JBL Arena 180 Review

Arena Rockin' Classics In New Clothing

JBL Arena 180 Review

After several years on the market, JBL decided to replace the Studio 100 series with a new series called Arena, and after winning an EISA-award for being 'European Best Value HT Speaker System 2015-2016' we thought it would be interesting to check out the floorstanding front speakers, the JBL Arena 180.

Unlike the predecessors unusual and striking looks, JBL has designed the new Arena range using a completely conventional style, more in the same vein as the ES series. While this in itself is not wrong, many consumers often demand instant recognition and a clear visual separation of the brand, and a too ordinary appearance may deter some from buying. However, despite lacking any visually impressive impact, a more detailed examination reveals finely-made side panels with rounded edges. The sides are finished with a very good natural wood imitation in black, while the rest of the cabinet is in matte black. The Arena speakers are also available in white.

JBL Arena 180 black
JBL Arena 180 white

Apart from the rounded edges, the speaker cabinet is characterized by flat surfaces tapered to the rear, and the top, which is angled downward. In addition to being nice-looking, this also helps to reduce standing waves inside the cabinet. We couldn´t find any information on the thickness and how the cabinet is built and structured, but by measuring the sides we´re guessing it to be a bit more than half an inch.

The front panel and the speaker drivers can be covered by using the included cloth grille, leaving you with a black column, interrupted only by the silver accents on the grille and the JBL logo. Removing the grille shows a set of three drivers in a TMM (Tweeter-Midrange-Midrange) configuration with a 1″ textile dome tweeter on top. The tweeter is placed in a large HDI (High Definition Imaging) waveguide, which is, according to JBL, inspired by JBL’s own M2 Master Reference Monitor. Below the tweeter are two midrange-woofers with a diameter of 7 inches and membranes of polycellulose and the cut-off frequency is set at 2.1 kilohertz. This setup gives the Arena 180 a frequency range of 39 Hz to 40 kHz, with a sensitivity of 88 dB and a nominal impedance of 8 Ohms.

Powerful Soundscape

In terms of positioning, Arena 180 proved to be no different than most other similar floorstanding speakers of similar size and price. Because of the bass-reflex port in the back, the speakers need some distance from the back wall, and it is a good idea to place them at least a couple of feet from the side walls as well.

When it comes to connecting the speaker cables, the Arena 180's are equipped with very good terminals with gold-plated bindings and solid plastic screws. The terminals are single-wire and can take bare wire, spades or banana connectors.

JBL Arena 180 grille
JBL Arena 180 speaker terminals

Listening Experience

The first thing that we noticed when playing music on the Arena 180's is the very large sound stage. Compared to many other speakers with similar design, dimensions and price, it creates a wider scene, while maintaining good spatial positioning in depth.

During the test JBL's floorstander proved to be a great choice for rock, metal, blues and all kinds of music with a 'high energy' sound. Heavy beats and deep bass are complemented with excellent dynamics, and the overall sound field is really impressive. The lowest notes feel massive and well defined, giving the impression that it digs quite deep, and at the same time manages to maintain a sense of momentum that drives the music forward.

The midrange gives us a dynamic and clean presentation, and the character can be described as relatively neutral with a solid definition. The amount of detail is good, but it gets partially overshadowed by some of the more dominant bass frequencies. The highest frequencies are also well defined and clear in its presentation, helping the music come alive with a very good spatial positioning of instruments – lead instruments are easy to hear and follow and the same applies to vocals. All these attributes make the Arena 180 an excellent speaker for heavy rock, metal, pop, electronica and any other genre with focus on beats and rhythms.

When we move on to classical music, jazz and singer/songwriter music it showed us that the Area 180 could do a better job in terms of finesse. Double bass and drums in a small jazz band sounded great, but the mid and high tones lacked sophistication and fine detail - the things that gives this type of music soul.

We had a similar experience with more complex orchestral music, in which the overall atmosphere was powerful and impressive, but with a lack of the finest resolution. On the other hand, Arena 180 provided a very good spatial placement of the orchestra, with a clear positioning and hierarchy among the instruments. Now, we must emphasize that the more finely detailed and subtle songs still sounded quite pleasant and pleasing, but the JBL's did not reach the level of detail and subtlety as some of its competitors. In other words, the Arena 180 accommodated certain music genres more than others, which was clearly heard in our test.


JBL is known for building really good 'Rock Speakers' and we guess the Arena 180 falls into this category as it doesn´t handle more subtle music equally well. It kind of lives up to its name. This can be somewhat mitigated by matching it with the right amplifier with a more detailed and subtle sound character, but these JBL speakers will always do things with an extra degree of aggressiveness and agility. However, this isn´t necessarily a bad trait for fans of rock, metal and electronica. If that´s the case, the JBL Arena 180 may be the perfect companion for an awesome musical experience.

In addition to the Arena 180, JBL has also introduced a smaller floorstander, Arena 170, bookshelf models Arena 130 and Arena 120, and a center speaker, Arena 125C, which lets you put together an exciting, powerful and EISA-award winning surround system. For our part, we believe that the 180’s are really great at doing what they do best, so if it fits with your taste in music, be sure to listen.


  • IN ThE bOX
  • Inspired by JBL’s legendary M2 Master Reference Monitor

    High Definition Imaging (HDI) waveguide technology takes its cues from the legendary JBL M2 Master Reference Monitor. Computer-optimized driver positioning and network integration result in ideal performance and lifelike soundstage imaging. Proven acoustic superiority through rigorous testing and real-world evaluation.

    Signature JBL loudspeaker performance

    Two 7-inch (178mm) high-output polycellulose woofers operate in conjunction with a rear-firing tuned bass port, delivering accurate sound worthy of a standing ovation.1-inch (25mm) soft dome tweeter provides clean, powerful highs. Tight, extended bass response optimized for show-stopping listening, whether for movies, TV, music or console gaming.

    Understated, contemporary look and feel

    Contemporary cabinet shape with angled side and top panels provide a sophisticated, modern look.Soft-touch paint around the transducers and on the waveguide.Available in black and white finishes with minimalist grilles and brushed metal trims.

    An audio powerhouse at an affordable price

    The perfect trifecta of JBL power, precision, and affordable pricing.

    Just one part of an even more powerful system

    Intended for use in conjunction with the entire series of JBL Arena loudspeakers: 2 floorstanding speakers, 2 bookshelf speakers, 1 center channel speaker, and 1 subwoofer model.

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Old Price: $274.95
Current Price: $274.95