JBL L100 / L-100 Century Speaker Review, Specs and Price

JBL L100 L-100 Century Speaker

The JBL L-100 Century is JBLs most famous vintage speaker from the 1970ies and is an absolute classic. It has been produced in several versions over the years, so it is well possible to find slightly different midrange and tweeter placements. You can find an example of a newer design at the end of this article. 
When JBL focused on offering foremost consumer electronics (vs. professional studio equipment) in the 70ies, it started the L100 model, which became the most sold speaker model up to that date. No other company had produced a speaker with similar sales. Therefore JBL continued to build and sell the L- series and introduced newer versions with improved drivers and crossovers throughout the 80ies.Those newer speakers of the L-series do not have much in common with the original L-100. Read for example our review of the JBL L112 Century II speaker.

JBL L-100 Strengths and Weaknesses

The JBL L-100 Century was a milestone and huge success for JBL, but was not free of weak spots. At first to its strengths:
  • It has been noted in professional magazines at the time that the JBL L-100 lacks distortion at a level that has been outstanding.
  • It ranked with some of the most accurate speakers out there and Stereo Review Magazine claimed that “certainly no other has been better”. Such ultimate statement is not professional, but it gives an idea of the impression the speaker has made.
As mentioned, the L-100 has a few weak spots, some of which decreased over the years with new versions of the L-100, other models and other drivers. Commonly claimed weak spots of the L-100 are:
  • The JBL has great drivers (considering the cost), but lacked a decent crossover. Upgrading the crossover can be fairly difficult and its finetuning requires special equipment. Overall, it can be overly costly to work on the crossover, if you are not a professional.
  • They have the frequently called “West Coast” sound, a little flat with fairly punchy bass.

 JBL L-100 Century Specs

The JBL L100 measures 23 1/2″ to 14 ½” to 13 5/8″ and is therefore a rather large bookshelf speaker. The cabinets are made out of real wood, which causes the weight of 45 lbs. per speaker. This combination was a bit of a problem for me, as the speakers were neither suitable for any of my shelves, nor were they suitable to stand on the ground due to their sze. I, and many other owners did finally buy small stands, which I can also recommend, as it gives the speakers the elevation, hight and position they require to shine.
Each L100 has a 12” woofer, 5” midrange speaker and a 1 1/2” tweeter. Noteworthy are the controls for high- and mid-frequency adjustment. The speaker sound is dynamic, remains very clear on high volume, but basses are rather “punchy”. Personally I felt most comfortable when listening to Rock, but have the feeling that they are not too suitable for fine vocals. Other reviewers noted too, that they did not like to listen to Jazz or female singers on the L100.

Refoaming the JBL-100

The JBL-100 is definetily worth it being refoamed. Many of them have rotted foam surrounds which can easily be replaced. A refoaming kit can usually be bought for around $30-40, replacing the old foams will take around 1 to 2 hours and is not difficult at all! It does not require any particular skill, just a calm hand and a little patience. You can find a fitting refoam kit here: > Speaker Surround Kits <. Alternatively, ask in one of the big HiFi forums, you will likely find assistance quickly.
JBL L-100 Century Price: $380-550
(Depending on overall condition, keep in mind that broken drivers are fairly expensive for this model)

Read our other reviews of JBL´s L-Series:

Later models of the L-100: 

Later Model of the JBL L100



  1. Sometime around 1974 I had purchased a pair of Bose 901-series II. The bass response was such that it rattled everything in the house that was not nailed down. After 2 weeks, I returned the speakers to the store where I had bought the 901's. Because I had drilled holes into the bottom of the 901's in order to attach the speaker stands, the best the store would do is offer me a pair of JBL L100's and a pair of speaker stands in return for the 901`'s. I took the deal and it was one of the smartest decisions I've ever made.

  2. Hello,
    None of the drivers in the JBL L100 have foam surrounds; all three have cloth/textile surrounds so you should disregard the "Re-foaming" paragraph above. The only foam on the L100 is around the tweeter baffle which should be replaced.
    In a normal room (not too live or dead) the midrange control should be turned down quite a bit.
    The only real acoustic problem with them is that from around 200Hz to around 1500Hz they are lacking detail.
    Thus the problem with vocals and jazz through the middle midrange although it is more forgiving on rock and pop.

  3. The L100 DID have foam grill covers. The lab monitors had only a simple black clorh grill. The lab monitors perform about the same but have a different speaker layout and are not quite as attractive.

  4. A pair of L100s were booming inside a 4,000 square foot Salvation Army in 2004. Wasn't familiar with the model but they were JBL. Good condition. Foolishly left the store to do some research before plunking down big bucks. Called them 30 minutes later with hold those speakers request. The manager seemed anxious to get rid of them before they were poked and destroyed since they were missing the grills, but he tossed in some covers from other speakers I could modify and get to snap on JBL pegs. $50.00 plus tax.

    $60 for a set in good condition at Salvation Army in 2003.

  5. I picked up my pair off the sidewalk – someone was throwing them out and I didn't even know what I was picking up. Was thinking my boyfriend could use them for spare parts… then googled them – now I use them and they occupy the space atop some speaker stands on either side of my 65" smart TV. Best garbage picking find ever! They just need new foam – now the decision, blue, black or orange.

  6. Excellent! That's like winning the lottery!
    Grille color: black, probably.
    (Did you keep the boyfriend?)

  7. Just picked up a pair for $10 on the side of the road in a small town in eastern Washington state. They look beat up. can't wait to try them out

  8. Just picked up a pair of these offered for free at the end of a driveway. Heavy mothers! They sound great, particularly classical music with a wide range of instruments. I will need to gently clean them up (scratches and the need for some poly) and replace the grille cloth. I might consider the foam kit, but I cherish getting things like this to look new without too much invested, just my labor. They definitely are too heavy for my 60's scandinavian wall shelving.

  9. I am the original owner of these I purchased back in '74, powered by my sansui 9090 bought in '76…..and they both still rock. Yes, raise them a bit off the floor. These kids today don't know what they're missing. Oh well, Ziggy did play a mean guitar.

  10. Sounds like Alan Finch of Phoenix, the San-Sewage 9090 I changed out EVERY transistor on the Preamp board. I used Sony 2sc1364 (I Think) and 2SA17??, a matched set for Sony video gear in in mid '70's. DrDave Wilmont (KRIZ / KUPD Phx).

  11. About 1976, my girlfriend at the time Paula, was working as a temp for JBL in Northridge, Calif. A girl she met there, used her once a year employee purchase plan, and bought her a set of L100's in orange, for my Christmas present. Normal price at the time was $666.00 a pair in L.A. She got both for $333 and picked them up with her friend at the Northridge Location. The warranty that came with them said, these speakers are warrantied for one year, however, should you ever have a problem with them, contact us and give us the opportunity to repair them. 40 years later, still working great in my media room. What a great company, a great speaker, and especially a great girl. Thank you Paula, wherever you are. Dale

  12. I bought my L100's in 1973 while in the Army stationed in Germany. Once discharged and back in Redondo Beach, CA, I rocked them at parties, took them to the desert to play at campfires, to the beach….These babies are tough. Well, all was good, then I married and had child. JBLs went to the garage in storage. Now, at 63, I'm bringing them back out in our Palm Desert home, sans child. I need new foam grills and tweeter foam replacements. Otherwise, they rock. Not to old to rock and roll.

  13. In the mid eighties Phil Newell designed an active version of the L100. Those were the Reflexion Arts 240. Same bass unit (the 123A), the LE-5 in the available version if LE5-2 Alnico was not at hand and the 2405-H slot coming in at around 6 or 7k. With an active 2 or 3 way crossover and 2 ir 3 stereo amps, these studio monitors gave a much better definition in the entire spectrum. In 2004, we introduced in Barcelona its definitive version (or so we expected) the 240B. These featured the more recent 2213-H ceramic JBL ( or alternatively the 128-H with foam surround for a bit lower resonance) and the 104-H, then a recent 4" that fitted the mounting specs of the LE-5, but with a much more linear frequency response. Using only a condenser to filter the frequencies below 7kHz going to the slot, Philip got a smooth change from the mids to the highs and with a unity high quality electronic stereo crossover we had a great 2 way active box for studio use. Unfortunately JBL dropped most of the components and we had to move forward.

  14. Can you please stop telling me that you bought your L100's for 10 bucks in a thrift store… :-)I bought my first pair used, in mint condition, from a layer who had more money than sense.He had changed to some very flashy Active B&O speakers… Poor guy! He called me after two weeks and wanted to get he's L100 back so I helped him to get a pair of L36. OK, I paid him around 300 USD for the Centuries and that was about half the prize of new ones in Sweden. I love the sound from them. It makes me feel good! Today I have three pairs and the only things that I need is the foam for the tweeters and for the grills. Any ideas where to get thoose?

  15. IMO there is something off with that JBL mid. This driver was used in a lot of JBL's including the decade 36. Even pulling the presence back does not solve the unnatural response it produces. If you listen to rock/pop you may not notice it but with transparent acoustic or jazz music it sounds colored (bright/nasally) compared with the KEF SP1003 or the mid from the AR3a. Its a very good speaker but not for all music.

  16. I bought my JBL 4311WX-A Control Monitors in 1978 new in Montreal Canada for $900 Canadian. It was expensive but I was very happy as I was about to build my own ultimate speakers from JBL components and I went to the JBL store and was shown the 4311 model and bought that one instead of trying to build my own. It has gone through about 20 moves as I moved to Vancouver then Toronto areas. The speakers and drivers are still in original and perfect condition never having any repairs. The tweeter foams are somewhat deteriorated but still there and original. The 12,000 days that I have used them I have enjoyed them immensely with zero regrets.
    P.S. I do play and enjoy them with all of the about 25 different types of music on them in the over 2,500 cds and 400+ lps and 500 cassettes that I collected over the years and still have. Long live JBL and Rock and other great music!!!

  17. The JBL L100 was the home version of the JBL 4310 studio version.
    The JBL L100 was the most popular speaker JBL ever made as it sold the most maybe over 200,000 units.
    Then the JBL 4311 studio version came out several years later.
    The 3 models were similar 3-ways however the 4311 did have some improvements near the end of the 1970's over the JBL 4310 and JBL L100.

  18. Picked up a pair of these for free from a guy on Craigslist some 6 or 7 years ago cleaning out his father's stuff. I didn't know much about them, just that they were big ol' JBLs. Got them home and wow, they sound great and are valuable. As much as they may be worth on eBay, they're always worth more to me. These things sing beautifully and pound hard. I've thrown so much at them and they don't even flinch. They really don't make 'em like they used to.

  19. Bought mine new @ retail in '69. They went through a lot and while I don't recall where they went, I opened a stereo store in 1971 in Champaign IL (partially to get even with that dealer that charged full price!). We're still in business today: Good Vibes Sound–if I'd never bought those L-100s, we'd probably be doing something else!

  20. Bought a nice pair for $300 a few years back. Then went on a khorn binge and sold the century's for $350. That guy flipped them for $700 on craigslist.
    Two months ago I drove from Portland OR to Reno to get a minty pair that had been hanging on a wall their whole lives. Paid $500. Happier than a pig in shit.
    I'll never sell them. They are pure bad ass. Just spent another $200 for grill foam. Life is short people.

  21. The first time i consciously listened to quality sound coming out of Loudspeakers was when i heard the Eagles " Earlybird " song in a Stereo Shop coming out of a Pair of JBL l100 in 1971 to this day i remember the distinct sound of the Banjo at the start of the song and the way it was placed sonically in the Song's Mix , I was blown by what i heard and have not forgotten that experience

  22. Have had my "in line" L-100's for 40 years. Have used them outside and inside, played them loud and quiet, listened to rock, country, jazz, my kids who now have kids played all there music on them loud. One night when my daughter's garage band had a gig and one of the members couldn't bring the speakers, we used the L-100's and they did the job. Yes, everything you read about these is true and they do ROCK. Not everybody likes the sound, but the quality of these speakers is legendary. I wanted to upgrade to the improved crossovers, but cost was around $400. Found a pair of 4412's for $450. Brought them home and did a two week side by side comparison between the 4412's and the L-100's, playing all types of music. Even listened to the news talk shows. I was still very impressed with how well the L-100's sounded, however after 40 years of listening to them, I could hear subtle new sounds coming from the 4412's, so the L-100's will go.

  23. It was 1974 or 1975. I was 16 or 17 and a senior in high school living just south of Boston. I listened to FM radio stations WBZ-FM, WVBF, and WBCN. (Wow, the music must have been great back then! Early 70's and 60's rock.) There was a call for volunteers to answer phones three hours a week on WBCN's Listener Line. Part of my job was filing albums that songs had been played from. I remember going into the broadcast room while Maxanne Sartori was on air to file albums. (She was a real hippie to this clean-cut teenager.) Above her console, at standing ear height, were a pair of JBL L100's with blue grills. She had those things absolutely SCREAMING! I was amazed at how loud those things were playing – and without distortion! I braced myself and walked by quickly.

    I have been an audiophile starting in my late teens and all through my adulthood. Those were the first hifi speakers I ever heard. I never forgot that brief experience. They played so loudly with apparent ease.

    A few years later I bought my first pair of hifi loudspeakers. Cizek Model 1's. I got many years of great listening out of them. I knew next to nothing about hifi speakers at that time, but got lucky in buying the Cizek's. I still have them, but they need a crossover fix.

    I resented WBCN for not at least paying my subway fair in and out of Boston to volunteer my three hours once or twice a week.

    Matthew Healy

  24. I bought my JBL100s in 1978 along with a Luxman R-1040 and a Trchnics SL-200 by Panasonic. All are still working and sound great. I am having a small decrease in sound from one of my JBLs (I think it is the connection in the back), but if anyone has any ideas, please let me know. I do need to replace the foam, but the sound is still lovely.

  25. JBL speakers are unreasonably expensive. L100 Century in the 70's were 100% made in the USA and cost around $400 a pair which even sport a stunning pair of cubes grill. Now the 100% made in China 4312 which uses almost identical drivers and some cheap grill cost $2,500/pair. The labor cost in china now is still way lower than the of the US back in the 70's. Harman cut the cost for parts and labor by 70% and even sell 600% more expensive.. D@mn! thats how Harman keeps getting richer and richer !

  26. The woofer on one speaker started to rattle last year. Most likely a voice coil issue. Slight finger pressure at the edge of the cone at 3 o'clock and 9 resolved the issue for a few months by mounting artificial thumbs to perform that task.

    Sold both woofers for $100 on Ebay and installed no name replacements. Came across an article addressing the "deterioration" of speaker magnet potency and the costly procedure to "recharge" them. Unsure if this malady ever impacted the classic L-100. Unlike every other speaker of that era; Cerwin Vega, Bose, etc the woofer surrounds remained in perfect condition.

  27. 1976 – My girlfriend at the time Paula, was working as a temp for JBL in Northridge Calif. An employee at the company used her once a year employee purchase and bought a pair of L100 in orange. At the time the cost was $333 each in stereo shops. She got both for $333.00. Forty years later, they are in my Media Room, and sound perfect. They came with the neatest warranty, it said…these speakers are warrantied for one year, however, should you ever require a repair, contact us and give us a chance to make it right. What a speaker, what a company, and what a great girl. Thank You Paula, where ever you are. Dale

  28. I found a pair in pretty good condition at a thrift store about ten years ago for $34.99.I was quite enamored with them for a few years running off a Sansui 9090db.Eventually after listening to different types of speakers the shine wore off these.I still have these but rarely use them.People say these can be very bright with certain amps and i am in agreement.I did find that using a tube preamp and a warm amp playing vinyl really smoothed them out.So much so that it may have been their saving grace as far a hanging around.I also have the L112 which imo is a far superior speaker.

  29. Where can I get a pair of speaker stands for my husband's JBL L100 speakers? They are the primary audio speakers in our home. He's had them since the 1970s.

  30. bought my first pair in 1970 Fairfax, VI stereo store… spent some time in the shop with some albums I brought comparing them to the Bose 901's… decided on the Century's… had them till my wife took them with her.. then in London, UK bought a pair of used ones in '76 and still have them now in Los Angeles powered by a Sony 6200F tuner amp… also had new front 'burt amber' grills made from ebay and they look exactly like the originals… LOVE em….

  31. I saw a bunch of people showing how much they paid. Makes me feel like I stole mine. Just picked them up this morning for $10 each. $22 for the pair. Only thing is the girl needs foam or cloth but they sound amazing and look even better

  32. Recently my friend and I started working on a sound system to fill our 20' x 40' space, to use for shows we host with DJs and other live electronic performers. We had been focusing most of our time researching and purchasing Cinema line speakers from QSC and JBL. As filler speakers, to fill in for some ranges and areas of the room, we have been using some tower speakers and large bookshelf speakers. One of our friends donated some speakers he had inherited from his father and were sitting in his garage, which turned out to be JBL L100s. One of the tweeters is dead, but after looking into these, they going to be a wonderful addition to the entire system. Will be upgrading the push button wire connectors to banana plugs and refoaming the woofers/tweeters.

    For anyone interested in the setup we are working with, here is a layout I created to figure out wiring and possible speaker placement.

    Sound System Layout

  33. HA HA …damn near the same story here…

    Bought mine in Gelnhausen GDR in 75 along with a Sansui CA/BA2000 combo. Totally abused them at parties, weddings, keggers, in western washington, Got married had kids and for years [decades..!!] shuttled the gear from one garage or storage unit after another.

    Just set it all up again a week ago and was astounded by the clarity…!

  34. I just picked up a pair of L-100's off the curb . Cabinets are excellent the is a small dent in the tweeter and they need new cloth but other wise perfect ad they sound amazing .
    So I am gonna purchase new grill inserts ad list them o E-bay I have Polk Audio Monitor 10 and very happy with them so I have no use for the JBL's but what a lucky find .At first I drove by them ad turned around to check them out glad I did . There is only one pair on E-bay now with no grills or frames both Tweeters are dented and one of the drivers has a slight tear . Auction style opening bid of $599.99 so we shall see but I will be listing them the second week of April .

  35. Matthew Healy

    I don't know how I stumbled across the info last night, but JBL has re-issued the L100. Word got around (and back to them) that people liked the L100 and remembered the product. Posters online expressing their cheery memories of that loudspeaker.

    I don't know if I can hold the new price tag of $4,000 a pair against JBL. I think it's greedy, but, they're in it for a profit and the rule is whatever the market will bear, right?

    The product is receiving good reviews. Aimed at consumers who fondly remember the speaker and have some hefty disposable income. It's aimed at a very specific market, and someone who wants or needs speakers. But for that kind of money, you could buy a pair of great sounding smaller tower loudspeakers, along with an integrated amp, with a turntable and cartridge, and throw in a CD player or room treatments.

    How about $2,000 for the pair, JBL?

  36. I bought my pair of JBL Century L-100's in 1974 — and I still have them, 45 years later — connected to my HDTV. I play music on my phone through them as well. Still sound incredible. Second to no other loudspeaker this side of Altec Lansing A-7's (Voice of the Theatre).

  37. I don't know how I stumbled across the info last night, but JBL has re-issued the L100. Word got around (and back to them) that people liked the L100 and remembered the product. Posters online expressing their cheery memories of that loudspeaker.

    I don't know if I can hold the new price tag of $4,000 a pair against JBL. I think it's greedy, but, they're in it for a profit and the rule is whatever the market will bear, right?

    The product is receiving good reviews. Aimed at consumers who fondly remember the speaker and have some hefty disposable income. It's aimed at a very specific market, and someone who wants or needs speakers. But for that kind of money, you could buy a pair of great sounding smaller tower loudspeakers, along with an integrated amp, with a turntable and cartridge, and throw in a CD player or room treatments.

    How about $2,000 for the pair, JBL?

  38. I bought my L100 Centurys back in 1974. I was working for a small electronics store in Detroit, similar to a Radio Shack. At the time we carried Wharfdale, Sansui, Marantz, Acoustic Research,JBL and more. JBL offered employees selling the product a two-for-one deal, so at 18 years old, I sprung for a pair of L100 Centuries for $318.00. I still have them, connected to a Carver amp and preamp. They still rock, and I agree with a previous writer, that many young kids don't know what they're missing. Whether classical (Orff – Carmina Burana as an example), jazz (various Hammond organ artists) or rock (multiple artists) the bass is something you should feel and not just hear. The L100 Century still does that for me!

  39. I bought mine in Columbus, Ohio in 1973. Still have the original receipt and boxes they came in. I ran into a JBL rep at an audio store in the mid 90s, told him what I had and that the grills were crusty and he replaced them at no charge. I powered them when new with a 60w Altec Lansing receiver paired with a B&O turntable which I also still own.

  40. I purchased 4 JBL L100's for my quad setup with a Sansui AU999 & TU999 + a Ba50 for the rear set. At the time, I used a Sansui QS-1 quad synthesizer. I've still got 2 of the L100's driven by a Carver CT-7 preamp an M 1.5t Amp. They still sound great, but have new grilled. By the way, my oldest son has the other pair enjoying them. Love their sound with all types of music.

  41. Nothing compared to the new JBL L00 Classic at that price. Inflation has risen for homes 1000% and your bitching about the the legendary JBL L100 so loved by all it's owners for 40 years and now being improved in every way possible with 40 years of technological improvements in speaker science by the legendary speaker King JBL into being the best sounding version ever and thrilling the world and all it's listeners with the best sound for it's price and only 4 or 5 times more than it was in 1970 or 1980. Celebrate this best ever version the JBL 100 Classic it's worth every penny as it's owners will super enjoy every moment listening to it for the rest of their lives. I bought my JBL 4311 Control Monitor in 1977 for $900 and it's the studio version of the JBL L100 my 4311 is still in perfect condition 44 years later and I still enjoy every kind of music on it as I hear each instrument on it not just the music you hear on other speakers. It's benefit in my life is priceless and if I could I would buy the new JBL L100 Classic as I've heard of the thrill is gives its listeners and that they never regretted their decision or complained about the price. People buy $100,000 cars they just depreciate and JBL L100 Classic will last forever providing joy. Long live the JBL L100 and L100 Classic and it's studio brothers the JBl 4310, 4311, and 4312. The compact super accurate powerhouse of a speaker that has satisfied it's owners and the people who use them to record great music for current and future generations.

  42. I picked up 2 pair of L100’s at a hi-fi shop in Kalamazoo, MI in 1972. They were demos, so the owner gave me a great deal on the 4of them. They are still going strong, but with new grille cloths. I tried other brands before I bought these, but they didn’t compare.

  43. I bought 4 JBL L100’s in the mid-70’s to pair with my Phase Linear 700 B and Phase Linear 400 Pre-amp. Still have all of the above and would like to sell. Will entertain any serious offers…

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