In today’s review we will look at another great but budget friendly studio monitors the new JBL 104 monitors which is also known as JBL Professional 1 Series, Compact Powered Desktop Reference Monitors.
Now the brand "JBL" promises that these tiny audio monitors are supposed to give you proper studio monitor performance.
But in the form factor of something that you'd normally associate the JBL 104 with regular desktop PC speakers.
Do they live up to that promise let's find out.
If you don't want to read through out the review check out the below video
Features and Review of JBL 104 audio monitors
The JBL 104 is from a new generation altogether of course but after a few weeks of daily use I found I got a similar feelings from them as that of regular desktop speakers.
JBL 104 1 series come as a pair with all the amplification coming from the master speaker.
And the second one is a passive slave just connected by a regular speaker cable.
However, the construction is mostly hard ABS plastic with a sturdy metal grill across the whole front of each speaker and feel solid without any weird creaks or rattles in my testing period.
The amp in the master speaker provides 60 watts of long-term power, 30 for each speaker.
And from my experience I think the power is more than enough for near-field close up monitoring.
According to brand JBL 104 Professional 1 series pitch the output at 92 decibels continuous at a 1 meter distance.
And I was getting more than that comfortably when sat at my desk more like 50 centimeters away.
The so called JBL “desktop audio monitor” feature a coaxial woofer design.
Meaning that the 0.75 inch tweeter is in the center of the 4.5 inch woofer.
So you can conclude that with woofers that small in size bass is not going to be the Forte of the JBL 104.
But there is still a healthy amount of bass to enjoy at close distance. As the low-end frequency response goes down to 60 Hertz.
So with that amount you won't be shaking the room with them but you don't feel like you're being short-changed when it comes to hearing bass lines properly.
The speaker's are rear ported which can sometimes be an issue with monitors designed to sit on a desk often or in front of a wall. But it seems like JBL have taken that into account with the design.
I found JBL 104 desktop monitors give a nice neutral sound across the board, certainly accurate enough for bedroom production and editing.
There's no harshness or breaking tones comes with speaker until you absolutely max the speaker's to its extent.
Which is obviously not recommended and shouldn't be necessary in a near field scenario.
One big advantage of the JBL 104 is that the desktop monitors have coaxial layout.
The coaxial layout allows the monitors to be significantly smaller than those with separate woofers and tweeters.
I swapped my regular 5 inch monitors with 104 in my desktop setup and I was astonished at just how much space I got back on desk.
JBL 104 with compact size that combined with the rock solid build quality and low weight means that the 104 can not only be squeezed into any setup but they could well be useful in a mobile studio situation as well.
This is why JBL is providing a small protective carry case with the speaker bundle.
JBL 104 professional desktop monitors is a brezze to carry on your travels as they support worldwide voltage.
And they have an internal power supply with the standard IEC c7 or figure 8 connector (also known as infinity or shotgun connector) which I always prefer over a wall warts.
The 104 have an automatic standby mode which kicks in after not being used for a while. In general I prefer for that to be a manual option but it's not a big issue at all.
When talking about connection JBL 104 a decent input connectivity option.
On the rear of the master speaker you have both unbalanced RCA and balanced quarter inch jack inputs and you can have both hooked up simultaneously which is quite handy.
On the front of the speaker you have an 8 inch aux input as well although that one does override the two rear inputs.
The front face also has the illuminated volume knob and 1/8 inch headphone socket which cuts the speaker sound off when you plug your headphone in.
The thing to note is that :
I did experience a bit of hum (noise) from the headphone output. Which isn't present in the speaker's themselves. But I got the noise only in some setups so I suspect that may be due to a ground loop issue in my house.
My regular monitors are literally unusable without a ground loop isolator in the same situation.
And there's no doubt that having an easily accessible headphone socket at front is a really handy feature to have. Especially, as the volume knob works for the headphones too.
So In case if you're running from an audio interface with no volume control you're good to go with and can control the volume from the speakers.
My Experience With JBL 104
So following is my experience with the monitor set.
I've been really impressed by these a lot more than I expect it to be as mainly considering the low price for the pair and the small size of them.
But don’t let the size fool you they really are proper studio monitors.
You've got a great nice, neutral, accurate sound, There is some decent low-end in there but it's not going to shake your room as these are a very small monitors.
If you're a bass fiend this is not for you. For greater bass you must consider buying a bigger monitors or a subwoofer or something like that, but for a regular kind of desktop setup mixing and monitoring JBL 104 is really are a great choice.
The sweet spot is nice and wide so you don't have to be too accurate with how you position them to get good sound.
Also that small form factor is a real bonus in some ways.
You can fit them in anywhere on a desk, if you're DJing at home and you haven't got room for a big pair of monitors in your setup you can kind of squeeze these in anywhere you like.
The other thing is they're very portable, one of the master monitor is the heavier one of the two because it's got the amp in.
Despite that it is still nice and light and the solid construction is going to take a beating for sure.
So if you're traveling around or you're recording or doing something like radio mixes on a regular basis in hotel rooms then these would be a great choice for that as well with international power supply there too.
So for such a bargained price for a pair I think these are quite astonishing value. They really are well put together, great sound for that kind of money very very impressive hardware indeed and thoroughly recommend it.