JMlab Chorus 706 loudspeaker Page 2

The lower high frequencies, were somewhat sweetened; this added a slightly honeyed quality to instruments with significant high-frequency content. Louis Armstrong's trumpet had the requisite bite but sounded a bit more silky than I'd been used to hearing. Kevin Barry's Fender Stratocaster on the Mighty Sam disc seemed a bit more polite, as if Barry had swapped his Fender amp for a Mesa Boogie and hit the Fat switch. The extreme high frequencies also seemed a bit rolled-off, but not unnaturally so. The latter effect was akin to moving from a live hall (Avery Fisher or post-1980s-renovation Carnegie) to a plush hall (pre-renovation Carnegie).

But the Chorus 706 did not produce colored or unconvincing high frequencies from good classical recordings. The massed strings and glockenspiels in Messiaen's Turangalîla Symphony (Previn/London Symphony, EMI SLS 5117, LP), although sweet, were natural and realistic. The reproduction of the pianos in Ligeti's Three Pieces for Two Pianos, Deutsche Grammophon 255 311 110 2) was beyond reproach, partially due to the speaker's exemplary midrange and high-frequency presentation, and partially due to the lightning-fast articulation of transients—sharp, fast, and clean, with no unnatural bite.

And if you, like me, are a percussion fan, you'll love the Chorus 706. George Crumb's Makrokosmos III (Nonesuch 71311), a percussion powerhouse, was reproduced with quick, pitch-accurate transients. The JMlabs' precise soundstaging and dynamic articulation let me hear the dynamic pressure envelope of the instruments as well as their distance from the microphones. High-level dynamics, however, were not quite as wide or dramatic as the microdynamics.

The Chorus 706's bass reproduction presented a bit of a paradox. Although the warmth of the lower midrange extended down into the mid- and upper bass, it did not detract from the naturalness and speed of instruments with significant content in that region. The acoustic and electric basses on Bill Frisell's Nashville (Elektra 79412-2) and Dean Peer's Ucross (Classic/Jazz Planet 25002-1), respectively, exhibited clarity of timbre, definition, liquidity, and weight, without any of the overhang or "hooting" typical of speakers with warm midbass presentations. Bottom extension was unusually good for a speaker of this size, with convincing bass reproduced down to the lower 40Hz range. On John Rutter's Requiem (Reference Recordings RR51-CD), there was not much room-shaking bottom-octave reproduction of the organ pedals, but the amount of air bloom in the lower bass enhanced the realism of the organ presentation.

Et les autres?
I compared the Chorus 706 with the Paradigm Reference/20 ($600/pair), the Polk Audio RT25i ($319/pair), and the Acarian Systems Alón Petite ($1000/pair) speakers.

I found the Paradigms slightly more veiled in the midrange than the JMlab—neutral, but not as rich or as involving. The high frequencies were a shade more forward and metallic, and somewhat dry. The Reference/20's midbass, however, was weightier than the Chorus 706's and extended a bit lower, with a more dramatic sense of high-level dynamic contrasts.

The Polks were a bit more transparent than the JMlab in the midrange but somewhat less refined, with a neutral but less rich lower midrange. Although the Polk's highs were more extended, the JMlab's lower high frequencies were more refined and sweet. The Polk's upper bass was tighter than the JMlab's but its midbass was less rich, with high-level dynamics more compressed than the JMlab's.

The Alón Petite had superior detail, high-frequency extension, low-level dynamic resolution, and superior transient articulation and bass definition. The JMlab's bass frequencies were much more extended, however.

C'est magnifique!
I was mighty impressed with JMlab's Chorus 706 loudspeaker. Its sophisticated and involving character gave me hours of pleasure with a wide range of program material, and its minor colorations were consonant with the musical experience. In fact, I can't think of another $450/pair speaker that I can recommend more highly than the Chorus 706. My thanks to the designers at JMlab for continuing to proudly wave the "trickle-down" flag.

US distributor: Audio Plus Services
P.O. Box 3047
Plattsburgh, NY 12901
(800) 663-9352