Looking for full-sized towers that don’t break the bank and deliver incredible sound? JBL Stage A190 speakers are just the ticket.
The good news for audio enthusiasts is that these days there are numerous speaker systems that fit the description. But if your taste in speakers runs toward power plus precision, you’re going to want to consider a dual-8” model like the JBL Stage A190.
Specs and Features
This affordable speaker from JBL is a 2.5-way design that can handle up to 225 watts of power with 91dB sensitivity. That translates to over 114 dB of output when going full-blast, so mimicking the sound of a live jazz concert is not going to tax these speakers. 6-Ohm impedance means you’ll be able to use these speakers with most AVRs and amplifiers without issues while getting a boost in peak output versus 8-Ohm speakers.
Here’s a one of the Stage A190 8″ woofers.
Specifications state that anechoic frequency response is 36Hz to 40kHz, which covers a lot of music genres top to bottom, although electronic music (and organ music) fans will appreciate what these towers plus a sub that gets to 20 Hz or below can achieve together.
You can biamp these speakers if you so choose, they include dedicated terminals for the task.
Treble comes from a 1″ aluminum dome tweeter mounted in a “high definition imaging” waveguide. The tweeter crossover is set at 2 kHz and the 2.5-way design has the lower woofer low-passed at 1.4 kHz. In this design, each bass driver gets its own ported internal chamber; it’s not just an empty box.
This 1″ aluminum dome gets a custom waveguide from JBL.
These are large towers, measuring 10.23″ (W) x 14.57″ (D) x 42.12″ (H) and each one weighs 49.74 lbs. The finish is a plain black vinyl and that’s the only choice you get. Notably, these speakers ship with outrigger feet that enhance the speaker’s stability and also look nice.
Dual rear ports. Each woofer gets its own internal chamber.
One bit of disappointment is that the grills are not magnetic. I enjoy the aesthetics of the speakers with the grills off, and I think at this point anything but the most budget-oriented speakers should have magnetic grills.
To read all the specs and the manual as well as the marketing materials, follow this link to JBL.com.
I listened to the JBL Stage A190 towers two ways: As a 2.0 system and as a 2.1 system. A Denon AVR-X8500H handled all the audio tasks for this review, including bass management and room correction. For the 2.1 system, I used a Rythmik G25HP subwoofer, which is a world-class reference subwoofer, and the resulting 2.1 system offered response from infrasonic bass up to ultrasonic treble. When I did use the sub, it was with an 80Hz crossover and the towers set to “small” which is my standard practice.
My living room, is an asymmetrical space, stuck at one end of a Philly rowhouse. I have the system set up against the long wall, with the speakers 7 feet apart, flanking a 75″ Samsung Q8F TV. My seat is centered between the speakers and approximately 8 feet away from each speaker. The rear of each speaker is approximately 18″ from the back wall. It’s the same space I’ve used to review 2-channel speaker systems for the past few years, so no surprises in that sense.
I ran Audyssey MultEQ XT32 using the dedicated app on my iPad. Looking at the results, the Stage A190s already looked like they were a good fit for my room without room correction, aside from the bass region where room gain makes it so these speakers have too much bass! The upshot is that EQ works better when cutting versus boosting. The main point being that when run full range, these speakers only need EQ for the bass so you could (for example) power them with one of those wireless streaming amps that include room correction.
In this graphic , on the left you can see the effect of room gain on the Stage A190 towers bass response.
Moreover, most competent AVRs that feature a room correction capability should have no problem tuning these JBLs to your listening space. Finally, if you eschew room correction and EQ, all indications are that these are well behaved large towers so you’ll just need to work out the positioning that gives the result you want.
The number one, most immediately noticeable (and best) quality of this speaker system is the profoundly good 3D imaging. It’s remarkable because that’s supposed to be that big difference between the super high-end and affordable speakers. You’re supposed to have to spend megabucks before you get truly well-behaved speakers that project a 3D soundfield with tremendous precision. Here, you get that “high-end audio hologram effect” with $900 per pair speakers. That’s less than the sales tax on speakers I’ve heard that were no better at imaging, and I’d love to see how a number of those speakers would fare in a blind listening test against these towers.
JBL Stage A190 speakers are powerful performers with exceptional imaging.
When listening to familiar music I’ve heard on many systems, such as The Cure’s Mixed Up or Gorillaz Plastic Beach, I was immediately impressed with how these speakers delivered something “extra” in terms of being able to holographically project sound. And that quality was present concurrently with some excellent rendition of micro-dynamics.
Simply put, an aluminum dome tweeter and a pair of polycellulose woofers can do really good work together if you get the cabinet, waveguide and crossovers right. In recent years JBL has shown that it’s got a good bead on how to build a good waveguide and that’s apparent when you hear these towers.
JBL (and parent company Harman) is famous for conducting scientifically rigorous blind listening tests to determine the qualities that people seek in speakers. When you listen to the Stage A190, what you hear is the payoff to all that research—it sounds natural.
From a performance perspective, I’d be completely happy to have these as my primary daily listening speakers, albeit preferably with a sub in the mix—not because they are weak in the bass department, but because it really completes the package. But make no mistake, the four 8″ woofers (per pair) in ported cabinets of this size are no joke and you can absolutely crank these speakers while playing anything, from jazz to opera to rap to dubstep and they will crank right back at you.
Here’s a Tidal playlist of tracks I often play as I audition speakers. No issues with playing any of them, which is what I’d expect from good tower speakers these days. The reality is that modern computer modeling and measurement methods, as well as materials and manufacturing techniques, make it so that there is practically no excuse for creating a “bad” speaker. Rather, it’s about whether a particular design appeals to a particular customer. These speakers are designed to appeal to someone who likes big speakers that deliver big sound, with some degree of finesse. They won’t be quite as appealing to somebody looking for speakers that double as fine furniture.
On the movie side of things, I don’t have a strong opinion on how these would do in a home theater setup, but I’d guess they’d excel (after all, JBL has been in cinema sound for a loooooong time. Like, since the beginning). I watched Ant Man and The Wasp plus Black Klansman on these speakers (with a sub) and there was great clarity. Of course I miss the surround-sound effect of a full system, but the front soundstage was solid. Of course firing up the Rythmik G25HP kicked the whole movie experience up a notch; these speakers can’t do “proper” movie bass on their own, but what speakers can?
There’s not a ton more to say about the Stage A190 towers, since this is a 2-channel review. This series of JBL Stage speakers also contains two more tower models (Stage A170, Stage A180) as well as a couple of bookshelf models (Stage A120, Stage A130) and a pair of center channel options (Stage A125C, Stage A135C). Long story short, you can use this line to build out a full-size system of timbre and performance-matched gear and my feeling is that the result would kick many a system’s butt.
The easy and obvious conclusion here is that you do not need fancy materials and high prices to create a pair of extremely competent tower speakers that do just about everything a audio enthusiast could want.
JBL Stage A190 speakers clearly demonstrate that good engineering can deliver exceptional audio performance that’s also affordable. If they size and the looks of these speakers agree with you aesthetic sensibility and domestic reality then giving a pair an audition is a good idea.
From the standpoint of audio fidelity, the JBL Stage A190 is a speaker that I can recommend without any reservations. It’s a Top Choice, period.