The result of a collaboration between bassist Wayne Jones and sound engineer Steve Scanlon, these Australian-made midfield monitors may look retro, but inside there's some serious DSP going on!
Every product tells a story, and the story behind the new Jones-Scanlon active studio monitor begins with a leading Australian bassist, the last chassis loudspeaker manufacturer in Australia, and Australia's premier sound engineer. The bassist (who was actually born in Wales) is Wayne Jones who, in addition to his musical accomplishments is the founder, owner and cabinet designer of his eponymous company Wayne Jones Audio. That company's range of high-end bass preamps, power amplifiers and passive and powered cabinets have a built up a significant reputation for their accuracy, sound quality and wide–bandwidth frequency response.
Australia's last remaining chassis loudspeaker manufacturers are Lorantz Audio Services, founded in 1976 by Michail Barabasz, the former loudspeaker designer and engineering manager of Plessey Rola Australia, which closed its doors in 1975 after the removal of tariff protection that enabled cheaper imported loudspeakers to invade the domestic Australian loudspeaker market. Barabasz purchased what tooling and parts he could afford and began manufacturing Lorantz-branded loudspeakers for electric guitar amplifiers in his garage. Nowadays, Lorantz Audio Services design and manufacture cones, voice coils, spiders, surrounds and CNC loudspeaker parts for both pro-audio and hi-fi applications, as well as continuing to produce guitar loudspeakers.
The Wayne Jones Audio/Lorantz Audio connection dates back to the beginning of this century, when Jones approached Barabasz to design a 10-inch loudspeaker that could handle from the low B to high C of a bass guitar with a "clean, clear and even frequency response". This Barabasz did, and the resulting aluminium cast-frame, custom-designed driver — which has a 40Hz-4kHz frequency response — has featured in all of Wayne Jones Audio's cabinets ever since, helping to deliver the studio-level 40Hz-20kHz frequency response for which they are renowned.
For Wayne Jones, the step to the production of an actual studio monitor was a relatively short one, and led to him teaming up with Steve Scanlon, a highly experienced, multi-award winning Australian live and studio sound engineer with an impressive track record. The result of their collaboration is the Australian-built Jones-Scanlon two-way active studio monitor.
With its black 10–inch woofer and silver-fronted bullet tweeter sitting in a 33 x 45 x 50cm bright red, high-gloss, 19mm MDF cabinet weighing in at 25.5kg, the Jones-Scanlon studio monitor is no shrinking violet (and wouldn't vanish into the background in its other two standard colours, black and white, either). The selectable analogue and S/PDIF digital inputs, twin room–compensation switches, IEC mains input, clip/power indicator LED and a "WJ Audio use only" USB socket all sit on a steel control panel that is positioned, rather unconventionally, on the top of the cabinet. This positioning is probably down to the fact that the monitor's rear panel is pretty much fully occupied by the plain steel panel that forms the heatsink for the internal Class–D amplification. This control panel positioning does result in at least two cables sprouting out of the top of the monitor, which some users might regard as a bit unsightly, but this could, if necessary, be visually mitigated somewhat by the use of right-angle connectors.
The 10-inch, aluminium cast-frame bass driver is the same custom, Michail Barabasz–designed/Lorantz Audio–manufactured driver as that fitted to the Wayne Jones Audio bass cabinets. This unit features a specially formulated, Kevlar-impregnated eucalyptus–pulp cone, a three-inch voice coil and a fairly massive ferrite magnet. The treble driver is a specially selected, Italian-made FaitalPRO FD371 bullet-style tweeter with a one-inch voice coil. It is crossed over at 2.4kHz and has a frequency response that extends to 20kHz. Danish company Pascal provide the power, courtesy of their T-Pro2 full–bandwidth, ultra-low distortion, two-channel Class–D PWM amplifier, which is specifically designed to power two-way loudspeakers and is capable of delivering up to 500W RMS to the monitor's 4Ω bass driver and a maximum of 150W RMS to the 8Ω treble driver.
As is the norm these days, the J-S monitor's power amplification is driven by DSP, which handles crossover duties and driver time-alignment, and is also deployed to correct unwanted cabinet refractions. The cabinet itself has been designed and tuned by Wayne Jones to support a 38Hz–20kHz frequency response, with its bottom end being 10dB down at 28Hz. The Pascal amplifier has a frequency bandwidth of 20Hz–20kHz (±0.25dB), which is coupled to the combined 40Hz–20kHz response of the J-S monitor's bass and treble drivers. A switchable 38Hz high-pass filter is provided to prevent unwanted, power-draining infrasonic frequencies reaching the power amplifier and bass driver, if necessary.
A three-position toggle switch selects between the monitor's analogue balanced XLR input, or S/PDIF left or right. There is only one phono S/PDIF input connector and no daisy-chain output, so if you want to go in digitally, you'll need to split the coaxial feed from your DAW or digital console and set the switches accordingly. Since S/PDIF is a robust format, this feat (in my case) was accomplished using an RCA female to dual–female video/audio splitter.
Having set your choice of input, your attention will naturally fall to the two further three-position switches, which select between the four room EQ setting options. Their central positions are 'bypass', which means that the first switch toggles between Room 1, Flat and Room 2, and the second toggles between Room 3, Flat and Room 4. Following the usual conventions, you might expect the available choices to be something along the lines of free–field (flat), bass compensation for half– and quarter-space positioning, and perhaps a couple of treble shelving filters for overly bright rooms — but in the case of the J-S monitors, you'd be wrong.
J-S monitors ship with a free copy of Sonarworks Reference 4 room measurement and correction software, which can be run either as a DAW plug-in or as an overall system–wide background utility. The software enables you to measure the response of your monitors in your workspace and then 'correct' the audio output of your DAW interface or computer's audio output in order to remove unwanted room and loudspeaker coloration, resulting in flat-response monitoring from your monitors in your room, which you can then tweak from within the program — see Sam Inglis' review in the February 2018 edition of SOS for more details. J-S recommend that you set the EQ switches to their Flat position (which is, in Wayne Jones' own words, "incredibly flat in an open field or large studio environment") and use Reference 4 to achieve a flat response with the Studio Monitor in your room.
So what's with the EQ switches? Room modes 1 and 2 are intended only for listening to during the initial monitor setup in more modest surroundings. EQ 1 is a REW (Room EQ Wizard) reproduction of a Sonarworks Reference 4 measurement and correction result obtained from Steve Scanlon's studio control room in Melbourne, and EQ 2 is a REW measurement and correction taken at the apex of a triangular monitor/listener positioning — ie. at the sweet spot. Incidentally, in case you haven't come across it before, REW (www.roomeqwizard.com) is a freeware room acoustics analysis program that is powerful enough for companies such as miniDSP to use it to integrate measurement, time alignment/equalisation and room-correction capabilities into their audio DSP hardware.
The EQ 3 slot is currently empty. In the future, though, this slot will be used to load a Sonarworks Reference 4 correction result (hence the USB port) so that those of us who prefer working with analogue consoles won't have to have a computer and A–D/D–A converters sitting between our control room monitor outputs and our J-S monitors. Although the 38Hz high-pass filter is active in all the room EQ presets, in EQ 4 mode it's the only filtering applied.
I know this track exceedingly well and I am not exaggerating when I say that the hair stood up on the back of my neck whilst listening to it through the Jones-Scanlon studio monitors.
Fortunately, my listening room is acoustically well controlled and, with the J-S monitors positioned in the nearfield and having experimented with Room EQs 1 and 2 (hearing the correction of somebody else's room was an interesting if somewhat unenlightening experience), I set them back to their flat setting and got to work. As usual, I began my listening tests with 'Njotke' from the CD Spes by the Norwegian amateur all-female choir Cantus and singer/keyboardist Frode Fjellheim (a combination that is perhaps better-known for the song 'Vuelle', which was written by Fjellheim and used by Disney as the opening musical number of the movie Frozen). This CD was originally recorded in DXD at 352.8kHz/24–bit, but even downmixed to the CD format's 44.1kHz/16–bit, it is probably the finest and most detailed recording that I know of, with reverb tails that slowly die away into the darkened vastness of the Uranienborg Church in Oslo, Norway. The reverb tails are only part of the sonic story, as the positioning, spacing and contrast within the soundfield of the choir's female voices, Fjellheim's close-miked, edgier and earthier vocals, his keyboards and the recording space is captured in quite incredible detail. (You can check out the recording session at https://bit.ly/2XF7ICi if you're interested).
I know this track exceedingly well and I am not exaggerating when I say that the hair stood up on the back of my neck whilst listening to it through the Jones-Scanlon studio monitors. The level of detail that these monitors revealed in that recording went well beyond that of any other loudspeaker that I have heard it on before. I then played another of my favourite CDs: Via Crucis by L'Arpeggiata, a superb recording featuring 17th Century music played on baroque instruments. Again, the level of detail that was delivered was quite exceptional, allowing me, for example, to clearly distinguish between baroque guitars and the treble strings of theorbos (members of the lute family). However, in this relatively sparse recording, there were hints that the J-S monitors' presentation might just possess a slightly forward character.
Deadmau5's Grammy Award-winning album 4x4=12 showcased the J-S monitors' abilities in the bass end: fast, articulate, with superb depth and extension. Impressive though that was, what really struck home was just how capable these monitors are of resolving the detail not only of the various electronic synths and drum machines, but also of the reverb tails as they died away behind thunderous low bass notes. Whatever I threw at them — the Beatles, Rhiannon Giddens, Napalm Death, Jimi Hendrix, Shirley Collins, ZZ Top, orchestras, string quartets, Julian Bream and several pipe organs were only some of the CD sources inflicted on my long-suffering neighbours — the result was the same: stunning levels of deftly delineated detail across the full frequency spectrum, with each performance held in, and supported by, a solid, clearly defined soundstage. Naturally, a monitor this revealing also ruthlessly exposes the deficiencies in less–than–perfect recordings and mixes, which made for some uncomfortable personal moments when listening to vintage 1970s mixes from my own band.
To my ears, the Jones-Scanlon studio monitors deliver a fast, clean, articulate and superbly balanced performance that is characterised by a quite stunning ability to reproduce the detail inside a single track or a full mix. They are extremely revealing monitors and although I feel that their detailed performance comes with a slightly forward presentation (really a matter of personal taste), I'm pretty certain that I'd lose that forward feeling once the J-S monitors were room-corrected and tweaked to my taste.
In terms of price and performance, the Jones-Scanlon monitors deservedly sit in the upper segment of the loudspeaker market. Fortunately for my bank balance, their size means that I can't squeeze them into my home studio. However, if you are lucky enough to have the space and the budget, then you really should take a listen to them. In the meantime, sending the review pair back is going to be a bit of a wrench.
At this performance level, you'll find similarly priced alternatives from the likes of ADAM Audio, ATC, Dynaudio, Focal, Genelec and Ocean Way Audio that deserve your consideration.
- Superbly articulate and highly detailed audio performance.
- Ships with Sonarworks Reference 4 room analysis and correction software.
- Analogue and digital (S/PDIF) inputs.
- Only that strangely-positioned control panel.
An Australian-built, two-way active monitor that delivers an articulate, clean, clear and extremely detailed performance across its entire frequency bandwidth.
USD $6000 per pair, excluding shipping & VAT.