The review of the trio JBL A-130, Pro-ject T1, Rotel A11 Tribute

Three objects to create a Hi-Fi system with an excellent quality / price ratio

In the specialized high fidelity magazines, we read about thousand and one nights systems made up of expensive and, at times, difficult to set up electronics. With the JBL A-130, the Rotel A11 Tribute and the Pro-Ject T1 we will show you that getting started with Hi-Fi is simple and inexpensive.

This is not the first time we have offered you beautiful and ready-made setups, but this time we wanted to do more: test them for a long time in a domestic context, closely examining its strengths and weaknesses.

JBL A-130

JBL A-130: the surprise you don't expect

The initial idea was to focus on another speaker model of the American brand but in the end, for a series of reasons, these came to us JBL A-130 Stage. I admit, from the photos seen on the net they did not inspire me much confidence and the fear that they were disproportionate to the Rotel A11 Tribute integrated amplifier was a lot. Let's proceed in order though.

Tweeter JBL A-130
Woofer JBL A-130

JBL is a historic brand, one of the oldest and most glorious in the audio world. A brand that is part of the group Harman and that over the years has been able to renew itself and keep up with the times. JBL produces Hi-Fi speakers for a thousand and one nights, but at the same time looks at the needs of today's market by offering solutions that are not appreciated by uncompromising audiophiles but much appreciated by young people and those looking for practicality. The Stage series is the most convenient way to enter the world of the brand. The line STAGE includes both floor and shelf models.

JBL A-130 rear panel

The JBL A-130s are two-way speakers with a 13 cm woofer and a 1″ tweeter with wave guide. The cabinet, of extremely small dimensions, live certainly renders much more than in photography. The corners are rounded and this in addition to giving a more pleasant appearance, improves the sound performance. Included in the price you will have two dust protection grids well anchored to the cabinet with very solid hooks. On the back we find the outlet of the bass reflex and the tray with the connectors, the latter perhaps being improved. All this you will have it for 249 Euros. A JBL with a widespread distribution on the territory and a serious assistance for only (we repeat) 249 Euro seems to us a nice miracle. How are they doing? we'll find out.

Pro-Ject T1 the turntable to start but not only

It is now established that the turntable is a more than consolidated reality, back in vogue both for fashion and for the typical sound that a vinyl can give back. On the market you will find many solutions from a few tens of Euros to stellar figures. The Pro-Ject T1 is one of those turntables that winks at the price without forgetting performance. It will also ensure easy installation. Specifically, the Pro-Ject T1 is a turntable with belt drive able to read discs a 33 and 45 boy. Equipped with a 8,6 ″ aluminum straight arm of excellent workmanship and a cartridge Orthophon OM 5E also great for the turntable price range. The 8mm thick glass plate is very nice. Finally, the feet will guarantee you excellent insulation from the surface on which it will be placed.

The Pro-Ject T1 is available in three versions: with Bluetooth and integrated prephono, with only the prephono and finally the “smooth” version which is what we have opted for having our Rotel amplifier an internal prephono.

"Ok everything is nice, but how difficult is it to assemble it?"

The Instruction Book is very clear thanks also to the diagram

Don't worry it's easier than you think but to reassure you we have put down some brief instructions to help you.

Figure 1

Once everything is unpacked, take the belt and place it in the first groove if you want to play 33 rpm records (figure1) otherwise in the second groove if you want to play 45 rpm records (figure2)

Figure 2

Then place the glass plate (figure 3) and finally the mat (figure 4).

Glass plate (figure 3)
Mat (picture 4)

At this point you just have to connect the RCA cable and the ground coming out of the turntable to your amplifier.

Retro Amplifier
We numbered "1" and "2" where to connect the GND and RCA cables to make things easier.

"If I want to change from 33 to 45 rpm or vice versa how do I do it?"

You will have to intervene on the belt and move it. It is not only the Pro-Ject that is like this but it is something common to this type of turntable. If you want more convenience you will have to turn to turntables with automatisms such as the upcoming Pro-Ject A1.

"Why aren't all turntables automatic?"

Here a world opens up, let's just say that automatisms inevitably raise production costs and could, if they are not well designed, trigger noises and interference. Let's be honest though, how many of you need to change spasmodically from 33 to 45 rpm?

Il arm straight in aluminum is one of the strengths of this turntable, well designed, it will arrive at home already assembled and calibrated for the series cartridge: the Orthophone OM 5E. If you want you can change the cartridge but know that it is not a very simple operation if you are a beginner and the Ortofon supplied is more than decent in relation to the price of the turntable.

"Hidden" power button

To start the Pro-Ject T1 simply press the side power button and place the arm on the record. Obviously after you have "leveled" your turntable. One piece of advice we give you is to not put the Pro-Ject T1 on the same level as the JBL A-130 in order to avoid possible listening disturbances.

Did you want vinyl? A minimum of forethought you must also have it!

The list price is 379 Euros.

Rotel A-11 Tribute integrated amplifier: the king of setup.

Il Rotel A-11 it is the most expensive electronics of this setup so much that to some it might seem excessive, we will briefly explain why it is not.

The Rotel A-11 is an integrated amplifier capable of delivering 50 watts per channel into 8 Ohms. You will have seen on the front a plate with an inscription in Japanese: it is a special version with some improvements made by one of the greatest engineers in the audio world: Ken Ishiwata. In short, this version Tribute we could compare it to a sort of 500 in the Abarth version. The Rotel A11 Tribute has changes under the "hood" that increase its performance.

The back with the connections

This amplifier is equipped with 4 line inputs, an entrance Bluetooth with aptX and AAC with Texas Instruments DAC (only for Bluetooth) and finally an input Phono MM. In short, you will be spoiled for choice to connect. If desired, for the more geeks, there is also a pre-out output. To complete the whole a remote control Practical enough standard that it is able to control even the basic functions of the CD player of the same series. The graphic display on the front panel offers all the necessary information and will allow you to intervene even on the tones by adjusting them to your liking or by bypassing them. Also on the front panel you will find a headphone jack.

The Rotel A11 Tribute is a great companion for JBL A-130s that need an amplifier to keep their exuberance at bay but more on that later.

The list price is 699 Euros.

Listen to the JBL A-130, Pro-Ject T1 and Rotel A11 Tribute.

Ready go, let's start with the listening. After placing the JBL A-130s three meters from each other and 30 cm from the side and back walls, let's start with the vinyl listening.

Let's put on a Fletwood Mac record featuring the beautiful voice of Nicky Smith and an excellent recording. The first thing that amazes us is the silence, in the good sense of the word. The T1 does not emit any background noise and must be sent along the grooves of our 33 rpm. After having melted them for a few hours, the little JBLs bring out their character and make us understand right away that lovers of rock they will be well satisfied. The A-130s are definitely not the most correct speaker in the world but they do have a sound that excites. The high range is transparent, detailed and very extended while the low range is slightly accentuated on the medium-low frequencies but it is a type of characterization that involves emotionally and above all at low volume is able to return a nice detail even during the night. JBL engineers have probably thought of those who, for a variety of reasons, can't turn up the volume that much.

The plays continue with AC / DC, Metallica and Iron Maiden. The room used for the tests measures about 45 square meters not a few for the JBL A-130s but they do not pale and while turning heavily on the volume knob they do not explode. The Rotel A-11 Tribute gives American speakers just the right current to keep speaker exuberance at bay and doesn't miss a beat. In short, the Rotel-JBL combination is not bad at all and the Rotel manages to give a pinch of rigor to these Yankee speakers. Let's face it: a pinch of punch especially for those who live in an apartment building and have to listen at moderate volumes does not hurt.

Let's move on to Bluetooth. A few seconds and our Xiaomi Android mobile phone gets in touch with the Rotel. No delay or other problems: the connection is stable and everything runs smoothly.

How does Bluetooth sound compared to vinyl?

It was the first question I asked myself while I was busy assembling cables. I can tell you that the parameter on which Bluetooth lags behind the Pro-Ject T1 is the reconstruction of the sound stage and the midrange is more compressed. Having said that, compared to other competitors, even much more expensive, the Rotel's Bluetooth showed an excellent performance characterized by good dynamics and clean sound message. Finally, let's not forget that through Bluetooth we will be able to take advantage of our sources equipped with a Bluetooth transmitter (for example the mobile phone) without spending a cent.

Pros and Cons

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

What I liked and what I didn't like

The things I loved about this setup are definitely the excellent value for money of the three components and the sound quality that we have achieved which is joined by a fundamental thing for this price segment: the easiness assembly and use. What usually worries most of all is the turntable. This Pro-Ject on the other hand is very easy. The general quality of the objects is very high. In none of the three objects are there poor plastics or assemblies that leave something to be desired. Coming to what we didn't like, going to nitpick, we would have preferred a T1 RCA cable longer than a few CM and maybe better connectors on JBLs. On the Rotel A-11 we can only say that it is an excellent amplifier, built with criteria and probably capable of delivering more power than stated, nothing to complain.

The products tested in this article are distributed throughout Italy by Audiogamma which you can contact for more information.

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