Life during quarantine continues to present new challenges as an artist, musician and music aficionado. If you are like me, you probably realized it’s the perfect time to work on getting your home studio up to 2020 standards. Technology has never been better and prices for quality gear are ultra-affordable.
The first item I knew that I needed to secure was a set of reference monitors. Going into my search I established that I wanted to find a set that provided good audio quality, could be set up in multiple locations in my house, was reasonably sized, and remained affordable. Bluetooth capability and portability is also a consideration, especially given that most listeners are using Bluetooth devices to consume music. My search led me to great set of reference monitors with the JBL One Series 104s.
If you are either a pro engineer looking for a second set of studio monitors to be able to reference mix, or a beginner singer-songwriter looking for a first set of speakers to learn to record and mix on, the JBL One Series 104s Reference Monitors will surely wow you. Don’t let the price and size fool you, JBL truly lived up to their name and developed a set of sophisticated sounding yet easy to use studio monitors that could very well be the best in their class.
There are two versions to choose from- a wired JBL 104 version and a Bluetooth JBL 104-BT set. They are essentially the same, with the Bluetooth version front-panel input control allowing you to select Bluetooth, Aux, RCA, TRS or combines all inputs. One speaker serves as the master, with front-panel volume control and a headphone jack, which automatically mutes the speakers, providing isolation in one simple step. The main speaker powers the second one. Dual ¼” balanced and single 1/8” balanced TRS inputs accommodate a wide range of sources, from mp3 players phones to CD players and cassette decks.
Featuring a co-axial design, a 60w built in power amp (transferring 30w per speaker) and the size of a set up multimedia computer speakers, you’ll be blown away of how accurate your mixes are portrayed on these. The bass response is tight and punchy, and if you close your eyes, you’d think you’re listening to a much larger set of speakers. The co-axial design (meaning the HF tweeter is actually smack-dab inside the main 4.5” driver) gives you a greater sweet spot and frequency range, which is a design commonly found in speakers 10 times the price of these.
Converting an office or bedroom into a quarantine studio is an exercise that many of my counterparts and I have been experiencing. When setting up my quarantine studio, I ran into the issue of space. I had a little corner to set everything up in and was worried that my beloved JBL 305’s wouldn’t fit in the room. However, the 104’s saved the day.
I feel right at home mixing on these and my ears got comfortable to them right away. The bass response is punchy and can be cranked pretty loud without distorting. The sweet spot on these speakers is huge. I can be 5 feet back from my desk that I have the 104’s set up on and still hear the space and width of my mix, almost as if I was hearing it on headphones or being right up by my computer. Since I’ve been working from home, I’ve had to mix songs ranging from layered rock and roll tracks with heavy guitars to modern pop songs with tons of keyboards, and the mixes from the 104’s reflect and respond we’ll on any device I play them on.
If your studio also happens to be your entertainment room, family room or living room, the 104’s also double as great multimedia monitors that will turn your music and video streaming, gaming or TV experience into the ultimate listening experience. Movies sound big and make you miss the movie theater a little less, and music feels like you’re in the studio with the artist as the song was mixed.
A trusted name in the musical gear world goes a long way, and JBL has long been one of the leaders in sound reinforcement, speakers and PA systems. Technological advances in speaker technology, amp efficiency and cabinet design have made micro size gear more commonplace in a musician’s world, and at a better-quality level. A solid set of small speakers like the JBL 104 desktop monitors give a realistic reference of how most people listen to music today and will make a good investment for a songwriter working on new material.