Shanling JET1Shanling JET1
Shanling JET1

Shanling JET1 Review: Remarkably versatile bookshelf speakers

The Shanling JET1 speakers are remarkably versatile, delivering a sound that is consistently soft and pleasing
Shanling JET1
8.5

For the average person, there isn’t a pressing need to familiarize themselves with Shanling. This is a Chinese company known for producing portable audio players and headphones. However, we’re going to delve a bit deeper than that. The minutiae of legal transactions, such as acquisitions and sales, might not grab your attention, but Shanling’s history is genuinely fascinating.

Shanling was established in 1988, initially focusing on audio equipment manufacturing. Its debut product was an innovative equalizer that featured an integrated amplifier. Up until 1994, the company primarily developed amplifiers (some with karaoke features) and equalizers. It was in 1994 that Shanling ventured into the production of CD players. By the late 1990s, as multi-channel sound systems started dominating the market, Shanling couldn’t remain on the sidelines. In 2001, they made their mark on the international stage with a 7.1 channel amplifier.

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The journey didn’t stop there; after several experiments, including ventures into tube-based devices, 2015 marked Shanling’s foray into the portable audio scene. This move proved to be a pivotal moment, discovering their niche, although they continued to produce amplifiers, players, and other audio system components. In 2021, the development of an amplifier led Shanling’s engineers to conceive of acoustic systems that would complement it perfectly, culminating in the creation of the Shanling JET 1. This speaker system is the company’s inaugural foray into this market segment. The saying goes, “the first pancake is often botched,” but does that apply here?

Build

The Shanling JET 1 speakers are a compact two-way bookshelf speaker system, featuring the standard configuration of drivers for this category, including one wide-band and one high-frequency driver. The standout aspect of these speakers is their size. Indeed, they are quite small, weighing in at 3.75 kg and standing just 24 cm tall. This makes them one of the few speakers in their class that can genuinely be placed on a shelf, although it’s worth mentioning that opting for dedicated acoustic stands is a better choice for optimal sound quality.

Shanling JET 1 vs. JBL Studio 630

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The installation package for the Shanling JET 1 speakers includes a thoughtful addition of 8 spikes, enhancing their stability and performance when set up. Remarkably, the package also contains a 2×1.2m speaker cable for connectivity—an inclusion that is quite rare and indeed surprising, as it’s uncommon for Hi-Fi speakers to come with their own speaker cable. This gesture underscores the manufacturer’s commitment to providing a comprehensive setup experience straight out of the box.

Furthermore, the package comes with 2 grills equipped with magnetic fasteners, facilitating easy attachment and removal while maintaining the aesthetic appeal of the speakers. The construction of the JET 1 speakers is robust, featuring an MDF body complemented by a front panel made of milled aluminum. This combination not only speaks to the durability of the speakers but also their premium build quality. The design intricacies, such as the concealed speaker mounts and the slightly recessed speaker within a small horn, hint at an additional layer of MDF beneath the aluminum. This thoughtful engineering contributes to the overall sound quality and resonance of the speakers.

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The Shanling JET 1 speakers exhibit a rather austere design, which is somewhat softened by the glossy trim that adds a touch of elegance and modernity. At the heart of its acoustic performance is a 4.5-inch diameter speaker dedicated to handling the mid/bass frequencies. This speaker employs a traditional design approach, featuring an impregnated paper cone mounted on a rubber surround, complemented by a domed dust cap at the center. Such materials are chosen for their ability to provide a pleasing balance of stiffness and damping, contributing to the speaker’s ability to deliver natural and detailed sound reproduction.

The inclusion of a phase inverter port, positioned on the upper portion of the rear panel, plays a critical role in enhancing the bass response. However, this design choice means that the speakers need a certain amount of space from the wall behind them to perform optimally. Placing them too close to a wall might result in bass reflection issues, affecting the overall sound quality. Therefore, careful consideration of their placement within a room is essential to achieve the best acoustic performance from the JET 1 speakers.

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The high frequencies in the Shanling JET 1 speakers are handled by an AMT (Air Motion Transformer) tweeter, also known as a Heil radiator, which is a distinctive choice not commonly found in speakers of this category. The AMT tweeter operates on a unique principle, resembling an accordion-like structure that moves to create air vibrations. This design significantly increases the contact area with the air compared to traditional dome tweeters. As a result, the AMT tweeter can produce sound waves with much smaller oscillation amplitudes, leading to reduced high-frequency distortion and a clearer, more detailed treble response.

Connectivity for these speakers is facilitated through a single pair of binding posts located on the lower part of the rear panel, set into an aluminum insert. The quality of these binding posts is noteworthy—while gold-plating is fairly standard for high-quality audio equipment, the size, convenience, and overall quality of these posts are exceptional, reinforcing the perception of the JET 1 as a serious acoustic system.

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With an impedance of 4 ohms and a sensitivity of 84 dB, the Shanling JET 1 speakers demonstrate a discernible change in sound character depending on the amplifier they’re paired with. This sensitivity to the choice of amplifier indicates that these speakers are somewhat selective about their system partners, suggesting that achieving the best sound quality may require careful matching with an amplifier that complements their characteristics.

Sound

The initial skepticism towards the Shanling JET 1 speakers, sparked by an unimpressive debut in a less-than-ideal retail setup and further fueled by their pricing, sets a relatable backdrop for many audiophiles’ journeys in discovering true audio gems. The transformation of my perception from doubt to admiration reflects the critical importance of proper speaker placement, source material, and testing conditions in evaluating high-fidelity audio equipment.

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A methodical approach, starting with technical tests to determine the crossover frequency between the tweeter and the mid/bass driver, showcases a deep engagement with the speakers’ performance characteristics. The discovery that the tweeter takes over at around 3 kHz, with a smooth transition from the mid/bass driver, underlines the careful design considerations Shanling has implemented in the JET 1.

Mounting the speakers on stands, avoiding the standard spikes, and placing them in an acoustically calculated setup transformed the listening experience. The speakers’ ability to create a convincingly large soundstage and precise imaging in such an arrangement speaks volumes about their design quality and the effectiveness of their AMT tweeter and phase inverter port.

Testing with FSQ tracks and the observation of their neutral sound reproduction, impressive spatial imaging, and the seamless integration between the speaker and tweeter indicate a high level of engineering. It’s fascinating how the JET 1 speakers manage to convey a broad frequency range with clarity and detail, despite their compact size and the inherent limitations of a 4.5-inch driver.

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The experience with Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons” further illuminates the speakers’ capabilities in handling complex classical compositions. The ability to accurately place instruments within the soundstage, coupled with the nuanced detail retrieval and dynamic bass support, showcases the JET 1’s prowess in delivering a live concert hall experience within the confines of a listening room.

This journey from skepticism to appreciation underscores the critical role of auditioning audio equipment in optimal conditions and with an open mind. The Shanling JET 1 speakers, with their exceptional design and performance, exemplify how size and first impressions may not always predict the true potential of high-fidelity audio equipment.

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Exploration into various music genres with the Shanling JET 1 speakers reveals their versatility and highlights the critical role of source equipment in shaping the listening experience. My findings with electronic, jazz, and metal genres provide a comprehensive picture of the speakers’ performance across a wide spectrum of music.

Listening to Depeche Mode’s “Delta Machine” album illustrates the speakers’ limitations with deep bass content but also showcases their strengths in effect positioning and midrange detail. This aligns with the design characteristics you’ve noted earlier, particularly the focus on midrange and treble clarity over deep bass reproduction. The AMT tweeter’s capability to render detailed high frequencies contributes significantly to the spatial imaging and detail retrieval, making the listening experience engaging despite the bass limitations.

Mina Agossi’s “Fresh” album further underscores the JET 1’s proficiency in handling complex musical arrangements where the double bass doesn’t delve into the very low registers. The speakers’ coherent sound and articulate bass, even within their limitations, ensure a captivating listening experience, emphasizing the intricate details of jazz recordings.

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The transition to Metallica’s “72 Seasons” introduces a more challenging scenario for the JET 1 speakers, revealing a slight emphasis on the high frequencies. However, this characteristic appears to add texture to the music rather than detracting from the overall sound quality, demonstrating the speakers’ ability to handle dynamic and dense metal tracks with competence.

The switch to the SMSL AO200 MK2 amplifier from initial setup interestingly illustrates the importance of system synergy. The noticeable change in soundstage depth and the reduction in sound nuances highlight how different amplifiers can influence the speakers’ performance. This serves as a reminder of the Shanling JET 1’s sensitivity to the quality of associated equipment, suggesting that they benefit from pairing with higher-class amplification to fully realize their potential.

Overall, the Shanling JET 1 speakers as a remarkable pair capable of delivering a rich and detailed sound across a variety of musical genres. While they exhibit some limitations in bass depth and show a preference for high-quality amplification, their performance in midrange clarity, treble detail, and soundstage imaging stands out, making them a compelling choice for audiophiles seeking a balanced and immersive listening experience within the constraints of bookshelf speaker design.

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Conclusion

Despite their compact size, the Shanling JET1 speakers pack a serious punch. While their sleek design might tempt you to place them on a desk as computer speakers, such a setup wouldn’t do justice to their capabilities. To truly unleash their full potential, they require pairing with a high-quality amplifier, ideally a class AB model with ample current reserve, like the Atoll IN80 Signature or Cambridge Audio CXA61, within a dedicated Hi-Fi system. For spaces larger than 15 square meters, adding a subwoofer to the setup will help achieve a more balanced sound.

Additionally, these speakers are an excellent choice for anyone seeking passive speakers for a home studio setup, though a more analytical amplifier and use as mid- or far-field monitors would be preferable in such scenarios. Ultimately, the Shanling JET 1 speakers are remarkably versatile, delivering a sound that is consistently soft and pleasing across various setups, depending on the accompanying components.

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Shanling JET1
Shanling JET1
8.5
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