The JBL entry-level series is among the most well-rounded and approachable options available today. The beginner-friendly 306P MkII is among the most recommended choices for new project studios, and it’s not hard to see why. In this review, we check out what this affordable studio monitor offers.
JBL 306P MkII
The JBL 306P MkII breaks all expectations for a monitor at its price point. A wonderful combination of intelligent design and practical features. But while it is an excellent choice, it also has some drawbacks.
Setting up a home studio doesn’t have to be an inexpensive affair, and the JBL 306P MkII is an ideal example of an affordable yet capable option for beginners. Let’s take a closer look.
There is a distinct duality present with the JBL 306P MkII. On the one hand, it offers remarkable sound, especially when factoring in its price point. On the other hand, some noticeable issues hold it back from achieving legendary status.
The frequency response and accuracy are excellent, with an exceptional level of detail and precision that will allow you to make accurate mixing decisions. There is a noticeable dip at 1.6 kHz, impacting neutrality, but it is relatively easy to tame with some EQing. Once dialed in, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a comparably neutral monitor at this price.
The bass response is impressive, with a sizeable punch and warmth without sounding shuffled or bloated. Sub-bass is an issue, but that is the case for most monitors, so if you work with bass-heavy music, you’ll want to pair this monitor with a suitable subwoofer like the JBL LSR310S.
Mid-range performance is equally capable, with lush tonality throughout the range while holding a tight grip over neutrality. Instruments are defined and organic, and after some slight EQing vocal representations replicate the details of the original artist’s recordings.
The top end isn’t overly sharp and retains detail. Higher frequencies are usually the culprit for ear fatigue, so I’m happy that everything here is smooth and refined. If your ears are particularly sensitive, you can dial back the top end with the onboard tuning controls.
One of the highlights of the JBL 306P MkII is the superb waveguide. Studio monitors are nearfield by design, but the 306P MkII delivers a broad and generous sweet spot that makes it a comfortable task to find a good listening spot. Even for casual listening, there is enough throw to make these monitors a viable set of speakers for your home studio.
But with the good does come the bad. There is a noticeable hiss that is louder than I would have liked, and it’s audible up to 2 feet (60cm), which could be a little annoying for longer sessions.
The other notable issue is the distortion present at higher volume levels. This is a monitor that doesn’t like to be pushed hard. Once you creep up beyond 85dB, you can hear the monitor struggle, especially with lower frequencies.
But that is a relatively high level, to begin with, and you won’t want to mix at that level for extended periods. But it is still worth highlighting if you want to crank it up occasionally. As with sub-bass delivery, pairing the monitors with a subwoofer will give you much better performance at higher levels.
Despite a few wrinkles, the JBL 306P MkII goes above and beyond my expectations for a monitor in this price bracket. Other monitors this cheap suffer from a multitude of issues, but for the most part, the 306P MkII is a refined and highly capable studio monitor that is ideal for beginners.
Much like the sound quality, there is a lot to love about the build quality of the JBL 306P MkII, but also a nitpick that is worth addressing.
The cabinet features a 15mm Medium-Density Fiberboard design and provides ample heft and security. The textured wrapping is well-executed without sloppy craftsmanship. Equally, the back panel is secure, and the connection points are fantastic.
The dial and switches are also up to the task, and the unit generally presents well. Component quality is adequate but certainly not on par with more expensive offerings. But at this price, you can’t expect super premium materials. It’s a good balance and noticeably better than some other choices.
Excellent quality considering the price point.
The shiny plastic front panel is my main gripe with the JBL 306P MkII. Shiny plastic attracts fingerprints and provides a slick surface that dust loves to stick to, which is the case here. It also displays any scratches and dings in glaringly obvious detail.
It isn’t a huge deal as the surface is easy to clean but if you tend to move your monitors around a lot or are rough with them, expect them to look worse for wear sooner rather than later.
While I’m not too fond of the shiny plastic front, there is little else to complain about, and even then, it’s a minor gripe. This is a well-built monitor from a trusted brand that has also been tested to ensure durability and longevity.
With impressive audio reproduction and commendable build quality, the JBL 306P MkII is already an outstanding choice, but let’s dive under the hood to see what makes it tick.
JBL has opted for a bi-amped design to power the two drivers. Two 56W Class D amps do the heavy lifting for a total of 112W of power. Class D is an efficient and popular choice for studio monitors, and they combine effectively here. As for the drivers, the low end features a 6.5-inch woofer, and the top end features a 1-inch soft dome tweeter.
The 306P MkII offers a decent low-end extension.
Frequency response is 47Hz – 20kHz (±3dB) with a range of 39Hz – 24kHz (-10dB). The low-end extension is quite good, but as mentioned previously, the limiter will engage as you move into higher volume levels which hampers delivery.
Speaking of volume levels, the listed Max SPL of 110dB sound high, and even the continuous SPL of 92dB should be more than enough for most people’s needs. But this is with the caveat that you’ll experience some distortion in the higher range. The JBL 306P MkII is at its best in a standard calibration of around 80dB.
The other notable specification is the coverage range with a broad 120 degrees horizontally and 90 degrees vertically. Ample dispersion and far more significant than other nearfield monitors on the market.
The JBL 306P MkII also provides some tuning options to help deal with some of the more common issues you might encounter in your studio.
A Boundary EQ option offers up 0dB, -1.5dB, and -3dB options to help manage any bass resonance issues. Considering the cabinet is rear-ported, this will come in handy for less-than-ideal placement where rear wall reflection can prove problematic.
Basic controls that help refine the output.
Supporting this is an HF Trim switch with -2dB, 0dB, and +2dB choices. This will adjust high-frequency output and is perfect for dialing in the monitor to suit your personal listening preference. I’ve often dialed back high frequencies on other monitors, but I found the 0dB level ideal for my needs.
This pairing of options grants you decent freedom to tweak output, but it does fall short compared to more advanced monitors. If you want more granular control or a DSP with an LCD screen, you’ll need to up your budget and look at alternatives. But for a beginner, there is enough here to handle the basics.
The JBL 306P MkII does strike me as a clean and professional-looking monitor. The clean lines and all-black finish will blend into studio environments.
The most contentious part of the design is the shiny plastic front. Some people will see it as adding flair and personality to an otherwise stock standard-looking unit. But for others, it will be a slightly tacky addition that cheapens its appearance. Where you fall on this spectrum will come down to personal taste.
The shiny plastic is a fingerprint magnet.
Looking beyond appearance, there are some important design elements that JBL incorporates into the 306P MkII. The most prevalent is the patented Image Control Waveguide which dominates the upper portion of the monitor. This expertly crafted waveguide helps deliver broad dispersion and a generous sweet spot.
The other patented component is the rear bass port which aims to provide superior bass performance at all playback levels. To a certain degree, it is effective with exceptional performance at lower levels, something many other monitors struggle with.
The JBL 306P MkII also features excellent shielding to prevent interference from external devices. A must-have for the modern studio, which is often filled to the brim with gizmos and gadgets.
Considering both engineering and aesthetic design, the JBL 306P MkII is not only an attractive and professional-looking monitor but also composed of excellent technology that has made its way down from JBL’s more expensive options.
The JBL 306P MkII strikes an excellent balance between functionality and size. A 6.5-inch woofer does demand a hefty cabinet, but it is nowhere near the overbearing size that larger monitors command. Its footprint is relatively tame, and it shouldn’t be challenging to find space for them in most studios.
The footprint of the 306P MkII is not excessive.
At 15.95 lbs. (7.23 kg), it isn’t exactly the lightest of monitors, but equally, it is not bulky and cumbersome. A good balance between stability and reliability. Most modern monitor stands will have no problem dealing with the weight of the JBL 306P MkII.
The connections on the JBL 306P MkII are relatively standard, with two balanced options available. XLR and TRS are the go-to options you would expect to have access to, and the 306P MkII provides them. Some may lament the lack of an RCA connection, but these two connection choices will suffice for most studio environments.
The 306P MkII only features balanced connection options.
As for additional bells and whistles, there are none to be found. There is no Bluetooth functionality, and consumer-focused connections like AUX and a headphone port are also not present. If you require these features, you’ll need to explore alternatives.
One of the most significant selling points of the JBL 306P MkII is how they offer superb value for money. Yes, you can find cheaper monitors out there, but often you’ll be sacrificing a great deal in several areas like build and sound quality.
JBL has achieved a perfect balance between performance, quality, and price. I’d go so far as to say it is the best value line of studio monitors on the market. More expensive monitors do offer better audio definition and superior performance but, at the same time, often come with a hefty price tag. Even then, the JBL holds its own and gives several more expensive options a run for their money.
The combination of price and performance has cemented the JBL 306P MkII as a favorite. Multiple four and five-star reviews highlight the excellent sound quality and how much value they provide. Critics also praise the JBL 306P MkII, and it even has a NAMM TEC Award Winner badge to its name.
Finding The Sweetspot
Positioning is one of the most important things you’ll need to factor in when setting up your monitors. Accurate positioning will ensure you are in the sweet spot when working. Nearfield studio monitors don’t tend to throw sound far, so this is exceptionally critical.
A good waveguide and dispersion make it easier to find the sweet spot.
You’ll want your monitors no further than about 3-4 feet from you (1 m). You’ll also want them aimed at your listening position with the tweeter aligning with your ears. You must also ensure they are equally spaced to form an equilateral triangle.
Studio monitors like the JBL 306P MkII make finding the sweet spot easier. The broader dispersion is more forgiving in less-than-ideal positioning as well. Plus, the increased throw range will ensure that you can enjoy your music throughout more of your studio more than what other monitors offer.
The JBL 306P MkII is an excellent monitor, but several other alternatives are available in an increasingly crowded market. Below we take a quick peak at some other choices.
PreSonus Eris E5 XT Review
If you want to maximize your budget the PreSonus Eris E5 XT is worth exploring. While it might be lower in price it still offers excellent performance.
- A satisfying bass response that retains accuracy but is also lively.
- Features both balanced and unbalanced connection options for maximum flexibility.
- The mid-range delivery is not as lush as what the 206P MkII offers.
PreSonus Eris E5 XT
Kali Audio LP-6 V2 Review
Regarding beginner-friendly studio monitors, the LP-6 V2 from Kali Audio is another firm favorite. It also comes in at a cheaper price point than the 306P MkII.
- A neutral sound profile with minimal dips makes it an excellent choice for studio work.
- The low-noise front-facing port will appeal to people that want to place their monitors closer to a rear wall.
- The tuning switches are small and fiddly, leading to frustration.
Kali Audio LP-6 V2
JBL 308P MKII Review
If you already like what you see with the 306P MkII but want a little extra grunt, the larger 308P MkII is worth considering. A capable and powerful 8-inch studio monitor.
- The same attention to detail within the audio range. A good choice for composing, mixing, and mastering.
- Performs better at higher volume levels with less strain on the woofer.
- The bigger woofer does provide more bass but does lose a little accuracy.
JBL 308P MkII
Should You Buy?
The JBL 306P MkII is an ideal beginner monitor thanks to its reliable sound profile and low price point. It’s already hard enough to set up a studio, so I love how much care and attention JBL has placed on this entry-level model. While it is not perfect, there is little to fault at this price point. If you want an affordable yet capable studio monitor, the JBL 306P MkII deserves your attention.
JBL 306P MkII