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This article was originally published in issue #37
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I have to confess that I’ve been a JBL EON user almost since the day that the original range was launched and that I still use four 10” EON G2 loudspeakers as foldback on every gig that I do with my band. As these are now getting a bit long in the tooth, I’ve recently been looking for replacements so I was personally delighted when, with perfect timing, a pair of the new EON 612 turned up for review.
The two previous generations of EON two-way, active loudspeakers consisted of versions with 10” and 15” bass drivers, and left the 12” middle ground to competitors such as Mackie with their original SRM series. With the new, “from the ground up” redesign, JBL have filled that gap and have also moved away from the original, rather quirky, EON form factor to a more conventional, straight-sided design that makes packing the band van a good deal easier.
JBL’s designers have taken the opportunity of this cabinet redesign to improve the portability of the 600 Series in relation to the earlier EON design. The 600 series cabinets feature top and side handles, flying suspension points on the top end and indexed mouldings top and bottom to ensure safe stacking. The rear cabinet angles, together with moulded feet that form part of the side handle mouldings, mean that the 600 series can also be positioned as floor monitors, although it is a pity that symmetry has dictated that only one monitor angle is available - unlike the original EONs’ two angles.
Like the other speakers in the range, the EON 610 and 615, the 612 features Class D amplifiers (150W HF and 350W LF) and Bluetooth-based remote wireless control of the amplifier’s onboard DSP EQ functions using the EON Connect app which is available for both Android and iOS devices. All three models are equipped with JBL’s new Image Control HF waveguide and, in addition, the 612 and 615 feature an innovative fluted LF waveguide. The combination of these waveguides ensures that the 612 (and 615) have precisely controlled dispersion characteristics in both the vertical and horizontal planes.
Physical inputs and all controls reside on a large panel on the back of the 612. On the audio side, there are two XLR/jack combination inputs switchable between mic and line operation. Each input has its own Gain control and Signal LED and these, together with the Master Volume, form a little mixer. A built-in limiter protects the 612 from overload and a mixed Thru output allows you to daisy-chain a 50:50 mix of the inputs from one 612 to another. I think that this latter facility would have been much more useful if it could also be fed from the source 612’s onboard mix. Should you not want to be distracted by the white “Power On” LED indicator on the speaker’s front panel, a latching button allows you to switch it off.
On the DSP side, the 612 follows the current fashion for function-based presets:
Main – for use as a main FOH audience-facing speaker
Monitor – which tailors the 612’s response when it is on the floor, acting as a foldback monitor
Sub – which inserts a 100Hz high-pass filter for when the 612 is being used with a separate subwoofer
Speech – that modifies the 612’s response to ensure the midrange frequencies that are important in speech intelligibility are emphasised in a setting - such as a conference of presentation - where the spoken word is the primary programme source.
A single button allows you to step through to your particular DSP selection and a EQ+ button (enabled via the remote control app) allows you to make an A/B comparison between your chosen preset and the unprocessed sound.
Connecting the Bluetooth remote control EON Connect app to the 612 was simply a matter of installing and running it on my tablet (an iPad2), pressing the Bluetooth Sync buttons on both the review 612s and waiting for their indicator LEDs to turn blue. EON Connect, which can control four 612s at a time, scans for local Bluetooth devices and displays those that it finds - not just the 612s - so that you have an idea of how congested (or otherwise) the local Bluetooth environment is. A Bluetooth Boot button enables you to reset the pairing between your iOS (or Android) device if things go wrong.
As well as giving you control over selection of the back panel DSP presets and master volume, the Connect app gives you simultaneous access not only to the high and low frequency shelving EQs, but also to the fully-parametric 3-band EQ. Once you’ve set these to your liking - or the requirements that the venue has forced on you - you can save them as recallable User presets.
The sonic performance of the earlier incarnations of the JBL EON was highly-regarded and the new 600 series certainly lives up to its ancestors’ reputation. In the real world, their increased power translates not only into absolute volume, but also into an increased dynamic headroom that delivers fast transients with ease, giving the 612 an increase in clarity of delivery over its predecessors. High frequencies sounded smooth and clear, the midrange was well-controlled with its upper ranges integrating well with the treble to give a sound character that was both accurate and easy to listen to. The overall coverage from the 612s was really even due, no doubt, to the new waveguides - in particular, the low frequency waveguide design that certainly seems to be very effective in controlling the lower midrange dispersion. There was no shortage of bass, although I’ve no doubt that a 612 would also function extremely well as a mid-high unit with a suitable matching sub.
Like its ancestors the 612 also made a very effective floor monitor - the DSP Monitor preset helping it along nicely - and I’m looking forward to checking out the 610 for my own uses at some point in the future. All the presets behave as you would expect although, given how easy the app is to use, you’ll probably be better building your own custom presets for Main, Monitor and Speech.
A radical overhaul of a successful product line is always fraught with danger but, in the 612, JBL has succeeded in producing a worthy inheritor of the EON mantle. Although it is more powerful and, in some ways, better-sounding than its ancestors, the 612 hasn’t lost the musical quality that made the original EONs so popular over the years.
Given the performance of the 612, if you’re in the market for a high-quality portable PA for small to medium venues at around this price point, the new JBL EON 600 series are loudspeakers that you really should be auditioning.