JBL 100 Traditional Review: An iconic 70’s speaker revived as a most up-to-date standout

JBL 100 Traditional Review: An iconic 70’s speaker revived as a most up-to-date standout

Announce me if this checklist looks familiar:

Though the ad series – is called ‘Blown Away Man’ – become once intended to sell Maxell cassettes, it’s the speaker blasting the sound that pulls your eyes. Within the heydays of 70s hi-fi, few audio system had been as infamous as JBL‘s L100. Real looking indubitably one of many supreme audio system for rock, and armed a diverse waffle-shaped grille in vivid colors, it’s no gargantuan surprise the L100 become once cemented in indubitably one of basically the most iconic audio campaigns of the period.

A minimum of, that’s the lore surrounding the L100. I become once born in 1990, so I in truth hang no expertise with it besides admiring its retro looks at a Goodwill once. When JBL Synthesis – the company’s hi-fi sub-model – introduced the speaker relief in 2018 as the L100 Traditional, I had my doubts whether the company might presumably account for promoting a $Four,000 pair of passive retro audio system in a time so elephantine of pleasant contemporary concepts. Turned into once the L100 Traditional simply banking on nostalgia, or might presumably it in truth be worth the cash to audiophiles with no explicit affinity for the customary?

The reply is patently the latter. The L100 will be retro in its looks, nevertheless its enveloping, dynamic, and basically fair sound feels true at home among contemporary hi-fi audio system. The L100 Traditional are indubitably one of my favourite pairs of audio system to grace my home.

Retro classics

As with all speaker pick, it is most likely you’ll well like to first fetch along with the L100’s aesthetic. The big boxy form is a rarity in a 2019 elephantine of tall, slim towers. I, on the opposite hand, esteem the look, despite the truth that I’d pretty hang the blue grilles than the orange ones that got right here with my unit. Plus, you might be in a position to affirm the L100s horizontally if it in truth works better to your web page online – that’s something you might be in a position to’t in truth operate with towers.

The audio system in truth feel like quality objects, with sturdy, 27kg (60lb) frames. An spruce walnut veneer wraps all the contrivance in which via the perimeters, whereas the dim-painted front and rear protect up the historical-college look.

I on the overall use my audio system with the grille off, nevertheless the L100 is a diverse case. I dig the L100’s triple driver make, especially that majestic 12-scamper white woofer, and the controls for mid and excessive frequencies add some additional retro pizzazz, nevertheless I did exhaust most of my time taking be conscious of them with the iconic waffle grilles on.

For one, they add a welcome pop of coloration in blue or orange, (despite the truth that there might be a staid dim option). For one other, the grilles are essential protection for a speaker that sits so low to the bottom, on the very least in my home. The $300 legitimate stands perspective the audio system in direction of your ears, and expand the audio system just a few inches off the bottom, nevertheless they aloof sit down low ample for my dog or cat to injury the paper woofer.

There are some caveats. Pondering that is a modernization of the L100, I’d hang most traditional to sight some extra contemporary finishes – in all probability a white paint with a lighter wood on the perimeters would seemingly fit better in many a most up-to-date home that isn’t as hipster-thrifty as my hang. It’s additionally worth noting that the L100’s tweet and woofer are offset from the center, and the audio system aren’t mirrored; that might presumably irk any person persnickety about symmetry. And I in truth think the stands have to be incorporated at this designate; they aren’t in particular noteworthy and don’t in truth feel worth $300, nevertheless are a must must maximizing efficiency.

Smooth, these are rather tiny complaints. L100’s make is a protect in my ebook.

That ‘live’ sound

With the historical college make, it’s easy to rob the speaker isn’t as a lot as standard standards. But if JBL made any meaningful compromises, I am unable to hear them.

I had the pleasure of spending several months with the L100s, longer than I intended to (sorry, JBL!). In that time, I infrequently ever wished to listen to via anything else else.

A demonstrate on setup: The L100’s sound can fluctuate dramatically looking out on how the tuning knobs are draw – remodeling into a actually diverse speaker on the many ends of the knobs’ fluctuate. JBL says their default environment is intended to measure the flattest in an anechoic chamber (something correlated with particular person preference at home), nevertheless the knobs have to be draw to whatever you watched sounds most good. For me, that become once maxing out the ‘highs’ knob and environment the mids knob midway between default and max. Coincidentally, this additionally gave the affect to ship the flattest measurements in my hang testing, nevertheless extra on this later.

My initial affect of the L100s become once defined by their spatial presentation. The soundstage gave the affect to come relief from contrivance past the boundaries of the L100’s wide baffles. On a pair of times, I needed to double-test my song wasn’t being upmixed by the Yamaha A3080 receiver powering them. That is to claim, the soundstage become once so big, there had been just a few cases I seriously contrivance song become once playing out of my encompass and overhead audio system. I think the sense of prime is in half ensuing from the upward-firing make, nevertheless my frequency response measurements additionally level to wide dispersion helping.

Vocals are a explicit highlight, manifesting into mid-air sources reputedly made of flesh and bone. When taking be conscious of musicals like the gracious Hadestown, it’s easy to imagine yourself in prime Broadway seating, in a position to web page online singers not handiest on the X-axis of the stage, nevertheless on the Z besides.

The big woofer might presumably predispose you to predict thumping bass, on the opposite hand it’s surprisingly tasteful on the L100, aiming for extension and transient response pretty than sheer quantity (despite the truth that there’s a great deal of that too). The basslines in Janelle Monae’s Accumulate me Feel or Lizzo’s Juice are addictive without being bloated. Acoustic and synthesized bass alike in truth feel snappy, and kick drums hang an authoritative, well… kick, to them. The bass is rated to lengthen all of the style down to 40hz (-6db), nevertheless in apply, I feel the speaker‘s low positioning on its stands ends in extra bass reinforcement from the flooring when put next with a ‘regular’ speaker.

That said, the L100 will not be a resolution for pure bassheads, as the sound errs on the facet of accuracy. Though you can fetch an extraordinarily a lot bassier sound by turning down the mids knob, it’s no replacement for a subwoofer, and might well additionally’t compete with an active make like the Bowers & Wilkins Formation Duo on sheer quantity, in spite of the latter’s a ways smaller dimension. For many song, the L100 has simply the true amount of bass, nevertheless as with the tall majority of passive audio system, it’s missing these old few Hertz so prevalent in some contemporary song.

The mids and highs are additionally rather fair of their overall tonality, nevertheless right here the speaker shows extra of its forward persona. I think half of the reason they sound so factual with vocals is a slight emphasis within the upper mids and decrease treble, giving voices a tiny of an edge that I rep enhances intelligibility (at hand when doubling as TV audio system). It does this without destroying timbre despite the truth that; all individuals from the deepest bassoprofondos to lyric sopranos are portrayed with a pure tone. There’s a great deal of component too which combined with the standout imaging, makes it easy to use out particular particular person devices in advanced objects.

Add to this the truth the L100 are easy to drive and hang most attention-grabbing dynamics, and you will hang a speaker that excels at giving you that ‘live song‘ feeling. Audio memory is fickle, nevertheless to the supreme of my recollection, I discovered it extra interesting than the KEF R3, extra factual than the Bowers and Wilkins formation Duo, and aggressive with Focal’s $12,000 Kanta No Three on dynamics. It’s the style of speaker that provides you that musicians-are-in truth-playing-in-my-dwelling-room form of sound, and it’s as suited for Sibelius as it is for Deep Red.


We can sight most of these qualities come to play within the speaker‘s frequency response measurements, taken utilizing a quasi-anechoic methodology that approximates the implications taken in an actual anechoic chamber. As regular, I protect listening notes first and measure 2d, on the opposite hand it’s attention-grabbing to sight how in total measurements line up with my subjective impressions.

Measuring the L100 Traditional become once not easy, partly for their dimension and heft, which minute the fluctuate of vertical frequencies I might presumably clutch, nevertheless additionally for the reason that tuning knobs allow for a wide fluctuate of responses. Below, you might be in a position to sight the frequency response with the knobs at their default ‘0 db’ environment besides as with both knobs maxed out. I most traditional the latter in my hang listening. It’s essential to presumably presumably additionally additionally sight how the grille affects sound relative to the default environment.

It’s an overall flat response for a passive make, and be taught suggests most listeners use a flat sound. It’s no doubt not the flattest passive speaker I’ve considered within the worth fluctuate – that honor goes to KEF R3 – on the opposite hand it’s inside of the boundaries of what I’d protect in mind finish to be finish to fair tonality.

One would hope for first price efficiency from a $Four,000 speaker, on the opposite hand it’s factual to grab JBL didn’t ignore factual acoustics to construct a retro product. It’s additionally worth remembering these measurements are handiest half of the myth – they don’t clutch the L100’s most attention-grabbing dynamics, to illustrate.

It’s essential to presumably presumably additionally additionally sight the peaks around 2k and Four.5khz that relief give the L100 it forward persona. That said, that 2Khz height will not be as audible as it is most likely you’ll presumably think. When seated within the ‘sweet web page online’ between two stereo audio system like an actual audiophile, this frequency area tends to be attenuated by soundwaves from the audio system canceling each and every diverse out. I rep a clutch right here helps construct voices sound extra pure. The treble overall has a slight downward slope, nevertheless if you employ a brighter sound, that is without grief rectified by environment the treble knob to the max environment.

To affirm simply how a lot the knobs can hang an model on the sound, right here is the frequency response with mids knob at its lowest environment and the highs at maximum, and vice versa. It’s on the overall ample variation to change into a actually diverse speaker.

Bigger than simply a flat reveal response despite the truth that, a speaker have to distribute sound evenly all the contrivance in which via the room. Principal of the sound we hear is on the overall reflected from our room, so you like the sound emanating from the speaker at outlandish instructions to not be too dissimilar from the sound pointed true at your ears.

Here’s the horizontal response:

We sight that even at vulgar horizontal angles, the L100’s frequency response remains rather linear and changes easily relative to the reveal sound. This, combined with the truth the sound doesn’t decrease in volume a lot at outlandish angles, suggests wide sound dispersion, which seemingly helps give the L100 that huge soundstage. Furthermore demonstrate how the treble height at Four.5Khz is tamed by the level you attain 30 degrees off-axis. Certainly, I discovered the audio system sounded most good pointing straight out or with a  slight toe -in, (as against aimed true on the listening position).

The ‘Listening Window’ dimension within the center, which captures sound inside of a ±30-level horizontal window and a ±10-level vertical one, takes into fable the truth of us don’t sit down completely aloof and are usually not exactly centered between audio system. Here it shows a a tiny cleaner response than the on-axis one.

And right here’s the vertical response:

We inventory out sight a big dip after we attain 30 degrees off-axis on the vertical aircraft, nevertheless that is regular and the response remains moderately flat inside of a ±15-level vertical listening window.

A most up-to-date classic?

The L100 Traditional is a stunning speaker with a well-rounded sound that is basically fair, with a tiny of a forward persona to spice issues up. Taken as a complete package, my well-known criticism about is that in some regards, it feels a tiny too retro.

I will be succesful of’t relief nevertheless in truth feel that the company will hang attracted extra young audiophiles with some contemporary make selections. The aforementioned lighter veneer concepts or an-all dim make, to illustrate, might presumably relief it blend into some listener’s aesthetics.

On the technical facet, with any such giant cabinet and big woofer, I’d like to sight what JBL might presumably attain in an active make with an constructed-in amp and digital sign processing. This might presumably relief even out kinks with the frequency response and allow the bass to attain even decrease.

There’s nothing corrupt with passive audio system, unnecessary to speak, nevertheless furious concerning the ‘Traditional’ moniker and the earlier L100’s recognition, such selections might presumably’ve given the L100s additional capacity to change into a contemporary classic, pretty than building off the repute of its predecessors. A $Four,000 designate designate additionally puts it out of the attain of many younger audiophiles, despite the truth that I feel they are worth the worth and comparable to a factual draw of towers.

But broader thoughts concerning the instruct speaker make aside, as a ways as this particular listener is challenging, the L100 Classics are a most up-to-date classic. They excel in soundstage breadth and imaging. They’re simply a splash forward, their sound is customizable, they hang deep bass, and so that they map toe-tapping dynamics. The L100 Classics are some of basically the most sexy audio system I’ve had the fortune to listen to to, and I’m sad to sight them flow.

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Printed October 21, 2019 — 18:43 UTC