Pros / The midrange driver produced the most natural vocal sounds of any speaker we tested.
Cons / The high frequencies were overemphasized in our music-listening test.
Verdict / The JBL Studio 290 performed equally well in our music test and movie test. This was the only pair of speakers we tested that didn’t show a noticeable deficiency in one or the other.
The JBL Studio 290 is a three-way design with two 8-inch low-frequency drivers, a 4-inch midrange driver and a 1-inch CMMD dome tweeter. The matte black speaker cabinet may not be the most visually striking in our review, but these floor standing speakers produced an open and accurate tone across a wide frequency range in both music and movies.
The Studio 290 were the only speakers we tested that performed equally well in our music-listening test and the movie-listening test – most models seemed to be better at one or the other. For our music-listening test, we played songs from a variety of genres, including electronic, blues, rock, hip-hop and classical. We had a hard time finding a specific genre that didn’t sound good through the towers. The vocal reproduction was particularly good across all genres.
We played Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” for our panel of testers and asked them to rate the quality of the treble, bass and vocals. The JBL towers consistently scored well across all those frequencies, though there were moments during the synthesizer solo in the song “Get Lucky” that the treble frequencies were overemphasized compared to the Klipsch R-28F, which was the best performer in our music test. That solo has an abundance of high-frequency content, but these speakers emphasized those frequencies in a way that was perceived as “harsh” by a member of our listening panel.
For our movie-listening test, we watched action scenes from the movie “Mad Max: Fury Road.” Action movies like “Mad Max” have an abundance of loud sound effects, and a good floor standing speaker balances these startling sounds with clear and equally loud dialogue. These JBL speakers produced natural and accurate dialogue that made it feel like the actors were standing right in front of us.
You need to pair the JBL Studio 290 with an AV receiver or amplifier capable of producing 150 to 225 watts of continuous power. The recommended minimum power rating is 20 watts, but you won’t be happy with the results if you power these massive speakers with any less than 150 watts. The higher the continuous power rating, the higher you can turn up the volume before distortion occurs.
These speakers have a 91 dB sensitivity rating, which means they can produce 91 dB of sound when supplied with 1 watt of amplification. This is better than average for the speakers we tested – these towers have no problem producing volumes that could permanently damage your hearing when powered by an AV receiver that sends 160 watts per channel.
The Studio 290 speaker cabinets have a boring and monolithic design, especially when the speaker grille is on. However, what they lack in visual appeal they more than make up for in audio features.
Their 4-inch Polyplas midrange driver was the most accurate and natural sounding in our review. It may not look important sitting above the two 8-inch woofers, but the midrange driver is responsible for most of the vocals and dialogue in music and movies.
The JBL Studio 290 floor speakers produced the most natural- and accurate-sounding vocals and dialogue in our tests, and they performed equally well when playing movies and music. These speakers are best suited for medium and large size theater rooms because of the rear-ported cabinet and massive 8-inch woofers.