Don’t judge a book by its cover, so the saying goes, and in the world of hi-fi and consumer electronics it’s often wise to remember that. We’d need more than a few hands to count the number of products that have caught us off guard; from unknown brands that wipe the floor with the competition to cheap products performing far better than we might have guessed, or much-anticipated, big-name products that have left us cold.
But sometimes, you get exactly what you expect. The JBL L75ms is a huge JBL wireless speaker. It looks like a huge JBL wireless speaker and it sounds like a huge JBL wireless speaker. And, frankly, we’re very much OK with that. If you like what you see and you’re in the market for a premium wireless speaker system, you can add this one to your list right now.
Did we mention it was huge? The L75ms weighs just under 16kg, which is likely a few kilograms heavier than the microwave in your kitchen. The excellent JBL Go 3 wireless speaker weighs just 210g by comparison, showing JBL can flex its speaker skills at both ends of the wireless speaker spectrum. A more realistic rival, the Naim Mu-so 2, is closer to 11kg. So yeah, the JBL L75ms is heavy.
But it’s also big (we’re labouring this, we know, but it’s worth noting). It’s just under 22cm tall, 79cm wide and almost 29cm deep. That bodes well when it comes to delivering a loud and proud sound but does really need to be considered for anyone thinking of adding this to their front room. You need some space.
Dimensions (hwd) 21.6 x 79 x 28.7cm
Power 350 watts
Features AirPlay 2, Bluetooth, Google Chromecast
Connections HDMI ARC, MM phono stage, 3.5mm
JBL has of course considered this, which is why there’s a “bass contouring” button on the rear of the unit, allowing you to adjust the bass output by 3dB. Naturally, the suggestion is if you have the L75ms near a wall, you should take off 3dB (and we did just that and preferred what we heard).
You’ve probably noticed the return of retro styling in the hi-fi world, typified by JBL’s own L100 Classic stereo speakers, and this wireless speaker treads the same vintage path. The design is part classic hi-fi, part JBL pro audio speaker. The satin walnut wooden cabinet makes for a distinctive look (and accounts for some of that weight). You can remove the grille to see the drivers underneath. As far as we’re aware, it isn’t yet available in a range of classic colours, like the L100, which is a shame.
We have few complaints with the quality of the build, though the styling of the speaker perhaps isn’t matched by the controls atop the unit or the basic remote.
A decently sized wireless speaker in this day and age tends to have a lengthy feature set, and that’s the case here – as it should be, considering the price.
You should be able to play music wirelessly pretty much however you like. Google Home is the suggested way to get the speaker set up and connected to your network and you can then use this app to stream music, but you can also use Apple AirPlay 2, Bluetooth and Google Chromecast built-in. There’s an Ethernet connection, too.
The ‘system’ element comes from the further addition of various inputs. There’s an HDMI ARC, ideal for connecting to a TV – the world’s chunkiest soundbar? – plus a basic 3.5mm aux input. There's also a moving magnet phono stage, which is a bit of a curveball but perhaps befitting the 1970s looks. What there isn’t is a digital optical connection, so you’ll need to make sure your AV system can use that HDMI ARC if you want to play more than wireless music.
But what about the speaker tech? All that room in the cabinet allows for five drivers in total. There are two 13cm woofers, two 25mm aluminium tweeters and a central 10cm midrange driver, with a total of 350 watts of power at their disposal. On the subject of internals, the JBL L75ms also has a 32-bit/192kHz DAC.
Did we mention we’re in ‘it does what it says on the tin’ territory here? We think we did. For one, this big JBL speaker goes loud. As we compare the performance to other speakers, it’s notable quite how low the volume setting is on the L75ms compared to rivals in order to get the same output. If going loud is a key concern, this speaker should be at the top of your shortlist.
JBL has a habit of making fun, party-starting speakers, and this one is no different. Listening to Beyonce’s Break My Soul, we’re treated to an upbeat, energetic rendition. There is, of course, plenty of bottom end, so kick drums can’t be missed (sometimes to a fault), and are given a real live stadium feel. Basslines have weight and texture and are almost inevitably on the warm and smooth side.
For a change of pace we give R.E.M.’s Man On The Moon a spin (a Tidal Masters played over AirPlay 2) and the JBL just about joins us, albeit preferring to keep the pace higher than it really should be – not quite managing to convey the relaxed, almost lazy feel of the track. We still enjoy what we hear; guitars jangle along jauntily and there’s plenty of scale and breadth to the sound, but the Naim Mu-so 2, for example, offers a more natural, realistic presentation.
The Scotty dog-excitement of the JBL L75ms system can also deliver a slight edge to treble notes and voices at times, but by and large this is balanced out by the fulsome midrange and bass. Sure, it’s not the last word in refinement or ‘serious hi-fi’ sound, but as we settle into some extended listening, there’s no denying there’s enjoyment to be had listening to this speaker, especially if you’re in an uptempo mood. The timing is pretty good, so head-nodding dance music or stomping rock classics find this JBL speaker in its element.
The enjoyment extends when we connect to a TV via HDMI. Watching Blade Runner 2049, it’s clear this JBL speaker would make a solid soundbar, should you have a sufficiently big equipment stand (it fits on a middle shelf of our fairly standard AV rack). The sonic character of the speaker lends itself well to stirring movie scores. On the flipside, an episode of Peep Show makes clear there are also no issues with lag and simple dialogue is suitably coherent. We give the phono stage a spin too, and while it does the job, we’d perhaps suggest that this connection shouldn’t be your main reason for buying this speaker.
The JBL L75ms is an eye-catching wireless speaker system that delivers suitably eyebrow-raising sound. Neither the styling nor the sound will be for everyone – but if you like what you see, and you want a loud, fun and upbeat sounding solution, complete with a good amount of connectivity, then this could be just the ticket. Just make sure you’ve got space on your shelf.
- Sound 4
- Features 4
- Build 4
Read our review of the Naim Mu-so 2
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