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JBL Authentics 300

The look may be vintage, but the sound and price are thankfully not.

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Retro, vintage, let's call it what it is: recycling. And it's all the rage, so much so that it has permeated the aesthetics of even the most conservative of speaker design circles.

A few years ago, JBL decided to update, modernise and "re-release" their L100 speakers from the 70s, and it's been such a success that many design classics from the period have been given the same treatment, and there are even matching electronics. As a result, the recycling wave has also hit JBL's wireless speaker division, and it's probably only slightly influenced by the fact that Marshall has had huge success with making speakers that have the same design as guitar amplifiers from the same time period. With a price of £330, it's also a really competitive option.

JBL Authentics 300

The series is called "Authentics" and comes in three variants, of which we're testing the middle one, Authentics 300. I don't know if I'd say it's authentic to 70s design, because the choice of colours and accents might take me back to a decade even before that. It certainly looks like a modern interpretation of something my grandparents might have had. The big difference is that this one doesn't contain plastic made with extremely dangerous chemicals, but consists of 100% recycled textiles, 85% recycled plastic, 50% recycled aluminium and an eco-friendly cardboard box with soy-based ink.

It's the modern day though, so instead of foam and fabric that easily fades in sunlight and breaks quickly, the front with the extremely distinctive squares, called Quadrex, is made from a type of hard foam and is far more durable. It's not art deco, but certainly kept in a very specific style and is still subtle. The gold accents are quite sensibly done, as is the metalwork around the front fabric. My only complaint is the three buttons on the top, they could have been made a little more solid and with a little less blur, especially the buttons for manually adjusting the treble and bass - a well-intentioned nod to the 70s, but I don't remember using them more than a few times as all settings are done via mobile phone anyway. On the other hand, I really wish I could turn off the LED in the centre of the front fabric, because it glows a particularly bright red and is frankly quite annoying to look at.

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Although it's a retro design, the USB-C and Ethernet connections on the back immediately reveal that we're in the present, but extra points for keeping the design on the back as well.
The Authentics 300 is also the only one of the three speakers to be portable, with the 4800 mAh lithium battery making its way into the design, which consists of 2x1" tweeters to give something akin to stereo, a 5.25" full-range unit and a 6.5" passive unit at the bottom. It doesn't sound like much, but with a 100W amplifier you can actually get pretty far these days. It's all complemented by a strange form of self-correction, a kind of room correction that runs every time the speaker is switched on. It sounds strange, but it works quite well, even when you place the speaker in strange places. It falls short outdoors, but that's just the way it is. The battery life is also well within the promised eight hours.

There are all the modern connections we expect such as Bluetooth, Spotify Connect, 3.5mm analogue, Wi-Fi, built-in Chromecast, Google Assistant and Alexa. The only thing missing really is Tidal Connect, which I have yet to see on this type of product. Or so I thought...

JBL Authentics 300

The software is JBL One, which surprisingly doesn't take up much space and is a quantum leap, because not only is there actually Tidal Connect, everything is fully integrated, so all I had to do was confirm that I wanted to use the account in my existing Tidal app, and voila, no logins, but both Chromecast and Tidal Connect access from PC and phone. The pairing part was even faster, no fiddling around, the app has obviously preloaded the device before you get to the right menu, and everything works and connects in seconds. I've been a 10-year fan of JBL and their software for Wi-Fi and Bluetooth devices, but this actually works, and works so well that even Apple fans will like it. It's also possible to connect multiple devices at once. Since we had only borrowed a single speaker to produce this review, we'll have to take their word for it, but each can either run its own playlist or synchronise to a single one.

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The sound out of the box is surprisingly bass-heavy. There's a bit of a overhanging effect as the passive unit is tuned incredibly deep, leaving a sonic gap up to the full-range unit. It makes for a heavy and slightly deep sound, but as someone who has owned old JBL speakers, I can only say that this is quite authentic. Of course, this can be adjusted with the built-in EQ in the JBL One app, and while it will never be a product for puritans, the midrange is punchy and despite its size, it easily performed alongside my 40 square-metre home theatre for a party.

JBL Authentics is truly a much better product than anything previously seen from them in the category. The price is competitive, the software is extremely fast and functional, and both sound and appearance are, well, quite authentic for the time period.

09 Gamereactor UK
9 / 10
overall score
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JBL Authentics 300

JBL Authentics 300

HARDWARE. Written by Kim Olsen

The look may be vintage, but the sound and price are thankfully not.



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