My JBL LSR305 Review – A Good Professional Studio Monitor?
The overall balance and sound imaging created by the LSR305 powered monitors from JBL are everything consumers have come to expect from the company. JBL succeeded in creating an affordable speaker system that boasts an impressive amount of performance without breaking the bank.
Although these speakers aren’t capable if wireless streaming and must be set up differently than typical shelf speakers, the LSR305s (available for $265 as of this writing, see here for live pricing), should be on the short list of any consumer looking to add some serious sound to their home studio or living room.
Overview of the JBL LSR305
Despite the relatively low price of these speakers, the LSR305s look good. From the glossy circles around the drivers to the sleek jet black plastic lines, these studio monitors look much more expensive than they actually are.
Looks aside, these speakers provide just enough controls and connection points to offer exceptional functionality without overly complicating them. Basically, the result is an easy-to-use speaker system that still offers enough functionality to keep audiophiles happy.
Key features of the LSR305 include trim controls for both the high and low frequencies as well as individual volume potentiometers with fixed adjustment points for matching the output levels of the two speakers with ease.
- Tweeters: Another noteworthy feature of these speakers is the rounded points surrounding the tweeters. At first glance, it may look like the tweeters are buckling in on themselves, but this breakthrough design is a key component of JBL’s patented Image Control Waveguide (ICW) technology. This technology is supposed to break up audio frequencies to provide a large audio image that can be enjoyed from nearly any listening position without compromising sound rendering accuracy across the soundstage. While testing the LSR305, it becomes immediately apparent that ICW isn’t just a marketing gimmick – it actually works as well as JBL claims it does.
- ICW: ICW was first introduced in JBL’s $26,000 flagship M2 Master Monitor. Since the ICW technology relies mostly on physical modifications to the tweeter instead of digital circuitry, it was relatively easy for the company to include ICW on the LSR305 without dramatically increasing the price of the monitors. That said, the addition of ICW to these entry-level monitors helps to put the LSR305s well ahead of other studio monitors in the same price range.
- SlipStream and LSR: Two other features included in the LSR305 are JBL’s SlipStream low frequency port design and the patented Linear Spatial Reference technology (LSR) from which the speakers derive their name. SlipStream uses a double-flared bass port design that provides the woofer with improved low-frequency extension. LSR technology employs an impressive 72 axis measurement that allows the speakers to fit nearly any sound space with ease.
- Connectivity: Source connections included with the LSR305s include both XLR and ¼” balanced inputs that accept consumer level -10 dB signals and professional +4 dB signals. This allows the speakers to be driven using a variety of sources from a smartphone to a professional DAC.
- Frequency Response: Each monitor speaker is equipped with a long-throw 5” woofer and a 1” soft-dome tweeter. These cones are driven by 41 watts of Class D amplification and JBL claims that the LSR305s have a frequency response of 43 Hz – 24 kHz. This provides for plenty of high end extension but might not impress those looking for lots of low-end response. A subwoofer may need to be added for additional bass response but this is not at all uncommon for monitors using a 5” woofer in the first place.
During initial testing, it became apparent that panned instruments didn’t move while the center image seemed to follow even listeners into the periphery with ease. Even when moving all the way to one side of the room or the other, vocals still sounded perfect (almost like listening to a mono source), but the stereo panning becomes slightly evident at these extreme listening angles.
Deep Sound: Overall however, the ICW technology does a fantastic job of carving out a deep, almost 3D, sound image. Every sound seemed to have a clearly identifiable origin even when moving across and throughout the soundstage and the result is a very impressive sound that most would assume was being emitted from a speaker setup much more expensive than the LSR305s.
Good, But Not Perfect: As impressive as the LSR305s are as an all-around studio monitor at an affordable price, there are some areas where the overall sound quality could be improved.
For instance, the midrange seemed to lack punch, especially when playing certain genres of music. The LSR305s produce quite a bit of bass considering the size of the monitors, but the tremendous high-end rendering makes the bass seem almost flat at times. This meant that certain instruments, such as heavy electric guitar and snare drums, never truly popped with the same excitement as many of the other instruments played through the speaker pair.
Pricing = Good Value: That said, for speakers that barely break the $250 price point, this is a small complaint and most people will find that the overall sound quality of these speakers is difficult, if not impossible, to match with any other speaker that is even reasonably close to the price of the LSR305s.
Versatile: The versatility of these speakers is also noteworthy because even people without a proper preamplifier can connect to the LSR305 in a variety of ways. Even when connected to the headphone output of a laptop with a stereo RCA cable and ¼” adapters, the speakers sound excellent. When using a configuration like this, make sure the speakers are set to accept -10 dB signals and adjust the volume on the back of the speakers to the desired level. After that, you can adjust the incoming levels by using the volume controls of the source device.
DJs, novice sound engineers, and music lovers alike will appreciate the premium performance offered by the LSR305s. These speakers look good, sound great, and offer a lot more performance than most other speakers in this price range. There is plenty of hype surrounding JBL’s ICW technology and after hearing this technology at work in such a small package, it is clear that this hype is well-founded. ICW really does help these speakers to fill the room, regardless of size, shape, or resonance.
- Extremely wide center image
- Well defined, deep soundstage
- Accurate and very smooth high end
- Impressive bass response considering the size of the speakers
- Impressive sound for an affordable price
- Midrange can be weak depending on the type of music played
- Bass response can be greatly improved with the addition of a subwoofer (not uncommon for a 5” monitor)
Final Cut – Are They Worth the Price?
Overall, the JBL LSR305 is an excellent choice whether you are using it as a studio monitor or just as a way to play your favorite tunes from a variety of input sources. These speakers are affordable but sound like they should cost a lot more than they do. They look the part as well and you would have no problem telling your friends that these speakers cost twice as much as they are because they really do sound that good.
If you’re looking for a compact speaker system that produces a lot of high-quality sound regardless of what configuration you use, the JBL LSR305 is an excellent choice that you will not regret. Check them out for yourself– you’ll likey be as impressed as we were.