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As long as you don’t find the looks a bit try-hard, and as long as you’ve got plenty of patience where the control app is concerned, there’s an awful lot to like about the way the JBL L42ms handles your favourite music


  • Big, hefty and quite deft sound
  • Properly made and nicely finished
  • Thorough specification


  • Needs some consideration with positioning
  • Can be made to sound rather ill-focused
  • Dim-witted control app

Key Features

  • DAC24-bit/96kHz hi-res DAC
  • Power200 watts of Class D power
  • Colour optionsReal wood black or natural walnut finishes


Putting some digital audio smarts into a product that looks like it went on sale in the mid-70s is not a new idea – but no one is more entitled to mine their illustrious past while looking to the future than JBL. 

So here’s a thoroughly up-to-date all-in-one system dressed in the sort of wood-and-Quadrex-foam drag with which JBL dominated the hi-fi market back in the day.

Of course, it takes a bit more to compete than modern functionality hidden in 20th century clobber – so is the JBL L42ms more than just a tribute act?


The JBL L42ms is on sale now, and in the UK it’s yours for £999. In the United States the asking price is $1099, and in Australia it will set you back AU$2499.

Which means – just off the top of my head – that the L42ms will have to go up against (fairly) similar products from brands as diverse as KEF, Naim, Ruark and Technics if it’s going to make a meaningful impression… 


  • 162 x 617 x 234mm (HxWxD) 
  • Real wood black or natural walnut finishes
  • 8.5kg

Curved cabinets and Quadrex foam grilles have been among JBL’s design language for literally decades – and when you get an eyeful of the L42ms it’s apparent that something as unbroken as this requires no fixing. 

JBL L42ms foam grille close up
Image Credit (Trusted Reviews)

The L42ms is big (162 x 617 x 234mm, HxWxD) but it hides its bulk well – thanks, in large part, to both the tactility and flawless finish of the black or natural real walnut veneered cabinet. The Quadrex grille is magnetically attached, and again is just as tactile a treat as it is visual. 

The standard of build is basically impeccable, and the L42ms manages to look both business-like and quite decorative all at the same time. Which is an increasingly important consideration for products like this, let’s not pretend otherwise. 


  • 24-bit/96kHz DAC
  • 200 watts of Class D amplification
  • Wired and wireless inputs

As far as getting audio information into the L42ms, JBL has covered all meaningful bases. Between the selection of wired and wireless inputs, you really should find something to suit you.

Where the wired stuff is concerned, you can select the Ethernet socket at the rear of the cabinet – joining your network brings Apple AirPlay 2, Chromecast and UPnP devices into play. In addition, the L42ms is Roon Ready – and it’s also certified Works with SmartThings. This means its compatible with the huge number of Galaxy devices, appliances and televisions in the Samsung product catalogue (Samsung, of course, being the parent company of Harman which is the parent company of JBL). Wireless connectivity is also available via Bluetooth 4.2, with SBC and AAC codec compatibility. 

JBL L42ms rear view
Image Credit (Trusted Reviews)

The rear panel also has a USB-A slot, a pre-out for a subwoofer (which automatically activates an 80Hz high-pass filter when in use), stereo RCA and 3.5mm analogue inputs, and a 0dB/-3dB bass contour control that’s helpful if your L42ms is awkward positioned relative to rear and/or side boundaries. There’s an HDMI ARC socket, so your TV can benefit from the JBL’s prowess too. And there are a couple of bass-reflex ports, one on either side of the connection panel. 

Once it’s on board, audio information is dealt with by a 24-bit/96kHz DAC (or, at least, the digital stuff is). It’s compatible with DSD128 and a fistful of digital audio file types, including – but not limited to – FLAC, MP3 and MQA

Once the DAC has done its thing, the audio information is amplified by a total of 200 watts of Class D power and delivered to a four-strong  driver array – two 100mm mid/bass paper cones and two 20mm aluminium-dome tweeters. They’re angled out behind the grille in imitation of the curve of the cabinet, to better spread the sound field and offer as wide an audio sweet spot as possible.  

JBL L42ms onboard operation
Image Credit (Trusted Reviews)

Controlling the L42ms can be done in a number of ways. The top of the cabinet features the briefest selection of physical controls (input selection, volume up/down) and there’s an unremarkable remote control handset with more comprehensive functionality (including your only access to the SFX sound field expansion control).  

Or you can use the JBL Premium Audio control app (free for iOS and Android) – if you’re the patient type. It’s not designed to be a full-function affair, but rather the platform to get your L42ms on to your network and then give access to radio, presets, UPnP devices, Qobuz and a few other streaming services – and it does, eventually. But it’s one of the flakier, less stable and less reliable apps I’ve encountered in a fair while – and whoever proof-read the spelling needs a stern talking to.

JBL L42ms app control
Image Credit (Trusted Reviews)

Sound Quality

  • Choosy about positioning
  • Punchy, expansive and quite insightful sound
  • A better approximation of stereo than most one-box systems

For reasons I’ll get to soon enough, everything that follows assumes that you’ve left the SFX control well alone and that there’s no surface particularly close to the top of the JBL’s cabinet. Make sure those two aspects are attended to and the L42ms turns out to be a big, detailed and quite assertive listen.

With a 16-bit/44.1kHz CD-standard FLAC file of Phase Modulation Shuffle by Cavern of Anti Matter playing via Qobuz, the L42ms establishes a big, well-defined soundstage that has a far less obvious point source of sound than the majority of one-box systems can create. The sensation of stereo presentation is quite pronounced – and the JBL is able to organise the recording quite convincingly too, so there’s an easy-to-follow layout. It’s a confident performer in this respect – and, to be fair, in most other aspects too.

JBL L42ms Quadrex grille
Image Credit (Trusted Reviews)

As is often the way with JBL equipment, the tonality here is on the warm-ish side – which suits the punchy, quite upfront character of the system quite nicely. And besides, the sweep from the bottom of the frequency range to the top is smooth, and there’s plenty of detail retrieved and revealed to go along with the system’s rather forthright sonic nature. 

Low frequencies are varied and reasonably subtle as well as being quite chunky, and there’s substance as well as shine at the top end. The L42ms does good work through the midrange too, letting some light and shade into a vocalist’s performance, and giving them every opportunity to express themselves.

JBL L42ms remote control
Image Credit (Trusted Reviews)

Dynamic headroom is considerable, and the JBL also has the happy knack of being able to play loud (very loud indeed, if that’s how you like it) without altering its basic characteristics or getting in any way stressed or shouty. And it’s as alert to the small dynamic variations, to the transient occurrences, as it is to the big shifts in intensity or attack. Rhythmic expression is good too, thanks to grippy control of the lower frequencies.

Switch to a Netflix stream of the music-heavy Baby Driver via the HDMI ARC socket, and all of the above still applies. Don’t go thinking the L42ms is especially useful as a soundbar, though – at over 16cm tall it’s going to foul the bottom of your TV if it’s on the same surface, and it doesn’t like being boxed in from above in the slightest. It gets a bit boomy and uncouth, a lot of its composure deserting it. 

And the SFX feature, which is so promising where the soundtrack to movie content is concerned, serves only to disrupt the otherwise-impressive focus of the JBL’s sound, and make the previously coherent soundstage a bit fuzzy and vague.

Latest deals

Should you buy it?

You’ve got that mid-century modern bee in your bonnet (in decor terms, at least)

JBL has the heritage to go digging into its catalogue of greatest hits without looking like a tribute act

You’re riled up by suboptimal apps

Thought the days of unstable, forgetful and ultimately irritating control apps were over? They’re not

Final Thoughts

They won’t be for everyone, but I really like the appearance of the L42ms – the design is a throwback, sure, but it’s a throwback to some of the most evocative equipment ever offered for sale. And it doesn’t do any harm whatsoever (as far as I’m concerned, anyway) that the JBL sounds exactly like it looks.

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We test every wireless speaker we review thoroughly over an extended period of time. We use industry standard tests to compare features properly. We’ll always tell you what we find. We never, ever, accept money to review a product.

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Tested over several days

Tested with real world use


Could I use the JBL L42ms as a soundbar replacement?

It features an HDMI ARC input, so you could use it with a TV, though it is taller than most soundbars.

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