JBL Classic L100


Stand mount monitors

Arguably, JBL is one of the most influential companies in loudspeaker business. If time travel was possible, and if JBL had been erased, we would be listening to different speakers than we listen to nowadays. That´s history. The new generation links JBL to portable speakers, boomboxes, headphones, and home cinema installations. But JBL is still active in serious loudspeaker business, and sometimes it travels back in time.

Function and form

Ease of use

Recently, Audiodrom has reviewed Fyne Audio’s take on vintage speakers. Fyne Audio used the appealing part of their own (ex-Tannoy) heritage and revamped it with up-to-date technologies, to preserve the form and massively improve functionality. The JBL’s approach is different. This is a true resurgence that pushes all the sentimental buttons.

The L100 was launched in 1970 and remained in production for 8 years, until 1978. My first opportunity to audition the as-is today version was in 2019, at its premiere at Munich High End show. Paired with Mark Levinson electronics the small speakers easily filled one of the big rooms with a lot of rock energy. This pretty much summarizes the Classic L100’s strong points: they need to play loud, and they are rock oriented.

The cabinets are the good old shoeboxes with front baffle populated by drivers, ports, and knobs. A 3-way speaker requires three drivers, so here they are: a 300mm white pulp woofer, a 125mm black pulp midrange driver, and a 25mm titanium dome tweeter embedded in a shallow round waveguide. Next to the midrange driver there is a port of the same size. The two knobs provide the option to adjust high and mid frequency content, although the settings cannot be reliably recalled as there is no scale printed on their backplate.

Around the back, there's a single pair of gold-plated binding posts recessed in a rather ordinary plastic tray. The grilles are arguably the most attractive part of the Classics. They come in rugged texture and are available in several striking colours. They can be also purchased separately if one wishes to replace them based on mood. As with any other real vintage speaker, the grilles are attaching to the baffle with plastic pegs.

I recommend placing the L100 Classics on dedicated metal stands (optional accessory) for the stands are tilted upwards, which is necessary to get your ears on axis with the drivers when seated.

Bass management


Although the JBL Classis L100 is a bookshelf speaker officially, it is quite a big one, with big drivers too. Unlike many other bookshelf speakers this one can play in near field as well as in far field with the same verve. There are some limits to it, though. I started my listening with Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake, namely with a transcription for two pianos, played by Mari and Momo Kodama (Pentatone). The romantic piece does not miss drama and expressiveness when played on pianos, and if you add a healthy dose of energy of the JBL L100, the sound should be fantastic, should it? Almost, if the speakers were not centered on midrange which gives them forward sounding coloration, that is lean in bass. I guess that the first thing to do for anyone who owns them is to fiddle with the tone control knobs on their baffles to change the default balance to something more acceptable. Turn the MF adjustment to the left and the music becomes sweeter and more inviting.

Clarity & delicacy


What is the main take-away? The JBL Classic L100 is not your usual audiophile loudspeaker, as well as it deliberately departs from what we call a neutral speaker. You have the freedom not to use the tone controls and rely on midrange-centric forward tonality or use them and suppress the midrange to get the popular broad dip that sounds comfy and soft to ears. Neither justifies rather high asking price of these JBLs. However, if you want your music played with a lot of energy, it is not easy to find it somewhere else. There the JBL excels.

Tonal accuracy

Temporal resolution

Although rock music is particularly good through the Classic L100, it can play swing very well too. Fannie Mae (Jaco Pastorius Live in NYC) appeared to be a good program for the JBL, and Pastorius’ bass – after necessary tone knobs adjustments – exhibited good drive and growl. The sound had the raw quality, as if I listened to a recording that had not been produced and polished yet. But then, indeed, the sound of AC/DC and their Soul Stripper was even more magnificent and conjured up the images of me listening to a stereo combo in my father´s garage. So go and get your favourite Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Queen, and Black Sabbath albums.

Spatial resolution

Soundstage width
Soundstage depth

The JBL Classic L100 can sit on a shelf (is there anyone who puts speakers on a shelf?), or on their dedicated stands, that are low and tilted to align the drivers with the listener´s ears. This way I did not expect any proper soundstaging qualities from the L100. Laterally these JBLs were quite OK, provided that they have space around, but the depth lacked layering and resolution. I guess this is a tax paid for the vintage format; I certainly never thought about any “depth of image” back in 70´s and 80´s.

JBL knows how to build great speakers in any price range. Look up their Studio range, professional monitoring speakers, or fabulous Project Everest DD67000. The Classic L100, however, is a sentimental piece for those who want to be sentimental, and a lifestyle speaker for those who want to be ´cool´ by owning ´cool´ speakers and a ´cool´ turntable with a couple of records. Perhaps JBL could have provided a Bluetooth connectivity in the L100…

Price as reviewed:125 000,- Kč

Recommended resellers

AQ s.r.o., Červenka, tel. +420 585 342 232

Associated components

  • Sources: Arcam CDS50
  • Amplifiers: Arcam ST60 preamplifier, Arcam PA240 power amplifier
  • Interconnects and speaker cables: AudioQuest Carbon, AudioQuest Rocket 44
  • Power conditioning: AudioQuest Thunder, AudioQuest Niagara 7000


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