It offered a lot of extension with very good tightness. The rear port stayed very quiet, and rounded out things well. The bass did very well over both acoustic and electronic material, and showed a lot of inner detail, speed, and great coherence with the zippy top end. Closer to the wall, the sound thickened up, and overall improved things. For a smaller floor speaker, this helps matters as it will find itself in smaller rooms most of the time. The ES80 played loudly without too many issues, but needed lots of power to get there.
• The ES80 provides a very good level of performance, with detailed highs, a solid midrange, and particularly good bass performance.
• The ES80 performs well over all kinds of music material - classical, jazz, rock, vocal, etc., and can play loudly without breaking up.
• The ES80 looks terrific with or without the grills, and comes in two different wood finishes in addition to Black.
• The ES80's top end may take some getting used to, especially with rock and electronic material, where it sometimes provided too much of a good thing.
• The ES80's midrange sounded a little hooty on vocal tracks.
• The ES80 needs very good quality power to perform its best, and suffered with budget receivers or amplifiers.
Competition and Comparison
If you want to compare JBL's ES80 loudspeakers against their competition, be sure to read our reviews for the Polk TSi4 loudspeakers and the Boston Acoustics CS 226 loudspeakers. There is also more information available in our Floorstanding Speaker section and on our JBL brand page.
The JBL ES80 provides a high quality, interesting blend of sonics and cosmetics. The sound bookends a detailed, sometimes hot top end with a fast, punchy, extended low end, and delivers a versatile midrange with very minor artifacts. As with any speaker, especially budget ones, it's all about tradeoffs and the overall value in the end. The ES80's sonic spin works very well the majority of the time, adds some appealing zest where you sometimes don't expect it, and, when it shows some flaws, doesn't offend. Cosmetically, the ES80 offers a lot of elegance and throws in some modern elements, while offering two wood finishes for under $600 a pair. That's rare, and equally noteworthy. The ES80 offers a very compelling value proposition, and lives up to the company name.