JR 149 - LS3/5a Alternative
The JR 149 is a clever little speaker that still sounds more than respectable vs all the other mini monitors available in todays audio market. An audio pioneer, Jim Rogers possessed real acoustic engineering talent as well as in electronics. The original Rogers folded corner horn may not offer true stereophonic reproduction, but it’s a fine room-filling beast. And as for the later flat-to-the-wall Wafer speakers, based on Philips drive units and measuring just 2in thick, these are surprisingly magicalsounding. Then there’s the JR149. Unmistakable thanks to its cylindrical shape, the JR149’s distinctive high quality wooden end caps (the brochure showed gold-coloured caps as an option) and fluted foam grill. Marketed in 1978 as a ‘technical breakthrough’, the little JR149 exhibits some strong ideas when it comes to the cabinet structure. Its a ten-litre volume design, the enclosure wall made from high grade aluminium and measuring 12in high by around 8in in diameter.
An infinite baffle sealed enclosure, it is very heavily damped with thick acoustic foam. Below the decorative caps at each end of the cylinder are two fibre discs held under tension via a steel rod, which run through the enclosure from top to bottom. Crossover and cable connections are in a separate metal housing underneath the loudspeaker – matched to the rest of the speaker, as Rogers had made a round printed circuit board! Speaker inputs connect directly to this, obviating the need for terminals and extra bits of cable. On earlier speakers they were connected to the crossover via four small individual pins, later replaced by a modular four-pin connector. The crossover used pretty decent components, and had a simple wirewound preset resistor for adjusting and matching the tweeter level. The drive units used were from KEF: the classic B110 bextrene cone bass unit and matching T27 Mylar tweeter (discontinued although both are plentiful second-hand).
When it comes to positioning, the JR149 is best placed close to the wall, with some toe-in. This little speaker really does produce a big sound from a small box. The soundstage is expansive and the JR149 does a pretty good job of ‘disappearing’.
Treble quality is dictated by the KEF T27 tweeter, and yes, there was a bit of a whispy sound to it – but it is very revealing and off-axis response good. The JR149 does not require the ‘head in a vice’ position as you listen, and stereo imaging is very wide. As for the bass, while this will never punch you hard in the chest, it is clean, crisp and clear. True, it could sound a little muddled when pushed loud – with Fleetwood Mac’s ‘The Chain’ for example – but there are limits to the physical movement a small bextrene cone is capable of. The midband also has great clarity, especially the lower end.
It’s hard not to be impressed by this little loudspeaker thanks to its satisfyingly wide soundstaging, low coloration and looks that are sure to turn heads even today. It really does back up the claims of its designer at the time, that it was a ‘technical breakthrough’. Easy on the ear, easy to position and an easy load to drive make the JR149 an, er, ‘easy’ speaker to recommend! You can go out and pay $2K for a set of LS3/5a, which by the way we love in every itteration or, you can give these a twirl at $729 or about 1/3 the price. You'll be shocked at how great these little Brit rascals truly are.
Come give these JRs a listen her at the shop or, buy with confidence here on our site.
JR 149 Monitor Speakers: $729 plus sales tax when applicable.