JBL L100 / L-100 Century Speaker Review, Specs and Price

JBL L100 L-100 Century Speaker

The JBL L-100 Century is JBLs most famous vintage speaker from the 1970ies and is an absolute classic. It has been produced in several versions over the years, so it is well possible to find slightly different midrange and tweeter placements. You can find an example of a newer design at the end of this article. 
When JBL focused on offering foremost consumer electronics (vs. professional studio equipment) in the 70ies, it started the L100 model, which became the most sold speaker model up to that date. No other company had produced a speaker with similar sales. Therefore JBL continued to build and sell the L- series and introduced newer versions with improved drivers and crossovers throughout the 80ies.Those newer speakers of the L-series do not have much in common with the original L-100. Read for example our review of the JBL L112 Century II speaker.



JBL L-100 Strengths and Weaknesses

The JBL L-100 Century was a milestone and huge success for JBL, but was not free of weak spots. At first to its strengths:
  • It has been noted in professional magazines at the time that the JBL L-100 lacks distortion at a level that has been outstanding.
  • It ranked with some of the most accurate speakers out there and Stereo Review Magazine claimed that "certainly no other has been better". Such ultimate statement is not professional, but it gives an idea of the impression the speaker has made.

As mentioned, the L-100 has a few weak spots, some of which decreased over the years with new versions of the L-100, other models and other drivers. Commonly claimed weak spots of the L-100 are:
  • The JBL has great drivers (considering the cost), but lacked a decent crossover. Upgrading the crossover can be fairly difficult and its finetuning requires special equipment. Overall, it can be overly costly to work on the crossover, if you are not a professional.
  • They have the frequently called "West Coast" sound, a little flat with fairly punchy bass. 

 JBL L-100 Century Specs

The JBL L100 measures 23 1/2" to 14 ½” to 13 5/8" and is therefore a rather large bookshelf speaker. The cabinets are made out of real wood, which causes the weight of 45 lbs. per speaker. This combination was a bit of a problem for me, as the speakers were neither suitable for any of my shelves, nor were they suitable to stand on the ground due to their sze. I, and many other owners did finally buy small stands, which I can also recommend, as it gives the speakers the elevation, hight and position they require to shine.
Each L100 has a 12” woofer, 5” midrange speaker and a 1 1/2” tweeter. Noteworthy are the controls for high- and mid-frequency adjustment. The speaker sound is dynamic, remains very clear on high volume, but basses are rather “punchy”. Personally I felt most comfortable when listening to Rock, but have the feeling that they are not too suitable for fine vocals. Other reviewers noted too, that they did not like to listen to Jazz or female singers on the L100.



Refoaming the JBL-100

The JBL-100 is definetily worth it being refoamed. Many of them have rotted foam surrounds which can easily be replaced. A refoaming kit can usually be bought for around $30-40, replacing the old foams will take around 1 to 2 hours and is not difficult at all! It does not require any particular skill, just a calm hand and a little patience. We tried out several available foams and recommend to use an 12 inch Surround Kit from Parts Express. You can find a fitting refoam kit here: > Speaker Surround Kits <. Alternatively, ask in one of the big HiFi forums, you will likely find assistance quickly.

JBL L-100 Century Price: $380-550
(Depending on overall condition, keep in mind that broken drivers are fairly expensive for this model)

Read our other reviews of JBL´s L-Series:


Later models of the L-100: 

Later Model of the JBL L100

 


24 comments:

  1. Anonymous11/21/2014

    Sometime around 1974 I had purchased a pair of Bose 901-series II. The bass response was such that it rattled everything in the house that was not nailed down. After 2 weeks, I returned the speakers to the store where I had bought the 901's. Because I had drilled holes into the bottom of the 901's in order to attach the speaker stands, the best the store would do is offer me a pair of JBL L100's and a pair of speaker stands in return for the 901`'s. I took the deal and it was one of the smartest decisions I've ever made.

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  2. Anonymous12/10/2014

    Hello,
    None of the drivers in the JBL L100 have foam surrounds; all three have cloth/textile surrounds so you should disregard the "Re-foaming" paragraph above. The only foam on the L100 is around the tweeter baffle which should be replaced.
    In a normal room (not too live or dead) the midrange control should be turned down quite a bit.
    The only real acoustic problem with them is that from around 200Hz to around 1500Hz they are lacking detail.
    Thus the problem with vocals and jazz through the middle midrange although it is more forgiving on rock and pop.

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    1. Anonymous12/20/2014

      The L100 DID have foam grill covers. The lab monitors had only a simple black clorh grill. The lab monitors perform about the same but have a different speaker layout and are not quite as attractive.

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  3. A pair of L100s were booming inside a 4,000 square foot Salvation Army in 2004. Wasn't familiar with the model but they were JBL. Good condition. Foolishly left the store to do some research before plunking down big bucks. Called them 30 minutes later with hold those speakers request. The manager seemed anxious to get rid of them before they were poked and destroyed since they were missing the grills, but he tossed in some covers from other speakers I could modify and get to snap on JBL pegs. $50.00 plus tax.

    $60 for a set in good condition at Salvation Army in 2003.

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    1. Anonymous7/19/2015

      Wow.

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    2. Anonymous7/19/2015

      Excellent! That's like winning the lottery!
      Grille color: black, probably.
      (Did you keep the boyfriend?)

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  4. Anonymous4/29/2015

    I picked up my pair off the sidewalk - someone was throwing them out and I didn't even know what I was picking up. Was thinking my boyfriend could use them for spare parts... then googled them - now I use them and they occupy the space atop some speaker stands on either side of my 65" smart TV. Best garbage picking find ever! They just need new foam - now the decision, blue, black or orange.

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  5. Just picked up a pair for $10 on the side of the road in a small town in eastern Washington state. They look beat up. can't wait to try them out

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  6. Just picked up a pair of these offered for free at the end of a driveway. Heavy mothers! They sound great, particularly classical music with a wide range of instruments. I will need to gently clean them up (scratches and the need for some poly) and replace the grille cloth. I might consider the foam kit, but I cherish getting things like this to look new without too much invested, just my labor. They definitely are too heavy for my 60's scandinavian wall shelving.

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  7. Anonymous1/16/2016

    I am the original owner of these I purchased back in '74, powered by my sansui 9090 bought in '76.....and they both still rock. Yes, raise them a bit off the floor. These kids today don't know what they're missing. Oh well, Ziggy did play a mean guitar.

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    1. Sounds like Alan Finch of Phoenix, the San-Sewage 9090 I changed out EVERY transistor on the Preamp board. I used Sony 2sc1364 (I Think) and 2SA17??, a matched set for Sony video gear in in mid '70's. DrDave Wilmont (KRIZ / KUPD Phx).

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  8. About 1976, my girlfriend at the time Paula, was working as a temp for JBL in Northridge, Calif. A girl she met there, used her once a year employee purchase plan, and bought her a set of L100's in orange, for my Christmas present. Normal price at the time was $666.00 a pair in L.A. She got both for $333 and picked them up with her friend at the Northridge Location. The warranty that came with them said, these speakers are warrantied for one year, however, should you ever have a problem with them, contact us and give us the opportunity to repair them. 40 years later, still working great in my media room. What a great company, a great speaker, and especially a great girl. Thank you Paula, wherever you are. Dale

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  9. Anonymous9/16/2016

    I bought my L100's in 1973 while in the Army stationed in Germany. Once discharged and back in Redondo Beach, CA, I rocked them at parties, took them to the desert to play at campfires, to the beach....These babies are tough. Well, all was good, then I married and had child. JBLs went to the garage in storage. Now, at 63, I'm bringing them back out in our Palm Desert home, sans child. I need new foam grills and tweeter foam replacements. Otherwise, they rock. Not to old to rock and roll.

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  10. In the mid eighties Phil Newell designed an active version of the L100. Those were the Reflexion Arts 240. Same bass unit (the 123A), the LE-5 in the available version if LE5-2 Alnico was not at hand and the 2405-H slot coming in at around 6 or 7k. With an active 2 or 3 way crossover and 2 ir 3 stereo amps, these studio monitors gave a much better definition in the entire spectrum. In 2004, we introduced in Barcelona its definitive version (or so we expected) the 240B. These featured the more recent 2213-H ceramic JBL ( or alternatively the 128-H with foam surround for a bit lower resonance) and the 104-H, then a recent 4" that fitted the mounting specs of the LE-5, but with a much more linear frequency response. Using only a condenser to filter the frequencies below 7kHz going to the slot, Philip got a smooth change from the mids to the highs and with a unity high quality electronic stereo crossover we had a great 2 way active box for studio use. Unfortunately JBL dropped most of the components and we had to move forward.
    http://reflexionarts.co.uk

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  11. Hans Kvarnbrant11/27/2016

    Can you please stop telling me that you bought your L100's for 10 bucks in a thrift store... :-)I bought my first pair used, in mint condition, from a layer who had more money than sense.He had changed to some very flashy Active B&O speakers... Poor guy! He called me after two weeks and wanted to get he's L100 back so I helped him to get a pair of L36. OK, I paid him around 300 USD for the Centuries and that was about half the prize of new ones in Sweden. I love the sound from them. It makes me feel good! Today I have three pairs and the only things that I need is the foam for the tweeters and for the grills. Any ideas where to get thoose?

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  12. IMO there is something off with that JBL mid. This driver was used in a lot of JBL's including the decade 36. Even pulling the presence back does not solve the unnatural response it produces. If you listen to rock/pop you may not notice it but with transparent acoustic or jazz music it sounds colored (bright/nasally) compared with the KEF SP1003 or the mid from the AR3a. Its a very good speaker but not for all music.

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  13. I bought my JBL 4311WX-A Control Monitors in 1978 new in Montreal Canada for $900 Canadian. It was expensive but I was very happy as I was about to build my own ultimate speakers from JBL components and I went to the JBL store and was shown the 4311 model and bought that one instead of trying to build my own. It has gone through about 20 moves as I moved to Vancouver then Toronto areas. The speakers and drivers are still in original and perfect condition never having any repairs. The tweeter foams are somewhat deteriorated but still there and original. The 12,000 days that I have used them I have enjoyed them immensely with zero regrets.
    P.S. I do play and enjoy them with all of the about 25 different types of music on them in the over 2,500 cds and 400+ lps and 500 cassettes that I collected over the years and still have. Long live JBL and Rock and other great music!!!

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    1. The JBL L100 was the home version of the JBL 4310 studio version.
      The JBL L100 was the most popular speaker JBL ever made as it sold the most maybe over 200,000 units.
      Then the JBL 4311 studio version came out several years later.
      The 3 models were similar 3-ways however the 4311 did have some improvements near the end of the 1970's over the JBL 4310 and JBL L100.

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  14. Picked up a pair of these for free from a guy on Craigslist some 6 or 7 years ago cleaning out his father's stuff. I didn't know much about them, just that they were big ol' JBLs. Got them home and wow, they sound great and are valuable. As much as they may be worth on eBay, they're always worth more to me. These things sing beautifully and pound hard. I've thrown so much at them and they don't even flinch. They really don't make 'em like they used to.

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    1. Bought mine new @ retail in '69. They went through a lot and while I don't recall where they went, I opened a stereo store in 1971 in Champaign IL (partially to get even with that dealer that charged full price!). We're still in business today: Good Vibes Sound--if I'd never bought those L-100s, we'd probably be doing something else!

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  15. Bought a nice pair for $300 a few years back. Then went on a khorn binge and sold the century's for $350. That guy flipped them for $700 on craigslist.
    Two months ago I drove from Portland OR to Reno to get a minty pair that had been hanging on a wall their whole lives. Paid $500. Happier than a pig in shit.
    I'll never sell them. They are pure bad ass. Just spent another $200 for grill foam. Life is short people.

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  16. The first time i consciously listened to quality sound coming out of Loudspeakers was when i heard the Eagles " Earlybird " song in a Stereo Shop coming out of a Pair of JBL l100 in 1971 to this day i remember the distinct sound of the Banjo at the start of the song and the way it was placed sonically in the Song's Mix , I was blown by what i heard and have not forgotten that experience

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  17. Have had my "in line" L-100's for 40 years. Have used them outside and inside, played them loud and quiet, listened to rock, country, jazz, my kids who now have kids played all there music on them loud. One night when my daughter's garage band had a gig and one of the members couldn't bring the speakers, we used the L-100's and they did the job. Yes, everything you read about these is true and they do ROCK. Not everybody likes the sound, but the quality of these speakers is legendary. I wanted to upgrade to the improved crossovers, but cost was around $400. Found a pair of 4412's for $450. Brought them home and did a two week side by side comparison between the 4412's and the L-100's, playing all types of music. Even listened to the news talk shows. I was still very impressed with how well the L-100's sounded, however after 40 years of listening to them, I could hear subtle new sounds coming from the 4412's, so the L-100's will go.

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  18. Anonymous10/12/2017

    It was 1974 or 1975. I was 16 or 17 and a senior in high school living just south of Boston. I listened to FM radio stations WBZ-FM, WVBF, and WBCN. (Wow, the music must have been great back then! Early 70's and 60's rock.) There was a call for volunteers to answer phones three hours a week on WBCN's Listener Line. Part of my job was filing albums that songs had been played from. I remember going into the broadcast room while Maxanne Sartori was on air to file albums. (She was a real hippie to this clean-cut teenager.) Above her console, at standing ear height, were a pair of JBL L100's with blue grills. She had those things absolutely SCREAMING! I was amazed at how loud those things were playing - and without distortion! I braced myself and walked by quickly.

    I have been an audiophile starting in my late teens and all through my adulthood. Those were the first hifi speakers I ever heard. I never forgot that brief experience. They played so loudly with apparent ease.

    A few years later I bought my first pair of hifi loudspeakers. Cizek Model 1's. I got many years of great listening out of them. I knew next to nothing about hifi speakers at that time, but got lucky in buying the Cizek's. I still have them, but they need a crossover fix.

    I resented WBCN for not at least paying my subway fair in and out of Boston to volunteer my three hours once or twice a week.

    Matthew Healy

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