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Loudspeakers | stand-mount

MODEL 4349

Price (in Poland): 33 800 PLN/pair

Contact: HARMAN International Industries
400 Atlantic Street |15th Floor
Stamford | CT 06901 | USA

MADE IN CHINA | Provided for test by: SUPORT


Images: Wojciech Pacuła | press materials

No 199

December 1, 2020

JBL stands for JAMES BULLOUGH LANSING. Born in 1902 as James Martini, in 1927 he founded his first company LANSING MANUFACTURING COMPANY, still existing as Altec / Leasing; due to financial problems, he had to sell it in 1941. In 1946, his next company, Lansing Incorporated, was founded, which would soon change its name to JBL and becomes one of the most important manufacturers of loudspeakers in the world.

BL IS A PART OF A SMALL CLUB of manufacturers who have made a career in all fields related to sound - from cinema halls where its roots lie, through recording, mixing and mastering studios, to home stereo and multichannel systems. Interestingly, they remained themselves in each of these applications.

Today, its offer includes both headphones and loudspeakers, small Bluetooth speakers, as well as powerful, adored in Japan loudspeakers from the Everest series, as well as stand-mount and floor-standing loudspeakers, marked only with a numerical model symbol. The latter refer to both the appearance and technical solutions of studio models used to monitor recordings. The model 4349, tested by us, also belongs to it.

| Model 4349

STUDIO MONITORS JBL 4349 are medium-sized bookshelf speakers, built around patented JBL solutions. The loudspeakers are a two-way design, with a vented, bass-reflex cabinet. The very large horn used for the tweeter draws attention. A horn for JBL is something normal, commonly used, but one that is so big is not that common. Its characteristic shape refers to the Synthesis series, which was created with the highest-class cinema systems for sound for movies in mind, and then found its way into the hands of wealthy home cinema lovers.

All the loudspeakers from this company that we tested and which belonged to the Compact Monitor series or - like the tested loudspeakers - Studio Monitor one, were derived directly or indirectly from designs intended for recording studios. The 4349 looks similar, because it features a very large, 300 mm cellulose pulp woofer, with characteristic, concentric reinforcements, as well as a tweeter horn, and finally has a high and low tones control. Contrary to appearances, it is a completely different construction than those from the above-mentioned series, because it resembles the Everest series in its intention.

Let's start with the aforementioned tweeter horn. It is much larger than in other Studio Monitor speakers. That's because the 4349 is quite an unusual design - although the bass is delivered using a powerful 300-mm woofer, there is no midrange driver. So one should expect that the tweeter has its range extended way low - but it doesn’t. The division between the tweeter and the woofer - here in the role of the mid-woofer - was set at 1.5 kHz, and yet in equally large JBL loudspeakers, MODEL 4367, the bandwidth is split at 700 Hz, and the SMALLER 4429 are a three-way design.

The tweeter used in the tested loudspeakers is unique and belongs to the top series of this manufacturer. In its name it features „D2”, which means that they are in fact two transducers working together, with two diaphragms, coils and magnetic systems, placed one behind the other. The diaphragm called Teonex, having a V-shape, has a diameter of as much as 37.9 mm, which supported with a huge horn gives an extremely effective system. The horn itself is called High-Definition Imaging (HDI) and is designed to control directivity, to best match the tweeter with the woofer.

⸤ Design details of the JBL D2415K Teonex tweeter | photo: press release

The woofer is 300mm in diameter, made of uncoated paper ("Pure Pulp") and it features a powerful cast basket and a very heavy magnet. The coil used in it has a diameter of as much as 75 mm! Unlike some JBL models, its surface is almost black, not white. So it contrasts nicely with the blue front baffle and the veneer on the other panels. There are two veneers to choose from: satin walnut or black walnut.


HOW WE LISTENED I placed the TESTED SPEAKERS on stands I use my reference speakers - the Harbeth M40.1 - on. These are the stands custom-made for me in Japan, by Mr. Ken Ishiguro, the owner of the Acoustic Revive company.

They consist elements made of various types of aluminum, and the legs are covered with several types of materials; under the top, there is a special brass element to dampen vibrations. Between speakers and stands there are discs of rock crystal. Recently, the whole thing was placed on fantastic Pro Audio Bono PAB CERAMIC 60 SN antivibration feet. The JBL loudspeakers placed on them were at such a height that the center of the tweeter was 1 m from the ground.

⸤ You can buy JS-120 stands for the speakers, which will place them at an angle, quite low above the floor, in the style of the 70s | photo: press release

The JBL model 4349 is somewhat similar to the Harbeth, but not the same. The similarities are related to PURPOSE - both loudspeakers are of studio origin, DIMENSIONS - JBL: 736.6 x 444.5 x 342.6 mm vs Harbeth: 750 x 432 x 400 mm, WEIGHT - JBL: 37.7 vs Harbeth: 34 kg , USING a 300 mm woofer and cabinet with two bass-reflex ports on the front panel. The price of the loudspeakers is also similar - the Harbeths in this version, at the time of purchase, cost PLN 39,000, although it must be added that at the moment another version is available, the twice as expensive M40.1 XD model.

JBL loudspeakers were placed 230 cm apart, counting from the tweeters, and 250 cm from the listening position; 60 cm from the rear wall. The manufacturer recommends the distance between them at 1.8-2.4 m, the toe-in angle between 0-60º and the distance from the walls of over 50 cm, so my positioning was quite optimal. The speakers were aimed directly at my ears because in my room loudspeakers with wide front baffles sound best in such setup. They were connected to the Soulution 710 amplifier using Siltech Triple Crown cables. I also used SPEC REAL-SOUND PROCESSOR RSP-AZ9EX.

Recordings used for the test | a selection

⸤ BECK, Sea Change, Geffin Records/Mobile Fidelity, UDCD 780, „Special Limited Edition | No. 01837”, Gold-CD & DSD64 (2002/2009)
⸤ DEREK & THE DOMINOS, Layla, Polydor/Universal Music LLC UICY-40004, Platinum SHM-CD (1970/2013)
⸤ DIRE STRAITS, Brothers in Arms, Vertigo/Mobile Fidelity Labs UDSACD 2099, „Original Master Recording, Special Limited Edition | No. 1808”, SACD/CD (1985/2013)
⸤ ELTON JOHN, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, Mercury Records/USM Japan UICY-40025, Platinum SHM-CD (1973/2013)
⸤ MIKE OLDFIELD, Tubular Bells, Mercury Records/Universal Music LLC (Japan) UICY-40016, Platinum SHM-CD (1973/2013)
⸤ THE ROLLING STONES, Exile on Main St., Atlantic/Universal Music Company (Japan) UICY-40001, Platinum SHM-CD (1972/2013)

⸤ RAFAEL FRAGA, Trova Caminhada, TRPTK TTK0014, Master Flash DXD Studio Master (2017);
⸤ DIANA KRALL, Wallflower, Verve, WAV 24/48 (2015)
⸤ CHARLIE HADEN & ANTONIO FORCIONE, Heartplay, Naim Label, 24/96 FLAC
⸤ DICK HYMAN, From the Age of Swing, Reference Recordings HR-59, HRx, WAV 176,4/24 (kopia z Master DVD-R) (1994/2001)
⸤ DIETER ILG, Bass, Sommelier Du Son ‎sds 0013-1, Master Flash DSD256 (2008)

ONLY AN EXPERIENCED COMPANY like JBL could do something like this - a combination of a large, 300 mm woofer, which works here up to 1.5 kHz (!), so it also supports a large part of the midrange, and a tweeter. The harmony between these two drivers in the reviewed speakers is really good and deserves deep respect, it cannot be done by accident or by ear. In addition, this harmony is evident not only when we sit opposite them, exactly on the axis of the tweeter, but also off the main axis, both vertically and horizontally.

These are loudspeakers with a specific character of sound that do not try to be forcefully neutral, but rather want to convey some truth about recordings - in this case the truth about their dynamics and energy. The JBLs sound strong, incredibly dynamic and offer a high energy level, if I can say so. In this respect, they stand out even from other models of this manufacturer belonging to the Control Monitor and Studio Monitor series.

The 4349 focuses on the best possible impulse rendering, the most precise presentation of dynamic relationships between individual instruments, both in terms of tonality and spacial arrangement. That is why a bunch of rock albums selected by me sounded so amazingly and uniquely well. Rarely can you hear such albums recorded in the 70s sounding so good! I think, for example, about the Layla by DEREK & THE DOMINOS, Exile on Main St. by THE ROLLING STONES, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road by ELTON JOHN, or Tubular Bells by MIKE OLDFIELD.

It so happened that I played them all from the Platinum SHM-CD versions. Maybe it did not "happened" at all, because when I think about it, I come to the conclusion that my choices were guided by a subconscious belief that it would be with JBLs, as few very few other designs, regardless of the price, that I would hear what this type of pressing is perfect for - the dynamics and energy.

All the albums I mentioned, and I would add a few years younger Brothers in Arms by DIRE STRAITS, had this roughness that we expect from rock music, but also a power of the sound that we rarely get with such recordings. These recordings sound quite dry - this is the result of producers' choices - which means that most of the loudspeakers that compress the sound, „dampens” their presentation, and as result we get a small, light sound from these discs, which is a distortion of what was actually recorded.

But not with the tested speakers. With them it was perfectly audible, that what is usually not audible, what the loudspeakers do not show, is an inseparable part of these recordings. What's more, it is also known that during the sessions the sound engineers and producers used large, broadband monitors that could reproduce dynamic intricacies and which were able to show small changes in the sound pressure, creating a presentation they wanted to achieve. In a word, they did what - on our side of the "glass" - the tested JBLs are able to do.

It was with them that I could hear so well why Layla can be such a darkly sounding album, and The Rolling Stones disc so bright one, and yet they have common DNA, because both of them are based on blues filtered by the sensitivity of white musicians. It is with them that the Oldfield’s album, sounding calm on most of the speakers, almost contemplative, that comes to life only after the bells enter, with JBLs is from the very beginning, from the 0:00 time on the disc, energetic and dynamically nuanced.

JBL engineers focused on the best reproduction of the sound’s pulse, on the fact, that the loudspeakers should start as fast as electrostatic ones - and it really worked. There is a much better filling of low sounds here than in electrostats, but the impression of transparency and lack of “resistance” in front of the speakers is similar. These speakers "excite" the air, ie they initiate its movement as if there were no restrictions in front of them, as if the air was not there.

The sustain is also excellent here - sustain, that is what we usually call filling. The large bass woofer used in the tested loudspeakers with fast impulse response makes their sound big, massive. But not "too massive", because it is also agile. The loudspeakers greatly present recordings of the highest quality, such as Dieter Ilg's Bass, an analog recording encoded in DSD256 prepared by Dirk Sommer, as well as the rock recordings I mentioned. They don't turn everything into a homogeneous mass. In a word, they can differentiate recordings in a unique way.

In terms of tonality, it would be difficult to call these loudspeakers "warm". During the test, I set both potentiometers to the -1 dB position, but only because I was sitting close to the speakers, and such large horns up close tend to brighten the sound. It won't be a problem when listening at a greater distance. But whether near or far the tonality of the 4349 will be open, strong, certainly not warm. Low tones are palpable, they are accurate, sometimes they almost touch us, but with other recordings the sound is shown far beyond the line connecting the speakers.

The imaging of the tested speakers is to some extent similar to listening to headphones. The most is happening in front of us, even far deep in the stage, and this is where the greatest energy of the presentation is concentrated. On the other hand, the stereo imaging is also excellent and you can hear even small things, such as the fact that in the I Looked Away, the track opening the Layla album, the drums can be heard from several microphones, not only those intended for them, so it seems that they have some effect added to them that stretched them out of phase, as a result of which the sound seems to come out from outside the edges of the speakers. And yet the other instruments are almost monophonic.

The changes in the sonority of the instruments are also perfectly audible, i.e. whether the tonality is dampened or not. This also translates into a better-than-usual insight into the work of the sound engineer, because when individual instruments enter on the Oldfield disc, you can hear that some of them are recorded with more noise - the sound engineer opens the channel with them a bit earlier and first we hear a slight hum, and then the sound.

Knowing the Harbeth M40.1 and other JBL designs that have found their way into my listening room over the years and which I have heard both during my professional acoustics work and later in recording and mastering studios, I can say that both, the M40.1 and the 4349 try to show the truth about recordings better than other loudspeakers. But they do it differently and if someone does not like the Harbeth, if they think that they sound too dark, then the tested JBLs will be the answer. It will also work the other way around.

The loudspeakers can surprise with an intimate sound. Writing these words, that is, ending the test, I listen to the Human Things by Piotr Wyleżoł, which was released with number 79 in the Polish Jazz series. I listen to it from the Master CD-R, which was burned for me in the mastering studio by Mateusz Sołtysik, responsible for the mixing and mastering.

And a complete surprise - it is an intimate sound, with large phantom images and a tangible "presence". Aga Zaryan's vocals on the title track was close to me. The mixing of the disc was done "in-the-box", ie in the Pro Tools system, so there is no such good gradation of planes as in the case of recordings with an external, analog mixing table, for example on ECM Records. Despite that, the sound is very well organized, and the dynamics, with the D/A and then A/D conversions (when an analog mixing console is used, which is usually the case today) usually a bit dimmed, here it is perfect. And it is this perfection that the JBLs showed in a simply unique way, while maintaining the palpability and directness of the sound.

| Summary

Large horn speakers with a paper woofer seem to be begging for a SET-type tube amplifier. Let's not do this. The tested loudspeakers require a powerful amplifier - it can be a tube one, but it is better if it is able to show fast dynamics and not limit the speakers themselves. The point is that these are designs that bring out the rhythm, the nerve of each recording, they do not let the recordings “collapse” within themselves. A bit like action cinema, where there is no movie without action ...

It is an open sound with a lot of mid and high tones. It is neither bright nor hard, and the bass is beautifully pulsating, slightly soft and has a reserve of power and dynamics, which we get only with large loudspeakers. They will play well in small rooms, but they will also feel good in larger ones. These are energetic, dynamic constructions offering a bold sound that will prove themselves in both, high-class home cinema and in great stereo systems.


MODEL 4349 IS A LARGE, two-way bookshelf speakers with a bass-reflex cabinet. The treble is handled by the JBL D2415K Teonex compression driver (i.e. requiring the use of a horn) with a diaphragm diameter of 38 mm. In fact, these are two drivers, with circular diaphragms, driven by separate coils and magnetic systems. The whole thing, however, is closed in the same housing and has a common outlet, it is shares common cooling system featuring a large heat sink. The driver operates in a very large horn made of SonoGlass (a kind of resin reinforced with glass fiber) with an outlet measuring 320 x 240 mm. It has a patented, unique shape called High-Definition Imaging (HDI).

Low and mid tones (up to 1.5 kHz) are supported by the 300 mm JW300PG-8 driver with a paper diaphragm called Pure Pulp. It has been embossed with characteristic, concentric beads, which improve its stiffness. The large dust cap is also made of paper - the coil has a diameter of ø 75 mm. The driver suspension, however, is modern, made of rubber. The shape of the basket is also quite modern, a result of computer simulations. It is powerful with a contoured shape and is made of an aluminum-magnesium alloy.

The crossover is mounted on a large PCB and bolted to the rear panel, behind the tweeter - unfortunately I couldn't get to it. The speakers feature double speaker terminals, connected with small, gold-plated metal plates, and the whole is screwed to a plastic element. This is not a high-end solution, but companies with their roots in pro audio don't pay much attention to it.

The cabinets are made of thick MDF boards reinforced inside with a rim located below the horn. The horn itself is dark gray, nicely contrasting with the navy blue color of the front panel, characteristic for studio loudspeakers of this company from the 1970s and 1980s. Closer to the bottom edge of the front baffle there are two large diameter bass-reflex outlets made of plastic. The whole part can be hidden behind a dark blue grill, but we lose half of the "charm" of this artistic design when doing so. The speakers are finished with natural veneer, available in two colors - black and walnut (as the tested pair).

Technical specifications (according to the manufacturer)

Frequency range: 32-25 000 Hz (-6 dB)
Recommended amplifier output: 25-200 W RMS
Nominal impedance: 8 Ω
Sensitivity: 91 dB (2.83 V/1 m)
Crossover frequency: 1.5 kHz
Dimensions (W x H x D): 736,6 x 444,5 x 342,6 mm
Weight: 37.7 kg/pc.


Reference system 2020

1) Loudspeakers: HARBETH M40.1 |REVIEW|
2) Line preamplifier: AYON AUDIO Spheris III Linestage |REVIEW|
3) Super Audio CD Player: AYON AUDIO CD-35 HF Edition No. 01/50 |REVIEW|
4) Stands (loudspeakers): ACOUSTIC REVIVE (custom) |ABOUT|
5) Power amplifier: SOULUTION 710
6) Loudspeaker filter: SPEC REAL-SOUND PROCESSOR RSP-AZ9EX (prototype) |REVIEW|
7) Hi-Fi rack: FINITE ELEMENTE Pagode Edition |ABOUT|


Analog interconnect SACD Player - Line preamplifier: SILTECH Triple Crown (1 m) |ABOUT|
Analog interconnect Line preamplifier - Power amplifier: ACOUSTIC REVIVE RCA-1.0 Absolute-FM (1 m) |REVIEW|
Speaker cable: SILTECH Triple Crown (2.5 m) |ABOUT|

AC Power

Power cable | Mains Power Distribution Block - SACD Player: SILTECH Triple Crown
Power (2 m) |ARTICLE|
Power cable | Mains Power Distribution Block - Line preamplifier - ACOUSTIC REVIVE
Power Reference Triple-C (2 m) |REVIEW|
Power cable | Mains Power Distribution Block - Power amplifier - ACROLINK Mexcel 7N-PC9500 |ARTICLE|
Power cable | Power Receptacle - Mains Power Distribution Block: ACROLINK Mexcel 7N-PC9500 (2 m) |ARTICLE|
Power Receptacle: Acoustic Revive RTP-4eu ULTIMATE |REVIEW|
Anti-vibration platform under Acoustic Revive RTP-4eu ULTIMATE: Asura QUALITY RECOVERY SYSTEM Level 1 |REVIEW|
Power Supply Conditioner: Acoustic Revive RPC-1 |REVIEW|
Power Supply Conditioner: Acoustic Revive RAS-14 Triple-C |REVIEW|
Passive filter EMI/RFI: VERICTUM Block |REVIEW|


Speaker stands: ACOUSTIC REVIVE (custom)
Hi-Fi rack: FINITE ELEMENTE Pagode Edition |ABOUT|
Anti-vibration platforms: ACOUSTIC REVIVE RAF-48H |ARTICLE|

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Clamp: PATHE WINGS Titanium PW-Ti 770 | Limited Edition

Record mats:


Headphone amplifier: AYON AUDIO HA-3 |REVIEW|

Headphones: Headphone Cables: Forza AudioWorks NOIR HYBRID HPC