JBL A8 launch – it’s JBL, but not as you know it
by Jason Allen.
Hosted by Harman’s George Georgalis (Product Manager – Tour Sound Amps, Speakers & DSP), the crowd were treated to the usual PowerPoint talk through, which was followed by some insightful and well-answered questions largely about how competitive JBL is against its more rider-dominant European cousins. To which the answers were; quite, particularly in the US, and becoming more so internationally.
But the proof is in the listening. Outside on CMI’s demo area/driveway hung 10 elements of A8, paired with SRX subs, as the A Series matched subs hadn’t made the same shipment.
I’ll be honest – with the exception of the odd JBL wedge that is excellent for cut-through, I’ve never been a fan of the JBL sound. That famous ‘bark’ and American timbre is not for a prissy theatre sound tech the likes of me. The A8 however, sounds nothing like any JBL I’ve ever heard. It’s smooth, almost neutral, and dare I say, European in its voicing.
This is not the 1980s JBL we knew.
After listening to several test tracks at various points through its coverage, I would be happy to mix on an A8, and not just a rock band; they’re a versatile box. I went in to the listening session with my built-in JBL prejudice whispering ‘notch out that bark around 1kHz and the annoying fizz at 3kHz’ but it just didn’t need to be done.
The HF is remarkably improved, even from just one generation of product ago.
“It’s the new compression driver that makes the biggest audible difference,” explained George Georgalis.
“This whole product was a new design from the component level, and we’re no longer using metallic domes. We’ve changed the compression drivers to a composite material with a much better response, which makes the HF far less aggressive and much smoother sounding.
“A lot of R&D went into the HF drivers, as well as how to integrate all the new components together. The A8s have all new packaging and rigging, and travel in carts of four, which is far more efficient in terms of tracking and transport.”
The icing on the cake was a demonstration by the CMI crew just how easy it was to roll in, rig, fly, and then roll out the A Series when they swapped the A8s for the A12s. It was smooth and blindingly quick, and with all due respect to CMI’s audio sales team, if they can do it that quickly, real road crew will be like lightning.
With a lot of audio engineers in Australia professing, as I did, a certain dislike for JBL, the brand has work to do to cut through the snobbery.
“JBL has a huge legacy, which is its advantage,” explained George. “We make our own transducers, and engineer everything from the ground up. The compression driver and waveguide used in the A8 is new technology that was developed just for the A Series.
“There are now demo systems in Australia, and the system speaks for itself. JBL have listened to feedback from the global customer base, including Australia, and paid attention to the international market. If you’re an audio tech, get in front of the system and you’ll change your opinion.”
A News item from CX Magazine – April 2019 CX Magazine is Australia and New Zealand’s only publication dedicated to entertainment technology news and issues – available in print and online. Read all editions for free or search our archive www.cxnetwork.com.au
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Lead image: Aaron and Tim Buchholz with George Georgalis and the A8s
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