All Under Control
JBL Control 1 Monitors
Article from Home & Studio Recording, November 1986
Small monitors; small price; big sound.
JBL's new Control 1 near-field monitors manage to pack a convincing performance into an unbelievably small space.
The mention of the name JBL often elicits the response 'It's bound to be good but it will be out of my price range'. I must confess that I used to think along those lines too, but their new Control 1s are certainly not overpriced.
Near-field monitors are often an excuse for manufacturers to turn out an overpriced, low-spec hi-fi speaker arguing that it represents what the average non-discerning member of the public is used to hearing. That's exactly what JBL have not done. Instead, they've turned out a sophisticated 2-way ported system in a purpose designed moulded enclosure, capable of presenting a highly detailed account of the input signal, even at punishingly high power output levels. The subjective bass response too is far better than you'd expect from such a diminutive speaker. In fact a glance at the spec informs you that the frequency response is a surprising 3dB down at 150Hz.
One of the main purposes of near-field monitoring is to facilitate the positioning of sounds across the stereo stage. Another is to give an impression of how the mix sounds on a system that doesn't have the extended bass response of full sized studio monitors. For that reason, it isn't necessary for near-field speakers to present quite the same flat, uncoloured sound that a main monitor is expected to give. Indeed, the Control 1s are forward voiced so that they give a bright, detailed sound.
In the unlikely event of my having to recommend a disco package that could be transported on a moped, two of these speakers would certainly be included in the set-up.
"The bass response... is far better than you'd expect from such a diminutive speaker."
The boxes themselves are moulded from a plastic material and this has the advantage of being strong, stylish and acoustically well behaved. Non-slip rubber end pieces complete the hi-tech look and make the speakers stable when located on smooth surfaces. There is even a metal bar moulded into the rear of the cabinet to accommodate a safety chain for night club installations where the customers might take a fancy to the speakers.
The drivers are built by JBL themselves in Northridge, near Los Angeles. The bass unit is just over 5" in diameter and features a smooth paper flared cone suspended on a roll-foam surround. This is capable of impressive excursions when driven hard and so the lead-out wires are well cemented in place to prevent them coming adrift. A moulded mounting ring locates and secures the speaker and this is fixed in place by four cross-head screws.
Moving on to the tweeter, this is rear-mounted and can't be removed as part of its structure is moulded into the baffle. In the unlikely event of the tweeter blowing, the baffle would have to be replaced. I say unlikely because the speaker has a built-in protection system using the series light bulb principle. When the power dissipation gets too high, the bulb heats up and its resistance increases.
"At this price, there's no alternative but to buy some."
A little less than 1" in diameter, the tweeter uses a plastic diaphragm rather than titanium as is employed in many other JBL designs and a simple acrylic phase corrector is fitted in front of the diaphragm. This tweeter design is, I am convinced, responsible for its less abrasive, more 'English' sound — quite different to the traditional 'go-for-the-throat' all American JBL West Coast sound.
The only way into the enclosure is to remove the six Allen bolts on the front panel which hold the two halves of the moulding together. Because everything was a tight fit and almost certainly sealed with some sort of caulking compound, I curtailed my enthusiasm and resisted the temptation to pull the thing apart.
The reflex tube is moulded into the main case and the inside of the enclosure contains damping material. Both drive units are protected from prying fingers by a removable grille, again with a trendy rubber surround, and this bears the JBL logo. Connection to the speakers is made via spring terminals inset into the rear panel and recesses are moulded into the case to accept optional mounting hardware.
These speakers sound as impressive as they look, and they do look great. Imaging is good, no doubt due to the small physical size, but the bass response doesn't suffer from the small enclosure size nearly as much as you might expect. True, there isn't any really low bass but what you do get is still punchy and really shows up many other so-called micro-monitors.
The upper mid-range and treble end is clean and detailed with none of that scratchiness often experienced when driving small speakers hard and, as previously mentioned, the efficiency and power handling combine to provide an overall sound pressure level that really is quite startling. These speakers generate the sort of sound that you can hear into. It's really 3-dimensional and lets you pick out all the little nasties that elude less refined monitor systems. And the softer tweeter sound that I commented on earlier means that you can use these for a longer period of time without feeling fatigued, given that you like the music!
"These speakers sound as impressive as they look, and they do look great."
These are unashamedly general purpose speakers and are ideal for sound installations, near-field stage monitoring, Audio/Visual and studio use. In A/V applications, the magnetic shielding will definitely be appreciated. At this price, there's no alternative but to buy some. For any professional studio, they are well up to scratch as near-field monitors and they sound good on digitally recorded material too. For the home studio, a pair of Control 1s could be used as the only source of monitoring but with reservations. They must be used with due consideration to their limited bass end but if you're recording for your own benefit rather than taking in paying customers, you should be able to manage. Later, when you have some more disposable income, you might dispose of it on some full-range monitors and still keep your Control 1s for near field work. Alternatively, you might add a sub-bass speaker... that really does sound impressive.
As you might have gathered by now, I'm more than a little impressed by these monitors and no, they didn't bribe me by giving me a pair... however, if they should change their mind...
Cabinet size: 235 x 159 x 143mm
Bass unit: 5¼" diameter.
Tweeter: ¾" plastic dome type with integral phase corrector, both magnetically shielded.
Nominal impedance: 4Ω.
Frequency: 120Hz to 20kHz, ± 3dB.
Power handling: 150W (IEC268-5).
Efficiency: 90dB for 1W at 1m
The JBL Control 1s cost £149 a pair including VAT. A comprehensive range of mounting hardware is also available.
Further details are available from: Harman UK, (Contact Details).
Review by Paul White
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