This week we’re reviewing the Studio Labs SLB 102N speaker, an iconic model originally released in the 90s and recently revamped by the brand. This compact 2-way speaker has earned widespread recognition (Recommended by the Revue du Son 2003, Diapason d’Or 2003, Référence Son-Vidéo Magazine, Choc Classica…) thanks to its attractive price and outstanding audio performance.
Studio Lab 102: new drivers
The Studio Lab 102 is making a comeback as the Studio Lab SLB 102N, and it’s introducing a host of acoustic improvements. In fact, while the new version has pretty much the same layout as the original, the drivers are … different. The original 6.7” (17 cm) black and white midbass driver has been replaced by a 6.3” (16 cm) monochromatic driver. The tweeter is also a brand new model.
That being said, the speaker’s sound signature has been preserved thanks to a completely revamped passive filter.
Ultimately, the speaker’s sensitivity and cutoff frequency have not changed. The tuning of the bass reflex port has been altered slightly to allow the speaker to offer enhanced bass extension.
The Studio Lab SLB 102N speaker has a frequency response of 57 Hz to 20 kHz, which is perfectly reasonable in light of its size and the technologies implemented. With a nominal impedance of 8 Ohms at 1 kHz and a sensitivity of 88 db / W / m, the Studio Lab SLB 102N speaker may be paired with any hi-fi amplifier or AV receiver.
The Studio Lab 102 speaker’s new midbass driver is equipped with a reinforced paper pulp cone and a half-roll surround. This allows for extended excursion, and the listener can thus enjoy relatively high volume levels. The driver is placed inside a 12-liter enclosure with a rear-firing, round bass reflex port.
This is one of the keys to the original Studio Lab 102: its powerful lows, linked to the speaker’s robust driver and large enclosure.
The new Studio Lab 102 can reach down to 57 Hz, which isn’t quite as deep as the original.
The tweeter is a coated fabric soft dome model which takes over from the midbass driver at around 3.5 kHz. This frequency is far enough away from the problematic zone of 2 kHz to avoid filtering problems over a frequency range to which the human ear is very sensitive.
Studio Lab has optimized the driver’s electronic filter in order to match the original 102’s sound signature as closely as possible.
Test conditions and listening impressions
We placed the Studio Lab 102 speakers on Norstone Stylum 2 stands and connected them to a Hegel H190 and a Yamaha CRX-N470 network amplifier using Viard Audio Silver HD12 cables. We listened to CD-quality FLAC files streamed from our local network (DLNA). As such, we listened to the Studio Lab 102 speakers in excellent conditions.
Since the Studio Lab 102’s break-in period is relatively long, it’s important to not judge its sound based on the first notes. It’s not that the speaker gives a bad first impression, but the electronic components, cones and surrounds all need time to get the ball rolling.
The Studio Lab 102 speaker’s sound signature is well organized. Even when placed on a stand, it ensures generous, powerful and well-structured lows. While the lows aren’t exuberant, they are gratifying and accurate. The mids and highs are neutral and the soundstage is spacious. The orientation of the speakers doesn’t have a significant impact on the direction of the sound message, and the soundstage is relatively deep and uncompressed. Highs are as smooth as the Studio Lab claims.
Studio Lab 102: compared to…
Tangent Spectrum X5: the Tangent offers slightly brighter and chirpier highs but is not quite as generous in the lows.
Monitor Audio Monitor 100: both speakers have a comparably neutral sound signature. The Monitor Audio offers slightly more precise highs thanks to its rigid dome tweeter.
Focal Chorus 605: the mids are more emphasized with the Focal, and its sound signature is less analytic than that of the Studio Lab 102, notably at low volume. The Focal is more at home in a home theater setting with the volume turned up.
Studio Lab 102: conclusion
The Studio Lab 102 delivers a balanced and neutral sound which does not become tiring over the course of long listening sessions. Its solid bass delivery is accompanied by an optimized design. Pairing it up with an amplifier (starting at 20W) should be no problem at all, since mids are just as smooth as highs.
This post is also available in: French