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Glen Wagenknecht
Financial Interests: click here
Sources: Luxman Brid CD Player modified by Audio Upgrades to be a now tube-less, zero oversampling machine with integral volume control
Audio Space CDP 8A CD Player
Preamplifier: Audio Space Reference 2S
Amplifier:Bel Canto 200.4
AV Receiver: Pioneer Elite SC-25
Main Speakers: Apogee Duetta Signature, Paradigm Servo 15 subwoofer
AV Subwoofer: Paradigm PW-2200
Cables: Signal Cable Silver Reference interconnects and speaker cables, digital optical and coax cable, JPS Labs Ultraconductor 2 speaker cables, Audio Art SE cable loom
Resonance Control: Solid Tech, EquaRack Footers, Weizhi Precision Gold Glory footers, Boston Audio TuneBlock2 footers, Superspikes, and Black Diamond
Powerline conditioning: Noise Destroyer power filtration
Accessories: TrueHarmonix Black Magic CD Mat
Main Room size: 12' x 17'
Home theater: 10.5’ x 16.5’
Review Component Retail: $155/speaker, $775 for 5 speakers as reviewed

A fistful of widebanders in a multichannel world:
To paraphrase comedian Rodney Dangerfield‘s lament, "audiophiles with small rooms get no respect". Times were tough enough in the two-channel world trying to squeeze those salon-sized loudspeakers into our smaller rooms and coax them to sing to perfection. And just when nirvana was finally in sight, the world moved to multi-channel audio. First came home theater, then multi-channel music, now gaming with ever-increasing capabilities and demands. Times changed but for many the room did not. What’s an audiophile to do? If you find yourself unable to accommodate the oversized hardware that seduces your senses but still long for a multi-channel speaker system that can deliver top-notch performance, take heart!  The M3 is aiming to fulfil your desires.

Taiwan-based JohnBlue Audio has built a reputation for taking a fresh approach to the widebander speaker and in the process company founder and designer Tommy Wu has carved out a name as a premiere force in the field of such designs. His rethinking of vintage wideband drivers has already achieved new potential with the JB3, JB4 and top-tier JB 8 models but the introduction of the M3 marks new territory for the popular multi-channel home theater and gaming markets. These tiny speakers follow the popular ultra compact mould and are available in sets of 5 or 7. They go against widebander tradition to adapt to modern multi-channel applications. Unlike their slightly larger brethren, the JB3 and JB4 models, the M3s are less full range and limit useable bass to approximately 100 to 120 cycles. This requires the purchaser to provide a suitable amplified subwoofer to extend response and bring things to full 5.1 or 7.1 status. Although a separate JohnBlue Audio subwoofer is a work in progress, the proliferation of other suitable candidates made the earlier release of the M3 an easy decision. The little JohnBlue presents a 4-ohm load with a sensitivity of 87dB and boast claimed power handling between 5 to 200 watts. These figures indicate a good potential match for a broad range of electronics from AV source to more ambitious fare and promise a better level of dynamics than size would lead one to anticipate.

So here we have a very small set of speakers with very big ambitions. To satisfy his established audiophile following Tommy Wu would have to retain all the virtues of widebander designs demonstrating immediacy and detail. To make inroads into the home theater and gaming arena his speaker would have to perform big, brawny and impressive. Would the M3 manage to please both sides or satisfy neither?

First impression? Small and lightweight. The five M3 loudspeakers arrived via parcel post in a single 15w x 7h x 22d inch cardboard container weighing a mere 8lbs total! Each speaker was individually boxed, wrapped in a foam sleeve and sandwiched between two generously thick compliant foam ends. Foam spacers were used in the main shipping container to keep the individual boxes from moving around during transport.

The JohnBlue Audio M3 is a tiny 3-inch cube (105mm³) with the front face taken up almost entirely by the driver behind a raised non-removable perforated metal grille. The little 700-gram M3 may be light in weight but not in quality of construction. It is an internally damped sealed box with a basic construction of 12mm thick high-density fibreboard finished in matte black paint to keep the surface non reflective for home theater use. The rear panel is comprised of very high quality proprietary 24k gold-plated five-way binding posts which resemble WBT connectors and are proportionally huge. Internal wiring is silver plated for the positive and OFC copper for the negative leg. There are also two anodized black Phillips M4 screws on the back described as "threaded inserts" designed to accommodate a bracket (not provided) for wall mounting. The 3-inch driver has a deep neodymium magnet structure and uses a whizzer cone to enhance upper end extension. Since the driver is not required to carry full-range bass burdens, it allowed the designer to optimize response characteristics over a narrower range and is therefore a substantially different design from the 3-inch driver employed in his JB3 loudspeaker. Cosmetics are unobtrusive and follow the parameter of being heard but not seen, generating a very high wife acceptance factor for those who are burdened by such conditions.

The buyer should be aware that an amplified subwoofer is mandatory. The M3 makes no bass and has no internal crossover. It relies on external bass management to accomplish the transition, whether through the crossover in the amplified subwoofer or through an AV amplifier/receiver’s bass management.