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The ‘horn mouth’ of the JB3F is at the bottom. Without a sealed bottom panel, it fires down at the floor and flares from the front baffle through an opening measuring roughly 3" wide and sitting at 1 5/8" from the floor. The intent is clear. Not only is driver-enclosure synergy key, this floorstander exploits floor loading as an integral tuning method. At this point let me digress a bit to talk about other significant components. If you turn it upside down, the enclosure is wide open. You can peep inside but there’s not much to see, just a thin pair of wires and part of the TQWT construction. Internal wiring is one of Tommy’s secret weapons. He proudly explained that these wires are extracted and refined from naked copper he imported from Chile in 1998. "It is so much better than most commercially available oxygen-free copper. It has a charismatic sound!"

Without a crossover network, the four soldering points from the binding posts to the driver become critical. "I've tried numerous soldering tins and Siltech's silver-gold was the winner in this application. It excels at dynamics, energy and sound quality. The proprietary binding posts are inherited from the JB3, made of non-magnetic oxygen-free copper with nickel-free gold plating for unadulterated energy transmission." Why a 6-ohm impedance?

"The JB3 driver is 6 ohms. When I developed the new driver I tried 4 and 8 but came to the same conclusion. 6 ohms sounds best. That actually gives users a choice when they hook up tube amps with 4 and 8-ohm tabs. You get more punch with 4 ohms and more mellowness with 8." The JB3F is rated at 88dB sensitivity with a maximum handling power of 30 watts.

Over the years I have auditioned a number of such widebanders with heavy-duty backloaded horns or transmission lines. I tend to find their sound muffled. The midrange appears to be nasal and the bass often sounds grumpy and unnatural. The JB3F gave me none of those problems. During the two-month run-in period I kept experimenting with different surfaces to stand on. That’s a naturally tempting thing to do since the bottom is wide open. I tried various chopping boards from beech to bamboo, then granite, real and artificial marble, MDF boards… they all worked well and it’s your judgment call more from an aesthetic point. As long as it's a hard surface you won’t alter or deviate too much from the designer’s intent which is giving the music the clarity, transparency and liveliness it deserves.

Those who have experience building a TQWT cabinet should know that every measurement must be meticulously calculated to synergize with the driver it is designed for. This project page gives you some idea. When I asked Tommy for some data regarding frequency response of naked versus loaded driver, he sent me two charts of the final production model. In the foot notes you'd see the numbers he crunched and the accuracy he strove for. Imagine how many TQWT enclosures he built and destroyed before he was finally content. The naked 3" driver has a response of 85Hz to 21kHz ±3dB. When coupled to the TQWT cabinet, bass response extends to 42Hz. After some experiments, I'd recommend against putting the JB3F on spikes or anti-vibration feet. The JB3F is a musical instrument that breathes and resonates naturally. Any mechanical grounding or damping will work against it and the music will become lifeless. Raising them too high above the floor level is counterproductive too. Even 1 inch more is already too high. It alters the volume of air mass and the intended acoustic impedance. The only thing I put underneath were four tiny felt discs because I didn’t want to scratch the review pair. Unfortunately I deprived myself of a chance to try them on carpet because recent home renovation had gotten rid of all carpets. But I suppose a hard reflective surface like a piece of granite should be laid on top of the carpe—or nailed into it through spikes—to retain the design’s intentions. Now some serious listening.

The first audition was a quite a shock. I did not expect such a rush of bass attacks from these featherweight 3" drivers. It was a CD randomly picked from the inevitable clutter of boxes resulting from home renovation. The Diamond Revolution the jacket read, a demo disc by Taiwanese audio giant Usher. I never listened to it since I picked it up at the first TAVES show years ago. The first track "Swing Rhythm" performed by Sound of Africa totally caught me off guard. My heart nearly jumped out of my chest when the JB3F delivered clarity, dynamics with unbelievable bass punch.

It took me no time to realize that this sampler CD was perfect for break-in. The wide collection ranges from female and male vocalists to brass and string ensembles, cello and guitar duets to Jazz and thundering Chinese drums. Alternating between two amps, my initial feeling was that the JohnBlue TL66 monoblocks (with Oppo BDP-95 and KingRex PREference preamp) were perfect for musical synergy and tonal balance whilst the KingRex T20U majored on definition and swift transient speed. A promising start in either case. Subsequent auditions took place in my smallest 15’x13.5’ basement room with a TL66 with matched Mullard EL34 pairs. The JB3F filled the air with a warm golden tone. In a week or so I played through almost the entire catalogue of piano music from the Pro Piano Series and found myself spellbound by the sound. Although it still lacked that deeply rich sonority and heart-throbbing attack of the bottom octaves, I was drawn to it by a different magical aura that could probably be best described as intimacy.