B&W DM302 vs JBL L20T --what should I do?

Discussion in 'Speakers' started by Kreshna, Dec 8, 2017.

?

Soundstage-wise, should I be satisfied with B&W DM302?

  1. Yes, keep them. Your search for small speakers with impressive soundstage depth has ended.

    33.3%
  2. No, go for NHT SuperZero instead.

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  3. No, try Polk TSi200 instead. Vertical MTM has better soundstage.

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  4. Stomp Kreshna's testicles

    66.7%
Multiple votes are allowed.
  1. Kreshna

    Kreshna ...but I have to know.

    Messages:
    1,047
    Location:
    Indonesia
    No, this is not a brand war bait.

    Instead, I've been so accustomed to the sound of JBL titanium tweeters, because most of my speakers belong to the family: JBL 120Tis, a single JBL 4410 for center speaker, JBL LX 44s, and JBL L20Ts on my secondary system. As such, I couldn't help but comparing newly acquired speakers to the JBL Ti family.

    Recently, I've been interested in soundstage depth. One of the models I'm interested in is Bowers & Wilkins DM302, and I just found a pair very cheap on ebay. So in an impulse buying, the speakers become mine. Then I connect them to my secondary system in the garage. I wonder how would they fare compared to the JBL L20Ts I've been using all along, especially when it goes to soundstage depth.

    [​IMG]
    The JBL L20Ts. Yes, I use them to play computer games too.

    [​IMG]
    The B&W DM302s I just acquired.

    The amplifier is a restored Sansui A-40. Certainly not the best of Sansui, but it sounds good nonetheless. The weakness is probably the source. I'm using my PC as source unit, without any external DAC whatsoever. Yup, the motherboard's lowly Realtek ALC662. It doesn't bother me though. I don't experience audible degradation in audio quality, so there.

    So, how does B&W DM302 compare to my existing JBL L20T? Here are the tests.


    The Coryells - Sentenza Del Core - Allegro

    [​IMG]

    I read somewhere that this is the best song to test soundstage depth, so I promptly bought the album (plenty on ebay anyway). During this song, there are occasional castanet rhythms that are supposed to come from behind the speakers.

    With JBL L20Ts, the castanet rhythms come from slightly behind the loudspeaker's front baffle. With B&W DM302s, the soundstage depth indeed extends quite far behind the front baffle. However, I only hear such impressive depth when listening in moderate levels. When I turn up the volume quite loud, the DM302s' impressive soundstage depth become less impressive --becomes harder to discern from that of JBL L20Ts. I don't know, perhaps my amplifier, or my source unit. I mean, B&W DM302 has 91 dB / watt / meter sensitivity, so I guess they were designed to tolerate loudness, no?


    Santana - Singing Winds, Crying Beasts

    [​IMG]

    This song opens with ringing wind chimes. On JBL L20Ts, the chimes sound more blurred, while on B&W DM302s you can almost hear every individual chime. However, the chimes sound more sustained on the L20Ts. On DM302s, it's almost like the chimes' high frequency harmonics are cut-off.

    Also, in the song's intro, from minute 0:42 to 0:50, there is guitar riff that pans from the right to the left. On JBL L20Ts, the stereo panning is very impressive. The riff nicely steers from the listener's right to the listener's left, it is almost like listening to a Dolby surround demo. In fact, I always use the guitar riff's steering to show off my garage system to visiting friends, because it always sounds impressive on the L20Ts.

    On the B&W DM302, not so. In fact, you have to squint to notice the aforementioned steering. I don't know why, but the steering is way more impressive on JBL L20T than on B&W DM302.


    "Scatman John" Larkin - Game Over Jazz

    [​IMG]

    This is the song that made me love the JBL titanium series, that made me fall in love with the JBL 120Tis. At moderate volume, the intro cymbals sound about the same between the L20Ts and the DM302s, but when the volume's turned up, you start to hear the difference.

    On the Ti series, the cymbals have more "tizz", and it is the "tizz" I like. What do you suppose to call it, high frequency harmonics? On the DM302s, on the other hand, the cymbals have more "body" --as if cymbals have body at all, one may say, but how else I should describe it? Subjectively, I prefer the L20Ts' cymbals, though.


    Herbie Man - Lugar Comum (Common Place)

    [​IMG]

    This song opens with the sound of twittering birds. On the JBL titanium series, the twitters are more tonally pleasant, but on the DM302s, the twitters have more soundstage depth. Just like the castanet rhythms in entenza Del Core - Allegro, the twittering birds nicely comes from behind the DM302s' front baffle. Not even JBL 120Ti can touch the DM302 in presenting the 3 dimensionality of this song's bird twitters.


    Overall Impression

    It seems to me B&W DM302 has more three dimensional soundstage than JBL L20T. One thing I notice is the DM302 can sound even more forward than L20Ts. When I move away from the DM302s, increasing my distance to the speakers, I can vaguely hear a 3-dimensional sound stage formed in front of the speakers, while only a small portion of the soundstage comes from behind the speakers. With JBL 120Tis, the entire 3-dimensional soundstage comes from in front of the speakers. But with JBL L20Ts, there is no 3-dimensional soundstage at all. I have tried moving away from my L20Ts, and the "thickness" of the soundstage just didn't change.

    So yes, listening nearfield tends to flatten the soundstage to be 2-dimensional, but only on the DM302s. On the L20Ts, the soundstage is flat all the way.

    However, the 302s' soundstage is not as impressive as described on the reviews I read. Nossire. Take a look at this review, for instance.

    "The 303s soundstage performance is very good, it's just that the 302 is *amazing* in this area. It almost sounds like some sort of electronic spatial manipulation has been inserted into the signal path."

    Amazing soundstage depth? Hardly. B&W DM302 indeed has more noticeable soundstage depth than JBL L20T, but hardly amazing. It's not something that give me a "wow" moment. It's unlike the first time I heard cymbals on JBL 120Tis. Yes, soundstage depth is better, but not a "wow" moment.

    What really intrigues me is actually how similar do the L20Ts and the DM302s sound. JBL L20T has titanium dome tweeters, while B&W DM302 has soft dome tweeters. JBL L20T is ported, while B&W DM302 is sealed. Yet, they sound quite similar to each other, which surprises me.

    The nearest record store is at a place called 'Setra Sari Mall'. The store uses a pair of Mordaunt-Short 902i to play songs. The Mordaunt-Shorts sound vastly different than my JBL L20Ts. First, the bass is more impressive. Way more impressive, especially for speakers of that size. But then, the HF is nowhere as refined as my JBLs, and center image is virtually non-existent --unlike the L20Ts, whose center image is prominent and solid.

    [​IMG]
    The Mordaunt-Short 902is owned by a nearby record store.

    In the last Ramadan I spotted a pair of highly acclaimed B&W PM1s while looking for a restaurant to break my fasting. I decided to audition the speakers, and they sound noticeably different than my JBLs. For instance, they sound way gentler, as if the sound has round edges. Even without AB comparison (I was in a business trip out of town at that time), I realized my JBLs sound rough compared to the PM1s.

    In January 2016, I auditioned a pair of Klipsch KG 4.2 in a used audio store. Again, it was out of town, so no AB comparison possible with my JBL titaniums. However, the Klipsch sound vastly different than my JBL. First, the bass is chest-thumping. But then, the HF is really anemic compared to my 120Tis.

    But the DM302s... they don't really sound much different from my good old L20Ts. Sure, there was certain moments where soundstage depth behind the speakers really show, but they are hardly "wow" moments. And the soundstage become 3-dimensional when you move away from the speakers. But again, it's hardly amazing. Also, as far as 2-dimensional soundstage is concerned, the JBL L20Ts seem to have more pinpointed stereo imaging.

    But otherwise, the two models sound quite similar, despite based on different design. Titanium vs soft dome, ported vs sealed. As such, this Stereophile review sounds like over-enthusiastic exaggeration.

    "You might not expect speakers this size to totally disappear and re-create the original performance, but they do. While small cabinet loudspeakers are known for imaging well, the DM302s throw a soundstage that consistently startles with its openness and ease. You don't get merely a taste of what the full-bore high-end speakers do, you get way into *serious audiophile territory*.

    Yes, B&W DM302s may be better speakers, but JBL L20Ts are not far behind. Or perhaps I should be happy that my good old L20Ts are pretty close to "serious audiophile territory".


    What Should I Do, Then?

    So, is B&W 302 'The Holy Grail' in my quest for small speakers with amazing soundstage depth? The speakers are quite satisfactory, but not quite amazing. Should I go for NHT SuperZero instead? But is the current production NHT SuperZero still the same with ther legendary SuperZero designed by Ken Kantor many years ago? Anyone?

    Or perhaps I should use better upstream components? Better amplifier, better DAC. Perhaps the differences between B&W DM302 and JBL L20T will be more noticeable with better electronics?

    Anyone?
     
    Last edited: Dec 8, 2017
    Zonker92 likes this.

     

    Please register to disable this ad.

  2. darkblue94

    darkblue94 It wasn't me.

    Messages:
    9,143
    Location:
    The Pacific Northwest
    Keep looking, make a decision on your own, then come back here and let us know what decision you made and how it has worked out for you.
     
    Kreshna likes this.
  3. Kreshna

    Kreshna ...but I have to know.

    Messages:
    1,047
    Location:
    Indonesia
    Er... thanks. I'm hoping for suggestion though; one that can save me from buying spree.:D
     
  4. darkblue94

    darkblue94 It wasn't me.

    Messages:
    9,143
    Location:
    The Pacific Northwest
    I don't mean to offend you but you have been asking this same question for more than a month now with no advancement towards any decisions. I honestly believe that you would have pretty much the same chance of success here by blindly throwing darts at the wall. The best thing to do is to try two sets of speakers at a time head to head, sell off the one that loses the challenge and buy another, repeat the process until you are satisfied that you have found the right pair.
     
    montrecott likes this.
  5. Helle

    Helle Active Member

    Messages:
    260
    Location:
    On the crappa!
    I have both the L20T & DM302 speakers and I chose the L20T for my nearfield listening (not as nearfield as your set up) but I am using an Acoustic Research X10 amplifier which is 100 watts.

    Your arrangement is less than ideal, I would try to change that first, you are too close and try to raise the speakers.
     
    Last edited: Dec 8, 2017
    Kreshna likes this.
  6. Kreshna

    Kreshna ...but I have to know.

    Messages:
    1,047
    Location:
    Indonesia
    Guess I should look for SuperZeros then.


    I see, thanks! Yes, moving away from the speakers indeed increases the 3-dimensionality of the DM302s, but the L20Ts seems to be better for nearfield listening.

    Anyway, could you tell your experience with the DM302s? Is the soundstage depth as amazing as described in the reviews?
     

     

    Please register to disable this ad.

  7. Helle

    Helle Active Member

    Messages:
    260
    Location:
    On the crappa!
    Also, are you able to place speaker stands on the other side of your desk/table?
    If yes, then that would be a good way to move your speakers back, up and spread a little further apart from each other.

    Just saying..........
     
  8. Kreshna

    Kreshna ...but I have to know.

    Messages:
    1,047
    Location:
    Indonesia
    No, not really, but I can move away from my desk. And indeed, with the DM302, the soundstage "thickens", becomes more 3-dimensional. Not so wirh the L20Ts, the soundstage stays flat all the way.

    Whichever speakers "win" wouldn't belong to the garage though; it would be used in a yet-to-buil small listening room where I could definitely put greater distance to the speakers. The speakers would be arranged according to Cardas Golden Ratio as well.

    Still, could you share your experience with the DM302s?
     
  9. Helle

    Helle Active Member

    Messages:
    260
    Location:
    On the crappa!
    I found both speakers to be good with some recordings and average with others, but my opinion is that it comes down to how the tracks were recorded from the studio.
    Never get into the hype of speakers, make the decision by yourself, for yourself and try to remember that the 302’s were entry level or close to entry level for B&W that may of sounded above average for their price point.
    The same can be said of the JBL’s too.

    I am still keeping my 302’s as my taste may change in the future.

    Ultimately my 302’s did’nt go down as deep as the JBL’s did, that helped make up my mind.
     
    Last edited: Dec 8, 2017
    Kreshna likes this.
  10. Kreshna

    Kreshna ...but I have to know.

    Messages:
    1,047
    Location:
    Indonesia
    Wait, that was my experience too. The L20T goes deeper, but the DM302 sounds more thumpy.

    Overall, I think the L20Ts are more accurate, but the DM302s sound more pleasant. The DM302s sound warmer, while the L20Ts are tonally flatter.

    Well at least the experience has taught me not to expect too much from the hype. Yes, soundstage depth is deeper, but not as spectacular as described in the reviews. It seems to me Stereophile Magazine's reviews tend to have too much hype as well.
     
    Helle likes this.
  11. Helle

    Helle Active Member

    Messages:
    260
    Location:
    On the crappa!
    Don’t forget Stereophile Magazine tested the speakers when they were new with above average gear probably in a room better treated than ours, so at the time he may of been correct?
    JBL’s have 6 1/2 in mid-bass woofer while the B&W’s have only a 5 incher.
    To me the L20’s are a bit clinical ( possibly midrange shy ) in sound where as the B&W’s have the traditional ( my opinion ) British midrange tone to them.
     
    Kreshna likes this.

     

    Please register to disable this ad.

  12. BMWCCA

    BMWCCA AK Subscriber Subscriber

    Messages:
    5,450
    Location:
    Virginia
    I have the L20T but not the B&W for comparison. Actually the L1 goes deeper than the L20T for something in the same brand and size/class as the little JBLs.

    I can't see how making these comparisons makes any sense, though I admire your persistence. I think our ears conform to whatever we're listening to and once becoming used to one speaker's sonic signature, other speakers may just sound off, better, or improved in some aspect. I don't believe you can really make such comparisons without listening to one speaker for some time (weeks, maybe), and then go back to your benchmark and see if they still sound like you remember them.
     
    Zonker92 likes this.
  13. Helle

    Helle Active Member

    Messages:
    260
    Location:
    On the crappa!
    I think what Krishna is looking for is a hybrid of a JBL L20T/B&W DM302 speaker.
    The best of both worlds so to speak.

    Not sure if it's a gut feeling or IBS.
     
  14. Kreshna

    Kreshna ...but I have to know.

    Messages:
    1,047
    Location:
    Indonesia
    The L20T is actually meant as 'baseline'. Many reviews I've read praise the DM302's soundstage depth, so I actually expected spectacular improvement over the L20T's soundstage depth. Turned out it wasn't such. Quite noticeable, but not quite a "wow" moment.

    It's a much difference experience when I auditioned Klipsch KG 4.2, where I was instantly wowed by their chest-thumping bass --which is a huge improvement over my JBL 120Ti's bass. I actually expected to have such amazement from the DM302's soundstage depth, especially when compared to the L20T's soundstage depth. Turned out that wasn't the case.

    Wonder if NHT SuperZero would give deeper soundstage.
     
  15. xero-D-hero

    xero-D-hero Super Member

    Messages:
    2,547
    Here's my take on this:
    It's gonna take a whole lot more than comparing two (or three) sets of speakers to find the "ultimate soundstage" small speakers.
    And the process could get quite expensive as the quest moves up the small speaker foodchain.

    Me,I'd love to have a pair of L20t/L20t3 around here to throw into the mix w/my small speaker comparisons.
    Closest speakers I have to the L20t right now are some JBL LX-22 & LXE-330.
    And with the right material those can indeed throw a spooky good soundstage when the system > speaker & room set-up all synch up nicely.

    But even those JBL's are'nt my "top dog" at the moment,that slot goes to my Canton GL-260,especially with regards to nearfield listening.
    So yeah my experience with that size/style of JBL small speaker is they typically need just a bit more room to sound their best.
    And w/o any doubt proper placement is a key factor to getting the very best soundstage & imaging outta them.

    Now understand that I have 8-10 more sets of small speakers around here,,,and even more have passed right on thru here as well...
    And I'm strictly low budget,so leave out all the really nice ones like some Harbeth,ATC,PMC,Spendor or similar big $$$$ speakers.

    Right now my instincts say to try something like those Canton GL-260 -or- ADS L300/L300C.
    Or possibly even something a bit smaller like the Canton Pus S -or- ADS L200/L200C.

    As close as you are to the speakers it's been my experience that a speaker like those tend to work better in that sort of setting.

    But yeah a speaker like those Canton/ADS tend to be a bit more picky about what is driving them vs. the JBL or B&W.

    So you can see how budget creep starts coming into play with this sorta thing...

    And this all may reflect the fact that the DM-302 is also a bit smaller than the L20t.
    So it's possible that your testing also indicates a slightly smaller speaker may better fit the situation.

    But I can assure you one thing,take the time/effort to integrate a really nice small'ish subwoofer and things really begin to sound amazing.

    Anyhow it's getting late and I gotta go :boring: LOL.

    Bret P.
     
    Kreshna likes this.
  16. Oldsansui441

    Oldsansui441 AK Subscriber Subscriber

    Messages:
    1,913
    Location:
    Victoria, Australia
    The closest l have had to your JBL's were a pair of LX-33's a couple of months back and a haven't owned DM302's but l have owned their replacement the DM303's from new. The LX-33's l found to be fairly ordinary sounding speakers, the 303's on the other hand sound very good with enough amplification. Even my little Beovox 1702's killed the JBL's.
     
    Kreshna likes this.

     

    Please register to disable this ad.

  17. Kreshna

    Kreshna ...but I have to know.

    Messages:
    1,047
    Location:
    Indonesia
    Anyway, who voted I should keep the DM302? I actually tend to agree.

    Yes, the soundstage depth isn't amazing, but perhaps because my expectations are already inflated by the reviews I've read? They are still sweet sounding speakers. Their stereo imaging is at least as good as that of JBL L20Ts, and their soundstage depth are better when the source material calls for it. Not spectacular, not exactly a "wow" moment, but the soundstage depth is better still; notably thicker.

    Perhaps I should accept the fact that improvement in soundstage depth is always much less audible than, say, improvement in bass extension? That the difference is never too great?

    Besides, who could guarantee NHT SuperZero would sound better?

    Both JBL L20T and B&W DM302 are great speakers, though. They are both small speakers with big sound. They both disappear pretty well. For prolonged listening, the DM302 causes less listening fatigue though. It sounds warmer, while the JBL L20 is more mercilessly revealing.

    Anyway, any experience with Polk TSi200?
     
  18. Kreshna

    Kreshna ...but I have to know.

    Messages:
    1,047
    Location:
    Indonesia
    Wait wait wait, this IS unexpected....

    Infected Mushroom - Saeed

    [​IMG]

    Take a listen to the song intro, from the minute 0:00 to the minute 0:10. Whatever weird electronic instrument they were playing, the instrument does not only sound quiet, but also sounds far away, from behind the loudspeakers.

    Then, exactly at the minute 0:11, the weird electronic riff is "echoed" at the foreground. Now the weird electronic instrument clearly sounds as if it comes from the front of the speakers, contrasting the previous riff, and reinforcing the image of 3-dimensional soundstage.

    I have listened to this song over and over again with my JBL L20Ts (don't ask, it is a "catching up with deadline" song), and I've never realized the song intro has such soundstage depth. With the JBL L20Ts, the electronic riff from the minute 0:00 to the minute 0:10 only sounds quieter, but not farther.

    I think it counts as "wow" moments, because it happens unexpectedly during casual listening. It is like, "wow, it actually sounds like that?" Well, not as spectacular as hearing cymbals for the first time on JBL titanium dome tweeter, but still a pleasant surprise nonetheless.
     
  19. Kreshna

    Kreshna ...but I have to know.

    Messages:
    1,047
    Location:
    Indonesia
    So I have lived with the B&W DM302s for quite some time now. I notice they indeed have deeper soundstage than the L20Ts. Sometimes the soundstage depth is quite obvious, but most of the time it's subtler. Perhaps I should accept that improved soundstage isn't as "smack in your face" as, say, deeper bass.

    Nonetheless, an example of obvious depth in soundstage happens in a scene from Star Wars: Return of the Sith. I watched the movie in plain stereo, without any DSP tricks whatsoever, using the B&W DM302. When the dying Padme was giving birth to Luke and Leia, her heartbeats were monitored and reproduced by the Polis Massa's medical equipment. And when listening with the DM302, the reproduced heartbeats clearly sound from behind the speakers --which matches the location of the hospital's heart monitoring equipment.

    [​IMG]
    In this scene, Padme's monitored heartbeats sound from behind the speakers.

    So yes, DM302 indeed has 3-dimensional soundstage, although the obviousness vary between sources.

    My only complaint is shrill and strained upper midrange, which becomes worse with volume increase. The JBL L20Ts can be played loudly without problems; they still sound clear and clean at loud volumes. But the DM302s sound shrill and strained when played loudly --definitely more fatiguing. I wonder it the problem lies on my Sansui A-40, or it's an inherent nature of the DM302. It's too bad for a pair of speakers that do everything else right.
     
    Oldsansui441 likes this.
  20. jblnut

    jblnut Don't Overthink It Subscriber

    Messages:
    2,547
    Location:
    Boston Area
    In my opinion, soundstage (as it pertains to the speaker's contribution) is more a matter of cabinet and baffle design. You want to very carefully control the high frequency radiation pattern while keeping cabinet resonance to a minimum. If you want this above else in the JBL family then you want to seek out something from the XPL family or the 250Ti, if we're talking classic models. Although they are a fine loudspeaker, a big square box like the 120ti or L20T is just not going to be the last word in imaging.

    In the modern era, the little self-powered LSR305 will blow your mind with near field imaging. I would recommend these to you in a heartbeat as I think they may be exactly what you are seeking.

    Do seek them out...

    jblnut
     
    Kreshna likes this.

Share This Page