Like vacuum-pack bags for storage and foldout beds for studio apartments, hi-fi also now offers a clever way to fit as much as possible into a small space. As the JBL 4305P Studio Monitor capably demonstrate. These miniature bookshelf speakers – just 34cm tall and 23cm deep – pack not only drive units but also Class D amplifiers and digital network circuitry to offer an all-in-one streaming stereo system from just two diminutive cabinets. Convenient or what?
For someone looking to upgrade their single-unit wireless speaker to true stereo sound or simply add affordable hi-fi to their living space in the most space-efficient way possible, the 4305P speakers look to be just the ticket. That they are more modest versions of the much larger and pricer 4329P Studio Monitor system helps their case too. So, are the 4305P miniature marvels or try-hard do-it-alls that bite off a little more than they can chew?
Design & features
The 4305P may be physically dwarfed by the 4329P, but they don’t concede any of that classic retro look JBL has kept consistent across both its passive and active Studio Monitor models. It’s an aesthetic that screams functional more than it does fancy, but actually we’re quite taken with our all-black sample’s minimalist aesthetic, which can be spiced up somewhat by removing the grille to bare the navy blue baffle, 5.25-inch fibre-composite cone woofer and dual front-firing bass ports. We imagine the alternative, arguably more handsome dark blue and walnut finish will be a popular choice with this model for buyers who’re particularly partial to the heritage look.
Grille on or off, there is no escaping the urge to look down the horn’s throat dead into the eye of the one-inch horn-loaded compression driver, which JBL's Principal Engineer Chris Hagen recently told What Hi-Fi? is still prevalent in the company’s designs due to their advantageous ability to produce high maximum output levels and greater dynamics. Driving the speakers is a Class D amplifier, which delivers 25W to the compression tweeter and 125W to the woofer for a total output of 300 watts – not bad for speakers of their size.
Streaming Wi-fi, Google Chromecast, AirPlay 2, Bluetooth 5.1
Inputs XLR, 3.5mm aux, Toslink/optical, USB Type B, Ethernet
Dimensions (hwd) 34 x 21 x 22cm
Weight 6.8kg (primary); 6.4kg (secondary)
Owners wanting greater grunt have the opportunity to add an external subwoofer courtesy of the 4305P’s sub output, with JBL also offering further bass output control via a selectable contour switch around the back that can reduce bass by -3dB if listener preference, a room’s sonic characteristics or the speakers’ placement near a wall require it.
That’s one of several points of interest around the back of the speakers. While JBL has seen fit to support Google Chromecast, Apple AirPlay 2 and good old Bluetooth for straightforward streaming from music services and of networked/local files up to PCM 192kHz and inclusive of MQA, it has also expanded the 4305P’s CV with physical inputs.
Asynchronous USB, optical digital and 3.5mm inputs open up the system to laptops and audio components, while a combination XLR / 1⁄4-inch TRS phono connectors for balanced or unbalanced signals, complete with a selectable input sensitivity switch (+ 4dB / -10dB), could come in handy if you want to use the speakers for content creation in a home studio.
That maximum 192kHz PCM file support limit can only be carried unadulterated from the ‘primary’ (master) speaker to the ‘secondary’ (slave) one when they’re physically tethered via the supplied Digital Link cable. When using the undoubtedly more convenient and neater wireless connection between the speakers, hi-res support stops at 96kHz.
That should be adequate for most people, though, considering the most common source material is 96kHz and below, and also that a more revealing, higher-end set-up would be required to truly benefit from any extra insight offered by a 192kHz track anyway.
For their price, size and type, mind you, the 4305P sound impressive. Our first impressions are that JBL has kept consistent not only in terms of aesthetics between them and the 4329P, but also in sonic character. Play Billie Eilish’s Therefore I Am and the speakers seem as though they can’t wait to get started, punching out a sound that’s clear, direct and much bigger and more powerful than their compact size would suggest. In terms of scale, solidity and general soundstage presence, they do to the more affordable KEF LSX II what the 4329P do to them: show them who’s boss.
Of course, there isn’t the same statement-making substratum of bass presence as exhibited by the bigger siblings, as is to be expected from a smaller, more modestly driven woofer. And scale and openness have naturally been pinched in too. But the energy and forthrightness that laps up the swaggering beat and washes of distorted synths make for a rousing rendition. The candour in Elilish's vocal delivery comes across with confidence, too, thanks to a stand-out midrange that pleases with decent clarity and detail. We’re entertained.
These little devils just want to show us a good time, and they continue to as we move through Hot Chip exuberance, Mogwai crescendos and Eminem explicitness. There is, however, an analogy we can’t help but shake during our listening: that between the 4305P and a Dachshund, or more specifically a Dachshund exhibiting symptoms of small dog syndrome. Without being complemented by dynamic expression and organisation, attributes of their big brothers, in part afforded by bigger cabinets and drive units, the 4305P‘s upfront nature can come across as a little ‘yappy’; a little primitive.
An extra dose of refinement and greater dynamic variation would make the 4305P more interesting to listen to for longer periods, not least when playing genres that don’t play to their strengths.
Of course, in absolute terms the JBL 4305P Studio Monitor offer a lot for very little in a hi-fi system context – built-in access to a world of music streams, the opportunity to add external sources, and a bigger, clearer, punchier sound than anything else we’ve heard out of a two-box system at this price level. For many people, this will rightfully be enough system… until the inevitable upgrade bug kicks in, that is.
The 4305P may be some sonic refinement and dynamic expression short of being heralded ‘miniature marvels’, but they’re much closer to that description than that of ‘try-hard do-it-alls’. Here we have yet another likeable set of JBL speakers, then.
- Sound 4
- Features 5
- Build 5
Read our review of the KEF LS50 Wireless II
Also consider the smaller, cheaper KEF LSX II
Read our review of the bigger, pricier JBL 4329P Studio Monitor