Pylon Audio Jasper 23
When I review new Pylon Audio speakers, the same word usually comes to mind - progress. First loudspeakers available in high-gloss and mat lacquers, the first proprietary drivers, first cabinets manufactured for well-known foreign brands... Enumerating the next milestones and delighting in the technical, qualitative, and business successes of the Polish company, however, doesn't interest me as much as in what direction its offerings are heading and what value its new models will represent. Here, too, one can observe stable, thoughtful development driven by rising customer expectations and investments in machinery. Over the past few years, many speaker series has expanded to include the most majestic three-way models, and new designs from the excellent Ruby line have been introduced, but we had to wait a very, very long time for the next price and quality barrier to be overcome. Finally, Pylon Audio introduced the powerful Amber floorstanders, now available in mkII version. The new flagship should generate huge excitement, but such gigantic speakers are not for everyone and will not play well in any room. However, we have known for a long time that Pylon Audio is working on a series of loudspeakers that is a development of the concept known from the Diamonds and Emeralds. And we finally got it. The Jasper series now includes sleek monitors and two floorstanding models, including one already available in the mkII version. But, for many reasons, I decided to try the smaller Jasper 23 floorstanders.
I get the impression that the Polish company is hampered in raising the bar by its own catalog. It is simply huge. If we were running a store and wanted to order every single model in every color provided by the company, we would need a warehouse the size of a sports hall. If the company doesn't want to part with cheaper speakers, which I understand perfectly well, it would at least be appropriate to make cuts in their color palette - not only to make their job easier but also to speed up the work on new products. If I remember correctly, we have already seen prototypes of the Jasper series in 2018 at the Audio Video Show in Warsaw. In addition to the models that went into production, powerful curved cases finished in eye-catching lacquer were presented in the Radisson Blu Sobieski hotel. Then a long silence followed. Jasper 25s were delivered to the first customers in June 2021, and in October we saw photos of Jasper Monitor 18 monitors. The launch of the Jasper 23 model took place in March 2022. Was it worth the wait?
Design and functionality
What is the correct answer to this question, I was able to imagine even before the Jasper 23s arrived in our editorial office. After all, in many of the tests of the brand's speakers we have conducted so far, the prevailing statement was that the build quality and sound did not match the price, in the most positive sense. By the way, these were not just my feelings or those of my colleagues - such a conviction began to prevail also among dealers and eventually customers themselves. Unfortunately, wanting to jump to the next level of contact with music, some of them, after a few years of using Diamonds or Emeralds, had to become interested in loudspeakers from other brands. The Polish factory had nothing to offer them. The Jasper series is therefore not only an attempt to break through another barrier, but above all, a nod to loyal fans who did not come across the brand's speakers by accident, did not buy the cheapest Pearls to work in the same room, with the same amplifier for a dozen years, but regularly upgrade their stereo system and have reached the point where it was necessary to upgrade the last element in that chain. In fact, the designers could have created something like the Diamonds on steroids, but they didn't stop there, resulting in beautiful, majestic boxes you can see here.
All designs in the Jasper series are distinguished by deep, curved enclosures. The floorstands are mounted on plinths connected to the rest by strongly tapered legs, which, in combination with the mirrored sides of these plinths and the feet or spikes we can screw into the threads, gives an exceptionally interesting visual effect - just as if the powerful boxes were floating a few centimeters above the floor. A similar procedure was used in the Diamonds, but here the idea of levitating enclosures was realized in a more spectacular way. For the Jasper Monitor 18, Pylon Audio created very nice stands which at first glance resemble a heavily elongated version of the plinths we see in the floorstanding models. The series thus looks exceptionally coherent and elegant. As for the curved front and rear walls, this is certainly something different, an attempt to break out of the world of cuboid blocks, but is it really necessary? I don't know. Fortunately, this curvature is so slight that it shouldn't bother anyone.
The Jasper 23s are quite slender, as the width of their cabinet is only 16.6 cm, but the depth is 40.1 cm. The banana-shaped design, bringing to mind associations with the iconic Nokia cell phone used by Neo in "The Matrix", has little effect on this. In order to achieve the required volume, but not creating monstrously ugly, squat boxes, Pylon's engineers chose the only right direction and stretched them in depth. As if that wasn't enough, the Jasper 23s have not one, but two bass-reflex ports at the back, forcing the user to keep even more distance between the speakers and the rear wall of the listening room. I think 30 cm is a healthy minimum. Then the tweeters will be at a distance of 70 cm or so from the wall. With this, the speakers should be able to build a three-dimensional stereo stage with convincing depth. The Jasper 23 must have been created for users who know how to handle such equipment and how to use its capabilities. However, if it ends up in the hands of an affluent novice, the latter will actually be forced to set it up fairly correctly. Interestingly, many speaker manufacturers include sponge plugs for the bass-reflexes, but here we only get magnetically attached grilles and metal feet with felt pads. Apparently, the company doesn't recommend combining with plugging the tunnels, on the assumption that if the lows get too much, it's best to swap the floorstanders for monitors.
Apart from the curved housings, Jasper 23s do not surprise with anything in particular. The lacquer is beautiful, and everything indicates that in this area the manufactory from Jarocin has achieved true mastery. Maybe it's due to a well-equipped factory and experienced craftsmen, or maybe to the requirements set by foreign principals, but in the end, it's the effect that counts, and this one is beyond all discussion. To make things even more interesting, a pair delivered to our editorial office was finished in matte paint in bottle green (RAL 170 20 25), a color that has been extremely fashionable lately. Whether it's a couch, a car, or even a smartphone - everything sells in this color now. It's good to know that Pylon Audio is up to date with current trends. As for technical issues, the most important seem to be the 23 speakers used in the Jaspers. This time the manufacturer decided not to experiment with its own units, was not tempted to introduce proprietary drivers with nanotube diaphragms, but reached for a proven solution in the form of Scan-Speaks from the Revelator series. Low and mid frequencies are handled by a pair of 15-cm 15W/8531K00, while treble is taken care of by the silk dome D2608/913000. Deciding on these units, the designers must have known that they would be accused of duplicity or even lack of imagination. After all, Revelators have been used in so many hi-end speakers that it would be difficult to enumerate them. Gamut, Gato Audio, Xavian, ESA - that's just the beginning, not to mention countless clones. Revelators are not cheap. A set of transducers for the Jasper 23 costs more than €1000. The bigger problem, however, seems to be that it's hardly an original idea, but I'm not convinced that these days customers will be so interested in copying the tested floorstands. Of the people who could pull this off, I don't think many have the time for such hobbyist endeavors. The second potential problem is that woofers with distinctive notches are notorious for their appetite for electricity. To get them going, you generally need a really powerful amplifier.
The Jasper 23 is an impressive product in many respects. The Polish company decided to raise the bar once again and executed this plan in no uncertain terms. A lot of time passed between the first announcements and the market release, but it was clearly time well spent. The build quality is also impressive. Some will say that the advancement over the Diamonds and Emeralds is too small and that the Jasper 23s do not depart from them as much as the price difference would indicate. But maybe this is the fault of the fact that already in the mentioned series Pylon Audio has accustomed us to an extremely high level, typical for much more expensive speakers, and if we talk, for example, about the possibility of choosing any RAL lacquer - practically non-existent on the market at a price of up to €2500 per pair. Finally, the design is impressive, which is so audiophile-like that it is unusual. Nowadays, many manufacturers rely on the fact that the speakers can work in any room, with any amplifier, and in any setting. Instead of traditional bass-reflexes, they rely on tunnels blowing into the base (Audiovector), slotted ports at the front (Davis Acoustics), or some miracle-like tunnels damped from the inside (Neat Acoustics). Here, by contrast, we get a tried-and-true loudspeaker arrangement in a lethally unusual box. Instead of slender pillars with aluminum enclosures, we have a chunky box, except that it's narrow but deep. Instead of easy-to-drive speakers allowing 92 dB efficiency - drivers known for not dancing the way any amplifier will play them. It's as if the Polish engineers wanted to stand up and create speakers for audiophiles, not rare music snobs listening to any music, who liked the paint job.
The downsides? At first, I was sure I could criticize the magnetically attached grilles. However, these hold exceptionally firmly, plus they only cover the speakers, so even with grills on, Jasper 23s look great. On the other hand, I have to complain about the stabilizing plinths, which are too narrow in my opinion. If they were at least a few centimeters wider, these 26 kg (apiece) boxes would certainly be less prone to tipping or toppling to the side. Aesthetic considerations took precedence over practical ones. Since the pedestals cannot be unscrewed or replaced with others, we are left with the option of buying larger feet with M6 threads or installing some kind of crossbars along the lines of those used by Audio Physic, PMC, and DALI, among others. Enthusiasts of hi-end equipment will also surely pay attention to the sockets. They may look elegant, but they are not WBTs, Furutechs, or Cardas. During the photo shoot, I also found out that keeping the matte finish pristine is quite a challenge. I had to polish the speakers several times with a microfiber cloth moistened with a special computer monitor cleaner. Pylon's varnishers did their job perfectly, but if you're an exceptional perfectionist, stock up on cotton gloves in advance, or opt for a high-gloss lacquer finish. Unfortunately, this involves a surcharge, but still no tragedy.
Well, I should now complain about the price, but after the recent increases, I'm not convinced it would be justified. If you don't believe me, try looking for other dimensionally comparable speakers using the same or similar drivers. What, hard? I'm surprised myself, but apparently, an era has ended, and now there are not so many people willing to build speakers based on Revelators unless their price was to start around €10,000. I even searched the catalogs of the brands I referred to earlier (Gato Audio, Gamut, Xavian, ESA). Either there is nothing like that anymore, or they are larger models with even more advanced transducers. That's why, and because of the very high build quality, I can't say that €5499 for a pair is too much, because the Jasper 23s compare even more favorably with the competition than the Diamond and Emerald series speakers. In this case, the fun has simply moved to a higher level, but the rules of the game imposed by the Polish company remain the same.
Before connecting the cables and starting the listening test, I had concerns about two things. The first was the two relatively large bass-reflex ports blowing toward the rear wall, and the second - which may surprise some - was the fact that the Polish designers decided to use Scan-Speak drivers, which are of course excellent but demanding. Contrary to the claims of some "experts" eager to contribute to online discussion groups, creating hi-end speakers is not about putting expensive speakers into a hastily put together enclosure and assembling a crossover based on one of the widely available schematics. Using such components means that both designers and users will have to do some work to realize their full potential. Believe it or not, even Revelators can be made into a mock-up. I have heard cases where they were money thrown down the drain. However, Pylon's engineers are able to extract great sound even from cheap speakers, so they didn't screw anything up this time either. They did their job, bringing out from the Danish drivers everything that audiophiles love them for - a natural, consistent, smooth, slightly warmed, dynamic, and resolving sound.
As for the bass-reflexes, my doubts also proved unfounded. During the first listening, I acted a bit spitefully towards the Jasper 23s and placed them against the wall, on the assumption that this is probably how they will be positioned by 80% of users. The distance between the wall and the speakers was 20 cm. Pressing the play button, I was convinced that the Polish floorstanders would start buzzing, pumping insufferable amounts of mid-bass, and begging me to move them at least half a meter toward the couch. I was literally waiting for an impending disaster. To my surprise, this one did not happen. The Jasper 23s offered a healthy, well-balanced sound built on strong, rhythmic, and well-controlled bass.
At this point, it became clear to me that Pylon's designers must have cleverly worked something out with the tuning of these boxes. In my opinion, they treated the ports not as a tool to provide the speakers with bass turbocharging, but actually as a way to relieve the speakers of their load. As far as my modest abilities allow, I have analyzed the matter quite carefully, and it seems to me that these bass-reflexes are designed to provide the diaphragms with good working conditions, effective ventilation, and freedom of movement, not to pump in unknown amounts of air to bubble like the exhaust in a tuned car. The result is that the lows are deep and powerful enough, but above all fast, decisive and, despite a certain softness due to paper coloring, held with an iron hand. One could even say that what the Jasper 23s offer in this area resembles the sound we would expect from floorstanders working in a closed enclosure. The designers here have focused on rhythm, pace, dynamics, and the so-called kick, not a subwoofer-type belly massage.
This was perfectly audible when the Audiovector QR5s took the place of the Pylons after the test was over. Of course, this has its good and bad sides. Some will conclude that such bass is simply too modest, and when we pay €5499 for speakers, we don't want any cheaper sets to outshine them in any respect. Once again, however, I have the impression that the described packages were not created with inexperienced listeners in mind. Rather, it's a proposition for connoisseurs of the subject, who will not only immediately notice how exceptional speakers built on the basis of Scan-Speak's hi-end drivers are these days, but will also see them as floorstands perfect for their room. The manufacturer informs that they will work best in rooms of 18-35 m², but due to the somewhat "monitor" bass and the possibility of bringing the deep boxes to the wall I wouldn't be afraid to go even a little lower. With the right conditions, I would confidently go for the Jasper 23s with a room of 16-20 m². In such conditions, these sets should work perfectly, and if someone has a large living room to publicize and likes deep, dense bass, they should be interested in the larger Jasper 25 mkII.
I have already mentioned that Polish designers have managed the challenge of taming the iconic Scan-Speak speakers. What exactly does this consist of and what benefits does it entail? Well, when you get the best out of the Revelators, you can count on a sound that is the kind of audiophile equivalent of a ride in a luxury limousine. It's nice, it's pleasant, and it's all done in an atmosphere of quiet, comfort, and concentration, but the sound is even, it has a pleasant, paper-like tone, and nothing jumps ahead of the line, so we absorb the music minute by minute, hour by hour. Even if this ride should start to bore us, the expensive car will make sure that we feel better than at home. A back massage? No problem. Changing the smell and mood lighting in the cabin? Done. A glass of cold champagne? Can be arranged, too. Of such attractions in luxury cars, we don't think there is yet only a restaurant serving delicious food or a swimming pool where we can completely relax. Listening to Jasper 23s, we feel the same way. We wonder what else we could dream of. The sound is natural, perfectly balanced, and consistent. The bass goes low enough, doesn't lag, and has a lot of the "meat" we like so much. The midrange is very organic, perhaps a bit softened, but still crisp and clear. The treble is probably the best in this whole set, perfectly combining resolution and concreteness with high playing culture. The tweeter, although seemingly a completely classic soft dome, is capable of extracting the finest details from recordings, at times even emphasizing a certain hardness or harshness, which is particularly well heard when various percussions come into play. All those knocks, murmurs, wheezes, and whistles are so palpable as if the Jasper 23s had some additional, invisible tweeters responsible only for these noises. To this should be added very good dynamics and space, which, if we put at least some work into the positioning of the speakers and the selection of accompanying equipment, allow us to stay in the room alone with the artists. It seems to me that the fact that the tested model uses 15-cm rather than 18-cm woofers helped to achieve this effect. I know that some of the larger units can also paint a beautiful stereo stage in front of us, but the smaller diaphragms move a bit more nimbly and allow us to reduce the width of the front wall, which Pylon's designers took advantage of one hundred percent.
Cons? The Revelators require a powerful amplifier, and that's something you can't get past, and because the Jasper 23s are so refined, so polished, they actually require not just a powerful, but an exceptionally good quality amplifier, a high-end source, and even audiophile-grade cabling. If you screw up any of these elements, you won't get what I wrote about above. You won't even come close to that level of musical experience. However, I'm afraid that many music lovers will want to put these beautiful, original floorstanders in their living room, completely unconcerned that a Chinese tube amplifier for €700, a streamer for €500, and a DAC for €600 is not the system that hi-end speakers built on Revelators dream of. Not that I'm making this up - such a setup was recently boasted by one of the owners of the larger Jasper 25 mkIIs. I'm afraid that although the "twenty-threes" were created for connoisseurs who will appreciate their sound and choose them over the "twenty-fives" to save themselves the trouble of mastering low frequencies, the carefully calculated price will make few people appreciate them enough to invest twice as much in electronics and accessories. On the other hand, with a system for €2500, the Jasper 23s have no right to show their true nature. And please, don't lecture me that money doesn't play... It's a nice slogan, but optimism can't make up for everything. During the test at one point, instead of the Hegel H20, I plugged in the Unison Triode 25 - a tube integrated amp that currently costs €3500. Believe it or not, but I didn't get half the sound quality I achieved with the 200-watt H20. Not because the Triode 25 is a bad amplifier, but because the Revelators weren't getting the power they need. Add this to the fact that the source I used was an Auralic Vega G1, and how much I spent on cabling and power supply in this system, I don't even want to count. With a less powerful amplifier, these speakers won't come to life. Only a solid dose of power makes it possible. 60-100 watts is the absolute minimum. If you want to experiment, trying to squeeze the maximum potential out of them at minimal cost, please keep this in mind.
Build quality and technical parameters
Pylon Audio Jasper 23s are floorstanding loudspeakers that are a more compact version of the Jasper 25 mkII model. The manufacturer states that they were selected based on a series of acoustic measurements and hours of listening tests. Responsible for the bass and midrange are a pair of the famous Revelators in the 15-cm diameter version, recognizable by their characteristic notches, whose task is to control the distortion of the diaphragm and dissipate standing waves. High frequencies have been entrusted to a silk tweeter with an ultra-lightweight vibration system. It is worth mentioning that during the design of the Jasper 23s the latest "toys" at the disposal of the factory were used, including an anechoic chamber and a laser accelerometer. As a result, an enclosure devoid of cuboid forms was designed, characterized by aligned acoustic centers of the drivers in the most critical mid-high section, and minimized diffraction. High rigidity has been achieved through thick MDF boards, with the front being made using sandwich technology. The socket plate, which also serves as the base for the crossover, is also exceptionally thick. The nameplate with terminals and model markings, visible from the outside, is just one of three parts of this puzzle - behind it we see an identically shaped MDF board and a solid block on which the electronic components were mounted. The crossover is made up of nine components, four of which are coils. As for the capacitors, the designers probably didn't want to waste time looking for a cheaper solution and reached for Jantzen Audio brand components. The parameters of the speakers suggest that driving them shouldn't be difficult, but it's worth exercising caution in this regard. An efficiency of 88 dB and a rated impedance of 4 Ω is no nightmare, but the Revelators absorb electricity like my cat absorbs food.
Audiovector QR5, Equilibrium Nano, Unison Research Triode 25, Hegel H20, Auralic Aries G1, Auralic Vega G1, Marantz HD-DAC1, Clearaudio Concept, Cambridge Audio CP2, Cardas Clear Reflection, Tellurium Q Ultra Blue II, Albedo Geo, KBL Sound Red Corona, Enerr One 6S DCB, Enerr Tablette 6S, Enerr Transcenda Ultimate, Fidata HFU2, Melodika Purple Rain, Sennheiser HD 600, Beyerdynamic DT 990 PRO, Beyerdynamic DT 770 PRO, Meze 99 Classics, Bowers & Wilkins PX5, Pro-Ject Wallmount It 1, Custom Design RS 202, Silent Angel N8, Vicoustic VicWallpaper VMT, Vicoustic ViCloud VMT.
When the Polish company presented a model called Amber, I began to think that we would not soon see a better, more technically advanced counterpart to Diamonds and Emeralds. Fortunately, the Jasper series, created with extremely demanding music lovers in mind, was finally born, and the smallest floorstander in this family convinced me that it was worth giving Pylon's designers time to complete this project. For the company, this is another, perhaps very important step forward, but also a demonstration of technical capabilities. Great woodwork, curved enclosures with a sandwich front panel and beautifully applied lacquer translate into a spectacular visual effect. Reaching for very hi-end transducers, the Polish engineers in a sense chose the easy way, but it also has its advantages. Firstly, it's impossible to accuse them of frugality. Secondly, although Revelators were quite fashionable some time ago, today the list of companies installing them in their loudspeakers has shrunk dramatically, perhaps mainly due to their prices. Thirdly, Pylon's designers have taken full advantage of their capabilities, creating truly great loudspeakers. Although these boxes will sing with full voice only in the company of an expensive system with a strong amplifier and a transparent source, they will find their way into any repertoire and probably any room that's suitable for listening to music. The Jasper 23s are a bit unusual, make some demands on the user, have their own character, but fully deserve to be called premium audiophile speakers.
Speakers type: Floorstanding, dynamic, ported
Drivers: 2 x 15 cm (Scan-Speak 15W/8531K00), 1 x 26 mm (Scan-Speak D2608/913000)
Sensitivity: 88 dB
Impedance: 4 Ω
Frequency response: 35 Hz - 20 kHz
Dimensions (H/W/D): 99,2/16,6/40,1 cm
Weight: 26 kg (piece)
Manufacturer: Pylon Audio