I’ve reviewed two of JBL‘s hi-fi audio system earlier than, the L82 and L100 Traditional — audio system I loved for his or her nice sound and retro aesthetics. Over the previous month or two, I’ve been in a position to take a look at one of many firm’s extra forward-looking audio system, the $1,800 HDI-1600. After placing it via its paces in my front room and the take a look at bench, it’s clear the HDI deserves its spot within the crowded $2,000 value bracket.

The HDI-1600 is a bookshelf speaker with a 6.5-inch woofer for the lows and a 1-inch compression driver reasonably than your typical dome tweeter dealing with the highs. A compression driver is theoretically in a position to play louder than an ordinary tweeter with much less distortion, but it surely requires a rigorously designed waveguide or horn to form the sound. So That fancy-looking trim across the compression driver is not only a design flourish — it makes vital contributions to the speaker’s tonality and soundstage.

Talking of design, the HDI-1600 isn’t actually my cup of tea, what with its ‘squircle’ form and plastic trims. Aesthetics are clearly private, however I’d not less than wish to see some extra selection in decisions for various properties. A lightweight wooden or white end, as an illustration, would go a protracted strategy to making the audio system be a greater match for my condominium. The standard walnut veneer appears ‘outdated’ in my ebook and shiny black is overused and drab. The gray oak shade stands out not less than, however I really feel prefer it requires a really explicit aesthetic to work in.

General, the design doesn’t actually appear all that worthy of the value tag, nor do the appears stand out for the retro-ness as with the L82 and L100. I do not less than like that deep waveguide although. And aesthetic opposition apart, the speaker is hefty and does really feel solidly made.

Listening impressions

After all, one buys costly audio system primarily for his or her sound, and the HDI-1600 delivers in spades. Out of the field, the prevailing impression is considered one of neutrality — virtually all the things simply sounds ‘proper.’ To me, that’s what defines an incredible speaker: not ‘exuberant’ highs, a ‘luscious’ midrange, ‘quick’ bass, or no matter poetic superlatives we audiophiles like to pin on audio system.

A very nice speaker simply lets the recording shine with out getting in the best way, and the HDI-1600 largely does simply that. Within the case of the HDI-1600, there have been simply two deviations from impartial that stood out to me.

The bass response was barely boosted, so for those who’re not utilizing room correction, you would possibly need to watch out about positioning these close to partitions, which is able to additional reinforce the bass. However generally, I truly discover that is typically a very good factor with bookshelf audio system — it helps ‘fill out’ the underside finish, as few bookshelf audio system lengthen all the best way into the sub-bass. The increase additionally helps the HDI-1600 attain all the way down to 40Hz (-6dB) anechoically, and in my expertise, the speaker nonetheless has audible power into the 30s in my room.

That is truly among the many finest bass efficiency I’ve seen from a passive bookshelf speaker, and although I at all times advocate including a subwoofer to the speaker setup if attainable, the HDI-1600 fares higher than most with out one.

The opposite, smaller element that stood out to me was that the speaker appeared to lack somewhat little bit of sparkle or ‘shimmer’ in its high octave. This may in all probability solely be noticeable if you’re a youthful listener and might nonetheless hear nicely above 10kHz, but it surely was noticeable to me as I switched between the HDI-1600 and the Focal Chora 806 that’s my regular reference.