JBL is a name in the speaker world which conjures up all sorts of memories for many people all over the world and is most iconic for their studio monitors which have graced many professional recording studios’. This sort of iconic status is well earned and respected by all who have had the pleasure of hearing this legendary speaker brand.
The JBL 4425 was first introduced way back in 1985 and the 4429 model is a direct replacement for this monitor. At that time the JBL 4425 was the first studio monitor from JBL to combine a compression driver and Bi-Radial horn in a monitor which was in a reasonably compact size. Technology has moved on but the same principals are still instilled in the design and look of the JBL 4429, as they both have the 300mm bass unit but rather than just the one horn they have two in place with high compression drivers, one for the mid/high frequency up to 8Khz and another for the UHF which extends all the way up to 45Khz. This represents a major upgrade in sonic ability with dual titanium drivers enclosed in a one piece SonoGlass horn system. The bass is produced by a rather prestigious 300mm pure pulp cone woofer and OMG does it generate low frequencies at ridiculously loud levels. This also goes for the two-compression drivers which deliver Sonics to levels which many would shy away from, but the levels are distortion free and non-fatiguing when listening at such loud sound pressure levels. Two ports at the front of the speakers allow for easy placement and can even be built into custom set ups where they are enclosed in a wall or studio environment. In between the two ports are two level setting controls which can be adjusted if needed for the two compression drivers, for me I just left the settings at 0.Build Quality and set up
JBL have indeed made improvements over the years and the cabinets are heavily braced and the build is excellent with the weight just over 32Kg for each speaker so not exactly light weights. This studio quality shines through and you get a real sense of the imposing drivers deliciousness when you first remove the covers from the cabinet and that massive 12” driver shows all its goodness. Improved crossovers from the previous 4428 means that the sound is now even better than before and with the blue baffles the term retro comes to mind but there is nothing retro in the speaker’s ability as the performance bar has been raised considerably and JBL have produced a true studio monitor that any Hi-Fi enthusiast would love.
Setting the 4429’s up meant me building myself some custom stands so that they would sit at the right height for listening to. I also dug out my Auralex Mo-Pads for the speakers to sit on, these special pads isolate the speakers from any vibrations traveling down and through the stands. I am a custom to studio monitors owning previous brands from the likes of M&K and Ken Kreisel so the Mo-Pads have had some great usefulness over the years. JBL being no exception. My distance from the 4429’s was a couple of metres as my room is fairly small so in a way an ideal environment to demonstrate what these beautiful monitors can do. I have always liked this type of nearfield sound that proper studio monitors produce.
To power these monitors, I am using my McIntosh Labs MA8000 Integrated Amplifier, accompanying the big McIntosh I also have a Clearaudio turntable for vinyl and an Aurender N100H Music Server for streaming my digital music collection which is being fed directly into the Mytek Brooklyn DAC with Bridged PSU. CD transport is from Cyrus and fed straight into the Brooklyn DAC for the best sound quality. All cabling is from Transparent Cables for both power and speaker cables and interconnects. I have disconnected my Martin Logan Balanced Force 212 Subwoofer as I want to see what these monitors are capable of on their own. With the spec sheet giving a 40Hz – 45Khz frequency response they should give a respectable performance in my smallish room, and with the distance away from my main listening position.Sound Quality and Performance
I have bought a few new albums for this review, my Aurender N100H is making up the majority of my listening sessions due to the quality of the high-resolution music available and its quality.
The first album I have is a new download from HD Tracks and it is by Lenny White – Explorations in Space and Time with a resolution of 24bit 176Khz. Track 1- Stank kicks off with some serious drumming and the speed and dynamics that the JBL 4429’s possess is quite startling as the performance is simply breath taking. The quality of the bass is seriously good with a taught and precise beat of each drum note. The upper end of the scale is rolled off nicely with cymbals providing a shimmering of high frequencies which never sound harsh nor do they have any hardening to the sound. This track is played at very high levels and that 12” bass driver delivers in spades with a punch that hits you firmly in the chest. I have not heard this type of performance from many speakers in this price range, you usually only get this type of hard hitting bass from much larger speakers and more costly ones too. The music presentation is a full-on experience but in a good sense, as it delivers a wide and spacious sound with the imaging which is quite precise. I cannot detect any cabinet interaction or coloration with the sound so the bracing must be very good as the cabinet is not that deep but no resonances are heard except a clean and articulate sound. In fact, it makes the speakers sound much larger than they actually are.
My next album is a new one from the band Elbow – Little Fictions (just released) which is in standard resolution of 16bit 44.1Khz.
This is a band that I have been listening to for a little while now and have come to really like the music that they create. Track 2 Gentle Storm has some great vocals and this is one area of the 4429’s that really shine as they are crystal clear and the tonality is spot on. The driver cohesion is also very good with the big 12” bass unit integrating with the horn loaded compression drivers perfectly, the frequency range flowing nicely across all three of the components which give a very balanced performance.
What I like about the JBL’s is that seem happy to play all types of music with an ease that makes them so easy to listen to. Track 5 – Head for Supplies is laid back in its presentation and the 4429’s just sound so at ease playing the music not making a fuss with the way they handle this track. The lead vocals projected clearly and the harmony between instruments and singer just blend perfectly but with a clear separation that provides such a melodic sound which makes for a beautifully crafted track. You can imagine sitting at the mixing desk merging all of this together it is such a well-engineered piece of music.
I switch to Tidal via the Aurender and search out some Boris Blank music which I have on CD’s but I love Tidal as a streaming music provider and playback one of my favourites which is Electrified (2014) Now this is impressive with how the JBL 4429’s reproduces the main song title Electrified, those horn mid to high frequency compression drivers sound so damn impressive, showing off what they can do when commanded to and the sound is quite spectacular with the synthesised sounds generated. They have such a rawness in power that it catches me off guard with how loud they actually can go with a clarity and scale which not many speakers can replicate in the way that these ones do. My McIntosh MA8000 seems to love these speakers and vice versa, with the power of the McIntosh pushing the JBL’s to extremely loud levels which I did not think would be possible but it does and they absolutely love it. Going louder and louder without any strain or fatigue I keep pushing them but they do not give up and the SPL levels are ridiculously loud, I am talking non-friendly neighbour issue territory. I back off with the volume and bring it down to a more friendlier level but all that time the bass was so controlled and deep that I did not think this type of performance was possible from a cabinet that size. The compression drivers are insanely good and Hi-Fi does not get much better than this. Some people may argue that Studio Monitors are not meant to be used for real Hi-Fi but the JBL’s re-writes the rule book on how good monitors can sound and for the £6,000 asking price they are a bit of a bargain. You lose out slightly on the imaging which is narrower than say my Wilson’s which can create a massive sound stage but in other areas the JBL’s sound just as good if not better and you need to go up the Wilson line to get more performance which costs big bucks.
These are serious speakers with a sound that you learn to respect as they can play to insanely loud levels, but it is not all about how loud they can go either as they can play at moderate levels with such a way that you will fall in love with the sound. They do not care what type of music you play they just get on with the job and give you a performance that any person or audio enthusiast would simply enjoy and true to the recording.Conclusions and Final Thoughts
The JBL 4429 Studio Monitors are incredibly good speakers for the money and have impressed the hell out of me. They play all types of music with ease and it is a pleasure listening to them. The look may not be to everyone’s taste but if you can get past that then you will be in for a real treat as the sonic ability is where these speakers really impress. And did I mention they go loud, oh yes I did. Loud but with all the control of some of the best speakers I have heard. Imaging could be better but that is where I guess the larger 4367’s come in or maybe the K2 S9900 which JBL also sell. For a base speaker in their studio line these are some serious pieces of kit that warrant a good listen if you are in the market for a really good pair of monitors.
For this level of performance The Speaker Shack awards the JBL 4429's with an Outstanding Product award.
Price at time of review £6,000 UK Distributor is Karma-AV.JBL Synthesis website