A few weeks ago, I came across a set of speakers at the local Goodwill that caught my attention immediately. Down on the bottom shelf sat a set of small, but very nice looking speakers. I immediately saw that vintage JBL logo and dove straight for that shelf. I noticed how solid they felt despite their small size.
I decided to remove one of the grills. This revealed a very nice looking tweeter and a relatively stiff 5.25 inch woofer in a large for it’s size ported cabinet. The model being “JBL 2500”, I decided to look them up. What I came across was mixed reviews. Ranging from listeners saying they’re warm and soothing while others trying to compare them to studio monitors.
Being that these were ported speakers, I knew immediately that comparing them to studio monitors was wrong. It was evident the JBL 2500s are for listening. I decided that these needed my judgment being a middle man set of speakers.
Starting off, The Design.
Well, let’s dig in to the design of the JBL 2500 speakers. To start off, the cabinets are very sturdy. I tend to do what I call the knock test. Basically, this will give you a general idea of just how sturdy the cabinets are. The cabinets in a set of speakers are the most important piece of the puzzle. A poor cabinet will never sound good. When I knocked on the side of the JBL 2500s, it actually hurt a bit. The sound of the knock was not hollow at all. It sounded like knocking on a solid 2×4. This was promising. Especially for a smaller set of speakers.
Moving on, the low frequency driver is a 5.25 inch high polymer laminate woofer. While you might think that a larger woofer would be preferred to get adequate low end, this isn’t always the case. In some cases, a smaller woofer is actually preferred in a larger cabinet. Especially when given a ported cabinet, a smaller woofer will tend to give off a bigger, warmer low end given the same cabinet.
The high frequency driver is a 12mm titanium dome tweeter. This was what really got me interested in these speakers. I haven’t owned a set of speakers that utilized a metal dome tweeter at the time of picking these up, let alone a titanium one.
JBL states that these speakers utilize crossover networks. I have not been inside the JBL 2500s to verify this yet. But so far, they seem like really well-built speakers. I believe JBL did in fact use actual networks. The specified crossover frequency is 3kHz which to me, seems kind of low for such a small tweeter. But, these tweeters aren’t your typical dome tweeters. We could be in for a surprise here.
When I first heard the JBL 2500s play, I was immediately surprised. They sound like a set of speakers almost twice their size. Strong lower mid bass, laid back lower mid range, and strong upper mid range and top end.
In Depth Listen:
While the low end doesn’t stretch very deep, it does get quite low. I would estimate down to 50hz which is quite impressive for their size. Mid bass can be strong but is never boomy or out of control. This was a worry of mine given that they are smaller, ported speakers. The JBL 2500s would be very good with a large powered subwoofer. They can cover all the mid bass and some lower bass with ease. For a list of recommended powered subwoofers, read the article here.
Digging into the mid range, lower mids are laid back a bit. Upper mid range is forward. This makes the JBL 2500s extremely detailed and transparent.
This is typical of JBL speakers. But, I have really actually grown to love this sound for critical listening. Music that is mixed with a warmer than needed tone will sing on the JBL 2500s. Though, they don’t let you down with colder sounding mixes either. It is a unique sound that I have grown to love.
Getting into the top end, I was actually really impressed here. I never expected the warm treble these speakers are capable of with such small tweeters. They are surprisingly natural like some dome tweeters I’ve heard. The top end is very transparent. It can be fatiguing at times but I’m used to very warm sound. The amazing amount of detail and clarity makes up for this.
The JBL 2500s didn’t image the way I expected smaller speakers to image. The first thing I did was treat them like a larger set of speakers and spread them out a bit. Once I did that, the magic happened.
I was immediately presented with a very wide, tall, and spacial soundstage. One thing that I noticed was how you can hear the imaging at various angles. You don’t have to sit perfectly in between them to get a general idea of the performance being played.
I will recommend that you do keep your ears between the woofer and tweeters otherwise, the top end can be pinpointed to the speakers, rather than where it actually is in the mix. This is a downside to smaller tweeters. This is less of a problem the farther back you sit from them.
The Wrap Up
It is no surprise at all that these speakers had a bit of research development involved. A smaller woofer in a larger cabinet clearly works in this case. If you weren’t in the room, you’d imagine a larger set of speakers.
The small but mighty titanium dome tweeter really is not an ordinary tweeter. It might be small, but it packs a punch.
All in a set of very well-built, solid cabinets. If you come across a set of JBL 2500s, just get them. You will fall in love. I’ve lost sleep due to how addicting their sound signature is. Just listen for yourself!
6 thoughts on “JBL 2500 Speakers – Tiny Size, Big Sound.”
I’ve had these for years after finding them for $6 at a Goodwill. I thought they sounded pretty good connected to my 80s Sony Silverface receiver (also from GW), but it wasn’t until I got a Toshiba HDCD capable DVD player that I finally realized just how good. I put an HDCD of King Crimson’s first album on and it was seriously the best I’ve ever heard it (and I’ve owned quite a few copies and listened to them on my more serious system). These things have some great sound in a small package.
Here I am at the thriftshop reading your review. $25, with a cracked mount on one of the tweeters, hmm. If I wasn’t on a bike…
I’d quickly go back and get my car and get them. They’re worth it. Someone probably grabbed them by now. Such good little speakers.
The beauty of audiophilia is how many opinions and variations come from exchanging pieces of equipment, no two systems are going to give you the exact same sound signature results. Unless they consist of the exact same pieces of equipment. Myself, I have enough equipment to create quite a lot of different systems, multiple amps, receivers, turntables, CD players / exchangers, cassette decks (no 8 tracks anymore), varied cables, interconnects, speaker wires and at last count 18 pairs of speakers from different companies (2 from JBL). 50 years worth of playing a game I have come to love and win often when I experiment. Which brings me to these little JBL 2500’s that I discovered at a Union Mission thrift store many years ago ($7 for the pair) which at first listen were good but not overly special, yet they have hung around while a lot of other speakers have come and gone. These didn’t find a place in my musical heart until one day while playing the equipment exchange game they were connected up to a system consisting of a Denon 2 channel receiver, Sony CD, Hitachi turntable, Energy subwoofer, Kimber and Audioquest cables. THEN THEY CAME TO LIFE LIKE PINOCCHIO! Simply wasn’t prepared for what came out of the JBL 2500’s. Soundstage, imaging, depth, height and tonal clarity with excitement and no harshness. They are now in my 12 speaker switching system and every time I play them for friends and family they always impress. So they just keep showing folks that you can take a frog and with the right magic turn him into a prince.
Excellent review! I found my pair at Goodwill for $14.99 and got 20% off senior citizen discount on top of that! What a steal!!
That’s definitely a steal. The hours I’ve wasted thanks to these speakers… They’re very underrated.