JBL Control 1 Monitors
It is easy to be fooled by their diminutive stature, but these tiny monitors pack one helluva sonic punch. Paul Gilby was on the receiving end.
Near-field monitors, or 'reference' monitors as some people would call them, have been with us for some years now. We can thank the Auratone cubes for starting a craze which has since developed into an important market for all loudspeaker manufacturers worldwide. Most recently the Yamaha NS10s (with or without tissue-paper covered tweeters) have taken this market by storm, but now big boys in the studio monitor game, JBL, have stepped in with their very own Control 1 miniature monitor system. Paul Gilby listens in!
It still amazes me how the technology of the music-making industry moves at what seems to be an ever increasing pace, with the never-ending discovery and development of more and more digital goodies. The results of such technological breakthroughs are, however, still judged by listening to a box with a piece of paper flapping about in it - a 'loudspeaker' to you and I. So what has been happening in the world of speaker development to cope with the elevated listening awareness of musicians and recording engineers in this digital age?
Well, the JBL company of America have certainly been doing something quite special.
In designing the Control 1 JBL have produced a speaker system that is most obviously suited to near-field monitoring, yet which can perform equally well in a variety of different applications - from main monitors in a home recording set-up, to hi-fi (either main or surround sound) and audiovisual production, through to bar and conference room installations. What's more impressive is the realisation that JBL have not compromised the design to achieve such flexibility - the Control 1's really are true 'all-rounders'.
It's been said that most people are probably more familiar with their car hi-fi speakers than just about anything else they listen to. With this point in mind, the business of assessing sound quality on a variety of different speakers has grown in importance.
Studio engineers now want to know whether the music will sound good on the radio or in the car, not just on the home hi-fi. Main studio monitors can give you the power and depth of sound necessary whilst recording your music, but it's the small near-field monitors that engineers turn to when stereo placement of instruments and effects panning is to be examined in detail.
However, not everyone is privileged enough to own a large pair of studio monitors to allow this sort of comparison and many of us have to make do with something physically smaller. In this situation, what is needed is a monitor capable of fulfilling both roles. Enter the Control 1...
The advantage of buying speakers such as these is that they can act as your sole monitor system now, but if you eventually upgrade to larger studio monitors, they can still play a valid role. What are your main monitors today, can act as superb near-field monitors tomorrow! That's an important factor to consider when you're on a tight budget.
The speaker units themselves just ooze quality, from the very construction of the housing to the strength of the cable grip and metal front protection grille.
Made of a moulded polypropylene structured foam, which forms a tough exterior housing, the units have an internal magnetic shielding to allow you to place the Control 1's near video and TV equipment without fear of interference. The ends are well protected by rubber, and their non-slip nature makes them ideal for easy mounting on mixing desk meter hoods, for instance.
A two-way speaker system is employed, with the bass/mid frequencies being covered by a 5¼" driver and a ¾" tweeter handling the high frequencies. The careful choice of speakers and cabinet size result in a frequency response of 120Hz to 20kHz. This is a respectable enough response and although the bass end doesn't extend way down, the resulting sound is unquestionably tight and punchy. When used as main monitors, you could quite easily wire in a third 12" woofer, say, to deal with the low bass end and thereby extend the frequency range.
JBL studio monitors are famous for their 'forward voicing' characteristic which gives them a bright and punchy sound that helps 'project' the music into the listening environment. This same quality is evident in the Control 1's, which should help continuity in the monitoring situation when switching between main and near-field monitors.
How do they sound? Well, the sound produced by the Control 1 speakers is indeed marvellously clear and, with a remarkable 150 watt power-handling capability and integral protection circuit, there's little danger of pushing them into distortion.
Listening to a favourite Peter Gabriel compact disc, they enabled you to discern the subtleties and detail of the recording session that much larger monitors would most likely disguise. Their sound is spacious, open and fresh, with the stereo imaging and decay of reverbs, for example, remaining particularly intimate. Overall, their sound begs comparison with that obtained from listening to music on Walkman-type headphones. In other words, it's incredibly good!
The quality of construction, impressive sound quality and thought that has gone into these Control 1 monitors is quickly made evident in use. They suit a wide range of applications (aided by the optional mounting adaptors) and come very close to being the perfect product - a good design which serves the practical needs of the user, and at the right price. Highly recommended!
Price per pair: £149 inc VAT.
Distributed by Harman Audio UK Ltd, (Contact Details)