To those new to the game, monitors tend to be a bit further down the wish-list for those looking to build up their recording rig. To the uninitiated, it’s easy for the humble monitor to get lost amongst the allure of knobs and faders, effects processing and digital emulations of classic analogue gear. However, to do so is in many ways putting the cart before the horse.
Ask any pro and they will tell you the importance of good monitoring. As engineers, it provides the very foundation for every decision we make, so it’s imperative that we have complete trust in our monitoring situation and there are few names in the world of studio monitoring as trusted as one James Billough Lansing and the company that bears his name–JBL. It was with this in mind that I was excited to be testing out the JBL Professional 708p, the 8-inch variant of JBL’s flagship 7 series line of reference monitors.
CLARITY THROUGH SUPERIOR FIREPOWER
The JBL Professional 7 series features some of the most powerful compression driver technology on the market, with a whopping 250w going to both the HF and LF driver respectively. That’s a lot of firepower for a studio monitor. The 708p boasts some of the best headroom/lowest distortion properties of any monitor in its class. The patented ‘double-flared’ port design also provides an impressive low-frequency response and is reputed to provide better time-domain characteristics than many traditional ported designs. In short, this design allows for maximum throw with a minimum amount of excursion.
BIG AND BRASH
The first thing that jumps out upon unboxing the 708p is the sheer size and feel of the unit. These are very much an American monitor both in design and aesthetic, with their muscular, injection-moulded outer and stealthy, black-on-black colourway recalling something from a Special Ops mission. Being a mid-field monitor, the 708p’s cabinet design is definitely on the larger end of the spectrum, especially when compared to some of the more compact nearfield designs out there (for reference, the 708p is almost twice the size of the smaller 705p nearfield in the same range!).
The larger size of the 708p directly translates to increased projection and extended LF extension, with the 708p’s getting as low as 41Hz, which is particularly good for a monitor of this type. It is in my experience that the 708p is a monitor that definitely benefits from a reasonably sized room, where it’s broad dispersion pattern and 114db max SPL can be fully utilized. One practical advantage of the mid-field design found on the 708p is a much larger sweet spot than one would normally get with a traditional nearfield monitor. This meant both myself and my client were able to make decisions from the same vantage point, allowing for a truly collaborative mix experience.
Sound-wise, the 708p is very much from the new school of studio monitoring, where versatility and extension reign supreme, a reflection of the current need for working engineers to be able to operate across multiple genres and disciplines. The broad LF extension, coupled with the super low distortion characteristics of the 708p makes for an extremely clean and critical listen (in many ways the antithesis of the NS-10 school of auditory masochism). By contrast, the 708p’s are all about a balanced and even reproduction across the sonic spectrum and in that respect, I found them to be awesome for A/B mix decisions, especially when complemented with a ‘boxier’ nearfield pair like an HS5 or Adam A5x.
NOTES FROM THE FIELD
In terms of workflow, I found the high-end clarity on the 708p’s to be particularly useful for pinpointing problematic frequencies on things like snare bottom and acoustic percussion, sources that can be notoriously tricky to place in the soundscape and often require a fair bit of tweaking to sit right. The custom made HF compression drivers on the 708p’s do a really great job of reproducing these frequencies and made it much easier to hear the ambient and reflective properties of these instruments in the live room.
The ability to reproduce space and ambience as recorded would be beneficial to anyone working in foley or post-production, applications that require particularly close attention to distance and placement. The versatile onboard DSP and seamless integration with JBL’s Intonato 24 room compensation system also makes the 708p an obvious candidate for Atmos and Surround set-ups as well.
THE LAST WORD
Overall, the 708p is a monitor with an incredibly high ceiling, given its flexible mid-field design, ample headroom and super low distortion levels. In that respect, I found the 708p to play the role of ‘controlled variable’ to virtuoso aplomb. It’s a speaker that wields a lot of power, both in processing and performance, but this never feels like bells and whistles or wasted wattage, more of a means to make the speaker as versatile as humanly possible, a trait very much in line with today’s rapidly changing audio industry. Definitely a great foundation piece for any recording rig or critical mix situation.