The promise of the JBL 104’s is big ‘studio sound in a portable size.’ The JBL 104 is build based on the 3 series and 7 series by JBL. To already give a hint: the 104's are excellent audio quality for the price! We fell in love with the size, portability, price, and quality of the audio for general monitoring.
JBL is known for making professional monitoring systems and used that knowledge to make a smaller portable speaker.
We are very curious how well this idea turn-out into a good reference system! Read-on for our full review.
When are the JBL 104 a right choice?
The monitors are built for content creators of all sizes and expertise such as video and audio editing. It’s great to use as an affordable desktop speaker to get a better idea of what’s going on in your audio.
It’s a professional reference monitor designed for small spaces but still, offers a lot of detail audio-wise. It’s so compact since the woofer and tweeter are from the same component, this resulted in saving space in the height of the speaker. This is called a: coaxial speaker. The speaker has a size of 4.5-inch and a 19mm soft dome tweeter in the middle.
Build quality of the JBL 104
The speaker is built from plastic with a metal grill and volume knob in the front. In general, they feel very well build. JBL did a good job to create a speaker that is easy to take with you and hard to damage. It's thick plastic material and does not feel cheap!
We like that the button on the back to turn them on and the volume knob in the front is made from metal instead of plastic. The power cable input line is also well-designed and build. JBL also build-in a standby mode if they are not used and turn-back on when receiving a signal again, we would prefer if this was a function to be switched on or off.
There is an aux-in which is handy when you quickly want to play some files without an audio interface but with your phone for instance. The Headphone output is also at the front of the speaker to plug-in your headphones, if you don’t use your audio interface headphone line. When you take the speakers out the box, they look like standard consumer speakers - but they are not when you hear the sound that comes out of these small speakers.
There is an RCA input, 6.3mm TRS input and a 3.5 mm aux in and headphone out. All the necessary cables are included in the box.
The AMP has 60 watts in total and divides that in every 30 watts over each speaker which is perfect for a small room. Frequency response goes down to 60 Hz and up to 20kHz according to JBL.
Since the bass port is on the back of the monitor, you maybe think you can’t place them against any wall, but JBL took this in considering while designing them. We tested this in the office (and of course, you have to leave some space between the wall and monitor) but sound-wise no problem at all and still clean low-end response.
We find the speakers sounding clear for most uses. If you want to play audio on a louder level and get them closer to the maximum output, you will hear some audio-loss. But that’s not what you want to do with speakers like these. Overall, we are impressed by the volume they can create and still maintain the sharpness of the audio quality.
We would not use the JBL 104’s for professional studio use and mixing and mastering when you need high-end details, but that’s not what they are made for! The 104’s can be used by many kinds of content creators who love the portability, affordable speakers and enough to hear what they are doing with their audio. We love the movement of making good audio monitors accessible to a broad audience and the new generation content creators; this will help to get the quality on a next-level.
You can produce music and perform audio editing on the 104’s since there is enough clarity in them. Considering the price, it’s great value for the money for many people.
Well done JBL!