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Soundtracks generally fare beautifully on the JB3, which I suspect is due to the complexity of the music track being engineered and the JB3 picking out details like treasures. It was a pleasant realization of the intricacy of a song when the JB3 picked out and mesmerized me with the quality of a singer's lyrical enunciations. For example, in the synthetically created track "Del Buen Ayre" by Gotan Project, the chirp of crickets was substantiated and integrated as part of the percussion. A speaker unaware of the subtleties would have missed the play of detail. The synchronous monumental dance style from the E Nomine German project has gone to lengths to give an immersive ballad experience. With the JB3, groups with the complexity of E Nomine always offer new insights to the diversity of instrumental and vocal characters upon every listen. Likewise, you can hear Rajaton, a Finnish acappela group, showcase their vocal warmth and vitality through the JB3. By the by, these are the only musical talents in my near thousand-strong band list which my dad has approved of. Even within a 140 square feet room, we found that the projection of this type of music through the JB3 had a rounded realism to it as though it was performed live at an intimate small venue.

In contrast, poorly mixed tracks and poor vocal quality are thrown into sharp relief. Ciara's latest feature track with Diddy had her voice made all the more suffocated and trivial by the rushed hash of beats. A number of tracks on the new Nelly Furtado album on the JB3 suffered the same growing pains. Electronica on the JB3 offers a variety of characteristics: Armin van Buuren's trance beats are a formidable balance between the crisp and the supple but his tendency to blur the vocals distorts and muddles the listening experience. On the other hand, Crystal Method sounds nonstimulating on the iPod and its included headphones but engages the listener in much less of a repetitive lull over the JB3. Blaqk Audio, with deep bass beats throughout their latest industrial album, conjured depth and clarity between ambient special effects, vocals, instrumentation and percussion.

How has the JB3 fared with my most recent musical revolution? Quite simply, breakbeats by generic function has introduced a new way for me to listen to music and the JB3 has enhanced the breakbeats in a new way. Because my primary interest with the breakbeat genre is for dance, it is rudimentary for me to distinguish the upbeat in each measure to move in time to the music. The JB3 makes this very easy to the point that I do my footwork instinctively to the right beat. At the same time, the speakers do not oversaturate the quality of sound in an unrestrained and distracting manner.

The KingRex + JohnBlue JB3 is my miniature reference system. Compared to my dad's system (NuForce P9 + Reference 9 SE + Reference 9 V2 + Apogee Stage), the JB3 reduces every dimension to a smaller scale but retains the proportion. If it appears that the sound engineers and performers of a particular album know what they're doing, the JB3 shall meticulously exhibit the product of their talents. On the reverse, lack of care in sound mixing or just plain poor singing will be emphasized and laid bare by the JB3. These petite sophisticated speakers have given me the surprising opportunity to contemplate a much more complete auditory experience.

It's always good to have a second opinion. Where it's coming from in this case is the relevant age group talking about desktop systems. It's the opinion that counts. We've tried the JB3 with the Trends TA10 and KingRex T20U with very good results. The latter has the undisputed upper hand of an extra source input through the USB DAC, which comes in handy for Tanya's PC and Mac Mini. The JB3 also seems to synergize somewhat better with the KingRex, delivering a warm and polished presentation for virtually all kinds of music. The Trends on the other hand has more clean-cut resolution and mates perfectly with the Minipods but when driving the JB3, tends to exhibit excessive brightness with heavy rock like Linkin Park, which is too sharp for my ears and years anyway. But the ability to reveal details is inherent to the JB3 regardless of what amps are thrown its way. I am now -- yes, even me -- able to distinguish the difference between various cymbals on a drum set, be it a ride (the most defined cymbal sound), a crash (prolonged resonance rattle due to thinner sheet metal) or a splash (even higher pitch and more rattles from an even smaller thinner sheet). These are the things I've never bothered with before.

Nearfield studio monitor: Close enough for comfort.
Admittedly, bass from the JB3 is never forceful. Neat but not for the meat. Yet surprisingly, the overall tonal balance is never awfully lopsided. Not at all. That burly, guttural, husky character of the male narrations in E Nomine is still coming through with throat-grabbing excitement. And the bubbling percussions and swift swingin' strings are well communicated. With the JB3 -- so transparent and bringing out so many subtleties in the recordings -- I suddenly realized how the nasal female singing and the bandoneon in the Gotan Project ("Del Buen Ayre" and "Diferente") are actually two very interesting contrasting elements. The female singing, supposed to be sexy and seductive, is now purposely aloof and absentmindedly distancing herself whereas the real seductive role is picked up by the yearningly breathy bandoneon. Should I have discovered that before? Or does it just so happen that I imagine this now? I don't know. At least the JB3 has the magic of making me listen more attentively. The cappella choral singing of Rajaton seems to benefit even more from the JB3's ability to portrait a sonic landscape. Especially those works with minimal or no instrumentation, "Joululaulu", "Lunta" and "Heinillä Härkien Kaukalon", the vocal parts and accompaniments (mimicking instruments) are meticulously laid in front of me. My daughter's alien music has cast a spell on me through these modern near-field monitors.

Listening to the JB3s on a desktop in the near field reminds me of my good old advertising days in recording studios monitoring commercial music tracks, jingles and voice-over tracks. After listening to the final mix on the big JBLs or Tannoys, we always monitored the track on the tiny near-field monitors to replicate the low-level playback of television speakers. The objective was to make sure that the music was not drowning out the announcer's voice, that the lyrics were lucidly audible - more precisely, that the client's sales pitch was clearly communicated despite all the bells and whistles. The most popular near-field monitors then were Auratone 5C and Yamaha NS-10M as far as I can recall. Relying on sonic memory stretching over more than twenty years and an imagination equally stretched, I can still say that the JB3 has not only met its initial challenge as the personal system in the office and home, it has gone as far as warranting a position in recording studios as a near-field monitor for the purposes just described.

I was so impressed with the KingRex + JB3 combo's musical capability and attention to details that I thought of another application. Instead of replicating television speakers, I let the JB3 replace my television speakers. The need became imminent weeks ago when we watched the Sarah Brightman concert Symphony in Vienna that I recently recorded on DVD from the WNED broadcast. We had just bought the LG 32" LCD HDTV and I thought the built-in 10wpc speakers wouldn't be too bad. I was wrong. Fortunately KingRex and JB3 soon put things right. I suspected the LG should have used some kind of class D amplifier chip but it just didn't have the right drivers (or the space to fit them) to finish the job. I knew if I hooked up my main sound system, it would definitely be more overwhelming. But this was good enough for a quiet evening. We weren't crazy about Brightman but we ended up watching quite a portion of the concert.

Many years back in Hong Kong I had the opportunity of owning a pair of Yamaha NS-10M yet after borrowing a pair for home audition, I chickened out in the last minute. My home system back then was an Onkyo Integra preamp and power amp driving a pair of B&W 801. Little did I know how to appreciate each piece of design for its intrinsic value. I committed the unforgivable crime of comparing the Yamaha with the B&W. Of course under such circumstances, I could only hear the shortcomings of the tiny near-field monitors. With that memory as fresh as yesterday's, I took the JB3 into my audition room.