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This article was originally published in issue #31
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JBL is one of the most respected names in speaker design. But does expertise at the top-end of the pro market necessarily translate into products useful in a home studio? Andi Picker checks out a pair of very affordable new nearfields from the US monitor masters.
Despite the mantra that the “home/project” studio is killing the commercial music creation market, there seem to be plenty of old-school manufacturers happily working their way into the smaller studios. The great news for budget sensitive studio is that it’s often possible to get the benefits of high-end design work in a cost-friendly package, and that’s what the LSR305 monitors from JBM seems to be offering.
The LSR305s are two-way nearfield monitors with a 5” low frequency driver and a 1” soft-dome tweeter. The MDF cabinets are finished with a fairly standard black foil with sloped edges to reduce refraction on the corners. All told they look pretty similar to lots of other small studio monitors; except for the HF driver wave guide which looks as though it may have been borrowed from a cave somewhere near Gotham City! That Bat-Horn is designed to spread the high frequency sound for a wide and stable stereo image and it appears to work. JBL calls this flair the Image Control Waveguide, and it’s one of those design features that started life on JBL’s top-end M2 Master Reference (big!) monitors.
Around the back are the power inlet and switch, XLR and TRS balanced inputs, +4/-10dB input sensitivity switch, LF/HF trim switches each allowing +/- 2dB adjustments, a volume knob and power switch, and the JBL Patented “Slip Stream” bass reflex port. I almost missed a couple of neat features (or non-features) on the back panel - there’s no input voltage selector - the power supply will work with anything from 100 to 240 Volts/50 or 60 Hz, and there are no cooling fins because the built-in amplifiers are Class-D devices (which makes the monitors both economical and cool to use, and light in weight).
OK, hook them up and let’s try them. On power up you get an indicator light on the front panel, and first impression is that the sound is warm and full and without being boxy. After a few minutes I couldn’t resist turning them all the way up up with AlterBridge’s “Cry of Achilles“ blasting. They go loud, but not stupidly so, and I popped the low frequency switch to the -2dB position to reduce the enthusiasm of the lows and low mids a bit. I’m not sure quite why the options for the bass trim are -2/0/+2 dB as I can’t actually imagine wanting more bass out of this box, and a greater cut might be useful if you need to position the speakers close to a wall or corner. The 5” driver really does move under a heavy bass onslaught, and the rear bass port pumps some serious air too. When I deliberately put one of the speakers a bit too close to a wall the bottom/low mids got a bit unruly, and a few minutes spent carefully positioning it certainly paid off in terms of clarity. Bear in mind though that this was with the speakers full-up which is NOT the role of nearfields; listening at my more “conversational” level they behaved very well indeed with good definition and excellent stereo sweetspot.
There are lots of speakers available at around the price of the LSR305s, and I honestly couldn’t pick a single model and say “this is the one to buy” because we all have our own internal image of what we want our monitors to sound like in our room. That said, the LSR305s have a lot to recommend them, and I’d certainly put them on my must-audition list if I was after a pair of monitors at this price point. Note that there’s a bigger 8” driver model if you want more power and more low-end drive, and a 10” sub-woofer if you really hate your neighbours!
I think these speakers stand up very well to anything I’ve heard at their price point – try a pair and see if they match your “inner ear”.