- Manufacturer & Model
- JTR Noesis 212RT
- $2799 each Direct Pricing
- Excellent neutral tonal balance
- Laser like imaging precision
- High directivity design limits first reflection strength
- Really competent measured performance
- Nearly unlimited dynamic range
- High sensitivity
- Deep extended bass
- Can work well in even the largest home theaters
- Far cheaper than the competition, a great value
A top notch home theater speaker that works great with music. While it's looks may not win any awards, it's sound sure should. This speaker offers among the most effortless dynamic presentation you will ever hear, and the imaging is to die for. On top of it's excellent aural performance, it has excellent measured performance. While $2799 per speaker is not cheap, you will not find a speaker this good for anywhere near it's price.
JTR Speakers is a small American-made speaker manufacturer based in Wisconsin. JTR sells high-end custom home theater speakers as well as a line of pro-audio speakers. All of JTR’s speakers rely on either waveguides or large coaxial drivers, the smallest of which is 10”s. As a result, it would be easy to forgive someone for thinking that JTR speakers are just about playing loud. However, their sound quality defies their appearance. All of JTR’s speakers look more like linebackers than ballet dancers yet dance they can. My time with the JTR Noesis 212RT has shown me that JTR speakers are something that needs to be heard, and not seen. Their sound defies expectations in ways that are hard to imagine. The way they present a soundscape, the ease with which they reproduce dynamics, the scale of instruments, everything was so much better than I had ever expected from such a brutish-looking speaker. If you have written these speakers off because they just look like big black boxes that play loud, you need to give them a chance; they will likely be some of the best sounding speakers you have ever heard, for home theater or music.
There is no getting around the JTR looks. These are a speaker that is designed to be placed behind a screen or hidden away in a dark home theater. They are large, rectangular, black boxes. The finish is specially designed to avoid light reflections in a home theater. The waveguide and dual 12” drivers dominate the front of the speaker. For those looking for something a bit more attractive, the speakers can be ordered in any number of custom finishes, and as a small local builder, Jeff Permanian, the owner of JTR, can build you anything you want. But remember, speakers are for listening, not looking. If you want a piece of art to go with great sound, you have to pay for it. JTR speakers forgo high-style industrial design in favor of outstanding value and top-notch sound. In fact, as you read through my review, hopefully, one thing becomes clear; these speakers are a killer value. The speakers are large, coming in at 58”x14’x16.5” and have a large rectangular port at the bottom of the cabinet. They weigh in at 155lbs. While this is a seriously large and heavy speaker, they are not nearly as heavy as they could be. Had this speaker been made by nearly any other manufacturer, they would have saved money using MDF and ceramic magnet woofers. The use of Neo drivers and Baltic birch plywood leads to a much lighter final speaker.
The design is where the JTR speakers really stand out. They are a highly unusual speaker design. Looking at the speaker, you notice a large 12” square shaped waveguide with what looks like fairly flat sides and an abrupt change in angle as you move toward the terminus of the waveguide. At the center of the waveguide is what can best be described as a kind of beak. It’s actually the phase plug from the coaxial compression driver. In this MTM arrangement, the large 12” waveguide is surrounded by two twelve-inch midbass drivers. These drivers are custom built for JTR by a well regarded OEM and is far from anything you can buy off the shelf. This leads to a driver with a smoother response and more excursion, while maintaining the same high power handling and sensitivity as the original driver. The compression driver is a similarly interesting 2” coaxial compression driver from BMS. This driver has an annular concentric ring design with a 3.5” and 1.75” voice coil for the midrange and tweeter rings. This driver can be crossed over as low as 300Hz but is crossed over in this speaker at 500hz. The driver has a very high sensitivity of 118dB at 1w/1m. When crossed over correctly, this compression driver can absorb over 1300 watts. Its maximum output is well in excess of 130dB. The speaker has a frequency response of 35Hz to 24kHz and a power handling of over 2000 watts. The use of an MTM arrangement and coaxial loaded waveguide leads to a point-source speaker design with level forward lobe, though the use of L-R 4th order crossovers will prevent it from likely being time aligned. Not a problem as long as the speaker remains phase coherent. The sensitivity of the final speaker is 98dB at 2.0V/1m, which is correct for 1 watt at 4ohms. The nominal impedance of the speaker is 4 ohms.
The waveguide is designed to provide a 60-degree coverage angle and is crossed below the point where the midwoofers become directional. This leads to a narrow dispersion speaker, which may not be for everyone. Wide dispersion speakers tend to increase the proportion of reflections relative to the direct sound and this leads to a larger and more open sounding image. For a 2-channel live performance, this may be desirable. On the other hand, for studio recordings and multi-channel, the attributes of a narrower dispersion speaker may be better. Narrower dispersion speakers with good controlled off-axis behavior help create a more stable soundstage and better integration between speakers. They reduce room reflections in much the same way that absorbing panels would, but often in better and more controlled ways. This leads to a tighter and more focused soundstage. While this leads to a lack of ambiance and reverb in the room naturally, if used as part of a surround system, the surround speakers more accurately will reproduce the reverb anyway. Many will argue that one approach is right vs the other, and my answer to them is that neither approach is righter than the other. A speaker’s dispersion is just one of the many variables that can be used to subjectively change our perception of the reproduced sound.
First, I must disclose that Jeff Permanian, the owner and designer of JTR speakers, is a friend of mine. We talk regularly and I likely know more about his speakers than most outside of Jeff himself. This is largely a result of how much I enjoy and appreciate JTR speakers. As I noted before, there are many ways to design a speaker that may be equally right. While lots of research has gone into what aspects of a speaker’s performance is needed for good sound, it is important to note that specific requirements around dispersion have not really been established. My own experience is noted above that speakers with narrower dispersion tend to provide a tighter and more controlled soundstage. Images have laser-like specificity. I find this to be a more accurate way of reproducing studio recordings, but arguably, a less accurate way of reproducing live performances. However, given the trade off, I personally prefer speakers with narrower and well-controlled dispersion. I find the soundstage they reproduce to be addictive. In addition, one of the primary ways of controlling dispersion is using large speaker drivers, often from high-end pro-audio suppliers. These drivers lead to a speaker that can handle immense amounts of power and can reproduce unnecessarily loud volume levels (something I find very necessary). All of this leads to a speaker that is effortless in its reproduction of any music you throw at it. My reference speakers are the Gedlee Abbey’s, a single 12” 2-way speaker in the same design concept as the JTR. The Abbey had transformed my notion of effortless uncolored sound reproduction. I had never heard a speaker that could do what they could do before. Not at any price. The JTR is a speaker that, while not better in every way, is even more effortless than my Gedlee’s.
As for the setup, I used a number of components to power the JTR’s. I used a Yamaha R-N803 network 2-channel receiver (140 wpc 4ohm), a Cherry Amplifier 2-channel MEGAschino (600 wpc 4ohms), and an Acurus A200 (400 wpc 4ohm). The DAC was either the ESS Sabre DAC built into the Yamaha, the AKM Dac built into the Onkyo receiver I use as a preamp, or the Chery Dac Dac HS, which was operated directly into he MEGAschino in full balanced mode. The latter setup used no preamp, volume was controlled via the source computer (64-bit resolution to avoid loss of bit-resolution). This setup was capable of a S/N of at least 120dB and, given the extremely high output of the speakers and low noise of the room, likely a real-world dynamic range of at least 120dB. Given how few electronic components have a true dynamic range in excess of 120dB, rooms with noise floors below NC15, and speakers capable of in excess of 130dB’s, it is likely that very few people have a sound system capable of reproducing a true dynamic range of 120dB. While this does not reflect realistic or safe listening speakers, it is still an extraordinary technical achievement and creates a sound system that was absolutely effortless in its reproduction of music, along with resolving of the finest details. Nothing could hide.
I tend to use a lot of the same music in my reviews and that is for good reason. The more varied the music I use, the more difficult it is for me to draw reliable conclusions. As such, I’ll go through the usual suspects that I tried with these speakers. As I noted, the setup I used with these speakers is very resolving, and that made it exciting to relisten to my favorite test tracks, trying to see what I was missing.
I’ve often mentioned my favorite classical guitar pieces, Suite Espanola, Op. 47: No. 4, Asturias (Leyenda) performed by John Williams. This piece is recorded with a lot of dynamic range, but being a flamenco guitar piece, has a lot of subtlety. One of the unique aspects of this playing style is its use of dynamics as a tool for musical expression. A lot of normal speakers tend to constrain this recording; it still sounds fine but lacks that “alive” quality that lets you know what you are hearing is a real guitar in a real room. That life was brought back by the JTR Noesis 212RT’s. This piece was translated from piano to guitar using the original pp to fff crescendo and greater expressive markings. In other words, this guitar piece is hugely colorful with a lot of expressive movements and wide range between very soft and subtle playing to very loud. So loud in fact that, when heard live, you can feel the guitar in your body. Small speakers reproduce a miniaturized version of this song that leads to a loss of this visceral aspect and a smudging of those fine pp details. That isn’t what I heard through the JTR’s, and everything was there for me to hear. I could feel the fff peak of the crescendo’s, nothing was lost, not even the feelings. I love this song and I found myself playing it over and over again on this speaker.
Another classical piece I played on this speaker was Mozart’s Sonata in C Major K.521 performed by Helen and Karl Ulrich Schnabel. The Schnabel’s played a large number of duets together with excellent technical proficiency. These recordings are dated, but the playing is marvelous. Karl and Helen had a great chemistry in their playing. I like this piece because it’s a natural sounding piano recording that provides a more accurate sense of a speaker’s tonal balance. Piano recordings are great for judging a speaker’s tone and color, as piano’s are instruments with a wide bandwidth and familiar sound. The JTR Noesis 212RT sounded neutral, if anything, highlighting the age of this recording. It lacked bass and was noisy, but otherwise sounded as it should. All of these problems an accurate reproduction of the recording, itself noisy and lacking in bass.
From there I moved onto numerous pop and rock hits. A speaker like this is ideal for reproducing grand rock songs and Guns N Roses’ Paradise City just felt like the best way to end the music portion of this review. This is a song best blasted loud while aggressively tapping your foot to the beat, playing air guitar along with Slash, and screaming the lyrics along with Axl. This classic metal song sounded amazing on the Noesis 212RT’s. Few speakers can do songs like this justice, songs that were written to be played at 130dB’s and destroying eardrums at large stadium concerts, not played back at moderate levels on a typical home stereo. Often turning up a song like this to rock out just leads to distortion and compression, which is an irritating sound I rather do without. Not so with the JTR’s; like everything else I played through them, it reproduced this piece with clarity, delicacy, and precision. The full expression of dynamic range, all the sounds and screams, all the inflections in the guitar solo were accurately reproduced by the 212RT’s, and I loved every minute of it.
I watched a lot of movies through the JTR Noesis 212RT’s and the experience was always the same. Just like with music, these speakers always came off as neutral and effortless. If you have never heard a large powerful speaker driven with excessive amounts of power, you are missing out. It didn’t matter if I was watching a romantic film with my wife, a drama or documentary, or my favorite, a bombastic action film at reference levels. Everything I played sounded just as it should, with no signs of compression or distortion, an unusually effortless quality, and with total neutrality.
The best way to sum up my experience with this speaker is to just focus on Star Wars. While all Star Wars films have always been a technical feat when it comes to sound and visuals, the newest films take this to such a new level that seriously stresses most systems. In the recent “The Last Jedi” film (I know this film was not well-liked amongst fans, but remember, this is a speaker review), some of the explosions had such extreme amounts of dynamic range and power that nearly every system I heard the film on was overloading. Even many cinema’s struggled to handle this film without strain. The JTR’s had no problem reproducing this film. I’ve noticed many systems seem to almost hiccup with very dynamic content, causing vocals to sound indistinct in comparison with a system like this. Voices may even have an edgy quality. That isn’t what I heard through the JTR. They didn’t miss a beat (or explosion). That is what an effortless speaker does.
While I would call the JTR speakers neutral, I always like to think of the term neutral as part of a continuum. Neutral means flat, but every speaker has some level of color to it, if nothing else, a slight tilt in the response. The JTR is what I would call the brighter side of neutral, meaning that some will find it a bit bright, while others may like it’s current tonal balance. Having said that, JTR took my findings to heart and has revised to voicing to be more neutral. It made me want to tone the treble down a little with the tone control or some eq. Similarly, I’ve found that I tend to be overly sensitive to a speaker’s brightness. I would be remiss if I did not mention that I found it necessary to apply about 3dB of tilt in the high frequencies using a 10khz centered shelf filter. On movies, I found that this brightness tended to improve vocal clarity, but add a slight bit of sibilance, especially on those movies with less forgiving soundtracks. A good example what the new Queen biopic, Bohemian Rhapsody. The way this movie was recorded tends to sound a little shouty and bright at times. Through the JTR’s I sometimes found this a bit bothersome. We might say that they were more truthful than some, but I found that toning down the treble made the movie a bit more bearable. It’s important that I clarify that I do not use the terms bright, brittle, or harsh in the same way. These speakers did not have an obnoxious brightness that leads to a harsh quality. We are talking a tad bit of more upper treble than I like in a perfect system.
Sound Quality Conclusions
I really enjoyed my time listening to the JTR Noesis 212RT’s. They are a special speaker. I am sure their sound won’t be for everyone. Their tightly controlled dispersion helps create a holographic and precisely placed and layered soundstage. I love this quality. I also understand that this doesn’t necessarily mimic the reality of a large and live performance, and some may prefer the more diffused and spacious image created by a speaker with wider dispersion. I really loved how the high-efficiency drivers, huge power-handling, and large size allowed the speaker to effortlessly produce musical crescendos. Well, I can’t imagine why anyone wouldn’t love that, but I’m sure the size of the speakers and volume levels they can produce will also not be for everyone. These speakers worked so well with music and for movies that I was left really impressed. How a speaker sounds is one thing, however, how it measures is another. In the next section, you will be able to see measurements that provide a sense of how the speaker performs.
The JTR speaker’s measurements are impressive, to say the least. When I came into this review, I had really wondered just how talented and capable a speaker engineer that Jeff Permanian would be? I mean, maybe he just builds big brackish speakers. I had heard these speakers on many occasions, in fact I had been doing listening tests of the 212RT for months by the time I finally was able to measure them, and I thought they sounded great, but who knows, maybe I’m deaf. Once I got around to measuring these speakers I was not disappointed, they really proved that Jeff is, in fact, a very talented designer offering huge speakers with huge value. Anyone judging these as nothing more than big, loud, and obnoxious are missing out. Their measurements confirmed these to be every bit the high-fidelity speaker my ears heard.
Measuring a speaker this large and heavy was difficult to say the least. Jeff and I hoisted the speaker on top of a 6-foot section of rigging. On top of that rigging, we placed a slip mat, and then I used a digital compass to measure the change in angle. The microphone was placed at the appropriate height using a specially designed microphone stand. Measurement equipment included a MicW (BSWA) M215 with calibrated capsule, a 1khz Calibrator, a Motu 828x, and Room EQ Wizard. Graphs were generated using VITUIX CAD.
The next image provides the response of the speaker across all of the axis measured, in 5-degree increments, across a full 360 degrees. That means the last response shown in red is actually the response of the speaker from behind the speaker. The frequency response is commendably flat.
This next image depicts the listening window response (Grey), the power response (Blue), and the directivity index (red). We again see excellent behavior for the most part. The listening window response is very flat, with just a slight uptick in the bass. The power response shows the expected natural tilt due to the increased directivity narrowing at mid and high frequencies. Some may note some roughness in the response apparent in both this measurement and the first image. This is likely caused by reflections inside the waveguide and is generally thought to be too high Q to be audible. In addition, this is exaggerated by virtue of the scaling, this roughness falls within a slim +/- 2 dB or so. Finally, we see the Directivity index. This shows that the speaker has fairly wide dispersion in the bass, as most speakers do, with narrowing dispersion above 1khz. I happen to believe that this speaker’s directivity is slightly compromised by the choice of a very low crossover. The woofers themselves would begin to narrow their dispersion at around 500-800hz and crossing the waveguide at a point where the directivity matches that of the woofer may extend the raised DI down another half octave or so. This is more academic than practical and likely of little audible consequence. In addition, we see a slight wavering in the DI that shows the change in directivity over the bandwidth of the DI. I know this issue might bother a perfectionist, but it really is of little to no consequence in terms of sound. The implications of this are more evident in the next image.
This next image is known as a polar radar graph or polar map. This particular image, looking somewhat like an alien heat map, reflects the amount of energy at each frequency across the range of angles. This image shows 180 degrees of radiation or the frontal hemisphere. We can see the narrowing of dispersion that takes place between 1khz and 4khz. The cause of this is unknown, I believe it might be related to the waveguide profile and/or the coaxial driver. It is possible that the smaller tweeter annular ring is loading the waveguide differently from the midrange ring and causes a slight change in the directivity. Again, we need to come back to sound to put this in perspective. This shift in directivity is slight and of little audible concern.
Below is a look at the low frequency response of the JTR Noesis 212RT. This is not a groundplane measurement and instead relies on the potentially problematic free space measurement, but does give a better picture of the low frequency performance of the speaker as compared with the gated measurements shown earlier. Based on this, the -10dB point free space is around 30hz. It also shows more of a quasibutterworth rolloff of 3rd order rather than a true 4th order, as expected with typical ported speakers. Likely this is due to the very low port tuning of the speaker relative to the enclosure size and driver loading. For mains this is typically preferably as it provides better integration with subwoofers and often more extended bass in room than would be otherwise achieved, at the expense of a little bit of output in the bass octave above this low tuning.
Overall these are great measured results and reflect a well-engineered product. They show good constant directivity performance bettered by few speakers. Every complaint I might make is likely negligible when it comes to sound. They show a flat neutral response with consistent reduction in level as you move off-axis. My only complaints are the slight narrowing in the lower treble/upper midrange and the slight roughness in the treble range. Keep in mind my SPL windows are very narrow, most of these errors fall within a narrow 3dB window. Most commercial speaker offerings would dream of such good measured performance.
I’ve long been impressed with the capabilities of JTR’s speakers. The 212RT has long caught me as an optimum sweet spot in the performance and price range across Jeff’s lineup. I am absolutely honored that Jeff trusted me enough to be the first person to ever measure his speakers professionally. One thing I can say without question is that Jeff is a talented speaker engineer and the Noesis 212RT’s are among the better sounding speakers I’ve heard. They have the most effortless presentation I have ever experienced; they even made my own Gedlee Abbey’s sound strained by comparison. This provided thunderous dynamics with a huge presentation. But they didn’t stop with big and loud; the neutral tonal balance and well-placed soundstage really impressed me. In fact, the detail and specificity with which I could place instruments across the soundscape were among the best I’ve ever heard. For those of you into well-focused soundstages, there are few if any speakers that can better the JTR Noesis 212RT. They may not look it, but these speakers are high-fidelity stunners with performance that belies their price. JTR is a brand I’ve long felt is under-appreciated, and after reviewing Noesis 212RT, all I can say is that these speakers are highly recommended.
JTR Noesis 212RT
- Frequency +/- 3db 35hz-24khz (in room response down to 27hz)
- Sensitivity* 98db, 2.0 volts, free air (107db, 2.83v, halfspace)
- Usable Output** 134db (calculated peak 137 – 3db compression)
- Recommended Amplification up to 2000 watts RMS (program)
- Impedance 4 ohm
- Dimensions (HxWxD) 58″x14″x16.5″
- Weight 155
- Construction 24mm, 18ply, void free, Baltic Birch (Several times stronger and more expensive than MDF)
- Exterior Finish Matte black lacquer paint designed to be non-light reflective for home theater
- Connectors Binding Post
- Warranty 5 year Manufacturer defect