The Worst Speakers I Ever Heard, and a Surprise

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I've been involved with audio for a long time, and during that time I've heard my share of bad-sounding systems. Most bad systems are bad because of the inappropriateness of the set-up rather than one particularly atrocious component. Often bad sound is simply a result of turning up a system to the point where distortion rears its ugly head.

But sometimes a product comes along that is so awful that it deserves a special note in Audio history. Joly speakers have the unique position of not just producing one bad speaker, but an entire line of hopeless transducers, all best suited for landfill rather than sound reproduction.

I heard Joly speakers at several audio shows, and each time I was amazed, not only by their outrageous claims, which were beyond the pale, but by their ability to set up their demos so the speakers sounded as awful as possible. One year Joly had their entire line on display and every speaker was hooked up and playing loudly. It was quite the wall of sound, and it was impressive, but not in a good way.

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With Joly I was expecting bad, and I got it. At the 2013 CES I was expecting bad and I got good - at this show it was the Juno Violin speaker. In a rare case of truth in advertising, the Juno Violin IS a violin with a driver that excites the body of the instrument. It sits on a podium that houses a midrange and woofer assembly. And the violin speaker sounded more than decent - it imaged, had good low-level detail, and on good material it sounded like music.

While no one, even snide reviewers, should judge a speaker before they hear it, some firms such as Joly, seem to do everything wrong and the sonic results prove to be equally abysmal. But some, like Juno Violin, seem at first to be equally wrong-headed, yet they succeed spectacularly...that's why you need an open mind to be involved in audio.

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