Speakers are a personal thing. I grew up listening to my father’s hi-fi system, of which he was very proud. It consisted of a Sansui AU-5500 integrated amp driving a pair of Pioneer three-way speakers with 12″ woofers. It sounded great for vinyl playback and he even had twin cassette decks for A to B or B to A dubbing as well as taping from the radio or LPs. I made many a mix tape on that system. Although in a two bedroom house with six other siblings, I spent most of my time under headphones.
I splurged during college and bought a pair of B&W CDM SE1 bookshelf speakers with matching subwoofer, powered by an Adcom preamplifier and amp. I also bought a nice VPI turntable, which is the only piece of that system I still own. Once my wife and I started our family, a dedicated listening room became a fantasy and a liability. And I needed the money for the little mouths!
I hung on to the B&W sub for awhile as well but eventually traded it for a pair of Mackie HR824 studio monitors in 2008 to replace some Alesis M1 active monitors that I never liked. To be honest, I’ve never cared for the Mackies either but I’ve learned their (many) weaknesses and can whip up a decent mix on them. Still it was a good trade; finally I had a decent monitoring solution for my burgeoning humble home studio setup.
I’ve worked in many studios with a range of different monitors. I’ve used to work every day on a pair of Genelec 1031A monitors at Michigan State University. I have my opinions about a lot of different brands. But one brand I never paid much attention to is JBL, despite having nothing but respect for the company and its lineage.
I attended my first AES show in NYC in October 2013 with my good friend and studio owner / engineer / acoustician / musician Glenn Brown. While I was mainly enamored with the beautiful microphones, the tantalizing mic preamps, the retro tube outboard gear, and especially the Yamaha Nuage system (drool!), I did spend an afternoon listening to all the monitor speakers I could find on the floor. This included the new series from Neumann, the top of line ATC model, the new five-figure Genelecs, the Yamaha HS series, and a bunch I cannot even recall.
On a whim, Glenn and I stopped by the JBL display and they had their brand-new LSR 3-series hooked up. We listened for a bit and were both immediately impressed by the sound. Both the 305 and the larger 308 sounded really good, with a slight edge going to the 305 in terms of the tightness and definition of the mid-range. Even on the noisy AES floor, the speakers made a lasting impression.
I asked the JBL rep about the price of the 305 model and he said the MAP was $399. I said, “Oh, $399 each, that’s not bad at all.” He said, “No, $399 for the pair.” To say I was shocked is an understatement. I put them in the back of my mind for a potential future purchase.
At the moment, I am in the middle of mixing three projects; Greg Nagy’s upcoming release (which I also engineered as well as wrote songs for and performed on), my own progressive rock project, and a cool little EP for a friend’s band featuring Farfisa accordion, drums, and guitar. I thought the time was perfect to revisit the JBL LSR305 monitors, especially since JBL lowered the price to $119 each*. I figured if I didn’t like them in the studio, what did I have to lose? At the very least I could use them on my workbench to play some tunes while I’m fixing pianos and such.
Now I’ve only had them for a few hours but difference between the Mackies and these little JBLs is, to use a common cliche, night and day. The JBLs are about half the size, but the sound they put out is incredibly enveloping, with pinpoint stereo imaging, a detailed mid-range, beautiful high-end, and a tight low-end that’s only limited by the size of the 5″ woofer. No you won’t be able to hear those low sub basses if you’re doing electronic music, but for almost everything else there’s plenty down there. And frequencies are balanced perfectly; the highs revealing and non-fatiguing, the mid-range focused and clear, and the low-end tight and defined. JBL does offer a companion subwoofer, the LSR310s, if your music needs it. That may very well be my next purchase.
The biggest surprise is the stereo imaging. I can now hear (FINALLY!) in exquisite deatil when I move the panning control within Cubase even just 1 notch to the left or right. They also exhibit a sense of depth that makes you feel like you can reach right into the audio.
The feature set is pretty basic. The back has the IEC power connector (cord included), on/off switch, XLR and separate TRS 1/4″ inputs (no combo jacks, hooray!), an input sensitivity switch (-10dBv or +4dBu), master volume, and two contour switches that affect the highs and lows. A nice soft white LED on the front signifies power. That’s it. Right now I’m running mine completely flat (no EQ engaged) and the volume all the way up, controlling the levels from my Yamaha N12 mixer.
The frequency range is listed as 43 Hz to 24 kHz. A quick test with a sine wave generator in Cubase confirmed that they do indeed emit 43 Hz, albeit with a rather steep drop-off in volume.
So are there any negatives? Just one that I’ve noticed so far; they are a bit noisy. An audible low-level white noise hiss is present at all times and does not change regardless of the position of the master volume knobs. It isn’t terribly loud but it’s constant.
Other than that small issue, I love these speakers. I have no idea how JBL is able to make these at such an affordable price. They are easily worth three times the list. If you’re looking for a compact near-field monitor for your home studio, or a second pair of speakers for comparison, just buy them. You won’t be disappointed. Check out the cool speaker comparison widget over at Sonic Sense to hear how they stack up against the big dogs and then give my friends at Sweetwater a call to get a great deal.
UPDATE (Nov 3, 2014): I just bought three more LSR305 speakers in order to create a 5.1 mixing environment in my studio. I have removed the Mackies and I’m selling them. I also have the LSR310s subwoofer on order from Sweetwater. I am very happy with the LSR305 speakers. My mixes have improved immensely and I notice details I didn’t notice before. I can’t recommend these little speakers enough.
UPDATE (Dec 3, 2014): The LSR310s subwoofer is the perfect match for the speakers, as one would expect. I was using a friend’s KRK sub with my Mackies and the JBL is far tighter, more defined, and more balanced. I was able to do the first 5.1 mixing for my THEO project and I am thrilled with how they came out. The mixes translated extremely well in the professional mastering studio after mixing on the JBL 5.1 system.
* NOTE: The $119 each price quoted above was a special summer sale via Sweetwater. The normal price is $149 each, though deals can be had.
I have the Samson SE5 monitors and listened to the above speakers on sonic sense and they also had my SE5’s there as well. They sounded both great with the edge to the JBL’s for being more tighter in the low end. I’ve had JBL’s back in the 70’s/80’s then moved to Polks in the 90’s then in 2005 to definitive technology for my home speakers but still like the JBL’s for recording best. How are they sound with different genres (e.g, Jazz, electronica, etc.) to you?
Keeps these great reviews and demos coming:)!
Just an update. I bought the LSR 305’s in Sam Ash 2 weeks ago (Traded in my Samson Resolve SE5’s at a lost financially but big gain in sonic quality).
Needless to say your Review is spot on with one noted exception. I’ve had a few friends and relative with better hearting in the upper frequency and even with my hearing I’m not hearing and buzz or low level white noise you described in your article above. This was confirmed by several other pair as well as mine.
I’m using XLR connection to my Allen & Heath Zed 10 main out mixer with no hum or noise that is noticeable.
The music is much richer and more detailed now and I can pick out any errors in mixes easier now than before.
Now for the big update, I ordered the JBL LSR 310s and should receive it in a few days.
The bass on the 305’s are more than adequate, but being the music geek I am anxious to hear how the subs sound with the matching speakers.
I will update you once I have them and tested them a week. If I don’t like them I can return them in 45 days but my guess based on the 305’s this will probably be a keeper.
FYI, I ordered them online from a trusted sited (not Sam Ash) and got them at 359.99 instead of 399.99 and no sales tax or shipping charges.
Best wishes and keep up the great reviews. Looking forward to your new album with Greg Nagy I hope will be out soon.
Maybe they fixed the white noise issue. It’s definitely there on my pair but it’s not anything that bothers me.
I want to get the sub as well. Let me know how you like it!
Did you ever figure out the “WN” issue? I just purchased a pair, and JBL has most definitely not fixed the issue. Top notch sound though, to be sure!
Nope. They are noisy. It’s a shame because that’s really the only negative I can find with them. I absolutely love the sound and my mixes have improved dramatically since I installed them. Maybe they’ll fix that in a new model. Who knows?
Will do. I expect them before the weekend. I ordered the XLR as well but they are being shipped from a different facility and may not get them till next week.:(
So I have to figure out an alternate way of setting the sub up till the XLR cables arrive.
I’ve received the LSR 310S subs and hooked them up properly to my Allen & Heath ZED 10 Main out as they were the only available XLR connectors. After trying different settings on the sub/mixer/speakers to get the best balance as far as volume and overall mix the results have confirmed my expectations. Summing up my findings as follows:
1. I did not hear any bass from the System (or thought I didn’t) with the volume set to the midway point on all 3 speakers and crossover set to 80 hz at first. I thought this was unusual but then I was testing with some of my older mixes I posted up on SoundCloud.
2. Then I played a few newer songs and some remixes done by GDeed, That was MUCH better and made me realized that my original mixes were not balanced correctly as to low frequency contents. I did make a minor increase on the Sub (about 60% – 70% full volume) and that made a bigger difference the base was solid.
3. Then I tried the middle setting (XLF for eXtra Low Frequency) and then WOW! The bass was deep yet not boomy and your John Patton number, “Along Came John” sounded like your band was playing right in my studo.
4. I then patched in my SK1 61 into my mixer in stereo and played some organ solos through it live and it sounded better than my KB 100 Amp with deeper bass than the KB100’s 15″ speaker but not muddy and clean highs.
Bottom line: Definitely worth the money. (359.99 with 1 year free extended warranty and free shipping from the online company I got it from.)
These JBL’s will been my keeper for years to come.
If you want the site I got it from, I can send it to you directly. I don’t want to seem like I’m plugging them on your site.
Thanks, Tony. Looks like my next purchase is the sub.
Sorry, I have a stupid question…
I want to buy JBL 305s for:
Listening songs on YouTube using my Smart TV…
and playing games on PS3.
My new Sony LCD TV is good, but sound sucks… Are these good for that? I mean these are not exactly Hifi… these are professional… but are they gonna make Youtube music sound worse than my crappy TV speakers?
Not a stupid question at all. In fact, my music computer, to which these JBLs are connected, is also my gaming machine and I’ve enjoyed the speakers in that role. I think they would be a great choice. They don’t have a ton of low-end, so if you’re looking for chest thumping explosions you’re not going to get that, but the low-end is perfectly fine for most music and certainly for YouTube.
Thanks a lot sir, you just helped me to decide.
After your review I bought a pair of the JBL LSR305 Near Field Monitors as well as a JBL LSR310S Sub.The guy also sold me the XLR cables and the XLR to mini jack to hook it all up to my PC through the headphone jack.
I did and it sounds fantastic and easily trumps my Bose Companion 3 multimedia speaker system I had even though they did sound pretty good!
He mentioned it might be better with an interface but left it at that, so my questions are:
Do I need an Interface?
What exactly will I gain sound wise?
What is sound phase between the speakers & the sub?
Thanks for your great review!
I’m glad you’re digging the LSR305. How do you have them connected to your system now? Are you using the output from your computer’s internal sound card?
As for phase in audio, this article may help: http://www.uaudio.com/blog/understanding-audio-phase/
Great review, very helpful in my research. I now run a pair of LSR305 and a pair of LSR310s and am very happy with them. I really don’t do much recording (have a pair of Equator D5 for that since they’ll fit on my desk) so these are used to fill my whole 1st floor quite admirably with music. The dispersion is uncanny and they really do fill a space. And the subs have great punch and clarity – a far cry from most “pro” subs. The crossover is very well-designed and useful. I use 80Hz for most of my listening, but the XLF setting sure can make a party! 🙂
Hi guys, this is probably very subjective, but… I am looking for a neat sub to connect to a JBL portable PA system (EON206P) to beef up the base in multimedia presentations during seminars. The seminars will be held in small to medium size halls with between 20 and 60 people. Would the JBL LSR310S Sub give enough punch to be used for a seminar audience? Or is it just for small apartments and music rooms? How much punch does it have and how well does it carry? Would it work or should I look at something else? Any advice would be appreciated. Thanks!
I would not use this particular JBL sub for that application. It is meant for nearfield monitoring, which means sitting very close to the speakers. I would look at a small, powered sub meant for PA use, like the Bose B1.
Thanks so much Jimmy!
That’s what I suspected but I didn’t want to go purely on personal speculation.
I’ve also since been told that the EON206P is probably not ideal for my needs either. Apparently it’s quite small and only suitable for small groups of around 30 people or so.
My attention has now been turned to some powered speakers and a sub from Alto Pro. Apparently they’re very decent sound for a fair price and will give me more power and volume for a larger audience at the same budget. Unfortunately less portable but not the end of the world.
Thanks again JImmy. Have a great week!
Maybe, mine are less than 24 hours old, lol, so as of yet.
I did just read that if you have them running thru your PC or Mac, that it will create interference, ie White Noise. Someone posted that he bought a “Hum Destroyer” and it worked! So……hmmmmm
I have mine connected through the Yamaha N12 digital mixer, which is a professional piece of gear. I don’t think it is the source of white noise since my old Mackie HR824 monitors were completely silent when they were connected to it.
The white noise also doesn’t change if you adjust the gain on the speakers themselves, which tells me it’s coming from the speakers themselves and not something connected to their inputs.
Right, you’ve def done your homework, so I have a feeling I’m gonna have to live with it
Lots of people swearing by em though. $25, so may give er a try!
Since you are an organ player, I would like to ask you about using a pair of JBL LSR305 monitors with an organ. I’m just a beginner with both sound issues and organ playing. I want to buy a Roland AT-350C organ and a Roland PK-9 pedalboard and I need a pair of active nearfield monitors (I’m just going to play for fun at home and I’m not going to either mix or produce the sounds).
If I’m not wrong, the lowest C on an organ pedalboard is about 65 Hz. So, it seems that a subwoofer isn’t necessary since the JBL LSR305’s lowest frequency is 43 Hz. However, the AT-350C organ has 2 drawbars for the pedal section (I suppose they are 16′ and 8′). So, for the lowest C on the pedalboard, the 16′ drawbar would correspond to a 32 Hz sound (Am I right?). Does it mean that if it would be better to have a subwoofer for that low frequencies or isn’t it really necessary?
I live in a flat (with neighbours above and below me) and the organ would be in a very small room (about 6 m2) without any acoustic treatment. If I need a subwoofer, I’m not sure if the LSR 310S would be too powerful even a low volume levels (do windows, walls and floor be constantly shaking with the bass sounds from the organ?). Do you think I could use a subwoofer (I could place it on an isolation pad…).
I must say that I’m also interested in being able to use the organ with Hauptwerk (a pipe organ software emulator) (I would also need a powerful PC with a very good sound card). Pipe organs do use very low frequency sounds, so a subwoofer would be really necessary in this case… but only if it is compatible with having neighbours above and below me…
Thank you very much in advance for your help,
Thanks for taking the time to read the review and respond. Yes, you will certainly need a sub for any kind of organ emulation if you’re using bass pedals. Hauptwerk is fantastic. Using it without a sub would be a crime! 🙂
The LSR310S has an adjustable gain control, so you could set it as to not disturb your neighbors as much as possible.
I have the 305’s. They’re the best in their class, respectfully. I mean they’re active studio speakers, designed for separation. So if imagine they would work fine for keys as well as anything else. I haven’t needed a sub, they’re plenty bassy imho. Money well spent.
I don’t know if this site is intended to advertise JBLs LSR range, but I have very mixed feelings about the LSR 305’s and “matching” LSR 310S subwoofer that I’ve bought. The 305’s work well as limited range near-field monitors, but the only way I can hear the LSR 310s subwoofer is if I get down on the floor and place my head to it! Seriously, this sub is way underpowered. I have to use the extended low frequency to even get a light thump out of them, and the 80Hz setting is near ZERO volume, both settings with the volume turned all the way up. Quite frankly, I expected much better performance from this sub, and I think JBL pulled a “fast one” on consumers when they dropped the price by $100. Clearly, the amp is very underpowered. One other complaint I have is that the LSR310S is HUGE! This thing is almost the size of a sofa’s end table, and it doesn’t need to be. The connections and controls seem top notch, but come on! One can’t just carry this thing on one’s shoulder so that he can hear it, and I expect that the majority of purchasers had no intent of mounting it at ear level! Not enough power even for low listening level studio work. I’m now looking for an inline power booster or a replacement power amp for this sub. BTW, I’m using Mogami Gold XLR connectors and the settings are indeed correct. This is just a very disappointing sub!
This site is my personal webspace where I post about my music, gear, musings, etc. It is not affiliated with JBL in any way nor am I.
I have to say, I disagree with your assessment of the LSR310s. Mine is plenty loud and full. Perhaps you have a dud? The system is very balanced. Are you using the system in a music production role or for home listening? How is the room treatment in your listening area?
OK, I found a way to make the big sub acceptable. I turned down the volume on the LSR305s, way down, and turned the volume on the source way up! This provides enough power to make the sub useable in a small room. My source is a Roland Quad Capture and laptop PC. I have a home studio. The sub is very underpowered, but if the source produces enough volume, then one can cut the volume on the LSR305s so the sub can be used. Obviously, the sub is not a good match for the much more efficient LSR305s. This sub could use considerably more power. If one can mount the sub at ear level, I would recommend doing so.
I think you may have a dud. I have the volume knobs on my LSR305 speakers and the LSR310s sub all the way up and like I mentioned, they match perfectly. The system is balanced with plenty of power in the low end.
I’d send the sub back and get a replacement or double-check your wiring and make sure they are connected properly.
Hope that helps,
From the user manual: “When using the LSR310S in a system with the LSR308 or LSR305 studio monitors, set the INPUT
SENSITIVITY switch on the LSR305 or LSR308 to the -10dBV setting regardless of the LSR310S input
sensitivity switch setting.” I assume you did this?
On another note (I posted re: LSR310S sub), my LSR305’s are without white noise. However, I run all of my equipment through power conditioners which removes RFI and provides a very clean, noiseless background. If you’re getting noise and have access to a power conditioner I’d try using it. If running all connected components through the same power conditioner doesn’t eliminate the noise, then I’d suspect some faulty components in the LSR 305’s. …and why not? Perhaps my LSR310S sub has faulty components. That could explain why it has almost NO volume.
No volume issues at all with my 310S used with my 305’s. Would be a common complaint if it was intrinsic to the design. I set the sub’s gain to about match that setting on my 305s, and sens. to -10dBV. Perfect. Seems to be a problem with yours.
I just got these. Sounded great in store. Great at home. But not very loud if just. Using 3.5mm to an xlr connection. Do I need. A pre amp? What would you suggest. More for listening to music not creating it.
So you’re coming straight out of your computer from the 3.5mm headphone jack? That’s probably not ideal. I wouldn’t use a preamp but rather a dedicated audio interface with either 1/4″ or XLR outputs. For example the Steinberg UR22.
Hi, Jim, I see you’ve had success with your LSR speakers in terms of professional mixing. I just read someone describing the speakers as completely unacceptable for even the bare minimum in regards to mixing, here:
I’m skeptical of his statements, since I’ve read to the contrary countless times. What say you, sir?
Well, so far I have mixed THEO – The Game Of Ouroboros on them, jazz guitarist Cory Allen’s All In Good Fun, and I’m finishing up a mix of jazz trombonist Michael Dease’s latest for PosiTone Records, so… I’d say he’s wrong. 🙂