HSU Research CCB-8 Bookshelf Speaker Review

Manufacturer & Model
HSU Research CCB-8 Bookshelf Speaker
MSRP
$369 each (Satin Black), $449 each (Rosenut Wood Veneer)
Link
http://www.hsuresearch.com
Highlights
Coaxial driver design, moderately priced, versatile cabinet placement, highly detailed full-range sound, excellent build quality.
Summary
HSU Research’s CCB-8 Bookshelf Speaker offers a unique coaxial driver design, making it an interesting alternative to other bookshelf speakers on the market. The very nature of concentric drivers creates a sound field that’s evenly dispersed across a listening area, allowing the CCB-8 to be placed upright or on its side. Overall build quality and customer support is top-notch, with the backing of one of the industry’s highly respected Internet Direct speaker companies. Sound quality produced by the CCB-8 is loaded with character and detail, making it a desirable speaker for listeners that appreciate high quality sound.
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HSU Research has been on the frontline of direct to consumer audio sales for several decades, continually designing and manufacturing high performance products that unquestionably deliver bang for the buck performance. And while the company is recognized for its bevy of powerful room shaking subwoofers, it has also found success dabbling in the world of loudspeakers. For years, HSU has wowed enthusiasts and critics with its HB-1 MK2 Horn Bookshelf and HC-1 MK2 Horn Center Channel offerings. Speaking from firsthand experience, the HB-1 is a wonderfully dynamic performer capable of matching speakers costing two-times HSU’s asking price. That’s exactly why the arrival of the company’s most recent affordable speaker model – the CCB-8 Bookshelf – is exciting. Well, that and the fact that the CCB-8 carries a wickedly unique driver design that’s fairly uncommon in today’s market.

This is the first of a two-part review investigating the CCB-8’s performance capabilities. Part One evaluates the CCB-8 as a standalone stereo speaker, while Part Two will focus on HSU’s powerful ULS-15 MK2 subwoofer (giving the CCB-8 a chance to playback movie and music material as a 2.1 system).


Coaxial By Design
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(HSU Research)

HSU Research certainly deserves praise for bringing a radical speaker design to the bookshelf segment, especially considering its price point ($369 each and $699/pair in Satin Black; $449 each and $859/pair in Rosenut). That kind of cost cracks the door for moderately budget-minded buyers, providing access to a truly versatile speaker that can be used to fill any number of roles in a home theater environment.

HSU describes the CCB-8 as its first “constant directivity coaxial loudspeaker,” which refers to the speaker’s concentric driver array. At its core, a coaxial design utilizes a driver stack that emits sound from the same source point. In the case of the CCB-8, HSU incorporates a centrally located 8-inch woofer with a single aluminum dome tweeter mounted on the back of the driver. When looking at the speaker’s woofer, the tweeter isn’t readily visible because it’s hidden beneath the driver’s acoustically transparent dust cap.

The use of a coaxial design helps to address a number of audio problems introduced by traditional driver arrays. Primarily, it eliminates lobing, which is an acoustics phenomenon that results in poor off-axis sound (typically heard as a dip or null), an issue that’s especially problematic along the plane in which drivers are aligned. Horizontally arranged drivers (such as those found on Center Channels) are notorious for suffering from lobing, causing off-axis listening positions to hear less than stellar audio. It can result in a soundstage that’s disjointed, dialog that’s difficult to understand, and the removal of vital lower midrange and bass material.

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(AV NIRVANA)

Coaxial loudspeakers emit sound from a single source point, which limits interference of sound waves generated by the speaker’s drivers. The result is a uniform response across an entire listening area, even when sitting outside of the sweet spot. This makes for a more pleasurable audio experience no matter where a listener is seated.

Adding to the speaker’s attractiveness is its easy to drive nature. The CCB-8’s overall 94 dB sensitivity rating indicates that it can be played rather loudly without the use of a powerful amp – another bonus to buyers looking for great sound without ruthlessly expensive equipment.


The Cabinet
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(AV NIRVANA)

The CCB-8’s cabinet is slightly on the large side for a bookshelf, measuring 15-inches tall x 10 1/2-inches wide x 12-inches deep. Keep in mind its coaxial driver array allows the speaker to be oriented on its side, so both height and width measurements are technically interchangeable (depending on how you choose to sit the speaker). And at 22-pounds, the CCB-8 is more than manageable to handle.

Our review samples arrived with HSU’s signature Satin Black finish, which offers a subdued sheen and low reflectivity of light. The finish isn’t impervious to smudges from hands and fingers, but those are easily remedied by rubbing with a microfiber cloth. When the finish is visually combined with the speaker’s gently rounded corners and smooth surface, the CCB-8 looks every bit the part of a HSU Research speaker: simple and unassuming. The speaker does have some physical spark, however, which is revealed by removing its front grille. What you’ll find is an eye-catchingly cool yellow woofer (and an instant punch of visual confidence).

Speaking of grilles, the CCB-8 is furnished with a magnetically attached circular grille cover. Its rigid metal mesh surface is artfully depressed in a concave manner, adding some character to the speaker’s presentation. The grille is easy to remove and adjust, allowing users to match the cover’s “HSU” markings to the speaker’s orientation.

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(AV NIRVANA)

The backside of the cabinet features dual ports (for better low frequency extension) and gold plated binding posts (which accept banana plugs, spades, and bare wire). HSU includes two foam plugs for the ports, allowing users to tune the bass response to their liking. And the binding post assembly can be unscrewed and rotated to account for speakers that are placed horizontally.

Overall fit and finish is exceptional, matching my experience with other HSU products.


Out of the Box
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(AV NIRVANA)

The CCB-8s arrived in a single heavy-duty double walled cardboard box. Internally, the speakers were encased in form-fitting foam and individually wrapped in soft protective bags. Buyers should have no concern about potential shipping damage from cheap or lacking packaging – both speakers were in pristine condition.

HSU ships the speakers with a relatively simple instruction manual that includes information on unpacking, optimal speaker placement, proper toe in recommendations, wiring, and general set up instructions. It also details the speaker’s seven-year warranty inclusions and limitations.

We captured the entire unboxing process on video, which can be viewed by clicking on the image below.




Set Up
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(AV NIRVANA) Photo of speaker positioning taken mid-evaluation.

The speakers were evaluated in a 12 1/2-foot wide x 17-foot long x 9-foot tall room; single GIK Acoustics 4A Alpha absorption/diffusor panels were situated at the first reflection points along the sidewalls.

The CCB-8s sat on IsoAcoustics Aperta isolators perched upon 28-inch tall speaker stands (for a total height of 31-inches), positioned 34-inches from sidewalls and 58-inches from the front wall. Spacing between the speakers and the primary listening position was approximately 80-inches.

After initial listening tests, I opted to run the speakers with one port plugged (which offered a great balance of deep bass and perceived tightness). Overall bass response in that configuration began to roll off around 40Hz (in-room). While two ports opened performed fine, I did find a sealed tuning to be somewhat limiting in the low frequency department.

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(AV NIRVANA) For purposes of discussion: Ground plane, 1/3 smoothing

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(AV NIRVANA) One port open configuration.

Following Dr. Hsu’s recommendations, I began initial listening tests by toeing the speakers inward, allowing the tweeter axes to cross several feet in front of the middle listening position. According to Dr. Hsu, the speaker is designed to be optimally heard at 15-degrees off axis. I ultimately tweaked positioning to a wider toe-in (still somewhat aggressive), which played better to my ear.

Associated test equipment included a Pioneer Elite VSX21-THX AVR and an OPPO UDP-205 4K UHD Blu-ray Player.


Performance
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(Images: Alexi Murdoch)

From the first moments of my initial listening session, the CCB-8 confidently exposed its most potent strength: detailed sound. It’s a revealing speaker that prefers to operate as a sonic microscope, audibly etching musical detail with laser-guided precision. In fact, new details nestled within some of my favorite albums sprung to life – which, frankly, shocked my ears.

The CCB-8 proved to be an extraordinarily fun speaker to demo. As referenced above, musical detail was simply off the charts, magnifying every breath, string squeak, lip smack, and recording imperfection. It also exhibited beautiful depth of sound (especially in the bass region) where the vibrancy and subtle characteristics of low frequency reproduction where handled nicely. Music was layered with an organic low-end and mid-range character; songs sounded shaped, controlled, and artfully crafted.

In my room, the speakers presented with uber clean and super sharp highs; the phrase “crystal clear” comes to mind. That kind of crispness helped the CCB-8 speakers to possess a lifelike nature. If you think of a spotlight illuminating figures cloaked by darkness, then you can imagine the CCB-8’s ability to expose sonic subtleties in the high frequencies – revealed detail was that dramatic.

The soundstage produced by the CCB-8 was lively and expansive. Not only was it loaded with imaging between the speakers, but also presented a fair amount of details outside of the speakers. I also noted a consistent depth of soundstage, with plenty of sound appearing to exist on a distant vertical plane. There were instances of a forward presentation, but they were far and few between. Overall, imaging and airiness of sound was pleasing to the ear.

The following is a selection of notes taken during listening sessions:

Alexi Murdoch Four Songs (CD)
Alexi Murdoch’s introductory EP contains four songs layered with flowing vocals, delicate acoustic guitars, and rolling bass. The CCB-8s delivered tantalizing amounts of detail, revealing beautiful subtleties contained within each track, including: Murdoch’s breaths between lyrics, finger rubs on guitar strings, and tiny background sounds dancing through the air. The speakers weren’t shy about delivering a crispness that punctuated high-frequency sounds, and the CCB-8’s natural bass proved to be a perfect counter balance. That balance was on full display during “Orange Sky,” with Murdoch’s voice accentuated with razor-sharp pop, and the song’s bass guitar and bass drum gently punching with a controlled presence. This is a song where bloated bass can dominate the presentation, and the CCB-8 speakers kept fantastic control of the low-end.

Overall imaging was focused, allowing the songs’ various components to occupy their own areas of space. The speakers also exhibited pleasing depth to the soundstage.

The Orb The Orb’s Adventures Beyond the Ultraworld (CD)
Shifting gears, I wanted to experience the CCB-8’s capabilities when fed challenging bass heavy material. The Orb’s seminal album, The Orb’s Adventures Beyond the Ultraworld, is loaded with plenty of chest thumping beats. The presentation proved to be majestic, with bass that was harnessed and delivered with poise. The speakers didn’t exhibit any driver or port noise during playback.

The soundstage created by the CCB-8 speakers was massive and deep. “Back Side of the Moon” sent samples dancing through the air as vintage NASA communications wrapped around the edges of the room. It was a mesmerizing listen, as voices appeared to crawl along the walls. “Perpetual Dawn” played to the CCB-8’s strengths, with sharp symbols and pulsating waves of techno rhythms bubbling outside of the soundstage.

Norah Jones Come Away With Me (SACD)
Come Away With Me is a Top Five demo disc in my audio world, and an album that my ears have enjoyed hundreds of times. The CCB-8 speakers injected lively spunk into its presentation, accentuating the upper-end feel of its music. Jones’s voice popped with vibrancy and life in a way I’d never heard – occasionally tripping into what some might categorize as a controlled brightness. The vocal’s fine details, however, were absolutely exquisite and accentuated by the smallest of details.

“Turn Me On” was a highlight listen, delivering pleasing bass that dripped with soft texture. The song’s Hammond organ was also mesmerizing, as it appeared to gently float in the background of the soundstage.

Pink Floyd The Wall (CD)
Pink Floyd’s The Wall quickly became my favorite demo disc during the CCB-8’s evaluation; it contains an inordinate amount of fine details to capture your ears’ attention. The speakers delivered a solid performance, loaded with a rich soundstage and sharp imaging. “Comfortably Numb” rolled with perfectly rounded bass punctuated by precision, while Waters and Gilmour’s haunting vocals rang with a metallic air. And “The Trial” was one of many songs that allowed the speakers to show off soundstage capabilities (most noteworthy being clopping footsteps that appeared to echo away from my listening position).

Yello Touch (CD)
The CCB-8s were right at home with Touch, happily accommodating the album’s dynamic nature. “The Expert” was presented with sounds living well outside of the speakers; synths, guitars, and samples danced in the center of the soundstage as the song’s vocals exploded to the room’s sidewall boundaries. A tremendous amount of character and detail was on display, with the most minute of sounds appearing. And “Bostich (Reflected)” had beautiful bass pounding away as small clicks and beeps floated in mid-air. Imaging for “Bostich” was flat out phenomenal, once again presenting a three-dimensional auditory experience that pushed away from the primary listening position.

Various Artists HSU Demo Disc (CD)
Dr. Hsu kindly included a disc stocked with his favorite demo tracks (what a delightful listen!). Many of the tracks are vocal heavy with songs that allow the CCB-8 speakers to show off their incredible ability to relay highlight details. Track Two presented Rebecca Pidgeon singing “Spanish Harlem.” The CCB-8s took her vocals and reproduced them beautifully, complete with fine echoes and sharp details. Abdullah Ibrahim’s “Calypso Minor” also sounded fantastic, with crystal clear imaging, an expansive soundstage, and a nakedness of sound that made it appear as if the instruments were in my listening space. And a rendition of “Hallelujah” had vocals that seemed to rise into the thinness of air, with minutia (like the smallest breath or lip smack) raw and present.

Other tracks featuring string and brass instruments relayed that same sense of intricately layered detail and composition.


Conclusion
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(AV NIRVANA)

The CCB-8 Bookshelf Speaker is the latest in a line of impressive loudspeaker offerings from HSU Research, and was incredibly fun to audition; it’s truly a master of reproducing fine sonic character. While the speaker possesses warmth in the low frequency realm, it certainly has a presentation that’s driven by its sharp presence. If you’re a listener that appreciates unique speaker designs, versatility, a budget friendly price-point, and exactness in presentation, then the CCB-8 should be on your shortlist. And with HSU’s generous 30-Day return policy, it’s an easy speaker to recommend.




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CCB-8 Bookshelf Speaker Specifications
  • Frequency Response: 50Hz – 20kHz +/- 2 dB at 15 degrees off axis
  • Sensitivity: 94 dB / 1m / 2.83V in Half Space
  • Recommended Amplifier Power: 10-400 W RMS Per Channel
  • Woofer: 8-Inch
  • Enclosure Type: Vented ; 3⁄4” MDF
  • Recommended Impedance Setting: 8 ohms
  • Enclosure Dimensions: 15” H x 10 1⁄2” W x 12” D
  • Dimensions with Grille: 15” H x 10 1⁄2” W x 121⁄2” D
  • Weight: 22 lbs
  • Warranty: 7-years
 
Last edited:

Todd Anderson

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Jim makes a great point. The CCB-8's perceived performance isn't impacted by its orientation. You stand it upright or on its side and you'll be treated to the same exact sound presentation.

I think the yellow drivers look great ;-).

Here's my take: you're obviously chewing on the idea of experiencing the CCB-8. I'd take advantage of HSU's return policy and bring them into your home. Why not? Just make sure you unpack them carefully. Worst case scenario, you return them.

In fact, I'd probably order both the CCB-8 and the SVS Ultras... take your time setting them up and dialing them in and treat yourself to a sound-off. Losing set gets returned! ;-)
 

-Jim-

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Jim makes a great point. The CCB-8's perceived performance isn't impacted by its orientation. You stand it upright or on its side and you'll be treated to the same exact sound presentation.

I think the yellow drivers look great ;-).

Here's my take: you're obviously chewing on the idea of experiencing the CCB-8. I'd take advantage of HSU's return policy and bring them into your home. Why not? Just make sure you unpack them carefully. Worst case scenario, you return them.

In fact, I'd probably order both the CCB-8 and the SVS Ultras... take your time setting them up and dialing them in and treat yourself to a sound-off. Losing set gets returned! ;-)
Great idea! That way you get to figure out which one sounds better in your environment driven by /with your other equipment. SVS includes return shipping in your price so the risk is certainly minimal.

Just a word of caution, for really critical analysis, don't place them side by side. (CCB-8s and SVS). Placing speakers side by side and trying to do A-B comparisons causes them to impact each other resulting in a false comparison. (Yes I know Audio stores do this all the time, and it's just plain wrong.) Go ahead and do it just for grins, but let you final listening test be exactly where you plan to position the speakers with the other set is removed. A critical ear will probably hear a difference.

Good Luck with your decision.
 

michaelspiellman

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Great idea! That way you get to figure out which one sounds better in your environment driven by /with your other equipment. SVS includes return shipping in your price so the risk is certainly minimal.

Just a word of caution, for really critical analysis, don't place them side by side. (CCB-8s and SVS). Placing speakers side by side and trying to do A-B comparisons causes them to impact each other resulting in a false comparison. (Yes I know Audio stores do this all the time, and it's just plain wrong.) Go ahead and do it just for grins, but let you final listening test be exactly where you plan to position the speakers with the other set is removed. A critical ear will probably hear a difference.

Good Luck with your decision.
Thanks gentlemen! I just ordered the CCB-8's over the weekend, and I love the idea of also ordering the SVS bookshelves to do an actual onsite comp. This could, however, push my wife over the edge. I'll need to weigh the cost/benefit analysis of doing the comp carefully!
 

michaelspiellman

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@michaelspiellman Did you go Yellow or Black Cones?
Jim,
It looks like they only have black cones available now. I would have selected the black cones if there had been a choice. Heck, I only change out speakers every 20 years or so; I appreciated the feedback from you and Todd. From the late 70's to the early 2000's I ran with a pair of KLH Model 10 CT38 Towers (the pistol) and a pair of large Advents. They sounded pretty good with my old Marantz 4400. I actually still have the old KLH towers. They look brand new, but the woofers need refoamed. One of these days I may try refoaming the woofers and use then in the basement rec room. I'm too lazy to go downstairs and take a picture of them, but here is an online pic (mine actually look nicer).

54229


54230
 

Todd Anderson

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Thanks gentlemen! I just ordered the CCB-8's over the weekend, and I love the idea of also ordering the SVS bookshelves to do an actual onsite comp. This could, however, push my wife over the edge. I'll need to weigh the cost/benefit analysis of doing the comp carefully!
Excellent. Congratulations! I have to say, I'm looking forward to reading your impressions!
 

Todd Anderson

Editor / Senior Admin
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Thread Starter
Joined
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Messages
7,846
Location
Balt/Wash Metro
My AV System  
Preamp, Processor or Receiver
StormAudio ISP.24 MK2
Main Amp
Emotiva XPA-5
Additional Amp
Emotiva XPA Gen3 2.8 multichannel amp
Other Amp
Denon X8500H
Computer Audio
AudioEngine A2+
DAC
THX ONYX
Universal / Blu-ray / CD Player
Kaleidescape TERRA, OPPO UDP-203, Panasonic UB9000
Front Speakers
GoldenEar Technology Triton One.R
Center Channel Speaker
GoldenEar Technology SuperCenter Reference
Surround Speakers
SVS Ultra Surround
Surround Back Speakers
SVS Ultra Bookshelf
Front Height Speakers
SVS Prime Elevation x4 (Top Front, Top Mid-Front)
Rear Height Speakers
SVS Prime Elevation x4 (Top Middle, Top Rear)
Subwoofers
dual SVS SB16s + dual PSA XS30s
Other Speakers or Equipment
Behringer 1124p; Aura Bass Shaker Pros; SuperSub X
Video Display Device
JVC NX7
Screen
Seymour Screen Excellence, Enlightor NEO AT Screen
Streaming Equipment
iFi Audio Zen Blue
Streaming Subscriptions
Qobuz, TIDAL, Spotify, ROON
Other Equipment
LG Electronics 65-inch B6 OLED, Sony 65-inch X900F, ZeroSurge 8R15W x 2, ZeroSurge 2R15W x 2
Jim,
It looks like they only have black cones available now. I would have selected the black cones if there had been a choice. Heck, I only change out speakers every 20 years or so; I appreciated the feedback from you and Todd. From the late 70's to the early 2000's I ran with a pair of KLH Model 10 CT38 Towers (the pistol) and a pair of large Advents. They sounded pretty good with my old Marantz 4400. I actually still have the old KLH towers. They look brand new, but the woofers need refoamed. One of these days I may try refoaming the woofers and use then in the basement rec room. I'm too lazy to go downstairs and take a picture of them, but here is an online pic (mine actually look nicer).

View attachment 54229

View attachment 54230
Those are gorgeous speakers!
 

michaelspiellman

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Those are gorgeous speakers!
KLH CT-38 Two-Way Speaker System
with two 8-1/4" woofers and two 2-1/2" tweeters;
min. input 10 W rms; max. input 75 W/ch rms; hand oiled oak
veneer accent panels, wrap-around cloth panels, and removable smoked
glass top; 41" H x 11" W x 11" D

Initially, these sold for about $700 a pair in 1978. I picked them up when they got marked down for about $199 each. They had 4 available, but I was working my way through college and could only afford to buy two. It was a nice KLH speaker, and it pumped out great bass. This winter I think I may try re-foaming the woofers and firing them up in the basement rec room.
 

Todd Anderson

Editor / Senior Admin
Staff member
Thread Starter
Joined
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Messages
7,846
Location
Balt/Wash Metro
My AV System  
Preamp, Processor or Receiver
StormAudio ISP.24 MK2
Main Amp
Emotiva XPA-5
Additional Amp
Emotiva XPA Gen3 2.8 multichannel amp
Other Amp
Denon X8500H
Computer Audio
AudioEngine A2+
DAC
THX ONYX
Universal / Blu-ray / CD Player
Kaleidescape TERRA, OPPO UDP-203, Panasonic UB9000
Front Speakers
GoldenEar Technology Triton One.R
Center Channel Speaker
GoldenEar Technology SuperCenter Reference
Surround Speakers
SVS Ultra Surround
Surround Back Speakers
SVS Ultra Bookshelf
Front Height Speakers
SVS Prime Elevation x4 (Top Front, Top Mid-Front)
Rear Height Speakers
SVS Prime Elevation x4 (Top Middle, Top Rear)
Subwoofers
dual SVS SB16s + dual PSA XS30s
Other Speakers or Equipment
Behringer 1124p; Aura Bass Shaker Pros; SuperSub X
Video Display Device
JVC NX7
Screen
Seymour Screen Excellence, Enlightor NEO AT Screen
Streaming Equipment
iFi Audio Zen Blue
Streaming Subscriptions
Qobuz, TIDAL, Spotify, ROON
Other Equipment
LG Electronics 65-inch B6 OLED, Sony 65-inch X900F, ZeroSurge 8R15W x 2, ZeroSurge 2R15W x 2
In today's dollars, that's about $3,200/pair (versus $700), just to put things in perspective, which would position it way up the food chain in this day and age.

I'd be curious to hear them - how would you describe their sound?
 

michaelspiellman

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They sounded really, really good. I just got a quote on refoaming the woofers. I have not done it before, so I may farm out the refoaming. Here is a Facebook video of the KLH towers playing that will give you a good feel for the sound (at least what you can hear on a video!): Facebook
Enjoy!
 

-Jim-

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Dec 29, 2019
Messages
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Location
Lotusland - West Coast of Canada
We had some JBL L-36s refoamed some years ago and they are still great. They were my wife's first speakers when we were just dating, and even though we haven't used them in years (they were retired when we renovated and she wanted small speakers for the family room), she won't part with them.
 
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