Does JBL get a bad rap?

For years, all one heard regarding almost any JBL product, especially vintage consumer grade products was that they were all boom(bass) and sizzle( highs). I feel this is an unfair generalization. Surprisingly, I find much of their budget minded gear(80s-90s) actually soft in the treble and very non-fatiguing(titanium laminate tweeters). I also have experienced the L100T and found them fairly well balanced and nuetral. The midrange does lack some realism magic especially on vocals but so do other highly touted speakers. In short, I am a little late to the game in regards to the JBL, but as a mainstream maker I am impressed. And that doesn't even take into account their 4xxx studio monitors which are highly regarded. Back me up jbl fans!
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I agree with you 100%! Lots of the vintage JBL models (4312, 4310, L800 and surely more others as well) will challenge today's desings with open natural and well tonal balanced sound, with incredible soundstaging abilities and also ease to drive as well. I'm definitely a fan of JB Lansing!
There are lot more 'sleepers' in JB's huge array of speakers so far made, so other posters will chip-in as well with list of great vintage models.
JBL has been in business for over sixty years. They must be doing something right.
I would say that there's a lack of knowledge rather than a bad rap. The two audiophile rags here chose to ignore JBL in favor of boutique manufacturers, even when they had clearly inferior products. Even the current Everest which is an engineering tour de force with a gorgeous industrial design is ignored by them.

JBL's been making some of the best high end musical speakers for decades while flying under the radar here in the States they enjoyed huge success overseas. As Czarivey mentioned they have a huge catalog, there are some losers there too.

Having cut my musical (recording) teeth in early 70s recording studios I can testify to why JBL got a bad rap...extreme treble and boomy bass was what people thought they needed and that's what JBL gave 'em. Amazingly, engineers were able to work around this (mini single speaker monitors as additional reference points) and make some great recordings. A recent Hifi mag just gave a rave review to the latest Everest flagship horn speaker, so one can assume they're doing fine now.
I have some JBL L-7 vintage 1992 speakers that retailed for $2,000.00, I first bought them in 2012 to flip for more money because they were in brand new condition when I got them, which was unbelievable for the age of them, I hooked them up to a fricken walmart RCA small all in one unit, I could not believe what I heard and the huge sound stage presatation, today, I removed the stock bi-amp plate and inserted Tara labs Omega jumper cables and the speakers are now hooked to a modded krell 700cx amp with Tara labs zero gold interconnects and omega gold speaker cables untill I get my hands on the discontinued JBL Everest DD-66000 or the new top of the line JBL Everest DD-67000 speakers, however, I will be keeping the vintage JBL-L7 speakers, BTW, they have the titanium laminate tweeters, the bass is none boomy period, rather for 30hz, the best I have ever heard considering what my cables do for them, these JBL-L7 speakers have a natural open well balanced tone, I am still scratching my head as to why these speakers are that good, cheers
No they get a cool rap.
My Brother has a pair of Century 100's that he loves, according to him he "couldnt justify spending $4500 on a pair of Harbeth SL5's" and the sales guys in the store agreed! IMO All you JBL lovers need to move on.... LOL. That's IF you have good electronics and your not still using some old Japanese receiver from the 70's. JBL the HARBETH KILLERS!! ROFL...Seriously if I were working at HARBETH I would jump ship to JBL!! I cant take it...LOLOLOLOLOL.
Mattmiller, That's exactly what hi-end dealas tellin' ya at their stores about it. Their job is to make you believe and most do that A+ if not better. When you go through your OWN research it's quite different.
If you listen JBL models with studio mastering equipment, I'm more than sure that if speaker such as you've mentioned HARBETH wouldn't sound good there, than JBLs are INDEED HARBETH killers and that's exactly the reason why studio mastering engineers would pickup JBL instead of boutique Harbeth.
Try 4312, 4311 or newest of 43 series 4319 and you'll realize why... Try L800 tower speaker as well.
I wanted 4311's ....WHEN I WAS THIRTEEN! Back in 1979. I'm not sold on old vintage JBL's, Save your breath for some one worthy. I think they are on a lower plateau than many speakers out there today including my Dynaudios. They don't compare when it comes to placing people with instruments in my listening room. The midrange alone in one of my speakers would blow away the sound of a classic JBL. Having said all this JBL's were some of my favorite speakers when I first started into HIFI some 35 years ago when I was just thirteen. So I am not a JBL hater. I just think its funny how some people will hang on to a $900 pair of speakers and play $8000 worth of electronics thru them....I guess they WOULD sound pretty dam good. (this is my brother, lol)
Wolf_garcia, don't know which JBL monitors you had in your studio but I remember the shitty 70's solid state electronics well it was all boom & tizz. There's no shortage of crappy recordings from the 70's as a reminder of the period and I've come across so many blown studio speakers poorly re-coned that I've lost count.

Mattmiller, as a long time dealer and distributor of ultra high end audio equipment, speakers and tts my specialty, I can guarantee you that nothing I heard made today at any price can match some of the qualities of vintage JBL! I have and had many JBL models from the Hartsfields to the Paragon to several 43xx models, the first Everest and all the way up to the M9500, they're in a class of their own, imo matched and better only by some very rare WE and Klangfilm horns or early Tannoys and Vitavox corner horns.


Similiar to planar speakers..."they have no bass!"...once a speaker gets a bad reputation, its hard to shake...and the same applies to JBL...ironically they supply most of movie house sound systems....and nobody has complaints with that!...On the budget side...I feel JBL became noticeablely smoother and refined in the 90s era...possibly Harmons deep pockets, the dawn of computer analysis, or both...but this somewhat forgotten era produced some gems...on par or better than highly touted value driven products from psb, paradigm, or even the current best buy Pioneer speakers...FWIW...jbl continued to make speakers in the Usa well into the end of the decade
mattmiller, I do not know if you are aware of the new JBL Everest DD-67000 speakers, research them please, they are considered one of the BEST speakers in the world for home audio, go and listen to them too, you will have a total new out look on JBL, These speakers retail for $75,000.00!
Back in the 70's, I bought a pair of JBL 001s in the Olympus enclosures (with the wooden fretwork grilles). I loved the sound but each one was the size of an entertainment center. I sold them in the 80's for half of what I paid for them and the buyer bought them without even hearing them. I still regret ever letting them go.
I remember back in the I think 80's, when they were about to put out the last of the l100t's....I drove all over town trying to get a pair. I already had a really good receiver to match it with...(carver) that went well with it. any one who had one was over pricing them knowing about the lansing take over. the sound at the time was awesome, I quess due to them using the earlier (like celestion) alnico magnets... I eventually settle for the P50 some time later and eventually moved up to the alon/Conrad Johnson combination.....but no not to me, like bose and other of that price range, we have just moved on or up...
My home speakers are JBL Professional PA speakers. Harbeth killers? With rock music, they will play without strain at levels that would send Harbeths (and most other high end speakers)into hiding. Not the lowest lows or the highest highs but well balanced overall and not fatiguing.
Check out the current Synthesis line...1400 Array, S3900 & 4700, K29900, and Everests. You'll be pleasantly surprised!
Dave_72, yeah, I was just checking out that new model to the JBL line up, the affordable S3900 speakers, very big bang for the money, these will out compete much more exspensive speakers by well known brands out there, seems JBL recently revamped there cost no object line of speakers, Dave, have you ever had the chance to listen to the K29900 speakers?
That's cool. Yes, those are good. I have heard the K2s but it was a while ago.
It's probably my age, but I lose interest in companies when I no longer understand their product line. In the 70's, I knew that the JBL L200 was a step up from the L100, and the L300 a step up from the L200. Today, JBL has a "synthesis line...1400 array, s3900," their Everest 6600 (or is it 6700) model and probably many others. I prefer companies that make a limited number of products, like Quad or Magnaplanar, at specific well-defined price points. I do love the vintage JBL models and I'm always tempted when I see an ad here on Audiogon for a pair of S7R, S8R or any of the early models mentioned above.
Yes, it can get a bit complicated regarding JBL, both consumer and high end.

So, for the Hell of it, I'll try and make sense of it for you.

Top of the line: Everest 67000

2nd from top: k29900

Now, here's where it gets tricky...the middle of the line. You have the 1400 Arrays, S3900s, and S4700s all battling for prominence. Each model is comparable to the other, and each model bests the other in certain departments. It just depends on your room, your taste, and what have you. I can say that the 1400 Array and S4700s (which I use) are very close in sound, with the Arrays having a touch better midrange, but the bass in the S4700 is superior. I chose the S4700s over the Arrays because I didn't want to have to assemble anything, and with the arrays, you have to assemble the vertical horn to the bass cabinet. I'm kind of a klutz, so that was a no go. I love the sound of them, but ultimately they are not for me.

bottom of the line: there really isn't any. Unless you want to count the Studio 590s, not really a high end model, but JBL seems to think otherwise. I just heard them last weekend, and they were ok, but the mids and highs are a bit subdued for my tastes. I know other people would love it, citing it as warm and smooth.

Below that you have the Studio L890s, Studio 290s, and so on an so forth. I used to use the Studio L890s, and at the price I paid ($800 USD)they were serious bang for the buck. I still have them and I'm debating whether to sell them or not. We'll see what happens.

Anyway, I hope this helps!
Great post Dave_72, I got alot out of your post, Awsome!
Thanks! I try my best...
10-21-14: Phasecorrect
Similiar to planar speakers..."they have no bass!"...
Phasecorrect, were you also refering to B&W speakers?
Even huge ones have no bass... True!
Their powered studio monitors are wonderful and I have a number of friends in bands who use their professional stuff on stage(although those don't work as well in a home environment, I've tried)
Hello Audiolabyrinth......WE WERE SPEAKING OF VINTAGE JBL"S FROM 40 YEARS AGO! I am not living under a rock! of course I know all about the new production JBL line.
I bought the JBL 250Ti's on 1985 and could have bought anything at that time (and did listen to many). They weren't perfect--but their (relatively) unrestricted dynamics, wide frequency response and excellent(for the time) lively Titanium tweeter made music - as opposed to other speakers whose crossovers ( and inferior drivers) killed natural dynamics in favor of a flatter (or tighter) frequency response.( I sold my Quad electrostatics (excellent) as soon as we heard the 250Ti's). The JBL's were the first speakers I knew of that could really deal with the dynamics of a full orchestra-- while staying very relaxed. I still own them; they still rock.
Hi mattmiller, believe it or not, there really is not a whole lot of people who know about the current cost no object JBL line of speakers, they are not on the JBL mass produced speakers internet site, this JBL line that Dave_72 speaks of is an entirely different and seperate JBL company that is under the JBL umbrella, I was not tring to offend you, as a matter of fact, I never heard of these top high-end JBL speakers untill 2012 myself,This JBL line of speakers is still not getting the buzz here in the u.s.a. like they do world-wide, the japenesse love this line of JBL speakers, so I do not believe it is uncommon for someone to ask if they have heard of this line of JBL speakers, cheers.
Ptss: Those are the reasons they are considered classics, and rightfully so.

Audiolabyrinth: Exactly right. Imo, the high end JBLs hold their own and often times beat the big favorites in high end audio. For example, B&W 800 series, KEF reference, Harbeth, Avalon, ProAc, Wilson, and more. The only other 2 bands that I'll consider if I ever sell these JBLs are Tannoy Prestige and the bigger ATCs.
True. On the day when JBL introduces new line of their speakers in the USA other brands can close their business.
I recently purchased 4319 which is moderate to low in new
line hierarchy. By the way, the speakers were tuned by
Keyeso Nigurava, Asymmetrical ports diameter, 27Hz - 40Khz, 92.5db. Internal wiring - Cardas Gold. Listened with the Pathos InPol amplifier and the sound was amazing, from the
jazz to heavy bass dance music. Two days later I sold my
Totem Wind and Focal Aria speakers. I just can imagine how their higher end speakers sounds. The only problem would be the price.
For now they are to expensive if you would import them from
Japan. The good thing is that you can order them with the
three different upgrades (cross over, internal wiring and
custom tuned ports). Standard versions also sounds good but with the less bass since the Japanese prefer more mid/high levels. Soon I will offer them on Audiogon to finance
purchase of 4365 speakers. They are also tuned by Mr.Nigurava. Specs are: 19Hz-43Khz, 93Db. But the price.....
snecma, great post, congrats on your JBL speakers.
Yeah, those 4365s sure are killers. I wish they were available here in the US. They're one of the best speakers that JBL makes, imo!
About 15 years ago I worked at a national retailer where they had a large JBL equipped "media room" built to view and listen to ads. To me the whole affair was ear bleeding and shrill but I'll admit that the electronics could have been totally or partially to blame.

Some of us, including myself, have somewhat lukewarm perceptions of JBL from times past. Many of my friends and relatives owned JBL's over the years and I never considered them to be outstanding. Most of those systems were not outstanding and the speakers were probably perceived the same way. Maybe this is where the "bad rap" comes from?

I will admit that I have not heard any of their recent offerings. If I did, I just might change my opinion of them.

Changing these attitudes and perceptions may be one of JBL's major marketing challenges.
Hi Rja, The cost no object line as I call it from JBL is at some of the best brick and mortar shops across the country, of course, I rather you go and listen to the top flagship Everest DD-67000 speakers first to get your interest kicking, then work your way down the model line to the more affordable models with in the same model line, as you can read from Dave_72's post above, Dave list the entire line of the speciality JBL speakers, a couple of models are new as of last year, cheers.
Sometimes it does. I would not discount the line as a good option for many though.
"Most of those systems were not outstanding and the speakers were probably perceived the same way. Maybe this is where the "bad rap" comes from? "

I suspect that in many cases bad results with JBL speakers are not necessarily the speaker's fault, more what was done with them.

I was never a huge JBL fan back in the 70's when we carried them at the Tech Hifi I worked at for a time back in college, but I would like a chance to try them again with what is now available more readily and what I know now that I did not back then.
You bet they get a bad rap, and some of their speakers are truly amongst the best speakers out there, and are extremely refined in sound.

However, in the USA horns became taboo, and JBL makes a lot of horns. Even when they get a great review, folks ignore it. Also, JBL does not play the "I'm a rocket scientist from NASA, Bell Labs researcher, NSA Scientist" and other false claims that so many "high end" companies' founders claim. They don't play the "super exotica" claim.

Read this review: along with John Atkinson's measurements and consider the magnitude of the accomplishment of the designer of this speaker. How many times does a Quad love say that another speaker equals or beats the Quad at what the Quad does well?

Many will dismiss this post, as they will dismiss the review I cited, and follow the trail of high end audio dogma. So be it. But don't condemn that which you have not heard just because you heard a model of a line 25 years ago and found it not to your taste.
To the OP, I did not direct the "do not condemn" statement to you, as you are speaking positively about them. So I am "backing you up"!

Rather, I'm addressing those who would dismiss JBL or any products because they heard something by the company long ago, or because the company has not been anointed repeatedly by the USA press.

Also, a correction, in the second to last paragraph "Quad love" should read "Quad lover".

Well, as far as the horns in the latest models are concerned, the horns use a material call Sonoglass. Which is a very inert compound. This translates to getting the power and realism from the horns and compression drivers without the squawk, blat, buzz, or rattle from lesser designs. And of course you have some of the best woofers in the business. All of the Synthesis models have great bass, to various degrees, but it's still there. You really need to go out and listen to the Synthesis line as I believe it will change one's negative view of JBL. I believe JBL for the most part did their homework on the Synthesis line up. They're not the best, for far from the worst.
Hello again Kiddman. Good to hear your 'well trained ear' support these truly great JBL horn speakers. By the way, have you experience with SOUND APPLICATION AC power conditioning products? I've just had a remarkably good experience. (I admit to wanting absolutely clean AC power and total isolation of digital from analogue.)
Great post Dave_72, However, I believe their is no such thing as the best speakers anyway, personal tast for sound plays part of each audiophiles quest for sound reproduction, what may sound really good to me and you, may be bad to someone wanting cold bright analitical detail that would bring us fatigue!
As I said above, I love the early JBL models, and I'll admit I am not really up to date on their more contemporary models. I just took a look at the link from Stereophile, posted above by Kiddman (JBL Synthesis Array 1400 BG). To me, it looks like a horn stuck to a speaker. Everyone will have an opinion, that's mine. Aesthetics should count for something. I'm not trying to be controversial and you don't have to agree with me, but if you like the look of that speaker, we have nothing more to talk about.
JBL model 4676, two-way based on the 4550 bottom cabinet.
Hi Tonykay, input JBL-Everest DD 67000 speakers on your search, you will enjoy what these new JbL speakers look like, as a matter of fact, the 1400 Array is the only pair of speakers in the model line up that look like that, all the other models have the horns in the cabinet, cheers.
The pre Harman James B, Lansing was very helpful to me and cultivated a sizable DIY segment in our little hobby supplying planes and components back in the day.

You'd find naked plywood on stages and in some well heeled homes in those days. Leo Fenders original gut strung (hand wire wound over the pickup) Precision Bass design included the very small tweed Baseman amplifier to, rather successfully, emulate the tone of an Upright. If you needed a proper, truly low end loud Bass amplifier you were on your own until Ampeg and acoustic marketed their first trunk sized designs. JBL offered a selection of efficient cabinet designs one could build or buy.

Not actually an audiophile yet I was very impressed by the Jensen Imperial with the Tannoy Gold driver witch may have been the second or third Hi-Fi system I'd listened to back then. After a long day at the recent San Francisco Audio Show the Pass Labs room was driving a pair of Imperials with their 50 watt amp and a Technics SL 10 turntable. IMO that speaker shamed 98% of the speakers at that show.
Thanks Audiolabryrinth, and I agree with your statement.
" the recent San Francisco Audio Show the Pass Labs room was driving a pair of Imperials (with Tannoy drivers) with their 50 watt amp and a Technics SL 10 turntable. IMO that speaker shamed 98% of the speakers at that show."

The supposed great progress in speakers and all the horn bashing that has gone on for 30 years in the USA market: comments like this from above put it in perspective, as do comments by dyed in the wool, audiophile magazine thumping audiophiles who hear one my horn systems and go home raving.

Not only does JBL get a bad rap, all horn speaker makers get a bad rap.
I bought a nice system at Tech Hifi back around 1973. Did you work there at that time? I believe John Rutan sold me my system (could be wrong, memory gets foggy with all the rigs either I, or my brother bought). For some reason I really liked that store, fond memories.
Mik, that was before my time. I was in New Brunswick NJ store circa 1978.
I think I had Heil as well as my first Ohm back then. My brother had the JBL 100s. We loved them. I remember listening to War's, The World Is A Ghetto, and thinking the proverbial WOW!! Loved the sound. The JBL 4319 looks really interesting at that price point. I guess I need to expand my horizons and go back to where I once was.
Boy, you guys are plucking my Low E, on my Ampeg fret less bass guitar with all this JBL talk. Really nice thread.