The JBL ES90 is part of the legendary speaker company's mainstream ES Series lineup of home theater and music loudspeakers. At $599 each, suggested retail, the ES90 floor-standing tower is at the top of the ES Series, combining unique wedge-shaped styling with satisfying sound.
The three-way ES90 measures forty-two-and-eleven-sixteenths inches high by ten-and-one-quarter inches wide by fifteen-and-one-eighth inches deep and weighs fifty-three-and-two-fifths pounds - it looks and feels solid. The ES90 employs a three-quarter-inch ultra-high-frequency polyester-film ring-radiator driver, a three-quarter-inch titanium-laminate tweeter, a four-inch PolyPlas-treated midrange and two eight-inch PolyPlas-treated woofers. (PolyPlas is a JBL damping treatment that is used to get a more controlled and smoother response from the drivers.) The ultra-high-frequency transducer's function provides an added sense of spaciousness and treble extension. Even though part of its operating range is inaudible, it's there to help eliminate high-frequency colorations in the audible range and to provide a more natural sense of spaciousness to the speaker's sound. The UHF driver and the tweeter are both mounted in JBL's Elliptical Oblate Spheroidal (EOS) oval-shaped waveguides that are designed to provide good off-axis as well as on-axis coverage and imaging and direct sound towards the listening area rather than off the side walls.
The speaker's frequency response is stated as 36Hz - 40kHz, with an eight-ohm nominal impedance, relatively efficient 91dB sensitivity and a recommended amplifier power rating of 225 watts. The ES90 has two sets of five-way binding posts, enabling the user to bi-wire or bi-amplify the speakers.
Past mainstream JBL models have sometimes been guilty of overly boxy or plain styling. Not so for the ES Series and the ES90 - its enclosure is tapered from front to back, and its front baffle curves into the top surface. The sides of the speakers are finished in a choice of black or cherry, with dark gray front baffles and black grilles. The trapezoidal shape also imparts sonic advantages, avoiding the internal standing waves that can occur in speaker enclosures with parallel sides.
The ES90 offers a number of sonic strengths that are JBL hallmarks: clean and detailed sound, with plenty of tight bass, a clear midrange and extended high frequencies, all the more so thanks to the UHF driver that has found its way into a number of JBL designs in recent years. Fans of rock, hip-hop and high-volume listening will be happy to hear that the ES90 can play loud without strain. Imaging is extremely good, if not up to the lofty standards set by more rarefied high-end speakers (including some of of JBL's own models), and the speaker delivers the sense of presence and scale that large floor-standing speakers excel at delivering. The tonal balance is slightly on the brighter and more forward side of neutral - not glaring or bright, but the ES90 is certainly not overly bloated or sluggish-sounding.
• The ES90 plays loud and clear, with tight, powerful bass and plenty of midrange and high-frequency detail.
• Along with the ability to play loud, the ES90 offers outstanding dynamic range and impact.
• The speaker's distinctive wedge-shaped enclosure is a welcome departure from some older, stodgier JBL designs. A choice of black or cherry finishes adds to its appeal.
• This is a floor-standing speaker, so it's not going to fit into everyone's rooms or home entertainment systems.
• Although the ES90's bass goes to 36Hz, you'll need a subwoofer if you want the impact of deep bass in your home theater or music system.
• The ES90 offers outstanding sound, but not the rarefied level of sonic performance that higher-end (and more expensive) speakers can deliver.
Competition and Comparison
To compare the JBL ES90 against its competition please read our reviews for the Boston Acoustics CS226 loudspeaker, the Klipsch RF-82 loudspeaker, and the Polk TSi400 loudspeaker. You can also find a great deal more information by visiting our Floorstanding Loudspeaker section.
The JBL ES90 is a refinement of past mainstream JBL loudspeaker designs, with distinctive and appealing styling and high-quality drivers, including an ultra-high-frequency tweeter that offers open and extended frequency response. It's priced at just under $1,200 per pair, making it a solid value for buyers who want to step up to true high-performance sound for their home theaters or music systems.