HARMAN Luxury Update
HARMAN Luxury Audio Getting Active with Active Loudspeaker Technology
by Dave Tovissi
Vice President and General Manager
HARMAN Luxury Audio
At HARMAN Luxury Audio, innovation and technology are at the core of everything we do. For over 75 years we have employed the best methodology and tools in the industry. We develop everything from the ground up. This not only ensures success in the marketplace, but it also guarantees that our efforts exceed the expectations of music enthusiasts across the globe. By staying true to this mission, our team has produced a prolific list of audio achievements, groundbreaking technologies, revolutionary advances in the art and science of audio. We are recognized as leaders in the industry and have the patents and the awards to back up that claim.
Earlier this year we introduced our first active studio monitor to great acclaim. The JBL 4305P active studio monitors are the perfect solution for music lovers who seek a simpler way to listen to their favorite artists and content creators who want the convenience and connectivity built into a nearfield monitor. Last month we had the opportunity to finally demo the JBL 4305P to the public and to the industry press at High-End Munich and the feedback was amazing. Some of the attendees shared that the 4305P was the most impressive product they experienced at the show — which was quite an achievement, because the venue featured competitive products that were priced ten times as much. Along with the enthusiasm came some relevant questions from the attendees.
What are the benefits of active loudspeakers over passive loudspeakers?
Luckily, I sat down with An Nguyen, the distinguished engineer who designed the JBL 4305P, before I headed to Munich, so I was prepared to answer why active loudspeaker designs can outperform similar designed passive speakers. An replied to my question with… “In the case of passive loudspeaker designs, the engineer does not know exactly the type or the power of amplifier that will be used together with the loudspeaker, nor does he/she know the max output that the loudspeaker is expected to play. Therefore, the engineer must over-design the system to manage most of mechanical (dynamic) and thermal stress (power handling). That approach becomes inefficient and costly. But for active loudspeaker designs, we are the manufacturer of all parts that make up the product, so we know every single component in the system. Everything from the amplifier to the cabinet, the drivers and even the speaker cable has been chosen carefully by us to match perfectly, often adding up to more than the sum of their parts. This makes the system design more efficient and improves the acoustic performance of the product."
In the case of the 4305P, An had total control of the design parameters of the amplifier and transducers. For example, due to the difference in efficiency of the 2409H-2 compression driver vs. the 5.25” woofer in the 4305P, he was able to size the amplifier power accordingly based on max output of the system (125W = woofer & 25W = Tweeter instead of 125W for each transducer). Since it is a closed system design in an active loudspeaker, An worked with our electrical engineer Armando Martinez to specify and design amplifiers that have better impedance matching to the transducers for better power transferring, lower distortion, and to maximize the SPL output and dynamics. An and Armando were able to use digital signal processing (DSP) to further enhance the acoustic performance. Active crossover filters were used to implement the anechoic EQ to improve frequency response.
Of course, consumers may not need to know all the technical differences, but they should know that active speaker systems occupy less space in their home than conventional passive loudspeakers and the electronics components. Active speakers are much easier to set up and start using. One simply connects the active loudspeakers to power and pairs the product by using Bluetooth. Once they are paired, consumers can connect them to their home Wi-Fi network by using Google Home or Apple Airplay. Lastly, one does not have to worry about someone else turning up the volume too loud and blowing the drivers. That’s because our engineers have added limiters to protect the transducers from over excursions and thermal stress.
Why did HARMAN Luxury Audio wait until now to release its first active loudspeaker?
Purposeful invention is not rushed and does not happen by accident. It requires leadership, persistence and an unfaltering commitment to delivering on our ultimate design goal: create the best components for the best, most accurate sound. Advances in faster internet (5G) for better hi-res music streaming, more efficient and higher quality amplifier designs, cost efficient DSP chip sets, more reliable and higher data transfer rates for Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, makes it the right time to launch a loudspeaker such as the 4305P to meet the needs of music lovers. One other thing that makes active speakers more relevant now than ever before is the lower costs of high-resolution music services like Qobuz and Tidal.
As is the case with any innovative and different product, these loudspeakers need to be turned on and played for the consumer. We would love to hear from you on the reactions that you are receiving from your customers and if you have any creative ways that you have set the 4305Ps up and demoed them in your showroom. We strongly recommend that you demo these loudspeakers using the playlist that An created on Qobuz. Those tracks were used to voice the drivers.
Speaking of Qobuz, did you all happen to check out An Nguyen’s and Jim Garrett’s interview with David Solomon, the Vice President of Qobuz? The three of them had fun talking about the product and the many use cases for them.
With an award-winning active loudspeaker platform developed and refined by our engineers, you can expect more active products coming to the market from HARMAN Luxury Audio in the coming months. Until then, enjoy the JBL 4305P!