAN to show Black Edition of JBL Classic Series at CEDIA 9/29/2022 The Road To CEDIA Expo 2022 With Harman 9/22/2022 JBL Classic Series Loudspeakers Are Now Back In Black: CEDIA 2022 9/4/2022 JBL Speakers for HOME THEATER! JBL Studio Monitor Review JBL 4309 9/1/2022 RTT Podcast #112: Jim Garrett on the Latest Harman Luxury Audio Gear 8/29/2022 Home Theater Hifi on the JBL L52 Classic Bookshelf Speaker: "JBL’s L52 Classic Bookshelf Speaker creates an ideal balance between clear neutral sound and iconic styling that never goes out of fashion. Its compact form factor belies sound quality that rivals the best studio monitors and stand-mount speakers." 05/17/2022 HARMAN Luxury Audio Introduces JBL Stage XD Indoor/Outdoor
All-Weather Loudspeakers Built for Extreme Durability 05/17/2022 HARMAN Luxury Audio Introduces JBL Stage Architectural Series Loudspeakers
With Visually Discreet, High-Performance Sound 4/20/2022 Stereonet’s JBL 4309 2-Way Bookshelf Loudspeakers Review 7/6/2021 JBL 4309 Review: These retro speakers
create a stunning soundstage 6/18/2021 JBL SA750 Amplifier adopts Roon Ready status 5/3/2021 JBL L100 Classic Bookshelf Loudspeaker Review 4/15/2021 Harman luxury audio packs 75 years of acoustic excellence into new compact jbl 4309 studio monitor series bookshelf loudspeakers 4/13/2021 Stereonet's Review of the S4700 2/28/2021 JBL 4349 2-Way Studio Monitor Loudspeaker Review 1/18/2021 New products launched at HARMAN ExPLORE 1/7/2021 JBL Launches Time Machine at HARMAN ExPLORE: Introduces 75th Anniversary JBL SA750 Integrated Amplifier 1/7/2021 Still Blown Away After All These Years: JBL Launches 75th Anniversary Edition of L100 Loudspeaker 7/28/2020 Harman couples high-performance modern acoustics with retro design with new JBL 4349 studio monitor 7/8/2020 HARMAN Luxury Audio’s JBL Conceal Series 2/27/2020 Plugged's Review of the L100 Classic 1/6/2020 JBL Introduces L82 Classic Bookshelf Loudspeakers at CES 2020 3/10/2019 HomeTheaterReview.com's review of the L100 Classic 1/10/2018 The JBL L100 Classic took home Best of CES Awards from TWICE and Residential Systems 11/19/2017 JBL Synthesis K2 S9900 -
What HiFi? 5 Star award and review 1/17/2017 JBL 4312SE speakers celebrates the brand's 70th anniversary 4/24/2017 JBL 4367 STUDIO MONITOR LOUDSPEAKER REVIEW