As far as I’m aware, JBL didn’t coin the phrase ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ - but it may as well have. For the 70-odd years the company has been turning out loudspeakers for domestic and professional use, its insistence on a horn-loaded tweeter arrangement has meant its products are nigh-on impossible to confuse with anyone else’s - and that’s true of both their appearance and their sound.
Even a company that perfected its formula decades ago has to move with the times, though - and in JBL’s case this shows up in the 4305P.
At a glance, it’s just another pair of JBL loudspeakers featuring the same purposeful and rather unique aesthetic as all the others. But the 4305P is a wireless audio streaming system that hides an absolute stack of functionality inside its wood veneer-wrapped MDF cabinets.
The ‘streaming system in a pair of speakers’ is not a novel concept. But this could well be the first that looks like it arrived from the 1950s.
Because this is the ‘sound quality’ section, we can park our opinions about the way the 4305P look, and instead heap praise bordering on ‘extravagant’ on the way they sound. Because make no mistake, these speakers/this system sounds like every penny’s-worth, all day long.
It’s punchy, controlled, rapid and detailed at the bottom of the frequency range. It’s lavishly communicative, realistic and, again, detailed in the midrange. And at the top end, that rather ostentatious tweeter arrangement proves its worth in spades. Most tweeters can offer space and air, or substance and bite - but this horn-loaded affair does both, while at the same time serving up rock-solid focus in conjunction with a wide-angle delivery that puts it quite a distance beyond the ability of any nominal rival.
Integration of the entire frequency range is smooth enough to be imperceptible. The JBL has ample dynamic headroom (thanks, 300 watts of Class D power!) to deal with the crash/bang/wallop stuff, and more than enough subtlety to make the minor dynamic variations in, say, a solo piano perfectly plain.
Its tonality is even throughout the frequency range, and entirely convincing at every stage. And while its soundstage is big, open and focused enough to make identifying a specific element of a recording simple, there’s sufficient togetherness and singularity to the way it presents music to make every recording sound like a performance - even those recordings that are overt cut’n’paste collages.
Rhythmic expression is assured and lifelike, and the 4305P has no problem describing even tricky, off-kilter tempos with real positivity. If there’s a flaw in its overall game, we can assure you it doesn’t reveal itself in the first 70-odd hours of listening…
Safe to say the appeal of the 4305P is auditory rather than aesthetic. There’s nothing wrong with the way these speakers are constructed or finished - but the look is businesslike rather than in any way decorative. The number of colours and textures involved on each speaker may not be to all tastes.
As far as specification goes, though, we’re on surer and more agreeable ground. Each speaker features a 25mm Teonex diaphragm compression driver with a ring surround positioned in the throat of a HDI (high definition imaging) horn aperture. This sits above a 130mm paper mid/bass driver and a pair of bass reflex ports. There are inputs for mains power, a power switch, a CAT5 input for physically joining the speakers together and a ‘sync’ button for joining them wirelessly on the rear of each.
One speaker also features an array of physical inputs and wireless reception too. USB-B, digital optical, 3.5mm analogue and balanced 6.3mm XLR inputs are all available, and there’s wi-fi and Bluetooth 5.1 connectivity available too. Chromecast is built in and Apple AirPlay is available once the speaker’s on your network. A pre-out for a subwoofer, an Ethernet socket and a USB-A for servicing completes an impressive line-up.
Bluetooth tops out at 48kHz resolution, while 24bit/96kHz is available from other sources if the speakers are wirelessly paired. Pair them using the supplied CAT5 cable, and the USB-B input, the digital optical input and network streaming can function at 24bit/192kHz.
Control is available via a couple of extremely small and fragile-feeling controls on the front of the primary speaker. The 4305P also ships with an unremarkable but full-function remote control handset, and can be used in conjunction with the third-party MusicLife control app - here’s where you can access internet radio, integrate your favourite streaming service, check for firmware updates and what-have-you. There’s no EQ adjustment available, though, and the app’s influence on volume levels seems more of a desire than a fact.
Startlingly accomplished sound from a fully featured audio streaming system, made all the more enjoyable by the fact that it looks like it arrived from the late 1950s., Retro styling at its most dinstinctive
Deadly Avenger Punisher
There’s no better way to check out your system’s facility with rhythmic expression while getting your fill of what Captain Beefheart called ‘bongo fury’ than this rampaging recording. Any hesitancy where drive and control are concerned will be identified - naturally, the JBL 4305P has none whatsoever.
The Kinks God’s Children
Tonal warmth, vocal fragility, a politely dynamic crescendo and end-of-the-60s wide-stereo production values abound here - along with that God-fearing lyrical preoccupation that briefly so captivated pop music. The JBL give full, open and endlessly musical expression to the lot of it.
Saint Etienne Hobart Paving
The midrange is the star here, and the 4305P absolutely relish the close-mic’d intimacy of the vocal performance. Sarah Cracknell is no powerhouse, but she can emote with the best of them - and every iota of her character, her attitude and her emotional state is made absolutely plain.
We’re among the very first to review the JBL 4305P, so alternative (or, indeed, complementary) opinions are rather thin on the ground at the time of writing.
If you’re hoping to make a statement in interior decor terms, this may not be the system for you (unless that statement is “I don’t care much about interior decor”). But as far as buying a high-resolution audio streaming system with an absolute stack of functionality and, crucially, endlessly gratifying sound is concerned, the JBL 4305P is a compulsory audition.