Weighing in at 46.3 pounds and measuring 42.675 inches high by 8.75 inches wide by 13 inches deep, the ES80 ($599.90 per pair, MSRP) gives off an elegant yet modern cosmetic vibe. With the side panels finished in either a pretty Black, Beech, or Cherry vinyl, the top of the speaker curves directly into the baffle, finished in platinum (Black) or charcoal (Cherry, Beech). As with an increasing amount of loudspeaker designs, the speaker's enclosure elegantly tapers from front to back, which reduces internal standing waves and, in turn, the cabinet's sonic signature. The black grill extrudes from the front baffle, with a top and bottom finished with a neat strip of silver. The ES80 provides a dual set of gold-plated 5-way binding posts with a textured finish for easy gripping, offering easy bi-amping/bi-wiring, and sets of rubber feet and spikes.
On the top, the design employs a 0.75-inch Titanium-laminate dome tweeter mounted in a JBL Elliptical Oblate Spheroidal• (EOS) waveguide, which improves frequency response and imaging, according to the company. The tweeter crosses over at 12kHz at 18dB per octave to a 0.75-inch Polyester-film ring-radiator supertweeter, also mounted in an EOS waveguide. According to the company, the supertweeter plays out to 40kHz. The tweeter crosses over at 3.6kHz at 24dB per octave to a 4-inch PolyPlas• midrange. PolyPlas• employs a special polymer-coated-cellulose-fiber to increase stiffness. The midrange crosses over at 700Hz at 24dB per octave to two 6-inch PolyPlas• woofers. The ES80 employs a rear-firing port that fits neatly into the cabinet with a silver outer ring. The ES80 provides a high level of fit and finish, with the side panels looking very much like wood and the curved baffle, trimmed grills, and protruding, webbed feet adding a nice touch.
The ES80 presents a nominal 8 ohm load with a 91dB efficiency. The speaker proved to be a tougher load than the specs would indicate and needed good-quality power to open up properly, not excelling with entry-level power sources. Better-quality power sources improved things significantly.
The ES80s threw a deep, wide soundstage with very good imaging. They sounded very crisp right from the outset, and that overall quality didn't dissipate as time went on. This aspect made imaging very vivid and airy, and never artificial. The overall high end benefited from this quality, no doubt caused by the supertweeter, offering a lot of detail and speed over a wide variety of material. However, on occasion the very top end tended to obscure the lower treble, mostly caused by a hair less lower treble rather than too much higher treble. JBL chose a particular tonal balance here, and it works very well most of the time. The midrange showed very good overall clarity, with just a bit of hootiness on vocal tracks. Piano sounded great, and had some nice body in the lower registers. The midrange managed to keep pace with the top end, maintaining good overall coherence and musicality. The bass of the ES80 won the day, however.
Read more about the ES80 on Page 2.