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REVIEW: JBL L20T

My Story
   I was searching for a small set of speakers for my bedroom and came across these monitors. A quickJBL L20T - Pair Of Speakers (Thumbnail) internet search revealed mostly positive opinions and because I really enjoyed listening to JBL L26 and L100, I thought I would give the L20T a go. The speakers, apart from a couple of scuffs here and there, turned out to be in very good condition.
   Please note - usually before reviewing vintage speakers, I recap the crossovers to ensure that capacitors are within manufacturer’s specification. On this occasion, caps were within spec from the original schematics, so there was no need for a recap.

 

 

Speakers Info
   Following the success of JBL's L Series from 1970s, JBL decided to release another L Series in the mid-80s. As previously, the whole series was a domestic version of JBL's studio monitors from that era, and included the following models: L20T, L60T, L80T and L100T. The studio equivalent of the reviewed speakers were the JBL 4406 - nearfield studio monitors. The L20Ts were a compact two way bookshelf speaker, that according to JBL, are supposed to offer extended frequency response, great dynamic range and reproduction of the full sound stage. They feature JBL's acclaimed titanium high frequency transducer, O35Ti, which allows them to go way above the audible frequency range. Considering their size, they offer extremely high power handling, which combined with their average sensitivity of 87dB, means that they can be played very loud.
 

Factory Specifications:
Frequency Response:
Sensitivity:
Impedance:
Power Capacity:
Drivers:


Crossover Frequencies:
Enclosure Type:
Enclosure Dimensions (HxWxD):
Weight:

Additional Information
Production Year:
Price When Launched:
Equivalent Present Day Price:
Current UK Price:

45 - 27,000Hz (+/- 6dB)
87dB (2.83V input, measured at 1m)

100W (continuous program)
HF - O35Ti 25mm (1") Titanium Dome
LF - 115H-1 165mm (6.5") Polypropylene Cone

3,000Hz
Bass Reflex
375x240x210mm (14.75x9.5x8.25")
7.5kg (each speaker)


1985
£335*
£970*
£100 to £250*
*For a pair.



Look & Feel
   The finishing quality is very good. The enclosures are made of chipboard, finished in a real wood veneer and dampened with open cell foam. Quite rigid and relatively heavy considering the size.
The drivers are very neat and remind me a bit of the units from Yamaha NS-1000s - very industrial and solid. The tweeters feature domes made of titanium, whereas the bass drivers feature cones made of polypropylene, suspended on rubber surrounds. These are driven by relatively hefty ferrite magnets, mounted on the back of rigid cast alloy baskets. The crossovers are pretty standard and feature decent components (in comparison to JBL crossover's from the 70s).
 


Sound
   Having experienced and being impressed by older JBL monitors, I had really great hopes for these little bookshelf speakers. When I plugged them in for the first time, they very much reminded me of my laptop speakers (i.e. raising frequency from 500Hz to 10kHz). It felt as if something was missing in the midrange, which made them sound a little bright. I was hoping that this feeling will go away as I spend more time listening to the speakers. Unfortunately, regardless of how many attempts I made,  it did not go away, and I constantly felt a lack of something.
   Because of this, my perception is that midrange and treble are not well balanced. Clapping sounds more like rain and I do not enjoy the saxophones. Furthermore, the speakers give an impression of a relatively small sound stage - this is especially noticeable, when I compare them directly with my Yamaha NS-1000. When I switch from Yamaha's to JBLs, everything becomes smaller and shallower (of course the distance between the speakers was the same for the two sets). This means that instead of creating an illusion that I am at a concert, they just make me feel like I listen to a set of speakers. The vocals and guitars tend to sound ok, but nothing to write home about.
   Bass-wise, they go quite low for the size, however, because of the amount of treble they generate in relation to bass, they sound quite thin. This is very noticeable on recordings with pianos and double bass. Drums sound quite dynamic, but not the most realistic.
Overall, and despite trying very hard, I struggled to find anything that I would like about these speakers. Which is interesting, as I have seen plenty of positive comments on various forums. It clearly shows, how subjective our sound perception is...



Conclusion
   Not very enjoyable and not very engaging to listen. Thin and relatively cold sounding. Good attack for the size and impressive power handling.
 

Balance of Sound:  
Neutrality of Tone:  
Transparency:  
Soundstage:  
Attack:  
Engagement:  
TOTAL:  

Please note - if you want to know what I mean be the descriptions above, hover you mouse over them. More detailed information will be available in separate section of this website.

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