This is my 16th,
and most expensive, loudspeaker audition. My last loudspeaker review was the $2000
single-driver Supravox Carla towers (seen
here). As I learned with the Carlas, such precise positioning opens up a
vivid soundscape. There were only two problems with the Carlas. As single driver
towers, the Carlas have wonderful mid-range, but they donít have treble or
bass extension. Ok, make that three problems. I also thought they had lots of
stiff competition at their $2000 price point.
At just over three feet high, the Jaton REAL A3 loudspeakers are $12,000 and appear squat and chunky. They are only a foot wide and about 1.5 feet deep. Yes, the best height for the tweeter is higher, just a little above the ear when seated. So, the A3s are available with two-inch, deep black gloss platform bases. Jaton can also provide two-inch black cones to screw into the bottoms of either the platforms or the loudspeakers. They recommend using the cones to reduce vibration. The bases and cones can adjust the A3 tweeters to the height of typical tower loudspeakers (about 43" high) and therefore, the listenerís ear.
Really Sweet Three-Way
The 4" Air Motion Transformer (AMT) is a tweeter
with a flat-face that costs as much as a common bookshelf speaker. Dr. Oskar
Heil invented the AMT. ElectroStatic Sound used the AMT first, in 1970. Their
four-sided omnidirectional pyramid put them on the audiophile map. Another
company using a type of Heil AMT is Martin Logan (under the name Folded Motion
The AMT moves air using a folded sheet (made of
polyethylene, polyester or polyimide), positioned in a high-intensity magnetic
field. Along with the strong Neodymium magnets, the low mass diaphragm foil
features high efficiency and fine microdynamics. It attains remarkably high
sound pressure levels while maintaining a very low distortion ratio. The
manufacturer claims "the AMT is "holographically" precise in its
depth, clarity, and transparent music performance, incorporating a cylindrical
wavefront constructed with painstaking craftsmanship."
First, with Axiom Audioís dual tweeter
Millennia M80Ti (up to 22 kHz, +/-3dB for $1100!). Then, at AXPONA, with
Acapella's High Violoncello II horns and their ion plasma tweeters (adjusted down
to 40-kHz, for $80,500!). In either case, loudspeakers with extra-high end
extension never fail to sound happy and sweet. Though I fired questions at
George Cheng, Product Manager, as quickly as a tennis-ball machine, he fired
them right back. He said the A3 is a big improvement over Jatonís first
loudspeaker, the 803. (It is!)
First, all components are changed to German Mundorf, including drivers,
capacitors, coils and the inner wires. They "got the design reference from them
and did some things."Jaton moved the crossover into an exclusive area at the
bottom of the cabinet instead of the area behind the drivers as in the 803.
Cheng expects "the German parts will have much longer life time [than] the parts
inside the 803s.One thing that I know," he says, "is Mundorf ribbon can stand
more popping noise than regular tweeter before breakdown."
Cheng says there are no special handling instructions for the tweeters, except to burn them in over a weekend. They do not need to be cleaned. And they don't wear out at all. "Once in a while," he says, "I still listen to my original O. Heil ESS AMT (1978) for sentimental reason, and they perform perfectly." If necessary, the ribbons be replaced easily and "within a minute."
Yes, but can dirty (high distortion) power burn them out? "In all the years (since 2004), we had exactly 18 burned diaphragms out of many hundreds and, including all the very demanding Pro- and Car audio applications. As far as we've been told by our customers, in most cases the midrange drivers had been blown before the AMT was under a serious threat."
Originally I thought my amplifiers were not
enough to drive the A3s, so Jaton sent their new Operetta amplifier and
pre-amplifiers. I reviewed the A3s with this amplifier, although it was the 803s
that turned out to be the problem. Cheng thought the even more powerful
amplifier coming from Jaton will provide even more of the low and mid-bass than
the Operetta AP2300. Jaton will have a new 450-watt mono amplifier next year
that is, he says, "better matching up amp for A3." He thought the AP2300 is
better suited for the next loudspeaker lower in their line, the AV-803. Chung
said he has "no bundle discount yet," for buying a complete Jaton system, but he
is "open for requirement."
The A3 has a double set of posts to bi-wire them.
There is a bridge blade on each speaker jack which shunts the mid-high and low
drivers together, thus reducing nominal impedance to 4 Ohms. Cheng says which
wiring method sounds better "really depend on few things, for example, the
height of your listening zone. Yes, 4 Ohm will have more power than 8 Ohm. But 8
Ohm has more resolution to me."
On the Enjoy the Music.com Review Magazine
five Blue Notes "are the very best regardless of price." When it comes to sound
quality, four Blue Notes is better than the average speaker that I have
auditioned for Enjoy the Music.com. I really enjoyed the A3s and spread
four Blue Notes all over their categories. The A3s are a far more complex and
expensive speaker than the elegantly simple Carlas. They have a much wider
frequency response and require a more powerful amplifier. Yet I see that I have
slathered their report with Blues Notes also. So while the Blue Note rating
usually appear at the end of a review, will post them here first and then the
full review below that.
Sub-bass (10Hz Ė 60Hz)
The A3s do have deep bass that can shake your seat. I didnít play with settings on my ACI Titan*. I barely used the sub. With the Operetta amplifier, special movie effects on the A3s surprised me, so much that this is one of the first amplifier/loudspeaker combinations that made me think that I may not need a sub-woofer.
(80Hz - 200Hz)
(200Hz - 3,000Hz)
You donít need above average loudspeakers for simple tasks like mid-range vocals at moderate volumes. You need them for the rumbling moan of tympani, sonic boom of kick-drums, POP of gun-shots, liquid quaver of piccolos and tingle of triangles. (See Our Reviewing Standards for frequency range chart.)
The Jaton combo didnít narrow my musical focus; it widened it. I moved joyously from disc to disc, streaming to movies, with nary a worry of weakness. Everything sounded good. Where the Carla mid-range felt like a spectacular mountain peak (their chart says no), the A3s was more of a wide plateau. Their flutes were more metal than warm sounding, their easy delivery of reed rasps on Getsí and Gilbertoís smooth Latin jazz classic was delicious. Their texture and details flowed over me like dark honey.
From 500 Hz to 4 kHz, the mid-range driver handles a good portion of the hyper-critical range. A sheer delight to hear, the A3 mid is clear, crisp and delicate. This was the first time I heard the nuances and details I love with my Big Ole Horns in my own abode. In my notes, I checked to see what wine I was drinking. This wonderful combo tempted me to listen, and drink, the whole bottle. Starting with Cassandra Wilson*, I strolled through many of my CDs again.
frequencies (3,000Hz on up)
Neither can I describe A3 treble as sweet. There simply wasnít too much sugar in their tea. Instead, the A3 high-end feels right, balancedÖOK, neutral. It isnít overly sharp and bright, like a newly minted college student, but it isnít muted or rolled off either. Instead, the Mundorf tweeters feel competently suited to their task. They are merely there to fill in the high-range. And indeed they do. I will certainly pay more attention to ribbon tweeters from now on. I would love to hear these up against Acapella's 40-kHz plasma tweeters.
Brass instruments have bite, just not the "blat" or "blare"
that the metal of my Big Ole Horns does so well. They donít have realistic
ringing either. It is only because of these artifacts, which I crave, that I do
not award the A3 treble with five Blue Notes as the best Iíve ever heard
regardless of cost. I bet the huge crowd of cone lovers disagrees with me. It is easy to describe what the A3 Mundorf tweeter is not. It
is not your typical retail off-the-shelf treble that drunk-punches unsuspecting
consumers by claiming to be "quality audio." For 12 thousand smackers, it
shouldnít be pedestrian either. So donít expect A3 treble to be: harsh,
hard, clinical, sharp, jarring, jangling, screeching, or ringing like sirens.
With the Mundorf tweeter, the A3 leaves those problems behind.
It is easy to describe what the A3 Mundorf tweeter is not. It is not your typical retail off-the-shelf treble that drunk-punches unsuspecting consumers by claiming to be "quality audio." For 12 thousand smackers, it shouldnít be pedestrian either. So donít expect A3 treble to be: harsh, hard, clinical, sharp, jarring, jangling, screeching, or ringing like sirens. With the Mundorf tweeter, the A3 leaves those problems behind.
Width Front, Rear, Depth & Extension
The nitty-gritty though, was that the A3s could define not just where instruments were located in the spatial plane, but also the nuances, textures and details of instruments at the same time. Whether small rock group or large symphony orchestra, their soundstage was wide at the front and rear, deep at the back. Singer and musicians displayed in a realistic sound stage, just not forward, in front of the speakers.
No other nits to pick. No complaints here. The "speaks" came as many do, doubled boxed in two inches of foam with a thin Styrofoam wrap. I think a plastic layer is a better moisture barrier.
The Mundorf speaker cable binding posts are huge! Big plastic wing-nuts. The largest of any loudspeaker I have auditioned. As a reviewer, constantly reaching behind to swap out cables, I loved the convenience. As an owner, you can "set 'em and forget 'em." My stiff Coincident rattlesnakes though have angled spade connectors. While the A3 wing-nuts held them easily in place, the blades did not lie flat. If I owned the A3s, I would want spade connectors with as much surface area as possible touching the binding post.
for the Money
The A3s are my new reference for what cones can achieve. In late night sessions, with the smooth jazz I adore, the combination was jaw-dropping startlingly fantastic, as few Gifts Of The Gods systems can be. Most importantly, I enjoyed the music! Jantonís REAL A3 speakerss have a chunky demeanor, solid construction, beautiful finish and excellent drivers. The manufacturer claims for holography, depth, clarity and transparent music performance stand verified. This, gentlemen, old stereo-farts, is what a wonderful stereo system is meant to do - induce the tipsy self-satisfied state of Rumple Minz shot with beer-back! In the proper configuration, the Jaton amplifier and A3 loudspeaker are a Blonde on Blonde superb combination.