Review: JBL Hartsfield Replica Speaker

Category: Speakers

I own some great speakers that are benchmarks for what they do. For example:

Quad57's- Incredible, open midrange, but limited frequency extremes
Magnepan Tympani 1-D's- Amazing dynamics, fast bass, and HUGE soundstage, but limited to solid state amps and large rooms
KLH Nines- Dynamics, scale, warmth, 3-d imaging, and an ability to be driven by a Marantz 8b, but a beamy treble
Chartwell Ls3/5a's: Very even frequency response, Quads in a shoe box, but again, limited frequency extremes

I keep these speakers because there are areas where they excel over all others, but I have yet to find a speaker that combines all these best characteristics, until now...

The JBL Hartsfield Replica.

Even more legendary than the other speakers I mentioned and for good reason. I've lusted after them for years, but always considered them to be unobtainable. Rarely are they seen for sale and when they are, you can expect a price of $20K-$40K for a pair...Gulp. Seeking out a replica was going to be my only financial option.
Having heard of Classic Audio Reproductions and their Hartsfield replica, I decided to look for the builder of these speakers and through my research, I was led directly to Bob Jacobson at JR Sound Co. I contacted Bob and told him of my interest. He explained to me how C.A.R. contracted him over 20 years ago to build the first 6 pairs, how more were ordered and completed, and then how their business relationship dissolved over cost increases. He also added the irony in my calling him, as he had been itching to start building Hartsfields again!
I contracted Bob to build a single speaker for me as I am interested in the virtues of MONO. It seems logical to me that the speakers of a particular period are voiced to the music of that period. That is why The Hartsfield, Klipschorn, Altec, and Electrovoice corner horns are most often recommended for mono systems.
Bob got to work immediately, kept me constantly informed, and 3 weeks later- I was uncrating a Hartsfield! Pictures of the process can be seen here-

I have been married to Mrs. H for 3 months now. I have enjoyed every moment with her, even now as I listen to Jutta Hipp w/zoot sims on a mono lp. This speaker combines all the best attributes of the other classic speakers I own. It has the lifelike mids of a Quad57, but with far more high and low frequency extension. It has the dynamics and soundstage of Magnepan Tympani 1-D's, but because of high sensitivity and efficient design, it can be driven with 15 tube watts! It has the warmth and 3-D imaging of KLH Nines, but has a more even frequency response like the Ls3/5a's. The 2-way, folded corner horn Hartsfield has a coherence and a startling realism that the others do not. I can't tell you how many times, in the last 3 months, I have had an adrenaline rush thinking I was having a home invasion. I can't listen to the soundtrack from Apocalypse Now without taking cover. The barking dog track at the end of Pet Sounds sends my dog into attack mode every time. I have never heard a vocal project like this or a guitar sound more natural. From rock to jazz, from vocal to classical, this speaker truly does it all and better than anything else I have ever heard!
This Hartsfield cabinet is an Exact replica, not a close approximation. Bob is a master craftsman and has the original blue-prints. The drivers he chose to install, like the JBL 2440 high frequency compression driver, is the pro version of the 375 used originally and the Alnico D-130 baskets reconed with a 2205 woofer kit is simply the best replacement for the 150-4c. The pro 2390 horn + lens assembly is exactly the same as the Hartsfield 5039 horn + lens. It's funny how JBL simply changed model numbers on the same parts.

I can't believe that I actually own a Hartsfield! I have never been so thrilled with any other single audio purchase before now.
I am very impressed with Bobs ability. The crating and shipping, the fit and finish of the Hartsfield, and his professionalism.
I will be ordering another as soon as I return to stereo...
Take a look at his listing currently on Audiogon-

Dreams come true!

Associated gear
Marantz 7c
Quad II Classic reissue
Nakamichi Dragon CT/Denon DL-102 mono
REL Precedent FM tuner mono

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I've listened to Vinylvision's Hartsfield at his home and it is truly an excellent sounding (and well crafted)speaker... very open, natural (uncolored), and dynamic are all adjectives that come to mind.

The Hartsfield is not just another JBL -- it is surely the cream of the crop.

Vinylvision also has a wonderful collection of recordings to go along with his fine equipment. He is a true music lover from way back.

Congrats on achieving your dream!
Could you extrapolate on the mono design of this speaker and how that design would manifest into a pair of these playing in stereo?

Also, how do you get a mono signal to the speaker?
Thanks for your question. I hope I can expel any confusion here.
A speaker is not necessarily designated a mono or stereo speaker. The designation is really dependent on whether you are using more than one speaker and the signal you are feeding it(mono or stereo). One speaker can't reproduce stereo, but 2 can play a mono or stereo signal. I am using a single Hartsfield and listening to a mono signal. This is how it was done in 1954 when the Hartsfield was first produced, as stereo did not exist.
I get a mono signal from a mono cartridge, playing a mono record, or by my mono fm tuner, or by using the mono switch on my preamp while feeding the signal to a mono-block amplifier, and then to the single speaker.
Hearing a mono Blue-Note lp, played with a mono cartridge, through a large corner horn speaker is absolutely amazing! Gone are imaging or phase issues. Hope this helps...
I purchased a pair of Hartsfield replicas in 1992 from a man named Hal Cox and also have a double pair of KLH model 9 speakers. I have a single pair of KLH model 9 speakers as well. I run the Hartsfield speakers with an Eico HF89 and a Eico ST84, Marantz Cd player, Thorens TD160 turntable and an AMPEX 350-2 tape recorder. Playing one of the old RCA or Mercury 2 track tapes from the late 50s or a record from the same time can be breathtaking. I have arranged the speakers toward my chair like conventional speakers and they are not in corners. Detail in the whole range of music can be exceptional and it is easy to determine if a recording was made with tube or solid state equipment. The size and depth of the image depends on whether it is an analog or digital recording and whether tube or solid state equipment was used. This system can tell the difference.

My KLH model 9 double panel speakers are in a different room and have their own strengths. The system driving them is two McIntosh MC275 MKIV amplifiers in mono with a Citation 1 preamp, a Denon DVD3300 player, Thorend TD160 and two Revox A77 2 track 15 ips tape machines. With the extra power the bass approaches the Hartsfield speaker but not quite. This system only sounds good with about 2 in 10 records. The records that play well here usually were recorded with tube equipment such as Blue note, Mercury and old RCA records. In the angled panel configuration the trebble is not so beamy and the sound stage can be quite good as well. This system is extremely unforgiving of poor recordings. These speakers have different strengths from the Hartsfield speakers and both sound great. I could not live without either.

The single pair of KLH model 9 speakers are not quite in the same league as the Hartsfield speakers or the double plannel KLH model 9 speakers. So I will not comment on them.

I understand why you like the Hartsfield speakers.