JBL L100 Classic
Bookshelf Speaker w/ Bass Reflex, Grille, Great Bass, & Attenuator Knobs
The L100 Classic is the modern take on the all-time best-selling JBL L100 loudspeaker. Featuring an attractive, 1970s retro design, with vintage JBL styling including an iconic Quadrex foam grille in a choice of three colors.
A Modern Classic
We love the vintage look of the L100 Classic, but don’t let that fool you, it’s a complete redo and full of modern speaker tech from JBL.
Feel Your Music
There is no substitute for a powerful 12” woofer. The JBL L100 Classic can fill your room with big, accurate deep bass.
Rock and Roll Meets Subtle Nuances
This is one of very small handful of speakers out there with the ability to reproduce the true power of a live concert, yet can reveal all those little subtle details in a recording that get you even closer to the music.
Company & Product Overview
The history behind the speaker we are reviewing today is so interesting that we have to go into some details for you. James B Lansing formed a speaker company in 1927 called Lansing Manufacturing in order to produce speaker drivers for radios and consoles. His company later developed a horn speaker for the movie industry that won an Academy Award in 1936. In 1947, James B Lansing left Lansing Manufacturing to form the brand we all know so well today, JBL. In 1969 two very big things happened to JBL. They were the speaker of choice at the Woodstock Music Festival, firmly entrenching them into the professional music world, and in the same year, they introduced the original model L100 which was based on their Model 4311 studio monitor. These went on to sell over 125,000 pairs in the 1970s.
JBL speakers are the choice of professionals in every aspect of the music and film business from recording studios, to post production facilities, to live concert events, commercial movie theaters, and some of the finest home audio and home theater systems in the world. The most famous ad for a JBL product was not even done by JBL but by Maxell Tape in 1980. Maxell ran a double page ad in The Rolling Stone Magazine that featured an L100 speaker blowing back the hair, tie, lamp, and drink of the listener. That original poster now hangs outside our founder’s all JBL theater as he also owned a pair of those famous L100s in 1977.
That famous L100 will celebrate its 50th birthday in 2019 and to honor this legend, JBL has introduced the L100 Classic, the subject of today’s review.
JBL L100 Design & Build Quality
If you were growing up in the 70s and were listening to music (and who wasn’t), it is likely you coveted a pair of the JBL L100s. They epitomized rock and roll at that time. With their outrageous orange or blue foam sculpted grills, they had the look of a mean, rebellious speaker. When you removed this grill from the big walnut cabinet you were struck with a three way speaker using a 12” white woofer that was so unique for its time. The sound they produced was classic rock and roll that was big, loud, and fun to listen to. Anyone who was lucky enough to own these was the envy of all their music loving friends. Interestingly enough, now these classic speakers typically sell on eBay for more than their original price. When we heard JBL was going to re-introduce this classic, we could not wait to get our hands on a pair of them. We do need to make one thing very clear on the JBL L100 Classic, it is not just that 50 year old speaker re-introduced using the same components. Even though on the outside, it has a similar appearance, every part of it is brand new. When you pull these out of the box, be sure you have a friend around to help as they weigh in at almost 60 pounds each! The beautiful walnut cabinet is quite large with dimensions of roughly 25” by 15” by 15”. While you might could find a bookshelf to sit these on, they look stunning on the optional floor stands that tip them back just a bit. The iconic sculpted grill of the 70s is back with improved materials and mounting system. We love that JBL went for the classic blue and burnt orange colors for the grills. And for those of you wanting a more tame outlook, a charcoal grey is available. You’ll want to be able to pull these off to show off the beautiful speaker drivers and we could not ask for a better fit than you get with the removable wood and foam grill frame. Let’s take a look at all of the new tech inside the JBL L100 Classic.
Features & Technology
When you are a company that provides sound for some of the most important events occurring around the world, you had better have a great engineering team. JBL prides itself on using science and blind listening tests in the design of all their speakers. Their professional division has decades of experience in music reproduction and we love the way the tech used in some of their most expensive studio speakers filters down into their more affordable home components. The 12” woofer comes from technology JBL developed for its $45,000 Project K2 S5800 speaker. This is their most linear driver to date with the ability to move a ton of air with minimal distortion of the cone. The pure pulp cone is coated with their famous aqua plus coating to improve damping. When you see this driver in the raw, it is obvious it has a huge magnet structure, enabling it to punch out deep bass like nothing else in its category. If you can find an old picture of the JBL L123A bass driver used in the original L100, you will see they are just two totally different components!
The 105-A midrange driver used in the L100 Classic is polymer coated and has a magnet structure larger than you find on some entry levels speakers woofers. The pure pulp midrange driver has a cast basket with a voice coil winding capable of handling lots of power.
JBL has done a lot of research on how a waveguide can improve the performance of a tweeter and their new JT025Ti1 tweeter exemplifies this concept. The 1” titanium dome tweeter sits in a waveguide designed for wide and accurate dispersion.
Almost all of the JBL studio monitors for the last 50 years have included controls on the front panel to adjust the level of the midrange and tweeter and the L100 Classic gets their latest version of these. Every room does have its own acoustic characteristics which makes these adjustments come in very handy in an overly damped or super reflective environment.
A test you’ll see us performing on all new speakers at Audio Advice is simply wrapping our knuckles on the side of the speaker cabinet. This usually gives us a good idea of how well braced internally the cabinet is. JBL uses extensive bracing inside the beautiful walnut covered MDF cabinet which is apparent with a simple knuckle rap!
Another area of speaker design that has drastically changed over the last few years is the port. Over half the speakers on the market use a ported design which allows for greater efficiency, but of course you have to do it right for it to be a great speaker. This is also an area where the difference in the original L100 and the new one are very different. The port on the original was in the upper right hand corner and was just a simple hole in the cabinet with a cardboard tube behind it. The new port is tapered to reduce air noise which can be a downfall of a not so great port design.
Finally, on the rear of the L100 Classic you’ll find a solid pair of binding posts. This is one area where we think they could have moved up 50 years and offered bi-wire capable binding posts as many of their other new speakers have this option. The connections though are much nicer than the little push pin connections on the originals though.
As you can see, just about the only thing similar to the original L100 and the new L100 Classic is their dimensions, however, in our listening tests we did find one or two things that reminded us of the old ones.
In this fun business of playing around with great audio equipment, there are some times that just stick in our memories for a long while. This is where the original L100 and the L100 Classic have a couple of things in common. When you listened to music for the first time on the original ones, you usually wound up smiling ear to ear. Before too long, you were pulling out your favorite record and moving the volume control up several notches! Yes, causing grinning while listening and inducing the urge to crank things up is ever present with the new L100 Classic as well!
Listening to music at home is all about recreating that live experience at home and we must say, these new L100 Classics knock the ball out of the park in this regard. To pay homage to the classics, our first tests included Led Zeppelin’s “Communication Breakdown,” The Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter,” and ELO’s “Turn to Stone”. With each cut, we just grinned ear to ear as these rock classics filled the room with a rich, full sound.
We then switched to something totally different doing “Just a Little Lovin’” by Shelby Lynne. This cut starts out with some very subtle percussion which showed us these L100 Classics can not only do rock and roll amazing well, but also can give you those nuances you expect to hear on something like a high performance electrostatic. The sound of the brush on the high hat is super smooth, then you can hear the decay of the snare pop. When her voice comes in, it floats right in front of you.
Our next track was from Keb’ Mo’ called “Just Like You”. When the bass guitar comes in, you can really hear the advantage of that great 12” woofer. It has a slam and power you just do not get with 2-3 6” woofers you’ll find on some speakers. The room completely fills with powerful deep bass you can feel!
Next up was “Lenny” from Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble. The particular track is long, haunting and very bluesy. Of all the cuts we played, this one really showed off how detailed and delicate this speaker can be, yet slam you when the dynamics of the music calls for it. The light percussion sounds are super refined, the bass guitar sounds like it's right in front of you, and the guitar riffs float from speaker to speaker, sounding exactly like you would expect a guitar in the room to sound.
These last three tracks also really show off how much better the new L100 Classic is than the original. Those original ones could never give you those subtle nuances in the top end. The bass punch and authority is also improved but there is a huge difference in the speed of the bass attack (at least from 40 years of audio memory).
In summary, we do not think these are just great speakers for playing rock and roll loudly. They do that extremely well, but they can also run with anything in their price range on jazz, classical, and light acoustic. This means that you can have a classic looking speaker that performs with the best competition in its price range.
The new L100 Classic has the outward appearance of the original, with its vintage burnt orange or blue sculpted grill (or charcoal grey for a tamer look). This will not appeal to everyone, but it sure makes us smile every time we look at it! Don’t let this look fool you though, this is one serious speaker that can give you the delicacy of the best electrostatics, then not skip a beat and fill your room with rock and roll that can blow your hair back like that original Maxell ad! An additional advantage of the L100 Classic is that they are not power hungry at all. At 90db in efficiency, they will be able to work very well with a modest amplifier.
In 1970, JBL released the iconic L100 Loudspeaker. Over the years, the L100 became the bestselling loudspeaker in JBL’s history. In 2018, we are proud to bring you the JBL L100 Classic, a modern take on a time-honored legend. The Classic features vintage styling, including a retro-inspired design and iconic Quadrex foam grille, along with newly developed acoustic technology and designs for elite performance. The 1-inch titanium dome tweeter is mated to a waveguide with an acoustic lens for optimum integration with the 5-inch pure-pulp cone midrange driver directly below it. Powerful bass is provided by a 12-inch cast-frame, white pure-pulp cone woofer in a bass-reflex enclosure, tuned via a single front-firing port tube. The high-frequency and mid-frequency L-pad attenuators on the front baffle preserve the classic features of this iconic legend.
- Retro design with iconic JBL styling and vintage Quadrex foam grille in a choice of three colors: black, orange or blue
- Genuine satin walnut wood veneer enclosure with black painted front and rear panels
- 12-inch white cone, pure pulp woofer with cast frame
- 5-inch pure pulp cone midrange
- 1-inch titanium dome tweeter
- Bass-reflex design with front-firing port
- High-frequency and mid-frequency L-pad attenuators
- Description: 3-way Bookshelf Loudspeaker
- Low-Frequency Transducer: 12-inch (300mm) pure pulp cone woofer (JW300PW-8)
- Mid-Frequency Transducer: 5.25-inch (125mm) polymer-coated pure pulp cone (105H-1)
- High-Frequency Transducer: 1-inch (25mm) titanium dome with soft surround (JT025TI1-4)
- Frequency Response: 40Hz – 40kHz (-6dB)
- Sensitivity: 90dB (2.83V/1m)
- Power Handling: 25 - 200 Watts RMS
- Crossover Frequencies: 450Hz, 3.5kHz
- Impedance: 4 Ohms
- Controls: Attenuators for MF and HF drivers
- Connectors: Five-way gold-plated binding posts
- Finish: Genuine walnut veneer enclosure with Quadrex foam grille in a choice of black, burnt orange or dark blue
- Height: 25.06"
- Width: 15.34"
- Depth: 14.625"
- Shipping: 58.5 lbs
|Crossover Frequency||450Hz, 3.5kHz|
|Design||Retro design with iconic JBL styling and vintage Quadrex foam grille in a choice of three colors: black, orange or blue / Genuine satin walnut wood veneer enclosure with black painted front and rear panels|
|Dimensions||15.34" x 14.625" x 25.06"|
|Frequency Response||40Hz - 40kHz (-6dB)|
|Midrange Drivers||5-inch pure pulp cone midrange|
|Tweeter||1-inch titanium diaphragm/soft surround dome tweeter|
|Woofer||12-inch white cone, pure pulp woofer with cast frame|
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