JBL 104-BT review

Big, affordable audio for your desktop

JBL 104 BT on desktop
(Image: © Future)

Tom's Guide Verdict

JBL’s 104-BT speakers have a wide sound that shines on vocals and treble, but bass lovers will miss deep low end and you'll need plenty of desktop space to accommodate them.


  • +

    Big sound

  • +

    Prominent vocals and crisp treble

  • +

    Good connection options


  • -

    Limited bass output

  • -

    No USB-C port

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JBL 104-BT: Specifications

Price: $169 / £199 / AU$329
Colors: Black, white
Configuration: 2.0 (stereo)
Drivers: 0.75-inch tweeters, 4.5-inch woofers
Power output: 60W RMS total
Inputs: Bluetooth, stereo RCAs, 3.5mm aux, TRS
Headphone jack: Yes
Size: 9.7 x 6.0 x 4.9 inches

If you’re looking for better sound at your desk without spending a fortune, JBL’s 104-BT Compact Desktop Reference Monitors with Bluetooth make a strong case for a place next to your computer. 

While calling it a reference monitor is a stretch, the speakers deliver better audio than many desktop speakers. They produce a stereo sound with full vocals and clean treble and spreads the sound widely in the room. 

But they’re not perfect: the speakers are fairly big for a desktop set and they lack deep bass. Are JBL's 104-BT desktop speakers a worthwhile desktop sound setup for you? Read my full review to find out.

JBL 104 BT on a desktop

(Image credit: Future)

JBL 104-BT review: Price & availability

  • Available since 2020
  • On sale now priced at $169 / £199 / AU$289 

The JBL 104-BT desktop speakers have been available since 2020 and come in black and white finishes. The retail price is $169 / £199 / AU$289 and they're available to buy online from the JBL website in the U.S. and U.K. They can also regularly be found discounted at online retailers including Amazon and Best Buy

JBL 104-BT review: Design

JBL 104 BT showing rear of speakers placed on a desktop

(Image credit: Future)
  • Large, egg-shaped design
  • Available in black or white 

The 104-BT speakers stand out on your desk with a unique design. The egg-shaped speakers look unique and, at 9.7 x 6.0 x 4.9 inches, are on the large size for desktop speakers. The size benefits audio quality, though — it’s easier for big speakers to have bigger sound.

Inside the hard plastic shell, JBL put a 0.75 tweeter and 4.5-inch woofer — also on the large side. There’s a bass port on the back of each speaker, too. 

The speakers are available in black or white to complement your aesthetic.

JBL 104-BT review: Controls & connectivity

JBL 104 BT on a desktop showing controls and conenctivity

(Image credit: Future)
  • Built-in 60W Class D amp
  • Multiple input options 

The right speaker of the pair features a 60W Class D amplifier, spreading that power equally between each speaker of the 2.0 system. You connect the left speaker to the right with the included speaker wire. 

The right speaker also has all the controls and inputs, and there are quite a few. On the front, you’ll find a volume knob, input selector, headphone jack, and auxiliary input. On the back, there are RCA and TRS (a rarity on desktop speakers, used for balanced stereo sources) inputs — but no USB-C input. It comes with an RCA-to-3.5mm cord and a 3.5mm-to-3.5mm cord so you can connect to your computer’s headphone jack. The speakers also support Bluetooth 5.0 for wireless connections. 

There are no ways to adjust the sound other than the volume and it doesn’t have an app.

JBL 104-BT review: Sound quality

JBL 104 BT speakers on a desktop

(Image credit: Future)
  • Full vocals and crisp trebles
  • Some bass, but not enough

Thanks to the big size of the speakers and drivers, the 104-BT produces a bigger sound than many desktop speakers in this price range. The sound spreads wide and features full vocals and crisp treble. 

The distorted instruments and keyboards on St. Vincent’s “Broken Man” had good detail while her voice sounded full — fuller than the same song sounded on Bose’s Companion 2 Series III, a favorite of ours. On Beyonce’s “Texas Hold ‘Em” the plucked banjo was crisp and her voice had width. 

The 104-BT has some bass, but not enough. On “Broken Man,” the thumping drums sounded weak and the bass lacked resonance. The limited bass was particularly noticeable on Kendrick Lamar’s “Not Like Us” — it lacked the deep rumble that it should have. Unfortunately, there’s no way to connect a subwoofer to add the missing low-end. 

The speakers’ strengths make it a good choice for watching movies and TV shows — dialog is easy to understand and the sound spreads widely in the room — but the lack of bass means you may miss the rumble during action scenes. 

The speakers get much louder than you probably need, clocking in at 98 decibels at max volume. Impressively, the sound didn’t distort at that level. 

JBL 104-BT review: Verdict

If you’re looking for a reasonably priced speaker set for your desk, the JBL 104-BT presents a strong case. The sound is above average for the price and it has an abundance of connection options. 

At $169, the system isn’t cheap, but you won’t find better sound in a desktop system for less. The Bose Companion 2 Series III doesn’t sound as good, but they are quite a bit cheaper and we have seen them fall as low as $79. Of course, you can spend more to get better sound, such as with the $349 Kanto Ora

The size may be the biggest drawback — it could be a challenge to find a place for it on your desk. And bass lovers probably need to look elsewhere; something with a subwoofer, like the Klipsch ProMedia 2.1, would be a better fit. 

But if you want a balance between sound and cost, and you can find the space, the 104-BT will be a solid choice to augment your desktop.

Michael Gowan
Freelance tech writer

Michael Gowan is a freelance technology journalist covering soundbars, TVs, and wireless speakers of all kinds of shapes and sizes for Tom’s Guide. He has written hundreds of product reviews, focusing on sound quality and value to help shoppers make informed buying decisions. Micheal has written about music and consumer technology for more than 25 years. His work has appeared in publications including CNN, Wired, Men’s Journal, PC World and Macworld. When Michael’s not reviewing speakers, he’s probably listening to one anyway.