The wireless speaker market may have plenty of choice, but there aren’t many out there like the JBL Authentics L16.
A one-box system designed to cover all your entertainment needs – music, TV or films – it’s a multi-talented product and, at £900, a lone wolf in a pack of humbly priced speakers.
So what does it actually do? AirPlay ability lets you play music wirelessly from any Apple device and DLNA compatibility digs up files over your home network.
Bluetooth (aptX) is another way to go wireless, with NFC near-field communication) connecting your device with a tap on the speaker.
A 3.5mm jack provides direct connection to a device, as well as a digital optical and a pair of analogue inputs. There’s a phono stage to hook up a turntable.
Two USB sockets allow for charging smartphones and tablets. Qi-enabled (wireless charging) devices can also be charged on the central pod.
If that’s not enough, the L16 can double as a soundbar. If you do use it to boost your TV’s sound, be aware that it’s 29cm tall and 37cm deep, so placing it under a telly could be tricky.
It’s heavy too – over 16kg, but gorgeous, with its walnut enclosure and striking retro grilles. The L16 has plenty of connections, so it’s a shame JBL doesn’t supply any leads in the box. At £900, we’d be miffed to fork out extra cash.
The L16 has a 25mm tweeter, 5cm pulp cone driver and 13cm woofer either side of the baffle.
Its own 50W amplifier powers each of the six drivers and, underneath, two downfiring ports complement the drivers to help deliver more bass.
There’s no remote – instead, the free downloadable JBL MusicFlow app lets you control volume, source and fiddle with EQ from your sofa.
The L16 also supports FLAC and WAV files up to 24-bit/96kHz. The L16 is the first to feature Harman’s Clari-Fi technology (‘Signal Doctor’) too.
The company claims the software restores 90 per cent of audio lost in digital compression by analysing a track’s audio signals and correcting waveform deficiencies. Translation: it should serve up more detail in formats like MP3.
We play an 128kbit/s MP3 of Michael Jackson’s Smooth Criminal and, using the app to turn Signal Doctor on, we’re pleased with the results.
It benefits from the extra processing, demonstrating clearer bass and more prominent treble. Instruments have more space around them too. We keep that mode switched on. If you’re considering buying the L16, it will be for its big, open sound.
It’s a room-filler and stays well poised at higher volumes. There’s plenty of detail to hand too.
Thumping basslines can feel fat, though, and treble can stick out too, so balance isn’t its greatest asset.
Timing isn’t up to speed and dynamics aren’t as supple as we’d like either, making the most up-beat tunes feel static and messy.
It fails to shake a leg with Quincy Jones’s jolly Blues In The Night piece.
Though vocals are well focused, the Audio Pro Allroom Air One wireless speaker gave us more texture in Alison Krauss’s sweet voice – and that’s less than half the price.
Testing its TV-boosting qualities, we wire it to our reference Samsung TV via an optical cable.
Flicking through daytime TV, voices from newsreaders are clear with no lip-sync issues and sound effects on game shows are crisp, albeit a little bright.
The JBL Authentic L16 certainly sounds like a good idea.
The problem is, £900 is a lot to fork out for any piece of hi-fi and the performance struggles to take the plaudits that compatibility and convenience do
It lacks the charisma, cohesiveness and balance we want from our music.
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