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JBL Studio 190BK Floorstanding Loudspeaker First Look

JBL Studio 190BK

JBL Studio 190BK


  • Product Name: Studio 190BK
  • Manufacturer: JBL
  • Review Date: August 27, 2010 09:15
  • MSRP: $539/each
  • First Impression: Mildly Interesting

Speaker type:

3-way floorstanding

Low-frequency transducer:

Two 6-1/2" (165mm) PolyPlas cones, magnetically shielded

Midrange transducer:

4" (100mm) PolyPlas cone, magnetically shielded

High-frequency transducer:

1" CMMD Lite dome, magnetically shielded, in a Bi-Radial constant directivity waveguide

Recommended amplifier power:

200 watts

Frequency response:

45Hz – 22kHz (–3dB)

Nominal impedance:

8 ohms

Sensitivity (2.83V/1m):


Crossover frequencies:

800Hz, 3.2kHz, 6dB/octave

Enclosure type:

Ported, with midrange sub-enclosure

Connector type:

Dual gold-plated binding posts (bi-wire capable)

Available finishes:

Black (BK)

Dimensions (H x W x D):

44-1/8" x 7-7/8" x 14-3/4" (1121mm x 200mm x 375mm)


48.8 lb (22.1kg)

Occasionally, someone releases a new piece of AV gear that just takes our breath away. It might be a receiver with features we've never seen before or a product at a price point that makes what was once the purview of the uber-rich accessible to the masses. It might be something that is a great step forward in technology. All these, however, are few and far between. Much more likely is a speaker design that is so beautiful or functional or cool that their pictures end up plastered all over audio forums.

This is not one of those times.

The new JBL Studio design is radical to say the least. It's actually hard from the pictures to understand exactly what is going on with the grill. It looks like there are two different materials - one a soft grill fabric and one a hard plastic. We're guessing they are both a grill fabric but coloring differences and lighting tricks make them look that way. The look is definitely... unique. JBL describes it as a "Distinctive, one-of-a-kind look." That may be true (and in all honesty, they may look great in person) but most of the reactions we've heard have been more along the lines of "ugh."

This isn't to say the new line doesn't have a lot going for it. All the speakers from the top of the line 190BK to the 120CBK center channel are constructed out of 3/4" MDF - definitely a higher-end material than in your typical enclosures. The line itself is fairly reasonably priced with the Studio 190BK towers commanding only $1040 a pair, the smaller 180BK towers asking $820 a pair, the 130BK bookshelves at $540 a pair, and the 120CBK center at $200 each. Not exactly a wallet-busting price point.

We have to hand it to JBL in that they are bringing out a speaker line at a price point that surely is going to turn heads, with a design that is sure to garner attention as well. The drivers in the speaker consist of PolyPlas cone woofers (dual 6.5" in the 190's with a 4" mid, a single 6.5" in the 180 with a 4" mid, and dual 4.5" woofers in the 120CBK center and single on in the 130BK bookshelves) paired with a 1" CMMD Lite dome, magnetically shielded, in a Bi-Radial constant directivity waveguide. All of the drivers are magnetically shielded in case of close placement to a CRT or a magnetic drive. While we usually eschew such features (or assume that the drivers happened to be magnetically shielded and not that it was integral to the design), at this price point it actually makes sense.


For the tower speakers, the midrange drivers are provided their own separate enclosure. This is designed to isolate those frequencies to improve clarity and overall performance. This is a design we've seen in many different speakers including some that price points a few orders of magnitude higher than the new JBL Studio line. The 1" CMMD Lite dome tweeter is a Ceramic Metal Matrix Diaphragm tweeter with a bi-radial waveguide. In AV speak, that's a metal dome woofer partially horn-loaded. In English... well, we don't know what that is in English but to say that the tweeter will be sunk inside the front baffle slightly but not nearly as much as a true horn (like you'd see on a Klipsch speaker). JBL says that this helps not only distribute the high frequencies more directly but also over a wider listening area which is sort of like saying that putting a bigger engine in your car will increase your fuel efficiency. We're not saying it isn't true but color us skeptical.

The JBL Studio 190 and 180 tower speakers are designed to put not only the tweeters but the midranges at ear level. While it is typical for a tweeter to placed at ear level, outside of coaxial drivers (where the tweeter is embedded in the midrange), it isn't usually stressed to have the midrange at ear level. We're interested to find out how this focus affects performance. All of the speakers in the new Studio line are rear ported including the center channel. While a ported design is a very good way to increase bass output, it does tend to limit placement options away from walls or surfaces near the port. A ported center channel can run into problems if it is placed within an enclosure. While other speakers can more easily be placed a few feet off a wall, centers tend to demand placement within an entertainment center with little to no breathing room. This is a consideration consumers should pay attention to when making purchasing decisions. 


The fact is that the new JBL Studio line has a great price point. With the top of the line 190BK's clocking in at just over $1000 a pair, these are definitely within the reach of the average consumer. Don't forget that the street price of such a speaker is likely to be lower than the MSRP and you've got a speaker that people should take a look at. Well, scratch that, they should take a listen to them before they look. While the JBL Studio line might be an ugly duckling of a speaker, if they sound good (both the towers are rated down to 45Hz with the bookshelf down to 60Hz which is impressive at the price point), we won't care what they look like. At this price point, you could probably afford an aftermarket grill that makes the speaker look less like a Dutch windmill.

For more information, please visit www.jbl.com.

Unless otherwise indicated, this is a preview article for the featured product. A formal review may or may not follow in the future.

About the author:
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As Associate Editor at Audioholics, Tom promises to the best of his ability to give each review the same amount of attention, consideration, and thoughtfulness as possible and keep his writings free from undue bias and preconceptions. Any indication, either internally or from another, that bias has entered into his review will be immediately investigated. Substantiation of mistakes or bias will be immediately corrected regardless of personal stake, feelings, or ego.

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