JBL Synthesis – Systems Compared
The following article was taken from a review written by an audiophile with over 20 years’ experience of high performance home cinema systems.
As a designer and developer of high end residential properties, when the opportunity arose to create his dream cinema, he spent more than 4 years researching the project.
His expertise and attention to detail make this perhaps the most in depth, comparative review of high end home cinema systems ever published.
Feedback from visitors to the clients completed cinema can be found at the end of the review.
JBL SYNTHESIS SYSTEM
Speakers: 3 x JBL Synthesis Everest DD66000 (LCR); 8 x JBL Synthesis SK2-3300 BT
LCR Monitors (Surrounds)
Subwoofers: 4 x JBL Synthesis S1S-EX
Pre-Amp/Processor: JBL Synthesis SDP40HD; with JBL Synthesis SDEC4500 Digital EQ
Power Amplifier(s): 11 x JBL Synthesis S820
SYSTEM PRICE (RRP) £255,000
- Wonderful dynamics and clarity.
- Excellent sound separation and refinement.
- Good ambience.
- Tight and fast lower bass and sub-bass; packs a really good punch.
- Somewhat harsh sounding
- Rapidly causes ear fatigue when played at Cinema Reference Levels, something which is entirely unacceptable given the system costs £1/4 million
- A bit ‘honky’, with moderately inaccurate and coloured sound, undoubtedly due to the horn type speaker architecture; this is especially noticeable with the mid-range and treble.
- Bass and sub-bass lack depth
- Audio quality is cripplingly dependent on the quality of the source material
- The speakers are bulky and very heavy and impossible for a single person to install.
- Exorbitantly overpriced; and hence appalling value for money.
Far from being awful JBL’s flagship Everest audio system simply doesn’t perform anything like as well as the marketing spiel and some (not entirely unbiased) third party reviews have indicated. I was expecting it to perform significantly better than it does, and hence found myself bitterly disappointed.
Whilst acoustic performance is indeed the best out of the JBL Synthesis range, which is appropriate given that it is JBL’s flagship system, it stills most notably suffers, albeit to a lesser extent, from the sharpness and harshness that is somewhat infamously apparent with the rest of the range.
As a result, we have the ludicrous situation wherein one of the most expensive audio systems currently available rapidly induces ear fatigue when the system is played at Cinema Reference Levels. Whilst the speakers suffer less of the stereotypical ‘horn sound’ than other horn type speaker brands, the ‘honkiness’ is still noticeably present to the extent wherein it is both distracting and irritating.
Costing a cool £1/4 million JBL’s flagship home cinema audio system theoretically should represent the ultimate in audio quality. However, the unfortunate truth is that it spectacularly fails in this regard, and hence serves as one of the best examples relating to audio equipment wherein ‘more expensive’ does not equate to ‘better’.
AUDIO QUALITY: 4.5
Clarity & Accuracy: 6
Volume Capability: 3
Ear Fatigue: 3
STEINWAY LYNGDORF: S-SERIES SYSTEM
Speakers: 5 x Steinway Lyngdorf S-15 (LCR and Surrounds)
Subwoofers: 2 x Steinway Lyngdorf Model LS Boundary Woofer
Pre-Amp/Processor: Steinway Lyngdorf P1 Surround Processor
Power Amplifier(s): 4 x Steinway Lyngdorf A1 Digital Amplifier
SYSTEM PRICE (RRP): £52,390
- Spectacular clarity and accuracy
- Near absolute realism
- Outstanding ambience
- Incredible dynamics
- Zero background noise
- Requires very little (if any) acoustic room treatment
- Amazing value for money
- None whatsoever
Steinway Lyngdorf have taken the rule book when it comes to audio equipment design and in doing so have created audio equipment that is truly revolutionary. In auditioning Steinway Lyngdorf system I found that I had discovered what can only be described as the Holy Grail of both music hi-fi and home cinema audio systems.
Steinway Lyngdorf have achieved as close to audio perfection as you are ever likely to experience and have become the new Reference Standard for home cinema audio equipment.
AUDIO QUALITY: 9.8
Clarity & Accuracy: 10
Volume Capability: 10
Ear Fatigue: 10
VALUE FOR MONEY: 10
REVIEWED: The final system installed, tested and enjoyed
Unlike most reviews, this was written by an individual researching how best to spend his own money. The installation of his dream cinema was completed in the summer of 2013. When pictures of the installation were posted on the internet it created so much interest the client began hosting events for fellow audiophiles to experience what his remarkable cinema system could do. Here is a selection of quotes from these visitors.
“The depth of thought that has gone into every aspect of the home design is brilliant. It’s an audio and visual treat”
“The wall of sound was beyond what words can describe. You have to experience what a Steinway Lyngdorf home cinema set up can do. The clarity at such amazing volume levels was stunning”
“I’m absolutely lost for words”
“The classical tracks were simply stunning. The clarity, dynamics, and sheer impact were astonishing but it’s the detail and realism of the instruments that is truly special. I sat there with my eyes closed and my spine tingling in sonic heaven”
“I would say that that is the best £100k ever spent on a home cinema”
“The cinema room has to be seen to be believed. Attention to detail is first class. You could almost believe the band or orchestra were actually in the room with you!”
“The Steinway system easily out performs a commercial cinema. The bass from Tron was earth shattering. I’m surprised my fillings didn’t come loose!
“Nothing draws attention to itself, other than the sheer quality of the installation – the bass isn’t overbearing, the treble isn’t too bright or wearing, the visuals are crystal clear… Even after a couple of hours of film there was no listening fatigue whatsoever…. it was just ‘right’.
“A quite epic room”
“The Steinway Lyngdorf system gets better each time I hear it. It just gets everything right.”
“It’s shocking that more home cinema professional installers and reviewers don’t put the Steinways on the pedestal they deserve”
“I can only echo what has been said – a totally silent sound floor, inky blacked out walls that disappear and perfect audio clarity. With unbelievable volume and a vast spacious soundstage it’s basically everything you could ever possibly want from a cinema and then some.”
“Simply an amazing set up; stunningly thought out and put together.”
“I struggle to see how it can get any better!
“The combination of silenced Sony 4k projector (being in the adjacent room behind a slightly expensive piece of glass), screen and electrically adjustable borders means that picture quality is excellent with pretty much pitch black around it. The 7.4-channel Steinway Model S fits right in in terms of looks, quality and sonic performance, and the eight 12″ subs – can easily make you wonder whether there’s an actual earthquake.”
“Not only did it sound incredible but the visuals from the Sony 4K projector were stunning.”
“This really is an inspiration showing what can be achieved by doing things right from the start, without pandering to expensive room acoustic treatments or many other “musts” which apparently aren’t musts at all!?
“The introduction to the film Bolt was completely insane. Insert your own expletive xxx. The impact from the subs is exceptional. Well, just about everything the SL system does is exceptional. Couple that performance with the meticulously detailed room and you are in AV nirvana, it’s as simple as that.”
“A 4K projector and content in a silenced, blacked out room with a massive SL system makes this probably one of, if not the best cinema in the world at this moment in time?”
“I can’t say enough just how good this system is.”
“Nigel’s attention to detail is amazing. Whoever buys the place can be confident that it’s built as well as it could possibly be and that sitting in the cinema will just make the stress of any day melt away”
“I don’t know what else to say, other than if you get a chance to experience it do go along and see for yourself, I really don’t know how it could get any better!! “
Click here to read the original full review of the 12 different systems the client auditioned: