For those who don’t tolerate masses of cables and equipment in the living room, JBL has built in the compact 4305P speakers with streaming. These challengers to Sonos and KEF’s LS50 Wireless II bring true stereo, studio feel and dynamic performance as you would expect from JBL.
Those who only know JBL because of the Bluetooth speakers and headphones will probably be surprised by these active 4305P speakers. However, there is a very authentic atmosphere around these devices – and that is part of the appeal of this product. After all, JBL has a big brother who has been building loudspeakers for the home, cinemas and studios for many decades. This original JBL – it is really a different department within Samsung’s umbrella Harman group – has scored in recent years with high-tech speakers, often in a vintage jacket. The L100 Classic is a good example of this. The 4305P we’re looking at here draws less from the seventies card and is more in line with JBL’s professional studio products. Of course, a striking horn-shaped compression driver is present again, really something from the American brand.
Despite the old school studio influences, the JBL 4305P is really a modern speaker for the home. The set of two active speakers is equipped with the necessary streaming options, among other things. As with other JBL products (and devices from sister brand Harman Kardon, such as the Citation series ), Chromecast has a leading role. However, AirPlay 2, Bluetooth, Spotify Connect are also on the menu, so you have some ways to play music. Recently the JBL’s are completely Roon Ready. You can connect the JBL speakers to your TV via an optical input. The small active speakers have a suggested retail price of 2,499 euros.
|What||Active speakers with streaming|
|Assets||2 x 150 Watts (25 Watts compression driver + 125 Watts for woofer)|
|streaming||Chromecast, AirPlay 2, Spotify Connect, DLNA, Bluetooth 5.1 (AAC), Roon (need update)|
|Connections||optical, 3.5mm aux, XLR, USB class B, sub output|
|Dimensions||59.7 x 29 x 45.8 cm|
A nod to the studio
The 4305P also shows that JBL has a long past (and present) in the pro world. The design remains faithful to passive models of the American brand, in particular from the Studio Monitor Series. In particular, the black version that we test has a cool studio look. However, the speakers are also available in a walnut finish with a dark front, something that might fit more in a modern interior with light tones.
If you remove the grille, you will discover that these 4305Ps still have a more playful side. After all, the underlying baffle or front turns out to be in a dark blue color, with two bass openings in the front. Nice, because suddenly that neutral studio monitor becomes a bit more of a retro thing. In any case, the build quality is excellent.
There is also a technical wink towards the studio. At the back you will find a pair of XLR inputs, a type of input that you will rarely need at home. Unless, for example, you want to connect a high-end source, such as a better streamer or turntable with balanced outputs. In music studios it is a popular way to connect studio monitors. The analog auxiliary input or the digital optical connection may be more useful for connecting a TV, CD player or record player at home.
They are compact devices, which fits well with the role as a music system in the living room. If you want near-field listening, for example at your computer or in your home studio, then your desk must be a little deeper so that the JBLs are a little further away from you.
In a living room it is best to opt for the classic stereo triangle, with the speakers at ear height. And yes, sometimes JBLs are parked on low stands that are tilted. Although that is an option that works better with the larger vintage models, we think. In our case, we tested the JBL 4305s with low IsoAcoustics stands (which are actually intended for desk use, but the sofa in the living room sits very low) and in the test room with Hi-Fi stands from Focal. Both options were acceptable, the higher stands suited us just a little better. But it all depends on your seat height.
With wire or without
As with active speakers such as KEF’s LS50 Wireless II or the Q Acoustics Q Active 200, there are two speakers in the box here. That is immediately a big difference with typical one-box speakers from Sonos or Harman Kardon: there are two separate speakers that together offer a true stereo experience. Although you can of course also connect two devices to a stereo pair at Sonos and co to get the same thing.
At JBL, the two speakers look almost identical. However, one of the duo is the master speaker. At the front you can recognize it by two small rotary knobs, at the back you will discover all kinds of inputs on this device. JBL wisely lets you choose between a wired or wireless connection between the two speakers. Without cable is of course neater in a living room, but with Ethernet cable can work more stable in some situations and allows higher resolutions. Each speaker needs its own socket.
The fact that JBL lets you choose from with or without cable shows a practical view of the matter. And that shows in other areas as well. For example, you can use a switch to set whether the master speakers are on the left or right. Logical, but that choice is omitted with some rival products. Do you not connect sources with a cable? Then it doesn’t matter much. If you do, it’s handy that you don’t have to move your source elsewhere in the room to make the connection possible.
Also present is a bass contour switch. This allows you to adjust the behavior of the speakers depending on how they are set up. Closer to a side wall or in a bookcase, you want to limit the bass production somewhat. This is to compensate for the amplified low tones that arise from this situation. The solution is to put this switch in the minus position, which reduces your bass production by 3 dB. If you place the JBL speakers freely on stands, you leave it in the zero position.
You will never use the small dials at the front of the dominant 4305P, we estimate. Fortunately, JBL supplies a remote with which you can easily operate the speakers. And nice: it’s a Bluetooth remote. You may therefore have to pair it first – you didn’t have to with us – but the remote control always works. Even if you don’t have a line of sight to the speaker.
While streaming you can of course adjust the volume from your smartphone or tablet. Whether you stream via Chromecast or AirPlay, or via the Spotify app. The 4305Ps will also be operable from Roon, but for the time being the software still says “uncertified” next to the speakers. Given that other devices from the Harman group, such as the Arcam AVRs , are Roon Ready, we assume that this will be fine.
The speakers can be wired to your network. However, most people will still prefer a wireless connection, which looks neater. You can connect the JBL 4305s to your WiFi network in two ways: via Google Home or via the WiFi settings on a recent iPad or iPhone. Setting up via the Google app has the advantage that the JBLs also immediately work with Chromecast. Whichever method you choose, it’s never really difficult. Via Google Home we were able to quickly connect the speakers to the wireless network via a familiar step-by-step plan.
There is also its own app that belongs to the speakers: MusicLife. Remember that name, because you may not find the app if you search for “JBL” in the Play Store or App Store. After all, the MusicLife app is from Harman (and even Arcam in the past), so search functions don’t immediately throw it up. Incidentally, as with all Harman devices that run on the same software platform, there is a web interface through which you can adjust music and settings.
The app itself works via DNLA; alternatives such as MConnect or BubbleUPnP are therefore also an alternative. However, the user experience via MusicLife is quite good, trying out the app is definitely worth it. In addition to a number of embedded streaming services (including Deezer, Qobuz and Tidal), you can listen to internet radio and podcasts. It is also possible to play your own music files from DLNA shares. In short, MusicLife offers more than a basic experience, with full biographical metadata at Qobuz, a favorites list and the option to hide unused resources. The latter keeps the app tighter.
The JBLs passed our format test well. In terms of hi-res quality, everything up to 192kHz played just fine. Higher also worked, just like DSD, although we suspect that there will be downsampling. In any case, there is downsampling to 96 kHz if you opt for a wireless connection between the two JBL speakers.
Nice, wide appearance
The 4305P speakers combine the 2410H-2 compression driver with a 5.25-inch woofer that takes care of the lower tones. Such a compression driver is something quite special. It consists of a 1-inch tweeter that is deeply embedded in a kind of horn. But not a typical circular thing, but a horn of four convex surfaces. This special geometry is calculated in such a way that the sound above 2 kHz is distributed very wide horizontally without distortion. The typical nasal connotation that dares to appear with horns is therefore completely absent.
As music reproducers, the active JBLs leave a very positive impression. Where some active speakers are restrained by their DSP and sound a bit compressed at higher volumes, the 4305Ps remain dynamic and exciting. As with previous JBL tests, we ourselves tend to listen to a lot of guitar music with these devices, simply because the brand always knows how to bring genres such as rock and metal powerful and exciting. Iron Maiden with ‘Fear of the Dark’ or ‘The Great Heathen Army’ by Amon Amarth, say. But the recently released The Complete Master edition of Coltrane’s Blue Train also tackles the JBL speakers well. In ‘Moment’s Notice’, for example, there is a great sense of speed and you can really enjoy the interplay between the jazz gods who entered the studio 65 years ago. From the virtuoso but also subtle drumming to the horns soloing, we listen and discover a lot of subtle texture. But it is especially the spry, fast that convinces.
The darkfolk of the Norwegian Wardruna on ‘Kvitravn’, for its part, beautifully retains its epic character, with an extra emphasis on the old Scandinavian chant. Beautifully and grandly presented, because that’s really what this popular group from the far north is all about. Same with the theme song of “The Book of Boba Fett” from the Star Wars series, with the “Fett!” screams scaling through space. The pounding percussion in both came out a bit less, but that’s the downside of small speakers. A plus is that the sweet spot is very wide, so we also received a nice delivery on the side of an L-shaped Coltrane seat.
Streaming over Chromecast with Qobuz is what we mostly did during this test. Just to check it out, we also played a playlist over Bluetooth. The JBLs do lack support for more audiophile codecs such as aptX or LDAC. But AAC is there, and that already delivered very solid audio quality. Still, we would rather recommend streaming over WiFi, especially for detailed live music pieces. But it is positive that the Bluetooth option is not a disappointment, because in some situations this technology is simply more convenient.
How does the JBL 4305P perform for TV sound? To find out, we hook them up via an optical cable to a Sony KD-65AF9. What they do very well is to radiate sound widely, so that you get a good envelopment with atmospheric soundtracks. Think, for example, of the city scenes in the British spy series ‘Slow Horses’, where sirens and traffic can be heard well around the image. Or when head failure Lamb eats distasteful food in an empty and worn-out Chinese restaurant; the smacking sounds are projected very real in the room. The melancholic feeling of this series is thus very well aroused. The ability to spread detail also helps to bring the party atmosphere of Dia De Los Muertos in Mexico City to the testing room during the opening sequence of ‘Spectre’. Inevitably everything ends in an explosion and a collapsing building – that’s how 007 is – where another impressive sense of detail stands out, like fragments that shatter. Spectacular sound effects therefore come in well, with a relatively large portion of low to keep it sensational. That said, in a larger room we would still opt to supplement the 4305P’s with a subwoofer to get a true cinematic feel. It is mainly focusing on what the JBLs do excellently. For example, the compression drivers again prove very strong in transferring a lot of vocal power, which makes ‘Always Remember Us This Way’ performed by Lady Gaga in ‘A Star is Born’ really powerful to hear. At such a time, these smaller JBLs do something that a soundbar is very difficult to match. In a larger room, we would still opt to supplement the 4305Ps with a subwoofer to get a real cinema feeling. It is mainly focusing on what the JBLs do excellently. For example, the compression drivers again prove very strong in transferring a lot of vocal power, which makes ‘Always Remember Us This Way’ performed by Lady Gaga in ‘A Star is Born’ really powerful to hear. At such a time, these smaller JBLs do something that a soundbar is very difficult to match. In a larger room, we would still opt to supplement the 4305Ps with a subwoofer to get a real cinema feeling. It is mainly focusing on what the JBLs do excellently. For example, the compression drivers again prove very strong in transferring a lot of vocal power, which makes ‘Always Remember Us This Way’ performed by Lady Gaga in ‘A Star is Born’ really powerful to hear. At such a time, these smaller JBLs do something that a soundbar is very difficult to match.
The JBL 4305P is a successful entry in the active speaker segment. Thanks to good streaming skills and their small size, these JBLs are a good option if you enjoy listening to music a lot. Reproducing music is also really their thing. Although they lack an HDMI input, these active JBLs have talents that make them great speakers for TV viewing. They present exciting scenes in an atmospheric way, present speech clearly and ensure that film music supports the action on the screen in a compelling way.
- Compact and authentic design
- Bluetooth remote
- Extensive streaming offer
- Powerful, dynamic and fast
- Lots of detail on a wide soundstage
- No HDMI
- Subwoofer may be required in large rooms