JBL SCS160SI Home Speaker System Reviewed

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JBL SCS160SI Home Speaker System Reviewed


Not long ago, I had some friends over to listen to several sets of speakers I had in for review. After pouring over the same music tracks repeatedly, it was unanimous with the entire group that the smallest speaker ensemble of the bunch actually had the best overall performance. Bigger isn't always better, especially when it comes to speaker design. This is great news to apartment dwellers and homeowners looking for a smaller, and often cheaper, speaker system that brings excitement and realism to movies and music at home.

Additional Resources
� Read more bookshelf speaker reviews from HomeTheaterReview.com.
� Explore more speakers in our Floorstanding Speaker Review section.
� See more models in our Subwoofer Review section.

Just as every television network has its own brand of reality show, speaker manufacturers each have their line of compact speakers. JBL's answer to high performance from a small package is the Surround Cinema Series of speakers. For a complete 6.1 home theater surround sound package, the JBL SCS160SI Cinema Speaker package uses discrete satellite speakers, a matched center channel and powerful subwoofer to envelop the listener in sonic enjoyment.

Unique Features - To achieve a 6.1 surround sound, JBL combined a center channel with five satellite speakers for the front left, front right, rear left, rear center, and rear right. The two-way satellites are larger than most other compact speakers, and integrate a half-inch titanium-laminate dome tweeter with dual three-inch mid-range drivers in a dark gray plastic cabinet with a black grille cloth. The center channel also has a half-inch titanium-laminate dome tweeter with dual three-inch mid-range drivers, but it is positioned horizontally on rubber feet. The speakers are video shielded for placement on or near a TV.

For down and dirty bass, a hefty bass reflex subwoofer enclosure with a FreeFlow flared port finishes off the package. The enclosure houses a 10-inch sub that is powered by an onboard 150-watt amplifier to match the high output of the satellites. The subwoofer enclosure has multiple wiring choices, including a dedicated LFE input from a compatible receiver.

Everything is included in the SCS160SI package to get started. JBL includes speaker cables for the subwoofer, surround and center speakers, and five wall-mount speaker brackets for installing the satellites on the walls.

Installation/Setup/Ease of Use
An alternative for the wall-mount brackets included in the system are optional JBL FS400BLK speaker stands. Sold in pairs, the stands eliminate the need to put holes in the wall and provide an easy way to adjust the location of each corner speaker to fit the size of the room. JBL was kind enough to provide two pairs of the plainly designed stands. Each stand consists of a heavy base, a three-foot tall metal rod and a triangular plastic bracket for the speaker to rest. The stands have an appealing look, but they are poorly designed. It's hard to imagine they are specifically made to hold the 2.65-pound SCS160SI satellites, because they shake and shimmy like that old hula girl lamp your father used to have. When untouched the stands are stable, but I was concerned my kids or dog would bump into them and they would come crashing to the floor. The wall mount brackets install easily with two screws each, but they can only be adjusted horizontally left or right, not tilted vertically up or down.

Read more about the performance of the JBL SCS160SI on Page 2.

HTR Product Rating for JBL SCS160SI Home Speaker System

Criteria Rating

Performance

3

Value

3

Overall

3

Disagree with our product rating? Email us and tell us why you think this product should receive a higher rating.


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I connected the SCS160SI home theatre system to a NAD 1763 AN receiver that delivers 100 watts into all six channels. The maximum power JBL recommends to the satellites is 100 watts. If a 6.1 surround receiver isn't available, the system can be connected to a 5.1 surround sound receiver by packing away the rear center channel until upgrading to a 6.1 channel receiver. The subwoofer is considerably large in comparison to the satellites. It has both line level inputs and an LFE input for digital sound from a compatible receiver. The only control on the subwoofer is a volume knob, since the sub is designed specifically for the satellite speakers. Setting the sub's crossover point must be done by the receiver and I ended up adjusting the NAD to a subwoofer crossover level to 120Hz to cover the mid-bass gap left from the sats. Integrating the system takes some finesse, but the extra time spent has its rewards.

Final Take
Listening to movies while testing a new speaker ensemble can be a captivating experience or a real yawn-fest. Fortunately, the JBL SCS160SI system turned out to be the former. In the western drama Open Range, the climactic shootout where Kevin Costner and Robert Duvall face a group of hired guns was brought to life by the JBL ensemble. The dynamic range between dialogue and gun blasts was reproduced accurately, without break up. Imaging through each channel sounded true and was generously spacious. The soundstage seamed much larger than my living room permitted.

In Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, the rear center channel speaker received a workout in 6.1 mode. However, the front center channel showed its true size and was often underpowered for the vocal dialogue. The dispersion pattern was adequate when moving around the room, but higher frequencies often changed when moving from a standing or seated position.

I literally ducked when flamboyant pirate (Captain!) Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean was being bombarded by cannonballs. The sub was dynamic and powerful. At peak power, the ensemble can play remarkably loud, especially when you consider the size. Your windows may not break, but you will probably wake the neighbors at high volumes.

Unfortunately, I wasn't as impressed with the musical playback. Although the DTS version of the Eagles' Hell Freezes Over had tonal accuracy, two-channel reproductions fell flat. The transient response of the guitars on Eric Clapton's Unplugged sounded sluggish. Vocals were sometimes muddy and short. When listening to jazz great George Benson, I had similar results. Colorations in the music left me with a flat resonance from the brass instruments. Musical detail wasn't as clear as I had hoped after hearing good clarity from movies.

Designed for a small to medium room, the SCS160SI home theater system has an unobtrusive design that will blend well with most decor. The satellites have well-matched drivers in a durable cabinet and the subwoofer enclosure is very solid. I would have preferred to see a phase switch and crossover control on the back of the sub for more adjustability, without having to use the receiver's controls. The JBL FS400BLK speaker stands seem flimsy and the wall-mounted speaker brackets are okay, but I would opt for an alternative way to secure the speakers.

For big sound when listening to movies, the JBL's did a good job. They epitomize a powerful movie experience from a small package. With their good power handling capabilities, 6.1 surround sound and inexpensive price, they would fit perfectly into a modest home theatre setting. If listening to movies is a priority over music, the SCS160SI Surround Cinema Series ensemble can get the job done.

Satellites Frequency Response: 30Hz-20kHz Recommended Power:10-100 watts 8 ohms nominal impedance 0.5-inch titanium-laminate dome tweeter Dual 3-inch midrange drivers 8 1/8"H x 31/2"W x 3 7/8"D Weight 2.65 lbs. each

Center Channel Frequency Response: 30Hz-20kHz Recommended Power:10-100 watts 8 ohms nominal impedance 0.5-inch titanium-laminate dome tweeter Dual 3-inch midrange drivers 3 1/2"H x 81/8"W x 3 7/8"D Weight: 2.65 lbs.

Subwoofer 150-watt amplifier 10-inch woofer Bass reflex enclosure design 17 3/4"Hx 15 314NV x 16 3/4"D Weight: 35 lbs.

Warranty: One year MSRP: $499

FS400BLK Speaker Stands 36"H with speaker installed (measured to bottom of speaker) 9 3/8" diameter Weight: 7.8 lbs. MSRP: $100/pair

Additional Resources
� Read more bookshelf speaker reviews from HomeTheaterReview.com.
� Explore more speakers in our Floorstanding Speaker Review section.
� See more models in our Subwoofer Review section.


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