Having sat on the periphery of ‘home’ speakers for many years, JBL have released their new Stage range. Built on the bones of their renowned studio speakers, the JBL Stage A130 are aggressively priced in a saturated point of the market. So will they sound different enough, or even good enough to distinguish themselves from the rest?
The range itself is contains two floorstanders (A180 and A190), two subwoofers (A100P and A120P), two centres (A125C and A135C) and two standmounts (A120 and A130) – so you’re already spoilt for choice. This review will be focussing on the larger of the standmounts – the A130.
Coming in just below £200 at the time of writing, the speakers have plenty of competition from the likes of the Dali Spektor 2‘s, Wharfedale Diamond 220’s and Fyne F300’s. So JBL need to muscle in on the limited space, both on the market and the shop shelves!
Out of the box, the finish already feels a little different. Whilst lacking the same quality of finish as other standmounts such as the Bowers & Wilkins 607 S2’s, the clean black and white finish is a nice contrast to the commonly found wood vinyl finishes that take up so much of this range.
Admittedly, this is the one and only choice you’re getting, but with pop-fit grilles to hide the white drivers and a matte black finish they don’t need to be the most obvious boxes in the room. The curved baffles to the edge of the cabinet also make the finish clean and surprisingly stylish for the price point.
The drivers themselves are split between a beefy 5.5” polycellulose mid-bass woofer and a 2.5” aluminium tweeter. The tweeter bears more mention due to its *ahem* HDI (High Definition Imaging) waveguides. Marketing jargon aside, they do ensure the sound is as detailed and bright as you’d expect from a set of studio-monitor inspired speakers.
This DOES also mean that you want to make sure they’re as toed-in (or not) as you feel comfortable with. If you’re using these as an affordable set of passive monitors, you’ll probably want them aiming directly at you to get every drop of detail from them. However, if you’re looking to sit and listen to a relaxing album or for background listening, you can aim them at the area at large, not directly at your ears. Otherwise you may find the brightness a little fatiguing.
You may think this makes them tricky to place – however the bass driver manages to get a decent amount of extension without the use of the rear-facing bass port, which itself can be plugged easily if they’re literally against the wall.
Musically, they’re detailed and impressive. The studio pedigree of JBL comes through here and gives an accurate and cohesive sound. Instruments sit where they’re supposed to and vocals are crisp, albeit a little sibilant if you’re sitting with them toed in. Foo Fighters’ “Monkey Wrench” sounds as grungy as it should without losing focus on the drum line holding it together or of course Dave Grohl’s vocals sitting dead centre in the track.
The Monitor Audio Bronze 50’s manage to sound more at home with this fuzzy go-to track and rock their own clean aesthetic, but don’t work as well as studio speakers. As the speakers come with their own range of cinema style speakers (centres and subwoofers) as well – it stands to reason they should hold up against other rivals at this level.
The same brightness follows through with them in movie-viewing, particularly vocals which are nice and precise – something sought after these days with modern sound-mastering.
They can sound a little too bright when placed against the Dali Oberon 1’s – where the silk-dome tweeter sounds a bit more natural than the aluminium on the A130’s, but offer plenty of punch for their size. The JBL Stage A130’s are a fantastic entry to the market and are versatile enough to deal with whatever you may reasonably throw at them.
Learn more about the JBL Stage A130 speakers.
Author: Tom, Cardiff Store