JBL S310 Review – A Rather Interesting Set Of Speakers

The JBL S310 Speakers.

 

JBL S310s on eBay

Every once in a while, someone will offer you a set of speakers that they no longer want. No, I’m not talking about selling them to you. I’m talking about just giving them to you. This is more true in the modern world of “smaller is better than bigger”

Well, in this review. I’m going to give you my impressions on this lesser-known set of speakers. The JBL S310s.

Wait, you got them for free?

I already knew you were going to ask… Yes, I did. But there were multiple reasons for this. But, I’m also going to cover why someone might give a set of speakers away.

They Don’t Know Their Value: Yes, it is possible to run into someone that doesn’t know what they have. Us being audiophiles, we’re in such a niche hobby. The average person isn’t picky about sound like we are. So, they just let gear go,

Significant Damage: This is one of the more likely cases, as this was the case with my JBL S310s. This damage could be from blown drivers, to cabinet damage, or anywhere in between.

Too Big / No Space: Like I said earlier, in this modern world, no one wants bulky stuff. Funny thing is, for sound, bulky is almost always better. The average person does not know that.

Going Back To The JBL S310s…

A close up shot of the JBL S310s

 

Anyways, back to the review, let’s talk about what makes the JBL S310s such an interesting set of speakers. If you take a look at them, it’s clear exactly what era of speakers these were built during. The late 90s through the early 2000s. This was an interesting time for HiFI speakers.

Why is this, might you ask? Well, in the 90s, speaker manufacturers were still making floorstanding speakers. Floor standing speakers tend to be large, and wider than they are deep. While, in the 2000s, speaker manufacturers were starting to play with a new kind of large speaker. This would be the tower speakers that are more common today. They’re tall, deep, but narrow in width. They tend to provide a much more flat and accurate sound than floorstanders, but aren’t usually going to give you that warm, rich sound floorstanders are known for.

The JBL S310s, are actually sort of like a cross between floorstanding speakers and tower speakers. They are tall, wide, and deep. This was an interesting design that made me really anxious to get these beasts hooked up. What’s more, they are heavy. Very heavy. More than likely, the heaviest set of speakers I’ve had to carry yet.

They have huge ported cabinets for having 10″ woofers. They made my Pioneer GS-203s look tiny. They also featured dome tweeters which are more common on newer speakers.

Upon Bringing Them In…

Being as excited as I was, I carried these heavy beasts inside. On the way, I noticed I had a few dented dust caps to deal with. Got out the old roll of electrical tape and pulled the dents out. But then, on one speaker, I noticed some real bad cabinet damage. This immediately about killed the mood.

One speaker had significant cabinet damage.

It appears that the front panel of the cabinet started to separate, while this panel was also rather soft. This is a classic sign of rotting wood. In case you didn’t know, this is the #1 killer of a set of speakers. You can always replace components such as drivers, crossovers, etc. But the cabinets, unless you can find a donor set, you’re pretty much done. This is something I hope you as an audiophile never have to go through. This was my first time running into a rotting cabinet. What’s more, the other speaker was solid. This leads me to believe that the rotting speaker got significantly wet. This is to be expected with free speakers. Let’s just hook them up and listen.

Talk About An Experience – The Sound Of A Hurt Set

Immediately, I noticed one of the tweeters was gone. Surprisingly, this was on the speaker that did NOT have the rotting cabinet. This was a surprise. The rotting speaker actually had all drivers functioning. So, I thought something might have come disconnected. Unfortunately after removing a woofer and the tweeter, everything looked fine, It was a blown driver. These speakers definitely did not have an easy life.

Now into the sound. The JBL S310s, immediately surprised me. Even with one speaker literally being ate alive, the low end was extremely deep. This was likely due to the 10″ drivers having so much cabinet to work with. This might come as a surprise to you, but a larger driver in the same cabinet, will actually not get as low. But it will provide a warmer low end

That was the case with the JBL S310s. The low end was very deep, but the warmth was very relaxed. This was definitely not the sound I am used to. But it really gave these JBLs a nice, transparent low end.

Getting into the mid range, the S310s really were studio like in their sound. Think of a set of Sony MDR V6s as speakers. That is literally what the S310s sound like. I was real taken back by the way the S310s pulled out even the tiniest of details.

Getting into the high end, even with one dead tweeter, the high end was very present. The one dome tweeter that worked might’ve been the best dome tweeter I’ve ever heard. It really did a good job working with the mid range driver to give you that single speaker impression.

Now getting into the sound stage, the S310s, being as big as they are, surprised me in the little space I gave them. You didn’t hear speakers, you heard a performance. You see, unlike floorstanding speakers, tower speakers do not need as much space to give you a wide sound stage. The JBL S310s, being a sort of hybrid between the two, really shined on giving you a wide sound stage without taking too much space.

To Wrap It Up: Final Plan

Overall, I was very impressed with the JBL S310s. If that one cabinet wasn’t severely damaged, I’d replace the tweeters and keep them. In fact, I will be keeping an eye out for a set that is in better shape. As for this set, I will be saving the components for a future project. As previously, I would run into a set of speakers needing drivers or other components that are within spec.

If you ever find yourself with a set of good speakers that have hurt cabinets, save the components. You’d be surprised with your next set of hurt speakers might just need to sound like audio heaven.

 

4 thoughts on “JBL S310 Review – A Rather Interesting Set Of Speakers”

  1. I have a mint set of these that I bought new in ~2002 and have powered them with decent Yamaha and Onkyo amplifiers. They still sound great to me to this day, and sound great even at hearing-loss-level loudness.

    The set you reviewed is clearly past their prime, and if you liked the one that seems to have been soaked in a lake, you’d love my mint set! (haha)

    While I recognize that these missed out on being cult-followed, I also find it super strange since these have most of JBL’s best tech that they’re still using today. The woofers are relatives of their Synthesis line with their cast frame, big voice coil, high power handling, and anti-bucking magnet. The 1″ titanium dome is the same (or extremely similar) as the one in the new L100s, and the midrange isn’t the nicest looking, but is easily in line with all other higher-end JBL midranges. The crossover is tame, if anything, but still cleaner than the old L100 legends … it’s a mystery to me as to why these aren’t sought after in the mild hifi renaissance that we’re in right now. The boxes are also nicely inert for those of us who prefer the sound that a solid box provides.

    I saw a mint set of these pass through my local craigslist for $250/pair recently, illustrating the lack of recognition or interest in speakers like these on the market.

    When you compare images of the S310 to the Infinity Kappa 7, you might notice some similarities that could be explained by the fact that Infinity and JBL both got gobbled up by Harman Intl. decades ago. Then, the JBL S310 just might be a more modern Infinity/JBL hybrid Kappa 7 with a different look and a front-firing tuned port. Just a little conspiracy theory for consideration. Nice review!

    Reply
    • I love your theory! I still have the mid ranges, crossovers, and woofers from my S310s. I have since moved and wish I kept the cabinets too. I now how a dedicated listening room that is much less cluttered. I do feel that I could’ve made them last a bit longer.

      You aren’t wrong at all about how good these speakers are. I started getting “Widthdrawals” from them. This went on until about November 2022 when I came across a set of JBL S312s in the beach finish on eBay in literally brand new shape. They’re the bigger brothers. I really wish I had the S310s to compare them to side by side.

      The entire design is identical with the only difference being the 12 inch woofers and bigger cabinets to accommodate them and their needs. They get very low and physically shake the room. They also suck every bit of power out of my Kenwood KR V126r and beg for more while laughing at me. They have to be the smoothest sounding speakers I have ever heard.

      Why they don’t have a big following? I’m not sure to be honest. I did notice that they’re slowly getting recognized. I do think that perhaps it’s the shear weight and size. But people these days don’t understand how much the cabinet matters for good sound. Especially the low end. Due to how solid these things are, I feel like they would break the floor if they ever fell over. But that also means that they can displace a ton of air with a low efficiency high moving mass driver which is what this woofer appears to be. They’re better than a lot of powered subwoofers down low. And extremely punchy in comparison.

      Love these things. Maybe one day I’ll have a receiver powerful enough to push them for real. But even now. My ears need a break before the Kenwood does. They have surprised me at all volumes with good imaging and an ability to pull out some tiny details without being “too forward” in the sound. I hope to get an article up on them soon.

      Reply
  2. Hey there,
    Great read offering a different perspective to what many people have. We actually have these same speakers, 4 of the large floor ones, 2 bookshelf ones and the centre all in practically perfect condition since we purchased them 20+ years ago. Unfortunately as you have said, many people want to do away with such speakers because of the bulk and size, and yes, these are DAMNED heavy buggers. With that reason we are considering selling ours as we are in a small house with limited space but may well regret doing so after the fact. Reading your opinion has made me stop to take a breath before listing them. Cheers, have a good one.

    Reply
    • I actually found their bigger brother, the S312s. Taller and wider to accommodate the 12 inch woofers. Needless to say, I can’t lift them myself that easily.

      They’re in the beach finish and absolutely gorgeous. I don’t run surround sound so I don’t worry about the bulk. The fact that they have 12 inch woofers really make needing a sub unnecessary provided you EQ them right and have enough power to drive them. My Kenwood KR-V126r can’t max them out. They image well enough to not need anything else even with movies.

      I recommend to hold onto your setup. Having the entire matching set is very cool. JBL doesn’t make tower speakers like this anymore that can actually provide all of their own low end without a subwoofer. They are worth a lot and still appreciating.

      Reply

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