JBL Studio 230 Speaker System

Studio 230 Speaker System
Build Quality
Studio SUB 250P Subwoofer
Build Quality
PRICE $1,630

Efficient, high output
Vocal clarity and defined soundfield
Affordable price
Thin, accentuated top end
Best at low-to-moderate volumes

Although their bright voicing may not be for everyone, the JBL Studio 2 speakers combine high efficiency with excellent detail retrieval.

What if the solution to room-interaction problems resided in your loudspeakers? Wouldn’t that be a great alternative to the ills of receiver-based room correction systems? Those are some potentially interesting questions posed by JBL’s Studio 2 series.

For starters, who needs room correction anyway? Well, when it’s hard to catch the dialogue, and imaging smears all over the place, the room correction program in your A/V receiver can mitigate those problems (depending on the receiver and the room). But quite often, it also introduces new artifacts and errors. For my own part, in my own room, I find that many room correction systems thin out the overall tonal balance and induce fatigue. That’s why some audiophiles shun room correction and choose to live with the acoustic character of their room, for better or worse—usually both.

However, that leaves those initial problems—dialogue clarity and imaging of objects in the soundfield—unresolved. Is there a better way to approach them? One alternative is tweaking the room with acoustical treatments, to which entire companies, careers, and professions are dedicated. But another alternative is to address those problems in the loudspeakers. And that brings us to JBL’s new Studio 2 speakers—which use waveguide tweeters in a way that benefits speaking voices and soundfield specificity, not to mention overall efficiency, while minimizing interaction with the room boundaries.

The New Studio
The Studio 2 line replaces the old Studio line. Although far from expensive, these speakers are beefy floorstanders and stand-mounted models, not little satellites. The series includes a trio of floorstanding three-way models: Studio 290 (with dual 8-inch woofers, $600/each), Studio 280 (dual 6.5-inch, $500/each), and Studio 270 (single 6.5-inch, $400/each). Two-way “bookshelf” models, which we call monitors, include the Studio 230, reviewed here, with a 6.5-inch woofer ($400/pair), and the Studio 220, with a 4-inch woofer ($300/pair). If you want a center speaker that matches the 6.5-inch woofer in two of the towers and the larger monitor, choose the Studio 235C ($380). To match the 4-inch woofer in the smaller monitor, check out the Studio 225C ($250). Also offered are two subwoofers: the 12-inch Studio SUB 260P ($600) and 10-inch Studio SUB 250P ($450). This review covers four of the larger monitors, the larger center, and the smaller sub.

At the heart of the Studio 2 is what JBL calls an HDI (High Definition Imaging) waveguide, derived from patented technology used in the company’s Professional M2 Reference Studio Monitor ($20,000/pair). It’s shaped a lot like a horn, and the resemblance is intentional: JBL wants to provide a visual link to their pro-level horns and compression drivers. The waveguide has a curved opening angled at roughly 120 degrees in the horizontal plane and 100 degrees in the vertical plane, along with a petal-shaped phase plug in front of the diaphragm. JBL says this combines the efficiency of a horn with the pattern control of a waveguide, enhancing high-frequency detail and soundstage presentation through greater directivity. And directivity is a good thing when you’re trying to reduce room interaction.

The Studio 230 monitor mates a 1-inch CMMD Lite dome tweeter plus waveguide with a 6.5-inch PolyPlas cone woofer. The Studio 235C center uses similar drivers, with two of the woofers. CMMD, used in both JBL and Infinity speakers, is a proprietary material with patents owned by parent corporation Harman International. This Ceramic Metal Matrix Diaphragm is a ceramic compound deep-anodized onto an aluminum core, and it’s made to take a beating, adding rigidity and stiffness to the metal diaphragm. The Lite version reduces the amount of aluminum oxide on the diaphragm surface to 25 percent of that in the older version of CMMD, which is still used in more expensive models.


The PolyPlas material used in the woofers is also proprietary, this time a polymer-coated cellulose fiber. The surface treatment adds dampening to reduce breakup and lower distortion. JBL says this improves vocal clarity in the range over which the woofers operate (as well as the midrange drivers in the larger three-way models not reviewed here).

The Studio SUB 250P has a 10-inch PolyPlas cone driver with a serious 200-watt RMS amp. When I unpacked the review sample, a ring framing the driver appeared loose. This wasn’t the driver’s rubber “surround”—the part attaching the driver perimeter to the baffle—but a cosmetic plastic ring outside the surround. I popped it back into place, but when I blasted the receiver’s LFE test tone into the sub and felt the ring with my fingertips, it picked up minor resonance from the enclosure (though it didn’t rattle or buzz). Leaving it on might not have caused any problem, but to feel completely confident, I left it off.

Associated equipment included a Pioneer Elite VSX-53 A/V receiver, Oppo BDP-83SE universal disc player, Meridian Director USB DAC running with Foobar 2000 on a Lenovo Win 7 laptop, Micro Seiki BL-21 turntable, Shure V15MxVR/N97XE cartridge, and Onix OA 21s integrated amp serving as phono preamp. All movie demos were on Blu-ray Disc with DTS-HD Master Audio soundtracks.

Bright Lights Tonight
The Studio 2 speakers are a textbook definition of bright. This is not expressed here as a negative (as that word is often used), merely as the descriptive it was originally intended. To carry the visual-into-aural metaphor a little further, the speakers cast a spotlight on the upper mids and highs, retrieving unexpected amounts of detail, which was often gratifying but could be fatiguing. For the most part, at sane volume levels, there wasn’t the kind of harshness that would result from ringing or distortion. These speakers were just more revealing than your average bear, offering the kind of etched detail that some listeners crave. The trade-off is that they often seemed to be at their best at low to moderate levels; the overall tonal balance was too thin for blasting with some material.

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Alex3's picture

I really wanted to get a pair of Studio 230.. but after reading this i'll pass. If I think my Monitor Audio BX2 are very bright.. these might be worse.. :(

Polly Chan's picture

With the introduction of the JBL 7 series Master Reference monitors, I wait patiently for the next generation JBL Studio series speakers coming in 2015.

paulo72's picture

I was always waiting for a review on the Studio 530's, 520C centre channel and Studio 550P subwoofer. I ended up purchasing the speakers I mentioned based upon a review on a British mag's review. The Studio 5's are wonderful speakers, I'd love to see what you guy's at Sound and Vision think about them. Any change on you doing a review on the Studio 5's?