JBL L82 Traditional assessment: These retro audio system supply trendy acoustics

It’s been practically a yr since I reviewed the JBL L100 Classic, a reimagining of one of the well-known audio system of many years previous. It rapidly turned considered one of my favourite audio system.

With the smaller (however not actually not small) L82 Classic, JBL has outdone itself once more, at the very least within the reviewer’s eyes. At $2,500, it is without doubt one of the most satisfying audio system to grace my condo — one that appears good, sounds nice, and has the measured efficiency to again it up.

Design

The retro look — a boxy wood design with an enormous woofer — is more likely to be divisive, however I really like how completely different it appears from virtually anything in the marketplace. It’s a press release piece, and it matches the Brooklyn hipster-ish vibe of my condo properly, although I do want the speaker got here in lighter tones; I believe a end in white with lighter wooden wrap might higher match many varieties of recent decor.

As with the L100 Traditional, the L82 will be ordered with the road’s iconic waffle-iron-looking grille in black, blue, or orange. I’d’ve opted for the blue, personally, however the black unit I reviewed is a impartial possibility that ought to work in many individuals’s houses. I simply want the grilles used magnets as an alternative of annoying friction-based pegs. Not every little thing must be retro.

JBL does make customized stands for the L82 at $250 a pair, which sit slightly decrease and angle the unit up barely. However in contrast to the L100 Traditional, for which I believed the customized stands had been needed, the L82 can simply about match on a typical bookshelf speaker stand with out wanting ridiculous.

In any case, you’ll wish to set them on a sturdy floor, because the L82 is available in at a hefty 28 lb per speaker, what with its giant, boxy design and 8-inch woofers. Not like the L100 Traditional, the L82 is a 2-way design with only a woofer and a tweeter. This will typically create issues for integration because of the giant distinction in dimension between the items, however as we’ll see later, the tweeter’s waveguide and talent to increase decrease than standard, guarantee a easy transition between the lows and highs.

The Setup

Earlier than we get to the sound, it’s price noting that the L82 has a customizable sound profile — one thing uncommon to seek out in a passive pair of audio system (as in, one which requires exterior amplifiers and doesn’t function digital sign processing).

That is due to a high-frequency knob which provides you positive management over the speaker’s higher frequency response. The knob covers a large portion of the frequency vary, and due to this fact can successfully change the speaker’s sound quite dramatically. Too vivid? Flip the knob down. Too darkish? Flip it up!

I want extra audio system would come with bodily controls like this. Although you may all the time EQ the sound manually by way of an AVR or different machine, typically only a slight change within the tilt of the frequency response is the distinction between a speaker sounding ‘good’ and ‘great’ in your house.

One other means the L82 allow you to tweak sound is in the way you place the audio system. Not like the L100 Traditional, which had an asymmetrical format wherein the tweeter was all the time on the identical facet of the physique, the L82’s tweeters are mirrored.

This implies you may regulate the soundstage of the speaker to a notable diploma relying on which speaker you select as your left and proper items. You possibly can have the tweeters on the within edge for a barely extra targeted, barely extra compressed soundstage, or on the surface edges for a barely extra expansive however diffuse soundstage.

JBL doesn’t present a selected advice within the L82’s handbook, however Chris Hagen, the L82’s designer, advised me:

“In setups the place the audio system are broadly spaced in comparison with listening distance, the audio system needs to be positioned in order that the tweeters can be inboard, or nearer to one another. This could even be the case if each audio system are inside, however subsequent to, reflecting surfaces (such because the partitions, or giant items of furnishings).

If the audio system are positioned nearer collectively than the listening distance and there aren’t any reflecting surfaces simply outboard of them, then it’s endorsed to position the audio system in order that the tweeters are outboard, or furthest away from one another.”

I most popular the outboard place. Although the speaker sounded good with each setups, the distinction in spatial presentation was fairly apparent in my dwelling, with the outboard place yielding a extra expansive soundstage, even when I attempted transferring the speaker to compensate for the distinction in tweeter place. Your mileage might fluctuate.

The Sound

I’ve to confess, I used to be slightly nervous going into this assessment. The L100 Traditional is considered one of my all-time favorites, and I didn’t know if the L82 would be capable of recapture that feeling. In any case, I’ve listened to some wonderful audio system since then.

My worries had been misguided. The L82 are great.

Just like the L100, there have been three issues that stood out to me specifically: First, a improbable, expansive soundstage. Second, an overarching sense of neutrality regardless of the retro appears. And three, a toe-tapping sense of dynamics one hardly ever finds in bookshelf audio system.

Though impressions of soundstage will fluctuate from room to room, the L82 managed to throw a picture that appeared to increase properly past the sides of the audio system — each horizontally and vertically. The sense of scale is spectacular; on albums for operas and musicals like the wonderful Hadestown, the L82 make it straightforward to think about singers occupying a bodily stage in entrance of you quite than being replicated from a pair of bins.

The L82 shares a tweeter and a shallow waveguide with the L100 Traditional that’s designed to throw out a large soundstage quite than the deep waveguides or horns that are likely to slender the soundstage on some trendy audio system. The Buchardt A500, for instance, has a barely extra targeted soundstage than the L82 as positioned, however I most popular the L82’s sheer sense of scale in direct comparisons.

By way of tonality, it’s straightforward to imagine the L82 would have a ‘retro’ sound because of the appears — one would possibly anticipate exaggerated bass, scorching highs, or different apparent coloration to provide it some sort of particular attraction. However no — these are audio system impartial sufficient I’d be completely satisfied to make use of them as studio displays.

That’s to not say they’re utterly devoid of character. The audio system did have only a little bit of a midbass emphasis that give kick drums some additional oomph — a ‘flaw’ I don’t thoughts. Although bass amount can fluctuate relying on your house and placement, the L82 attain low sufficient that almost all customers in all probability don’t want a subwoofer (though I all the time suggest one).

That is very true when you largely take heed to acoustic music, however even on Beyonce’s ‘Partition,’ a observe that begins with a frequency sweep that feels like a subwoofer check, the L82 manages to current all however the deepest sub-bass. You must get helpful vitality into the 30 Hz area in-room.

On the treble entrance, the default ‘0’ knob setting might have only a tad extra ‘sparkle’ than impartial when you intention the audio system proper at your listening place, however as I most popular them with just a bit little bit of toe-in, I discovered the default stability largely applicable.

In any case, these are comparatively delicate traits that may be tweaked by knobs and positioning; the prevailing impression is considered one of transparency. Vocals shine specifically, to my recollection having a extra impartial tonality out of the field than maybe any speaker I’ve heard because the Dutch & Dutch 8C.

Lastly, ‘there’s no substitute for displacement,’ because the saying goes; on this case, which means the 8-inch woofer gives comparatively easy dynamics in comparison with the standard 5 and 6-inch woofers in your common bookshelf speaker. Although I are likely to pay attention at don’t-annoy-my-neighbors volumes, I received the distinct impression the L82 was capable of hit dynamic peaks extra cleanly than most audio system meant to be mounted on a stand. After I did threat an aggravated knock on my door, the L82 managed to get as loud as my ears might deal with with none audible distortion.

The measurements

I virtually all the time define my listening notes earlier than taking measurements, as I attempt to not let the information colour my subjective ideas an excessive amount of. I additionally prefer to suppose I can puzzle out a lot of the qualities of a speaker by way of listening alone.

Generally I’m a bit off from the mark, however this doesn’t appear to be considered one of them. I famous the L82’s prevailing traits are neutrality with an expansive, correct soundstage, and that is evident within the measurements.

Some background: Utilizing a technique that permits me to scale back the affect of reflections from my measurements, I can approximate the speaker‘s “true” sound as it might be measured in an anechoic chamber. We start with a graph known as a ‘spinorama,’ so-called as a result of it entails rotating the speaker round its horizontal and vertical axes to seize its sound at 70 completely different angles. Sure, that’s as tedious because it sounds.

The spinorama was truly developed by researchers at Harman, JBL’s father or mother firm. It distills these multitudinous information factors into one easy graph, giving us a helpful abstract of each the speaker‘s direct sound and the way it radiates sound right into a room. This single graph is often sufficient to separate the nice audio system from the unhealthy ones.

Right here’s the spinorama I measured for the L82 Traditional with the HF knob at its default setting: