I lucked into these bad boys at a garage sale for $3.00! (The speakers seem to be in reasonable shape, and during testing, did not show any signs of damage or neglect.) I'd guesstimate that they're from 2000 - this is the age of the CD player the couple was also selling.
They sound... OK. A bit tinny, and not much of a soundstage or very good imaging, but the highs were decent. From the review, it seems as if these speakers would be about a $200 speaker in a big-box store, and are suited for pairing with a cheaper integrated amp.
My basis of reference are two really good speakers in a similar class - Mark 1 Paradigm Titans and current-model Paradigm Atoms. I'd say that current Paradigm Atoms are a better speaker in bass response, and that they have a brighter midrange and a clearer upper end. Not too far off 'tho. Paradigm Titans are an even less-flattering comparison. Next to the Titans (which, in fairness, are bigger and have a 6-1/2" woofer and a great Vifa tweeter), the JBL's soundstage is very small, the mids are a bit muddy and there just doesn't seem to be anywhere near the space or imaging. Granted, the Mark 1 Titans are excellent speakers, were steal for $300-400 new in the early '90s, and were made in North America. (My two sets cost $100 and $120, both in great shape. I sold the Atoms - still good speakers - and kept the Titans.) The JBL's are are about on par with a set of Bose 301's, and are better than all-in-ones I've heard.
I was running a NAD 7220PE integrated amp, 14-ga cable, proper stands, and a mid-grade Technics '90s CD player. I was listening to Sleater-Kinney - The Hot Rock and Cocteau Twins - Victorialand.
Anyways, they're great for $3.00 and I'll use them for rear surrounds. If you're paying new price or fair used price, I'd look for the lower end of the Paradigm Monitor series, PSB Alphas or something else. Actually, the Polk RTi series is a step up from these too.
These are my first JBL's, and they wont be my last, i have to buy somthing at best buy when i go, if i dont it dosent feel right, i wanted new speakers, i already have enough, but i wanted to try JBL, these are as standerd as you can get, 2" twweter, 5 1/4" woofer. you can get much more simpler. I told myself, (i hate 2-way designs......untill the day i got these) i am not going to get any bass,they will sound like my KLH 970A's (the 970A's are 3-way) so when i got home i dident expect much, WOW they sound great, better then the 970A's (also twice the price, normaly)
they are only 50 watts, i have them hooked up to my JVC 110wpc reciever. i only use them for low to modrate volume, anything more then that, and on go the KLH 9912's.
when i hooked them up, i already had my 12band eq. hooked up, so i first tried it when it was on, it sound very good. then i read the reviews here, and people said it sound like crap without an eq. so i turned mine off, and wow, it did sound bad, the highs are not good, the lows and mids run into eachother, but i run them with the eq. on, and they sound great, they sound great alone, but i just hooked my 100watt (RMS, 200watt peak) passive sub to them, just to fill in the lows, and its a nice match, nice for low listening.
JBL dosent make these anymore, best buy sells them for $40/pair, they are worth that, they are nice speakers, i still cant belive i got $20 JBL's
JVC RX-318 220watt (110/channel) Realistic 12 band eq. Sharp single disc CD player (made in 1988) KLH 9912's (mid to high volume) JBL500 (low to mid volume) optimus PRO SW-14 passive 100watt RMS/200 watt peak (hooked to the JBL500's)
Purchased At: Best Buy (open box item, thats just it, the box was open foam inserts never even removed)
a Audio Enthusiast
Date Reviewed: September 27, 2001
I wanted some halfway-decent rear surround speakers for my home set up and listened to these and some similar priced Sony's. Performance was about the same but the JBL's looked better and were $10 cheaper. They're rather poor as main speakers, needing some EQ (especially in the high-end, probably due to the cheap cone tweeters) but fine as surrounds or upgrades for all-in-one systems. They're made in China of course, and for $50 a pair don't expect genuine JBL monitor-speaker quality, but if you accept their limitations they're fine little speakers.
Well, here is my setup. I am running these units in a home studio. I use these speakers as reference monitors for tracking AND digital mastering. The speakers are being pumped by an Onkyo AT-25 stereo integrated amplifier. The amp, to my speculation, pushes 45 watts max power, and about 38 RMS. This runs the speakers very well, keeping in mind that the speakers will handle 50 watts. the amplifier is not the best one in the world for reference usage. The speakers, under wrap, are very good speakers for moderate-to-loud music listening, and are not intended to rock the roof. But hey, if you wanted to do that you arent looking at the right speakers. Try some KLH 12's, or the JBL L112s.
First things first: if you're looking for hifi, high sound pressure levels, boasting rights and so on, look elsewhere. These little speakers will not satisfy any of the above requirements. But, if you're looking for something to put in the front room for casual music use, or possibly as surround speakers, as others have suggested, these may well do the trick nicely. I bought these to replace my Infinity Reference 30 full range towers which went downstairs into the basement to take on the role of fronts in my home theatre setup. Because of the layout of my house (a long front room underneath the main, guest and baby's bedrooms), it's just not possible to crank 'em up at night, and my main requirement for them is for casual listening in the evening while reading, studying, drinking tea, etc., or background music at modest volume while entertaining. (If I want to turn the noise up, watch movies, etc., it's down to the basement with me, where the extra floor and concrete walls on all sides insulates me from both family and neighbours.) I have the the 500s paired with a Marantz PM-80 stereo amp running in class A mode at 30W per channel and a Marantz CD-72, both oldies (circa '93) but goldies, and the speakers do a decent job of interpreting the high quality of the Marantz's output. On a pair of two foot stands, about a foot from the wall, and at modest volume, they have a mid-range clarity which might surprise you. Bass output is modest but what there is is firm and, especially when properly mounted on stands, the top end is brighter and more detailed than might be expected, though there is clearly a couple of decibels' roll-off starting somewhere around the mid-highs. The original score of "Blade Runner" by Vangelis I listened to this afternoon was actually pretty involving heard through them. Which is not to say that they sound fantastic; they don't. But they do the job I bought them for, and do it, within the self-evident limitations of a small, cheap, bookshelf speaker, pretty well. Will they shake the room? No, of course not. Will they put your $1000+ full tower speakers to shame? Refer to previous answer. But, depending on your requirements and circumstances, these little speakers may well work well for you. They do for me, and I would suggest you have a look and listen to them if your requirements are similar to mine. After all, how wrong can you go for $100 CAD?