Jern 14 EH Loudspeakers from Denmark are an unusual design both in the way they look and the materials they are made from, Stuart Smith takes a listen to them partnered with REL t5i subs which are vital as the speakers only go down to 90Hz. The Jern 14 EH are €/£3.998 for a pair, the Jern plate for REL T/5i subwoofers are €/£399 each and the REL subs are available at £549 each. Stands for the 14 EH are available, though not tested here, for €/£1198.

I first came across the Jern speakers a year or two ago at Munich High-End whilst Linette was off doing her Women In Hifi meeting and was mesmerised by their unusual design and the materials used to build them. I was somewhat taken aback by them in the less than ideal listening booth, noting that they imaged really well. When the opportunity came to have a listen to a pair at home I jumped at it. They arrived whilst we were at the Warsaw show and so helpfully the delivery driver forged my signature and left them in our open barn, which is right next to a main road (well, as main a road as you get in rural Brittany) for all to see and help themselves. By some small miracle, they were there when we got back and we found them.

In Danish, Jern translates into English as Iron, which is apt as the cabinets of these diminutive loudspeakers are made out of cast Iron. It’s something I don’t think I’ve ever encountered before and so I was pretty excited to get the chance to review these speakers. The cast Iron used is a special grey cast Iron (Vibrakill®), with a high amount of Graphite (Carbon) mixed in the Iron with the intention being that the Graphite dampens the cabinet’s vibrations “100 times better than Aluminium, and much better than MDF and wood”. Needless to say, the speakers weigh a fair old bit, 12.5Kg to be exact, which is pretty significant for a speaker that measures just 30 cm tall, 19,5 cm deep and 21 cm wide. I spoke to a few people about the speakers and as soon as I mentioned the fact that they were cast iron I got, from two people at least, “Don’t they ring like a bell?” but the answers is a simple “No they don’t”.

The cabinet shape is interesting in itself in that it is rounded and looks not unlike BabaPapa, the cartoon character. This is a sealed box design with a five and a quarter inch Scan-Speak woofer in a  1/4 inch 149 mm frame and with a SBR Rubber Surround. The cone is a coated NRSC Fibre Glass Cone in a die-cast Aluminium chassis. The tweeter is a Hiquphon 20 mm textile and gold dust dome tweeter with an excursion of +-0,9 mm. You even get a signed off spec’ sheet specific to each tweeter in the package. When talking to the designer of the Jerns, Ole Lund Chrstensen, he claims these tweeters are as good as it gets and that the guy who has developed them has made them his life’s work. The phase linear 6dB/octave custom-made crossover uses a Mundorf polypropylene capacitor and an air core coils. The speakers are designed to work with subwoofers as their frequency response is 90Hz to 30 000Hz and in this case they were supplied with the REL t5/is. A pair of Jern cast Iron subwoofer stands was also supplied. Round the back is a nice quality pair of speaker binding posts. Packaging is excellent and despite the courier managing to quite badly damage one box, the speakers arrived perfectly safe and sound. Finish is a sort of matt black and they look very well finished. The magnetic driver covers are removable and, particularly when removing the tweeter cover, there was an opening up of the sound and so they were left off for the duration of the review period.

The RELs have an onboard 125 watt Class A/B amplifier and have an 8” downward firing cone are finished in black gloss and connect to the power amp via a pair of supplied cables that are terminated with Speakon connectors on one end and bare wires on the other. You get to dial in the crossover frequency and volume of the sub. I’ve not set up subs before as I’ve never had to, but this was a doddle and within a quarter an hour or so we had a sound that we were happy with. Speaking to the Ole, he thinks the supplied cast iron “stands” for the RELs are the best solution to integrate the MDF cabs of the RELS with the Jerns…that is until the Jern sub is in production. The stands are an extra £500 but adding them does make for a somewhat tighter sound in the bass department and yes, there does seem to be better integration – I was expecting nothing to be honest.

Set up of the main speakers was a doddle as a rubber ring is included which sits atop your speaker stand and the Jerns, in turn, sit in it. Point the speakers at the listening position, do all the usual faffing making sure they are the same distance from the back wall (a metre or so) and off we go. This “room” has been set up specifically to mimic a typically sized listening room and is part of a bigger space with the space being treated with GIK acoustic panels. The associated system has been put together to echo what someone looking to get a great sounding system for around 10K night put together themselves.

SOUND

Needless to say, I jumped right in without reading anything about the speakers’, their frequency response or anything for that matter – I never do, I usually just set stuff up and then sit down and have a read. My thoughts were that imaging was very good but there was nothing in the bass registers and so THEN I popped over to the Jern site and then the penny dropped as to why a pair of subs were included in the review package. I really ought to start to read about products before I jump right in and set them up.

Anyway, the subs were set up and the crossover dialed in, the level set and all was right with the world. Setting the subs up is relatively painless and a case of trial and error – initially I had them set a little too loud and they sounded boomy, dial that back a bit and they integrated beautifully with the Jerns. I was happy with the RELs placed directly in front of the Jerns and placed on their Jern stands which are solid cast iron and bloody heavy.

The first thing that you will notice about the Jerns is how well they image. I love this about small standmounters and point source loudspeakers, but I’ve never experienced such an accurate rendition of the stereo image in terms of how solidly instruments sit in their place in the mix – it really is something to behold and it’s a really addictive character of these speakers. Reviewers often talk of loudspeakers disappearing and I’ve often taken that with a pinch of salt, but with the Jerns this is as close to a pair of speakers doing a vanishing act as I’ve heard. I don’t know if it is the weight of the speakers compared to their size, the wonderful tweeter or what that is doing this but I do like it.

First on is a CD called Songs For A Better World from the 2 Meter Sessies series of recordings. The first track on this album is If I Had Rocket Launcher by Canadian Bruce Cockburn, it’s recorded in a radio studio with just two microphones and is just Cockburn and his guitar and the detail the Jerns bring out is nothing short of astonishing. Every nuance of his guitar playing is brought to the fore in wonderful detail. There are a few parts where Cockburn clearly moves away from the vocal microphone slightly and the mic picks up more ambiance from the room – it’s very subtle and ordinarily, I don’t think I would have noticed it, but the Jerns make it so obvious without you feeling the detail is being over-exaggerated. I’ve heard some loudspeakers that boost the top-end to make them appear to be more detailed than they actually are and that makes for a fatiguing listen and an unreal presentation, but the Jerns just feel natural and unforced in the upper registers. That is not to say they are in anyway rolled off, they are not at all, and everything is there. Now, this level of detail is often only apparent on some speakers when they are cranked up, and I do tend to listen pretty loud, but with this set of speakers, I have found myself to be listening at lower levels without losing any enjoyment. Ian McNabb’s version of Working Class Hero from the same 2 Meter Sessies CD is almost whispered in parts and then belted out in others but the Jerns are unruffled, super-fast and articulate dealing with dynamic changes wonderfully.

All well and good but so far we’ve played relatively simple tunes through the Jern/REL combo but what happens if we throw something a bit more hectic at them and so I dig out a copy of LFOs “We’re Back” and the volume goes up. This track goes LOW and I found myself dialing the subs back a little – great to have this flexibility. This is music meant to be played on big sound systems and was made at a time when sound systems of the day were all about the bass, but look beyond the bass and the Jerns are bringing out so much more by way of detail which in this case may not be such a great thing. This is about as far away from audiophile music as you are likely to get and in parts it is rough, with the Jerns hiding nothing, warts and all. Popping on Logic’s classic house tune The Warning which is a cleaner kind of record rather than an all-out assault on the e’d upped senses of the LFO track. The beats skip along, are fast (in a stop-start sense) as you could hope for and remain steadfast in the mix, locking you into the beats and drawing you into other textures and sounds in the mix. So yeh, this partnership can do well-recorded techno and house which is good as I’m going to be throwing a lot more of this program at them for my own enjoyment whilst they are here. Be warned though, a record that is dirty, for want of a better word, like the LFO tune has no place to hide.

As you continue to listen to the Jerns and the RELS it becomes apparent, or it did in my case, that you do need to fiddle with the bass somewhat to get them properly integrated. I said at the start of this review that setting the bass up was a doddle and that they integrated from the off, and they do, but I found the need to refine and fine-tune the RELs to get the very best from them integration-wise.

Royksopps’ Poor Leno from 2001 (wow, it seems like yesterday) sounds huge on this set up with the mix, particularly the vocal, projecting well out into the room. Percussion hits towards the start of the track fly about the room and the whole thing is, and I know this is a reviewers’ cliché, somewhat holographic. There is no harshness in the top-end and, as I ‘ve mentioned before, and there is just a feeling of things being right in a natural kind of sense. I am liking these loudspeakers a lot it has to be said.

Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours often gets rolled out for reviews. It’s a great record of which I have several copies and it’s a useful tool for review purposes. Songbird, recorded in an empty auditorium, is useful to get a sense of how the recording space is presented and here I’m certainly not disappointed – close your eyes and you could be in the room about halfway back in the stalls. Decay on the piano and the softer after-touches are all there by the bucket-load. The dry kick on The Chain which follows opens the track and here I’m made to sit up and really take notice, particularly when the bass line comes in; really you could be in the studio listening to the final mixdown -only with less cocaine. Hard panned guitar stands out and again it is the stereo image that has me hooked with me being able to almost look at (and into) the mix. Ordinarily, I’ll often jump from tune to tune when I’m reviewing a new bit of kit but unconsciously I’ve not done that with the Jerns, I’ve gone to my chosen test track and then let the record play out – this is a good sign.

CONCLUSION

It’s easy to be beguiled by a new product and what it does well whilst overlooking what it doesn’t do so well. I tend to take a listen to a product, go “yeh, yeh all very good but let’s take a step back and listen more critically”, I did this with the Jern/REL combo too but when I went back with fresh ears I was getting the same excitement and utter joy at listening to different tunes – and that’s all different genres.

Where these speakers score very highly is, if you have read the review you will know what’s coming, their imaging and level of detail. I was expecting to be disappointed with the bass and thought it would be slow and dragging, one of my pet hates, but adjust the bass throughout the period of a day or longer and you’ll find that it is fast and not at all overblown once you get them dialed in right.

OK, I like these speakers, I like them a lot. They are my kind of speakers – fast, accurate, detailed without being harsh and they image wonderfully.

AT A GLANCE

Build Quality: Impeccable. Solid and reassuringly heavy as they are cast in one piece.

Sound Quality: Detail and imaging are what these speakers are all about. The tweeter is a work of art and deserves special mention.

Value For Money: With the need for subs adding a further £1100 to the equation and their associated “plates” another £800 we are into the realms of serious outlay. With that said, you are getting a unique product that looks as good as it sounds and will certainly be a talking point.

Pros: Stunning imaging and detail to mid and tops. An almost reach out and touch sense with good recordings

Cons: Brutally unforgiving of poor material. The need to integrate subs. Price will be a deterrent for some given their size.

Price:

As tested £5894

Jern 14 EH loudspeakers – €/£3.998 /pair

Jern plate for REL T/5i subwoofers – €/£399 each

REL subs – £549 each

Stands for the 14 EH are available, though not tested here, for €/£1198.

SPECIFICATION

DesignTwo way. Sealed cabinet.

Dimensions 30 cm tall, 19,5 cm deep and 21 cm wide.

Net weight 12,54 kg

Frequency response90 – 20.000 Hz
Amplifier requirements25 – 150W / 8 Ohm Sensitivity (2.83V/1m) 88 dB Impedance 8Ω

Stuart Smith

Review Equipment: Leema Acoustics Elements CD player, LAB 12 valve preamplifier, Nord Acoustics ICE Power amplifier, Chord Speaker Cables, Tellurium Q Ultra Black interconnects. Racks by Hifi Racks.

 

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