TL;DR; I was very disappointed by the Jerns, although they might hold their own in their price bracket.
I went down to Audio-T in Southampton this afternoon and spent half an hour listening. I’d like to thank them for their hospitality and help, well worth a visit. Here are my conclusions:
- The Jerns, or canon balls to give them their proper name, are gorgeous. They are very heavy, but quite liftable individually. They have a lovely rough surface, and remind me of Victorian engineering. They would be a really nice decoration in the home IMO. That was part of the appeal.
- The cannon balls were hooked up to an AudioLab 6000a amplifier and fed from streamed Qubuz, or whatever it is called. That is the amp I own. They were stood on rubber rings on metal speaker plinths.
- I was struck by the lack of clarity and bass extension in comparison to my PMC Twenty.21 at home. The Jerns were set up about 50 cm from the wall, so I moved them as close as I could. That increased the bass, but bass was still timid, and boomy. Kettle drums being thwacked were not well represented, for example.
- There was a lack of imaging.
- Fortunately they had a pair of Twenty5.21 at hand, so I was able to hook those up. The difference was striking. They reminded me of my own speakers. The imaging returned, along with detail and bass extension. The difference was not subtle, it was huge. The PMC bring a level of realism that was absent. This indicates that my observations on the Jerns are not due to the room acoustics.
- The staff said that the acoustics in the listening room are very good. On that basis, the acoustics in my living room are also very good, which is nice to know.
For what it is worth here were the tracks I tried:
- Janacek, Sinfonietta, lively orchestral.
- Britten, Sinfonia de Requiem, lots of nice kettle drums being whacked enthusiastically.
- Shostakovich, Symphony no. 10. Very energetic orchestral.
- AC/DC Thunderstruck. Hard rock.
- Louise Attaque, a French folk influenced rock band, with nice vocals.
- Pentangle, a few songs from Light Flight. Folk rock, acoustic.
- Melt Banana, a couple of tracks from the Thirteen Hedgehogs album. Noise!
I wanted a selection of styles, and some nice bass rich tracks too. The kettle drums were a really good test of bass volume and definition. I didn’t listen to entire tracks, as I heard enough in thirty minutes to form an opinion.
It is conceivable that the amp was ill matched to the Jerns but it is a very good neutral amp, with 50W per channel into 8 ohms.
The Jerns might hold their own alongside similarly priced speakers. The PMCs are about £2,300 today, the Jerns are £1,350, the ones I tried are like new demo units at £999. So the comparison was perhaps unfair. And of course these are my subjective opinions, using my non audiophile cloth ears.
A key conclusion for me is that magazine reviews are not useful. I have read many which gush over the Jern.
I chose my own PMC Twenty.21 speakers after trying Spendor A1 and Mission Audio GX 50 at home, and some others in store. They are extremely nice and clearly to go beyond the PMCs could be expensive. I paid £1,000 for new ones on special offer. I will leave it for a few years, and maybe have a think about some floorstanders, depending on finances. I do wonder about Neat Iota, or PMC floorstanders.
One thing I hate about my speakers is the stands. I have metal Atacama supports. They are ugly, as are all the stands I have seen. I’m not one for audiophile looks! My sitting room is full of wooden Ercol furniture from the sixties that I restored.