There are plenty of 5.1 speaker packages in the market that cater to every single budget bracket out there. Since we are concerning ourselves with the entry-level bracket this month, it’s fair to say that out of these scores of options, only a few can qualify to be reviewed this time. The JBL SCS 200.5 speaker setup seemed full of potential, especially when you take a look at its stands.
An entry-level 5.1 speaker system that's great value for money
Out of the box
This speaker setup comprises satellites and a subwoofer, all of which are bathed in the matte black finish that can never go wrong. The risk, however, was taken in the cabinet design of these satellites because they are more triangular than curvy. We’ve seen several speakers in the past that have adopted the curved cabinet, which is usually a curve that goes from left to right, but this might be the first time we’ve encountered satellites that curve from top to bottom. This gives each of these little speakers more bulk, although they do have a tough time standing without their stands. Speaking of which, these stands are made of almost-bendable plastic and are shaped to form an ‘I’ as their footprint. They slide into a slot in the back panel, so they hide the spring speaker terminals. The wire can be made to go through the hollow plastic stand so that it doesn’t look ugly. Two screws are used to keep the stand in place. The subwoofer is simple with its tallish appearance and the standard JBL logo set upon the grey bass port on the front. I like the way things are turning out because the potential is getting that much bigger.
Dimensions of the sub-woofer and satellites
Each of the satellites, excluding the centre, comes with two drivers—a 0.5-inch titanium-laminate dome tweeter and a 3” mid-range woofer. The centre just has an added mid-range woofer that’s used, along with the other, to sandwich the tweeter in the centre of the front baffle. The fact that these satellites can go as low as 110Hz seems not the least bit of a stretch because it’s quite attainable even when the speakers are of such a diminutive size. With the help of the titanium-laminate material, JBL claims that the accuracy of the high frequency response remains accurate even when the level is way up. Since the entire front baffle seems to be on a curve, the dispersion must be on the higher side and it should be because of them being satellite speakers.
The rear of the centre piece
The subwoofer is built with a 100W RMS amplifier and can go as low as 35 Hz and as high as 160 Hz. There’s an 8-inch woofer that’s bottom firing and the 3-inch feet help to keep it a good distance above the ground. As for the back panel, you have the option of connecting three different input methods—LFE or Low Frequency Effects, L and R. You should opt for LFE if you’re going to be using it as the .1 channel in a 5.1 environment. There are also four pairs of speaker level terminals along with a simple level knob on the top of the back panel and the power switch on the bottom. That’s what you call a basic subwoofer with just the bare essentials as far as tweaking goes.
The only thing that took a while to set up were the fronts because of the stands that needed to be screwed in place. Thankfully, all the cables were already changed to strip so there was no need for recabling. For the surrounds and the centre, I could’ve used the stands, but their placement was such that I could just lean them sturdily enough on one side or the other.
I was ready to go on my adventure with the 3D Blu-ray of ‘Journey 2: The Mysterious Island’ that boasts of some of the greatest home-entertainment 3D I’ve seen in recent times. But the part I love most is the way the sound matches the depth of the visuals and I was fortunate to have the SCS 200.5 by my side. They take a little while to get your mind off the fact that you’re listening to satellite speakers because they honestly do sound like they are coming from small cabinets. The subwoofer does help them get some added size, but since even that can’t go as low as 20Hz, you do feel like you’re missing some of that meat during the action sequences. However, after about ten minutes, you’ve forgotten about the speakers and their sizes. All you hear is a spot-on soundstage that’s beamed across the entire room, with you at the centre of it. The subwoofer is powerful for our little room and I had it down to its lowest position so that it didn’t overpower the rest of the satellites.
Connections behind the amp
The satellites in-turn were mesmerising. They had such a firm grip on the mid-range that both the sound effects and the music kept our eyes off the bad acting on screen. I found myself forgiving so much of the film because of its extremely well-done soundtrack. Take for instance, the scene where the helicopter is being swallowed by the tornado at sea. The swirling of the powerful wind sends the surrounds and us spinning as quickly as the helicopter is getting sucked in. I can hear all sorts of particles hitting the glass of the helicopter and when one of the windows breaks, the satellites rise above this level and deliver the sonic impact.
All this while, I could hear the dialogues of the characters like I was in a movie theatre. They seemed to have so much of meat in them that I kind of hoped that even the satellites had that extra mid-range driver like the centre did. Our DVD of ‘Kickass’ was just as entertaining and thrilling with scenes like the burning of Nicholas Cage and Aaron Johnson getting beaten up when he tries to defend a man from hoodlums in the middle of the street. Every kick, punch and moan is perfectly articulated and I could tell that these satellites had effortlessly disappeared into the darkness.
I think my only problem with these speakers is their dropping treble range. It felt like I was listening to a worn out set of speakers as the highs sounded blunted, especially with sound effects like gunshots and when the string section of a background score rises above the rest of the instruments. What is fascinating is that in this price range, 90 percent of the speaker packages will have the opposite with a peaking high-frequency response. I guess this complaint then would just be me expecting far too much from this Rs 25,000 speaker setup.
Verdict and price in India
JBL’s SCS 200.5 speaker package is a very tough competitor for all of its competitors. It has experimental yet acceptable aesthetics and a sonic performance that will knock the socks off your feet. Its blunted highs was really the only thing I wished could’ve been corrected and that really says a lot about a 25 grand 5.1 speaker package. Be it action, drama or just plain old silence with a background score, the 200.5 speaker package delivers with might, power and accuracy. I implore you, get them even if you don’t need them!
AV MAX is a special interest audiophile magazine that focuses on reviewing high-end AV equipment like amplifiers, stereos, floorstanding speakers and related news
Updated 18 May, 2013, 5:40 pm IST
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