16/04/2014
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Review:The JBL LS80 Reviewed

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JBL LS80, big, intimidating and beautiful.

I must admit I was skeptical at first when I saw the JBL LS80 boxes. I mean the European speakers are dominating the market I am involved in, so there must be a reason why this speaker does not get the attention here where I am. But I am convinced now that it is just that some areas in the world are miss informed about the American speaker brand. From pictures only have I witnessed the JBL LS80, and it did not look impressive at all. But I pushed through opening the box and unpacking the tall towers.

First Impression

Now the picture that you have seen of the JBL LS80 does not do it justice. The finish is stunning, professionally build, excellent craftsmanship. The rosewood finish is of high quality, it is big, and it is almost intimidating. My views on American speakers lacking style and beauty was shattered, this really looked nice.

I got the JBL LS80 from our local supplier, and it was packed upside down in the box. The boxes did not seam too big, but when I started to take out the speaker the size became more visible.
UHF and HF Horn-loaded speaker with 2 8inch woofers, big indeed.
Excellent finish. The B&W CM5 and Monitor Audio RX1 being dwarfed in the background

So before we start the test, here is a short description of the speaker

  1. It is a 3 ½ way speaker
  2. Dual 8inch woofers with horn-loaded UHF and HF
  3. Features 176Nd compression driver mounted in a patented JBL Bi-Radial horn
  4. Ultrahigh-frequency transducer: horn-loaded 3/4″ polyester-film ring radiator with frequency response past 40kHz
  5. High-frequency transducer: 2″ pure-titanium compression driver with diamond surround, neodymium-iron-boron magnet and lightweight aluminum voice coil mounted in a Bi-Radial horn
  6. Low-frequency transducer: dual 6-1/2″ pulp cone with neodymium-iron-boron magnet and cast-aluminum frame
General Specification
Frequency Response (–10dB) 35Hz – 40kHz
Frequency Response (–3dB) 46Hz – 38kHz
Power Handling (Continuous/Peak) 100W/400W
Maximum Recommended Amplifier Power 200W
Sensitivity (2.83V @ 1m) 90dB
Crossover Frequencies 400Hz; 6dB/octave; 2.5kHz; 8kHz; 24dB/octave
Nominal Impedance 6 Ohms
Low-Frequency Transducer Dual 8″ (200mm) with cast-aluminum frames
High-Frequency Transducer 2″ (50mm) Pure-titanium compression driver; Bi-Radial horn
UHF Transducer 3/4″ (19mm) Polyester-film ring radiator; neodymium magnet; EOS waveguide
Dimensions (H x W x D) 1104mm x 259mm x 418mm
Weight per Speaker 35.6kg

The First Setup

So my first test was to test the JBL LS80 on a small integrated stereo amplifier, the new Rotel RA12. Really, I did not know what impressed me the most when the music started to play, the Rotel RA12 pushing the large JBL LS80 to play awesome music, or the JBL LS80’s ability to play awesome music with a small amp such as the Rotel RA12. Needless to say, I was impressed. I played Michael Buble’s Cry me a River first. The staging was dead centered. Impressive for sure, the staging was big and wide, maybe because of the compression driver and the horn-loaded design. The vocals were very natural, more than I ever expected from a horn-loaded speaker. The low ends were excellent, accurate and gave believable atmosphere.

So my second song to test with was Dream Theater Octavarium. It starts off with a musical piece where strange back ground sounds comes to the front, and a guitar solo starts to break the air. The eyes once again were very well defined, subtle. When the acoustic guitar piece started it lacked a bit of warmth, but it was on a not so powerful amp so it could be understood. The staging was once again so wide and engaging.

So far I love this speaker.

So then I decided it is time to up the power. I have a setup where I took a new Marantz Home Theater receiver and added a Rotel RMB1575 that is a 5 channel 250watt class D power amp. I did the setup to Bi-Amping, sending full signal to the power amp (very useful from Marantz that when you configure the amp to Bi-Wire, it adjusts the pre-amp output to the same configuration). So 250watts to the lows, 250watts to the highs.

But this time there was a twist, I had the Monitor Audio GX300’s connected on it already. So I let them stand next to each other. The JBL LS80 looked like the fatter brother, but the finish did not look inferior to the Monitor Audio GX300, to be honest, I think it even looked better then the GX300.

So I blasted a Tron Soundtrack song opened wide on the Monitor Audio GX300, the bass was mind blowing, the higher electronic sound was well separated from the bombs of firing bass punches. Both the JBL LS80 and Monitor Audio GX300 is around the same price, same height. The GX300 actually goes lower with 5Hz against the bigger cabinet of the JBL LS80. So I thought the 8inch woofer of the JBL LS80 will slaughter the GX300…not so quickly. I than invited strangers near to come and have a listen. All of them liked the sound of the Monitor Audio GX300 more. The thing is that the separation of sounds with the Monitor Audio GX300 is just much more impressive, but the JBL LS80 again has such big and awesome sound stage, it had more gain to the volume.
I sat down alone and took a long thought about this. The JBL did not sound inferior to the GX300, it sounded bigger, and it sounded more in your face. The GX300 is once again just an awesome all rounder. But between the 2 one will be careful to choose the best, both is equally impressive.
So my last test was classical music. It sounded so European. The sound was really natural, replicating the sound of the instruments was done near perfect, the highs was not sharp, I liked it. There was a piece where a flute was being thrown in between the mass orchestra; it instantly put an image of my head of the Pied Piper dancing children away from their bewildered parents.

Conclusion

Ultimately when you want to pay a bit more for a speaker then normal you will expect it to look stunning and have better performance than the average speaker out there. The JBL LS80 will fit that description, it is really, really good. Even when having it side by side with similarly priced and massively impressive Monitor Audio GX300, it did not stand back. What I will say if you want to listen to pure stereo, there might be better offerings in the same price range from the European stables, but when you require an all rounder for home theater as well, the JBL will be a worthy contender.

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