JBL Arena 180 Tower Speaker Review

Last updated on: 12-10-18
Bottom Line: a solid entry level tower speaker that is a strong competitor thanks to recent discounts. Hard to ever go wrong with JBL. Bass might be a little lacking without a subwoofer.
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Shown with and without the included partial foam-grill cover

Important Specs Overview

Speaker type: passive, 2 way, back ported
Continuous power handling: 70 W*
Peak power handling: 225 W
Impedance: 8 ohms
Sensitivity: 88 dB/W/m
Frequency response range: 39 – 40k Hz
Driver size: 7 in
Unit weight: 33.5 lbs
Cabinet dimensions: 8.5 x 12.5 x 43 in (width x depth x height)
Warranty: 5 years

*When nominal/RMS power isn’t specified by manufacturer, we use an approximation of ~30% of the specified peak/dynamic power for comparison purposes.

Review And Discussion

JBL’s known strength is high value for the price, and the now discounted Arena 180 tower speaker definitely fits that bill.

The Arena 180 is a dual 2-way speaker, meaning it has two woofers on a crossover and a tweeter on another. The response ceiling is quite high at 40 Hz, and while the upper end might seem moot (the human ear can hear up to around 20k Hz), a high ceiling means a large overall range and thus a low floor. What this means is that the woofers have a narrower range to worry about, which generally means they’re better optimized and thus sound better.

The power specs are decent but not extraordinary. These speakers would suffice as standalone satellites in a room that isn’t large, but might falter otherwise. The overall response floor coupled with larger 7 inch woofers makes the bass quite good for a 2-way speaker. JBL doesn’t specify a standard 3 dB differential though, so it’s fair to assume there will be some drop off above 39 Hz. 2 way speakers are always limited in this regard however and are generally intended to pair with a subwoofer.

The tweeter is a horn loaded soft dome and the woofers are plastic polymer blends, pretty standard choices for budget-tier speakers – easy to consistently reproduce at lower cost. The cabinet is MDF with the mock vinyl wood look, also pretty standard. The overall look is pretty boilerplate for a budget tier speaker – pretty par for the course for JBL, they tend to make things that look merely decent enough.

The Arena 180 is definitely on the large side for the specs it has, also fairly par for the course for JBL, but the weight manages to remain about average. The prong stands will need to rest on a hard surface, and away from the wall to allow the port to breath, but placing them should otherwise be easy enough.

JBL has a 5 year warranty on all its passive speakers which is top of the line coverage for budget-tier speakers.

Our Overall Take, As Compared To The Competition

It’s generally hard to go wrong with a JBL speaker, though they make quite a lot of different products and the price points seem to be kind of hit or miss in our experience. JBL does make some of the best value speakers on the market, but the MSRP of the Arena 180s is definitely on the expensive. But, as of the time of this writing, we’ve seen it get significantly discounted and, with that, it’s definitely become a very strong competitor among popular value-tier speakers from Polk, Klipsch, et al. All in all, this one’s definitely worth a look.

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If you’re looking for tower speakers that sound complete on their own, you might instead consider a 3 way model with subwoofers built in. If you’re willing to pay a little more there are a few really great such options. Or you might consider adding a subwoofer, which isn’t hard to do at all. See the links below for alternative recommendations.

Relevant Links and Resources

The overall best budget tower speakers

The overall best budget subwoofers