JBL 4309 Monitor Speakers

Retro Looks, Modern Performance

By Venoth Nair

A look that invokes old school nostalgia, the JBL 4309 Studio Monitor.

What are the makings of a good speaker? Looks? Sound quality? Build quality maybe? It’s heritage perhaps? Or can it be combination of things maybe? A question with no straight answer if you ask me, as on many occasions even the most polarised opinions highlight the fact that for its ardent detractors there are its loyal supporters. 

To me this is the point with the JBL 4309 Studio Monitor. A speaker that celebrates a legacy and fortifies it with all the latest tech crammed into its vintage inspired cabinet. The end result is an undeniably retro speaker that is cutting edge in performance. The solid wood cabinet which wraps it is beautifully finished. The horn is also in a matt black finish which allows the compression driver within the diaphragm to stand out. The grill (which is blue for the walnut finished unit) is held in by push pins and is locked in rather tight, sitting flush with the cabinet sides. A little difficult to remove at times, but you get the hang of it with practice. 

  The JBL 4309 is a dual front ported 2-way, bookshelf speaker which utilises a horn loaded 25mm Teonex polymer driver paired to a 165mm pulp midbass driver. The bass driver and ports sit on a blue coloured baffle, giving it a distinctive look. This coloured portion is completely covered by the grill when it is in place. Between the horn and grill cover, we find a control that allows for high frequency tweaking should the need arise, although in my listening I kept it at 0dB. The JBL 4309 has a rated impedance of 4 ohms with a sensitivity of 87dB which makes it drivable by most, but best driven with reliable high-powered amplifiers.

The 6.5inch bass driver, made with pure pulp. 

The JBL 4309 can be both an instrument as it has the range to be either a well-focused precision speaker, or a more fun sounding forgiving speaker. These speakers are fantastic when it comes to imaging and sound staging, both important in a good monitor. The speakers also have great dynamics particularly evident when listening to percussion heavy music. Quick switches and changes in levels are communicated perfectly without any bleed or bloating.

The JBL 4309 is very composed even at high volumes. The speaker maintains a consistent neutral response curve at any volume which keeps to its monitor name. Though it’s not to say the speaker is totally colourless, as there is a hint of energy up top as well as a little presence in the midrange region giving the speakers a slightly more exciting sound. There is also a slight bump in the upper bass region providing a weightier sensation during listening.  

The midrange of this speaker lends it to rock hard. The impact-full and weighty bass works beautifully with the slightly emphasised midrange giving heavy guitar riffs the perfect amount of bite and intensity. The horn loaded tweeter shines as well with crisp and sparkly highs which complement the speakers mid and lows but stays rolled off at the very top, preventing the speakers from entering excessively bright territory. 

To test this, I played Blur’s, Country House which is rife with sibilance thanks to Damon Albarn’s unique voice tone which becomes surprisingly bearable and in certain cases enjoyable. It’s not that the sibilance isn’t there, it’s just not as in your face and fatiguing unlike a typical horn loaded designs. 

High frequencies can be tweaked thanks to the UHF Trim knob just under the horn, conveniently located on the front. 

The JBL 4309 is rather revealing when it comes to connected equipment particularly amplifiers. Switching between amplifiers which was available at the time revealed strong variations in the JBL 4309’s tone. The Rega Elex-R which has a warmer sound with a slightly pronounced top end shines, bringing treble performance to life particularly with cymbals which sound a smidge smoother when the same music is played through the JBL SA750. The detail and control exhibited on the SA750 grips the JBL 4309 perfectly giving it better speed and dynamics. The more powerful, and stable power output of the SA750 also provides dividends in the low end introducing better texture along with more controlled, nuanced bass.

Switching over to the Rotel Michi X3 which is a staggeringly powerful amplifier once again changes the character of the JBL 4309 to a darker and hyper clean sound.  Personally, this pairing was my favourite as the darker tonality made the pair a super relaxing, laidback listen. The detail extraction was also spectacular which is testament to the performance headroom that this stand mount monitor is capable off. This speaker is capable of relating plenty of information when tasked to do so, and does so very well. 

The horn design looks familiar because it’s the same design as that used on the JBL HDi series.

The JBL 4309 is in my opinion, a crowd-pleasing speaker when it comes to its sonic performance. That is of course when partnered correctly and fed the right source. The 4309 stays true to its monitor origins, delivering clarity, superior resolution and just the right amount of excitement in its sound for a listen which is not just technical, but also entertaining. A perfect speaker for a well-endowed system or those looking for a second pair to complement their daily driver. I personally wish I had a second system to plonk this fantastic speaker into, because I love them!

The JBL 4309 Monitor speakers are sold and distributed by AV Designs and retail for RM 10,700 a pair. If you would like to check them out or maybe even audition these speakers, do call the AV Designs team at 03-62411237 to make the arrangements.

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