JBL Project Everest DD66000 Loudspeaker Reviewed

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The JBL Project Everest DD66000 is the most ambitious loudspeaker in the history of JBL--and that's saying something considering the company's long lineage of research and development. The DD66000, ranging in price from $60,000 to $70,000 a pair depending on finish, is an all-out no-holds-barred design that incorporates JBL compression driver technologies and other high-end attributes to deliver sound quality that is nothing less than extraordinary. While possibly missing the audiophile cache of their sister brand, Revel or other brands like Wilson Audio, Bowers & Wilkins, JM Labs and Aerial Acoustics, the Project Everest hangs right in there with the big boys of audiophila. Perhaps a more appropriate comparison would be with the large format studio monitor, the Meyer Sound X10s which are powered monsters that most audiophiles have never heard but grace many recording and mastering studios.

The Project Everest DD66000 is completely unique in appearance, with an industrial design that evokes memories of classic JBL designs like the Paragon and Hartsfield, yet its curves and angles and horizontally-oriented horn drivers give it a retro-futuristic identity all its own. The speaker is 43 inches high by 38 inches wide but only 18 and a quarter inches deep, giving it a tall, wide yet shallow footprint. The DD66000 is available in a selection of wood finishes including rosewood, cherry and ebony with gray removable grille cloths, and maple with a light gray grille cloth. The medium-gray, horizontal high-frequency horn, black UHF horn and black front-panel control cover plate add minimalist yet striking visual accents.

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The DD66000 is incorporates JBL's most all-out driver technologies. It features an ultrahigh frequency JBL Bi-Radial horn driver that employs a one-inch beryllium diaphragm and a neodymium magnet, and delivers frequency response that extends above 50kHz. (Although this is well above the limits of human hearing, it's claimed that UHF "super-tweeter" designs like this help to eliminate sonic anomalies that could occur in the audible high-frequency range, and add to a speaker's sense of openness and "air.") The JBL Bi-Radial design is claimed to provide optimum horizontal as well as vertical dispersion, for even frequency response and accurate imaging.

The DD66000 uses a Bi-Radial compression horn driver for the midrange/high-frequencies that incorporates a four-inch beryllium diaphragm with a four-inch aluminum edge-wound voice coil, and a rapid-flare, coherent-wave phasing plug.

The DD66000 features two 15-inch pulp-cone woofers that utilize JBL's Aquaplas coating, which damps the woofer's inherent resonances to provide greater bass control and more accurate woofer movement. The two woofers are crossed over to operate in different frequency ranges, for improved directivity.

The DD66000 has a frequency response of 45Hz - 50kHz (32Hz low-frequency response at -10dB), a nominal impedance of 8 Ohms and 96dB sensitivity. Its crossover frequencies are 150Hz (6dB/octave) 700Hz (24dB/octave) and 20kHz. Its maximum recommended amplifier power is an eyebrow-raising 500 Watts, another reminder that this isn't a typical loudspeaker.

The JBL Project Everest DD66000 incorporates a number of additional novel features. The crossover network contains a DC battery bias system. Yes, actual batteries are fitted to one of the speaker's front panel compartments, to keep the capacitors operating in Class A mode to achieve increased resolution and a more natural musical decay. A selector switch and a number of metal jumpers allow fine-tuning of low- and high-frequency levels, crossover points, woofer orientation (since the woofers operate in different frequency ranges, one speaker needs to be configured as the left speaker, and the other as the right speaker), and other sonic attributes.

Like the drivers, the internal components are of extremely high quality. The speaker has four separate crossover boards, one for each driver, and they are physically separated from each other to preclude any potential crosstalk. Other components include air-core inductors, polypropylene foil capacitors, wire-wound and metal oxide resistors and heavy-duty binding posts. The enclosure's structure is quite complex, with a series of curved and "spoked" internal braces, curved front baffles and interlocking enclosure sections. To say this speaker is solid and well built is an understatement--it weighs in at 300 pounds.

The sonic performance of the JBL Project Everest DD66000 is, quite simply, nothing less than extraordinary. For those who might have a prejudice against horn loudspeakers and think they're "harsh" or "tinny"--check your preconceived notions at the listening room door. The DD66000 not only sounds nothing like that--the horn drivers aren't the least bit "honky" or beamy, and its tonal balance is remarkably smooth, from its powerful, authoritative and articulate dual-15-woofer bass to its natural, uncolored midrange and open, airy, extended treble.

Audiophiles know that compression drivers and horn-based midrange and high-frequency drivers provide unparalleled efficiency and dynamic range--that's why they're used in movie theaters and pro audio concert sound reinforcement systems. (Horn drivers were also more commonplace in high-fidelity home audio loudspeakers of the 1950s and 1960s, before smaller, less efficient infinite-baffle and other types of loudspeakers, and high-powered amplifiers became prevalent.) The DD66000's Bi-Radial horn drivers also deliver superlative dynamic contrasts, from the quietest musical subtleties to the loudest musical sections of a heavy rock band or classical orchestra. The DD66000 offers a sense of dynamic "ease" and effortlessness that cannot be overstated. Again, if you've never head a good horn-driver loudspeaker, it can be a sonic revelation, a listening experience that can make other driver designs seem dynamically reserved and compressed by comparison, and you owe it to yourself to round out your audiophile education. (The DD66000 isn't in an exclusive club--other well-done horn speakers also provide superlative dynamic range and contrast. It is also true that a poorly done horn loudspeaker can sound harsh, strident and overly forward.)

Click on over to Page 2 for more on the Performance, the Competition and Comparison, the Low Points and the Conclusion . . .

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