Budget monitors are a tricky category to tackle. Finding the balance between sound quality and a reasonable price is essential. You don’t want to be having to buy new monitors and end up spending more in the long run. In this review, we check out a budget set of monitors that tick all the right boxes.
JBL One Series 104
The JBL One Series 104 is one of the best inexpensive studio monitors you can buy. Capable of handling a variety of situations for both the casual and professional user.
This small set of studio monitors have a lot to offer. Let’s break down each category and see how they fare.
The JBL Series One 104 offers up impressive sound quality, especially at this price point.
The low-end is reliable and satisfying without any extra emphasis. The mids are clean, and there is no muddiness in the tonal range. Something I often come across in poor quality budget monitors. The highs are also impressive. Crisp and clear without any grating tips.
The performance of the 104’s is best at higher volumes. At these volumes, the soundscape comes together entirely. They are an excellent choice for producers that like to analyze their music at louder volumes. But, at lower volumes, the balance isn’t as clean.
Despite the less-than-ideal sound at lower volumes, the JBL Series One 104 is an excellent monitor. A pleasing balance between frequencies will impress beginners and veterans.
JBL has struck an excellent balance with the 104’s. The build quality is excellent. Components are reliable, and they sit comfortably on the desk. Great to see JBL providing a durable set of speakers for the entry-level market.
The JBL One Series 104 is a durable and well-built pair of speakers.
Wood cabinets are the norm for speakers, but JBL has opted for an ABS enclosure. I do prefer timber, but often budget monitors offer cheap chipboard as opposed to proper wood. The choice of ABS here is a good one.
At 8.35 lbs (3.8kg), they have a little bit of heft to them but by no means overbearing. A compact and lightweight option.
The JBL One Series 104 has a 4.5-inch woofer that handles the low-end. For the mids and highs, there is a 0.75” soft dome tweeter. Both of these components sit behind a metal grille for maximum protection.
The JBL One Series 104 is a compact studio monitor with excellent sound quality.
The frequency response is also impressive. Between 60Hz-20kHz. Plenty of room to cover both the low-end and high-end frequencies.
A 60W Class D amplifier powers the speakers (30W per speaker). On the volume front, the 104’s pack a serious punch. They can reach 104dB SPL, and distortion is minimal at higher levels.
The 104’s don’t offer any way to tune the output. At lower price points, it is difficult to find speakers that provide reliable tuning options.
Since these are rear-ported, it would have been great to see some control over the low-end. If you place these close to a wall, you may experience low-end build-up that can throw off the sound balance.
Input options are excellent with both unbalanced RCA and ¼-inch balanced TRS connection options. Having these options gives you the flexibility to connect these easily to your gear.
Balanced and unbalanced connection options are available on the 104’s.
Moving to the front, you’ll also have access to a headphone jack and an AUX input. Few budget monitors give you these extra choices. AUX is especially handy for plugging in your media device without having to go through your PC.
Finally, the 104 also supports Bluetooth 5.0. Further flexibility to stream music or reference material. You can switch between inputs via the dedicated button. While an excellent feature, there is a delay that can lead to you cycling past the input you wanted.
Another outstanding feature of the JBL One Series 104 is the compact design. Moving away from the standard speaker box, these are oval. They comfortably sit on smaller work surfaces. It also helps them blend more naturally into your studio space.
The small footprint is an excellent design choice for smaller workspaces.
The ABS housing is available in matte black or white. For my studio, I prefer white monitors to match the decor, so I always appreciate it when a company gives you a choice.
An attractive and compact monitor that is perfect for general listening and producing.
These are a compact set of monitors. While a little taller than some other monitors, they are more slimline in both depth and width.
The JBL One Series 104 studio monitors are compact and durable.
Due to the compact size, these are also a good option if you need reference monitors on the go.
The JBL Series One 104 are not the cheapest monitors available, but you do get excellent value for money. Component quality is high, and these are a durable set of speakers. You might be able to save some money by purchasing cheaper monitors, but you’ll end up spending more in the long run.
An excellent choice for those on a budget but willing to invest that little bit more for better quality.
What Others Have To Say
Many people love the JBL Series One 104’s. Excellent for producers that want a compact and portable set of monitors at a reasonable price.
Understanding Room Acoustics
One of the challenges when setting up your studio is how to handle the unique characteristics of your space.
If you are looking at small budget monitors, you likely have a small studio space. These small spaces can cause issues when setting up your speakers. For example, if you place your speakers too close to a wall, you may end up with a low-end buildup. The result is muddiness or boominess.
Acoustic foam tiles are a great way to balance the sound in your studio.
Placing speakers at least 3 feet (1-meter) from the wall is ideal. You’ll also need to set the speakers far enough apart from each other. Also, aim to have the speakers at ear-level and facing towards your chair.
If you still experience problems, you can look at acoustic material. This foam attaches to your wall to enhance absorption and diffusion.
Taking these couple of extra steps will ensure you get the best sound from your speakers.
There is plenty of choice in the budget monitor market. Here are some alternatives to the JBL Series One 104 that are worth considering.
Samson MediaOne BT3 Review
The Samson MediaOne BT3 is a budget alternative to the 104’s. Extra features like Bluetooth also add to the appeal. But, a budget price does mean component quality is not as high.
- An aggressive price point allows you to spend more on other studio gear.
- The sound quality is clear and detailed but is not very flat.
- Poor low-end response. Not an ideal choice for bass-lovers.
Samson MediaOne BT3
Pioneer DM-40D Review
The Pioneer DM-40D is an excellent alternative if you are after a meatier low-end. A popular choice among hobby DJs these speakers deliver a more colored soundscape. But if you do want a balanced response, you’ll need to look elsewhere.
- It offers a rich and full low end that is great for bass lovers.
- These speakers perform well at all volume levels.
- Limited connectivity compared to the 104’s.
Bose Companion 2 Series III Review
The Bose Companion 2 Series III is another great set of compact studio monitors. It features a v-shaped sound signature that is satisfying and punchy.
- High build quality from a well-respected brand in the audio scene.
- Super slimline profile allows these to easily squeeze into tight spaces.
- The unbalanced sound profile makes it unsuitable for serious studio work.
Bose Companion 2 Series III
Should You Buy?
The JBL Series One 104 is an excellent choice for producers with limited desk space. The narrow profile and robust build quality set them apart from competitors.
The sound balance is also impressive, especially at higher volume levels. If you need a small set of monitors for gaming, listening, or producing, these should be on your list of options.
JBL One Series 104