JBL L100 Classic Bookshelf Speaker Review

S

shadyJ

Speaker of the House
Staff member
You can't keep a classic down! JBL has relaunched the legendary L100 loudspeaker. It’s not the same exact design, of course, and JBL has modernized the drivers, crossover, and elements of the cabinet, so while it might have a vintage look, it shouldn’t have a vintage sound. The pricing is in line with the original as well, when adjusted for inflation. It’s a tribute to the classic original, in fact, JBL calls this new one the “L100 Classic”. This is the speaker that we are reviewing today. Read our full review of the JBL L100 Classic for a detailed look at what has changed and what has remained the same.

READ: JBL L100 Classic Bookshelf Loudspeaker Review
 
Kvn_Walker

Kvn_Walker

Audioholic General
It's so hard to look at a pair of those and see $4000. Probably an effect of having not purchased anything new in such a long time.
 
Irvrobinson

Irvrobinson

Audioholic Spartan
Yuck. Some ideas from the past should be left in the past. This is one of them.
 
Big-Q

Big-Q

Audioholic Intern
I am old enough to have heard the originals. I did not like their looks then and do not like their looks now. Still, if it is your "bag" enjoy them. Great review as always. Thanks!
 
Teetertotter?

Teetertotter?

Full Audioholic
I am old enough to have heard the originals. I did not like their looks then and do not like their looks now. Still, if it is your "bag" enjoy them. Great review as always. Thanks!
You don't like the looks with grill or w/o grill? How do you have your current speakers, with or w/o grills?
 
Big-Q

Big-Q

Audioholic Intern
You don't like the looks with grill or w/o grill? How do you have your current speakers, with or w/o grills?
I always have the grills on. I do not care for the eggcrate of the JBL's especially the orange and blue.
 
Eppie

Eppie

Audioholic General
Of those JBLs that I have heard with 12" or 15" woofers, I generally like the sound and bass performance that those big drivers offer, but I have never been a fan of those "egg crate" grills. There were too many cheap speakers back in the day that looked like that and for that amount of money I would definitely want a different look. As much as we buy speakers for their sound, the aesthetic can still be a big part of the enjoyment.
 
Swerd

Swerd

Audioholic Warlord
Shady, very nice review. Thanks for your good work and your reasonable approach to making sense out of modern methods of measuring speaker performance. Compared to the irrational comments on speaker vertical dispersion that I see on ASR speaker reviews, I much prefer your take on those measurements.

I'm old enough to have owned a pair of JBL L100a speakers since 1973. Some of you may be familiar with how I discarded their original inadequate crossovers, replacing them with crossovers designed by Dennis Murphy. In my opinion, that new crossover is still the best available for these old 3-way war horses.
So, I was interested to see JBL's modern approach to their re-design of an old war horse. Their new design uses three very different drivers than in the 1970s, and JBL does a much better crossover design. All make for a big improvement over the 1970s L100s.

The old L100 speakers had a few problems that even a new crossover could not affect. The JBL 123A 12" woofer was meant for a large sealed cabinet, between 3.9 and 5.9 ft³. (See below) The original L100 cabinet was ported and much smaller, about 1.8 ft³. It's bass performance had a Qts well above 1.0, and it sounded like it. There is an exaggerated peak in the range of 60-80 Hz. It helped sell a lot speakers, but it rang and muddied up the lower mid-range. So, I like the woofer that JBL uses in the L100 Classic. It seems to work much better in that cabinet.
1620064334354.png


The other problem in the original L100 is repeated in the L100 Classic. The asymmetric layout of three drivers was done in the 1970s, but just shouldn't be done now that we know better.

I've been told that JBL chose that strange layout deliberately, so owners could lie them on their sides or stand them vertically, without "significant" change in their sound. Most people I knew in the 1970s kept them on their sides. Shady's measurements addressed the affects the asymmetric driver layout has. It was nice to see that discussed with the perspective of your measuremets. Again, thanks.
 
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S

shadyJ

Speaker of the House
Staff member
It's so hard to look at a pair of those and see $4000. Probably an effect of having not purchased anything new in such a long time.
Keep in mind that is about how much the originals cost when you adjust their prices for inflation.
 
Swerd

Swerd

Audioholic Warlord
Keep in mind that is about how much the originals cost when you adjust their prices for inflation.
Agreed. But for $4,000 I think there are much better speakers available. The L100 Classics appeal more for old guys' sense of nostalgia than sense of value.
 
Swerd

Swerd

Audioholic Warlord
Those foam grilles still attract a lot of attention and comments – not all of them good.

In the early 1970s JBL sold them in three colors: brown, orange, or blue. The polyurethane foam had very large holes, and was brown. The orange and blue versions were spray painted brown foam. I had orange :).

Like all polyurethane foam, mine disintegrated sometime in the late 1980s. At the time, I bought a JBL kit that allowed me to cut away all the foam, and replace it with brown cloth in the same walnut finished frames. Cloth lasts, and polyurethane doesn't unless it has anti-oxidant additives in it.
 
Irvrobinson

Irvrobinson

Audioholic Spartan
Shady, very nice review. Thanks for your good work and your reasonable approach to making sense out of modern methods of measuring speaker performance. Compared to the irrational comments on speaker vertical dispersion that I see on ASR speaker reviews, I much prefer your take on those measurements.

I'm old enough to have owned a pair of JBL L100a speakers since 1973. Some of you may be familiar with how I discarded their original inadequate crossovers, replacing them with crossovers designed by Dennis Murphy. In my opinion, that new crossover is still the best available for these old 3-way war horses.
So, I was interested to see JBL's modern approach to their re-design of an old war horse. Their new design uses three very different drivers than in the 1970s, and JBL does a much better crossover design. All make for a big improvement over the 1970s L100s.

The old L100 speakers had a few problems that even a new crossover could not affect. The JBL 123A 12" woofer was meant for a large sealed cabinet, between 3.9 and 5.9 ft³. (See below) The original L100 cabinet was ported and much smaller, about 1.8 ft³. It's bass performance had a Qts well above 1.0, and it sounded like it. There is an exaggerated peak in the range of 60-80 Hz. It helped sell a lot speakers, but it rang and muddied up the lower mid-range. So, I like the woofer that JBL uses in the L100 Classic. It seems to work much better in that cabinet.
View attachment 47242

The other problem in the original L100 is repeated in the L100 Classic. The asymmetric layout of three drivers was done in the 1970s, but just shouldn't be done now that we know better.

I've been told that JBL chose that strange layout deliberately, so owners could lie them on their sides or stand them vertically, without "significant" change in their sound. Most people I knew in the 1970s kept them on their sides. Shady's measurements addressed the affects the asymmetric driver layout has. It was nice to see that discussed with the perspective of your measuremets. Again, thanks.
Nice post, but for the original originals, I'll stick with "yuck".

I don't know about your modified version, but not only was the original difficult to listen to, they didn't image worth a damn. The speakers never disappeared; even my Audioengine things do that.
 
Mark E. Long

Mark E. Long

Audioholic Chief
Had a pair of the A’s always layed them on there sides had the brown grills traded a pair of l-36’s in on them . I always thought they sounded decent with that old style tweeters. Really can’t remember what I paid with a trade in . I got them at Newcomb Sound in Columbus Ohio . At the time they were a service center and a dealer here in the Midwest . I drove them with a Marantz 2265B receiver . They always sounded good to my young ears at the time .
 
lovinthehd

lovinthehd

Audioholic Jedi
Yeah the JBL West Coast Sound wasn't for everyone I suppose (or those grill colors), but I grew up on it and have always enjoyed the L100, was one of the better speakers I found at my friends' houses (only one friend owned a pair, but several of the parents did). I found them a bit too much for my audio budget at the time and went with Advent Originals, which were very nice speakers too and cost less than half as much. A coupla years ago I saw a pair of 4311Bs go up for sale nearby at a reasonable price and grabbed 'em. They're the mains in my workshop....their form factor is fine out there and I sit at my work bench marveling at the nice imaging.....but maybe its just nostalgia :)
 
Irvrobinson

Irvrobinson

Audioholic Spartan
A friend who is a lurker on this site asked me why I’m so crabby in this thread, even beyond my usual demeanor. Fair question, I thought. After a few seconds of reflection I know the answer - I despise nostalgia. I can’t think of one nostalgic product that strikes me as a good design, except that it looks like an old design. Perhaps Marantz will come up with a new AVR styled like their 1970s receivers.

Obsolete designs are typically obsolete for a reason (perhaps several of them).
 
lovinthehd

lovinthehd

Audioholic Jedi
A friend who is a lurker on this site asked me why I’m so crabby in this thread, even beyond my usual demeanor. Fair question, I thought. After a few seconds of reflection I know the answer - I despise nostalgia. I can’t think of one nostalgic product that strikes me as a good design, except that it looks like an old design. Perhaps Marantz will come up with a new AVR styled like their 1970s receivers.

Obsolete designs are typically obsolete for a reason (perhaps several of them).
It's funny because I expected your comments on the speaker (pretty sure you've said as much in other threads).

LOL that would be so much better than the porthole styling of current Marantz avrs/pre-pros....plus it would have a plethora of shiny knobs and toggles and spinning tuning wheels.....to keep the hands-on audiophile busy and his eyes mesmerized by the magic blue light!

Then again vinyl is having a small resurgence too....and those Marantz receivers go for more now than they did new (and had one at the time, just do not understand that at all myself).
 
Out-Of-Phase

Out-Of-Phase

Audioholic General
A friend who is a lurker on this site asked me why I’m so crabby in this thread, even beyond my usual demeanor. Fair question, I thought. After a few seconds of reflection I know the answer - I despise nostalgia. I can’t think of one nostalgic product that strikes me as a good design, except that it looks like an old design. Perhaps Marantz will come up with a new AVR styled like their 1970s receivers.

Obsolete designs are typically obsolete for a reason (perhaps several of them).
I guess that means 1955 Chevy's are out for you too.
 

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