If forced to list common traits of the many new flat TV-friendly speaker systems that have crossed my path of late, I'd document them as follows: slim form factor, two-grand price point (approximately), generous application of shiny metallic and gloss-black surfaces in the cabinet design. The components of the new JBL Cinema Sound speaker system fit into that mold perfectly. A little too snugly, in fact - if the company didn't have such a solid history of innovation, I'd be quick to say that it has simply churned out a wannabe system here.
The JBL Cinema Sound rig we tested consists of four CST55 tower speakers, a CSC55 center speaker, and a CSS10 subwoofer. I was surprised to see that the line was released without an option for smaller satellites, which many people reasonably prefer for surround speakers, so they can be tucked away on high shelves or wall-mounted. JBL does plan to release a Cinema Sound satellite speaker, the $399-a-pair CSB5, sometime in late 2006.
True to the flat-speaker formula, the system's silver-and-high-gloss-black exterior was a good match for my plasma TV. Even so, there was a slightly cheesy quality to the speaker cabinets and their permanently attached circular bases, especially compared to some of the similarly priced but better styled systems I've reviewed lately. The JBLs' overall look and feel were a step above the home-theater-in-a-box kits offered by the mass-market A/V manufacturers - but not a very big one. The CST55 is a two-way design that features a 6.5-inch deep cabinet, dual 5-inch woofers, and a 0.75-inch tweeter ensconced in JBL's trademark Elliptical Oblate Spheroidal waveguide (love that name), a structural feature that helps direct high-frequency sound over a wide area. The built-in base anchors the speaker to the floor, but it unfortunately lacks screw holes for spikes to achieve an even firmer coupling on a carpeted surface. A set of basic binding posts jut out from the top surface of the base at the speaker's rear for attaching bare wire or cables with spade-type connectors (the CSC55 center speaker's binding posts will also accept banana plugs).
What We Think
|A fine-sounding speaker system diminished by pedestrian looks and mass-market build quality|
The CSC55 basically matches the towers except for the horizontal configuration and driver arrangement (woofer-tweeter-woofer, as opposed to the CST55's tweeter-on-top layout). Even the frequency response and other specs are the same. The CSS10 subwoofer, meanwhile, woofs courtesy of a 10-inch driver powered by a 150-watt amplifier. Although I had no serious problem with the sub's looks or construction, its sizeable front-loaded port gave me some pause: I kept imagining my kid shoving a toy into it and the subsequent hassle I'd have retrieving such items once I noticed them rattling around.
SETUP With my setup options pretty much limited to dropping the four JBL towers behind my couch and on either side of my TV, installation proved to be a breeze - something the company probably had in mind when it conceived of the system. The surround towers actually ended up at the rear corners of the couch, toed in slightly toward the listening area, while the CSC55 center channel sat on the middle shelf of my TV stand. And the CSS10 subwoofer went in the right front corner of my room, its gaping black hole of a port threatening to swallow the entirety of time and space, along with a couple of Barbie dolls.
Copyright © 2013 Bonnier Corp. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited.