Great quality speakers have always been an essential accessory for any music fan, and speakers, and other professional audio equipment, has been the domain of the company JBL for a long time. The Authentics L8 is a nod back to their roots, but it also adds something from the modern digital age. L8 is a tribute to the popular Century L100, from which this reincarnation has partly borrowed its design.
Instead of a wooden veneer the L8 uses a shiny plastic coating that resembles the surface of a black piano. It is polished enough to be used as a mirror, and is consequently prone to attract fingerprints. The front and side is covered by a removable foam grille resembling the one you find on the classic Century L100. We´re talking retro-modern styling that can be easily fitted into most modern living rooms and a wooden decór. Removing the grille reveals two 1" tweeters and two 4" woofers. The speaker have a fairly wide frequency range of 55 Hz to 35 kHz.
All controls are placed on top of the speaker. On each side is a silver disc - the left one is switching the sound source, the right one is for adjusting the volume. A translucent ring that lights up and corresponds to the volume level when you turn the volume wheel, which is due to the absence of any designated levels, is useful and effective at the same time. In the middle of this wheel you´ll find a button to turn the L8 on/off.
Connectivity & Features
Connectivity options are, in addition to the sound, one of the major highlights of the L8. And JBL certainly covered this, as you will find almost all modern methods of wired and wireless connectivity. Audio ports for wired connections are partially hidden. The optical S/PDIF input is located at the bottom of the unit next to the power supply, a 3.5mm jack is located in a special chamber at the top under a removable cover.
In this compartment you can also find two USB ports for charging mobile devices and a section around which you can wrap the cable. The chamber has slits on the sides to allow for a cable to run through it, and you´ll also find corresponding slits on the cover. The cover can be replaced with a Qi wireless charging pad (purchased separately) for convenient wireless charging of smartphones and such.
More interesting, however, are the wireless connectivity options. Besides the basic Bluetooth you also find AirPlay and DLNA. Both protocols require the speaker to be connected to your router. This can be achieved in several ways, which are all included the instruction manual. It´s not complicated to connect your iPhone or Mac. The simplest way is to share your iPhone Wi-Fi sync cable. Mac presents a more complex setup, where it is first necessary to connect via Wi-Fi to the speaker and then select Network and enter the password.
Once the L8 is connects to the Wi-Fi it will be available as an AirPlay device and is easily selected from your Mac or iOS device. I appreciate that the speaker detects the app for streaming via AirPlay automatically and there´s no need to manually switch the source. If both devices are on the same network, you'll always find the speaker in the menu option. For PCs running Windows Mobile or Android devices, there is the DLNA protocol, an alternative to AirPlay for non-Apple devices. Since I did not have any compatible devices at hand during the test I was not able to try the DLNA connection, however AirPlay works flawlessly.
I’m a little surprised by the lack of a remote control, as it would make sense especially for switching sources and adjusting the volume. However, JBL solves the problem by offering a modern mobile app (for the more versatile JBL speakers, including Pulse). The app allows you to switch sources, change the volume and equalizer settings and control the Signal Doctor function, which I will tell you more about below.
As I previously have tested the bigger brother to the Authentics L8, the L16, I had quite high expectations. It turns out my expectations weren´t far off. First, I must commend the way the L8 handles bass frequencies. The integrated subwoofer is doing an amazing job. It´s able to pump large amounts of bass into the room without overwhelming the upper frequencies, and I noticed no distortion even at high volumes. Every single bass drum or low-frequency beat is perfectly clear and the JBL plays with a really focused and energetic drive. There is nothing to criticize really. And if you find the bass too strong, you can easily adjust it to your liking using the app.
Equally great are the higher frequencies that are crisp and clear. The only complaint is that the mid-range is a little weaker compared to the rest. Sometimes it also have an unpleasant harshness, but this is often down to the quality of the audio file and not necessarily the speaker – sometimes I noticed it, sometimes not. Overall, the audio performance is excellent. Regarding volume, the L8 has power to spare (4 x 30W) and would probably do alright in a smaller club to be honest. For home listening at relatively high volume, we´ve rarely went beyond more than half the volume resources – the L8 really packs a punch.
I would like to give a special mention to the Clari-Fi technology, known as Signal Doctor in the app. In a nutshell it is an algorithmic improvement of compressed audio, which normally occurs in all lossy formats, whether it's MP3, AAC or music streamed from Spotify. Clari-Fi more or less 'fixes' what was lost during compression and ends up closer to the original sound. When testing on different samples of various audio bitrates, I must say that the sound can definitely improve. Individual songs seem to be more lively, more spacious and airier. Of course, technology can not make a 64kbps track sound like a CD, but the sound can significantly improve in some cases. I definitely recommend using the function as often as possible.
JBL Authentics L8 will delight fans of classic loudspeakers looking for quality sound with a touch of modern technology. L8 gives you the best of both worlds - the classic look of a big speaker, excellent audio reproduction and wireless connectivity, which is nowadays a necessity for mobile devices.
Despite the somewhat weaker midrange, the JBL will please bass lovers, but even fans of classical music are catered for. AirPlay is a big plus for Apple users, as well as a mobile application that can control the speaker. If you are looking for something more compact than a full stereo speaker system for your living room, JBL´s Authentics L8 will not disappoint with its sound and performance.
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- Current Price: $599.95
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- IN THe bOX
- Wireless connectivity for AirPlay®, DLNA® and Bluetooth® devices
- Easy setup and configuration via JBL MusicFlow mobile app
- USB charging for your mobile devices 1/8" (3.5mm) audio input for use with wired devices
- Optional colored grills, floor stand, and wireless Qi charging module available for purchase separately
Type: Powered two-way stereo speaker with wireless audio playback
High-frequency transducers: 25mm tweeter
Low-frequency transducers: 4 inch woofer
Frequency response: 45Hz – 35kHz
Maximum SPL: 104dB @ 1m
Signal-to-noise ratio (wireless & analog inputs): 92dB
Signal-to-noise ratio (digital inputs): 98dB
Amplifier power: 4 x 30W RMS
Amplifier THD at full power: < 0.1%
Wireless audio playback formats: AirPlay®, DLNA®, Bluetooth® with NFC, auto-switching
Connections: 1 x stereo 3.5mm, 2 x USB (type A), 1 x Digital optical input
- 1 Removable speaker grille
- Quick-start guide
- 1 JBL Authentics L8 speaker system
- 1 region-specific IEC power cord