JBL Authentics 300 – classic retro elegance, gutsy sound (sound review)
The JBL Authentics 300 belongs to its Home Audio category – the middle child with stereo sound, loads of bass, an 8-hour battery, and a carry handle for portability.
Authentics is unmistakably retro – everything old is new again. We think the new JBL Authentics 200, 300 and 500 ‘look so 70s – cool man’.
In fact, they use some of the 1970 JBL L100 home speakers iconic features like the Quadrex front grille, aluminium frame, and synthetic leather-wrapped enclosure – it was genuine leather back in the day, and everyone is on the cow’s side now😊.
They use 100% recycled fabric, 85% recycled plastic and 50% recycled aluminium. All have JBL’s classic sound signature – a pleasure to listen to.
The Authentics lineup includes:
|AU website||Product page||Product page||Product page|
|Music Format||Dolby Atmos 3.1||2.0||2.0|
|Speakers||3 x 25mm Al dome Tweeter 3 x 2.75” midrange 6.5” subwoofer||2 x 25mm tweeter 5.25” woofer|
6.5″ passive radiator
|2 x 25mm tweeter 5” woofer 6” Passive radiator|
|Frequency range||40Hz to 20kHz||45Hz to 20kHz||50Hz -20kHz|
|Simultaneous Google and Alexa voice assistants||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|JBL One App||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Bluetooth 5.3 Fast Pair Wi-Fi 6 AX Ethernet USB||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Battery||No||Up to 8 hours Consumer replaceable||No|
|Quadrex grille and retro design||Yes||Yes, and carry handle||Yes|
|Size||44.7 x 2.4 x 25.5 cm x 7.8kg||3.4 x 19.6 x 18 cm x 4.9kg||26.6 x 17.1 x 16.7 cm 3.1kg|
Australian review – JBL Authentics 300
|Website||Authentics speaker range|
Quick Start Guide
|From||JBL Online, Harvey Norman, JB Hi-Fi, Bing Lee, Myer, Officeworks|
|Company||JBL (Est. the mid-40s) is short for James B Lansing. (Yes, he was the Lansing in Altec Lansing.) It is now part of the Harman group of companies owned by Samsung.|
|More||CyberShack JBL news and reviews|
We use Fail (below expectations), Passable (meets low expectations), Pass (meets expectations), Pass+ (near Exceed but not class-leading) and Exceed (surpasses expectations or is the class leader) against many of the items below. You can click on most images for an enlargement.
All tests were done on mains power and may not represent the results on battery power.
First Impression – retro and cool – Exceed
As a sexagenarian, I like well-done retro. Conversely, I hate poorly done retro. You can be assured that JBL has nailed not just the look but the build quality and alternative eco materials that can raise a tear of nostalgia 🥲. JBL’s modern tech adds value.
The JBL Authentics 300 is a 100W stereo speaker – with 2 x 25mm tweeters (Left and Right) and a 5.25” woofer. It is relatively small at 342 (L) x 195.6 (H) x 180.3 (D) x 4.9kg. The cast aluminium gold look handle folds nicely over the back.
The front Quadrex (small squares) grill has a discrete JBL gold logo and a metal gold surround. The black vegan leather wraps around. It is meant to work in landscape mode, as a 6.5″ passive bass radiator is underneath.
The rear has mains power, 3.5mm AUX-in and Ethernet (yes, it is a multi-room Google or Alexa speaker). There is a USB-C port, but it is for service only.
The top has Volume, Bass, Treble round controls, two discrete mics (and a physical on/off switch at the back), Bluetooth, Power and ❤️(Moments) press buttons.
Setup – Pass+
Download the JBL One App for Android or iOS and follow the prompts. Easy.
The App is comprehensive – Pass+
It has a
- Infinitely variable curve EQ where you can drag to adjust.
- Moment (shortcut to a favourite radio station)
- Adjust Wi-Fi 6 AX network (Ethernet overrides this) and BT 5.3
- Set up Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa
- Wi-Fi streaming clients include Spotify and Tidal.
- Select music services: Amazon Music, Clam Radio, iHeart Radio, Napster, Qobus, Tidal, or TuneIn
Inputs – Pass+
- Wi-Fi 6 dual band 2.4/5GHz, but you only need 2.4GHz for music streaming, voice assistant, and maximum distance from the router.
- BT 5.3 for connection to a smartphone, tablet or PC. But it has both Transmit and Receive and can pair with the JBL Spinner turntable. It has SBC (our test software reveals that), and we understand the JBL Spinner connects via aptX HD.
- 3.5mm AUX-In for devices with a preamp (like the Spinner) or sufficient volume (like a radio).
- UBS-C is reserved for service use, although for reasons unknown, it can be used for music playback in the USA.
Speakers – Pass+
To understand this speaker, you need to know what is inside. It has three D-Class amps with a total harmonic distortion of 1% (excellent) at a maximum volume of about 85dB (loud).
The 5.25” Woofer handles mid-bass from 45Hz to a very smooth cutover at about 200Hz to the left and right tweeters that handle up to 20kHz. The woofer is a simple frequency cutover – no AI or processed sound. Ditto for the tweeters. It is 2.0 – not 2.1, which needs a dedicated sub-woofer channel.
The 100W is spread over the three speakers – we estimate about 2 x 25W (tweeters) and 1 x 50W (woofer).
It auto-calibrates when moved to suit the new room’s acoustics.
How does it sound? Terrific – Exceed
The nirvana is a native neutral sound signature that neither adds nor subtracts from the original sound. This has the JBL take on that – heaps of mid-bass starting at 40Hz and then almost flat to 20kHz. There is a slight dip at 6-8kHz to avoid treble harshness (as all good speakers should do).
You don’t expect powerful mid-bass from a speaker this size. The sizeable 6.5″ passive radiator on the bottom of the speaker helps there. And you don’t expect crystal clear mid-treble and that lovely upper treble that gives you the feeling of air – being there.
The Bass and Treble knobs on the speaker are linked to the Apps EQ, and you can recess any frequency (you cannot add to frequencies that are not there). For example, you recess mid and/or treble to make it more bassy. To make it clear voice, you recess bass and treble.
The sound stage is about 1 metre on each side of the speaker and increases slightly as you move away from it. It is strictly 2.0. It does not decode Dolby Atmos or other formats – just what is delivered over BT, Wi-Fi (can play high-res), and AUX-In (analogue).
Other features – Pass+
If you connect to Wi-Fi, it becomes a multi-room speaker with Google Assistant (tested and works) and Alexa (not tested) – even at the same time (although I don’t know why you would do this). We tested with Google, and it did everything a Google audio-only speaker did.
- Audio Chromecast, Alexa cast and AirPlay 2.
- Two far-field mics that seem responsive to about six metres without raising your voice.
- Can stereo pair over Wi-Fi (we did not have a pair to try).
Battery – Pass
It has a 3.6V/4.8A/17.28W battery. It charges in about 3.5 hours from mains power, and power use is negligible.
JBL claims 8 hours playback, but that is at 50% volume, flat EQ and possibly via the AUX-IN.
We could only run two tests (these are in short supply), but we got closer to five hours at 75% volume, so the claim is fair.
CyberShack’s view – JBL Authentics 300 is just what it should be – fantastic.
Frankly, I am so over listening to what the manufacturer thinks is the best sound signature, especially those who think they know better. It was so refreshing to hook up the JBL Spinner BT turntable, borrow some vinyl and head back to the 50s, 60s and 70s. Beautiful, clear, analogue. 2.0 music.
The JPB Authentics 300 rivals speakers costing much more. Remember that Sonos lovers won’t buy anything else.
We put it against an $899 Sonos Five – superb Hi-Fi over Wi-Fi – a 3.0, six-speaker/amp, and it was remarkably good. Sonos ate it for a more expansive sound stage and bass (three woofers), but we generally back that off a bit anyway. If anything, the Authentic had slightly better upper-mid/lower-treble. But to be fair, the Sonos 5 is meant to be driven hard over Wi-Fi or Ethernet.
We also compared it to the new $399 Sonos Era 100 – the versatile speaker – a 2.0 (Sonos call it 2.1, but like JBL, the woofer is only a frequency cutover). The ERA was surprisingly close to the JBL for sound quality. The ERA 100 is a remarkable speaker but lacks voice assistance and portability.
The closest challenger is the $799 Sonos Move 2 – portable oomph anywhere – an ERA 100 with a battery for portability. We don’t have a Move 2 here but looking at the frequency response and fond memories from the recent review, I would say the JBL Authentics 300 is very close with perhaps a better mid-upper treble.
- Features: 95 – Wi-Fi 6, BT 5.2 Transmit/Receive, AUX-IN, Google, Alexa, battery, JBL’s unique signature for excellent 2.0 sound. Who could ask for more?
- Value: 90 – At $599, it is better value than the Sonos Move 2 and has voice assistance.
- Performance: 95 – Impressive JBL neutral sound signature, excellent infinity EQ, great left/right separation and a battery for portability.
- Ease of Use: 90 – The App is easy to use and as comprehensive as you need. Default settings are fine.
- Design: 90 – Call me a 60s-70s lover, and you would be right. It has a retro style with gutsy performance.
JBL Authentics 300 classic Wi-Fi/BT 2.0 speaker$599.95
- Delightful JBL neutral sound signature
- More than enough bass and treble to satisfy
- A pure 2.0 (well, 2.1 if you count the woofer) with fantastic fidelity.
- Wi-Fi 6 AX, BT 5.3 transmit/receive, 3.5mm analogue AUX-IN
- Punches well above its weight
- No Dolby Atmos or other metadata decode (nor should there be)
- None really