With its new Authentic L8 and L16 speakers, however, JBL has boldly raised its wireless game to a new level. Crafted from solid wood, and dressed with accents plucked straight from the golden age of audio, these gorgeous cabinets blend a retro aesthetic with a modern backbone to bring beauty, brains, and brawn to your living room. And after spending some time with the smaller L8 ($540), we can tell you that this is one gamble that has definitely paid off.
Features and design
There are more ways to connect to the L8 than most users will know what to do with. Wireless connections include Bluetooth with NFC touch pairing, as well as Wi-Fi with Airplay support for iPhones, iPads and Mac computers, and DLNA support for both Android devices and PC/Macs. You can also plug in a TV or other component via the digital optical port. A slightly awkward panel on the top pops off to reveal a few more inputs including a 3.5mm Aux input, and dual USB ports for charging devices and setting up the Wi-Fi connection.
Pulling the screen free reveals fairly chintzy plastic connection pegs – we much prefer magnetic connection, but that’s sort of nitpicking at this price. Under the hood are two gleaming white 4-inch full range drivers, flanked by a pair of high-frequency 1-inch tweeters behind plastic safeguards. The speaker pushes 30 watts of power to each driver, and also incorporates a suite of DSP, including JBL’s Clari-Fi system, which is designed to “rebuild” the lost information in compressed files like MP3s.
Basic control via the silver pads is a breeze. The center source key allows for easy switching to all of the inputs with familiar symbols to guide the way, apart from a TV symbol, which refers to the optical input. As for the volume dial, it’s illuminated with a circular backlit LED for level, and follows your mobile device or PC during wireless connection on a 40-point increment system.
Bluetooth pairing is a breeze, especially for those with NFC-compatible devices, which allows for one-touch pairing. For the rest of us – iOS users – holding down the source key with the Bluetooth symbol puts the speaker in pairing mode. Connecting via Wi-Fi is more complicated. There are several methods, but we chose the wireless path with our iPhone 5, which requires downloading the JBL music app. From there, the app walked us through the process, which involved connecting our iPhone to the speaker via Bluetooth, and seeking out it out from our phone’s Wi-Fi settings. Once connected, the speaker asked to share wireless settings, and clicking ‘allow’ set it up for Airplay connection over our network. Other methods include plugging directly into the speaker, or connecting to the device via DLNA through a wireless router.
We don’t know where JBL gets off providing so much power and presence from a single device with only four small drivers. What we do know is the Authentic L8 is one of the most impressive wireless speakers in its class that we’ve laid ears on. Whether listening over Wi-Fi, or Bluetooth, the speaker offered diamond-cut definition in the top end, a warm and smooth swath of power in the mids, and more bass than a speaker this size has any business handing out. The speaker was equally comfortable tackling subtler tunes and acoustic tracks. Exploring our catalog exposed a flurry of colors in the sound as the warm, expansive woofers crossed over to the lightning-quick tweeters above. While we sometimes wished for a tad more clarity in a rather dark midrange, it provided a nice contrast with the treble that we found almost synergetic. That translated to thick and pulpy snares and toms on tunes like Ray Lamontagne’s “I Still Care for You,” while cymbals and guitar attacks were spindly and tactile, tap dancing atop the ruddy underbelly. In short, the L8 scratched nearly every itch we had while listening to our catalog, with enough power and presence to make all our favorite genres sing. Now check out the highs and lows of JBL Authentic L8 speakers device.
- Powerful performance top to bottom
- Brilliant detail in the highs
- Warm and smooth midrange
- Multiple ways to play
- Attractive vintage aesthetic
- A tad pricey
- No remote control
- Midrange occasionally too dark