Two-way active studio monitors - 5" or 8" model? Before you make up your mind, read this
By David Bryce
I’m not sure anyone’s been making studio monitors as long as JBL. As far back as I can remember, they’ve always seemed have a comprehensive range of great sounding offerings to fit just about any application or budget. Their new LSR 3 Series aim to bring features from their top of the line studio monitors to a more mainstream price point. How successful were they? Let’s wire them up and take a listen.
What You Need To Know
I auditioned both the LSR305 and 308 - mostly listening to them on their own, but occasionally switching to other sets of monitors, both more and less expensive. I listen to each set individually in the same space, placing them on Primacoustic Recoil stabilizers. I have reference tunes that I know intimately, having heard them on a ton of different systems in an extremely diverse collection of environments. I checked that playlist out a couple of times on both sets. I also recorded a few tracks and did some quick mixes using both.
It did take me a minute to get the speakers placed correctly as far as bass response – the rear ports make it challenging to orient them in a place where they’re not splashing off a back wall. As a rule, I typically prefer front ports for that reason. I did like the way that both sets delivered the lows, but neither of them have what I would categorize as surgical bass response - both seemed more tuned towards the more euphonic low end of the average playback system. That's a good thing if you subscribe to the theory that studio monitors should be voiced similarly to the systems on which people will be playing their music, as do many successful mix engineers.
The imaging on both models is excellent, and the sweet spot is very wide. I had no problem at all placing instruments across the stereo field. Depth of sound field was quite good as well – it was easy to hear the 3D soundstage on the material I auditioned. The very top end seemed to be softened the littlest bit overall...but not unpleasantly, or in a dull way - it sounded to me like they were tuned like that to avoid sharp transients being abrasive.
Keeping in mind that studio monitors are amazingly subjective, and that the environment in which they’re placed accounts for a great deal of how well they're able to perform…in my space, I found the LSR305 delivered more of what I was looking for than the LSR308. The top end in both sounded the same to me, and the larger L308 understandably delivered deeper and rounder bass….but I was able to relate to the midrange and overall tonal balance on the 305 better than the 308, both listening to my reference tracks and when mixing – my 305 mixes translated to my home entertainment system, car system and mp3 (on tiny little computer speakers and ear buds) more predictably than the 308 mixes.
Overall, I’d sum it up by saying the 308 is a bit more fun to work on if you prefer bigger bass, but the 305 is the more balanced of the two. Both make excellent offerings, and are certainly worth auditioning if you’re in the market for a great sounding, reliable set of affordable monitors.
Musician's Friend JBL LSR305 online catalog page ($199 MSRP, $149 "street" [each])
Musician's Friend JBL LSR308 online catalog page ($325 MSRP, $249 "street" [each])
JBL 3 Series Image Control Waveguide video
David Bryce is a composer/producer living in Thousand Oaks CA. Specializing in keyboards and synthesizers, Bryce is also comfortable with guitar, bass, drums…and can sort of play some horns. He operates his own state of the art professional recording studio, where he does music and audio production, and is also an accomplished voice-over artist, with credits ranging from radio and TV spots in markets across the USA through industrial presentations and computer video games. He currently plays keyboards for a few LA based bands, and spends a large portion of his days consulting with a variety of professional audio and musical instrument manufacturers.