1 Aug 2023


by Julius Grafton

New line array takes aim at the big four

With over 20 brands on the market and the top four sellers competing in a white-hot market, JBL have thrown everything into a brand-new range aimed straight at the middle. Completing the VTX rollout with the VTX A6, they now have a proposition for almost everyone.

CX attended a launch function at Sydney’s Star Event Centre where a surprisingly large rollout of audio professionals was generally impressed. One consultant said he was now positioning VTX as a ‘value engineered solution’, meaning the installed price is less than some other systems.


Distributor MadisonAV hosted the launch and CEO Ken Kyle revealed the firm, 35 strong in the AV division and employing well over 160 across all its tech arms, have made what I would call a very large investment in demo stock. They have enough to supply multiple events at the same time and it’s all very well packaged from the racks and cables to the rigging.

We were looking at it when we came into the venue, having been generously catered in the foyer. MadisonAV were gaining a lot of new friends and making a statement, that they are all-in with the performance audio market. We met their VTX team Peter Kubow, Benjamin Page, and Andrew Taylor, who are now charged with getting the demo systems out there across the market. “People won’t buy it without trying it first”, Peter said. “So I’ll bring it. Call me.”

JBL have a significant advantage against the vast majority of brands as JBL build all componentry, including the high frequency elements. Most other brands use OEM components, after JBL amortise the research and development, they have a cost advantage. More importantly they can tailor components, which really shows in the high frequency driver which is common across all three VTX A cabs.


“When you choose the JBL VTX A-Series, you’re building a complete ecosystem, with common acoustic profiles and rigging systems, consistent voicing and standardised system design and operational tools,” says George Georgallis, Director, Product Management – Performance Audio at HARMAN Professional Solutions, who own the JBL brand. Harman threw a lot into the launch with half a dozen head office folk on hand to answer questions.

I rated the launch as world class, because nothing was spared. The presentation was mercifully succinct, which doesn’t always happen when product specialists are thrust in front of a microphone and let loose with a slide deck. Then we heard the three configurations – A6, A8 and A12 – with various sub combinations and not a Steely Dan track to be found. It’s nice being in the next century!

For cake icing, a real band – Atomic – performed and they are a cut above 10-piece with some legendary session musicians on the stage. The sound engineer did a great job; no pressure at all with a couple of hundred of us ready to step up if he fainted at the controls!

Heard for the first time is the newly launched A6 – a 6.5-inch passive two-way line array element, which can be used as a standalone system or as an addition to larger VTX systems. With two custom 6.5-inch woofers and the 3-inch annular-diaphragm compression driver, the A6 has all the acoustic innovations from the larger VTX A8 and A12, including things like (warning, brand buzzwords coming) “Radiation Boundary Integrator” and the “Differential Drive” dual-voice coil, dual-magnet woofer. The passive A6 gives a low-frequency extension and a maximum SPL of 134 db.

It does all this while weighing just 18kg, and it comes with a full suite of rigging options, including a low-profile roof mount frame which excited some of the integrators present who need to under hang from balconies and give schools more options. On that, just the night before I’d worked sound on a large private school concert in a premium venue setting and was amazed how the big dollar private schools are now throwing so much into music training. That’s a ‘this century’ thing which only helps when selling top end audio.

Another winning proposition is that the whole VTX line is amplifier efficient. Using Crown iTech HD amps, you can run multiple cabinets on one quad amp. This promises lower cost than with some other brands. Four A6 elements can run on one amp channel as the A6 is a passive 2-way design. Moving up, the 3-way A8 needs 2 amp channels and you can run 3 elements on each channel. The top- dog A12 needs 4 amp channels, and again 3 elements per channel can be done. On that, a hang of 12 A12s only needs 3 quad amps.

JBL put sense into the new A-Series branding, with the A6, A8 and A12 full range boxes joined by the B15, B18, B28 subs, and this is just so logical: 1 x 15”, 1 x 18” and 2 x 18”. They kick well too.

They put a few years work into these, and ticked off stuff a lot of lesser brands mess up. The A8 is 6db less than the 12, while the A6 is 12db less. I like linear marketing and design. The high frequency drivers are based on a polymer, not metal, diaphragm. More than one seasoned (that means old) sound engineer sidled up to me and said “they got rid of the ‘oink’,” referring to a trait displayed in older JBL high frequency drivers.

There’s a lot more to the story, but I ran out of ink in my biro, so you’d best talk to one of the product gurus. Overall, a new era for JBL and a calculated bold and brave move for MadisonAV.


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