JohnBlue JB3

Finally, stellar sound from small speakers

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JohnBlue JB3
  • JohnBlue JB3
  • JohnBlue JB3
  • JohnBlue JB3

Pros

  • Smooth, rich sound in an incredibly small unit

Cons

  • The tiniest amount of distortion at higher volumes

Bottom Line

Truth be told, the JB3s sound like a much larger speaker with multiple drivers. Their sound is astonishing and involving, even though the speakers themselves are no taller than a paperback book. If you need small speakers but want big sound (at a decent price) it's hard to find anything better than these.

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JohnBlue's JB3 bookshelf speakers are incredibly versatile, far beyond what you'd expect from their tiny size. They can handle everything — from high notes all the way down into lower bass registers — smoothly and competently. If you're looking for some miniature units that still sound fantastic, you'll be hard-pressed to find much better than these speakers.

As a Taiwanese company, JohnBlue Audio naturally hasn't had a lot of exposure to the Australian market. But now consumers are able to get their hands on these boutique speakers from distributor Music Gateway, as well as through other retailers such as COEM Audio — who also cover products like the Kingrex T20 and UD-01.

The JB3 speakers are beautifully constructed with exacting detail. A perfectly smooth piano black finish completely covers the enclosures, while a single driver takes pride of place on the speaker's front — a distinct departure from the usual two-driver system. Even the rear, often completely hidden from view, has copper speaker terminals mounted on a thin gold plate, with model and serial numbers artistically added.

The speaker drivers are three inches, making them 'full-range' units as there is no need for complicated electronic crossovers degrading sound and signal quality. The drivers are specifically developed by JohnBlue, rather than being sourced from an OEM company such as Fostex. The end result is a deliberately engineered and remarkable pair of speakers.

We tested these hooked up to Kingrex's T20 miniature Class T amplifier, running off a Kingrex UD-01 digital audio converter playing lossless FLAC audio files. We were pleasantly surprised by the speakers' seemingly Herculean abilities — music sounded far richer and warmer than we were anticipating from such diminutive units.

Treble from the JB3s is sweet and rich, but doesn't lack detail. We were easily able to pick out individual instruments in orchestral arrangements and jazz trumpet pieces, although the speakers don't have a particularly analytical or exposing temperament. Midrange was an area where we expected the speakers to falter, but they didn't. The bass reflex enclosure allows the relatively small driver to create a large amount of sound pressure in middle frequencies, so music has a warm, enveloping feel. This is even more evident when using the JB3s in a small room or office, where they're able to stretch their legs and excel at moderate amplification levels.

We were yet again surprised by the ability of these speakers to recreate lower bass notes. While they are never going to be able to match the prowess of a dedicated subwoofer or speakers with significantly larger drivers, the JB3s do an admirable job of pumping out an amount of bass that belies their bookshelf size.

At higher volumes we noticed a slight amount of distortion from the speakers, especially when pushing them with bass-heavy rock and electronic music. At low and moderate volumes, however, the sound is remarkably composed. Their overall character is lively and musical; every track we listened to seemed very involving.

Stereo imaging is another area where the JB3s continue to impress. With the speakers positioned on either side of a computer monitor we found the soundstage to be noticeably three-dimensional, seemingly stretching far behind the monitor and speakers themselves. This is a boon for well-produced music, especially orchestra pieces, where instruments have specific places within a sound-stage. Music was perfectly synchronised but individual notes from individual instruments could still be placed and identified.

And best of all, this is all achieved with a speaker cabinet only slightly more than 20 centimetres tall. These are true bookshelf speakers, so they'll fit anywhere you care to put them.

The JB3s function perfectly as a dedicated primary music system, whether it's from a CD player or a computer source like Kingrex's UD-01 digital audio converter, but they would also be a welcome secondary addition to a more serious home audio setup. If you need a miniature stereo setup for your office or computer desk at a reasonable price, it's hard to find a better option than JohnBlue's JB3 speakers.

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