JBL Synthesis 1400 Array BG loudspeaker Page 2

The horn module is packed separately from the bass enclosure—JBL is concerned that the bulky horn might be damaged or snapped off in shipping—but the cartons contained everything I needed to put them together: for each speaker, one short and two long Allen-head bolts, an Allen-head screwdriver, a logo plate, a rubber hole plug for the rear horn-mounting bolt, and four metal coasters to protect wooden floors from the speaker's spiked feet. Following the manual, I cradled the horn module with its horn lying along my forearm, and connected its signal line's plug into the jack atop the bass enclosure. I then lowered the horn onto the rear L-bracket, while lining up the front two mounting holes inside the mouth of the horn with the holes in the enclosure. Then I inserted the two long bolts into those holes in the front of the horn. The perpendicular part of the L-bracket was secured to the rear of the horn structure with the short bolt inserted just below the midrange driver's ribbed motor housing.

Assembly required two people: one to hold a flashlight so that the mounting holes could be aligned, and the other to guide the horn module into position. It took some time to balance the horn and find the correct alignment at which to secure the bolts—aligning holes drilled through two heavy, black structures of different shapes requires a good flashlight. But when we were done, the horn was precisely and rigidly attached to the bass enclosure.

I positioned the 1400 Arrays, without spikes or grilles, 5' from the front wall, 6' apart (measured from the tweeter centers), and toed in 45° toward my listening chair, which was 7' away. PSC double-ribbon speaker cables connected them in turn to several solid-state amplifiers: a Bryston stereo 3B-SST2, two Bryston 7B-SST2 monoblocks (640W into 8 ohms), and a Mark Levinson No.334 (125Wpc into 8 ohms). The 1400 Arrays allowed me to hear these amplifiers' sonic qualities: the No.334's three-dimensional transparency, the Bryston 7B-SST2s' lease-busting bass dynamics, and the Bryston 3B-SST2's sweetness.

Breaking In and Listening
The Synthesis 1400 Array BG proved capable of 110dB peak sound-pressure levels at my listening chair. To assess its low-frequency extension, I measured the levels of the low-frequency warble tones on Stereophile's Test CD 3 (Stereophile STPH006-2) with an ATM SLI-100 sound-level meter resting on the arm of my listening chair. The low-frequency warble tones were audible and pitch-perfect from 160 down to 35Hz (±2dB), the output falling off gradually, by –5dB, down to 30Hz. I heard no chuffing or wind noise from the rear port.

I then played the channel phase and pink-noise tracks from Editor's Choice (CD, Stereophile STPH016-2), while doing comparative listening in the nearfield (7' away) and farfield (16' away). The sound of the pink noise grew duller when I stood up in the "sit down, stand up" test, even though the 1400 Array's tweeter was 45" off the floor; ie, 8" higher than the level of my ears when I'm seated. Once again seated, however, I heard no changes in the pink-noise pattern, even when I shifted from a slouching to an upright position.

Placing my hand on a sidewall of one 1400 Array, I felt a mild buzzing sensation at 260 and 130Hz as I played the chromatic half-step sinewaves on track 19 of Editor's Choice—but I heard no ill effects from these resonances when I played Chris Jones's fretless-bass segment in "Blizzard Limbs," from Attention Screen's Live at Merkin Hall (CD, Stereophile STPH018-2).

Once I'd finished the initial set-up, I broke in the 1400 Array BGs by playing my favorite rhythmic selections: David Bowie singing "Putting Out Fire," from the Cat People soundtrack (CD, MCA MCAD-1498); didgeridoo music from David Hudson's Didgeridoo Spirit (CD, Indigenous Australia, IA2003D); and Fleetwood Mac's The Dance (CD, Reprise 46702-2).

As the bass warble tests indicated, the 1400 Array BG had good bass extension. Its 14" woofer produced full room lock with sustained organ pedal, as heard during the Introduction of Strauss's Also sprach Zarathustra, performed by Erick Kunzel and the Cincinnati Pops, on Time Warp (CD, Telarc CD-80106), and played the pipe organ's sustained low C (32Hz) that ends James Busby's performance of Herbert Howells' Master Tallis's Testament, from Pipes Rhode Island (CD, Riago 101). Both selections shook the air in my room and rattled loose radiator panels. The JBLs revealed the senses of suspense and dread created by the synthesizer in "Assault on Ryan's House," from James Horner's Patriot Games soundtrack (CD, RCA 66051-2). Moreover, the speakers developed strong pace and rhythm, as heard in Tony Mangurian's and Victor Indizzo's drum work in "Darkness on the Face of the Earth," from Willie Nelson's Teatro (CD, Island 314-524-548-2), as well as the steam-pressured kick-drum drive that turns the seemingly light "Everywhere I Go," from the same album, into a sizzling, churning performance.

JBL Consumer Products
1718 W. Mishawaka Road
Elkhart, IN 46517
(516) 594-0300

Jimmy_G's picture

It would be interesting to compare how much of Project Array's magic that Mr. Timbers was able to distil into his curious Studio 5 series as both designs feature large bi-radial horns and trapezoidal cabinets.  

Full disclosure, my own curiosity got the better of me last January and I purchased the 530s for my smaller 2 channel system and I haven't found reason to take them out yet. I figured that anyone implementing a compression driver mated to a horn, and sensitivity isn't the goal, has a design that certainly warrants a listen.  

I haven't had the opportunity to listen to any of the Synthesis Project systems yet so I've always been left wondering.