My Story I always liked large vintage JBL speakers. Unfortunately
large vintage JBLs are not very popular in the UK, so
finding them is either very difficult or very
expensive. The situation is slightly better with smaller JBL
speakers. There aren't many of them but they are definitely
easier to find.
I was aware of Model L26 from various websites and forums, and
they seemed to be appreciated by majority of people who were
exposed to their sound - often described as "west coast sound".
I was lucky enough to buy them from a local musician. Speakers
had normal wear and tear signs, and very typical, pushed in
tweeter dust caps. Other than these cosmetic 'issues', they were
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 specs from the original
schematics, so there was no need for a recap. Of course, one may
want to use high-end caps or modify the crossover, but this
review is of the unmodified speakers.
I was going to write few words myself but I came
across this text in the speaker manual, which explains well of
what the designers were trying to acheive:
"The L26 was developed through the technology that made JBL
the leading manufacturer of loudspeaker system for professional
use. It meets the same stringent requirements imposed on JBL's
studio monitors - clear, crisp reproduction, freedom from
distortion and lack of coloration - all reasons most major
recording groups insist on JBL professional loudspeakers for
live performances as well as studio recording.
The L26 achieves the open, effortless performance that is
characteristic of JBL loudspeaker systems. It even approaches,
within just a few decibels, the thunderous volume levels
required of JBL monitors in the recording studio. Each component
of the L26 - low frequency loudspeaker, high frequency direct
radiator frequency dividing network and enclosure - has been
designed to function as part of the complete system, optimizing
performance and efficiency without sacrificing definition or the
ability to accurately reproduce the fleeting bursts of sonic
energy, known as transients, so essential to realism.
Like all JBL loudspeaker system, the L26 utilizes a ported
enclosure to increase efficiency and dynamic range rather than a
sealed "acoustic suspension" enclosure which achieves bass
response at the expense of efficiency, dynamic range and
transient reproduction. Efficiency is important for two reasons;
it permits use of a relatively low power, moderately priced
amplifier, and it allows the amplifier to operate at a lower
power level, providing the reserve necessary to achieve full
dynamic range and excellent transient reproduction. Efficiency
and outstanding reproduction make the L26 ideal for the music
listener wanting to combine superb performance with compact
Look & Feel
The finishing quality is fairly good but not
the best I’ve seen. The enclosures are made from 18mm chipboard,
finished in a real wood veneer and dampen with fibreglass. Not
the most rigid but sufficient for what they were meant to be
The drivers are very well made. The 1.4in
paper tweeters are not something that we see every day. The bass
drivers feature 10in paper diaphragms suspended on foam surrounds
and driven by small alnico magnets. Unfortunately the suspension foam deteriorates after 10 to 15 years and the
drivers need to be re-foamed. Not the end of the world but I like
the things that last.
The crossovers are fairly basic and feature budget components
(electrolytic capacitor and small inductor in each) with an exception of
the L-pads which look decent and are made by Alps.
These were the first JBLs I was going to
experience and I was not quite sure what to expect... First
thing I noticed was how effortless and smooth the sound is.
Despite the fact that the sound is not very transparent and lacking the
low level details, it is still very pleasant to listen. I've
used these speakers as my main speakers for over two weeks and
played wide range of tracks through them - not even once I
thought "oh, this sounds rubbish, lets change the track". Yes of
course, some of the songs could do with greater transparency and
more background details etc., but overall these speakers turned
out to be quite easy to listen.
Midrange and treble appear to be well balanced.
Clapping as well as saxophones sound quite realistic and voices are
smooth. The speakers give an impression of deep and wide
soundstage and they are surprisingly good at imaging. What they
do very well too is reproduction of string instruments. They
sound very realistic and remind me a little of Tannoy LGMs.
Bass-wise, these seem to give an impression
that they go lower than they actually do. They definitely
produce a lot more bass that you would expect from a speaker of
that size. However, the dynamic is where they exceed the most. It may well be
the boosted frequency around 120Hz that does it, nonetheless, it
is quite impressive. I have a good quality recording of drums
made at the Sheffield studio, which I use for these types of
tests, and these JBLs really rock it. And I mean it - at the
same volume level, they provide greater 'oomph' that my modified
Yamaha NS1000 with 12in bass driver and 70l ported enclosures!
Judging purely by ear, without any frequency response tests,
they appear to be tuned in a smiley face style - with a boost to
bass and treble.
Very enjoyable and easy to listen. Fantastic
dynamics and very realistic at reproducing string instruments.
Good all-rounders for not a lot of money. If I had a choice to
spend £150 on modern tower speakers or these vintage JBLs, I
would go for these JBLs every single time.
Balance of Sound:
Neutrality of Tone:
Please note - if you want to know what I
mean be the descriptions above, hover you mouse over them.
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