This review page is supported in part by the sponsors whose ad banners are displayed below
To fully appreciate the scope of Tommy Wu's enterprise really requires visiting his raw driver site. Alas, that's a job for the truly resourceful since Mr. Wu requested I not link to it here. Suffice it to say that the breadth of his offerings there is indeed most impressive. In a further show of resourcefulness, one will also discover another proof of concept, apparently designed to showcase four of Tommy's more ambitious conventional drivers - a 15" woven Kevlar/fiberglass woofer with matching 8" midwoofer, a hornloaded 50mm midrange dome and 28mm silk dome tweeter all housed in a time-aligned partitioned four-sided pyramid.

To return to JohnBlue Audio Art, there are also Tommy's TL66 mono tube amps. Those output 6 watts from one Sylvania 6AU6 driver and one NOS OTK 6L6 each, sport output transformers hand-wound by Litz inventor Mr. Lee himself and eschew all PCBs. Parts include NOS East-German Fraco & Roe capacitors, an Alps Blue pot, Allan Bradley resistors and JohnBlue Audio
Art's own capacitors. KT88, 6550, EL34 and KT77 are directly interchangeable power tubes. In short, one gets the impression that Tommy is a restless spirit who enjoys covering all the bases and staying busy. Now to the JB8 speaker:

Except for the 45° cutaway of the lower rear baffle which gives the speaker a pert bottom, the term 'box' is fully warranted. In their dark-stained veneers and grooved black fascia with the receding rectangular mouth at the bottom, the JB8s are very monolithic in appearance. This is underscored further when the black grills remains in place. Exceptionally thin, not-there cloth wraps around a thick ring frame which attaches via four skinny fasteners around the flush-fitted driver basket. This grill frame profile creates the requisite clearance for the flower-like phase plug and whizzer skirt that hide beneath.

The woven widebander diaphragm terminates in a pleated surround and four gold hex screws secure the driver to the massive baffle.

Tommy had further included six ingenious and attractive black footers which work under all regular components as well as speakers - and other non-audio items in need of a boost. These footers' smaller top inserts snugly into the base, a small captured ball bearing minimizes contact surface between the two parts and an O-ring around the shaft creates additional damping while preventing clearance chatter.

WBT look alike 5-way terminals behind the driver (and thus a good meter off the floor) mandate slightly longer speaker cables than had the maker opted for mounting the posts floor-level on the sloped section. These JohnBlue-made terminals appear of very high quality and are easily hand-tightened.

Dispatched without the optional super tweeters, I opted for full toe-in and kicked off the first session with my Yamamoto A-09S fitted with EML 300B-XLS and 5U4G. This wasn't a happy pairing. The bass was boomy and the general gestalt restrained and somewhat indistinct, i.e. the full-on antithesis of what this genre of speaker would generally promise.

Before resigning myself to extended break-in, I reached for Nelson Pass' FirstWatt F5. Instant improvement by a significant margin even though that extreme speed, openness and immediacy my Lowther-fitted Rethm Saadhanas sport as their calling card eluded the JB8s at this juncture.

As it turned out, break-in would remedy most of the initial bass wooliness and make this speaker work well also with high Z-out SETs and their necessarily minimal damping.

Before we continue, a very quick boiler plate reminder on single-driver speakers: minuscule tweeter squigglies and considerable woofer tremors are riding on the very same cone where multi-ways not only separate those disparate wave forms over different drivers but in many cases, discrete enclosures. Their rationale? Feedback from bass violence -- excursions, physical resonance and such -- must not intermodulate with the grace of ultra-fine harmonics or even the vocal range. By definition, a single driver gets all mixed up when music becomes complex and dynamic as it does on symphonic war horses. 'Dynamic' doesn't mean loud per se. It means loud and very quiet, simultaneously and in rapid succession. Throw in very low- and high-pitched sounds whose outputs alternate. It's easy to see that our single driver is quite literally all over the place. While this concept claims purity from frequency divisions and their deleterious side effects, the mixing and blending of disparate (and arguably mutually harmful) frequencies is quite the antithesis of purity.

So to go the single-driver route is a conscious decision to prioritize simplicity (with the hoped-for benefits of coherence and impulse fidelity) over intermodulation distortion, limited dynamic range and limited frequency response. This choice will be predicated by what you listen for and to. A lot of very beautiful music isn't terribly complex. Even more of it actually occurs over a surprisingly limited dynamic range. Really low bass is specific to particular music. And so forth. If you don't insist on the absolutely hare-brained illusion that a 100-head orchestra took up residence in your living room at concert-hall levels; if... well, you get the point. Your driving habits (what actually you ask of your loudspeaker driver) will determine whether a single-cylinder engine is adequate for -- or perhaps even inherently superior to -- the job at hand. End of small print. Please sign on the dotted line.