They might not win any gongs for looks, but there’s no doubt that the JBL Studio 530s (opens in new tab) can put a huge grin on your face.
They're not the easiest speakers to imagine simply slotting in to your system, but the slightly retro design is complemented by a sound that's just accomplished and distinctive.
Look down the throat of the horn and you can see the bi-radial compression driver, while removing the grille unveils the 13cm mid/bass driver… but it’s not the most attractive sight.
JBL Studio 530: Installation
If you want to listen to them this way, remember to use the supplied cover, which maintains the profile of the horn. Otherwise, you’ll mess up the dispersion from the driver.
That 13cm driver uses a stiff, lightweight ribbed PolyPlas cone and a rubber surround, plus a 2.5cm compression driver for high frequencies, made from one piece of Teonex.
JBL claims that clean, powerful bass, reduced distortion and improved clarity are the key benefits.
The JBL 530s work best 60cm or so from a wall, slightly toed in towards the listener to make the most of their directional spread of sound. Up close to a wall, bass weight increases, but doesn’t sound too overbearing.
This is helped by the JBL’s striking midrange delivery. It sounds so focused and precise that it cuts straight through the low frequencies, straight into the lap of the listener.
JBL Studio 530: Sound quality
The XX always provide an expansive, roomy soundstage, and latest track Angels is given detail and space aplenty. Voices have texture and detail, wile the reverb-laden guitar notes sound dynamic yet precise.
Play something more upbeat and while the midrange remains sweet, the livelier character that really defines the 530s comes to the fore. There's plenty of weight and power (provided they're not too close to the wall they shouldn't be overbearing) and even when pushed, in terms of both dexterity of notes and sheer volume the JBLs keep control.
Hans Zimmer's soundtrack for The Dark Knight Rises is a predictably stern test of dynamics and flexibility. The JBLs pass this test admirably, throwing in an extra dose of excitement and immersion thanks to impressive detail.
JBL Studio 530: Verdict
Part of the JBLs’ fun-factor is that they mix impressive refinement with a jovial character. They can serve up Beethoven and textured key strokes, but in the
same breath they can fire out smooth basslines of R&B and raucous drumbeats of rock without flinching. Such all-round ability is extremely rare at this price.