Pros / This speaker has optimal sound quality in all frequency ranges.
Cons / The mobile application doesn't have much functionality.
Verdict / The JBL Authentics L8 is convenient and powerful. This speaker has a unique combination of sound quality and connectivity, leaving no doubt that this is the best wireless speaker we reviewed.
The JBL Authentics L8 is a rare combination of elite sound quality and vast connectivity options. Throughout our wi-fi speaker reviews it often seemed as if one was being compromised for the other. The JBL Authentics L8 wireless speaker offers as much convenience as any speaker system you can purchase, and it has excellent sound quality.
This speaker is extremely powerful and produces more bass than any other speaker we reviewed. The JBL Authentics produces more than enough volume to fill a room, so much that it can make it impossible to have a conversation. While we don't recommend constantly pushing the speaker to its absolute limits – there's no quicker way to damage your speaker (or your hearing) – it's good to know that the extra volume is there if you want it.
JBL is at the top of our list for top-notch bass production. We placed the speaker on a table that was roughly 4 feet from the ground. Still, the Wi-Fi speaker literally rattled the floor as we listened to the bass-pumping group Break Science at high volumes. We felt the bass in our feet. That type of bass production usually only comes from speaker systems that provide a separate subwoofer. The bass was high quality too, not just a bunch of low end that drowns out the rest of the song. This type of bass production makes it a suitable speaker for listeners who prefer electronic dance music and hip-hop.
The JBL produces an overall warm and balanced tonal quality that sounds natural and unforced. For example, we listened to "Bloom" by Radiohead, a song with a highly complex arrangement of drum loops and orchestral instrumentation. Midway through the song when the arrangement begins to get chaotic, with the strong blend of vocal harmonies and orchestral parts, the JBL remained balanced. The vocals never got lost in the mix of chaos, nor did the repetitive pounding drum loops become muddy and lose definition. To accurately reproduce this song is a testament to the balanced sound quality provided by this home wireless speaker.
The balanced and full sound quality continued as we listened to the guitar-heavy sounds of Rage Against The Machine. The speaker features the bass prowess to push the kick drum to provide the punch and attack most Rage songs are known for. The distorted guitars and bass lines never waivered either. Everything stayed tight and focused. The instrumentation didn't push the speaker beyond its limitations even at high volumes – a feat that most lower-ranked speakers couldn't achieve while playing Rage. The listening experience we had with the JBL Authentics L8 was very enjoyable regardless of the genre.
The L8 can connect to every type of commonly used wireless protocol. It even takes the convenience of Bluetooth to the next level with NFC connectivity. You can connect the L8 to your Android device via Bluetooth simply by touching the mobile device to the speaker. It also pairs to your mobile device via standard Bluetooth pairing, which, unlike NFC, works with Apple products, along with a multitude of other devices. The iPhone 6 has NFC technology, but it only works for Apple Pay, not with speakers.
The speaker works with Airplay, an Apple-supported Wi-Fi standard that allows you to easily send sound to the speaker from a host of Apple products. It also supports DNLA, which provides a similar function for many Android and Windows products.
It has a WPS mode, which gives you the ability to easily pair the speaker with a WPS-enabled router. It also has a standard 1/8-inch input jack, so you can physically connect a laptop, tablet, smartphone or MP3 player to the speaker. It has USB ports for charging your phone or tablet as well. However, you cannot play music through the USB port.
One of the most interesting features on the L8 is its optical input. This means it can receive digital sound from a TV, Blu-ray player, DVD player, turntable or any other device with an optical output.
The JBL mobile application is anything but special. It is really only used to help connect the wireless speaker to your home Wi-Fi network. The wireless setup process requires you to plug your mobile device into the USB input of the speaker and download the application. The process takes a few minutes to complete the sync. Outside of setting up your mobile device, the application allows you to select music from your phone and control the volume of the speaker – that’s about it. The Sonos mobile application had more functionality than the JBL Music app.
The L8 sounds fantastic, but the aesthetic isn't for everyone, especially if you prefer a more modern look. It features a retro fuzzy foam grill and a piano-black glossy finish, which looks nice but is a fingerprint magnet. The glossy top coupled with the fuzzy grill requires a conscious effort to keep clean.
It weighs a hefty 16 pounds and measures 26 inches across, 10 inches tall and 13 inches deep. This long design puts several inches of distance between the drivers, which allows you to experience ideal stereo sound, where you can clearly hear what is happening in both speakers.
Help & Support
JBL has an easy-to-navigate support section on its website. There is a lengthy FAQs section, as well as a downloadable product manual for the L8. The company also offers email and phone support. The L8 comes with a warranty that covers its drivers for five years and its electronics for one year.
This is one of the best wireless speakers we reviewed. The JBL Authentics L8 has an array of connectivity options and simply sounds great. It gets loud enough to fill a large room with sound and can also double as a sound bar for your television with the optical input it provides. The mobile application isn't as useful as others, but that is a relatively minor issue considering all of the other positive features. We had a great experience with the JBL Authentics L8.