Studio Lab SLB 102A: an enhanced classic

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The Studio Lab SLB 102A connected speaker is the active version of the Studio Lab SLB 102N, which has received numerous awards from the international press for its attractive price and musical performance. The Studio Lab SLB 102A has taken the key elements of this successful model while adding a new driver and an integrated amplification of 2 x 60W. This revamped active version is meant to be more versatile and promises to be compatible with many sources thanks to its analog and digital inputs, which include a phono input and a USB-B port. It is even possible to listen to music wirelessly via Bluetooth aptX HD. Available for under €600, can the Studio Lab SLB 102A offer the same sound quality in a more versatile package?

The Studio Lab SLB 102A speakers feature 2 x 60 watts of amplification combined with a full range of connectors and a Bluetooth receiver to easily pair with any source: TV, computer, smartphone, CD player, turntable, etc.

Studio Lab SLB 102A: packaging & accessories

The pair of Studio Lab SLB 102A speakers come in a single large cardboard box inside of which each element is securely held in place. They come with acoustic grilles, a power cable, a 3 meter-long connection cable, a USB-A to USB-B cable for the DAC mode, an infrared remote control with batteries and a user guide.

The Studio Lab SLB 102A active speakers come with an infrared remote control, a user guide, a USB-A to USB-B cable, a power cable and a cable to connect the speakers to one another.

Studio Lab SLB 102A: presentation

Design 

The Studio Lab 102A has the same aesthetic codes as its passive counterpart. There is a chassis made of MDF, which is used to reduce resonance. The silhouette is simple and classic, with very straight edges. The size of the Studio Lab 102A is also very similar to the passive version, with a width of 20cm and a height of 36cm. However, the active version is slightly deeper, at 29cm, compared to 24cm for the SLB 102N. Despite this, the Studio Lab SLB 102A remains quite discreet and can be easily placed on either side of a TV, on a desk or in a bookcase.

The Studio Lab 102A has a classic design, with very straight edges. The finish is very good, with a very realistic looking wood vinyl.

The build quality of the Studio Lab SLB 102A is generally good. The vinyl finish covers the different sides evenly and effectively imitates a real wood veneer. Like the passive version, it is unfortunate that the mounting brackets for the removable cover are left exposed when the grille is removed. These silver-colored metal inserts are quite prominent and eye-catching. For more discretion, the Studio Lab SLB 102A speakers are also equipped with a black acoustic fabric cover.

The Studio Lab SLB 102A speaker becomes more refined when its fabric cover is attached.

The Studio Lab SLB 102A active speaker cabinet has a bass-reflex enclosure with a port on the rear panel. As a result, it is best to leave a small gap between the speaker and the wall behind it, unless you want to artificially amplify the bass reproduction. We encourage you to take the time to try the most effective placements to achieve the results that best suit your requirements.

The Studio Lab SLB 102A has a bass-reflex enclosure with a rear port to optimize the low frequency response.

Acoustic design

The Studio Lab SLB 102A speaker is heavily inspired by the Studio Lab SLB 102N presented in 2018. The latter was very successful when it was launched thanks to an unbeatable price and a surprisingly impressive musical performance for a speaker equipped with a 6.5” midbass driver. It also received many awards from the specialized press. Diapason magazine, in particular, awarded it a Diapason D’or in 2018 for its “very natural musicality, with pleasant timbres” and its ability to “impress from the outset with its remarkable consistency.”

Released in 2018, the Studio Lab SLB 102N was lauded by the press for its impressive musical performance for a speaker in this range. The new Studio Lab SLB 102A has kept this acoustic DNA while adding amplification.

The Studio Lab SLB 102A still features this expertise while making some changes, notably by implementing a new 6.5” midbass driver. The latter benefits from a high excursion to maximize the bass response down to 57Hz. Finally, the 1” dome tweeter is renewed to keep the same smoothness and accurate details in the highs up to 20kHz.

The Studio Lab SLB 102A wireless speaker has the same tweeter as the Studio lab 102N to ensure precise highs.

The Studio Lab SLB 102A wireless bookshelf speakers’ amplification is fully integrated into the left speaker. It’s capable of delivering up to 2 x 60 watts RMS, giving the pair a total of 120 watts of power. This amplification relies on Class D modules to maximize impulse response for more dynamic music and an energetic reproduction of movie and video game soundtracks.

Bluetooth, RCA, optical and USB

The rear panel on the left Studio Lab SLB 102A speaker features an aluminum plaque with all the connectors. There is an RCA analog input and a switch to choose a line or phono level. Consequently, it is possible to connect an external DAC, a CD player or a turntable. A mini-jack input makes it easy to connect a DAP or smartphone, while the optical input allows you to connect a digital source such as a network player or a TV. Lastly, a USB-B port allows you to use the Studio Lab SLB 102A speakers with a Windows or Mac PC. For bassheads, the Studio Lab SLB 102A can be easily paired with a subwoofer thanks to a dedicated output.

The Studio Lab SLB 102A speakers have a wide range of connectors to associate many analog and digital sources, such as a TV, a network player, a turntable or a computer.

For greater ease of use, the Studio Lab SLB 102A speakers are equipped with a Bluetooth receiver that allows you to easily stream music from a smartphone, a laptop or even a compatible TV. That means fewer cables, so you can arrange your speakers more freely in the room. To maximize listening quality, the Studio Lab SLB 102A speaker supports the aptX HD codec for higher data rates.

Controls

The French manufacturer has chosen to leave the visible sides of the Studio Lab SLB 102A speakers free of any controls to keep the design simple. Only controls to adjust the volume, select the source and turn on the equipment are available on the back of the left speaker.

For more intuitive operation, the Studio Lab SLB 102A speakers come with an infrared remote control. It lets you turn on the speakers, adjust the volume, select the source and control Bluetooth playback (play/pause, previous track and next track). It is also possible to adjust the treble and bass levels by +/- 6 dB.

The Studio Lab SLB 102A is controlled remotely with its infrared remote control which features all the essential controls, including bass and treble tone controls.

Studio Lab SLB 102A: key specifications

  • Output power of 2 x 60W
  • aptX HD Bluetooth
  • USB-B input
  • RCA line or phono input
  • Remote controls
  • 1 x 6.5” midbass driver

Studio Lab SLB 102A: configuration

The Studio Lab SLB 102A speakers are quick and easy to install. Before anything else, the speakers need to be connected to one another with the included cable. The latter is 3 meters long, but it is possible to replace it with a longer cable if you want to place the speakers farther apart. It is also possible to opt for a higher quality cable, as the terminals are compatible with wide gauge cables, banana plugs and spades. Once the speakers are connected, then you simply need to connect the sources – RCA, optical, mini-jack or USB – and turn the system on. We would have appreciated an HDMI eARC input to make it easier to connect a TV, even though it is possible to use an optical connection. For wireless listening, simply press the Bluetooth button on the remote control and go into the source’s Bluetooth settings to select the SLB 102A speakers as a receiver.

For our review, we placed the Studio Lab SLB 102A speakers on NorStone Stylum 2 stands. We streamed music in Bluetooth, but we also listened to Hi-Res files by connecting the Bluetooth Node network player via RCA. Lastly, we also connected the Studio Lab SLB 102A speaker to an iMac via USB.

The Studio Lab SLB 102A active speakers offer a balanced and homogenous sound, whether they are placed closer or further away from the wall, on stands or on a piece of furniture.

Studio Lab SLB 102A: listening impressions

The Studio Lab SLB 102A speakers provided a very similar sound signature to that of their passive counterpart. The lows were solid and quite generous, even with the speakers mounted on stands more than a meter from the rear wall. Without reaching frequencies below 60Hz, the Studio Lab SLB 102A offered energetic and punchy bass, especially when the volume was turned up. However, we noticed a slight lack of roundness and texture, in favor of a more incisive and neutral sound.

Thanks to its 6.5” driver, the Studio Lab SLB 102A offered punchy and energetic bass.

The Studio Lab SLB 102A active speaker delivered a globally well balanced and coherent reproduction. The mids were soft and very textured. They added a natural and lively character to vocals, which were extracted from recordings with authenticity and were precisely delineated. Voices were embodied with a beautiful presence and sincerity in the center of a very spacious soundstage.

The use of the same tweeter as the passive version allowed the speakers to provide the same silky smooth highs. The Studio Lab SLB 102A connected speakers rose with agility and fluidity in the high frequencies. The highs were lively, and the most delicate notes were perfectly sustained, even at high volume. The information stood out clearly in this frequency range. Every pluck of an acoustic guitar’s strings could be heard, as well as the slightest sound of the violinists’ bows. The whistle in Scorpions’ Wind of Change was reproduced without sibilance and the speaker handled the mix with ease.

The Studio Lab SLB 102A connected speakers offered soft and silky highs. They rose with agility and fluidity in the high frequencies.

The Studio Lab SLB 102A efficiently handled any musical genre. It was as punchy with pop music as it was with jazz or acoustic music. From one recording to the next, the acoustic environment changed spontaneously. The direction or distance of the speakers had relatively little influence on the focalization of the acoustic message. The Studio Lab SLB 102A is as effective for close-range listening in an office as it is for louder music in a living room. In a room larger than 35m2, the Studio Lab SLB 102A will benefit from being associated with a subwoofer to perfectly balance the sound.

Studio Lab SLB 102A: compared to…

Audio Pro A28: sold for the same price, the Audio Pro A28 speaker is slightly more compact, making it easy to place. It is more flexible thanks to WiFi connectivity that provides access to many streaming services, as well as AirPlay 2 and Chromecast playback, in addition to Bluetooth. The ​​Audio Pro A28 also features an HDMI ARC input to simplify connection with a TV. However, the Audio Pro A28’s smaller driver restricts the depth and power of the bass. The Studio Lab SLB 102A is therefore more balanced. It also ensures a softer reproduction in the highs and mids.

Elipson Prestige Facet 6B BT: available at €459, this pair of Elipson speakers is an excellent alternative at a lower price. They feature a similar set of connectors, with an RCA input (line or phono), an optical input, a mini-jack input and a Bluetooth receiver. They are only missing the Studio Lab SLB 102A’s USB-B port. Soundwise, the Elipson Prestige Facet 6B BT is a bit more reserved in the bass due to a smaller driver, but remains surprisingly well balanced and natural for a speaker of this size. It offers a slightly warmer sound, with a more pronounced coloration. 

The Elipson Prestige Facet 6B BT speaker offers a warmer sound, but is more reserved in the bass.

Studio Lab SLB 102A: who are they for?

The Studio Lab SLB 102A active speakers are particularly well suited for multimedia systems. They will be best placed on either side of a TV or a computer. The Studio Lab SLB 102As can also be used as living room speakers thanks to their wide range of connectors that allows you to connect the usual hi-fi sources: turntable, CD player, network player, etc. Lastly, their Bluetooth compatibility will satisfy those who stream music from a smartphone or tablet.

The Studio Lab SLB 102A speakers are a versatile solution to enjoy the sound of a computer, a TV and all of your wired and Bluetooth sources.

Studio Lab SLB 102A: conclusion 

With the Studio Lab SLB 102A, the French manufacturer has managed to brilliantly transform its most iconic speaker into an active version, more comprehensive and powerful than ever. The integrated amplification provides a more intuitive and versatile solution to simply enjoy music without worrying about the efficiency of the amplifier/speaker pairing. The many accolades received by the Studio Lab SLB 102N also apply to this active version, with a balanced, neutral and accurate listening experience. The bass is punchy, the midrange soft and the highs smooth. The different frequency ranges are always well controlled and play together harmoniously. In conclusion, the Studio Lab SLB 102A offers a comprehensive solution for quality sound with video games, music and movies on your TV or computer.

We liked:

  • The softness of the highs
  • The balanced sound
  • The versatility

We would have liked:

  • A magnetic grille 
  • Deeper bass
  • An HDMI input
  •  

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