Published On: May 8, 2009
Last Updated on: October 31, 2020
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JBL WEM-1 Wireless Expansion Module

The JBL WEM-1 are easy to place and easy to install. The system "eliminates the need to run speaker wires from the main audio system to the surround speakers." Despite its relatively small size, the built-in amplifier is "surprisingly powerful." "The sound leans more toward the cool and analytical...yet isn't harsh or strident"

JBL WEM-1 Wireless Expansion Module

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Many people would love to install a home theater (yes, there are still legions of people out there who don't have one), but face a very real obstacle: how do they get the wires from the A/V receiver to the surround speakers if they can't route the speaker wires through the walls or ceiling or under the floor?

Additional Resources
See a host of subwoofers that you can use the JBL WEM-1 on from Revel, JBL and others.
Learn about JBL's rich brand history here.

A number of manufacturers offer a solution: wireless speakers, which eliminate the need for speaker cables running from the main system to the speakers. However, wireless speakers have long suffered a reputation - often deserved - of having substandard if not downright poor sound quality.

The JBL WEM-1 Wireless Expansion Module offers a solution. It's a package that adds wireless capability to any speaker. The WEM-1 includes a transmitter that connects to an A/V receiver or other audio source (such as a laptop or iPod), a receiver/50-watt-per-channel stereo amplifier unit that connects to a pair of speakers, a remote control, various mounting accessories and cables.

Yes, cables. The WEM-1 provides wireless capability between the signal source and the receiver/amplifier. However, it's not battery-powered or completely wire-free. You still have to plug the transmitter and receiver/amplifier into an AC outlet, connect a signal source to the transmitter and connect the receiver/amplifier to a pair of speakers. However, by eliminating the wires that would go to the surround speakers, the WEM-1 enables the use of surround speakers in situations where installation would otherwise be impossible, or at least difficult. The WEM-1 also enables music listening anywhere in the home, with a stated transmission range of up to 70 feet using the 2.4GHz frequency range. Four operating channels are provided to avoid interference.

The WEM-1's transmitter measures six inches wide by one-and-one-eighth inches high by three-and-seven-eighths inches deep and features RCA audio input jacks; a 3.5mm Y-adapter is included for connecting an iPod or the 3.5mm output from a computer. The transmitter also has speaker-level inputs, which can be convenient when using it with an A/V or stereo receiver.

The receiver/amplifier incorporates a 50-watt-per-channel Class D amplifier, enabling its compact size (six and three-sixteenths by one-and-one-eighth by four-and-five-eighths inches). The unit also has an audio input and a subwoofer output (for use as part of a 2.1-channel satellite/subwoofer audio system), in addition to five selectable EQ curves for use with various JBL speakers (the EQ can be bypassed). The amplifier's volume can be adjusted using the WEM-1's remote control.

So how does it sound? It's surprisingly loud for such a small unit, able to provide medium-to-loud listening levels, even in larger rooms. The sound leans more toward the cool and analytical, as opposed to the sweetness and richness of a high-end tube amplifier, yet it isn't harsh or strident.

Read The High Points, The Low Points and the Conclusion on Page 2


High Points
• The JBL WEM-1 eliminates the need to run speaker wires from the main audio system to the surround speakers.
• The system's compact components are easy to place and install.
• The WEM-1 comes with a Y-adapter for use with an iPod or computer, a number of 120- and 230-volt power adapters, a wall-mount bracket for the transmitter, a stand for vertically mounting the receiver/amplifier, and other accessories.
• Though small, the built-in amplifier is surprisingly powerful.

Low Points
• The WEM-1 isn't completely wireless or connection-free - you still have to connect the transmitter and receiver/amplifier to AC outlets and connect them to a signal source and speakers.
• The stated 70-foot transmission range might be less, depending on the construction of the walls, floors and ceilings in the home.
• The sound quality is good, but not audiophile-amplifier good.

The JBL WEM-1 Wireless Expansion Module is a clever product that eliminates the need to run wires between an A/V receiver and surround speakers in a home entertainment system. For many people, it's simply not possible, or a major pain in the neck, to run wires through walls or ceilings or under the floor, and the WEM-1 solves this problem while enabling users to enjoy whatever surround speakers they choose. Be aware that you still need to make a number of connections to the transmitter and receiver/amplifier. The compact 50-watt-per-channel amplifier is surprisingly powerful and clean, although it's not going to give owners of Krell, Mark Levinson, Pass Labs amplifiers, et al, any buyer's remorse.

Additional Resources
• See a host of subwoofers that you can use the JBL WEM-1 on from Revel, JBL and others.
• Learn about JBL's rich brand history here.

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