Mark Levinson/JBL Ear-Opener

There’s nothing like a good demo to change one’s opinion of what are now called Harman Luxury Audio components for the better. I had previously heard the pairing of JBL’s visually striking NDD66000 Everest loudspeaker ($60,000/pair) with Mark Levinson electronics at the speaker’s debut at CES a few years back. Although the buzz around the speaker was major, I recall thinking how dark and monochromatic the system sounded, and how it lacked the luminosity and color that I prefer.

Here, by contrast, the sound was some of the best solid-state sound I heard at the show. Home Audio Sound of Colorado paired the JBL speaker with the Mark Levinson No.502 media console ($35,000, discontinued, and being used solely as an analog stereo preamplifier), Mark Levinson No512 CD player ($15,000), and a pair of Mark Levinson No.53 monoblock amplifiers ($50,000/pair, to be reviewed by Mikey Fremer in the December Stereophile). Equally important were the products from Transparent Audio: RXL8–Transparent Reference XL speaker cables ($13,190/set), BRXL1–Transparent Reference XL balanced interconnects (2 pair, $18,530 total), PLMM2–Transparent PowerLink MM power cords (3, $6300 total), and PIR–PowerIsolator Reference power conditioner ($3195). Together, the chain produced a wonderful, big presentation in which lively, beautiful highs mated with impressively deep, admirably solid percussion.

“Bass lovers will have a field day,” I wrote in my notes of a system in which the entire spectrum of sound seemed of one very satisfying piece.

mrplankton2u's picture

Maybe all the folks who were buzzing about this speaker a few years ago when you thought it sounded "dark and monochromatic" weren't listening to it with the right cables... (eyeroll)

Well, better late than never. Welcome aboard and glad someone at Stereophile can finally admit that JBL is making very accurate loudspeakers - after about 20 years of doing so going back to the early K series and its predecessor - the 250ti. Admittedly, it probably was JBL's use of Monster Cable internal wiring that caused all the darkness and monochromaticness of past models.. Now that that's been fixed and "veils have been lifted" we can all rejoice! 

GeorgeHolland's picture

You ever get the feeling that the Stereophile crew just don't seem to care when people bring up valid questions on here? So far, when anyone does, they either become all snarky or make excuses. I find that strange for an audio magazine that , you would think, wants more subscribers and those subscribers buying more audio products. Hmmmmm.

mrplankton2u's picture

Yes, you'd think they'd be a little more responsive to people who have demonstrated an interest and past loyalty to the "product" they have offered who are voicing a sincere concern. Maybe my degree of concern is unwarranted. However, when I last attended RMAF two years ago, it seemed that the number of people representing the exhibitors frequently outnumbered attendees. I'd like to see the industry survive and thrive but if its chief spokespeople are too busy peddling $100,000 speaker cables for $60,000 speakers - I don't see that happening. With the downturn in the economy and shift of focus to the "ultra" high end, I think there's a strong danger that the industry will continue to shrink and ultimately implode. Audiophiles will be seen as freaks in need of psychiatric help - if the general mp3 low fidelity public doesn't already see them that way. They may in fact see them that way but I'd hate to give them a legitimate reason for reaching that conclusion by acquiescing to widespread snake oil and charlatanism...

jmsent's picture

That setup did absolutely nothing for me. The JBL's may be the greatest thing since sliced bread. But in that room, firing into all of about 13' depth and far too widely spaced, they just don't work. This is a system for a large room, where the speakers can be allowed the distance to blend properly. In this space, the sound of the individual drivers is easily audible.  As for exhibitors outnumbering attendees, well that's quite the exaggeration. There was plenty good traffic over the 3 day period, with Fri and Sat being quite busy. Could there be more? Sure. But seeing as how this is Denver, I think the show does pretty well for itself.

soulful.terrain's picture


JBL and ML have always been a good match. The 250Ti's that were mentioned in a prior post needed alot, and I mean alot of room to breathe.

tmsorosk's picture

I'm surprised Jason liked them, his tastes are lets say, a little off the wall.

There's a reason he's not a reviewer.