Review: JBL Authentics 200

Table speaker with classic design

JBL's smallest plays like a bigger speaker, but you can't take it with you.

Published 2024-02-22 - 8:00 am
JBL Authentics 200
Lasse Svendsen

The classic JBL speakers of the 70s came with a distinctive front fabric, known as Quadrex because of the pattern of cut-out squares in the foam. The new Authentics series has the same pattern in the grille, but otherwise there are few similarities.

The Authentics series consists of three wireless table speakers. They boast stereo sound and a Quadrex front, but that’s about it.

The smallest is called Authentics 200 and is just the right size for a kitchen worktop or IKEA shelf, but it’s not portable. The speaker doesn’t have a built-in battery and needs to be connected to 230 volts. If you want a portable speaker from JBL, opt for the slightly larger Authentics 300 or a JBL Charge 5.

Also check out Great sound - but something is missing

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Authentics 200 belongs to JBL’s latest generation of wireless speakers. This means it combines Bluetooth 5.3 and WiFi. Thus, you can choose how you want to stream music to the speaker. If you choose WiFi, you can stream directly from your mobile phone in higher quality and it can be connected directly to your network with an Ethernet cable.

(Photo: Lasse Svendsen)

The speaker also supports multi-speaker pairing, either via Bluetooth or WiFi, and both AirPlay 2 and Google Chromecast are supported.

It also supports voice control via Google or Alexa.

It can be connected directly to your network with an Ethernet cable (Photo: Lasse Svendsen)

 

Secret bass power

The speaker is made from recycled materials both inside and out. There is no plastic in the packaging, except for a few pieces of tape. They are even coloured with soy dye.

Sound is controlled from the top of the speaker or the JBL One app, which is also used to pair multiple speakers together, update firmware and adjust EQ – although with only bass, midrange and treble, it can hardly be called EQ. Tone control, might be more accurate, and bass/treble can also be adjusted from the top of the speaker.

(Photo: Lasse Svendsen)

If you carefully peel off the black Quadrex grille, you’ll see a 5-inch woofer flanked by two 25 mm tweeters. What you don’t see is the oval passive bass radiator that ensures the bass outperforms the speaker in terms of size. It’s passive, but can be clearly felt when you turn up the volume.

(Photo: Lasse Svendsen)

Full-bodied and balanced

The speaker may be small, but it doesn’t sound that way when you turn on the music. The first thing you notice is how rich the sound is. The bass reproduction isn’t exactly tight and super-defined, but it does a good job with rhythm and drive, and since you can turn down the bass level, it’s easy to adjust the balance of the sound to the position of the speaker.

The oval passive base radiator. (Photo: Lasse Svendsen)

JBL says that the Authentics 200 adjusts the sound with a sort of calibration every time you switch it on. If that’s the case, the effect is very subtle, because the sound got significantly better when I used the tone controls in the app.

A live recording of Weather Report (New York 1976) sounded really live from the small speaker. A bit of distortion crept in as I turned up the volume, but no more than I could live with. The speaker may not deliver every timbre, and the piano sound on the Keith Jarrett trio’s Bluenote concerts sounded a bit flat and anaemic, but the bass and percussion created a good drive in the room.

With Monica Zetterlund’s Here’s to Life in the app, the speaker created a big soundstage with a nice vocal sound. There is not as much depth in the soundstage as from an Audio Pro C5, which I also experience as better focussed. On the other hand, there is more punch and dynamics in the JBL speaker.

Conclusion

JBL’s Authentics series has nothing to do with JBL’s classic models other than the characteristic Quadrex grilles. The Authentics aren’t even authentic (they’re brand new), but they do a convincing job of pretending to be. That sound is classic JBL in a way. The smallest in the range – the Authentics 200 – could have benefited from battery power and a handle to make it even more usable. But the sound is beyond expectations and it can be paired with others and connected to your home network. This makes it useful enough for most people, who are unlikely to be disappointed with the sound quality anyway.

Karakter
JBL Authentics 200
Basic

We think

Lots of sound for such a small speaker. Powerful bass and balanced sound. Can be paired with others and you can stream your music over the network. No battery operation.

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Nostalgia in a convenient package

Speak no evil

We thought they were more expensive

They sound as good as they look

Wireless retro speaker

True portable home cinema

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