Editor’s Note: This review has been removed from our side-by-side comparison because it no longer ranks as a top 10 product. The original review is below, but check out our current top 10 Floor Standing Speakers here.
Each speaker features five drivers – two 8-inch woofers, one 4-inch midrange driver, a 0.75-inch tweeter and a super tweeter to help enhance high frequencies. This is the only four-way speaker we reviewed and the only speaker with five total drivers. More drivers doesn't necessarily mean better sound quality, but we were impressed with the JBL ES90 speakers during our audio evaluations.
We tested each set of tower speakers with a number of different songs to help determine the best speakers. While we listened to Radiohead's "A Punchup at a Wedding" we noticed how clear these speakers sound. There was so much detail evident in the song, especially in the intro when the music starts to become dissonant. There are many vocal overdubs in that part, and each one could be picked out. During the choruses we were able to hear all the background guitars that generally serve as background harmonies and usually go unnoticed. These speakers brought even the smallest details to the forefront. It was almost like rediscovering the music, which made for a great listening experience.
On the other hand, when we listened to a rendition of "Venetian Gondola Song" the detail in the upper range was a bit overbearing. Near the end of the song, there is a chord walkup that climaxes with a two-note flutter on the highest end of the piano. When the two notes started playing, they sounded a bit blurry and unfocused. The two notes blended together and could not be clearly picked out. The overemphasis of the high frequencies pushed the limits during this song and the performance was not as clear as some of the best floor standing speakers in our lineup.
These speakers feature a sensitivity rating of 91 dB. This is a decent sensitivity rating, but our top two speakers have better ratings. Sensitivity is the speaker's ability convert power to sound. Our top speakers are rated at 98 dB. For every 3-decibel increase in volume, the power needs to be doubled by the amplifier. For example, a 91 dB speaker needs five times more power to achieve the same volume as a 98 dB speaker.
These home tower speakers also have a low 110-watt continuous power rating. These speakers don't need much power to operate, but there are many speakers in our lineup that are more powerful than these JBL speakers. A higher continuous power rating generally means louder volume capability.
The JBL ES90 speakers feature two 8-inch drivers. We like to see drivers larger than 6.5 inches because larger drivers generally perform better, especially in the low frequency range. This is the only set of home stereo speakers we reviewed that features a "super tweeter." In most listening scenarios we noticed that the dual tweeters produced high clarity and detailed audio.
These JBL speakers are only available in black. If you are planning on piecing an entire home stereo system together unit by unit, we recommend staying within the ES series or at least JBL so your speakers have the same timbre. Uniformity between speakers is the goal.
These JBL speakers produce finely detailed audio that picks out even the most miniscule details and makes them audible. These speakers are enjoyable to listen to. They aren't as efficient as some speakers in our lineup and they are a bit underpowered, but they should definitely be a top consideration for your home entertainment center.