JBL SCS300.7 Surround Cinema Speakers Reviewed

JBL SCS300.7 Surround Cinema Speakers Reviewed

When the clock in the publishing office strikes 3 p.m., a sense of excitement that's been building all afternoon reaches a crescendo. It's at this time of day delivery people arrive with new electronic products for the editorial staff to...

When the clock in the publishing office strikes 3 p.m., a sense of excitement that's been building all afternoon reaches a crescendo. It's at this time of day delivery people arrive with new electronic products for the editorial staff to test. It's almost like Christmas every day of the week. Many of the products we test are delivered after we've requested (or sometimes begged) for them, while others arrive unsolicited. It's the unsolicited products and the great companies that provide them that make my job easier and more enjoyable. That is, if my job could get easier or more enjoyable.

One company intent on getting the word out on their products is JBL. When a new JBL product arrives, I know it must be something special because the folks at JBL are proud of their electronics and want everyone to experience them. During a recent delivery from the Santa in the big brown truck, I yielded a new loudspeaker ensemble from JBL. The new system, part of the Surround Cinema Speaker (SCS) line, is a 7.1 surround sound speaker system perfect for complementing a flat panel display.

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Unique Features - There are hundreds of speaker systems on the market for confined listening environments and flat panel applications. Just about every manufacturer has jumped on the small speaker bandwagon. But the seven slender speakers in the JBL SCS300.7 ensemble are small without sacrificing sound quality. They are accompanied by a brawny 10-inch powered subwoofer for a complete home theater loudspeaker package.

The SCS300.7 has six identical vertical satellite speakers and a corresponding horizontal center channel. Each of the nearly one foot tall satellites has a uniquely designed cabinet with shapely curves and an attractive faux-metal removable grille. The center channel looks identical to the satellite speakers, but is designed to rest on its side. The speakers all share the same dual three-inch midrange driver
design with a center mounted half-inch titanium-laminate dome tweeter between them. The two-tone silver cabinets that house the three speakers have a curved bottom so they cannot stand upright on a shelf on their own. Therefore, JBL includes both wall brackets and small table stands for the sats and center channel. FS1000 floor stands sold in pairs are optional accessories for the 300.7 system.

With a 150-watt power amplifier, the subwoofer included in the system fits well with the satellites. The bass-reflex enclosure has a downfiring 10-inch woofer and port on the front baffle. The cabinet has a dark carbon-fiber looking vinyl laminate on the top and front, with silver side panels to match the satellites. Connection options for the subwoofer are plentiful. On the rear panel of the cabinet, you'll find stereo speaker-level inputs and outputs, line-level inputs and a dedicated LFE/RCA input.
Click to Page 2 for Installation, Listening, and the Final Take.

Installation/Setup/Ease of Use
The good people at JBL sent along
two pairs of optional floor stands with the SCS300.7. In my experiences
with JBL speaker stands, I have found them to be flimsy, delicate and
completely unacceptable. They were nothing more than thin steel rods
screwed into heavy base plates that when touched, oscillated back and
forth like a metronome. Perhaps they've read my past remarks, because
the FS1000 floor stands available for the 300.7 system are far superior.
The floor stands have a tubular shaft that conceals the speaker wire
and a stylish "I" shaped base. Because Infinity is a sister company to
JBL, it's no wonder the FS1000s have a comparable design as the
well-done Infinity TS-Stands.

The left and right speaker pairs for the middle and rear satellites
were attached to the floor stands, and the front left, center and right
speakers were mounted to the table stands. Both styles of stands use
oval adapters that attach to the back of each speaker and cover the
spring- loaded wire clips. The adapters can be secured to the wall
mounts or the stands. Assembly of the first stand took me a long time.
The speaker wires must be threaded through the speaker stands and
inserted into the tiny wire clips that are recessed into the back of the
speaker. As I installed more speakers on stands, my competency level
rose but the process took far longer than I had hoped. The wire clips
are undersized and have small holes for the wires. The supplied speaker
cables were small enough to fit; however, upgrading to a larger gauge
wire is virtually impossible.

The JBL SCS300.7 ensemble is a 7.1 channel system, and thus requires a
7.1 amplifier/receiver. My receiver supports 7.1 surround sound;
however, owners of receivers that are a couple channels shy can split
the system up. By removing two satellites, the SCS300.7 package can be
used as a 5.1 channel home theatre in one room and the remaining pair of
speakers can operate in a stereo configuration in another room,
although the stereo speakers may sound tinny without an accompanying
sub.

Final Take - It was my pleasure to listen to these speakers while
reviewing a Sony DVP-CX777ES 400 disc changer and Video ReQuest system. I
had all my favorite test discs loaded up and ready to play like a
jukebox. First, I listened to action movies like Terminator 3 and the
Matrix series of DVDs. I was impressed by the punchy reproduction of
dynamic action scenes. There was a fairly good transient response with a
strong impact from the subwoofer that occasionally raised the hair on
the back of my neck. I would have liked the roll-off from the satellites
to meet the subwoofer better, but the gap was reasonably small.
Explosions and gun battles were detailed without being bassy, all the
while rattling my windows at high volume. You would expect loud volume
levels from big floor standing speakers, but not from small satellites.
That's why the output of the 300.7 system was a real surprise.

Movie dialogue in the original Star Wars Trilogy was clear and
concise, but the center channel was tame. More audible emphasis from the
center stage would have helped because with music playing in the
background or sound effects off to the sides, dialogue was sometimes
hard to hear. As for movie soundtracks, I found plenty of crisp detail
and good high frequency response. The positive performance during movie
watching was very enjoyable.

Since most home theater loudspeaker systems are tuned for movie
playback, I tend to put more emphasis on how a system performs while
watching movies. That's not to say theater speakers can't double as a
two-channel stereo. In fact, the SCS300.7 system gave a full harmonic
representation without being harsh. The low frequency response was good,
but not necessarily extended. At reasonably loud levels, mids were
strident, making brass and string instruments sound shrill. Lowering the
volume corrected some of the imperfections and opened up the ambience
of the instruments.

The eight-piece JBL SCS300.7 ensemble has stylish and attractive
cabinets with useful sturdy table stands. The 10-inch sub powered by a
150-watt amp has a complementary weighty sound and many connectivity
options. The sub could have sounded a bit more refined but it provided
good bass emphasis. I discount stereo functions of surround sound
systems because their foremost use is multi-channel audio from movies.
The 300.7 system did a splendid job with movies and merely faltered with
stereo music at high volume. The reasonably priced JBL SCS300.7
ensemble is perfect for space-conscious or flat panel display owners
looking for a complementary loudspeaker system.

JBL SCS300.7 Surround Cinema Speakers Satellites
Frequency Response: 100Hz -- 20kHz
100 Watts Maximum Power (RMS)
(1) 1/2" Titanium-Laminate Dome Tweeter
Dual 3" Midrange Drivers
111/2"H x 4"W x 31/2"D
(without shelf stand)
Weight: 3 lbs.

Center Channel
Frequency Response: 100Hz -- 20kHz
100 Watts Maximum Power (RMS)
(1) 1/2" Titanium-Laminate Dome Tweeter
Dual 3" Midrange Drivers
4"H x 11 1/2"W x 31/2"D
(without shelf stand)
Weight: 3 lbs.

Subwoofer
Amplifier Power: 150 Watts
Frequency Response: 30Hz -- 20kHz
10" Woofer
Bass-reflex Enclosure Design
20"H x 13 3/4"W x 15 3/4"D
Weight: 35 lbs.

MSRP: $699

FS1000 Floor Stands
MSRP: $250 (per pair)

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