Anyone experienced JBL's K2 S9800?

There is such a dearth of commentary on this speaker anywhere, and yet I have some reason to believe that this may be one of the finest speakers currently in production. I recently was able to audition a pair in a most unusual setting--an art gallery.

The speakers were raised up off the floor on pedestals (perhaps 18 inches) with no walls or corners within 10 feet or more. All the front-end equipment, including amplifiers, were Mark Levinson, but I later learned that in order to hide the speaker cabling, there was approx. 80 feet of speaker cable running up vertical columns and then across the ceiling and down other columns in order to reach the speakers. Now that's gotta hurt.

Nonetheless, during that audition, I was blown away by this speaker's ability to resolve complex orchestral passages, its dynamic capability, and its overall neutrality (though it was distinctly lacking in warmth), but I was also completely non-plussed by a lack of transparency that I heard in two separate piano recordings of the highest quality (the pianos sounded muffled and much low level detail was missing). I found this mix of good and bad to be most unusual.

Is there anyone out there who owns these speakers and could comment on their performance relative to others they have owned or listened to? I have a feeling this one may be a real sleeper that, by virtue of its price tag, has been overlooked by most. If I could resolve the transparency issue, I just might blow my life's savings a buy a pair. Any commentary from anyone with actual experience would be most welcomed and appreciated. Thanks!
Theloveman -
I am the LOVEMAN when it comes to the K2. I have owned 4 pair and currently hold 2 pair. Both of the pair I own at this point are 2 of 4 production of the gloss black K29800SE (Special Edition).
These are absolutely the sleeper speaker, though still quite expensive at $25,000 in non SE gray and $30,000 in SE gray. I have owned Wilson, B&W Signature and Diamond, JM Labs, Revel, as well as many others and this is what resides in my home.

I have run Conrad Johnson 8As with excellent results as well as many Levinson amps, 436's, 33H's, and even the 33's, large Krell amplifiers, 450MCx, 650MC, and 750MCx, Proceed AMP5 (biamp mode) and even many Cello Duet 350's bridged and Cello Performance II monoblocks.

Oddly, the JBL S800 amplifier set in mono mode is as good to me as all of the others above on this particular pair of speakers, in my room, with my equipment, and to my ears. The ONLY better amp combo is the CJ Premier 8A with the ART2 preamp. The drawback to the tube based it volume level and dynamic that tubes have tough times with versus solid state.

Now, the JBL amps are horrible on most any other speaker I have listened to, but with the K2's, awesome!

I will gather some more thoughts on your questions and answer them later this week.

Feel free to contact me or post any other questions you might have.

My gear:
K29800SE (4)
S1000 (K2 center)
Levinson Media Console 40
5 S800 monoblocks
Esoteric DV-50S
2 Velodyne DD-18
All solid Silver Viola IC's and speaker cables.

If you haven't seen it there's a rave review of this speaker in HiFi+ magazine. I would guess the review is about a year old, it's a flat out rave so check it out.
Thank you, gentlemen, for your responses.

Dan, looks like you've cornered the market on K2s. Perhaps with 4 K2s your hearing has shut down to the point that the S800 monoblocks are actually sounding good (just kidding!!!). I am looking to use the K2s in a stereo application only, so any additional information regarding its 2-channel prowess would be welcomed.

I must say that I too would prefer the K2 to any of the speakers you mention as predecessors. Did you notice any difference between the K2 9800 and the 9800SE? My only real reservation regarding what I heard was transparency. Perhaps they just aren't capable of rendering the type of transparency that a good planar or electrostat can achieve.

I also notice you have a pair of Velodyne DD-18 subs. That would seemingly address the other shortcoming I experienced--a complete absense of the bottom octave. I had already planned on buying subs if I purchased the K2s.

Jond, are you referring to the review in Hi Fi Choice? I've not been able to find reference to the K2 S9800 in Hi Fi+, though I did find one on the K2 S5800. Could you refer me to the specific issue?

Thanks again,


I bought the K29800 (standard version) strictly for 2 channel. I needed to learn about them, make sure they were as good as many of my Cello friends indicated.

Indeed they were. I had run many of the speakers above mentioned and had the CJ set up with B&W Sig 800s which I felt were as good as I had heard. When I dropped the K2 in place of the S800s, I was SHOCKED at the dynamics of the speakers and the coherence of the JBL.

The bottom end was strikingly deeper and more 'gutty' than the S800s. I have not heard many speakers that can actually play full range, which is why I am a beliver that most every speaker needs a sub to play true full range at refernece levels.

Like the Quad 989, the K2 is greatly improved when the Velodyne DD-18 is added, as would ANY speaker, imo.

I have not found ANY downside of the K2 and enjoy them so much that I bought two pair of four pair of gloss black SE versions JBL made. For 2 channel, I have yet to hear better. I have friend that run the largest Wilson speakers, with the individual sub towers, which I will heading over to listen to in March.

I did hear a slight tighter/quicker bottom end with the SE and the top end slightly less pronouced. Both benefits to the SE over the non-SE.


Thanks for the link to the review in Ultra Audio. I had actually seen that review before arranging to go listen to the K2s. I wonder if that is the same review that Jond was referring to? I believe the Ultra review and the Hi Fi Choice review were written by the same reviewer, Paul Messenger.

Have you ever tried bi-amping your K2s? I'm completely unfamiliar with the JBL S800 monoblock amps you mentioned, but those on the bottom with the CJs on the mid and tweet should be AGAIG (as good as it gets).

You mentioned Quad 989s. Have you ever owned the Quads or spent significant time with them? If so, do you feel the K2s have a comparable level of transparency? I currently own Beveridge 2SW electrostats, and to my ears, these are the most transparent speakers I've experienced. Unfortunately they are old and not entirely up to their level of performance when in their prime--thus my quest for new speakers and amplifiers. The only dynamic driver speakers I've heard that can compete, more or less, with the Beveridges in transparency are the Linkwitz Orion and the Zu loudspeakers.

BTW, the K2s I auditioned were SEs done in Zebrawood. The finish is absolutely gorgeous. JBL has done a superb job in the fit and finish department on the K2s.

Thanks again for your comments. What part of the country do you live in? Just curious if there might be an opportunity to hook up for another audition.

Does the woofers handle up to 800 hz like the rest of JBL's Line? ( Not Good )
The HiFi+ K2 review is in issue no. 21, from January 2003. You should be able to order the issue online at Happy listening!
My apologies, I just looked at the UltraAudio review, and the reviewer, Paul Messenger, is the same guy who did the HiFi+ review. Therefore I would assume that it's pretty much the same. That being said I really think that HiFi+ is a great magazine, the best audio mag out there for my money. Happy listening!
Thanks for the follow-up on the review. That makes 3 separate reviews in three separate publications by the same reviewer on the same speaker. It would have been nice to have had someone else's perspective in a formal review.

Have you ever had the opportunity to audition the K2s yourself?

Anyone have a source for these speakers? I had no luck tracking down a dealer. JBL website not much help, plus no human to talk to. K2 9800 must
be rare in the U.S. Located in the Southeast.
Sadly I've never had a chance to hear them, though I'd really like to.
I think there's a pair for sale on here right now! At least there was yesterday. Good luck!
I just heard a pair in NYC at Ears Nova. The mids and highs were outstanding with VIVA tube amp and Linn cd player. The bass did not extend very low, but the dealer was very nice and accommodating.
Peterayer -

You should have asked them to fire up one of the Viola amps they carry. I use K2's with Cello Duets (aka, Viola nowadays) with excellent results, both on the top AND bottom end!

The K2s is a US hidden treasure! No other spot in the major audio locations of the world are they so unknown!!

A treat and pleasure indeed.

Did Ears Nova bring them in specifically for you or they just happened to have a pair 'sitting' around?


I stopped by on a lark as I was in NYC for the weekend and had a couple of hours to kill. I told Mr Joshua Cohn that I am fairly new to the hobby and wanted to hear something different from my Pass/Eggleston combo and so he let me listen to the VIVA tube/JBL horn combo.

He could not have been nicer. It is remarkable how different equipment can sound. The JBL's are so immediate and seemingly transparent. The speakers seem to be set up in his main system and are the first horn/hybrid speakers that I have ever heard. My only regret is that I did not bring any familiar music with me. It was a real treat and if I ever have the money and room, these will be on my short list.
According to the JBL website you can buy them directly from the Harmon on line shopping site, for a mere $15,000 per speaker plus frieght. And yes they say they are in stock.
I have used Beveridge model 2 with Jannis W-1 subwoofers. Also used the Double Quad with Decca ribben tweeters. Here I used Jannis W-1 subs,too. Beveridge RM-1/2 preamplifier.
These things sounded nise, but not the dynamics by far when you compare to the real thing.
After many systems later, I had the opportunity to get me a set S9800`s. When I put them into my system, I was so dissapointed that I started to cry.I had bought "The cat in the bag". This was much money for me, and difficult to sell in Norway. But, time went on, and I let the speakers " play " all day and nights for many months. LOUD!! I have a good music-room! Used sattelite radio for this purpose.
After about a year, after I had tried to sell many times- there was something happening!! The tweeters opened up much more, and the glass-sharpness dissapeared. The midrange came and a few weeks later the whole system sounded so different, I could nearly believe it. When my daughter came on a visit during the weekend at this time, she suddenly turned her head to me an said. Pappa, have you bough sub woofers, too, now? No, I replied. I told her what had happened sinse she was home the last time. After some time listening, she agreed that reprodused music like this, she had never heard before. I use ARC electronics, and that seems to do the job better then all other amps we have tried. Before I bought the S9800`s I had the M9500`s for a short time. I managed to sell them- this because I did not get the upper mid-lower tweeter range to sound good. Too sharp and edgy for me.You can find about my system and S9800`s in discussins on the internet, but sorry, I do not know where I can find it. They who have heard my system with the S9800`s, begins to laugh after a short time listening. This can not be true? I have never believed I could get the sound like this from a stereo- system! YES! YOU CAN.
Now the S9800 sound very, very good, indeed! I have listened to many systems around in my life, but none like the one I do have now: AND- the speaker system is JBL K2 S9800!

AND- I am just these days moving into my new listening room that is double the size of the old one. It has taken me nearly 3 years to build it. But, I know that I have here a very, very good room for the S9800`s.I am an engineer in electronics, and have built radio-studios, and made many recordings. Acoustics have allways interested me, too.

Dear Dan, did you have the opportunity to compare JBL K2 X Revel Salon 2 ? If yes, what did you think ?