JBL Studio 130 Review and Test

Product Name: JBL Studio 130 Review and Test
Product Type: Loudspeakers
Price: $399
Reviewed By: Greg Borrowman
Magazine: Australian Hi-Fi Magazine Nov/Dec 2011
Distributor: Convoy International Pty Ltd
Who Sells What/Website: JBL

JBL Studio 130 Loudspeakers Review and Test Report

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Back in the ‘60s and ‘70s, it was easy to tell a professional recording studio from a ‘wannabe’. You only had to go in and look at their monitor loudspeakers. All professional recording studios used JBL Studio Monitors. It was as simple as that. Although these days the market has diversified such that JBL no longer has the stranglehold it once had, you’ll still find JBL’s Studio Monitors in the majority of recording studios right around the world.

The Equipment

Although JBL prefixes these speakers with the word ‘Studio’—no doubt to try to garner some of the cred of its real Studio Monitor models, such as the JBL 4429 Studio Monitor—the Studio 130 is a very small two-way design that would be most at home serving as the surround channel speakers in a 5.1-channel home theatre speaker system. Indeed they were released as a part of JBL’s ‘Studio 1 Series’ which comprises two floor-standing models (Studio 190 and Studio 180), a centre-channel (Studio 120c) and two subwoofers (Studio 140P and 150P).

The styling of the Studio 130 seemed odd to me at first, being far taller and narrower than I thought they should be. It wasn’t until I looked at the floor-standing models in the ‘Studio’ range that I realised that their unusually tall and narrow front profile in fact echoes the styling of the floor-standing models in the range. JBL obviously intended that all the speakers should be cosmetically matched, and thus more visually appealing when used together, such as in a home theatre speaker system. That said, the ‘tall’, narrow style will also work really well if you’re using the Studio 130s as front-main speakers, and putting them either side of a video monitor… which you can, because they’re magnetically shielded. And when I say ‘tall and narrow’, each speaker is 349mm high, 165mm wide and 210mm deep.

The narrow front baffle effectively limits the size of the bass/midrange driver that can be fitted to this speaker, so the Studio 130 has a single 100mm diameter bass driver with a ‘PolyPlas’ cone. The word ‘Polyplas’ is proprietary to JBL, as is the manufacture of the driver itself, but in essence, the cone is initially formed from paper (cellulose fibre) after which it’s coated with a thin layer of plastic (polymer). This construction approach delivers the light weight and high strength of a paper cone, but protects the paper from dampness, which can increase cone weight (slowing it down) and reduce cone stiffness. (Interestingly, JBL’s US website says the Studio 130 has “dual 4" PolyPlas low-frequency transducers”, but this is simply a mistake that may have been rectified by the time you read this review. The Australian distributor’s website [www.e-hifi.com.au] has the correct specifications.)

The dome tweeter in the Studio 130 is 25mm in diameter and the dome appears to be made from metal, though JBL says the material is ‘CCMD’ which stands for ‘Ceramic Metal Matrix Diaphragm.’ The nominal crossover frequency is 3kHz and slopes are stated as being 12dB/octave. The dome is positioned at the base of what JBL refers to as a ‘bi-radial constant directivity waveguide’. It appeared to me that the tweeter has a phase corrector fitted as well… though this might have been simply to protect the dome. Just in case you were wondering, a ‘waveguide’ is a device that transforms the radiation characteristics of the driver with which it’s associated, and a ‘bi-radial’ version transforms the radiation in two planes. In the case of the Studio 130 it does so both in the horizontal and in the vertical.

If, like me, you were wondering about the JBL ‘Weave design’ that JBL says it uses for the Studio 130, the ‘Weave’ simply refers to the visual appearance of the loudspeaker and, in the Studio 130, this design manifests as the ‘bow-tie-shaped’ plastic extrusion attached to the front baffle and to the two irregularly-shaped grilles, the top-most of which has six sides, and the bottom-most seven! In each case, two of the sides are also bevelled, creating even more angles.