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.
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 . . .
In fact, the DD66000 is capable of dynamic contrasts that can be literally surprising to the listener. At a trade show demonstration before a group of veteran reviewers, The Who's "Pinball Wizard" captivated everyone with its familiar acoustic guitar-and-vocal introduction--and then, when Pete Townshend's guitar and the rest of the band came in, it was literally orders of magnitude louder and the dynamic power was almost shocking in its intensity. People couldn't help but bounce and dance around in time to the music.
That's not to say the Project Everest DD66000 lacks refinement. Quite the contrary--jazz and classical recordings sound natural and nuanced, with the ability to clearly and easily distinguish sonic subtleties such as the body and "weight" of a grand piano, the woody overtones of a solo violin, and the beautiful, sumptuous sheen of the string section--qualities that all but the very best loudspeakers can't properly reproduce.
Female and male vocals are purely and realistically reproduced. The DD66000 can easily create the feeling of the singers being right in the room with you, a cliché that has been overused ad nauseam in loudspeaker reviews over the years--but in the case of the Everest, entirely justified. The vocal harmonies on the Grateful Dead's "Uncle John's Band" were all clearly rendered, and individual voices were effortless to pick out and follow. Listening to Roy Orbison singing "Crying" was overwhelming in its emotional intensity--engineered by the great Bill Porter in 1960, The All-Time Greatest Hits of Roy Orbison (available in various audiophile reissues as well as the original vinyl) is a justified audiophile classic, richly detailed and remarkably well recorded. On the Everest, Orbison's voice was astonishingly realistic and present--and moving. Listening experiences like this--the ability to be transported back into the musical moment and be emotionally connected to the artist and the performance--are what high-end audio is all about.
Large loudspeakers like the JBL Project Everest DD66000 are capable of reproducing music with a lifelike sense of scale, presence and low-frequency authority that smaller loudspeakers just can't physically deliver. The DD66000 creates a vast, wide and deep soundstage that extends beyond the boundaries of the speakers themselves and--again, perhaps surprising to those who think horn drivers can't do this--imaging is excellent, with vocals and instruments realistically rendered on the speaker's realistically proportioned soundstage. Even at high volumes, the speaker does not get grainy or rough sounding and although physically imposing, like any great loudspeaker with the right recording the DD66000 is quite capable of sonically "disappearing" into a room.
Competition and Comparison
To compare JBL's Project Everest DD66000 against its competition, please read our reviews for the Revel Ultima Salon2 loudspeaker, the Wilson Audio WATT Puppies Version 8 loudspeaker, and the Wilson Audio Alexandria loudspeaker. You can learn more about JBL by reading our JBL Project Array 1400 Array loudspeaker review or visiting our JBL brand page.
Is the Project Everest DD66000 perfect? Well, no loudspeaker is, and more than one loudspeaker designer will readily admit that. As soon as an audio signal hits the recording microphone it loses resolution. It's also a fact of life that a loudspeaker must deal with the laws of physics and the inertia of its drivers, and the signal loss and alterations, however slight they may be, of its internal components.
Another point to consider is that some listeners and audiophiles may prefer the sound of a different type of midrange and high-frequency driver design, whether electrostatic, ribbon tweeter, omnidirectional driver or some other configuration. While the Project Everest is about as good as you will hear a horn driver and has as little of the stereotypical "horn sound" as you will find - it still is a horn speaker. Before making such a large investment - careful listening is a must as is comparisons to the other major players in the market.
Also, while relatively narrow at 18 and a quarter inches deep, there's no getting around the fact that the Project Everest DD66000 is a large loudspeaker that will not fit into every room. It also weighs 300 pounds, making it impossible for a single person to install.
That said, the JBL Project Everest DD66000 is one of those very special audio components that, given the proper recording, associated equipment, setup and room, can provide a sense of hearing the real thing--music as it sounds when played by real instruments in real space. It's one of those loudspeakers whose musical totality defies its constituent parts or individual sonic attributes, and that makes you forget about horns and cabinets and wires and capacitors, to deliver a listening experience that is totally involving and emotionally captivating.
The JBL Project Everest DD66000 is the most ambitious loudspeaker ever designed by JBL, an all-out-assault on the sonic state-of-the-art. At $60,000 to $70,000 per pair (depending on finish), it's clearly aimed at the buyer who desires the ultimate in sonic realism and is willing to pay the price to get it. The DD66000 delivers remarkable sonic performance in every respect, and its dynamic capability is nothing less than astonishing, revealing dynamic contrasts in recordings that even veteran audiophiles and reviewers who have been listening to speakers for decades may never have known were there. The Project Everest DD66000 is one of those few loudspeakers that can truly be called extraordinary.